Using state-of-the-art technology, New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson enables the story of World War I to be told by the men who were there.

Primary Title
  • They Shall Not Grow Old
Date Broadcast
  • Monday 26 April 2021
Release Year
  • 2018
Start Time
  • 20 : 30
Finish Time
  • 22 : 30
  • 120:00
  • TVNZ 1
  • Television New Zealand
Programme Description
  • Using state-of-the-art technology, New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson enables the story of World War I to be told by the men who were there.
  • 16
Owning Collection
  • Chapman Archive
Broadcast Platform
  • Television
  • English
Captioning Languages
  • English
Live Broadcast
  • No
Rights Statement
  • Made for the University of Auckland's educational use as permitted by the Screenrights Licensing Agreement.
  • Documentary films--New Zealand
  • World War, 1914-1918--History
  • World War, 1914-1918--New Zealand
  • Documentary
  • History
  • War
  • Peter Jackson (Director)
  • Clare Olssen (Producer)
  • Peter Jackson (Producer)
  • House Productions (Production Unit)
  • WingNut Films (Production Unit)
- (WHISTLING) (WHISTLING CONTINUES) - I gave every part of my youth to do a job and to go through a savage war. - It was a different war from year to year, and one's reactions were completely different. The intensity changed so much that anybody who'd been out in 1914 and went home and came back in 1917, wouldn't recognise it as the same war. - I can only say one thing ` I wouldn't have missed it. - It was terrible at times, but I wouldn't have missed it. - Oh, yes, if I could have my time again, I'd go through it all over again, because I enjoyed the service life. - I could only say that I have never been so excited in my life. This was like a boy going to play for the first time. - I never realised there was anything unusual about it. There was a job to be done, and you just got on and did it. - We were all instilled with the idea that this was war and that we've gotta kill the Germans, and this is how we looked at the thing. - I don't regret having experienced it. I wish I hadn't, but I don't regret it, because I'm safe. (LAUGHS) - There were good times and bad times in France, but you took the rough with the smooth. - I was twice wounded and gassed, but it just didn't worry me. You made the best of it. - Just took it in its stride, like everybody else. We were glad to be in it, and we expected it to be rough, and it was rough, but we didn't complain. - There was no real excitement about it. You'd seen death so many times, you'd seen wounded so many times, blood didn't excite you. We were professionals, and to us it was just a job of work. - It would be a fallacy to say that one enjoyed it, but one got afterwards a nice, warm inner feeling that one had been some use. - It didn't affect me very much, because I wasn't sufficiently open in the ways of the world. I was only a kid, like other blokes there. It was more like a great big game to be enjoyed, apart from the actual shelling and all that sort of thing. - It made me a man. Yes, it did. I don't think I should have ever been the man I am if it hadn't been for having to serve. - You'd learn to look after yourself. Whereas in your civilian life, your mother did all the chores, you've got to learn how to cook for yourself, darn your own socks, sew on your own buttons and all the things like that. It was just a day's work. - I knew that I was not alone; I knew I wasn't fighting the war by myself and that what happened to other people might happen to me. - I had no regrets at all. But, you see, I had no wife, no girl ` no nothing. No regrets, no horrors,... because if you survive that, you can survive anything. Captions by Faith Hamblyn. Captions were made with the support of NZ On Air. Copyright Able 2021. - We was aware that there was sort of a nasty feeling between England and Germany. Cos we knew of the Kaiser's ambition to expand his empire and all that sort of thing. - During that summer, there was a lot of talk about trouble going on in the Balkans, but we were a long way from the Balkans and it didn't worry us at all. - It was that Serbia business, wasn't it? Serbia, when that chap was shot. - I was paying attention to politics, and I realised that there was going to be trouble between England and Germany. - Well, it was a lovely August the 4th morning. - We were all seated around the table, and we were starting the rugby football dinner with the German team. - There was a German here, and next to him was an Englishman, and next to him was a German and so on and so on. And a runner arrived into the middle of this dinner with extraordinary news of outbreak of war. - There was a big placard, 'War declared on Germany.' - We didn't know what we ought to do, whether we ought to seize a knife off the table and plunge it into the German or what! But after a little bit of discussion, we decided that as far as we were concerned, the war was gonna start tomorrow, and the party proceeded. - I'm proud of being a British hero. I mean, I think we're as good a country as any in the world, and you've gotta be prepared to fight for that. - There's no doubt about it ` in the First World War, we prepared for war. The empire was strong. We weren't afraid of anyone. - Everybody bought little buttons and white flags and sang songs ` there was no feeling of despair about it at all. - England couldn't possibly lose ` no matter how many Germans pushed how many Englishmen into the Channel, they'd get no further. We couldn't possibly lose. - We were brought up to think that one Englishman was worth 10 Germans. - I thought that any enemy of England was an enemy of mine, and I wanted to be in it. - Oh, six months or 12 months, it would be all over, and Bob's your uncle. - Yeah, I went with a friend of mine in to Shepherd's Bush Empire to see the picture show there, and they showed the fleet saving the high seas and played, 'Britons never shall be slaves,' and, you know, one feels that little shiver run up their back, and you know you've gotta do something. - A friend of mine said to me, 'We're going to join up.' It was from the patriotic point of view and from the general excitement of the whole affair, I suppose. - I didn't believe in war to that extent, but I was prepared to do my part. - You see, in those days, men weren't to think for themselves; they just had to do what they were told and that's all there was to it. - Oh, my mother was very aggrieved about it. But, you know, a young man, you decide you're going to go. - At lunchtime, I left the office, went along to Armoury House, and there was a queue of about a thousand people trying to enlist. - Everybody thought it would be a civilised war and wanted to be fit enough to go. - Two of us decided to join up together, and when we told the boss we were going to start training on Monday, he was very annoyed. He didn't make any promise at all that our jobs would be there when we got back. - My mother, she said, 'You wait until you're 19.' See, that was the age in those days ` 19 to 35. Well, it was supposed to be. - We were all lads together, you know, full of excitement and all this kind of thing. I mean, I just wanted to have a go at Jerry. - I just thought that I'd like to go and fight for the country. This was the thing ` you were proud of your country, and you'd do the best you could for it, and this was what most of the young people thought of doing in those days. - My mother, she said to me, 'Look, we could stop you doing this, because of your age.' I said, 'Yes, I know you could, Mother, but I'm sure you won't,' which they never did. - I just felt that all the young fellows of that age were volunteering, and I thought it was my job to do the same. - I was desperately keen, and a whole heap of us were. I said, 'Direct enlistment, please.' They were highly delighted and pushed me in as quick as lightning. - Lots of the lads were joining the local regiments, like the Bucks and the Middlesex. Lads that I knew and had been to school with, played football and cricket with, we joined up, hoping for the best. - We were good friends, comrades, and it was a relief from rather boring jobs at home, you see. - I was walking down the Camden Town high street, when two young ladies approached me, 'Why aren't you in the army?' I said, 'I'm only 17.' 'Oh, they all say that here.' And to my amazement, she put her hand in her bag, and I put my hand up to, sort of, safeguard myself, and this white feather finished up my nose. - As we marched to the station, some of the chaps had bowler hats, some had straw hats, some had the regulation peaked army cap. Some would have tunics; some would be dressed with their ordinary jackets, with a pair of army trousers. Some had army boots, some didn't, and we really were a motley throng. - Some of them were obviously chaps who had hoped to live in some comfort and brought suitcases with clothes with them, which they never saw again. - We had to all get our hair cut. 'How would you like it, sir?' And you'd say, 'Short back and sides.' But the answer was, straight over the top with horse clippers. And we looked more like convicts than soldiers. - As soon as war broke out, there was a call made for all ex-soldiers to rejoin, and they made them sergeants straight away. So you got a lot of instructors that way. - The people who really carried us through was the old sweats, who'd had previous war experience and gave us a lot of wise advice, as to what to look for and what to dodge. - We were ordered down on to the parade ground, and then we were allotted to different platoons. - When they came to us, they were weedy, sallow, skinny, frightened children, the refuse of our industrial system, and they were in very poor condition and had to be made into soldiers. - Many of us had given the wrong ages to join the army. - The agent walked down the lines and gave an order, 'Every man under the age of 19 should take two paces forward.' Nobody moved. - I was a lad of 17, and they'd probably see I wasn't 19, which you had to be to join up. But he says, 'How long do you want to sign on for?' - Everybody else was joining up, so I went into the recruitment office, and he said to me, 'How old are you?' I said, '17, sir.' Well, he said, 'Go outside and come back, and say you're 18.' So, of course, I went outside and said I were 18. I went straight up the Seaforth Highlanders. - The sergeant said, 'How old are you?' I said, 'I'm 18 in one month.' He said, 'Do you mean 19 in one month?' So I thought a moment. I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'Right. Sign here, please.' - He asked me how old I was, and I said I was 16 in March. 