Drama-documentary recounting the events of the 1st July 1916 and the Battle of the Somme on the Western Front during the First World War. Told through the letters and journals of soldiers who were there.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Captain Charlie May
Sergeant Richard H Tawney
Nick Figgis ...
Andrew Turner ...
Oliver Jones ...
Cyril Jose
Lance-Corporal Sidney McCoy
Rupert Procter ...
Sergeant Major
Franz Cassel
David Bertrand ...
Jean-David Beroard ...


Drama-documentary recounting the events of the 1st July 1916 and the Battle of the Somme on the Western Front during the First World War. Told through the letters and journals of soldiers who were there.

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Release Date:

14 November 2005 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Die Schlacht an der Somme  »

Filming Locations:


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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


At least some of the rifles carried by the British soldiers in this production were Lee-Enfield No.4s, which didn't enter service until 1940. They should have been SMLEs, later known as the Lee-Enfield No.1 MkIII. See more »

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User Reviews

An English General With A Scottish Accent . Surely Some Mistake ?
19 December 2005 | by (Isle Of Bute , Scotland) – See all my reviews

The Somme . The very name has the same effect as the name Stalingrad such as its notoriety in the annals of military history , a battle that had well over a million dead and wounded with the British Army suffering 20,000 dead on the first day ( The largest number of fatalities in a battle in recorded history up to that time ) and a battle that changed the very mentality of every Briton born after it where cynicism and Euro scepticism replaced idealism , so any docudrama on the battle especially when it gives the view of the British , French and Germans should be welcomed shouldn't it ? Alas this channel 4 production has got it sadly wrong

From the very start there's a lack of historical context . The French were taking very heavy casualties at mthe battle of Verdun ( Though they were also inflicting heavy casualties upon the Germans too ) and the British both militarily and politically were under very heavy pressure from the French to launch a massive offensive upon the Germans . This context is not gone into here for some reason and personally I think it's wrong not to point out why the British were so keen to mount an offensive . On a similar vein this docudrama frequently uses the word " Inexperienced " to describe the British army at The Somme . The reason being that most of the experienced British troops of the volunteer BEF had already been killed in the battles of 1914-15 , it's not like the British army hadn't seen any fighting which is a possible impression we may have been left with if this docudrama was your only source of First World War history . The British characters featured are fairly unrepresentative too . One's a poet , one's a Christian socialist and the third lied about his age to join up . Are you saying these three men are an accurate mainstream cross section of the British army in 1916 ? Yeah right

Another serious problem - Perhaps the main one - is to do with British generals Haig and Rawlinson . The plan was entirely Haig's but for some reason history has been rewritten so that General Rawlinson is the major architect of The Somme offensive with Haig only being mentioned a couple of times . This seems very poor history on the part of the producers and I have to ask what history source are they taking these incorrect facts from? Rawlinson might have been in charge of the British fourth army but it's Haig who should take any criticism or credit for the battle . There's also a problem with the casting since Rawlinson would have been in his late 50s at the time of the battle but here he looks in his early 40s . Most ridiculous of all the Dorset born Rawlinson speaks with a pronounced Scottish accent ! General Douglas Haig may have spoken with a Scottish brogue since he was from Edinburgh but Rawlinson wouldn't and I can't help feeling that the producers have actually mixed up the two generals !

There are a few other things I could criticise like the scale of the battle doesn't come across very well but considering the budget that would be unfair . There are some plus points like for once the French successes are illustrated something a lot of history books forget and we're also shown the German point of view also but let me repeat this is a relatively poor history lesson not helped by the fact it's difficult not to compare this with the BBC's superb docudrama on the evacution of Dunkirk the previous year and for the sake of honest history anyone seeing channel 4's THE SOMME should also view the BBC's THE GREAT WAR which is the definitive documentary on the First World War . Possibly the definitive documentary of all time full stop

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