In Memoriam

On this day in 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand became the spark that finally ignited the powder keg of early 20th century European politics. In honour of the 100th anniversary of the onset of World War I, here’s a list of some of my favourite books and films set during that conflict.

Books

All Quiet on the Western Front

Follows the fortunes of a group of classmates who enlisted in the German army together at the insistence of their excessively patriotic teacher. For my full review, click here. This was also made into several feature films, but I am still yet to see any version in it’s entirety, so cannot list it as a favourite.

War Horse

I was surprised to learn that this was actually a children’s book. Think Black Beauty but, instead of pulling a hansom cab in London, he is pulling an artillery wagon in France. Of the movie and the stage show based on this book, I preferred the stage show – the puppets are amazing!

Rilla of Ingleside

The final novel in the Anne of Green Gables series follows the fortunes of her youngest daughter, Bertha Marilla Blythe, as Canada’s sons (including all three of Anne’s, and most of their friends) answer Britain’s call to defend Belgium and France from the German advance. The absolutely terrible telemovie Anne of Green Gables:The Continuing Story was in no way based on this book (and would have been much better if it had been).

Movies

Gallipoli

Follows a group of young Australians from their enlistment through to the Gallipoli campaign.

Beneath Hill 60

In 1916, a group of Australian miners are detailed to burrow under the German trenches and pack the tunnels with high explosives.

My Boy Jack

Rudyard Kipling pulled all the strings he could to have his 17-year-old son admitted to the army, in spite of his age and poor eyesight. Just days after his 18th birthday he leads a platoon ‘over the top’ ‘somewhere in France’ and tragically is never seen again. Stars Daniel Radcliffe at the height of his Harry Potter fame.

TV Series

Blackadder goes Forth

Probably the series of Blackadder I’ve watched the least, but in only six 30 minute episodes it deals with many aspects of the war, including: trench warfare, troop morale, trench art, court martials, military hospitals, espionage, and the fledgling Air Force (with the late Rik Mayall as flying ace ‘Lord Flashart’ Whoof!) In spite of the show’s reputation for bawdy humor, the series finale is touching, as Captain Blackadder is finally called upon to lead his men ‘over the top’.

What are your favourite representations of WW1? Books, movies, TV shows? It seems that in popular culture there are a lot more stories told of WW2 than of WW1. Why do you think that is (or do you disagree)?

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