'Well,' he said, 'you're too young. You'd better go outside and have a birthday.' - I was 16 years old in 1917, and I was 6'2" tall, and my father allowed me to go. So I entered my age as 19 years old, three years older than what I really was. - I was 15 years, just 2.5 years short of 18. And I got before this medical officer, who said, 'All right, you pass.' - I was just turned 17 at the time, and I went up to Whitehall and enlisted in the 16th Lancers. - I was 15, and I thought I'd have a better chance than when I were 14. So I walked into the barracks and just said, 'I'm 18,' and that was it. - My parents wrote to the commanding officer and asked for me, as I was underage, to be released. And he said, 'Your parents want you back ` do you want to go?' I said, 'No.' - The chaplain asked me my age, and I said I was 16. He said, 'Much too young. Would you like me to pray for you?' - The clothing came piecemeal into the quartermaster stores. - One lad there said, 'These boots don't fit me.' And the quartermaster said, 'There isn't such a thing as boots that don't fit in the army; 'it's your feet that don't fit the boots.' - Some men would find a tunic to fit them or perhaps a pair of trousers. And so it went on for nearly a fortnight. Just one uniform; I was in the army nearly four years ` I only had one uniform. - We were all issued with these famous puttees, which were news to all of us, and I personally could never quite master the putting on of puttees. - The main reason for puttees were to support the legs in marching. - I was issued with a kilt, but nothing to wear underneath it, and I was given a slip of paper to say, 'This man has not been issued with underpants.' I was given strict instructions that I couldn't ride on top of the tram car ` had to ride downstairs. - Now, the pack was for everything that you own. The overcoat had to be folded very, very neatly and tightly. There was a needle, thread, spare buttons, knife, fork, spoon, razor, shaving brush, toothbrush and also a half-pint mug. One spare shirt and one spare pair of socks, and that was your kit. The army razor with which we were issued was absolutely useless, but it came in handy for cutting up meat and so forth. The toothbrush, that came in handy for cleaning buttons. One of the peculiarities about the army was that though it was a crime to have dirty buttons, you were never issued with the materials to clean the buttons; you had to buy them yourself. We were awakened by the bugle, which sounded Reveille. Wash, shave, pack your bed up and pack your kit. About half past 6, and you would have an hour PT before breakfast. - Press-ups and physical exercises, arms upward stretch. They knew we all were fresh, and they tried to take it by stages; there wasn't any bullying or anything like that. - Breakfast consisted of bread, butter, one rasher of Lance Corporal Bacon. - It was streaky bacon ` it had one stripe in it. - Well, there was jam, and they seemed to make nothing but plum and apple, you know? If you got any other kind, it was a celebration event. (CHUCKLES) - There was one of the Bruce Bairnsfather's cartoons depicted that. They were handing him a tin of plum and apple jam, 'When the hell is it gonna be strawberry?' Ooh, it was wonderful, that jam. - Ticklers, the jam manufacturers, they must have made millions of tins of P&A, plum and apple. # Oh, oh, oh, it's a lovely war. # What do we want with eggs and ham # when we've got bags of Ticklers Jam? # And then it would be parade time, and the sergeant would take over, and you would have a whole morning of marching, and you would learn all commands, such as 'about turn' and all that sort of thing. - Having been in the Boy Scouts, it was dead easy to me. - When you get the order 'right dress', you turn your head only to the right. - Some of them managed to turn left, which didn't exactly please the drill sergeant. - We were all youngsters. We'd come from fairly sheltered lives and so forth. This sergeant of ours was the loudmouth shouting type. - Coming up against military discipline was a shock ` being chased around from pillar to post by disciplinarian NCOs. - Some of the sergeants were shockers. They would cause a lot of trouble if you were out of step or if you didn't keep time, or if you didn't handle your rifle properly. They were always having a go at you. - Most of them were all right, their shouting meant nothing, but some of them never lost it. - One night I'd gone to bed and this pot was brought round to my bed, and they said, 'Oh, you want to do a piss?' So I did the business in the pot. They'd rested this big, huge pot which contained gallons, on the door. And when this sergeant came along to see that everybody was in bed, this thing turned up, and he was drenched from top to bottom in fluid. (LAUGHS) - First of all, I was full of enthusiasm. But after about the first week, I wished I hadn't done it. Because the discipline was so strict that I was beginning to get a little bit nervous as to what was in store. - We weren't out dancing, anything like that ` we were getting ready for the war. - The thing was, you were in the army ` you had to do as you're told. You had one master or dozens, but you just had to get on with it, and that was it. - I did find that right through the army, if you behaved yourself, you'd nothing much to fear. - This was quite a new world to us. I mean, you can imagine. I came out of civilian life, like all the others did, and we weren't in a position to argue or object; it was just a matter of doing what we were told. - I liked it. I liked to be told what I had to do, because there was a reason for doing it. And later on, I realised that was the best training you could have. - The first week, our route march would be 10 miles, the second week it would be 12 and so on and so on. It intensified, because it's of the utmost importance that the infantry soldier could march with a full kit. - What you had to carry was 109 pounds. The marching was easy for me, but quite a lot of chaps who were in sedentary jobs found it pretty hard. - It numbed and cramped my muscles on my thighs and calves until they hurt very much indeed. - Oh, those army boots. I could have cried, my feet and ankles with those heavy army boots after civilian shoes. - So, to get your boots made pliable, you used to urinate in them and leave it overnight. - Quite a lot of men were clerks or they worked in shops, and the very nature of their calling didn't make for fitness. - Well, they sent me to hospital and they gave me the cure for hookworm, and I found that I could stand the drill after that. - They used to march us all round the West End. Crowds used to foregather, and some of the poor, deluded ones fell for the con trick and lined up behind us, and we used to march them all down to Chelsea Barracks, where they got signed up. - Lunch would consist of inevitable stew. Now, you must remember the chaps in the cookhouse were by no means experienced cooks, but anybody can make a stew, and that's what they did. - Sometimes we got a bit of plum duff and milk puddings and tapioca rice. It was good old-fashioned plain stuff that I was brought up on. I had no complaint about it. - In the afternoon, it could be a lecture on Vickers machine guns. - We used to strip the machine gun right down and put it together again. And luckily, I seemed to cotton on to that quite quickly. - We were always told the man's best friend is his rifle, and it was. - Our rifle was a short Lee-Enfield, a very good rifle indeed, a real sturdy rifle. You had your ammunition pouches on both sides of the chest, to counterbalance the weight of the pack, and those pouches carried 150 rounds of .303 ammunition. - We were supposed to hold a rifle up in one hand, but I could never hold a rifle properly. My right wrist wouldn't hold it up. - I'd never fired a rifle in my life, but on the first day, we went on to the rifle range, and it was amazing, the bullseyes I was getting. So the next thing, I was made a first-class rifleman. - Above all, we learned rapid-fire. 10 rounds, and get those 10 rounds on to the target in one minute. It was known as 'the mad minute'. - I'd never seen a dead man or anything of that kind, and I wondered, if it came to my shooting a man, whether I would be able to do this. - Plunge the bayonet into the sack, shout like hell. - And they would tell you where to put your bayonet ` either into his left shoulder, his right shoulder, in the chest or in the body. - We was told to make as much noise as we could. I think that was to frighten the enemy. It didn't seem to me to be a likely thing to do, but we used to shout. - When you train as a division, there's 12 battalions, there's roughly 12,000 men who are on the move, and you're a very small cog in a big wheel. - Saturday mornings we were let off, but we had to do sometimes barrack duties. And then on Sundays, we were all marched down to church. It didn't matter what religion you were ` you all had to go, and that was it. TJ: Have I done enough to wear the jersey? Gotta sweat out that fear because this is bigger than me. I do it for my fans and my family. ION4 hydration. Sweat it out witih Powerade. * - Hardly a day passed without the shout around the barrack room, 'Has anybody here had any experience with horses? 'Can anybody here play any musical instruments? 'Anybody had any experience at so-and-so?' So gradually, the thousand men who were joined up as a motley throng, now became a transport man, a bandsman, signalman and so on. - You didn't wanna mess about on the parade ground with heavy packs on the route marches; most of us wanted to go across and do some scrapping. - After good food, fresh air and physical exercise, they changed so that their mothers wouldn't have recognised them. They put on an average of 1 stone in weight and 1 inch in height. - Although we hated the sight and sound of our disciplinary sergeants, this reflects greatly to their credit, because they knocked us into shape as regards to marching and foot drills. - But far more than that, they were handsome, ruddy, upstanding, square-shouldered young men who were afraid of nobody, not even the sergeant major. - After the six weeks, we were informed that we were gonna be posted overseas. - They said, 'You're leaving tomorrow morning for an unknown destination.' You were never told where you were heading for. - I just wanted to fight the Germans, and as far as that was concerned, it didn't matter tuppence to me where we went. - And when we pushed them through this crash programme of military training, they were pushed off to France in batches. - Before we left, the officer said, 'Well, you haven't had time to be made sergeants, 'so we'll give you a couple of stripes.' So they made us corporals, and in less than no time, we were marched down to the station. - In my mind I wondered, 'Shall I ever come back?' I didn't think I would at the time. I didn't worry about it. - Oh, they were all full of euphoria. They were all glad they were going. Nobody was crying. - I wrote a postcard when I was in the train and chucked it out of the window, hoping that it would be delivered to my family. - We arrived at Folkestone in the evening. We embarked on one of the old Thames pleasure boats. - Well, pretty crowded, but of course, there's only 21 miles from Dover to Calais on the boat. - There were talks by officers to us as to how to behave ourselves on foreign soil, and that we've gotta respect other people's modes of conduct. - The biggest number of casualties were NCOs, and we weren't all too keen about this. So I went into the lavatory, and my stripes came off, and they disappeared through the porthole. And