22 November 2005 | Jmhl3
Accurate and Moving
On the 1st of July 1916 thousands of British and French troops rose out of their trenches and attacked the German lines. It resulted in widespread slaughter, mainly on the British troops. This documentary explores all three combatants, a company of the Royal Manchester Regiment, a German officer and private's experience, and finally the French get a mention in the form of a field hospital operated by an American nurse and a front line officer. Also the popular image of the Somme is dispelled. The initial French victories are at last recognized. And for once, the British are not portrayed as getting shot down the instant they go over the top, instead the firing starts about 200 yards of the German lines, as it really happened. The accounts of poetic Captain May and his valiant Sergeant will not fail to move the viewer, as May writes heart wrenching letters to his wife and young daughter. The Christian Socialist Sergeant, May's friend who inspires the men is the best possible image of the British NCO. The documentary also focuses on the delicate subject of murdering prisoners which on the first day, which on the British sector did happen. The German's are also portrayed well, the professional "by the book" officer who successfully defends his trench and the private's who viewed the Somme as a cushy sector before getting killed in the battle. Unfortuanatly the French army is usually left out of these programs, so it was good to see their achievements portrayed accuratley.
The only slight criticisms of the program I have are
1. We don't see the explosions of the underground mines in the British sector.
2. We don't see the legendary pipers of the Highland Regiments who played their pipes as bullets and shells landed all around them, encouraging the men who eventually would take their objectives.
3. Finally it would have been good to see the Ulster Division in action with some of there officers wearing their famous orange sashes.
These complaints are minor. This is a breathtaking documentary that should be released on DVD. Ch4 again beats the politically correct BBC who alter events to suite the modern age eg look what happened in the horrible Docu-Drama Dunkirk. But thats another story.
Watch this documentary for the true story of the Battle of the Somme.