WW1 Documentaries

The Story of The Battle of the Somme

BBC Documentary first shown in 1976
This is a public domain video available at The Moving Image Archive; uploaded by http://www.WW1Photos.com
Published on YouTube 9 January 2011

This documentary narrated and presented by Leo Mckern commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of The Somme. It is a powerfully emotional story, heavily critical of the generals. Leo Mckern Walks the fields of Picardy and retells the story of the battle, with the letters, diaries and memories of men who took part.

Digging Up The Trenches – WW1 Documentary

Published on YouTube 3 July 2015

In November of 2005, In Flanders Fields, a team of archaeologists under the guidance of military historian Peter Barton, seek to uncover the secrets of World War One by finding and excavating a British and a German trench.

Digging up the Trenches is a two-hour special that reveals each stage of trench warfare by focusing on the remarkable finds made by this unique excavation.

It draws a vivid picture of the lives and deaths of the men who fought on each side of the Ypres Salient, using important historical finds to trigger extraordinary and detailed dramatic re-creations, bringing to life for the viewer the experiences of the men who fought there.

Vimy Ridge Heaven to Hell

A UKTV War Documentary shown in 2007
Hosted by Michael Allcock
Published on YouTube 8 February 2013

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a major Allied victory that helped turn the tide in the First World War. In April 1917, the Allies began an assault on Vimy Ridge in northern France – but their success came at a tragic cost. A bold and imaginative strategy played out in three dimensions – in the air, on the ground and in a labyrinth of tunnels under No Man’s Land. Travel from heaven to hell on Vimy Ridge through an archaeological dig, opening of a tunnel, live fire tests and demos, personal letters and computer-gaming style animation.

The Somme then and now.. in full HD

Published on YouTube 1 August 2016

A century on from the Battle of the Somme photographer Matt Cardy has put together a series of photos which show how dramatically different the area is now.
Matt uncovered a collection of pictures and video from the Getty archive taken at the time of the battle in North-East France in July 1916. He then returned to the same places, took new photos and video from the same viewpoints and digitally merged them.

This is a fitting tribute and poignant reminder of the horrors of World War One.

The Last Platoon: British veterans of the Great War (Part 1 of 2)

A BBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 27 September 2014

This two-part BBC series from 2005 interviewed many of the last surviving British veterans of the First World War. With some emotive reconstructed footage, and much outstanding archive materials, the films enabled those old gentlemen to express for the final time their memories of the conflict. Uploaded for educational purposes only.

The Last Platoon: British veterans of the Great War (Part 2 of 2)

A BBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 17 October 2014

This is the second part of the outstanding short series that interviewed the remaining ‘Tommies’ in 2005. Uploaded for educational purposes only.

The Gallipoli Campaign 1915

A BBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 18 May 2015

This documentary explores the planning, operation and ultimate failure of the attempt at the Dardanelles to force Turkey out of the Great War. It also explores the lessons learned and how they were applied to the D-Day landings in 1944.

The documentary has been uploaded for educational purposes only. Any advertising that appears is beyond my control.

World War One Hidden Stories: Canada’s Soldier

A CBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 11 November 2014

In the Remembrance Day special “Canada’s Soldier,” Peter Mansbridge retraces the steps that Canadians took as they were dispatched to fight in the First World War. Many memories from the Great War remain cloaked in mystery, including a tunnel with Canadian artefacts never seen before on TV.

Gallipoli: The Untold Stories

A History Channel Documentary
Published on YouTube 25 November 2016

This documentary tells how the Anzac legend was forged, and reflects on the impact Gallipoli had on everyday Australians then and now. It includes never before seen interviews with the last ten Gallipoli Anzacs, and includes rare black and white film footage showing the beach and the trenches at Gallipoli, rarely seen images from The Age and war photographer Phillip Schuler.

The Great War: Andrew Marr’s The Making Of Modern Britain

A BBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 26 May 2012

Britain gets its first taste of total war. Andrew Marr argues that no shock has ever hit these islands with quite the force of what became known as the Great War. It transformed the lives of the British people – most dramatically the millions who fought on the frontline, but also those at home who were bereaved, bombed, uprooted and bankrupted.