with that, I went back on deck as a private. - As our horses were brought down the gangways, I noticed the expression on the men's faces. There were no cheerful, smiling faces coming down that gangway at all. - It was beautiful weather, very warm, and every village and town we went through, people rushed out, bottles of wine, yards of French bread, flowers. - The land flowed in every single aspect. There were farmers going about their business, the most lovely country. - If we passed a field of carrots, we used to raid the field and walk along, munching the carrots and turnips. - I was dead scared that the war would be over before I got out to it. When I got out to France, I was terribly pleased, really keen. - You just marched and marched until roughly 20 miles from the trenches. We knew we were getting close to the line, because the gunfire was becoming more noisy. - I remember the first shell. I was delighted. - We went through towns, villages that were absolutely derelict. So we never knew where we were, except that we were in Belgium. - The devastation was something I never could have imagined. The whole place gave one the most eerie sensation. - There was stunted trees torn to shreds with shellfire, and there was shell holes all over the place. - We were relieving men of the 28th Division, and as they passed us, we would say, 'What's it like up there?' The reply invariably came back, 'Bloody awful, mate.' - The old sweats coming back got their tails up, all right, but I didn't know what to expect, just hadn't a clue. - It was deadly warfare ` you were facing the Germans. - Follow me! - You got the order, 'load', you put nine in your magazine and one up the spout, and you put your safety catch on, and you always went into the line prepared to use your rifle immediately. - That's when you got rigid orders ` no talking whatsoever, keep your head down, single file, no smoking. The captain would then direct you right to the front trenches. - When a man goes into the trenches, he usually carries a roll of barbed wire or a bag of bombs, besides his own equipment ` that's the way to get the stuff up to the front line. - Now, a guide would always be sent out. - Extend this part of the trench over there! - What, that way? - That's it. - The trenches in France were a maze. If you didn't have a guide, you could very soon get lost. - Smile, so your mother thinks I'm looking after you. Up you go. Come along! Come along! - The trenches weren't in one straight line; they were built on what they called a traverse system. The traverse would break up the shellfire and stop it spreading right along the trench. - There was a front line of trenches, and then there was a second line of trenches. The support line would be about 50 yards or more behind the front line. In between, there would be communication trenches, so that they could move troops forward if the front line was under jeopardy. - First impression I got of the trenches was they were very much lived in. - We had to take them as we found them. - You would see an overcoat hanging from a wooden peg. You would see a mess tin with some tea in it; a dugout which had a piece of blanket in it; a bed made of sandbags. - Our world was divided by no man's land, a sort of Iron Curtain, beyond which were bogeymen who would kill you if they ever saw you. - As you look through your periscope, all you could see were hundreds of shell holes, your barbed wire and the German barbed wire. - You could see dead bodies hanging on the barbed wire, and they may have been there for a long, long time. - It was one of the most desolate looking places in the world. You never saw a sign of life, and yet you knew very well that within shouting range, there were hundreds and hundreds of men. - A platoon of about 50 men would have about 100 yards of front-line trenches as their responsibility. There were signs all over the trenches, Piccadilly Circus and Regent St and all that sort of thing, telling you where the water points were and which was the most dangerous part of the land, with regard to snipers. - You had to be extremely careful, because a bullet could go through one layer of sandbags quite easily. - I was talking to a bloke one day, and, pop, his head was bashed in like an egg. He just happened to be in a place where a sniper could get an aim in. - We used to do a four-day stint in a line. We took with us sufficient food to last the four days. - Go on, lads. - See ya later on. - Give our best to Jerry. Mind yourselves out there. - Your day would start before dawn, when NCOs would go round this 100 yards and make sure everybody was alive. - Of a day in the trenches, you had two hours on, four off. - A third of the people were on sentry duty, a third working and a third sleeping. - We just slept where we were. No beds ` just flopped down on the ground. - Been to the pictures, mate! - Look at that! - The trench was very wet and, wherever possible, we would try and get above the water. - We were able to dig out the side of the trench, and that was when we used to steal our sleep on the two-on and four-off stretch. - And then you'd have your couple of hours on the parapet, and then rest again. - If nothing untoward happened, there would be perhaps two or three sentry groups in the whole company's front. - (EXPLOSIONS BOOM IN DISTANCE) (BOOM!) (BOOM!) - It was a job to keep awake. And woe betide you if you were caught asleep. - If you are so tired, you can sleep standing up, which I've done many times. - The first thing you did when you got into the line was to have a brew-up. - There's one thing about the Vickers gun, it being a water-cooled weapon, if you were continuously firing, you'd find that the water would be boiling. You could disconnect the tube and make a cup of tea. - The water came up in 2-gallon petrol cans. - And we could taste the petrol in it, cos they couldn't wash it completely out. - In every bay was a little fireplace. You used tiny slivers of wood, because if you made smoke in the front line, over would come a shell. - I'm parched. I fancy a brew. - But save a drop of that tea to shave with. - Because we had to shave in the front line. - We used to put a lot of tins out on the parapet if it rained. You daren't touch any of the other water. - We were scooping water out of shell holes. There might have been dead bodies underneath. We thought as long as we boiled it for a long time, all the green stuff would come off the top. - Nice and gentle. - Anyway, we'd made tea with it. - That's how I got my dose of dysentery. - Of course, there was no sanitary arrangements. They'd dig a trench and stick a pole across, and you'd get about seven or eight chaps on the pole. - God, to have a clear-out was terrible. - People used to go to the toilet with no privacy. - Being rather a shy nature, if I had pissed with somebody, I felt a bit nervous. But when you were in the army, you got quite used to it. - And, of course, it didn't matter a damn, cos there was no women or anything like that. - But the flies used to crawl over your bottom. Most unpleasant. - And no such thing as toilet rolls. - You had to wipe your behind with your hand. - Your hands might have been in all sorts of things, but you never washed. - Well, you heard a terrific shout... - Oh! - (MEN SHOUT) ...and the pole had snapped, and the poor men who were sitting on the bar fell down in the muck. - There was always the humorous side of the war. (CHUCKLES) - We had to put rifles down for them to hang on to, and they came out like slimy rabbits, and nobody wanted to go near them. - (LAUGHS) - We had no spare clothes at all. You were living for weeks without washing or getting a bath. - And I personally became really badly infested and chatty, as we used to call it, with these lice. - Oh, lice was a dreadful problem. - They were funny little things, like, little monster sort of things, with six legs, and they used to feed 10 times a day. - You had to kill the bloody things. My favourite way was burning them. - You would run the seams over the lighted candle, and you could hear the eggs going pop, pop, pop, pop. - The sooner you got the shirt back again, the heat of the body hatched the eggs that you'd missed. - And we were just as lousy the next day. - (ALL LAUGH) - Each man prepared his own breakfast. - Cheerio! - Bread and jam, it was about 16 men to a loaf of bread. - There'd be a little bit of bacon, which would suffice for half a dozen men. - You'd put your rasher of bacon in your mess-tin lid, put a few more sticks on your fire, and you would fry your bacon. - And then soak up the fat with a piece of biscuit, and then there you are with a breakfast. - Dinner time was mostly bully beef cut up and stewed, along with all sorts of vegetables from tins. - Magonoghie's tinned stew was mixed up with the bully beef. - I've gone into French dugouts and eaten biscuits, which had been left by the troops two years previously, and tasted the green mould in them, but it didn't do me any harm. - This was how it was. Anything's good, you know, when you're hungry. - And you were always hungry. - (ALL LAUGH) - At any given moment, you could expect to be shelled. - (WHOOSH! BANG!) - You got very little protection against that. - One would hear a mild pop as the gun fired 5 miles away. - 5 miles away, Sir. - (BANG!) - Very good. - And in the five or six seconds it took them to come, you can pass through quite a number of psychological changes. - (BOOM!) (BOOM!) - I can't remember anything more nerve-racking than the continuous shelling, without stop, day and night. - But we were always told that you never heard the shell that hit you, because most of them travelled faster than sound. But you could literally feel your heart pounding against the ground. The emotional strain was absolutely terrific. - Although a shell might burst 50 yards away, you might find a fragment of jagged iron, really red-hot and weighing half a pound, arriving in your trench. - And you see people blown to little bits. I've actually had to put a man in a sandbag. - Every now and again, there would be a great roar, like an aeroplane coming in to land,... (BANG!) - ...and in a fifth of a second, your resolution would break, and you'd throw yourself down into the mud, and the other ones laugh at you. - The shrapnel shell would burst in the air and spray bullets on the troops below, as if they were from a shotgun. - (BANG!) - The bullets came down, whistling like all the hobs of hell. - (BANG!) - Another one of the annoyances we had was the Germans were very active with mining. We crouched down underneath the front parapet to dodge the debris falling, and I got the men to open up rapid fire to prevent the Germans from getting into that crater, where they could bomb us. - If the front line gets damaged, it's got to be repaired. Well, the people who are in the line, they've got to get on with it. - I had in my mind that we expected big gunfire to light amongst all us cavalry and absolutely swipe us off the face of the Earth. - I shouted, 'Gallop!' like that. And they dropped 'em all amongst the horses. Oh, a heck of a mess. - The horses were laying down, with their intestines hanging out, and men with matter hanging out of theirs. - 'And that, boys,' they said, 'bloody Germans!' To lose a horse was like losing a friend. The Brigadier turned to our captain and he says, 'See that the boy has two or three days' rest. 