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simond9x

Film - MONS (1926)

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simond9x

I recently had a viewing of Walter Summers' film at the BFI’s Reuben Library. I was surprised that they only hold reels 1 and 3 as I’d thought that they had the complete film which runs to about 60 minutes. My understanding is that the IWM only holds a 3 minute clip (not taken from reels 1 or 3).

Reel 1 shows embarkation, British infantry marching, a cavalry patrol routing a party of Uhlans, soldiers lying in line along the edge of a field, and some shelling of a town.

Reel 3 shows ‘The Great Retreat” – soldiers and civilian trudging through a town, cavalry assisting in the rescue of some guns, Lincs and S Lancs soldiers defending a ruined house, a machine gun crew being given a lift by a Belgian woman with a horse and cart.

I’ve seen other clips used in documentaries (German troops attacking from woods, British troops firing from shallow trenches, General Smith-Dorrien on horseback, the defence of Nimy bridge, to name but a few). Does anyone know if the full film still exists or from where these other clips were sourced? Or even just a synopsis of the whole film?

Grateful if anyone can shed any light on this film please.

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EastSurrey

Sorry I can't help with the film. I believe Summers made others,too, on the Great War.I'd be interested to see them. He was an interesting character-winning a DCM and MM as an NCO with 9/East Surrey and then an MC as an officer with 12/East Surrey.

Michael

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CarylW

'....Or even just a synopsis of the whole film'.....

If it's any help, a few years ago, I posted a review of Mons (1926) that I'd found in an old regimental journal 'The Snapper' written not long after the film was released

The old thread is here:

 

This is the review again anyway

A review written in 1926 in "The Snapper" (EYR Journal)

Service Films


Mons

By far the finest in my opinion of these war films is "Mons". It does not attempt to tell any romance or fiction story, but sets out to portray as accurately as can be reproduced the outstanding incidents of the Great Retreat. The fillm starts with the Battle of Mons, the firing of the first shots by the cavalry, and then the infantry in the scanty scratches on the ground that served us as trenches in the early days. We have that stirring part of the action played by the Royal Fusiliers, and a reproduction of the holding of the Nemy Bridge and the exploits which earned the VC for Lieut. Dease and Pte. Godley
We follow the retiring army in the first stages back to Le Cateau, and get a magnificent and thrilling picture of the 119th Field Battery in difficulties with their guns in the open under a slaughtering fire, and the gallant rush to the rescue of the 9th Lancers
At the trade show where I saw the picture the audience broke into unrestrained applause when those guns were manhandled back into safety, limbered up and came at a tearing gallop out of the tempest

We have a few scenes of the Lines and the Lancashire Fusiliers, and the stand of Guards in the rear guard action at Landrecies: and other regiments which one recognises are the A and S Highlanders, the Manchesters, K.O.Y.L.I, Gordons, Cheshires, and Queen's Bays. We see the historic stand of "L" Battery: and I'll defy any man, in and out of the Gunners, not to be thrilled to the marrow by the story that re-lives on the screen.
We watch the retreat drag on: we see Major Tom Bridges of the 4th Dragoon Guards buy his toy drum from a village shop and drum and whistle a last flicker of life into the dead-beat men sprawled about the cobble-stoned street, get them on their feet and staggering after him on their weary march.
Again you feel a lump come into your throat as you watch, and you want to stand and cheer the stout hearted Major and his no less stout-hearted men as one by one they lurch up and away.
But I cannot attempt to tell the incidents of the whole epic story. It is one that every Service man - more every British man, woman and child ought to see..........

There are few, if any war films I have not seen. I say without hesitation that "Mons" is the finest war picture which has yet been made"

Caryl

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simond9x

Thanks for the replies. I find it hard to believe that this film, in its totality, may be lost. Since asking the question a few days ago, I've found a few other items about it. Firstly, the NY Times review:-

Although the British World War production, "The Battle of Mons," now on view at the Cameo Theatre, is frequently weakened by the poor direction of some of its scenes and the consequent overacting of a number of its participants, it is a film that carries one back to those dark days of August, 1914, depicting as it does, with a marked degree of authenticity, the gallant fighting of Britain's "Contemptibles." This picture was edited and titled for this country by Captain Harold Auten, V. C., R. N. R., who was chiefly responsible for that excellent pictorial feature, "Q Ships." Captain Auten's work is conspicuously intelligent and nicely restrained.

This picture in many of its passages reveals the strange conception of warfare compared to what it was in later days. The Uhlans are portrayed with lances and there are the British cavalrymen with swords. It was in the days of hand-to-hand fighting, before either side had dug in. There are encounters in roadways, with machine guns mowing down troops caught in a narrow impasse.

The exhausted condition of the Tommies is depicted in a dramatic fashion and one obtains realistic idea of the exhaustion of these troops.

If only for one sequence, this film is well worth while. This particular passage is inspiring. It is an incident that has been swamped by the many others that occurred during hostilities. The hero was then Major Tom Bridges, who afterward became a lieutenant general and subsequently Governor of New South Wales.

The scene of this impressive bit of the World War is St. Quentin's Grand Place, with leg-weary soldiers huddled over the cobblestones. All were too tired to listen to any officer. They were too exhausted to arise even after a good shaking. Their bed, such as it was, afforded a wonderful rest after days and days of fighting and trudging in the hot sun. But they had to be saved from capture. Somebody had to awaken them, and this somebody was Major Tom Bridges, who is impersonated by a strikingly handsome, big man. Major Bridges, talking with another officer, incidentally the only other man on his feet, wonders what to do. Then suddenly his eyes light upon the window of a toy shop in which there is a penny whistle and a toy drum. Major Bridges and his comrade enter the untenanted shop and Major Bridges takes a toy drum while his friend takes a whistle. Then these two officers are perceived marching around and around the square, one playing the air of "The British Grenadiers" and the other beating the toy drum.

