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Some thoughts on They Shall Not Grow Old

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on December 18, 2018

I took in the special screening in Bismarck on December 17 of Peter Jackson’s documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old that covers the experience of soldiers during the war, focusing on the British. It was a project that was designed and developed during the centennial commemoration of the war and was released in Britain in time for Remembrance Day 2018. There is another special showing on December 27 at selected theaters in the United States and I must encourage everyone to go and see it.

Jackson utilized the film holdings at the Imperial War Museum, as well as hundreds of hours of oral history interviews with veterans to create a masterful work that brought the 100-year-old film to life in an exciting way. The veterans’ voices were dubbed to the film, capturing the overall story of the war within a couple of hours.

Viewers are taken on a journey, as the outbreak of war is noted, followed by the men choosing to enlist, with several noting how they lied about their age to serve. Early enthusiastic days of basic training are recounted, with the air of the unknown and feeling that the war will be quick.

Life in the trenches and at the front in general is an important subject of the film. However, the sequence dealing with combat was intense and the aftermath was harrowing. Finally, the end of the war and the post-war experiences illustrated the hardships and camaraderie shared by the veterans on the front by their collective experience of the horrors of the conflict, as well as the division between those who served and the rest of society that seemed to carry on as if nothing had happened.

What truly stood out to me was the humility and dedication of the men. They experienced the horrors of trench warfare for years and reflected on it years later as a job they had to do and that they did it. Further, they expressed a willingness to go through it again, that their service made them the men they were. Listening to the voices of men that have been silenced by death for years made me question if we have left a legacy worthy of such sacrifice.

The other thing that came across in the oral histories employed in the film was the psychological effects of the war on the veterans. While a few segments included men choking up when reflecting on lost friends and combat experiences, all had the air of trauma to them, just under the surface. The interviewees were middle-age or older when interviewed and you could sense that the invisible wounds and scars of the war were present. The film certainly represents a wonderful example to study the psychological impact of World War I on its veterans and broader society.

As an archivist, I was amazed with the ability to use technology to alter and restore archival material used in the film. While I do not work directly with film resources in my work, I am aware of some of the issues present in working with the medium, especially material as old as the film created in World War I. Seeing how Jackson was able to sharpen, restore, and colorize such film was amazing. Further, his use of sound and the colorization of the film gave it a much more life-like quality.

While the 100th anniversary of the end of the war has passed, there is still much to learn and be written on this conflict. The war altered our world in ways we still are unable to comprehend and shaped history to such a degree that we still deal with the consequences today.

They Shall Not Grow Old is a film worth seeing. It presents the war in a gripping, raw, and real fashion that no other documentary has been able to. It will hopefully cause you to reflect on the sacrifices of past generations and want to learn more about your connections to the war, but most importantly, it will hopefully keep the memories of a now-deceased generation alive a little longer in our hearts and minds so that we might remember them.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Conflict, World War I | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review of Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin-Wargaming World War II on the Eastern Front and Beyond

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on September 7, 2015

Chambers, Andy. Bolt Action. Vol. 10, Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015. 112pp. Illustrations, Photographs. $29.95 (Paperback), $15.95 (e-book and PDF).

Wargaming is a growing hobby, coupled with a resurgence in tabletop gaming, that is popular across the world, but particularly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in the U.S. There are many periods represented in both historical and fantasy, and even more options for rules and miniatures, allowing players to dream of elaborate tables, with flocked terrain and immaculate buildings, as well as beautifully painted miniature soldiers and vehicles.

One such game, Bolt Action, allows players to simulate squad-level combat in World War II. Created by Warlord Games and authored by Rick Priestley, of Warhammer fame, Bolt Action offers players a multitude of options for recreating World War II fights in miniature. In addition to the main rulebook, one option for Bolt Action players seeking to take on the Eastern Front is the book Ostfront: Barbarossa to Berlin, written by Andy Chambers.

Ostfront takes players from the Far East conflict between the Soviets and Japanese to the Winter War, the various operations that revolved around Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet counter-attack that led to the capture of Berlin. Available armies include German forces, Finnish, Soviet, and Japanese, while theater-specific rules provide interesting opportunities for varying scenarios, including night fighting, mud, ice, and snow.

The book does an excellent job of discussing the intricacies of the individual scenarios, including objectives and various vehicle options. It covered the background history of the broad campaigns and the specific battles.  Featuring exquisite artwork that is customary for Osprey-published works, this book is a must for those who seek to game with German and Soviet forces. It is important to note that it is not a stand-alone set of rules, but a supplement to the main Bolt Action rules.

Having played Bolt Action, I’ve enjoyed the mechanics of the game and the smaller, squad-based, scale. This book is one of several theater-specific supplements that allow players to customize their gaming experiences even more than with the main rules. A well-organized, beautifully-illustrated book, Ostfront will delight gamers seeking to either take on the Soviet Union, or defend the Motherland at all costs. For experienced players seeking to expand their Bolt Action offerings and go in a different direction by fighting the Soviets versus Japan, or Soviets versus Finland, Ostfront should be on your shelf next to the main rulebook.

For more information on the game, please visit their webstore and check out this video.

You can also watch a demo game here.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Book Reviews, Conflict, Other military history, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Norwich University creates online infographic on significant naval battles

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on June 12, 2013

Check out this interesting infographic, titled “The Largest Naval Sea Battles in Military History,” which presents some facts related to some of the most important battles in naval history. It is a big image, but you can share it on the various social media as well. Norwich University is a pretty good school and offers an online Master of Arts in Military History geared for working professionals looking to advance their historical knowledge.


Norwich University Master of Arts in Military History Online

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Ancient Military History, Early Modern European (1494-1648), Greek military history, Other military history, World War I, World War II | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

KVRR Fox Fargo Moorhead – WW II Collection On Display At UND

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on February 5, 2013

KVRR Fox Fargo Moorhead – WW II Collection On Display At UND.

A local news story about an exhibit I put together on the 164th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the North Dakota National Guard and served in the Pacific as part of the Americal Division.

Posted in 20th Century Military History, American Military History, Conflict, US Army, World War II | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The First World War: the war that changed us all

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on October 14, 2012

Great article from the Telegraph, posted to History News Network

The First World War: the war that changed us all.

SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (10-11-12)

The very last combat veteran of the First World War, Claude “Chuckles” Choules of the Royal Navy, died in an Australian nursing home last year, aged 110. The last non-combat veteran, Florence Green, an RAF steward, died this February in King’s Lynn, also aged 110.

So the First World War has almost entirely deserted living memory. And yet its memory stays strong – and grows ever stronger – among those born decades after it ended. More than 300,000 people still visit the battlefields in northern France every year. First World War dramas come thick and fast: Parade’s End, Downton Abbey, that revered, much-repeated last scene in Blackadder.

Literature, too, goes back and back to the trenches. Pat Barker has just published Toby’s Room, a First World War novel, 21 years after Regeneration, the first book in her war trilogy. Yesterday, David Cameron talked of how Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse and the novels of Sebastian Faulks have kept the First World War vivid for new generations….

Posted in 20th Century Military History, Conflict, World War I | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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