'When a boy likes an animal like that, there's not a lot wrong with him.' - Over the whole of the front line, there was a smell. It wasn't a complicated smell; it was the smell of decaying corpses. - Nasty, sickly smell. You never forgot that smell. - (FLIES BUZZ) - It was the smell of death. If you've ever smelt a dead mouse, it was like that, but hundreds and hundreds of times worse. - It seemed to cling to everything. When you was having your food, you could taste it. - The awful stench and bits of human bodies laying about, it became an everyday thing. We thought, 'Well, it'll be you too next ` what does it matter?' - Wherever there was a grave or a body, there were rats. - They were all big fat ones, and we knew where they got the fat from. - Unpleasant animals, because of the filtration into the graves. - They used to feed on the dead and come in the dugouts, pick up scraps in there. - I woke up in the bottom of the trench and felt something warm on my face. And a little heart going, 'Bang, bang, bang, bang.' (CHUCKLES) The devil scratched my face with the claws of his hind feet as he took off. We used to try and shoot them, hit them, kill them, chase them ` do anything. Then you've got gas. - We saw this green cloud coming towards us, just rolling slowly along the ground. - They'd shout, 'gas,' and you had to take your mask out and stick it on in two, three seconds. - Yes, it was phosgene gas. Later on there was mustard gas. That was very effective. I never saw a slightly gassed man. - If you couldn't get your gas mask, you were to pee on your handkerchief and stuff this round your nose and mouth. - I don't mind admitting that I didn't think much of the urinating on the handkerchief, so I went into one of the trench latrines, and I stuck my head in the bucket. But I'll tell you ` I couldn't hold my breath any more, came up, took a good breath of air, down again. - We were very soon enveloped in this thick, yellow, filthy cloud. - The more we tried to get rid of the sting in our eyes, the worse it got. And I thought deeply of what the effect of blindness was going to be. - The extraction of clotted blood and the injection of saline could alleviate a lot of the trouble. And as I was gassed myself, I can speak from experience. * - In the wintertime, as the weather deteriorated, so the trenches got more and more sodden with water until they just became ditches. - The water was swirling about our feet and rising higher and higher until it reached our chests. Our difficulty was frostbite. Our gumboots filled with water, and in the mornings, we could not strip them off, because they were frozen to our feet. - When you're talking about trench feet, you're talking about gangrene. Send him straight down the line ` hack the legs off. - Give us a hand with that, will you? - When the water had soaked into the earth, the floors of the trenches were just paved with liquid mud, and that became like glue. - It was a curious, sucking kind of mud. Very viscous indeed, very tenacious. It stuck to you. - If one had to go to the rear for rations, well, that was just a nightmare journey, slithering about. - When it was pouring with rain and on slippery duckboards, the language was really edifying ` you heard words that you'd never dreamed existed. - And if you slipped off the duckboards, you just sank into the mud of decomposed bodies of humans and mules, and that was the end of you. - The boy, he was in the middle of this huge sea of mud, struggling, and we couldn't do a thing. There was no hope of getting to him. The look on the lad's face, and he was only a mere boy, was really pathetic. - I've seen men sinking into the mud and dying in the slime. I think it absolutely finished me off. - It was supposed to be quiet, and then you might get some drunken German say, 'Well, I'm gonna give them hell today,' open up with all his batteries and catch hundreds of people unaware. And that was what they called holding the line. - We were in conditions that isolated us completely from civilisation. We got so generate, so isolated living in this mud. - And you could sympathise with how a rabbit must feel, because we were hunted by mankind, just the same as a rabbit. - You knew your lives were in one another's hands, and it united you very closely, and you didn't let anything interfere with that. - You knew what was going on within your vision ` beyond that, you hadn't got a clue. - You didn't care how the war was going, whether you were winning ` you weren't bothered with that at all. - You lived like tramps ` you didn't polish any buttons, you wore any uniformed bits that you liked, and nobody worried. All they were concerned with was that you were fit to fight. - If nothing's happening, you chat about life, where he came from, where you came from. Everything was friendly. There was a terrific lot of kindness in a way, to each person. - When the war was not very active, it was really rather fun to be in the front line. It was not very dangerous, a sort of out-of-door camping holiday with the boys, with a slight spice of danger to make it interesting. - We used to raid the trenches and get a prisoner if possible. - And a typical trench raid would be perhaps eight in the party. - If you was going to make a raid, somebody would cut a passage through the wire at night-time. - The only way to do it was silently,... - (BANG!) - rush it, and that was the arrangement. - And we would bomb and bayonet the Germans coming out on their hands and knees out the dugout. We'd smack them over the head and throw in a couple of bombs. - (BANG!) - And there were three ways of getting rid of him ` one was to knife him, garrotte him or to bayonet him. Quietest was a quick rap around the throat and knife into the back. - (BANG!) - I threw a revolver at poor little Rudolph. He was only about 18. I hit him in the face with it. He screamed and came back at me, and that's when I got him ` got him with a Very pistol. - (BOOM!) - Well done, chaps! Good raid! - I always had a full flask, and I gave him a drink. I felt very sorry for him. He said, 'Danke schoen. Das ist gut,' and died. - (SHOUTS COMMANDS) - (BOOM!) - And it was a very successful raid. They got two prisoners, I think, which was all they all wanted. - By the way, the men who were captured on the trench raid were the first Germans I saw on the Western Front. - A lot of the German troops, they were very good, very friendly. In fact, some of those Bavarians were dammed good, decent people. - The snipers would fire, but not hit anybody, know what I mean? - They put up a sign, 'Gott mit uns' in German ` God is with us. And we put a sign up in English, 'We've got mittens too.' (LAUGHS) We don't know if the Germans enjoyed that joke or not. - There was a wounded German, He was a Wartenberger, I think. We did what we could for him, we gave him a bit of food and that sort of thing, and he was cursing the Prussians like anything. - The Saxons were in front of us, and they gave us the warning that there were going to be relieved by the Prussians. And they said to us, 'Give them hell.' They hated the Prussians. - Cos the Prussians were cruel bastards. - Hurry up! This way. Schnell, schnell! - Watch yourself. - Come along! - The Bavarians or the Saxonians, they were the more civilised of the Germans ` part English, if anything. - After a four-day spell in the front line, we were relieved, and we had to march back to the billets a few miles behind the lines. - We were going for a supposed one-week's rest. - Everybody was dead whacked. We were all pretty knocked up. - We extricated ourselves from the mud to what was, somewhat ironically, called rest. - In the front line itself, you didn't criticise people, and if you had a chap who was a bit dicky, you would keep an eye on him, just like in a family. But when you got out of the line, you'd want nothing to do with those people at all. I mean, you can't call it comradeship exactly; it was the way you did it. - Come and get your mail! - Welcome back! - The thing which always struck me as being absolutely stupid was the next morning, every man had to be spick and span, not a trace of mud on him. - You'd brush off clothes or dry them off the best way you could and clean your boots ` in other words, smarten yourself up. - (BAND PLAYS 'IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY') - The men would always appear the same ` cheerful under the circumstances, happy as they could be, making the best of everything; you know, in true British fashion. - What? (LAUGHS) - The Cockney wit was prevalent, and we were all lads together; you know, we didn't care about it. - We'd make a fuss about nothing, the little things that didn't matter really, because it was something to fill the time in. - We used to have to make our own amusements. - Bloody bastard! - We laughed at the slightest things. I think probably it was the general tension of the atmosphere that used to make us like that, you know? - My mother sent me a parcel with a plum pudding, of all things, and I had no sort of thing able to cook it, so we used it as a rugby ball. - We had this regimental sports day. And I won't say I was the only sober one, but most of them were, well, merry about it. - (MEN LAUGH AND SHOUT) - (LAUGHTER) - Oh, deck him one! - Come on, mate! - (LAUGHTER) - I mean, you took part in everything, because you had to fill your time in, you know. Otherwise, all you did was sit about and smoke. - (CHILDREN LAUGH) - All right, lad! - Get off! - The only time we saw the artillery men was when we was out of rest. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - Make that an extra 5 degrees! - They would be, say, 2 miles behind the line. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - We wanted to neutralise enemy batteries, so we were registering our batteries on his. