The First World War (2003)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Documentary | History | War
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A comprehensive survey of the history of World War I.

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Series cast summary:
Jonathan Lewis ...
 Narrator (10 episodes, 2003)
Kaiser Wilhelm II ...
 Himself (5 episodes, 2003)


In 1914, decades of building European resentments and rivalries finally exploded into a massive total war that became much larger and bloodier for far longer than anyone could have imagined. This series endeavors to tell the full story of World War I, which was far more than just the trenches and includes war on the high seas and furthest flung regions of the world. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

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Release Date:

2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The First World War  »

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(10 parts)


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Episode Six is a smoke screen for the military incompetence of the British Generals
3 March 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Episode six 'Breaking the Deadlock' claims that technical innovations were created to bring a speedy end to the war, but instead they were quickly countered. That war then dragged on into a war of attrition. The middle of the segment shows that the soldiers from both sides didn't always try to kill each other and had to be encouraged to do so. The episode makes an effort to refute the saying about British soldiers being 'Lions lead by Donkeys' by quoting how many German, French and British generals died during the war and how the generals had to face the reality of trench warfare. The soldiers could see that it didn't make much sense to stop machine gun bullets with your chest. The British High command was still believing in the superiority of horse cavalry. The horses didn't do well against bullets either.

This episode is a smoke screen for the military incompetence of the British High Command, particularly General Haig. Haig's premature application of the first few tanks lead to the German Army development of anti-tank gun crews which were able to decimate many tanks when they were used in strength and did have a breakthrough at Cabrai. Haig and his staff ignored intelligence reports of the Germans massing reinforcements for a counter-offensive that took back the five miles of ground gained by the breakthrough. The show neglects to mention that Haig's headquarters was far behind the front lines.

Also neglected is Sir John French's headquarters was 35 miles behind the lines at the battle of Le Cateau in August 1914 when he would have lost the whole British Expeditionary Force if the commander of 2nd Corps, General Smith-Dorrien, had not disregarded an order to retreat. Smith-Dorrien was congratulated by the King for saving the B.F.E. but General French had him relieved nine months later.

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