WW1 - the war in which 9 million soldiers died. This was a truly global conflict and mean to be 'the war to end all wars'. In the documentary Michael Palin travels to the old battlefields in France and Belgium to see the places where American, British, French, Canadian and German troops were fighting as the war came to an end at 11am on 11th November 1918. Michael counts down the last hours of WWI and questions the estimated 11,000 casualties which occurred that day; many in the hours after the Armistice had actually been signed. He tells the stories of the last soldiers of each nationality to be killed in the final minutes leading up to the 11 o clock cease-fire. Using newly discovered photographs and original research never before seen on television, using contemporary film archive, newspapers and state of the art graphics, this film tells the explosive story of the final day of World War One. He discovers the terrible truth that in those final 6 hours - essentially on that last morning - the killing continued. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission alone records 863 British and Commonwealth deaths for 11/11/18. One historian estimates that over 11,000 soldiers on all sides were killed, wounded or were missing on the final day of the war. This is a higher figure than D-Day in WWII when the allies were fighting a just cause, to liberate Europe from the Nazis as opposed to the final day of WW1 when the war was over. How could killing on this scale ever be justified?
Sad but engrossing.
- The Last Day of World War I review by JD
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You rated this film: 3
Not a good title. It would suggest too brief a moment in time. It would also suggest a day of great joy. Far from it. Although the more pedestrian parts of this film are of Palin walking through cemeteries looking for stones with the date of death being 11th November 1918, and pointing out, rather patronisingly, that this doesn't necessarily mean that they were shot on this day. There are also some interesting parts:
Hitler's reaction to the German surrender as a private.
The suppression of a report into the ridiculous attack after surrender, allowing American commanders to receive honours for the pointless, condescending, self-aggrandizing loss of life of thousands of soldiers, resulting from their orders of stupid hubris. It's what politics is all about.
If you want to feel sick to the bottom of your stomach to see the very worst aspects of human behaviour, a must see.