The BBC announced today that it will be showing two of the most important series ever made about World War One – The Great War, whose 26 episodes were first screened in 1964; and The First World War, based on the work of Sir Hew Strachan, the country’s most eminent military historian, and first shown in 2003.
The First World War will transmit in early spring 2014, whilst The Great War will air in autumn 2014, on BBC Four.
Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, says: “I am delighted to bring these two seminal series about the First World War to BBC Four as part of our commemorative season. The Great War was produced to mark the war’s 50th anniversary, and was the first to feature veterans’ first-hand testimony, so I am immensely proud that BBC audiences will once again have the chance to watch what many regard as one of the greatest historical series ever made.
“Sir Hew Strachan’s 2003 series, The First World War, was celebrated for its breadth and originality, covering not just the Western Front, but many other theatres of a global conflict. Together, the two series offer an extraordinary counterpoint – and panorama – of World War One. I am sure our viewers will find them a compelling addition to our overall coverage.”
Adrian Van Klaveren, Controller, World War One Centenary, says: “The BBC’s World War One season aims to offer fresh and wide-ranging perspectives on World War One, not just through new commissions but also by offering another chance to see some of the most important programmes ever made about the war. These two series will play a vital part in helping people understand what happened during the war and how the story has been told in different ways over the decades.”
The BBC’s 1964 series The Great War was a co-production with The Imperial War Museum. With its moving title sequence and, at the time, ground-breaking first-hand and haunting testimony of life in the trenches, it is widely recognised to be the most important television treatment of the First World War – not only fascinating to watch to this day, but constituting an incredibly valuable piece of historical archive in its own right.
Sir Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford. His series, The First World War (10×50) was based on his book and was first shown on Channel 4 in 2003. Its thematic approach to the First World War, concentrating on its global spread, rather than simply chronicling the battles of the Western Front, drew great critical acclaim when first broadcast. It too, remains one of the most highly acclaimed television series ever about the conflict.
World War One on the BBC is the biggest and most ambitious season ever commissioned. Comprising over 130 new commissions and over 2,500 hours of programming across four years, the season will offer a unique way to understand a war that changed our world, reflecting the centenary from every perspective; locally, nationally and internationally, and utilising the full range of the BBC’s services.
Beginning on BBC television this January with Jeremy Paxman’s Britain’s Great War (BBC One), the season will feature numerous documentaries from some of the country’s most eminent historians, drama from leading writers, eclectic music, arts, science, live events coverage and news and current affairs programming.
Alongside the programming across TV and radio, the BBC will also offer resources and develop innovative ways in which everyone can explore the war as it affected them, their families and their local communities. BBC teams across the UK are collating and researching local stories in conjunction with Imperial War Museums and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. World War One At Home will bring together 1400 stories broadcast through the BBC’s local and national channels telling how the war affected every community and area of the UK.
Resources for schools will encourage children to think about what life was like during wartime and how daily life has changed over the past century. Online interactive resources will cover a number of school curriculum areas and, in the broader digital sphere, the portal at bbc.co.uk/ww1 will feature the first of the new innovative iWonder guides. Blending documentary, discussion and presenter-led mini-films, each guide takes online users through some of the key issues relating to the war, building to a collection of over 100 guides, this interactive content will offer a deeper understanding about the war and challenge preconceptions about the conflict.