Affiche The Great War Interviews
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A collection of interviews with World War One veterans and civilians filmed in the 1960s for the landmark BBC series The Great War.

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Saisons & épisodes Les résumés de tous les épisodes de The Great War Interviews

S01E01 Frank Brent 23/03/2014 Frank Brent was a NCO with the Australian Imperial Force and fought at Gallipoli. His account illustrates how ordinary men morphed into wild animals driven by revenge over fallen friends when faced with desperate surroundings and little support. He paints a vivid picture of the battles fought at Gallipoli, with its dusty ridges and cooling sea that quelled a soldier's nerves as well as cleaned his kit.
S01E02 Katie Morter 23/03/2014 Katie was happily married to husband Percy Morter when he was recruited by music hall star, Vesta Tilley. In 1915 he was posted to France with the 9th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. It would be six months before Percy got leave at Christmas - and had only six days with Katie. Percy returned to the Western Front, and Katie found out she was pregnant. In July 1916, not long before the baby was due, Katie received a letter from Percy's Sergeant, regretfully informing her that Percy had been killed in action at the Somme. Katie lost a husband who never got the chance to meet his son.
S01E03 Henry Williamson 23/03/2014 Henry Williamson joined the 5th London Regiment as a Private in January 1914, and was greatly excited when the order for mobilisation came in August. He was one of many who believed the war would be over by Christmas. Initially exhilarating, he soon found life in the trenches to be almost unendurable as mud and death became part of the daily routine. The Christmas Truce of 1914 - a short moment of peace and civility in the otherwise relentless reality of gunfire and shelling - left a deep impression on him.
S01E04 Cecil Arthur Lewis 23/03/2014 Cecil was a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, and had only 20 hours of flying experience when first posted to France for reconnaissance and contact patrol duties. His unique account documents the appearance of the Somme from the air - trenches that looked like the edge of lace doilies, and shells like lobbed tennis balls. His account is permeated with fearful honesty about how frightening it was to fight alone in the air, in stark contrast to the almost enjoyable hours spent on the airfields and towns of France.
S01E05 Stefan Westmann 23/03/2014 Stefan Westmann was a Corporal with the German 29th Infantry Division while fighting for ground on the Western Front. His description of killing a French Corporal is honest and harrowing, as Stefan wonders how war turns civilised men into killers. While on an offensive near La Bassée, he witnessed something quite the opposite - British soldiers risking their lives to raise a Red Cross flag and bring the German side their dead.
S01E06 Charles Carrington 23/03/2014 Charles Carrington enlisted in 1914, and by December 1915 found himself stationed on the Western front between Gommecourt and Serre. Up until the spring of 1916, Charles enjoyed the experience; a sort of 'outdoor camping holiday with the boys, with a slight spice of danger to make it interesting'. The war tactic soon changed - as did the weather - and Charles found himself living in a world of mud, noise, and always a few shells away from nervous breakdown. The trenches became the real world, and far-off London - and his family - began to feel very unreal.
S01E07 Mabel Lethbridge 23/03/2014 A 17-year-old Mabel Lethbridge lied about her age to get a job cleaning detonators at the No. 7 National Filling Factory in Hayes, Middlesex. It was a dull job, and when on her sixth day of work a poster appeared requesting staff to work in Amatol Filling Section - the Danger Zone - she immediately volunteered. Injury and deaths were frequent due to novice workers and highly explosive materials. On Mabel's ninth day of work, a shell exploded and her left leg was mutilated beyond repair. It was later amputated, and she was awarded a Medal of the Order of the British Empire (known as a BEM nowadays) for her courage and devotion to duty.
S01E08 John Willis Palmer 23/03/2014 18-year-old shop assistant John enlisted into the army in 1911, and became a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery. In August 1914 he was appointed Acting Bombardier and posted to France, where the realities of mud, fatigue and death began to break his spirit. His account is tinged with the hopelessness and cowardice felt by many men who did not feel mentally or physically capable of the endless advances and retreats over a few feet of pock-marked ground. During a time when John contemplated self-inflicting wounds to remove himself from the situation, he was injured by a nearby shell burst. Having sustained severe wounds to his back and shoulders, he returned to England.
