War Noises in Silent Films. First World War Battle Reconstructions in British Instructional Films, 1921-1931

Vortrag, DHI London

British Instructional Films made a series of battle reconstructions with the aid of the War Office and Admiralty that proved smash hits across the Empire. Now almost entirely unknown, these films attempted to show the people of the Empire exactly what their soldiers and sailors had done on their behalf. Using hundreds of troops and ships lent by the army and navy, BIF was able to create epics which thrilled people whilst also making them consider the cost of the war. Of course, these films were never ‘silent’ – sound effects and music were added to enhance as well as shape the viewing experience. In addition, the frequent use of soldiers’ songs in the musical accompaniment encouraged the audiences to sing along, turning a screening into a community experience resurrecting memories and emotions. The lecture will explore what these films reveal about how people across the British Empire understood the war in its immediate aftermath. 

Mark Connelly is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Kent. His main research interests are on the memory of war, the image of the armed forces in popular culture and aspects of operational military history. His publications include The Great War: Memory and Ritual (2002); We Can Take It: Britain and the Memory of the Second World War (2004) and Steady the Buffs! A Regiment, a Region and the Great War (2005).