‘The Battle of the Ancre’ – at Sheffield


On Tuesday 13th November at 6.30 p.m., there will be a public showing of the 1917 film The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks at Sheffield Hallam University (at the Void Cinema, Room 123 (Building level 1) of the Owen Building.

This was the second of the full-length documentaries commissioned by the War Office to show the British public what the Army was doing in France. It was filmed during the later stages (September to November, 1916) of the Battle of the Somme, and its special appeal at the time was that it showed tanks, the new wonder-weapons, in action.

The film will be preceded by a talk by Dr Lawrence Napper, who knows a good deal about silent film generally, and the war films in particular. He recently published online a strong critique of Jackson’s dazzling new They Shall Not Grow Old, saying that the ‘effect is to force the authentic footage into a bizarre simulacrum of modern feature film-making conventions, rather than to draw out the authentic nature of what it shows.’  I look forward to hearing what he has to say about The Battle of the Ancre.

Another strongly-argued review, by ‘PH’ on the Silent London site, goes even further in its critique of Jackson’s use of archive footage.

Like its predecessor, this film aimed to give a people at home a good idea of how the war was being conducted. By and large it succeeds, as I remember, and, unlike the Jackson film, it tells the story of one operation, clearly, rather than offering a mish-mash of several battles edited together.

Note: when I originally posted this, I confused the review by PH with that by Lawrence Napper. Apologies to both.


Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’


Peter Jackson’s new film They Shall Not Grow Old is a technical marvel. From hundreds of hours of archive film it creates a vivid account of the Great War that looks amazingly new. The film archive of the Imperial War Museum has been cleaned, speed-adjusted and colourised to present a picture of British soldiers in the Great War that is no longer in jerky black and white. Even better, Peter Jackson’s technical wizards have allowed him to pick out particular faces in the crowd scenes of war footage, and enlarge and enhance them so that they are no longer just faces in the background – they are people we recognise as like ourselves. The film is emotionally powerful, especially in the sequence that conveys the actuality of an assault and its aftermath. Read More »

Walter Greenwood at Salford


On Wednesday, Marion and I had a good afternoon in Salford, at an event marking the publication of the new book on Walter Greenwood by Chris Hopkins. The event was at the Working Class Movement Library, one of the characterful redbrick buidings dotted among the glassy modernism of the University of Salford. Read More »

Rose Allatini on Radio Four

For four years the BBC has been running a dramatised serial about the First World War, following events as they happened, a century on. It’s called Home Front. I haven’t been listening, but today I was alerted to the fact that the latest episode mentioned Rose Allatini and Despised and Rejected. Read More »

Wodehouse at the British Library

The good news is that the British Library will be presenting (from November 27th to February 24th) a small exhibition P.G. Wodehouse: the Man and his Work. It will be in the rather rarefied space, the  Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery. The last exhibition I saw there was about Karl and Eleanor Marx. This one will probably be jollier. Read More »

Rose Allatini’s London

I’m trying to find out everything I can about the author of Despised and Rejected, so on Saturday, Marion and I took a walk (and some bus rides) round West London, looking at some of the places where the novelist Rose Allatini lived.

She was born in Vienna in 1890, but soon moved to London. The 1891 census puts her in this stately white stucco mansion – number 18, Holland Park:18 Holland park.jpg

The area was, and is, one of the grandest and most expensive in London.  I’ve read recently of houses in this area going for fifty million pounds.  the prices were less extreme at the end of the nineteenth century, but it was still a stonkingly expensive and select location. Read More »

Armchair generals

‘Every Englishman believes in his heart, however modestly he may conceal the conviction, that he could himself organise as large an army as Kitchener and organise it better.’ (Havelock Ellis. Essays in War-Time: Further Studies in the Task of Social Hygiene (1917).)

And a hundred years on, every Englishman still believes he could have done a better job than the Great War generals…



Kipling and the Great War

A very useful article on Kipling and the War has been posted on the Kipling Society’s website: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_greatwar.htm

In the article, Rodney Atwood follows kipling’s actions and writing through the war years in considerable detail, dispelling some of the myths that have accrued because of popular treatments like My Boy Jack.

By the way, I shall be giving a paper on Kipling at the conference The Book as Cure: Bibliotherapy and Literary Caregiving from the First World War to the Present, at the Senate House, London University on September 14th. The conference programme is here: https://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/conferences/book-cure-bibliotherapy-and-literary-caregiving-first-world-war-present .

My paper will deal with ‘The Janeites’ (of course) and ‘Fairy-Kist’ (in which attempted bibliotherapy has far-reaching and rather odd consequences). Two of my favourite Kipling stories.

Kipling has his detractors these days, of course, but is admired by people of discrimination. Maya Angelou, I gather, was a great admirer of his poems, especially ‘If’…

Hall Caine’s The Woman of Knockaloe (1923)

(Also published on the Reading 1900-1950 blog)
Review by George S:
This novel comes with two forewords, one by Newman Flower, the head of Cassell’s publishing house, and one by the author. The gist of each is that this book will disturb and offend some, but that it is a story that needs to be told.
During the First World War the Isle of Man was used as the location for internment camps for German nationals who had been living in Britain. Hall Caine uses one of these camps as the background of a novel whose subtitle is ‘A Parable’. It is written entirely in the present tense, and it preaches a message . Read More »

In the ‘Huddersfield Examiner’

I came across a hint that in 1918 Rose Allatini’s Despised and Rejected had been reviewed in the Huddersfield Examiner, and since I live in Huddersfield I trotted along yesterday to the very pleasant Local Studies room of the Central Library to see what I could find. I had high hopes that it would be interesting, because Cyril Pearce has identified in Huddersfield a community more sympathetic to conscientious objectors than most other parts of the country.
The review is there in the enlarged Saturday edition of June 22nd, 1918. Read More »