Some never-before-seen interviews with veterans detailing the horrors of trench warfare during World War One are to be shown by the BBC.
The haunting interviews were filmed in 1964, but weren’t included in the 1960s series ‘The Great War’, because the producers decided to focus on the history of the conflict. Since then the unseen interviews have been locked away in the vaults of the Imperial War Museum, for 50 years.
“As soon as you get over the top, fear has left you and it's terror,” one British soldier apparently says in a clip.
The soldiers describe what life during battle was really like, including personal accounts of dog fights in the air, fraternising with the enemy, the experience of killing and the emotions that these accounts stirred.
“What was it, that we soldiers stabbed each other, strangled each other, went for each other, like mad dogs?” said one unnamed German veteran in another poignant take.
The interviews are set to be broadcast as part of BBC2’s ‘My Great War’ and the BBC programme is one of 130 programmes to be shown between 2014 and 2018 as part of a huge project to mark the centenary of the First World War.
The 100th Anniversary
The 100th anniversary commemorations will start on the 4th of August, next year, and a service at Westminster Abbey will be the main focus for the events, with a final candle to be extinguished at 11pm – to mark the precise moment that Britain went to war with Germany.
Fought mostly by soldiers in trenches, World War I took over Europe from 1914 to 1919 and was a bloody war that resulted in huge losses of life seeing an estimated 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded. At the time many had hoped that World War I would end all wars but it set the stage for World War II.
The project will also include an act of reconciliation on the battlefield, a service for Commonwealth leaders in Glasgow Cathedral and an event ceremony at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium. School children will also be encouraged to visit battlefields and learn about the sacrifice of troops.
Reflecting the four years of the conflict, plans include highlighting the key dates of the conflict, including the Gallipoli landings in the Dardanelles, the naval Battle of Jutland, the first day of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, and Armistice Day.
From 2014 and 2018, the BBC will show over 2,500 hours of TV and radio programmes dedicated to the war - including more than 130 new dramas, history documentaries and music shows.
To mark the centenary and honour the sacrifices made between 1914 and 1918 the BBC also aims to collect nearly 1,500 family stories, photos and trench diaries to create a ‘digital cenotaph’ on the website.
The BBC’s head of history commissioning Martin Davidson said: “All you’ll need to do will be to enter your location to unlock local first world war stories in the form of two minute audio clips. It is our ambition to turn it into a living memorial.”
Director-General of the BBC, Lord Hall, whose grandfather fought in the trenches said: “I see 2014 as a chance for us all to learn something new about a war we think we maybe know very well, or to engage people who have not thought about World War I.”
The First World War season is billed as the biggest in the BBC’s history and will kick off with a four-part BBC1 series called Britain’s Great War hosted by Jeremy Paxman.
On BBC2, Sir Max Hastings and Niall Ferguson will present rival documentaries in competing accounts of how the war started, with Sir Max defending Britain’s decision to fight and Professor Ferguson arguing we were wrong to get involved.
Another BBC2 documentary called 'Gallipoli' will feature an interview with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, discussing his father’s role in exposing the disastrous campaign.
Radio 4 will have a four-year drama series called 'Home Front', exploring the fortunes of those who remained in Britain over 600 episodes.
Forces War Records get involved...
On BBC1, a WWI drama called The Ark staring Suranne Jones, Hermione Norris and Charlie Chaplin’s great-granddaughter Oona as nurses in a front-line field hospital will air in 2014.
Neil, a member of staff here at Forces War Records is going to be an extra on the drama, and is due to get involved with the first lot of filming tomorrow — so expect some updates.
Lord Hall said: “Every one of us lives in a world which is profoundly shaped by those events, or have family that was touched by the Great War. It changed the face of our communities, our country and our world forever, and we’ll be telling that story over the next four years, right across the BBC.”
Source: Daily Mail
Do you know enough about your WWI military ancestors?
War touches many people’s lives. Is your family’s military history waiting to be discovered? Is there a war hero in your family waiting to be remembered? Did any members of your family get awarded medals for their actions in war?
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