‘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.

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