S01E09 Edward Glendinning 23/03/2014 Edward was a 17-year-old clerk when he enlisted in 1913, and by February 1915 found himself in France as a Private in the 5th battalion of the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment, the Sherwood Foresters. He describes in detail the process of going over the top and running through no man's land, past dead and dying comrades, under the merciless fire of the enemy. He remains haunted by the memory of an injured comrade he didn't stop to help when making the precarious journey back to the British trenches.
S01E10 Horace Leslie Birks 23/03/2014 Horace Leslie Birks sailed for France in 1915 as a Private with the 5th Batallion of the London Rifle Brigade. Having been wounded at Gommecourt in July 1916, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Crops heavy branch and became a Second Lieutenant in February 1917. He recalls his nervousness when first ordered to command a tank in action at Passchendaele, and what it was like to operate inside those hot, steamy and altogether claustrophobic cockpits while machine gun fire and shells rained down. Next came Cambrai, the first battle to use tanks en masse.
S01E11 Richard Henry Tobin 23/03/2014 Richard Henry Tobin had joined the Royal Naval Reserve Mersey Division in 1911, and when war broke out he was promoted to Leading Seaman with the Hood Battalion. Having landed at Antwerp, Henry saw the civilian impact of war in the desperate and fearful Belgian refugees. As a Sergeant Major he would spend the next three years to-ing and fro-ing over Passchendaele and the Somme, and remembers the feeling of dropping into a Somme trench in March 1918 that he had first occupied in November 1916. This is an inspiring account of how the British unwillingness to give up and give in is one of the greatest examples of human endeavour during the Great War.
S01E12 Edward Louis Spears 23/03/2014 Born in Paris to British parents, Edward Louis Spears first became the liaison officer between Field Marshall Sir John French and General Charles Lanrezac, commander of the French Fifth Army, in August 1914. In this month General Lanrezac made a sudden decision to retreat - a manoeuvre that would have left the British forces on his flank dangerously exposed. Edward urgently reported this to Sir John French who called off a British advance the night before it was due to commence - and in doing so prevented a massive loss of life. In the following month Edward met the French General Joseph Joffre who had begun to plot out Allied strategies ahead of the First Battle of Marne. He was extremely impressed at the ease with which one man could exercise his will over a million men for the fate of his country without the slightest hint of reservation, and still be in bed by 10 o'clock. Edward was party to many intimate moments of the generals - he recalls how Joffre's dramatic plea for British involvement at Marne made Sir John French cry. By 1917, Edward was head of the British Military Mission to the French government in Paris. The French army was haemorrhaging lives, fuelling unrest within the ranks. Mutiny was in the air, and swept through the regiments - Edward reported this to London before the British army became swept up in the mess. Summoned from the Front to 10 Downing Street, Edward was interrogated by Lloyd George as to the severity of the mutinies - and in a scene that would be unbelievable had it been written for a drama - Edward lost his temper at the Prime Minister. Edward's account is a fantastic example of how a subaltern could become the bearer of overwhelming responsibility, and provides a privileged insight into the mind of some of the Allied forces' most important leaders.
S01E13 Norman Macmillan 23/03/2014 Norman Macmillan enlisted as a Private with the Glasgow Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. He served as an infantryman in France from November 1914 until September 1916, when he was commissioned to the Royal Flying Corps as a temporary second lieutenant. This was his calling. Norman describes one particular strafing mission at Passchendaele that became the most thrilling flight of his life. With a natural flair for manoeuvres and for developing his own combat techniques, Norman excelled in what was a very lonely and terrifying task. The skies of Passchendaele were also the stage for dogfights, and with incredible detail Norman recalls tactics that scattered seven German Albatross Scout planes and shot down their leader. His account is a rare opportunity to hear of the differences between life in the trenches and in the air.

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