I heard an excellent talk at Birmingham yesterday by Andy Robertshaw, who is part of a team researching the film The Battle of the Somme, credibly described as the most historically important documentary ever made.
The team has been researching the film in detail, finding the locations where it was shot (mostly around Beaumont Hamel), identifying units, and sometimes individual soldiers, and working out the exact order in which scenes were filmed. The process has been helped by the fact that while Malins filmed, Ernest brooks was generally in the same locality taking still photos. Putting films and stills together has illuminated both, and has helped in discovering which scenes were real, and which fakes (The fakes are less plentiful than previously thought.)
They have had the bright idea of recruiting lip-readers to interpret what soldiers were saying ninety years ago. Some of the comments rescued from the past are decidedly odd – but I won’t spoil Mr Robertshaw’s thunder by revealing them in advance of the publication of his book next year.
Apparently there will soon be a DVD of The Battle of the Somme, and much of Robertshaw’s team’s research will be in the liner notes, so it will probably be worth buying even by those of us who own the VHS version.