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - We used to know the line and elevation, because it was done by aircraft. - It was pretty ghastly, but the idea was to kill as many German gunners as you could. - Ready! - (BOOM!) - Fire! - (BOOM!) - Halt. - (RUMBLING) - Sir. - There was no motorised transport then for guns. The guns used to be brought up by horses. - Eight horses to each gun team, four horses to each wagon team ` about 60 horses. - The gunners made a filthy noise, jingling and jingling and the horses making noises both ends. And it was always of great concern for those of us who were going into battle. - Heave! - (MEN GRUNT, HORSES NEIGH) - Heave! - (MEN GRUNT, HORSES NEIGH) - Each company officer paid his own company. Now, it was generally the first morning after we were out of the line, you got 5 francs. A franc was worth 10p, so 50p was your pay for a fortnight, 50p. Now, that's a week of riotous living. - Every town of any size at all had a brothel, and that was where most of these boys learned a little bit more about life than they would ever have done in normal civil life. So although they were young in years, it wasn't long before they were quite worldly men. - One of the lads said, 'Well, let's go and have a look in the White Star. It's like a pub.' I'd led a very sheltered life. And they were beautiful girls with just a piece of lace on, and ooh, my word, I'd never seen anything like it before. - There was I, a young lad, knowing nothing about this, and off we go, and these men were going up regularly to see the girls. I was very keen. I said to one of these fellas, 'I've only got a sixpence.' Well, he said, 'That's no good.' He said, 'It's a shilling.' That was my first experience of a brothel. - Anyway, we looked in there for a couple of minutes, when four or five naked girls came running down the corridor. We turned tail and ran! (LAUGHS) - It was an eye-opener to me. There she stood, a great, big woman, with this little cane in her hand, and she belted my backside as if I was a little schoolboy. Petty sergeant this and petty sergeant the other, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump! (LAUGHS) - Oh, gambling? People were gambling all day long. The Canadians and Australians used to gamble terrific amounts of money, more money than any of us seen. - The beer was very thin indeed. It was one and nine stuff ` one pint, nine piddles. - Friday was always the issue day for cigarettes, and the cigarettes were Three Witches, which soon became Three Bitches or Red Hue Tsars. And I think they were made from stable returns. - But generally, in good-sized villages, you could get Woodbines and Player's, and they were far preferable to the issue cigarettes. - Of course, we were always bartering with the Frenchmen. We used to barter some of our underclothing and get a loaf of bread with it. - And we used to swap our British cigarettes for their French wine. * - It could be just as tiring out of the line as in the line, and it was sometimes worse. - If you were chosen for a fatigue, you'd have to go on the working party. - You collected stores from a big dump 3 or 4 miles back ` enormous bundles of sandbags, ready made-up duckboards and, worst of all, barbed wire. - It was always hard work. You were a bonny labouring boy more than you were a fighter. - All the chaps were very tired, but it made no difference. - And they were mentally tired out. They'd just come out of a trench tour for a rest, and this was the kind of rest they were getting. - You would be carrying stuff up on a light railway. - Yes, they laid a narrow gauge, light railway track. - It was the simplest of things, just platforms on wheels, driven by light locomotives. - Shove it in the back more! - (TRAIN CHUGS) - Light railways, well, they were always a blooming nuisance, because they were always coming off the track. - And they lost control of this truck going down a slight incline. And it would barge into the one in front, which scattered the duckboards all over the place. - We used to take our mess tins up to the engine driver and get some boiling water for our brew-up of tea. - Push it down! - And another! - It's that line there. - The Germans could see the steam and smoke from the steam engine. - So then it was mostly petrol engines which used to run up to the trenches. - The light railway only went as far as the communication trench, and then we had to push the thing along by hand. - Somebody came along and said, 'Oh, this is it ` we're gonna be home by Christmas! 'Oh?' 'Well, just go down the road and look in a field there ` you'll see.' Wouldn't tell us why. Anyway, we went down. - They were on the roadside, covered with tarpaulin sheets. You could see nothing except a square outline. - And then the officer said, 'These are supposed to be hush-hush.' - When we asked what it was, the simple reply was 'tanks'. Knowing the shortage of water, we naturally assumed water tanks and thought that we were getting reserve supplies. It was one of the best-kept secrets. - We were delighted because these wonderful machines were going to win the war. And soon everybody would be home again. - Of course, it didn't happen like that. - (ALL CHEER) - We were taken out of the line and had intensive training. - Plunge the bayonet into the sack, shout like hell. - It was to get used to plunging them into somebody's body. - Then we fired our rifles on the rifle range. - (GUNFIRE) - Firing rifle grenades is a specialist job. - (BOOM!) - But they were clumsy. - (BOOM!) - I didn't like them much. - Forced marching, marching without a rest and also frontal attack, right flank attack, left flank attack, both flanks attack, night attack, and we wondered what the devil all this training was for. - (BAGPIPES PLAY) - The corps commander said that he had just received instructions to go ahead with an operation to break through the German lines. - Come on, Wellingtons. - Suddenly we were told to parade with full marching order, and we had to go back up the front, and we'd only been out of the line a couple of days. - We could see streams of supplies, mostly ammunition columns, going up toward the front. - We didn't have a lot of notice, but we knew it was gonna be a big advance. - (HORSES NEIGH) (HORSES NEIGH) - So batteries pushed forward, forward positions filled up with ammunition. - Let's get these ladders up! - Righto! - As the great push drew nearer, the line livened up. It began to get much more dangerous and not nearly so much fun. - And we learnt that a bayonet charge was to be made on German machine gunners. - READS: I wish it to be impressed on all ranks, the importance of the operations about to commence. The Germans are now outnumbered and outgunned and will soon go to pieces, if every man goes into the fight determined to get through whatever the local difficulties may be. I am confident that the brigade will distinguish itself in this, its first battle. Let every man remember that all England is watching him. - We marched all through the night, and it got so bad that officers at the side were pushing men back into line who were straggling out, and your legs just seemed to go automatically forward. I had a feeling that we were walking in our sleep. - More men were brought into the line, and regiments were crowded up closer together. - We were filling up the trenches, packed in like sardines. - Our captain was a splendid man. He would never bark an order at you; he would give an order in a conversational way, 'We don't know exactly how far this trench is, but it's between 200 and 300 yards. 'I will go over with the first wave, and you will be in the second wave. 'And as soon as the curtain fire starts, we move. 'Now, go along and tell your men to be ready.' And this is the sort of order we got. - I had two assorted companies, both ignorant of what their conduct would be when they got into action. So Captain Neville thought it might be helpful if he could furnish each platoon with a football and allow them to kick it forward and follow it. I think myself that it did help them enormously ` it took their minds off it. - We had an extra bandolier of ammunition round our necks, and if you didn't have a shovel, you had a pick. - We got in the trenches, and we waited for zero hour. All the watches were synchronised. - I was what's called a first bayonet man, which meant that I carried the rifle with the bayonet in the attacking position, and the rest of the men carried bags of bombs. - And we were warned to be ready to advance at any moment. 'Any moment' was quite a long time coming, and, of course, that added to the tension that we were feeling. - My platoon had been told to go out and test the fire. We had to get out and walk towards the enemy. We went about 200 yards, and then they called us back again. - There was to be no preliminary bombardment the days beforehand ` there was only one short, sharp barrage just before the battle. - You've got to have the artillery preparation to smash their wire down. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - I ordered fire on possible enemy assembly and forming-up positions. - The bombardment started, and the ground shook. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - And we could see the hundreds and hundreds of gun flashes. - Ready, fire! - (BOOM!) - Fire one! - (BOOM!) - Fire two! - (BOOM!) - Fire three! Fire four! - (BOOM! BOOM!) - Load. - As soon as the bombardment started, the German's retaliation came. - (BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!) (BOOM!) - And for four hours, we had to sit there and take everything they slung at us. - And first of all, a large number of tanks went in. We could hear them rumbling and rattling. - 320 tanks crawling along. - We waited for the signal to move off. Already, everybody was anxious to go, but we waited and waited. - We got no sleep at all that night, owing to the noise of our artillery barrage, which was continuous, the whole time. - We was asked to hand over any personal belongings to our company officer, such as photographs and letters that we valued. - I heard soft voices talking to one another quietly, and I wondered, - 'How many are going to live to see the sun rise?' - In a man's pay book, there was provision for making a valid will if they were going into action for the first time. And I didn't bother with it ` I had nothing to leave anybody. (LAUGHS) - The fellow next to you, he was your best friend. You loved him. You perhaps didn't know him the day before. And then an hour to go, they were the longest and the shortest hours in life. - We had unlimited time for thinking, and I know I found myself thinking much more deeply than I had ever thought before. - Some people might be incapable of thinking; they might have regarded the situation as being such that they were incapable of thought. - I don't think there was any feeling of fear ` it was just that, you know, we were doing a job, and if it came, it came. - We realised that, sooner or later, we were going to get the chop ` you were either going to be killed or wounded. - I was not in the least frightened of being killed, but I was terrified lest I should lose an arm or a leg. - Waiting for an hour for an attack is not a very pleasant thing. - We sort of chatted away, trying to keep the spirits up, you see. We told dirty stories and made crude remarks. - We had a thousand guns massed on a mile front behind us. Well, you can imagine all this stuff coming over you, and we had the German stuff coming the other way. - The noise rose to a crescendo such as I'd never heard before. - You wouldn't hear a word. - The shells were passing over you probably 3ft, 4ft. - And the air, it was an inferno, and your line was another inferno. Reason was completely blasted out of it. - The bombardment created a sort of hysterical feeling. - All of a sudden, one of our fellas started crying, really screaming and crying. And the officer in charge telling the sergeant, 'Find that man and shoot him, shoot him!' - It's difficult to explain the reaction of a man when he is in a big bombardment. - He thought that this man's screaming and crying would be a danger to the rest of the men. - As soon as it was light, we were given a ration of rum, any amount of it, as much as you can drink. - And we got the order to fix bayonets. - Fix bayonets! - Fix bayonets! - Bayonets fixed! - It was a beautiful day, the way it dawned after a rainy night ` a beautiful day. - Then five minutes to go, I remember those lads standing there, dead silent, couldn't make a noise. - I was more frightened sitting, waiting to start. I was very frightened then, very frightened indeed. - And an officer shouted along the line, 'Is everybody ready?' And I called out, 'I can't get my bayonet on my rifle, sir!' And he said, 'Damn you, mate, well, hurry up.' - I sent back a message to brigade headquarters to say we were all ready, but unfortunately, a slight mistake occurred. The first thing they knew was a terrific tremor on the ground. We blew a mine, which should have been under the German trenches, but it wasn't. - (BOOM!) - It was in no man's land, and that gave the Germans five minutes to occupy the crater, which they did. - Sergeant Moore, he was standing behind the trench with a revolver in his hand, and he said, 'Any boy goes back, I shoot them.' - So that if we didn't go one way, we wouldn't go the other. - There wasn't a reluctance to go over the top, not with people I were with. