The Battle of the Somme has become a symbol of the destructive power of the First World War. The offensive, begun on the first of July, 1916, was to be the Big Push that would end the war. Instead it was a bloodbath. Some 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day. By the fall, some 1.5 million soldiers could be counted among the dead and the wounded.
That is not the impression that you would take away from the British documentary, “The Battle of the Somme,” which was shot in the days before and during the early offensive. The film does show the casualties of war, though much of the ugliest violence was censored. The filmmakers – and the British Topical Committee for War Films which sponsored the production – wanted to help build support for the war through film.
And so they did. While the battle in northern France continued, cinema goers in London could get their own taste of war. The film was an enormous success with critics – who saw it as a tribute to the heroism of war – and audiences alike.
This short clip gives you some sense for the film’s content.