With vivid archive and extraordinary anecdotes, Andrew Marr tells the story of Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army – the biggest in history. He also describes German gunboat assaults on the north east coast of England; the strange disappearance of Britain’s first sea lord at the height of the war; the first bomb ever to fall on Britain; and the sex scandal that threatened to destroy the British establishment.

Visiting the trenches of Flanders, Andrew Marr imagines the horrors of industrialised warfare and reveals the gallows humour that thrived there. Three quarters of a million men never returned from the battlefields. At home, civilians pulled together and worked for the war effort as never before. Under the premiership of David Lloyd George, they also witnessed the birth of ‘big government’ in Britain.

Pipers of the Trenches: Story of the pipers during WWI

A BBC Documentary
Published on YouTube 5 October 2014

For four hundred years or more, Highland regiments advanced and attacked to the sound of the bagpipes. In the Great War, pipers climbed out of the trenches, unarmed, to face machine guns and shells. The descendants of those men return to the battlefields to discover individual stories of unparalleled bravery.

Cavalry Of The Clouds – WW1 Fighter Pilots

Copied from a 25 year old VHS tape.
Published on YouTube 10 July 2012

WW1 fighter pilot documentary from 1987 containing interviews with surviving pilots.

The Crucified Soldier

An RTE Two WW1 documentary
Published on YouTube 24 April 2011

The Crucified Soldier; refers to the widespread story of an Allied soldier serving in the Canadian Army who may have been crucified with bayonets on a barn door or a tree, while fighting on the Western Front during World War I. Three witnesses said they saw an unidentified crucified Canadian soldier near the battlefield of Ypres, Belgium on or around April 24, 1915, but there was no conclusive proof such a crucifixion actually occurred. The eyewitness accounts were somewhat contradictory, no crucified body was found, and no knowledge was uncovered at the time about the identity of the supposedly-crucified soldier.

Nevertheless, the story made headline news around the world and the Allies repeatedly used the supposed incident in their war propaganda, including an early propaganda film titled “The Prussian Cur” which included scenes of an Allied soldier’s crucifixion. It bears relation to other propaganda of the time like the Rape of Belgium and the Angels of Mons, and the German corpse factory or adaververwertungsanstalt.

A three-foot bronze sculpture by British artist Francis Derwent Wood of a crucified soldier titled Canada’s Golgotha was included in an 1919 exhibition of wartime art in London but the sculpture was withdrawn from the exhibit after protest. The sculpture was also displayed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2000, again provoking some controversy. Even during World War I the German government protested the falseness of this atrocity story and after the end of the war they formally requested the Canadian government provide proof. With no knowledge of the identity of the soldier and having only a few eyewitness accounts, the crucifixion story was left unproven by a British inquiry after the War.

The Gallipoli Catastrophe

A Discovery Channel documentary
Published on dailymotion 21 April 2014

The Gallipoli Campaign took place between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, on the Gallipoli peninsula (Gelibolu in modern Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Aiming to secure a sea route to Russia, the British and French launched a naval campaign to force a passage through the Dardanelles. After the naval operation, an amphibious landing was undertaken on the Gallipoli peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). After eight months the land campaign failed with many casualties on both sides, and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt.

The campaign was one of the greatest Ottoman victories during the war and is considered a major failure of the Allies. In Turkey, it is perceived as a defining moment in the nation’s history – a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a commander at Gallipoli. The campaign is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand and the date of the landing 25 April, is known as “Anzac Day”. It remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans there, surpassing Remembrance Day (Armistice Day).

A Game Of Ghosts – WW1 Survivors

An Everyman documentary first viewed in 1991
Published on YouTube 13 March 2013

An Everyman documentary with memories from a few remaining British WW1 survivors of the Battle of the Somme.