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - Fire! - (BOOM!) - They put a curtain of shells over you, and you advanced. That was the theory, I think. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - Fire! - (BOOM!) - I realised this was the moment of the assault. - And then zero hour. - Somebody shouted, 'There they go!' To the left were the London Scottish, running forward. I gave the order of, 'Up the ladders, over the top.' - (WHISTLE BLOWS) - And after this, you lived in a world of noise, simply noise for hours. - (BOOM!) - As soon as you get over the top, fear has left you. - You didn't run, there was no shouting nor cheering ` everybody was deadly quiet. - Just as I stepped into no man's land, somebody was shot through the head, and his skull was splintered. It wasn't a good send-off, I can assure you. - The barrage proceeded into the enemy lines in steps of 100 yards at a time. - Fire! - (BOOM!) - The line of British troops, fixed bayonets, walking quite steadily behind the barrage. It is a sight I shall never forget. - To start with, we'd had the odd machine-gun firing, but remarkably little, and it seemed almost too good to be true. - We then realised the Germans had been containing their fire until they saw how far the attack was developing. - Unknown to us, there was 10 to 20 German machine guns. - Then all hell broke loose. - And, my God, he really opened up, and he let us have it. It just swept us. - (MACHINE-GUN FIRE) (YELLING IN GERMAN) - Keep moving, laddie! - (MEN SHOUT) * - (MEN SCREAM AND SHOUT) - Machine-gun bullets came at us like hailstones. - I didn't realise that it was swish, swish with bullets. - I looked round, and people were dropping all round you. I mean, they just faded away, you know, on either side of you. - And I thought, 'Well, what are they shooting at me for?' (LAUGHS) And I hadn't gone more than a few yards before I was shot in the thigh. - There was a captain alongside me with his revolver out, and, all of a sudden, he dropped. And then another chap, he was hit in the leg, but he continued with great bounds, hopping on one leg. - When the bullets hit the tank, the metal flakes were whirling around like razor blades inside the tank. - You could see men dropping, but you didn't take any notice. If you didn't get hit, you just carried on. - I suddenly found myself with a terrible pain in my left hand as if someone had caned me, and I found a big hole in it. A man was running across the front of me, and he was shot to the body, because the contents of his wallet were flung out forward of me. - I felt a terrific bang on my right arm, and the blood started running off the end of my hand. - I just didn't think that this German machine gunner would trouble to even fire at me, but the next thing, I felt a shock of quite a number of bullets hitting the right side of my body. - A hare crossed my path with eyes bulging in fear, but I felt that it couldn't have been half as frightened as I was. - You could see your mates going down right and left, and you were face to face with the stark realisation that this was the end of it. - The two in front of me went down wounded in the head and chest. - Those bloody bullets got me in the leg and blew a great big hole in the back. It didn't hurt. - Well, life was very, very hazardous indeed, and we proceeded in this fashion, some getting hit and others carrying along. - You hadn't got time to deliberate upon things. - Machine-gun bullets might be coming over, but they weren't hitting you, and you just go on. - They say your past comes up when you think you're gonna die, but I hadn't got very much past at 19. And when I saw these bullets coming along, all I thought was, 'Am I gonna live?, - Of course, if the thing hits you fair and square and you die immediately, you don't feel anything at all ` nothing to it. - First wave were all absolutely wiped out. Everybody was either killed or wounded. - There were so many dead laying about, it was hard to avoid treading on them. - I was trying to step over them, and the sergeant behind me said, 'Go on. You mustn't take any notice of that ` you keep going.' - And we were literally walking over the dead bodies of our comrades. The carnage is just indescribable. - I had in my path about 2000 dead, British and German. An attempt to clear any dead man from our path was impossible, cos of the shelling, and we ploughed over the lot. - Any shell bursting within a few yards of the tank seemed to lift it up in the air, and you felt a tremendous back pressure. - The noise of battle when you're out in the middle of it is so terrific that you don't hear any individual shots, even. - And we had to stop in front of the German wire. - It was quite impossible to advance any further, because of the barbed wire and the machine-gun posts, which were about 50 yards further on. - The wire in front of us was quite uncut, despite the intense bombardment. - You couldn't see anything but this wire ` it seemed to be acres and acres of it. - And it was just black with rust. And I don't think a rabbit could have got through it. - Then our own artillery started dropping shells amongst us. - (BOOMING) - (SCREAMING) - Obviously, they hadn't got their range or they didn't know where we were. - I heard the first shrapnel shell burst above my head. - There was a terrific whizz ` that was the disappearance of my steel helmet. I never found it again. - I got a bit off the cheek of my backside, a piece in my hip, a piece in my leg, then a piece right through my leg. - The fellow to my left took the full blast of the shell and had half his head blown away. - Bullets were catching us, and shrapnel was coming down overhead, and we had all the German artillery banging away at us and our own artillery going over. - The shells were exploding all round you, and it was a real good old battle, and it got hold of you, sort of. - One had no sanity at all, because the inferno was so blasting that you had no time to think. - That din, that numbing din seemed to stop one doing the things that one would normally do, no matter how well-intentioned one was. - You don't look; you see. You don't hear; you listen. You taste the top of your mouth; your nose is filled with fumes and death. The veneer of civilisation has dropped away. - I was literally blown about 12 or 14 yards, and all that I could hear was the cries and screams from the survivors, sometimes in two, sometimes in three parts; legs, arms all strewn all over the place and that arid smell of explosion. - Well, all my romantic ideas of war completely vanished. - A shell had hit this man, it knocked off his left arm, knocked off his left leg, his left eye was hanging on his cheek, and he's calling out for Nanny. - His bleeding eye was hanging on, pulsing. So I shot him. I had to ` I had to shoot him. He'd have died in any case, and it put him out of his misery. SOBS: It hurt me. - You know, I knew there was no hope of getting any orders, because there was nobody to give any. - All officers was killed and wounded and most of the NCOs. I jumped into this big shell hole. - You dropped down anywhere, shell holes, anywhere at all just to take cover until the barrage lifted. - I'm not one of those heroes who want to take the German army on my own, so I went to work, and I got down behind the lip of a big shell hole. - Fortunately, I was able to drop into a shell hole. - Used to call them shell-hole droppers ` they would drop down into a shell hole because of the barrage and seeing a few men killed. - Oh, it's a pity they didn't all drop into shell holes. Before the barrage lifted, they were dead. - And the bullets were hitting the back of the shell hole where I was. It was raining bullets. I don't know how I got missed. - From behind the lip of this shell hole, the dirt was spraying down the back of my neck. - There were three chaps in the shell hole, and one of them said, 'They're firing into a bloody shell hole.' We looked round to see the bullets go right through his head. So that was the end of that. - A sergeant came down into the shell hole on top of us, and he was dead ` he got it through the neck. Anyway, he had a lovely pair of field glasses round his neck, and I nabbed them. Because things were so scarce, if there was anything like that, you'd collar it. - Jerry slapped shell after shell into us until one shell penetrated the forward part of the tank. What happened then, I cannot tell you, but I believe there was an explosion. - These were fully trained soldiers, we always had the rifles loaded, but we stuck in the extra five rounds to make it a 10 for rapid-fire. - The Germans got up in their own trenches and fired at us. In my opinion, they were very brave, very brave men indeed. There was a German standing up on his parapet and flinging bombs. So I shot him. - They officer gave us orders, 'Open immediate rapid-fire.' We all opened up as fast as we could go and continually fired. It was a real mad minute, I'll tell you. - They stood up, and I was picking the Germans off, because I was a sniper. - I was trying to pick a shot, and something hit me between the eyes like a sledgehammer. I dissolved into unconsciousness with no pain, but with millions of golden stars in a dark blue heaven. - After I'd used up a whole lot of bullets, I got down. I says, 'You have a go, Bill.' He didn't even fire a shot, he was killed immediately ` and that's how things were. You felt aggrieved, it was a pal of yours, but you took it casually, because I suppose you become battle-hardened. - We kept up rapid-fire there as long as our rifles would work. They got too hot to fire any more. - Fat was pouring out the woodwork of the rifles ` the muzzles were beginning to extend. - Then we got an order from the captain ` we must make a barricade of the dead, the German dead and our own dead. - My captain, at that time, was anxious to go on and keep it up, but I'm afraid he died. - I had three men loading up these rifles with me, and I peppered the whole line. And judging by the shouts and screams, I took a very good toll. - There was machine-gun spraying on the lip of our shell hole. I waited until the belt of that gun had fired and immediately carried on the advance. - The sergeant, he said, 'Follow me.' - I managed to crawl under the wire ` a lot of us got through in that way ` and gathered together on the German side of the wire. - All the shells screamed over our heads on to the German posts, and then suddenly stopped. 