Newsreel and voiceover from the 50s series Time to Remember illustrate the scale of the sacrifice made by ordinary people during the 20th century's two world wars.
Browse content similar to Casualties of War. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
In the 1950s, the famous newsreel company Pathe
produced a major historical documentary series
for British television.
Made by the award-winning producer Peter Baylis and narrated by a line-up of celebrated actors,
Time To Remember chronicled the social, cultural
and political forces that shaped the first half of the 20th century.
The two world wars are a central presence in the series.
The human cost of those conflicts features in several episodes.
The sacrifices made offer a humbling picture of a forbidding era.
# We don't want to lose you
# But we think you ought to go
# For your king and your country
# We shall want you and miss you. #
Things, faces, friends, places, years and moments half forgotten.
Laughs, fears, songs, tears - memories are made of this.
In 1914, the people of Britain were enjoying a relatively peaceful and prosperous time.
The Boer War had ended more than a decade earlier and the Empire still extended around the globe.
The conflict and devastation of the next 30 years, which would place millions in harm's way,
would have been almost unimaginable to those enjoying afternoons at the races
and their long, lazy days at the seaside.
I remember a time when the sun was hot and the last thing to think about was the winter.
White flannels, blazers, boating and all the other pleasures of a blazing August.
Yet even while people were enjoying them all,
grey ships were stealing into their war base at Scapa Flow,
instead of returning to home ports after the summer exercises.
A peacetime when the British Navy was brought to battle readiness, as though in war,
because a far-sighted First Lord of the Admiralty thought it ought to be.
And in his foresight, Winston Spencer Churchill was right.
For this was 1914,
and the eve of Armageddon.
The world was about to plunge into the deadliest conflict it had ever seen.
Britain declared war on Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany to defend neutral Belgium.
The world's great powers would be locked in combat for four bloody years.
Britain is an island and that has always made her different, alone and secure.
All the same, 1914 saw some pretty fast trench-digging along the coasts,
as people remarked, "Anyone would think the Kaiser was going to invade."
Different, alone and secure.
Yet not for the first time in history and not for last,
Britain sent her best to fight Europe's battles overseas.
Within hours, the British Expeditionary Force was on its way.
The BEF, later to be called the Old Contemptible,
from a derogatory remark thrown out by the Kaiser himself.
Off they went to what?
Another brush with the Boers?
Such had been the nature of wars to date.
Certainly none of them realised that they were to be the first in the greatest human sacrifice in history.
And even as they went, others rushed to follow,
needing little encouragement from the recruiting officers.
Soon the doors would have to be closed and unable to accept all those fearful that whatever it was,
it would indeed be over by Christmas and they would have missed it.
The British forces soon realised they would need more men - more volunteers.
If you were a man between the ages of 19 and 30, taller than five foot six,
then the Secretary of State for War wanted you.
Lord Kitchener set about the task of building up the greatest volunteer army in the nation's history
and his famous call to arms drew a noble response.
They thronged the recruiting offices, queuing up to enter and marching away when they left.
Some were given uniforms, some weren't.
Schools were taken over to house them and as far as the kids were concerned, it was,
"We don't want to lose you, but we think you ought to go."
Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do.
As the sergeant said, "You lot have plenty to learn before you're fit to meet the Hun.
"I know we ain't got uniforms for you all yet, but Rome wasn't built in a day,
"and besides, still being in caps and waistcoats will help you to settle in and feel at home.
"Nice dry tents, so much healthier than nasty damp brick walls.
"Good nourishing food and you can always ask for more.
"Cor, you're lucky!"
"I love Harris." The packing of kit bags and they too were off and no army left in greater spirits.
As the sergeant said, "You will be marched off to the station at 0800 hours.
"At the training point there will be held a ceremonial parade
"at which no other than Prince Arthur of Connaught himself will inspect you and wish you God's speed.
"So I want ranks neat and straight. Get me? Straight."
"From then on, well, you'll be on your own.
"But though I won't be with you, I'll expect you to make me proud of you.
"Get me? Proud.
"And the best of luck."
