Plot: A documentary on the most bloody battle in WW1; Battle of The Somme.
This powerful dramatised documentary marks the 90th anniversary of the first battle of the Somme; the bloodiest battlefield in the First World War.
To be broadcast at 8.00pm on BBC One on July 2 2006, the 60 minute programme is based on real accounts as we follow a group of pals from Salford, mates from the local church, who joined up together to fight for King and Country.
Walter Fiddes was a shop assistant, Stephen Sharples a builder, and Thomas Mellor (pictured, played by Chris Hannon) - a travelling salesman. They would fight - and die - side by side on 1st of July 1916, just three of the 20,000 who would fall on the first day of the battle of the Somme.
The 1st of July 1916 was the bloodiest day in British military history. But there was much more to the Somme than senseless slaughter. The Somme: From Defeat to Victory challenges the traditional view of the battle as a disaster and reveals how it was on the Somme that the British Army learnt to fight a modern war.
Two months after the failure of 1st of July, Lt. Colonel Francis Maxwell, a maverick battalion commander, led a daring raid on the German positions where Mellor, Fiddes, and Sharples had been killed. The fighting was savage, but with the help of innovative tactics, such as the 'creeping barrage', and a new-fangled weapon, one of the first ever tanks, they eventually defeated their German enemy. Private Edwards who couldn't even write or read won the Victoria Cross for his heroics and Maxwell was promoted to command a brigade.
Based on extensive research in British and German archives, The Somme: From Defeat to Victory mixes shockingly realistic, historically sourced drama scenes, archive, documentary footage and state of the art computer graphics to bring the extraordinary events of the Somme to life. It has been made with the advice of some of the world's top military historians.
The result is a film that is both deeply moving and offers a radical new perspective on the Somme, putting the terrible events of July 1st into their proper historical context.
The film is also influenced by the personal perspective of its writer, director and producer Detlef Siebert, who says: "As a German, I approached the battle of the Somme without the preconceptions that most British people seem to have. Even 90 years on, the Somme is still seen as a prime example of the recklessness and idiocy of British generals who sent wave after wave of brave young men to certain death.
"And although the battle of the Somme lasted almost 5 months, it is normally only the first day of the battle, the 1st of July, that is remembered. This popular view of the Somme struck me as rather one-dimensional and I wondered how the British Army would have won the war if it was really led by 'donkey' generals. In fact, recent historical research has demonstrated that many British commanders proved able and willing to learn from the disaster of the 1st of July.
"I wanted to make a film that not only shows the human tragedy of trench warfare but also highlights the learning curve of the British Army on the Somme."
Annika Mombauer, the Open University’s academic advisor on the programme added: "Today we count our casualties in modern wars in their tens and hundreds – each last one a tragic loss. Imagine the reaction to such extraordinary numbers of casualties as in the Battle of the Somme and you begin to get a sense of the human tragedy that it stands for."
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