I Was There- The Great War Interviews

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

stijn-swinnen-259744-unsplashI Was There- The Great War Interviews is a fantastic resource for students studying World War I. Extrapolating upon the original 1964 documentary series The Great War, this documentary provides a deeper look at the original collation of 280 eyewitness interviews, with never-before-seen footage of both soldiers and civilians. Thus, it provides invaluable insight into the behemoth that is WWI.

It is often easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer scale of an event like WWI, whereas I Was There- The Great War Interviews offers a deeply personal perspective, with interviews from a broad range of primary sources, from celebrated author Mabel Lethbridge O.B.E, soldiers Sebastian C. Lang, Charles Carrington, Wilhelm Eisenthal, factory worker Katie Morter, and many more.  In addition to this, both the Allied and Central sides are represented, thus significantly minimising any inherent bias.

Whilst the overall strategic and historical outlines are not discussed in great detail, the documentary explores the human relations of the war, such as the methods of recruitment, be it women using white feathers to represent cowardice, propaganda posters, the utilisation of music hall stars like Vesta Tilley, pro-war effort music and film, etc., all designed to solicit enlistment. It also showcases the changing attitudes of towards the war, from the initial excitement and euphoria to the grim realisation of the horrors of the battlefield, with soldier Frank Brent stating that ‘…it (the war) required that we should live in animal conditions… inevitable that we would develop the animal characteristic of killing.’

Furthermore, the documentary successfully displays the disparity between soldiers and civilians, with former soldier Charles Carrington stating ‘one was seemingly annoyed by their (civilians) attempts to sympathise… which only really reflects that they didn’t understand at all’, whilst Mabel Lethbridge noted a ‘…a strange lack of ability to communicate… to tell us (civilians) what it was really like… They were restless at home… They didn’t want to stay home. They wanted to get back.’

The battlefield is displayed as a kind of microcosm, running from being ‘an inferno’, with the apparent need to ‘exact retribution’ from the enemy, to the Easter and Christmas armistices and the ‘deceptive peace’ that fraternisation with the enemy brought, with men singing together in the trenches, exchanging gifts and addresses for after the war.  The documentary aims to explore multiple facets of the human experience of the Great War, recognising that to focus on only one would be to vastly limit its representation of this vast moment in history.

I Was There- The Great War Interviews proves to be a deeply personal look at a time in history that has deeply rooted itself in our collective psyche. The utilisation of such a wide range of primary sources will certainly be of interest to students and assist in broadening their understanding of WWI.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

I Was There- The Great War Interviews

Lest We Forget What- The Commemoration of WW1 and the ANZAC Legend

100 Years of ANZAC: The Spirit Lives 2014-2018, World War 1, Conscription (S01E21)

The Panzer

World War I’s Tunnels of Death- The Killing Fields (S01E01)

14 Diaries of the Great War- Into the Abyss (S01E01)

The War that Changed Us- Answering the Call (S01E01)

 

Fry’s Planet Word: Babel

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

patrick-tomasso-71909-unsplashWhat is the value of language? Indeed, why is it something that we study, or devote the slightest iota of attention to? ‘Babel’, the first episode of Fry’s Planet Word, presented by Stephen Fry, explores this very notion, focussing upon the origins of language as a uniquely human concept, helping both teachers and students to gain a greater understanding of this foundational method of communication and thus obtain a greater appreciation, both of its importance and how it continues to shift and develop over time.

At its root, language is the grounding method of communication, but it does far more than that, with the acquisition and development of our utilisation of language being, according to Fry, ‘the most complex bit of brain processing that we know of.’ It goes beyond an animalistic need to communicate fear, hunger, danger, etc., becoming a nuanced social medium that differentiates vastly from person to person based upon a multitude of factors: the particular language you speak, the breadth of your personal vocabulary and manner in which you use it, the register that you use, whether or not in is appropriate to use idioms and colloquialisms regarding the situation, the list goes on and on. In short, language is something that uniquely identifies us, but also allows us to find commonality and communicate with those around us.

At present, there are approximately 7,000 languages in use today, varying from a handful of users, to over a billion. Whilst many of these languages differentiate in their conception of sentence structure, complexity, breadth of vocabulary, whether or not they are vocalised (in the case of sign language), the vast majority are made up of the same basic components: nouns, to identify things; adjectives, to describe them; verbs, to tell you what they do. It is from the use of these building blocks that much of what we identify as being a uniquely human quality springs from, a sinuous and consistently changing lens through which our worldview is shaped, in addition to allowing other people to share in our perspective.

Fry demonstrates the pervasive and fundamental nature of language in ‘Babel’ through a myriad of ways: the initial acquisition of language as the documentary tracks 15 month old Ruby over a one year period, philology, the comparisons between the Turkana language and English, how communication methods between animals are vastly different than those explored in humans, the determining factors on if a language flourishes or dies out, how our brains are affected by language use, and many other topics.

‘Babel’ proves to be an informative and uniquely insightful glance into the value of language and how it underpins so much of our daily lives, and will prove to be of particular interest to English and Language students as a supplement to their primary studies.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Fry’s Planet Word- Babel (S01E01)

The Sound of Aus (2007) 

TED-ED Lessons Worth Sharing- The Controversial Origins of the Encyclopedia

How I’m Discovering the Secrets of Ancient Texts