And so off to war they went, those first brave thousands.
Theirs but to do and die.
By the end of 1914, more than a million men had signed up for Kitchener's volunteer army.
But with casualties at the front on an unprecedented scale,
still more soldiers were needed to face down the enemy.
The war minister oversaw a rise in the upper age limit for recruits
from 30 to 35 and then to 40.
Ordinary Britons continued to come forward for king and country.
There was a kind of quiet resignation among the people you fought alongside,
as though you were all united by a common bond of hate.
Not for the enemy so much, because you had a fair idea of how he must feel too.
But for the whole miserable, murderous massacre.
Yes, that's what it was.
No, in 1916 there seemed no way out, no better hole for either side to find.
For London and other British cities,
those were the days of ambulances meeting the trains as regularly as...
well as the trains themselves.
The days of ambulances and the days of flags.
"Buy a flag, mister, and help the wounded, the blinded and the maimed?"
"Oh, yes, madam."
"Yes, sir. It's all for a good cause."
And for the same good cause too, the garden parties and the jumble sales and the concerts.
Not to mention the tea parties and treats for the wounded themselves.
The British are a quiet people, slow to reveal their inner-most emotions.
And on Britain's conscience was the debt she owed to those fighting her battles.
True, many had done the same before in many a war,
but never on such a scale as this.
And never at such a cost.
What is the measure of a nation's conscience?
The measure is a bitter realisation that it is giving up, for some vague objective called victory,
not only its material wealth, but its very self,
the flesh and blood, brains and eyes that make it a nation.
New limbs for old.
For the old, lost somewhere over there amid the mud and the wire.
That was the kind of horrible new industry that two years of the Great War had brought to Britain.
"What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?"
"I got myself a new leg, son."
"What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?"
"I got myself a medal on the Somme, son."
"Buy a flag, mister,
"all in a good cause."
No way out - just on to victory, come what may.
The war was also being fought at sea.
One of the great clashes was the Battle of Jutland in 1916,
during which over 8,500 men lost their lives.
Brave ships died with their crews.
In attempting to cut off the enemy from his bases, the British rang for all steam,
But in the mist, contact was lost and after fruitless searching, the battle was over.
The German losses in men and ships were less than those of the British, but the Kaiser had had enough.
And for the rest of the war, his fleet stayed at home.
In keeping command of the seas, the British were the real victors of Jutland.
Early in the action, a boy working in a gun crew was mortally wounded.
But he continued to stay by his gun until all the rest of the crew were killed or wounded,
until his own death.
And that was how John Travers Cornwall won his Victoria Cross.
At Jutland, Britain lost and killed 6,400 officers and men -
so that once again there were memorials to be unveiled.
This time to men in blue.
For the ordinary millions across Europe whose homes villages, towns and cities
were threatened by the fighting, the quest for safety meant taking to the road.
As troops moved to the front, they met with civilians in retreat.
Britain's finest drew off to the stations and away to France.
Keep the home fires burning.
First my uncle Ernie, then Uncle Harry,
then Fred and Aunt Mable's cousin on her mother's side.
Until the boys come home.
If they ever did come home. By 1917, it had become something like a three to one gamble -
well, two to one, I suppose, if you count being wounded.
Back to Britain came a terrible steady stream.
Uncle Fred came back three times,
until they finally diagnosed what had hit him in the back was lumbago and not shrapnel.
But Uncle Fred was always, well, to be kind, awkward.
But there was plenty of work in '17. Too much for all the nurses to do.
And for the women, war by '17 had came to mean a great deal more than just nursing.
Enough men at the front had come to mean women taking over at the back.
For the British, over the top, and, this time, no stopping.
For the French, too, over the top and no stopping.
There were losses, there were wounded.
But for you, mes amis, the war is over.
And then, suddenly,
quite suddenly, it was over.
And as they came out of the dugouts and moved into the prison cages,
perhaps for the first time in the whole war, you came to realise that this mighty military machine
against which you'd fought for so long was made up of just men.
Men who, like yourself, wished for nothing more than to give it all up and go home.
