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This moving film contains first-hand accounts from veterans who fought in the First World War. This is the last time their voices were heard. It explores the impact of the war on ordinary soldiers and how the act of remembrance developed after the war.
Why do we go on commemorating wars and, as the major ones during the last century recede further into history, will we for much longer?
Made over 20 years ago, this poignant film, while attempting to answer such questions, is centred around what was to be the last pilgrimage of First World War veterans to the cemeteries and battlefields of Belgium and Northern France. The film explores the impact of the war on the ordinary soldiers and how the act of remembrance developed after the war. It also looks at the experiences of the soldiers and what they felt on their return to civilian life.
It was the First World War, with its horrific scale of casualties, which changed our attitude to remembrance. Previously, with a few exceptions, such as during the American Civil War, the fallen were buried in mass graves on the field of battle and the nastinesses of the war forgotten as quickly as possible. Nowadays no village green or town square throughout the commonwealth and much of Europe and the world, too is without its memorial erected in the early 1920s and dedicated to the dead of the First World War. The long lists of names in some of the smallest communities (and the youthfulness of those commemorated) pinpoint the personal sacrifice and after 1945 these same memorials were re-dedicated, with new names added, to the dead of the Second World War.
The film features some remarkable archive footage, as well as recordings of songs from the period plus a unique recording of Laurence Olivier reading Laurence Binyon s famous poem ‘For the Fallen’.
Churchill said of the Ypres Salient "A more sacred place for the British race does not exist in the world."
When first shown in Britain, The Times thought the film "harrowing" and "devastating", The Sunday Telegraph "poignant", The Mail on Sunday "heartbreaking", and The Independent "timely", while the London Evening Standard declared it "a stirring film… guaranteed to have viewers reaching for the tissues".