World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

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World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by Thanas » 2014-05-22 10:01am

So in 2003 British broadcasters coloured black and white footage of WWI and turned it into a six part documentary narrated by Kenneth Branagh. The footage is at times really great, however the series suffers from huge problems.

A) Obvious British bias, including a comical accent whenever an Austrian or German source is quoted. Because Zhe GURMANS need to have a stereotypical accent just to make sure everybody gets that they are German. And don't even get me started on the Russian accent, which sounds straight out of a James Bond movie.

Even more infuriating, you only get British historians and British Veterans being quoted as authority figures, which leads to such gems as:
- German aggressiveness being blamed for the entire war (DAE Versailles, lol?)
- The suffering caused by the British blockade in Germany is blamed more on German maladministration than the blockade, which is kinda putting the cart before the horse.
- Jutland only mentions the loss of British battlecruisers but lists the German losses in detail, thereby giving the impression the Germans lost more ships.
- The biggest gem is the loss of Szent Istvan being taken as the sign of the demise of the battleship.
- The acceptance of the 14 point plan by Germany is described as a blatant attempt to seperate the allies.
- "The Kaiser was living in a dreamland, but then again the whole of Germany was living in a dreamland in 1914."
- U-boat warfare is described as barbaric but the Q-ships, which regularly broke the laws of war, are described as ingenious inventions with of course no mention of their inglorious record.
- Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy are being called battleships when they were armored cruisers.

B) Apparently, one can become Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College London (Andrew Lambert) without even getting the name of the German commanders right. For example, Reinhard Scheer, the supreme German naval commander, is always called "Reinhard von Scheer", despite him always having refused a noble title. The same is true for Erich Ludendorff, who is called Erich von Ludendorff. , I guess every German has a von somewhere apparently. However, I question how much research he did at all if he can't even get the names right.

C) The footage is reused over and over, even though it sometimes makes no sense. For example, footage of the Goeben (german battlecruiser) is used to illustrate the British Grand Fleet. I also sought several stuff that was clearly not WWI footage being sold as such, like a German military parade of 1912 being used as invading German forces in Belgium. English guns are often portrayed as German despite having "father christmas" written on their side. Some footage used for the Uboat war also is clearly WWII footage of sinking ships.

D) I'll just leave this here:
"In the first world war, the allies achieved a great negative victory. They prevented the domination of Europe by a militaristic, autocratic Germany. They prevented the suppression of democracy on the continent of Europe."
- Dr. Gary Sheffield, Kings College, London

I mean, even if you accept the premise that the German Empire was a worse autocracy than England or France (more than debatable), how the heck is turning Italy and Germany into a fascist state (which they claimed to be consequences of the war) and Russia into the Soviet Union while having Austria-Hungary break up into tiny nationalistic pieces "preventing the suppression of democracy"? How in the name of all the holies do you arrive at the conclusion that Hitler Germany, Stalin USSR, Mussolini Italy and Horthy Hungary were more democratic than the states that preceded them? The only states you can say that for were the Weimar Republic and Austria yet...that still are just two new (and failed) democracies against the plethora of dictatorial new states.

All the whitewashing aside, suddenly, the war was worth it because...democracy? Well, call me Shirley, apparently spreading democracy for 15 odd years is suddenly worth over ~ 40 million dead, the rise of fascism and communism and the ruin of multiple states and a second world war with even worse results.
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Re: World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by The Guid » 2014-05-22 11:13am

It doesn't excuse the production but it is worth knowing that this was a DVD made to be given out free with the Daily Telegraph. The average age of the Daily Telegraph reader is such that they grew up with parents who experienced both world wars which makes a whitewashed version very appealing to them.
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Re: World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by LaCroix » 2014-05-22 11:32am

Thanas wrote:The only states you can say that for were the Weimar Republic and Austria yet...that still are just two new (and failed) democracies against the plethora of dictatorial new states.
For Austria, it barely worked as left and right leaning paramilitary groups formed by 1920 with the whole land experiencing a kind of a cold civil war, which finally briefly turned hot in 1927. The democratic republic ceased to exist in 1933, when Dollfuss seized power for the Ständestaat, which sparked another hot phase of the civil war, causing even worse opression.

I'd not really count it as an functional democracy.
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Re: World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-05-22 06:47pm

I have no real comment on the documentary beyond :roll: but...
Thanas wrote:B) Apparently, one can become Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College London (Andrew Lambert) without even getting the name of the German commanders right. For example, Reinhard Scheer, the supreme German naval commander, is always called "Reinhard von Scheer", despite him always having refused a noble title. The same is true for Erich Ludendorff, who is called Erich von Ludendorff. , I guess every German has a von somewhere apparently. However, I question how much research he did at all if he can't even get the names right.

D) I'll just leave this here:
"In the first world war, the allies achieved a great negative victory. They prevented the domination of Europe by a militaristic, autocratic Germany. They prevented the suppression of democracy on the continent of Europe."
- Dr. Gary Sheffield, Kings College, London
And suddenly I finally have a satisfying reason for ditching Kings in favour of studying under Grove at Salford. He, at least, knew what he was talking about.
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Re: World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2014-05-22 07:00pm

Szent Istvan was a sign of the end of the battleship, and was one of the single largest influences on postwar Italian naval strategy, as well as Russian via the Italians, and by extension became a direct influence on the British too, leading to silly stuff like the zero shear bow of the KGV class battleships. Real shame though that WW1 couldn't last a few months longer, so the British could have sunken a half a dozen German dreadnoughts at anchor with torpedo planes. If not half the damn fleet consider the near total lack of protection it had at the time except keeping some ships moored in basins for unrelated reasons.

The show as a whole though was yeah, just bad, at least some of the footage they colorized was actual WW1 propaganda reels too.
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Re: World War I in colour - a missed opportunity

Post by Metahive » 2014-05-23 05:04am

Thanas wrote:D) I'll just leave this here:
"In the first world war, the allies achieved a great negative victory. They prevented the domination of Europe by a militaristic, autocratic Germany. They prevented the suppression of democracy on the continent of Europe."
- Dr. Gary Sheffield, Kings College, London
Claims like these I find really odious and obnoxious. The Entente and the Central Powers were not fighting about something idealistic like the "preservation of democracy" they were fighting over slices of the imperial cake. To be more blunt, like gangs of robbers and highwayman beating each other up over the loot, partly out of greed and partly out of paranoia. And Germany was hardly the only militarist nation around the time, all of the bigger European nations were enarmored with their martial toys. And "autocratic"? While the German emperor had more avenues of influencing politics than, say, the british king, the only real autocracy among the major European powers was Czarist Russia, an Entente member. Goddamn historical revisionism!

Those must be the same sort of historian who claim that the Persian Wars were all about freedom and democracy. Hate those fuckers!
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