They say, even after all these years, that at 11 o'clock on the 11th of November 1918,
when the last gun had fired and its high explosive had torn open the earth for the last time,
there was, for a brief moment, a silence.
A silence the like of which the world had never experienced since its early ages.
But only a brief silence, for within a moment or so,
the birds had begun to sing again.
And in the camps of Europe, those who'd been waiting their turn for battle,
celebrated with an intensity of relief that no-one else could equal,
for perhaps they, more than any others, realised what they had missed.
Yes, that was something of the cost.
And that figure does not include the deaths among the Russian armies,
deaths which, to date, few have counted or even tried to asses.
In the face of such slaughter, who wins or loses?
And so for the world was born the first real bitter hatred of war and all that it means.
A hatred that today makes so many pause to think twice.
And then think twice again.
Yes, winners or losers, they cheered them all.
Because, deep down, they realised that mankind had faced its greatest crisis.
And having faced it had emerged still capable of believing in the future,
still capable of believing in the inherent decency of man,
still capable of laughing, still capable of smiling.
Yes, considering what they'd all been through,
they'd come through it with flying colours.
# There's a long, long trail
# Into the land of my dreams... #
The First World War brought destruction on a previously unparalleled scale.
The massive numbers of dead, injured, displaced, and heartbroken meant future generations, too,
would be haunted by its horrors.
For those who lived through it, the war would bring change in its wake.
Resentment, doubt and anger meant old certainties held no longer.
Societies shifted all round the globe.
In Germany, a veteran of the First World War sought to build a society to last 1,000 years.
By 1939, Adolf Hitler had become head of the German state
and was pursuing expansionist policies that would pitch the people of Europe back into war.
Dawn on the 1st September, 1939.
Poland for breakfast.
For the new German armies and the new German air force,
a baptism of fire.
For Poland, the terrible honour
of being the first on the world's list to suffer the Blitzkrieg.
And so they rolled over the frontiers towards the Vistula and Warsaw,
setting into being the Second World War.
London, Paris, New York, Tokyo...
the whole world on the line.
Too late for the morning dailies but a scoop of scoops for the early specials of the evening.
At war with Germany.
From stations all over a continent, reservists parting with their families.
War is not just death on a battlefield.
For those who have endured it, this is war.
How long for? When will he come back?
Will he come back?
And the continental stations weren't the only ones to witness big scale departures.
For the second time in 25 years,
a British Expeditionary Force leaves the shores of England for France.
Reluctant warriors, yet full of the, "We'll see it through,"
kind of optimism.
In 1914, the first BEF had set out to rescue poor, gallant little Belgium.
In 1939, the second BEF left to render aid,
however vague and ill-defined,
to far distant and un-get-at-able at Poland.
Nine months into the Second World War,
on the same day that Winston Churchill
replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister of the UK,
Germany invaded France, Belgium and Holland,
and Western Europe encountered the Blitzkrieg.
Dawn on the 10th of May, 1940. The Panzers, the Iron Fists,
that were to hand out to the old order what was coming to him.
Then, spurred on by dive bombers,
cold-bloodedly but effectively, whole populations set in motion.
The citizen who clings to his house.
The farmer to his farm. Blast their roots and they'll take to the road.
Run, rabbit, run.
So that, as the British moved forward on their mission of rescue, they were
met with streams of refugees clogging the all-important roads.
Men, women and children in need of all the rations a soft-hearted Tommy might be tempted to give,
although duty demanded those rations to sustain his own vital fighting power.
On streams the flood. Down every road from the shattered front.
And now there is no front, only deep lance-like thrusts,
inflicting mortal wounds in the body of a nation.
And with them, as Holland bowed her head to the invader, went the refugees.
Those who might have stayed, yet who chose to go for reasons
of race, religion, plain pride, or a fundamental belief in the dignity
and necessity of personal freedom.
And even as they went, those same hawks of war dived at their heads.
Yet, somehow or other, they made it.
They came to Britain,
the persecuted, the innocent, the Jews,
the Catholics, the Protestants.