Hidden Histories – WW1’s Forgotten Photographs

A BBC documentary released in 2014
Published on YouTube 29 June 2015

Hidden Histories: World War 1’s Forgotten Photographs is a documentary telling the extraordinary untold story of soldiers’ photography in the First World War. The British and German soldiers marched off to war with secret ‘vest pocket’ cameras, determined to record what they thought would be a great adventure, but few were prepared for the horrors they were about to witness and photograph. Their photos – many never seen before in public – provide a deeply moving document of their lives in the trenches and their rapid loss of innocence.

With no soldier photographer alive to tell the tale, we join their close relatives on emotional journeys of discovery as they go in search of the secrets hidden within their ancestors’ photographs.

This is the war viewed from a new and surprising perspective – through the eyes of the men who fought in it.

Britain’s 250,000 boy soldiers in World War I

A Channel 4 documentary
Published on YouTube 25 May 2014

A quarter of a million boy soldiers, some as young as 14, enlisted in World War One by lying about their age. Around 120,000 of them were killed or injured. One 17-year-old was shot for desertion. The government and military — desperate to boost recruitment — turned a blind eye to the thousands of child soldiers sent to the trenches.

Wilfred Owen: A Remembrance Tale

A BBC documentary screened on 11 November 2010.
Published on YouTube 1 November 2016

Jeremy Paxman tells the tragic story of World War One poet Wilfred Owen. At a time of jingoism and wartime propaganda, one Shropshire lad was compelled to tell the truth. Paxman travels to the battlefields of France to discover how the ugliest and most terrible arena imaginable gave birth to some of the most poignant and powerful poetry in the English language. Wilfred Owen is played by Samuel Barnett.

Timewatch: The Last Day of World War One

A BBC Documentary from 2008-2009
Published on YouTube 24 January 2016

Michael Palin tells the story of how the First World War ended on 11th November 1918 and reveals the shocking truth that soldiers continued to be killed in battle for many hours after the armistice had been signed. Recounting the events of the days and hours leading up to that last morning, Palin tells the personal stories of the last soldiers to die as the minutes and seconds ticked away to the 11 o’clock ceasefire.

The Necessary War

A BBC Documentary screened on 4 June 2014
Published on YouTube 2 July 2015

A documentary to mark the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of war, Sir Max Hastings presents the argument that although it was a great tragedy, far from being futile, the First World War was completely unavoidable.

He presents the case that the rulers of Germany in 1914 were intent on dominating Europe and, after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June 1914, actively encouraged the Austrians to invade Serbia. They were responsible for igniting the spark that turned a local controversy into a full-blown European war.

The Somme Secret Tunnel Wars

A BBC documentary from 2013
Published on YouTube 20 May 2013

Beneath the Somme battlefield lies one of the great secrets of the First World War, a recently-discovered network of deep tunnels thought to extend over several kilometres. This lost underground battlefield, centred on the small French village of La Boisselle in Picardy, was constructed largely by British troops between 1914 and 1916. This documentary follows historian Peter Barton and a team of archaeologists as they become the first people in nearly a hundred years to enter this hidden, and still dangerous, labyrinth.

WW1 Tanks

A BBC documentary from 1995
Published on YouTube 21 August 2012

This is documentary from the Timewatch series looks at the effect of the tank on the First World War and how it was used as a propaganda weapon. Veterans contribute stories and experts put their arguments across.

Timewatch – Zeppelins: The First Blitz

A BBC documentary from 2007.
Published on YouTube 16 March 2017

Known as ‘Iron Thunderstorms’, the Zeppelin bombing raids of the First World War brought a new style of warfare directly to the British public. By autumn 1916, a wave of panic had spread across London and the South East, hundreds of thousands of residents fled the city, many sought shelter deep underground and over 1,500 people were killed in the attacks.

These horrific bombing raids ushered in a new type of warfare that would become the defining feature of 20th century combat. Timewatch looks at the effect on the British psyche of the first-ever Zeppelin raid in 1915 on the town of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, and maps in detail — using first-hand testaments and archive — how the Germans waged their first airborne terror campaign on British civilians.

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