Somme thoughts

Follow up to the post below. The C4 programme on the Somme, when it arrived on Modnay night, was not as bad as I had feared. Not great on the C2 aspects, but these are very complicated and difficult to represent televisually. Few cliches repeated (so all the British troops on screen started their attack by going over the top from their own front line and walking slowly towards the enemy, whereas Prior and Wilson suggest that a huge variety of different tactics were actually used). And of course we only got 1 July, which is a bit like studying the first five minutes of Hastings and saying that the Saxons won.
On the other hand, the stated purpose of the programme was to show us what it was like to be at the Somme. And on this, I thought they didn’t do a bad job – particularly through the narrative device of using a variety of ‘real-life’ eyewitnesses, including R.H. Tawney. And – strangely – the programme concentrated on the experiences of a unit which reached all its objectives on 1 July, the 22 Manchesters.
Does showing people ‘what it was really like’ on 1 July help them to understand the First World War, however? Probably not. My experience with friends and colleagues has been that responses were pretty much preconditioned. So the military historians long despaired of TV, and the lay viewers got angry at the stupidity of British generals.


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