A Legacy of the Great War


NOTE: I wrote this back in 2015, but this year, the 100th memorial year, I think is a good time to give it another airing.
A Legacy of the Great War. (WW1)

I was watching a television trailer, regarding a forthcoming documentary, examining the life of those who lived and fought from the trenches. I was struck by the number of film clips taken on the front line.

That so many have survived for the past one hundred years is quite amazing, considering the ease of degradation of the materials used. I had not previously considered such an archive of moving images existed, considering movie making was still in its infancy at the time.

Seeing these short monochrome (mostly, although a few colour films were produced), films of men going about their daily lives on the front line, brought the characters of those captured on cellulose to life in a way I did not think possible. In conjunction with this footage was often clear and exceptional commentary.
Several factors emerged of which I was unaware, such as staging football tournaments between the various regiments and the front-line horticultural competitions, for growing vegetables and flowers, which, it is said, were passionately contested.

I came to the conclusion, one of which I am certain I was aware of, but not given conscious consideration before, it is… this was the first time we have a recorded and documented history on such a massive scale, yet with meticulous and comprehensive detail covering every aspect of human life during the events.

Further, is the fact this information was collected and collated by individuals as well as all the various states and nations involved, giving us the data we need to conclude a balanced and unbiased account of the true circumstances and conditions of life during the conflicts, whether at sea, in the air, or indeed on the Western front.

Never before in mankind's history have we collected so much indisputable evidence of a historic event, even one of this magnitude. Additionally, this is the first time we, the general public, can see, hear, even feel (to some extent), the character of the ordinary people entangled in the War.

The events of this 'great war' are now ‘beyond living memory’. All those who participated have died. Which means we must learn and teach our young, from the footage, the photography, the written and recorded archives which exist.

Hopefully, this information will one day be part of the lesson which teaches us all war has no victors and no winners, ever.
The last surviving World War I veterans were:

The last living veteran of World War I (28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918) was Florence Green, a British citizen who served in the Allied armed forces, and who died 4 February 2012, aged 110.

The last combat veteran was Claude Choules who served in the British Royal Navy (and later the Royal Australian Navy) and died 5 May 2011, aged 110.
The last veteran who served in the trenches was Harry Patch (British Army) who died on 25 July 2009, aged 111.

The last Central Powers veteran, Franz Künstler of Austria-Hungary, died on 27 May 2008 at the age of 107.

We shall remember them all.

The accompanying photograph is from my friend and former shipmate, John 'Jim' Reeves. His great-uncle, Reuben Fray, is carrying a wounded man through the trenches during the battle of the Somme in 1916.

The scary thing is, it makes you realise how close fortune and fate are to brushing against your own life.
A hairsbreadth.

Paul.John Jim Reeves Thats my Great Great Uncle Reuben Fray doing the carrying great photo. I was o...jpg


Lantern Swinger
Saw the whole film in the cinema on 16 Oct. It was amazing to watch it. 90ish minutes of footage of WW1 on the Western Front from the British perspective. Utterly fascinating and Peter Jackson and his teams did an outstanding job.


War Hero
Super Moderator
I've got the 6 DVD set the Telegraph did a few years back where they'd colourised old WW1 film, it covers the prelude, trench warfare, sea warfare, air warfare, the end of the war etc.

Contact the Telegraph NNC, they may still do them.