Britain's Great War

The War Machine

Series 1 - Episode 2 The War Machine

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Review

For the most part, Jeremy Paxman keeps his own opinions out of this series. But he briefly lets himself off the leash tonight when he describes the more extreme conscientious objectors in the First World War as “cranks”. Yes the war was bloody, but to avoid Europe becoming a German colony, it had to be fought, opines Paxman. It’s a refreshing moment: the best history series have an angle or agenda, but in this blue-chip overview Paxman has to steer a safe path that keeps viewers of all persuasions on board.

Luckily, he’s terrific at summing up swathes of tricky history (here: suffragettes, the Easter Rising, the Somme) with a deft touch, and finding the details that bring the tale alive. Did you know that the suffragettes bombed Lloyd George’s house? Or that he made buying a round of drinks illegal?

Summary

Jeremy Paxman continues his history of the First World War with a look at the crisis the country faced as it became clear Britain was unprepared to fight a modern industrial conflict. As a result, the entire adult population was enlisted to turn the country into a war machine - from the women who filled the factories to make bombs and bullets to the men sent to the frontline. Not everyone agreed with the war, but any conscientious objectors who refused to fight were threatened with the firing squad, while striking shipbuilders were sent to jail. And with resources in short supply, even the nation's beer was watered down on government orders.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Jeremy Paxman
Director Roger Parsons
Director Julian Birkett
Executive Producer Basil Comely
Series Producer Julian Birkett
Documentary