'Come on, lads, give them hell,' and we just got up and rushed forward. - In the bayonet charge, the majority of us always had a round up the spout, besides the magazine. - There was a feeling of exultation that with a rifle, bayonet and a couple of Mills bombs in your pocket, we were gonna be able to get stuck into the bastards that had been killing our mates. - And we went like hell, straight into the Germans. - (SCREAMING, RAPID GUNFIRE) - And we fired at anything that moved. - I dropped down on my knees, and the sergeant fired over my shoulder and hit the German. He was on the ground, but still firing, so he went up and killed him. - There's only one method of bayonet fighting ` that is to shove your bayonet in as hard as you could. - There was this German on the floor of the trench, and the poor bugger was dead scared. So while I'm wondering whether to stick him or shoot him, the German jumped out away to my left, another one on the right, so I pinned this German down, and then shot the German on the left, worked my bolt, put another one up the spout and shot the German who was running away on the right. - Quite a number of Germans came in a rush, and we shot them, one by one. We probably killed the lot. - Some chap said, 'Poor old Dick got it,' and I looked around and saw him lying with the top of his head off. - On their right flank came a German with a canister on his back, squirting this liquid fire out of the hose. - I looked towards jets of flame coming across the trench. We'd never heard of flamethrowers. - Burnt 23 of our chaps to death. I plonked one into his chest, but it didn't stop him. He must have had an armour-plated waistcoat on. - I got a bang in the arm, and found I was bleeding. But I could bomb pretty well with my left arm as I could with my right. - Somebody threw a Mills bomb, and it burst behind him, and he wasn't armour-plated behind him, he went down. - One German came running out of this trench, screaming his head off, and he nearly knocked me over. - Three Germans came out with their hands up, and they were young chaps about our own age, about 19 or 20. - If Jerries came up with their hands up, we just waved them on ` we didn't fire at them, obviously. - Prisoners were a nuisance. We were shooing them back, you know, get rid of them. - The only Germans we were really fighting were the machine gunners. - They were firing belt after belt after us, and they never stopped firing. The bloody cartridge cases were piled up in a heap. - They'd got all their best men on machine guns, and they fought to the death. - The cog opened, and there was three Jerries there in front of the machine gun, and, of course, the bloody gun was pointing at me, and I just swung the Lewis gun, I opened fire first. It was split-second stuff. Thankfully, I moved on. - As the war progressed, it was inevitable that we developed the animal characteristic of killing. - Well, we've got some young Lincolnshire lads, you know, the 18-year-olds. The machine gunners were putting their hands up ` it didn't make any difference. They were killed. - And I'm afraid there was a little bit of slaughter going on, until we got in some sort of order. - Everybody was screaming, laying down, moaning and groaning, and eventually there was silence. - I found a German officer with his lung hanging out. He was still alive, but he wasn't conscious. You could see his lung was expanding and contracting as he was breathing. It was the nearest I ever came to ever shooting a man point-blank, but we had to go on. - One dead German leaning against a shell wall, he was a handsome bloke, he reminded me of my father. A shell had dissected him nicely ` it had taken the whole of the front of his chest down to his stomach, neatly cut aside. What a fantastic exhibition of anatomy! The real shooting was over in about 10 minutes. There was about a hundred of us coming out instead of 600 who'd gone over, and a band came to meet us. It was a wonderful feeling, 'I've been in a battle, and I'm so very proud about it.' - Step up. - Step sideways ` - that little step before the big one... - ...into that new office,... - career,... - mindset,... - ...because you can do it. - Tautoko. - So make tracks. * - Hang on. - You got it? - Yeah. - And if you'd anybody wounded or killed, if you didn't get them out straight away, they went down in the soil and disappeared, it was so bad. - That's it. - Well, you had to ascertain whether a man was alive or not. If he was dead, then he was no trouble, medically. I can't put that any clearer. - Keep him level. - Give me some room! - I felt some pain, I suppose about an hour later. I'd got these thigh boots on, and the bullet had gone in sideways, all the way down the leg, in, out, in, out and hit the ankle bone and turned upside down. - Oh God! Jesus! (GROANS) - The sergeant major brought me a dixie of hot tea, which was just what I needed ` it went down beautifully. - And casualties started coming back, walking casualties, men with their arms smashed up, legs trawling, and they got back to different dressing stations the best way they could. - The walking wounded, they were coming down in droves. Some were holding one another, and some were walking on their own, a light wound in the hand or arm; some were hobbling along, and some were looking quite cheerful as they'd been free of something. - Hello, Mum! - Hey! - My officer had said, 'Are you all right, Kane?' And I said, 'Oh, yes, sir ` I can still walk.' And he said, 'But you've been hit in the back of the head.' And he handed me quite a dose of rum. - The worst cases were those who were shot through the chest. Well, the difficulty of breathing; you see, you only had field dressings, which every man carried. - Yeah, we'll have a better look at it. Who's waiting, boys? - You got a bottle of iodine, and they'd tip it in the hole. Oh, the pain was terrific. - Well done. How about that for luck, chum? Shot right through it. - I was not in very good shape at all, and I was getting somewhere near the end of my tether ` I didn't think I could go on much longer. Every soldier, I suppose, had this breaking strain. - The medics will be waiting for you. - Well done, lads. Well done. - That's it. - We had some remarkable doctors who worked day and night in various stations on the British front, looking after the wounded. - Nice cup of Rosie Lee. - You all right, Jack? - They seemed never to need any sleep, so what they hadn't got in numbers, they made up in effort. - We need a shell dressing. - Both my officers, all my sergeants and three-quarters of my men were killed or wounded. - Their ranks were made up with lads of 18 from England who'd been pushed out of factories. - Easy. That's it. - (BIRDS SQUAWK) - Bloody birds! Get out of it! Go on! - My mob were helping the battalion to bury these... only little kids, they were, 17 or 18 years of age. - In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. - A lot of those kids, it was their first action, and they never knew any more. - So we'd wrapped them up in blankets, dug a little shallow grave and put them in there. - I was putting a dressing on a German, and he was very shaky and fearful of what we were going to do to him. - But they were more frightened than we were. And we were frightened, I don't mind telling you! - Mostly, they were just boys, as we were. They seemed glad to be captured ` they were out of it. - Is this yours? - Mine. - This is his. - Ah, it's yours. Put it in your pocket. - There was a little German fella, I gave him a cigarette, and he was terrified, and I was very, very sorry for him, really, you know. He was only about 16. And we had a chinwag, and I just took his pocket watch. You know, it was a normal thing. We used to rob them, you see? - Right, let's go. - Yes, they were underfed, and they were in very poor shape. - Come on. Come on now, lads. Pick him up. Come on! - And funnily enough, five or six German prisoners came along, and they helped carry me, and I got another six watches, cos I robbed these fellas who helped me down. - Every time we captured prisoners, a number of German prisoners would immediately take up stretcher duty. Now, I'm sure the Geneva Convention never required them to do that. - There you go, lads. - I've got him. - You're all right, chum. That's it. - Keep going. - I took about a dozen prisoners back with me. They were all unarmed, and I just had my old gun. - In some cases, there were a whole lot of Germans without even a Tommy with them. - Oh, they were really cowed, they were; yes, very subdued. - I slept next to a German man who'd been wounded in the arm, and, uh, to my amazement, he started talking to me in English. And he said he'd been a waiter at the Savoy. - I mean, I don't think the average British soldier ever had any deep feelings regarding revenge against the German. He admired him and respected him. - Go on ` show him. - As the war went on, I felt as much sympathy for them as I did for myself. - And the German, I always thought, was a good fighter. I'd sooner have him on my side than on the opposite side. - I think some of the Germans thought we ought to have been fighting with them against the French and the Russians, but none of them thought we ought to be fighting each other. - Keep on moving forward! - You see, the German had been an unknown horde, with their coal-scuttle helmets, and then we met them. - Well, the German soldier, he was a very nice fellow, as a rule. You know, I think he was really a barber or a shopkeeper or something, and, the same as us, he was stuck in uniform. - You're too tall. Get you next time, Jerry! - We got on very well together, actually, and they used to mix in with us. - Want your hat back? - Here, give it him back! - They were decent, sort of family people and thought a great deal of their children. - They didn't seem to bear any malice against us. - They'd had to do what they were told, like us. - Go on. Go on ` tuck in. - I couldn't speak German, but some could, and the Germans, some of them could speak English. Anyhow, we could understand each other. - The general agreement when we were talking to Germans was how useless war was and why did it have to happen. - When you're passing bodies all day long, it's bound to have an effect on whoever it is, isn't it? - This big, fat German was lying in a street. You know, his stomach was all gassed up, his intestines lying out on his belly. (CHUCKLES) And somebody had stuck a pipe in his mouth. Yeah, we all told him to get up. (CHUCKLES) - German troops were very brave and very stubborn. - The Germans fought rear-guard actions almost back to the Rhine, and regiment after regiment was smashed up and cut about. - We had an idea that they were beginning to crack. - I would say that