This is a scene that is glorious in its memory. It brings a lump to one's throat. It makes one think of Kipling's "Drams of the Fore and Aft," and then causes one to reflect that it is even greater as a story than the account of the Tyneside Tail-twisters.

But to get back to the scene. Nothing happens for a while as this curious fife and drum goes on with its sounds. Then gradually, and as it really occurred, the Tommies, inspired by the notes of the Grenadier Guards, one after another turn over, and one after another they get up, and soon they are ready to go on.

The engineers are perceived in subsequent passages blowing up a bridge, one man nonchalantly smoking a cigarette as he attaches the explosive. The rifles that are fired in all the scenes are evidently loaded, if only with blanks, for one not only observes the kick of the weapon but the report is evidently heard by those appearing in the scenes.

Sir Harry Gloster Armstrong. British Consul General, and other members of the consulate are to be present at the Camco this evening at a screening of "The Battle of Mons."

Then a couple more items - the cover of the film programme and an article from a Singapore newspaper.

post-42264-0-93353500-1384684935_thumb.j

post-42264-0-09655200-1384684953_thumb.j

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9.5mm

IIRC, an extant print of "Mons" (1926) has not been found and is presumed lost. Sadly, it is estimated that approx. 80% - 90% of silent cinema suffered a similar fate.

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simond9x

Thanks for the replies so far. I do wonder what source(s) the film-makers used for the other clips I mentioned? Someone, other than the BFI and IWM, must have them somewhere. I just don't know who to ask :(

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9.5mm

Simon, there is very, very little acutalite film covering the Battle of Mons (hence why the British Instructional Film(s) from the 1920s often have their reconstructed sequences used anachronistically). Even episode four in the BBC Great War series plays fast and loose with archival film due to the paucity of authentic moving images.

I'd try British Pathe and the European Film Gateway - both have searchable databases with streamable film content. The latter helpfully agglomerates the content of a large number of European Film Archives (although not the BFI) and is regularly updated.

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simond9x

Thanks. I had already tried British Pathe and, although they hold the 'sister' film "Ypres", they don't have Mons. Will keep trying though.

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

OK,

So what's the story?

Is this the whole film?

If so , where did the BFI find the missing reel?

 

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simond9x

It's certainly the whole film and in great quality. It must have been more than 3 reels as there is obviously a reel 2 now but also extra footage after the retreat which must come from at least a reel 4. My question is why have they kept it so quiet? They missed a commercial opportunity on the centenary 3 years ago (although maybe they didn't have it all back then). Just glad to have seen it now.

 

It's quite sobering watching the footage of Smith-Dorrien and remembering that he was one of the few (white) survivors of Isandlwana

 

Next....... Zeebrugge (1924).  Most of it's now available but only in fragments. Still some missing bits though.

Edited by simond9x

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bradley

superb stuff,just downloaded and will watch tomorrow night...have allways wanted to see `mons`....

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9.5mm

Nice find, Simon. I was wrong about "Mons" being lost. The BFI had a complete print, it just had not been digitised. Coincidentally, I saw a programme for a NFT WW1 season from the early 60s and the film was being screened then. 

Edited by 9.5mm

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simond9x
On 31/05/2017 at 22:52, bradley said:

superb stuff,just downloaded and will watch tomorrow night...have allways wanted to see `mons`....

How did you download it? I could only view it online for up to 48 hours. It would be nice to download a copy that I can watch whenever.

 

9.5mm - I think they must have acquired a new transfer of the film. When I visited in 2013 (see my first post at the top of this thread), I paid for them to transfer what they had to digital i.e. just reels 1 and 3

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bradley

apologies Simon,viewed not downloaded.....yes,I believe there is a time limit on it.For me,£3.50 isnt a lot to view again,Il definitely do this at some point but would be intrigued as to obtaining something more permanent !
 

Edited by bradley

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Sepoy

There are some great WW1 films available on this site!
Thank you for drawing my attention to it.

Sepoy

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springer

Simon and all

 

You maybe interested to know as background info that the 'Extras' for both films were provided by the 1st Battalion Wiltshire Regiment who were stationed at Tidworth at that time. The reason I have picked this up is whilst processing an old Photo Album for the Regimental Museum at Salisbury I came across four images two relating to the YPRES film and two for the Mons film. Both films are a combination of realtime film and extra footage provided by the extras from the battalion [I think they were good soldiers, but oscars were not within their grasp !!]. 

 

If you go the the Regimental Museum website at www.thewardrobe.org.uk and there under RESEARCH/COLLECTION/ADVANCED SEARCH.....Unit group WILTS - 1st Battalion and in the general search box put MONS and then YPRES you will pick up the four images [Numbers 43968 43969 43823 42824.]

 

Maybe of interest to you.

 

 

Cheers

Springer

 

 

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simond9x

Springer - thanks for that, very interesting.

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Skipman

 

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joe19612

Watched it the other day on you tube. 

 

Joe

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Skipman

It's very good.

 

Mike

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lostinspace

Thanks Mike. Smith-Dorrien as Smith-Dorrien, can't get any better than that!

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Skipman
13 hours ago, lostinspace said:

Thanks Mike. Smith-Dorrien as Smith-Dorrien, can't get any better than that!

 

Indeed. It's well worth watching just to see the kit and especially the field artillery in action. Great stuff.

 

Mike

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MikeyH

Many Germans are armed with SMLE's.

 

Mike.

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maxi

Thank you very much for posting this as it helped pass a lovely afternoon.

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