The Great War Episode 2 For Such A Stupid Reason Too

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First broadcast in 1964, The Great War was the definitive film account of the world shattering events of World War I (1914 – 1918) a landmark history series widely regarded as a documentary masterpiece. 26 Episodes. The main narrator was Michael Redgrave. It was a co-production involving the resources of the Imperial War Museum, the BBC, CBC and ABC. The series, unparalleled at the time for its depth of research, range of source material and historical accuracy all presented in a sequence of clear narratives is now considered one of the finest achievements of BBC documentary. Many of the interviewed participants in the First World War are early old aged in their late sixties or early seventies and their memories are still fresh, vivid and disconcertingly frank, giving the series an honesty and a sense of charting still recent history. For that and many other reasons, it remains arguably the definitive television account of the First World War. In some respects, it has dated slightly for example virtually none of the interviewees are named on screen, something which would almost certainly be done today. The episode titles are taken from quotations, the origins of which are shown in parenthesis. With few exceptions, successive blocks of episodes are devoted to each year of the war episode 1 to episode 6 years to 1914, episode 7 to episode 10 years 1914 – 1915, episode 11 to episode 14 years 1914 – 1916, episode 15 to episode 19 years 1914 – 1917, episode 20 to episode 23 and episode 26 years 1914 – 1918.
Episode 1 On the idle hill of summer – The first episode is a scene setter charting how German flexing of industrial power and military muscle set alarm bells ringing in Britain and France. Profiles of the five European powers engaged at war’s start German Empire, French Third Republic, United Kingdom, Russian Empire, and Austria – Hungary. The Balkan Wars and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
Episode 2 For such a stupid reason too – The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 was a shot that rang around the world. The path was set for war. Political consequences of the assassination the July Crisis. Austrian pressure on Serbia, involvement of Russia and Germany, the Schlieffen Plan, and diplomatic exchanges leading to the British declaration of war on Germany.
Episode 3 We must hack our way through – The start of war in the West. German invasion of Belgium, the Battle of Liege and subsequent atrocities. French advances and retreats in Alsace-Lorraine and the Ardennes, the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force.
Episode 4 Our hats we doff to General Joffre-The events preceding the First Battle of the Marne. The fighting retreat of BEF and the French in the West, Russian invasion of East Prussia and German counterattack at Tannenberg. The Battle of Mons, the First Battle of Guise, and preparations for the defense of Paris.
Episode 5 This business may last a long time – The stabilization of the fronts. The First Battle of the Marne, the Race to the Sea, the Siege of Antwerp, and the First Battle of Ypres in the West, Austrian defeats in Serbia and in Galicia in the East. Reprisals against Germans in Britain, mass enlistment in the British Empire, and Christmas at the front lines.
Episode 6 So sleep easy in your beds – The first months of war at sea. Naval supremacy of the Royal Navy and its vulnerabilities to mine and submarine warfare. The seizure of German overseas colonies, the Siege of Tsingtao, the raids of the Emden and the pursuit of von Spee. The naval battles of Heligoland Bight, of Coronel, of Falkland Islands and of Dogger Bank.
Episode 7 We await the heavenly manna – War in Europe in the first half of 1915. German success at Masurian Lakes, Russian victory in Przemysl, German relief counteroffensive, and Russian collapse due to severe shortage of materiel. German use of poison gas at Ypres, British munitions shortage, and the role of wartime industrial production.
Episode 8 Why don’t you come and help – The effects of protracted war on civilian life of the major powers, with focus on Britain. The sinking of Lusitania, reprisals against foreign nationals. The founding of Lloyd George’s Ministry of Munitions, employment of women in the war industry, resulting labour disputes.
Episode 9 Please God send us a victory – The Ottoman Empire joins the war on the side of the Central Powers. Armenian Genocide and Gallipoli Campaign.
Episode 10 What are our Allies doing – The war in the latter half of 1915, marked by successes of Central Powers. German and Austrian advance in the East, Russian withdrawal. Italy enters the war on the Allied side, attacking Austria, and is stopped at the river Isonzo. The Allied offensive in Champagne and Artois falters. Serbia is overrun by German and Austrian troops with Bulgaria joining the war in this operation on the side of the Central Powers. Allied relief troops land in Salonika but are delayed by Greek internal politics, while Serb and Montenegrin forces and civilians flee through Albania to Corfu.
Episode 11 Hell cannot be so terrible – The Battle of Verdun through June 1916, with a brief look at the civilian life in France at the time.
Episode 12 For Gawd’s sake don’t send me – The British army in Picardy in 1916. Recruitment and training of volunteers in Britain, deployment in France, logistics of supplying a million strong force. The artillery barrage preceding the Allied joint offensive.
Episode 13 The Devil is coming – The Battle of the Somme, with mentions of other concurrent Allied offensives the Brusilov offensive in Galicia, Romanian invasion of Transylvania and several battles in Italy. All sides suffer immense losses, Germany adopts a defensive posture, and Britain introduces tanks for the first time.