The unwanted, the unbelievers in the evil powers that be.
But for those still free, there are no greater allies
than those who have known bondage and have forsaken its chains.
As a result of that almighty lightning strike, Germany's forces poured west,
squeezing most of the retreating Allies into an ever-smaller corner of France and Belgium.
Under a black shroud from burning oil tanks,
Dunkirk and its shell-torn, bomb-wrecked beaches becomes the focus of the free world.
Hour after hour, men wade out to the waiting ships.
And between the shore and the larger vessels ferry the little ships.
Each bringing but a handful.
But each handful swelling the ranks of the rescued.
If this luck and effort continues, who knows how many might yet escape?
Swinging out of the black pall, each ship packed with men sets course for England.
Sometimes the enemy is shot down, sometimes he leaves his mark.
A bomb destroyer wallows helplessly.
Alongside comes another craft,
and for the men on board the damaged ship, it is all change yet again.
But there is no panic, only the swiftness of necessity and daring improvisation.
And then it's Dover or some other crowded port and ashore at last.
Ashore to find waiting for them,
train upon train, shuttling a tired army away from the ports to distant bases,
shipload after shipload through nine days and nights.
Infantry men, gunners, officers, sergeants, corporals, privates,
nurses as well as men,
most in one piece but some with lasting souvenirs of a lost battle.
Coming ashore at the ports too, man for man with the British, the French.
No priority, Churchill has commanded, and no priority it was.
Tens of thousands of cousin Andres.
When again will they see their native France?
They called it a miracle, as miracle indeed it was.
Instead of the expected few,
over 300,000 men had been lifted from Dunkirk to the shores of Britain.
And with these saved, a nation sets about building
the armies that are destined to march from El Alamein to Berlin.
By the end of June 1940, all British forces had withdrawn from France.
For Germany's planned invasion of Britain to be successful,
both sides knew that Luftwaffe would need total control of the airspace over the English coast
to stop the RAF bombing the invasion forces as they landed.
The stage was set.
In the skies above South East England, the future of Britain was about to be decided.
Any afternoon, any day of the week.
80-plus assembling over areas Amiens, Abbeville.
Further 60-plus over vicinity of Dieppe.
It looks the same as it did this morning.
But too early to judge.
It could be London itself.
Kent and Sussex, summer 1940.
Any afternoon, any day of the week.
Anytime. Any day.
Followed by any evening and any forbidding night.
London is an open city, a city open for battle.
Any night, any time, summer 1940.
Fire and flame, death and destruction.
Any morning after in London, or is it Coventry, Bristol, Portsmouth,
Liverpool, Belfast, Birmingham, Plymouth or Glasgow?
Yesterday was the old order of things.
Today is different, just as tomorrow will be different. Because it has to be.
Bombs and armaments were only one of
the ways the Second World War would visit trauma on innocent civilians.
The atrocities perpetrated in the Nazi camps became horrifically clear towards the end of the war
as the allied troops liberated Europe.
March out then, jailers of the dead and dying.
What's this place called? Belsen.
And your boss's name?
No, we won't forget.
To those camps come all who can.
Soldiers, scientists, doctors and members of parliament,
to see for themselves and report to the world.
To see the cages,
the gas chambers and the ovens.
And while the Germans themselves are made to bury the evidence,
the world holds its nose at the stink of the Third Reich.
The two global conflicts in the first half of the 20th century
ended, interrupted and irrevocably changed the lives of millions.
The human cost of the First World War was on a scale never before experienced.
The Second World War was worse still.
The dead, the maimed, the displaced, the grieving.
The casualties of war suffered terrible damage.
Damage that can never be undone.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Lesley Sharp is the modern-day narrator linking together the best of the newsreel footage from the 1950s Time to Remember series illustrating the scale of the sacrifice made by ordinary people during the 20th century's two world wars.
Includes footage of recruitment and training for the Great War; soldiers going over the top in the trenches; celebrations at the end of World War One; the evacuation of 300,000 men from Dunkirk in 1940; and Hurricanes taking off during the Battle of Britain.