They Shall Not Grow Old

Posted on 24th October, 2018

This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 24 October 2018.

We are in the approach to Remembrance Day, which this year falls precisely on the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I.  The occasion, always a solemn one, will this year be more poignant than ever.

There will be a number of events around the country to mark the centenary, but one of the most notable is the release of a film, They Shall Not Grow Old, by the distinguished New Zealand director, Peter Jackson.

Jackson has taken World War I film footage, enhanced it with computerised techniques, colourised it and added sound.  The results are extraordinary.  The monochrome jerkiness has been banished, and in its place are clean, smooth images. We see the soldiers talking and laughing. A column of field guns splashes through a river, the hooves of the horses clattering, their harnesses jingling.  Three British Tommies lark about, wearing captured German helmets.  Another soldier dandles a small Belgian boy on his knee.

The film has brought the Great War to life.  It is no longer history; it is as though the footage was shot yesterday.  The soldiers look much like their modern-day counterparts. There is little difference between the infantrymen in the trenches of Flanders and those patrolling the arid uplands of Afghanistan. Separated by a century, they are nevertheless comrades-in-arms.

All this is important, because it makes us realise, if we didn’t already, that the young men in Jackson’s film, many of whom didn’t return to their homes and their families, are very much like the young men and women who are called upon to serve their country today.  Many of those don’t return from where there are sent on our behalf or  sustain injuries from which they will never recover.

The 2018 Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal is now open, and will continue until Remembrance Day.  In this centenary year of the end of the war that was meant to end all wars, we should all try to do our bit to help maintain support for  the men and women who are today’s successors of the soldiers brought to life in They Shall Not Grow Old.

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