Episode 14 All this it is our duty to bear – War weariness across Europe. In Britain, conscription, loss of shipping to German U-boats, Easter Rebellion in Dublin, the Battle of Jutland, and the death of Earl Kitchener. In Germany and Austria, loss of morale, construction of the Hindenburg Line, and the death of Emperor Franz Joseph. In Russia, discontent bordering on revolution. A change of guard in Britain, Germany and France, favoring continuation of war.
Episode 15 We are betrayed, sold, lost – The Western Front in 1917 prior to the arrival of U.S. troops. German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, successful British Dominion diversion at Arras, French failure in the Nivelle Offensive. Mutinies in the French Army follow, but are successfully addressed by General Philippe Petain.
Episode 16 Right is more precious than peace – United States enters the war. U.S. foreign policy in early 20th century. Non-interventionism at war’s outset, swings of public opinion, industrial production favoring the Allies. Wilson’s reelection and the declaration of war on Germany, prompted by the Zimmerman Telegram and unrestricted submarine warfare. Preparations for war, conscription, General Pershing’s arrival in Europe.
Episode 17 Surely we have perished – British and Dominion offensives in Flanders in 1917, originating from the Ypres Salient. The successful capture of Messines Ridge is followed by a partial breach of German defenses at Passchendaele, with immense loss of life at both sides. Rainy weather sets in early and armies bog down in mud.
Episode 18 Fat Rodzianko has sent me some nonsense – Russian revolutions of 1917. Overview of life in imperial Russia and of consequences of war. Food revolts lead to February Revolution, the Czar abdicates. The Provisional Government continues the war, Germany helps Vladimir Lenin return to Petrograd. Failure of Kerensky Offensive, widespread desertions, October Revolution. Germany supports independence of Ukraine and Finland, forces a punitive treaty on the Bolsheviks.
Episode 19 The hell where youth and laughter go – The Western Front at the end of 1917. Experiences artistic portrayals, sounds and smells of the war, aerial photographs. The discrepancy in perceptions between soldiers and civilians, psychological breakdowns, sense of belonging to the unit. Georges Clemenceau becomes French Prime Minister, the Battle of Cambrai ends in stalemate.
Episode 20 Only war, nothing but war – Impact of war on everyday life. Shell shock. Censorship and propaganda. British naval blockade leads to starvation diets in Germany. German submarine warfare, countermeasures, food shortages and rationing in Britain. Use of women’s labour, better labour policies, women’s suffrage. Zeppelin air raids, air defense, Gotha Raids. Mustard gas, railway guns, Paris Gun.
Episode 21 It was like the end of the world – The start of German Spring Offensives in 1918. Shortage of manpower in Allied lines, German reinforcements from the East. German offensives at the Somme and in Flanders.
Episode 22 Damn them, are they never coming in – The end of German advance in the West. Delayed deployment of U.S. troops, German offensive in Champagne hastens their arrival. First AEF engagements. The final German assault halted, again, at Marne. Brief footage of African American regiments.
Episode 23 When must the end be – Allied offensives in summer 1918. French counterattack at the Marne, the Battle of Amiens, the Second Battle of the Somme, advance to the Hindenburg Line. In Britain, public protests yield to skeptical optimism. In Germany, troops lose morale and leaders realize that defeat is inevitable.
Episode 24 Allah made Mesopotamia and added flies – War in the Middle East. British capture Basra and mount an unsuccessful campaign toward Baghdad. Ottomans fail to capture Suez, but check the British advance in Palestine. Britain encourages Arab Revolt against the weakened Ottomans, then captures Baghdad, Jerusalem and, in 1918, Damascus. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the seeds of future conflicts.
Episode 25 The iron thrones are falling – War on the frontiers of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans and in Italy. Allied troops in Greece establish the Macedonian Front but do not advance, the Central Powers occupy Romania. Allied intervention brings Greece to their side. Austrian and German troops breach the Italian front and stop just short of Venice, but Austrian next assault at the Piave fails. Allies breach the Macedonian Front, Bulgaria capitulates. Czechoslovakia and South Slavs declare independence, Italy captures Vittorio Veneto, Austria – Hungary capitulates and dissolves.
Episode 26 … And we were young – War’s end. Allied offensives in the West continue, U.S. President Wilson offers Fourteen Points as peace terms. Germany’s allies capitulate after defeats on other fronts. Revolution in Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates, Germany accepts peace terms. Human costs of war, reception and celebration of the armistice. Two “Extra” episodes exist (only on the dual layer DVD edition) Voices from the Western Front, The Finished Fighter. Voices from the Western Front features the powerful voice testimonies of soldiers and airmen who lived through the carnage of 1914-1918, telling of their own experiences in their own words. Their unique accounts of the war are illustrated by the pick of film footage from the Imperial War Museum archives, providing an unforgettable account of ordinary men caught up in the most terrible of wars. The Finished Fighter, is a silent World War One training film showing battle-hardened British ‘Tommies’ teaching American soldiers bayonet fighting techniques and how to protect themselves against gas attacks.