They Shall Not Grow Old documentary

“an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” – The Observer. It is incredible to see old film converted and filled to the right speed and colourised. It changes how we see people. And then to see lip readers and voice artists and sound effects engineers bring it to a new level.

Amazing what you take from the new scenes. A gun blasting from a farmyard, and slates fall off a roof. A German prisoner losing his balance and a Tommy giving him a shoulder charge and a bit of verbal. A shell exploding within horse column bringing supplies.

The documentary ( ) starts with the optimism of the British going to war, and has quite a few quotes expressing the spirit of the Captain from “The Wipers Times”. This is not “Oh What a Lovely War”, or “The Monoculed Mutineer”, or “Blackadder Goes Forth”.

And the film is limited, perhaps by the source material. But no navy, no air battles, no hospitals, no Italy, no explorations of strategy, no news of revolutions elsewhere, no French army, no Americans, no Spanish flu, possibly no Empire and certainly no black and minority ethnic.

But what it brings, especially for those descended from British soldiers on the front, is something so special, that allows us a sliver of understanding, and a sense of what shock and awe might actually have been like. Cos as is explained, they never told us, or as the film asserts, many of us didn’t ask or want to know.

And a concern that maybe the last four years haven’t been used well enough to re-iterate just what a stupid war it was. Which just one quote at the end manages to impart.

And then a terrifically judged version of “Mademoiselle from Armentières” (ères ) to finish.

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