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I Was There: The Great War Interviews

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Review

Half a century ago the BBC broadcast a landmark documentary series where soldiers and civilians who had survived the horrors of the First World War shared their personal experiences.

Only a fraction of the interviews were used so the remaining ones, shot in black and white and interspersed with shocking photographs, have now been compiled into this poignant, powerful and solemn tribute.

The men, in their late 60s but still spry and looking terribly dapper by today’s standards, dispassionately describe the fear, the filth, the smell and the noise of death. But their detachment makes it even more affecting. One recalls how, while recovering in a field hospital, he was told of some “lucky” men who’d been fighting since the start of war yet hadn’t sustained a scratch. “Poor devils,” he said grimly, so thankful that he was going home.

Summary

In the early 1960s, the BBC spoke to almost 300 people about their experiences during the First World War for landmark series The Great War, but only a fraction of the interviews were broadcast. This programme airs a selection of the original material, most of which has never been screened before, with recollections of the horrors of artillery bombardment and fleeting outbreaks of peace on the battlefield, as well as the stories of those on the home front waiting for news of their loved ones. Narrated by Samuel West.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Samuel West
Director Detlef Siebert
Editor Detlef Siebert
Executive Producer Mike Connolly
Producer Detlef Siebert

History

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