13 July 2016
In Britain in 1916, 20 million people flocked to see their Tommies in The Battle of the Somme – the first film to record war in action
While our soldier ancestors fought on the Western Front in the summer of 1916, in Britain 20 million people flocked to see their Tommies in The Battle of the Somme – the first film to record war in action. In Family Tree August Amanda Randall reveals what the film meant to the loved ones back home.
Early in the morning of 1 July 1916, the Battle of the Somme exploded into history. By 2 August, Prime Minister David Lloyd George attended a private screening of a feature-length documentary entitled The Battle of the Somme, it was the first film to record war in action. The first public screening occurred on 10 August at the Scala Theatre in London. Over the following six weeks, more than 20 million people in Great Britain would see the film; the British population at this time numbered 43 million. In London, cinema managers reported being unable to cope with the demand. Patrons were turned away from full houses and in bigger cities cinemas screened the film simultaneously. It’s likely that in a few months the majority of the Home Front population saw the film, as well as millions in Allied and neutral countries, including Russia and the USA.
The Battle of the Somme offers us a unique and tangible connection to relatives who lived through this battle, whether at home or in the trenches. This is the year to make that connection for yourself by going along to one of the hundreds of screenings planned all around the UK.
Find a centenary screening of The Battle of the Somme near you at www.1914.org/somme.
Discover more about the film and what it meant to those who watched it in 1916 with Amanda Randall’s article in Family Tree August.