The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 9 No 4 - December 1993

(incorporating Museum Review)

77th Anniversary of the Battles of the Somme, 1916.

To commemorate the battles of the Somme fought between 1 July and 18 November 1916, in which over 400 000 Commonwealth troops lost their lives, the Department of Printed Books, Imperial War Museum, is re-issuing in facsimile form two important historical works.

The first of these is due for release on the anniversary of the 'first day of the Somme' itself. Long out of print, GEOFFREY MALINS' autobiography, How I Filmed the War, celebrates the initiative and courage of a handful of men who, with no precedent to guide them, set about recording the events of the war on film. The Battle of the Somme by Malins is probably the most famous contemporary documentary film of the First World War. Our reprint includes a new authoritative introduction by Dr Nicholas Hiley which discusses the enigmatic figure of Malins and examines the background to the making of the film.

For many people, the moving picture of a group of soldiers 'going over the top' is the abiding image of the First World War. It has appeared in countless television programmes, and this very repetition would seem to guarantee its authenticity. Yet this scene, the visual climax to The Battle of the Somme, is almost certainly a fake. After the film's general release, Rider Haggard wrote in his diary, 'The most impressive picture to my mind is that of a regiment scrambling out of a trench to charge and of the one man who slides back shot dead.' At the time, both this scene and the film itself were accepted as entirely genuine, but later commentators have told a different story and Nicholas Hiley assesses all the available evidence in his introduction.

How I filmed the War is a remarkable book - at once Maims' apologia, a classic adventure story, and documentary evidence of the emergence of film as one of the most potent forces in the twentieth century. Copies of the reprint are available from the Department of Printed Books for the inclusive delivery price of 22.00. A video-cassette of the original film, together with an explanatory 'viewing guide' booklet, is also available from the museum via its main Mail Order Department at 18.99 (add 20% for postage and packing).

Complimentary to the reprint of Maims, the volume of the British official history covering the first day of the Somme is also being reprinted. Originally published in 1922 by Macmillan and written by the overall editor of the series, BRIGADIER GENERAL SIR JAMES EDMONDS, this invaluable history is regularly sought after by serious historians and genealogical enquirers alike. As with the previous volumes of this series, it will be a joint venture with the Battery Press of Nashville, Tennessee, and copies will be available for sale from the end of August.

In addition to this history, we are able to offer a rare opportunity for interested readers to acquire a xeroxed reproduction of a translated German document issued confidentially by the General Staff (Intelligence) in 1916. Originally issued by the German IV Corps Headquarters on 22 August 1916 it is a fascinating analysis of the lessons learned by the German troops.

The following volumes of the First World War are already available from the Department of Printed Books: France and Belgium 1917, Vol I (The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the battle of Arras); France and Belgium 1916, Vol II (2 July to the end of the battles of the Somme); France and Belgium 1917, Vol II (7 June - 10 November: Messines and Third Ypres); France and Belgium, 1917, Vol III (The Battle of Cambrai); Gallipoli, Vols I and II (To be sold as a set); Italy, 1915-1919, East Africa, Volume I; Transportation on the Western Front.

In addition, the officially-sanctioned Commonwealth histories, The South African Forces in France by JOHN BUCHAN and The Australian victories in France in 1918 by GENERAL SIR JOHN MONASH have also been reprinted.

All the above titles are obtainable from the Department of Printed Books, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ. Copies can be ordered by post or by phoning Mary Wilkinson or Sarah Paterson on (071) 416-5348. Payment should be by cheque or postal order made out to the Imperial War Museum. A full catalogue is available on request.

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