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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Movies of attacks-real or not?


PFF

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Years ago I saw on TV a program about World War I -there was a brief showing of a

film taken early in the war (about 1914?) showing in the distance British Cavalry despircing along a road after coming under shellfire attack.

ALso:

In Battle of the Somme 1916 there is a short film showing soldiers going over the top-

one man falls back dead and two go down amid barbed wire.

1) Was these attacks actually filmed or were they faked?

2) Did showing of the 1916 film helped shell-shocked soldiers recover from trauma?

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I think it's now generally accepted that the scene was faked. The booklet accompanying the Imperial War Museum version agrees.

- The men have only minimal equipment.

- If the man who falls back into the trench could be hit by enemy fire, then the cameraman must also have been visible as a target.

- One of the men having fallen in the wire crosses his legs and turns his head towards the camera.

I can't see how showing the film would help shell-shocked soldiers overcome their trauma, unless part of the box-office takings was donated to their rehabilitation. If you meant showing the film to the shell-shocked soldiers, then I'm no doctor but I think the effect could have been catastrophic.

Tom

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Could this cavalry have been the British Lancers? If I recall correctly in AUgust/Sept 1914 they would conduct patrols on horseback and lances as well

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I saw a piece of movie the other day of a party of men wending their way down a communication trench, ostensibly under fire, and in the dim background were another part of men on the surface busy doing something.

It was then followed by the fake 'over the top' piece.

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I have the Somme and Ancre of tape.. also Forgotten Men, footage was taken and sanitised for viewing especially after the Somme film caused problems.

Much of the Forgotten Men wasnt false...

John

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The acid test that I have always applied, and I think has served me well to date,is to imagine where the cameraman is located; standing behind a wooden tripod with that great box on the top and winding a crank if it is film.

If the shot is of men in a trench keeping their heads down and the shot is from above down where the cameraman has got to be out in the open with his back to the enemy lines - posed, no matter how genuine the soldiers look.

If of the rear echelon, or the bottom of a trench looking up - Real.

Just makes sense really.

Regds Bill

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I agree Compo. There is genuine footage of troops attacking distant ridges but taken from a safe place far away,( behind Haig ?). Also would the early cameras have stood up to the rain, mud, jarring from transport or shell blast. The advice from a friend of mine who collects old cameras and has a couple of movie ones from that era is they would not do so very well and were expensive to buy, no videos then.

There is genuine footage available but it would be pretty rare I suggest compared with the acted versions.

I wonder how much of the genuine nitrate film has been lost due to incorrect storage.

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PFF have you seen the footage taken by German cameraman who was killed while filming, his camera had a few holes in it but film was fine.

John I too have the Forgotten Men tape and I would say that 90% is real, I not that sure of the footage of chaps pushing rail truck as shell lands close to them ?

Annette

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There's at least one demonstrably real battle scene in the film.

We've been talking about the famous scene where the group of men scramble out of a trench and one slides back in. Immediately after this scene (if I remember correctly) there is a long sequence of the very early stages of the real battle.

Geoffrey Malins had just filmed the explosion of the Hawthorn Ridge mine, from a relatively safe, prepared position. Within one minute he would have seen British troops rushing up the hill to capture the crater. He filmed them, too, and this is the sequence which follows the "doubtful" shot. You will see troops advancing towards the crater (figures on the skyline) and more passing round and below it, it towards the village of Beaumont Hamel. The men at the front of this second group turn and begin running down the hill towards the camera position and the two in front both fall. This was only a minute or two into the battle. Perhaps these two men were the first the cameraman had seen killed. In any event he stops filming and resumes a few seconds later by which time there are large numbers of men moving down the hill and towards Beaumont Hamel.

I read that this bit of real battle footage was not considered exciting enough. (The men are just little dots, hundreds of yards away, and many viewers might not even see them. You have to watch the film several times to see what's happening.) So the suggestion is that the famous faked bit was added just before this section to give a more dramatic impression.

Tom

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Re 'The Cavaltry' being dispersed by shell fire as they move along a road.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe I've seen this bit of footage. Once again, it was taken at some considerable distance and it looked to me as if the footage was absolutely real.

In fact the footage is almost mundane. It has no 'staged' dramatic quality. It basically shows a few men on horses .. then a puff of smoke .. horses scatter. One animal falls.

Now .. whether it was strictly a 'cavalry' unit is another thing!

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Des there is footage of horses rushing up 60 pounds, and shell goes off near them, the gun team diappear in smoke, and after smoke clears at least one or two horses are on the ground, and I think from memory one of the gunners. Several men run back to help-not sure if this is the shot you are thinking of ?

Annette

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Evening Annette - yup I think you've hit the nail on the head. I thought it was a gun team too!

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There is the famous shot of the Frenchman at Verdun? or Marne? who was photographed exactly at the time when a bullet hit him

John

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Is there an agreed view on this picture? Can anyone expand on the story behind the Frenchman?

Des

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Regarding the photo of the French soldier (often captioned as "The Moment of Death", or similar), it's been suggested that this picture MAY also have been faked, as the high postition of the camera in relation to the surrounding area would have made the photographer VERY exposed to the attacking French.

If it is faked, it is a very convincing fake.

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There is also the famous picture in the IWM of the soldier during the Spanish Civil War falling back after being hit. The classic back bend etc.

The consensus is that this WAS very real.

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Interesting stuff ... especially about the physical behaviour/pose of men as they are hit.

I read one man's account (probably in Middlebrook) about how he witnessed men of his unit being struck by fire during an attack.

He made the point that they went down in a manner quite unlike 'the movies' ..

And then I also seem to remember an account of men being hit in a Napoleonic battle.

That account spoke of the injured turning in circles and flapping about like injured birds, completely out of bodily control.

And, when you think about it ... what do you do when you bang your knee off the pointed end of a desk or batter your thumb with a hammer?

I for one do tend to turn around in circles in a very 'Unhollywood' manner!

Anyone read similar stories of this 'injured bird' like behaviour?

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I wonder how much of the genuine nitrate film has been lost due to incorrect storage.

I saw the reunion/making of programme before last year’s rerun of ‘The Great War,’ where they discussed the film that they used. One of the points they made was that they came into storage areas and found many cans of nitrate film that had crumbled.

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Anyone read similar stories of this 'injured bird' like behaviour?

The one person (thankfully, I only ever saw it happen to one person) that I saw hit (and killed) by a high velocity round simply collapsed like a "sack of spuds"! However, he was hit from a distance.

Dave.

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There is also the famous picture in the IWM of the soldier during the Spanish Civil War falling back after being hit. The classic back bend etc.

The consensus is that this WAS very real.

Was this photo taken by Capa (of Omaha beach fame?). It's actually part of a sequence which starts with the guy in a trench, then "going over". There are two (different) photos of him being hit and one of him lying on the ground afterwards. It was regarded at the time (by some) as the greatest war photo ever taken.

Dave.

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Could this cavalry have been the British Lancers? If I recall correctly in AUgust/Sept 1914 they would conduct patrols on horseback and lances as well

The lancers went on patrol with their lances after September 1914, on the Western Front certainly up to First Ypres, and again in 1918, in the Middle East to the end of the War and beyond, and in India well into the 30s.

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