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kenneth505

The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

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kenneth505

Thanks to IPlayer was able to watch this excellent program. For me it successfully walks the fine line a thoughtful examination of race requires. It showed me aspects of the war I had not considered in near enough detail and started to make me consider that there is a racial aspect to every war. Very well done, looking forward to more.

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Fred van Woerkom

I couldn't agree more !

Fred

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phil andrade

Yes....to my shame, my first reaction was :

" Oh, no ! It's going to be a politically correct BBC production emphasising diversity ; the ethnicity of the narrator says it all....we're going to be subjected to a tirade of platitudes....I'm not going to like it ! "

How wrong I was.

It was good stuff.

It was discerning and disciplined, and worked well.

Phil (PJA)

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Fattyowls

Ken, Fred, Phil

I couldn't agree more; I thought it was up there with the best that the BBC have produced thus far and there are some serious contenders for that title. Many of the locations were familiar to me but some of the camera work I found very original like the high shot looking along the Layes brook at Neuve Chapelle and some of the Douaumont coverage.

Pete.

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Seadog

A balanced programme? not really just take the early remarks by the presenter when looking at the large photo of the Indian Brigade camp, “I may be reading too much into this but the white officer on the horse looks arrogant and haughty to me” really, you can tell this from a photograph?. There was a story here but not with the tone of this commentary.

Norman

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kevmc

It started off with a few comments that irked me. "Trench warfare had never been experienced before". Try American Civil War.

"Recruits from India were from villages that they had never left prior to joining the War. Transferred without any knowledge of their destination". Stated as though it was cruel treatment - when in fact it was no different than the situation for the majority of the Tommies.

Selective posters used to emphasise racial stereotyping. The propaganda used by all sides depicted the enemy by grotesque distortion, irrespective of colour or country of origin.

The general tone had a flavour of the above but all in all I felt it was a good programme.

Kevin

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phil andrade

Another quibble : the statement that more Frenchmen were killed in 1914 than in any other year. Not so. More died in 1915 than in 1914, although, of course, the rate of loss was far higher in those five months in 1914 than at any other time.

On the plus side, Olusoga stipulated that, at Verdun, half a million men were wounded and a quarter of a million died ; thereby avoiding the frequently made error of conflating total casualties with dead.

I was surprised that he didn't allude to the Senegalese soldiers who entered Germany during the occupation after the war. Their consorting with German women resulted in numbers of mixed race children who were sterilised in the Nazi era.

I wonder what Gordon Corrigan would have made of the programme. He is an unrepentant proponent of the view that the Indian army was indeed characterised by different martial qualities according to race. It's fair to say that his experience qualifies him to know whereof he speaks.

But, let me reiterate : quibbles notwithstanding, a very creditable broadcast, and I for one will be keen to encounter Olusoga again, on screen or in print.

Phil (PJA)

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paulgranger

There is another episode, and, of course, the obligatory book 'to accompany the series'. I thought it a very good programme, especially as it was not Anglo-centric.

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keithjk

I thought it a very well-balanced and thought-provoking programme. Yes, there were small irritations, but I doubt a programme could be made entirely free of them. I certainly learnt a lot, enjoyed the aerial views of some of the battlefields, and look forward to the next episode.

Keith

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phil andrade

Pleased to report that the torygraph passed a review that endorsed our high opinion of this programme.

Phil (PJA)

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Chris_B

I fianlly got round to watching this programme last night andl I'm about to stick my head over the parapet so be shot at.

This programme was certainly thought provoking, but i'm not sure it was well balanced. We are light years away from the attitudes toward race and culture that prevailed a hundred years ago. Yet everything was seen through modern eyes, and by an individual for whom race and racism is a burning issue.

There were many statements that were irksome. I wonder what the reaction of the Sikhs at the Menin Gate, whose grandfather's had fought in the Great War, would have been if David Olusoga had voiced his opinion that those men had simply being responding to being told by the British that they were lions, so they conformed to the stereotype and that they had effectively been duped. An idea that smacks of the theory of false consciousness.

The examination of the idea of “martial races” lacked depth, there was little discussion of its historical roots and scant mention of the Indian caste system which the British may have manipulated to there own ends.

His description of the arrival of the Indian Division in France contained a classic stereotypical description of a white officer on horseback. Just the kind of stereotype Olusoga would later deride when talking about the French reaction in a small town where 40,000 Colonial troops were camped close by.

While time no doubt restricted a fuller account of events at Neuve Chapelle, I don't remember David Olusoga saying much about the extreme bravery of the troops of the Garhwal Brigade , nor did he bother to mention VC winner Gabbar Singh Negi. Perhaps he just forgot?

David Olusoga accused the French of infantising colonial troops by reducing them to “baby talk” by only teaching them a very limited from of pigeon French. But there were no counter arguments. How many different languages and dialects were spoken by these troops? What was their level of literacy? What time and resources were available to teach them French? How had the problem of communication been solved in the past? What new challenges were faced in the Great War?

There was no historical context for either the Indian Army, or La Coloniale. At one stage, David Olusoga accused the French of enslaving Africans to fight. This may have happened, but no evidence was presented or culprits identified. There was no discussion of the make up and recruitment methods that had maintained these forces pre-war. How, if at all, had things changed with the coming of the Great War?

So the question remains, have these men really been forgotten and if so did this programme succeed in honouring their efforts and sacrifice, or was it more about the racism of the day?

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EastSurrey

I agree with much of what Chris B says. Although much was good in the programme, it was quicker to condemn, from a modern perspective, rather than try to understand the past. Indian society, with the caste system, etc. divided itself up with different functions given to different groups. The British had been deeply influenced by the Indian Mutiny experience as to whom they looked to recruit in future: no more high caste Brahmins, but instead men such as Sikhs and Ghurkas who were traditional 'warrior' groups, who stood outside the caste system and were not exactly popular with the population at large,and had been loyal to the British in 1857.

Even in Europe, in the not too recent past, you can find attitudes towards recruitment within Europe that are not entirely dissimilar. Mountaineers like the Swiss and the Scottish Highlanders, thought highly of the military profession and were particularly valued as soldiers in the eighteenth century and later, and actively recruited. On the other hand, in parts, but not all, of Italy in the eighteenth century, the military profession attracted no respect, leading to poor quality officers and the forced recruitment of criminals. Duffy's excellent 'Military Experience in the Age of Reason' discusses, amongst other things, the question of national stereotypes in eighteenth century Europe.

Michael

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Steven Broomfield

I tend to agree with the altter posts. It was an interesting programme, but it did come across has having a case to make, and, quite simply, 60 minutes was not enough to cover such a complex issue. Indeed, the history of the Indian Army up to 1914 would have done much to put context into it.

The recent book by Morton-Jack (much discussed elsewhere on the forum), and the older one by Corrigan are both essential background reading, and I was surprised the only expert was Geoff Bridger, who, although extremely knowledgeable about Neuve Chappelle is not an expert on the IA.

It wa salso interesting and disappointing that emphasis on the French experience was on Senegalese, whereas the Arab units from North Africa seemed pretty much ignored.

I'd say it was interesting, but the limits of time restricted it from being more than a surface-scratching exercise, and, I'm sorry to say, i think it did come across that the BBC were trying hard to make a case about colonialism rather than to examine the truly complex issues involved.

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Chris_B

Next week we get:

Foreign Legions
p0249h6f.jpgNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 2 of 2

DURATION: 1 HOUR

In part two, historian David Olusoga explains how the First World War spread far beyond the mud and trenches of France and Belgium. Extraordinary stories from across the world reveal how millions of Indian, African and Asian troops and ancillaries were caught in its destructive path.

We will have to wait to see how the Armée d’Afrique and the various campaigns of the Indian Army etc. are described.

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SteveMarsdin

Although I would agree with some of these points, I do feel it was one of the more thought-provoking programmes of the BBC output so far, which I must say have mainly been very good.

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kenneth505

Any examination of race is fraught with danger. IMO Olusoga trod the boards well and I did not see any obvious agenda on his or the writers part. In general it was about as good as I could hope for from tv history and only an hour at that.

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John_Hartley

So, a programme about racism in Edwardian Europe.

As such, and at that level, I thought it was interesting. And interesting to see that put under the modern microscope - many of us would take the view that you don't need to much scratch the surface of modern society to find things havnt changed that much in 100 years.

But, as an account of the contribution of troops from the British and French colonies, I thought it was poor and did no real service to telling the stories of those men. Chris makes the point more eloquently than I can at post #11.

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NigelS

According to a Sunday Telegraph 'Seven' supplement article the Halbmondlager (Half Moon Camp), where attempts were made to change the allegiance of Muslim POWs, is included in the second part of the series (Wednesday 13/08/14, 9pm BBC2)

NigelS

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NigelS

For anyone intending to record this episode and not watching 'live', if it's not too late, be warned that because of delays in the live athletics preceding it, it is now due to start at 9.30pm, not the scheduled 9.00 pm.

NigelS

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exuser1

One point I picked up was the comment made by the presenter was that some French colonial troops were removed in chains from the villages to be forced to fight? and this amounted to slavery, any evidence for this remark

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Steven Broomfield

For anyone intending to record this episode and not watching 'live', if it's not too late, be warned that because of delays in the live athletics preceding it, it is now due to start at 9.30pm, not the scheduled 9.00 pm.

NigelS

Blast them - I ended up watching a re-run of Motorway Cops (set in Portsmouth ... my word ... the people!) and the recording didn't work because of the time shift so I'll have to catch it on iPlayer. Don't spoil the ending for me.

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Norrette

Blast them - I ended up watching a re-run of Motorway Cops (set in Portsmouth ... my word ... the people!) and the recording didn't work because of the time shift so I'll have to catch it on iPlayer. Don't spoil the ending for me.

It's on again - tonight I think. Have reset my recording.

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Anneca

I thoroughly enjoyed last night's episode and learned a lot about the brave Indian African and Asian men who became involved. I also think David Olusoga handled the programme extremely well.

Anne

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Steven Broomfield

Now you've spoiled it for me.

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NigelS

Now you've spoiled it for me.

As the deed has already been done (a spoiler alert for Mr Broomfield :o !)

The description of the Western Front as a '... Complex infrastructure of roads, railways, ammunition dumps, factories, hospitals, brothels & morgues, the Western Front was a linear city extending 450 miles from the Swiss frontier to the English Channel...' was clever, but I had to run back & replay to make sure that I had heard brothels included. Possibly being pedantic, an opportunist 'bolt-on' they might have been, but I doubt that brothels have ever have been seen, at least in the military sense, as part of the infrastructure.

NigelS

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