they were, if anything, rather despondent. They knew they had lost the war. - We, as front-line soldiers, knew they were giving up. - Quite frankly, the Germans were fed up with the whole thing. - And gradually, that is how the war itself came to an end. - I got the impression that most of the German soldiers couldn't care less who won, as long as the war finished. - Of course, that's what everybody was thinking about then ` we'd had enough. - And after a time, perhaps nobody cared. - All right, boys, here it comes. We're in the pictures! - (LAUGHTER) - There was a fella in the war called Rumour, he knows everything, you see, and Mr Rumour told us that the Germans were also negotiating for an armistice. - There was a huge poster, 'All hostilities will cease on the Western Front at 11 o'clock on the 11th of November 1918.' So we said to each other, 'What day is it?' And somebody discovered it was November the 11th! - And then we had to shine our boots and clean our buttons. We knew the war was over then, and we were quite confident that we would be there when it ended. - This proclamation was read out, stating that the hostilities would cease from 11 that morning, and actually, there wasn't a cheer of any kind raised when that was read out. - At 11 o'clock, the noise of the gunfire just rolled away, like a peal of thunder, in the distance. - (SHELLFIRE, GUNFIRE FADES) (BIRDSONG, SOLDIERS CHATTER) - Never heard it being quiet; now it was dead silent. - You were so dazed that you could stand up straight and not be shot. - It was eerie. - There was a feeling of relief and gladness, I suppose, but no celebration. - The staff officer shut his watch up and said, 'I wonder what we're all going to do next.' - There was no demonstration of any kind, nobody said a word; everybody just slumped away. - The only way we could have celebrated as regards to a liquid would have been tea ` that's all. - It was one of the flattest moments of our lives. We just couldn't comprehend it. - We had that sort of feeling as though we'd been kicked out of a job. - For some of us, it was practically the only life we'd known ` what was one going to do next? - It was just like being made redundant. - That was very much the feeling of everyone. - We were thoroughly upset. We'd all got no work to go to, 'I don't want to go back.' There was no cheering, no singing, we were drained of all emotion ` we were too far gone, too exhausted to enjoy it. - All things come to an end, and even a drama can go on too long. - It didn't end with a whimper, but something very much like one. - (POIGNANT MUSIC) (MUSIC CONTINUES) - I was very happy to leave. I'd had enough, you know? After a time, it begins to wear on one, you know? - Thank goodness the bloody thing is over ` that was all. - But so far as I was concerned, I was out of it, and now the next step in life. - The first thing we did was write home, say we were all right, making sure we got the date on the envelope right. - To someone like myself, who was interested in nature, after the horrors that man had made of the battlefront, I was immensely delighted to find shell holes in which I picked lilies of the valley and larkspur, and I pursued Camberwell beauties and swallowtail butterflies along the banks of the Aisne river. - We went to Boulogne. By the way, we came home with full pack. The only thing we left behind was the bullets ` we had to discard those ` but we still kept our rifle. We went over to Folkestone, and there were long trestle tables with very kind ladies, and they gave you a sausage roll or a bun and a cup of tea, and that was very welcome. We entrained to Victoria, and there we broke up. - We went to the barracks, and we just dumped rifles, bayonets and everything, and there were a lot of suits on display, hats, shoes. You could tell her which one you wanted, style and colour, and they measured you. - I was horrified by what I saw when I came back here and when one tried to get a job. - There was mass unemployment, and I thought, 'This isn't much of a life.' - It was a most difficult thing, to realise you're of no commercial value. - It was a shame, the way ex-servicemen were treated. You weren't wanted. Some places said, 'No ex-servicemen need apply,' and that was the sort of attitude you were up against. - One of my pals was killed, and when I went home, the very first thing that I did was go to his mother, who, if she'd had a frying pan, she'd have hit me. Her son had been killed, and I'd come back alive. She was very bitter. - The first night I came home, I got into my old bed. It was the first bed I'd laid in since I joined the army. When Mother brought my cup of tea up in the morning, she found me fast asleep on the floor. - People never talked about the war. It was a thing that had no conversational value at all. Most people were absolutely disinterested. - When I got home, my father and my mother didn't seem in the least interested in what had happened. They hadn't any conception of what it was like. - And there was no reason why any one of us millions should have been favoured with a thank you very much for having got a little bit muddy and were out of touch with good manners. - And on occasions when I did talk about it, my father would argue points of fact that he couldn't possibly have known about, cos he wasn't there. - Every soldier I've spoken to experienced the same thing. We were a race apart from the civilians. - And you could speak to your comrades, and they understood, but the civilians, it was just a waste of time. - However nice and sympathetic they were, attempts of well-meaning people to sympathise reflected the fact that they didn't really understand at all. - I think the magnitude was just beyond their comprehension. They didn't understand that people that you'd known and played football with were just killed beside you. My friend who enlisted with me, and he just lay there like a sack of rags until he went black, before anybody troubled to bury him. - They knew that people came back covered with mud and lice, but they'd no idea of the strain of sitting in a trench and waiting for something to drop on one's head. - You couldn't convey the awful state of things, the way you lived like animals and behaved like animals. - People didn't seem to realise what a terrible thing war was. - I think they felt that the war was one continual cavalry charge. They hadn't any conception ` how could they? - Well, it started off in a reasonable manner, it was people fighting on horseback with swords, but it developed into something ghastly. People don't realise the potential of military equipment. A man's life wasn't worth anything at the end of the war. - We were none of us heroes, you know ` we didn't like this business of being killed at all. - When we were talking among ourselves, we used to say, 'Christ, they won't have any more wars like this.' - How did we endure it? The answer must be partly the fear of fear ` the fear of being found afraid. Another is belief in human beings, your colleague, and there's no letting him down. - There may be right on both sides, but I think war is horrible. Everything should be done to avoid war. - I still can't see the justification for it. It was all really rather horrible. I think history will decide, in the end, that it was not worthwhile. - The only thing that really did annoy me was when I went back to work, after I'd got demobilised, I went down the stores, and the bloke behind the counter was a bloke who I knew. He said, 'Where have you been? On nights?' - (WHISTLING) - (POIGNANT PIANO MUSIC) - (MUSIC CONTINUES) (MUSIC CONTINUES) (MUSIC CONTINUES) (MUSIC FADES) - (WHISTLING) (WHISTLING CONTINUES) - # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous? # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous? # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, she hasn't been kissed in 40 years, # hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. - # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. - # Our top kick in Armentieres broke the spell of 40 years. - # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # You didn't have to know her long to know the reason men go wrong. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # She's the hardest working girl in town. # She makes her living upside down. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # She sold her kisses for 10 francs each, # Soft and juicy, as sweet as a peach. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Madame, you've got a daughter fair to wash the soldiers' underwear. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # I didn't care what came of me, parlez-vous. # I didn't care what came of me, # parlez-vous. # I didn't care what came of me, so I went and joined the infantry. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. - (WHIMSICAL MUSIC) (TUBA SOLO) (MUSIC CONTINUES) (TRUMPET SOLO) (MUSIC CONTINUES) # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. - # Went in her bed, she sure was fun, working her arse like a Maxim gun. - # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. - # I had more fun than I could tell beneath the sheets with Mademoiselle. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. - # She did a wink and cried, 'Oui, oui! Let's see what you can do with me.' - # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # They say they mechanised the war, parlez-vous. # They say they mechanised the war, parlez-vous. # They say they mechanised the war,... - # what the hell are we marching for? - # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. - (WHIMSICAL MUSIC CONTINUES) (TRUMPET SOLO) # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, Parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, She hasn't been kissed for 40 years. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # The officers get all the steak, parlez-vous. # The officers get all the steak, # parlez-vous. # The officers get all the steak, and all we get is a bellyache. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # You might forget the gas and shells, parlez-vous. # You might forget the gas and shells, parlez-vous. # You might forget the groans and yells, but you never forget the mademoiselles. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. - (WHISTLING) (WHISTLING CONTINUES) - # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Many and many a married man wants to go back to France again. Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # Just blow your nose and dry your tears. We'll all be back in a few short years. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # I fell in love with her at sight, I wet myself for half the night. Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, # parlez-vous. # Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parlez-vous. # You might forget the gas and shells; you never forget the mademoiselles. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. - # You might forget the gas and shells, but you'll never forget the mademoiselles. # Hinky-dinky, parlez-vous. #
  • Documentary films--New Zealand
  • World War, 1914-1918--History
  • World War, 1914-1918--New Zealand