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The Battle Of The Somme

The Battle Of The SommeNinety years ago, the ‘war to end all
  wars’ was over and Britain was trying
  to get back to normality after the
  nightmare years for her soldiers fighting
  in the trenches in appalling conditions —
  The Battle Of The Somme, a pioneering
  battlefield documentary, was seen by
  huge audiences in the UK when it was
  released in August 1916, while the battle
  was still being fought
...

HAILED AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE the reality of the Western Front for the first time and to share the experiences of the soldiers who were fighting there by the cinema audiences of the time, The Battle Of The Somme is a unique pictorial record and the origin of some of the most widely used and iconic moving images of the First World War. These are the official pictures of the British Army in France.

This remarkable film sparked off a debate — that continues to this day — about the on-screen depiction of combat, and is digitally restored by the Imperial War Museum's Film and Video Archive and Dragon Digital Intermediate to an amazing improvement on previously released video versions.

The Battle Of The Somme begins with the preparations before Fricourt-Mametz with platoons of The Buffs, Bedfords, Suffolks and a battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers. This film is a fascinating document that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history or cinema history. Soldiers from all over Britain — including regiments such as the Royal Engineers, Lancashire Fusiliers and Seaforth Highlanders — are the heroes of the hour.

Despite the horror of the conflict, The Battle Of The Somme shows a very human side to the war. The soldiers who are waiting for their orders to advance occasionally clown around for the camera and the acts of decency shown towards German prisoners of war are heart-warming — as are the images of wounded on both sides being helped by their fellow soldiers (and sometimes the very people they were fighting). Lines of German prisoners are being escorted to England and appear bemused rather than afraid.

The Artillery Horses are meticulously cared for and a French fox is rescued to become the mascot of the Royal Field Artillery — and in the true spirit of the French countryfolk, farm workers continue to toil the land just outside the firing line.

Tragedy is all too real and the camera reveals the dead and wounded men and horses — one poignant scene shows the Royal Field Artillery moving up during battle over ground where the Gordons' and Devons' dead are lying "after a glorious and successful charge on the ridge near Mametz". A later scene shows the Manchesters' pet dog, who fell with his master charging Danzig Alley.

Howitzers shell the German first line trenches of Mametz and there are long, panning shots that dwell on the shell-shattered remains of the village.

The Battle Of The Somme is very emotional — especially if you remember that the First World War, fought under desperate conditions in the trenches, was known as "The War to End All Wars" and that boys as young as fourteen were running away to join up. The film is a magnificent tribute and a memorial to those who lost or risked their lives for their country. If you really don't know what Poppy Day is all about, it starts here.

1916 Film Credits — Cameramen: Geoffrey H Malins and J B McDowell | Editors: Charles Urban and Geoffrey H Malins | Producer: William F Jury. The Battle Of The Somme was restored under the supervision of David Walsh of the Imperial War Museum and commentary is by Roger Smither (Keeper, Film and Photograph Archives, Imperial War Museum).

Network Distributing, Strike Force Entertainment and the Imperial War Museum are delighted to announce the release of this definitive, digitally-restored version of the The Battle of the Somme, the first British documentary to be ascribed UNESCO status in the Memory of the World register. It will be available to buy on DVD on 3 November, 2008 ninety years after the end of the Great War.

The Battle Of The Somme (E) | RRP: £19.99 | Total Running Time: 74 minutes approx | Screen Ratio: 1.33:1/Colour.

Special Features

* Interview with Roger Smither | Interview with Laura Rossi | Interview with Stephen Horne and Dr Toby Haggith | Missing scenes and fragments

* Official 36-page booklet with contributions from the Imperial War Museum Archive team

* A full orchestral score by Laura Rossi, commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 2005 and performed for the recording — as it was for the premiere performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on 22 October, 2006 — by The Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Nic Raine

* A recreation of the medley of light classic, folk tunes, popular songs and military music recommended as an accompaniment for the film in 1916 by cinema musician J Morton Hutcheson in The Bioscope, a contemporary trade journal — the medley, the subject of several years of research by Dr Toby Haggith of the Imperial War Museum and Stephen Horne, is performed for the DVD by a small ensemble led by the latter

* Interviews with the composer Laura Rossi, Stephen Horne and the curators who worked on the project | Missing footage

THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM

The national museum of the experiences of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since 1914, The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone's story — the history of modern war and people's experience of war and wartime life in Britain and the Commonwealth. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance.

The Museum's five branches include: Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ, which houses the award-winning Holocaust exhibition; the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast; the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, housed in Churchill's secret headquarters below Whitehall; Imperial War Museum Duxford, a world renowned aviation and heritage complex; and Imperial War Museum North, one of the most talked about Museums in the UK.

To mark the ninetieth anniversary of the end of the First World War, a series of exhibitions and events to commemorate the experiences of those who lived, fought and died in the 'war to end all wars' will take place across each of the Museum's five branches. For further information about events and activities taking place at Imperial War Museum branches visit iwm.org.uk/90.

* The Battle Of The Somme will also be a UK Premiere on Military History on Tuesday 11 November, at 21:00pm Simulcast with The History Channel HD.

* The CD of the music composed by Laura Rossi is released by Virtuosa Records on 3 November 2008. For further information visit virtuosarecords.co.uk.

* Viewing notes, additional information, further reading and teaching resources can be found at iwm.org.uk/somme-film. Check out iwm.org.uk.

"The Battle Of The Somme is very emotional… the film is a magnificent tribute and memorial to those who lost or risked their lives for their country. If you really don't know what Poppy Day is all about, it starts here" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar