Battle Of The Somme Movie

Topics: World War 1

This essay sample on Battle Of The Somme Movie provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

During World War I the government and army officials constantly endeavoured to project a positive image of the war effort and any attempt to show negative aspects of the war were discouraged as it was felt that this would ‘lower morale’ and discourage patriotism and recruitment to the army.

Therefore it is always hard to know whether any source is reliable, especially those from official sources, and these should always be backed up by cross-referencing. One of these sources is the film The Battle Of The Somme which shows footage of soldiers recorded actually behind the lines of British fire.

Now, you would assume as it was filmed in the trenches, and shows real soldiers, that it would al be true and there would be no need of cross-referencing to see if it is accurate.

However, as it was filmed for the purpose of showing during war-time ‘back at home’ and was obviously approved by officials, it was therefore intended to show war tactics, trench conditions and general life as a soldier in an extremely positive light, and can not always be taken at face value.

For instance, the film portrays lots of soldiers with clean clothes, good food and in a generally happy environment, with no major hardships smiling and going about daily life.

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However, various sources challenge this view of trench life including ‘Aftermath’ by Siegfried Sassoon which asks: ‘Do you remember the rats, and the stench of corpses rotting on the front line trench? ‘ which is quite a contrast to the images put forward by the film.

The Battle Of The Somme Movie

And a poem of Sidney Chaplain says: ‘you stand in a trench of vile stinking mud, and the bitter cold wind freezes your blood’. These poems, and many others show that the trenches in fact weren’t the comfortable place the film suggests. The diaries and memoirs of soldiers also express a different view of trench life. Seargeant S. V. Britten says: ‘Left at 6. 30 for reserve trenches. Just rat holes!… found German’s feet sticking up through the ground. The Gurkhas had actually used human bodies instead of sandbags.

Beside the stream where we were working, stench something awful and dead all around. ‘ However, this is not to say that the film was lying, but maybe it was hard to show the discomfort the troops were put through and the directors and producers have decided to show the good times in the trenches as the audience wanted an action film about brave soldiers, and did not want to see the trivialities of daily life. Also, if the film had shown the soldiers in major discomfort this may have been upsetting for friends or relatives back home.

This theory is also supported by the fact that while, in their own poems or diaries the soldiers may have been less positive about trench conditions, in letters home to loved ones they usually tried to convey a positive attitude and not discuss hardships, as in this extract a letter of Rifleman Bert Bailey to his wife shows: ‘I am still in the trenches and in good health. Although all day and night on Monday it rained steadily, yesterday it broke fair and fine and we had a nice day except that underneath was a l mud and slosh’ which shows how he is downplaying the discomfort of the trenches.

Although, the film does have one scene showing British soldiers scrambling over the trenches with most making it but one of two being shot down. This was, in fact just a replication of a battle, as due to the unwieldy nature of the cameras it would have been impossible to get this during actual warfare. But though this may seem to be contradicting the film’s earlier messages about the safety of the British soldiers it says that the Germans would be blown up with massive guns, and a few brave soldiers would die.

Of course, the film shows none of the slow, painful deaths of soldiers from infected wounds or hypothermia and the like. Many soldiers going in to war also shared this romanticised view of death in the army, as the poem ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke shows when he says ‘if I should die, think only this of me: that there’s some corner in a foreign field that is for ever England’. He obviously had a fairly positive view of the army and was extremely patriotic.

However, the film’s attempts at making it appear that the British tactics were so effective are not supported by the fact the first day of the battle was a complete disaster, the worst day in British military history with casualty figures over 60,000 and 21,000 killed. The Allies had been confident that nothing would survive the bombardment mentioned in the intertitles and sent an order for the British soldiers to go over the top, essentially to their deaths. One extract from the memoirs of George Coppard shows the blatant foolishness of the commanders: ‘hundreds of dead… were strung out like wreckage…

How did out planners imagine that the Tommies, having survived all the other hazards would get past the German wire? Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before. ‘ The film however fails to highlight these extremely important facts. This is the day of one of the worst leadership blunders in British military history. Another message that the film tries to convey to the audience is that the medical facilities were extremely good and that all wounded soldiers were quickly attended to. There are various sources supporting this, and some that oppose this view. Many poems tell of wounded being ‘flung in to carts’, which shows that they were at least cared for and not left to die. There is also a photo of two nurses tending to a wounded soldier, showing that care was so good there could be two nurses to a bed.

However, this photograph was probably commissioned by the army, so could not have been expressing negative views about the care the soldiers received. Several paintings, such as ‘Gassed’ by Singer Sargent, or ‘The Harvest of Battle’ by C. R. W. Nevinson show wounded men being led back to the trenches by those who were able to help. So these are obviously supporting the evidence given in the film. However, an extract from the ‘Diary of a Dead Officer’, the memoirs of A. West reads: ‘Doctors looked on every man as a skrim-shanker… en wounded and minus an arm forced to have electric treatment. Knocked down and held on the bed… people nearly crying with pain. Gloomy buildings… meals never hot, worse than ordinary camp food. ‘ So this obviously shows the darker side to the army’s medical service. Overall, I feel that this film, though a valuable piece of evidence from the point of view for technical reference, to see what kind of equipment the soldiers carried and so on and is a piece of World War I history, you have to bear in mind the situation under which it was created.

The war office allowed a small group of camera men to cover the war on the Western front, all the footage of which was edited and produced by a team for the War Office. Indeed, the film was considered so important and expressive of the views the army wanted to promote, that at the first screening of the film a letter by David Lloyd George, Secretary of State for the War was read saying: ‘You are invited here to witness by far the most important picture of the war our staff has yet procured…

I am convinced that when you have seen this wonderful picture, every heart will beat in sympathy with its purpose… Now, gentlemen, be up and doing also! ‘ This letter clearly implies that the main point of the film is to increase patriotic feelings and rally civilian support for the war effort, and states very clearly that another aim is to encourage the signing up of other men. Therefore we have had to treat every area of this film with caution before stating the reliability.

I have tried to do this and feel that while some of the basic facts are right, this is obviously an air-brushed view of the battle, and the government and army failed to inform of the massive losses incurred, which I feel was neglectful of their duty to keep the public informed with a realistic picture of events, and also ignores the duties carried out by the thousands of soldiers that gave their lives.

This neglect of the facts also indicates the way other areas of the film, such as showing the comfort of the men, may have been skimmed over to give a better view of the army and I think that as this was the main purpose of the film from the beginning, it provides us with an extremely imprecise view of the lives the soldiers in the trenches actually experienced.

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Battle Of The Somme Movie. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Battle Of The Somme Movie
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