Archive | November, 2018

The First World War Centenary: Lest We Forget

14 Nov

Sunday 11 November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which lasted from 28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918.  The war was initiated in Europe with the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but was fought globally by the opposing sides of the Triple Entente and the Central Powers.  It was, in one sense, the clash of empires as the European nations coalesced into two large blocs who ultimately mobilized over 70 million military personnel from around the world.  The bare facts on the detailed Wikipedia page state that roughly 15-19 million individuals died (9-11 million military and roughly 8 million civilian) and many more were injured throughout the conflict.

On Sunday I visited the cinema to watch the newly-released documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, directed by Peter Jackson, which focused on the experiences of soldiers on the Western Front and on the notorious trench warfare in which they served.  The documentary was notable for the colour restoration of original archive footage and the implementation of technology used to speed up or slow down the footage rate equally to help create a modern look.  Alongside this Jackson’s team artificially created frames to make the footage run even smoother.  The result was visually stunning and brought into sharp focus the individuals within the footage; it felt like you could reach out and talk to them.

Whilst watching the question and answer session after the documentary, what struck me most was Jackson’s point regarding the voices that are missing from the footage: those of the individuals who had died in the course of the war.  They are the silent record of the war and its impact.  This was a war unlike any previous, in both mechanization and in its geographic spread.  Time for many simply stopped.

Shrapnel from a shell embedded within a clock. This was the result of the maritime bombardment of the Hartlepools by the German navy on the 16 December 1914 which killed over 100 people. Among those killed were Private Theophilus Jones, aged 29, who became one of the first soldiers to die on British soil by enemy action during the war. A seamstress named Hilda Horsley, aged 17, became the first civilian to die on British soil by enemy action during the war as she ran from the bombardment. Image credit: Hartlepool Cultural Services. The clock is available to view at the Hartlepool Museum.

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