Anyone seen movie '1917', about Motorcycle despatch riders in WWI

Discussion in 'BearClaw Corner' started by Ishrub, Jan 12, 2020.

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  1. Ishrub

    Ishrub Retired and loving it!

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    https://www.historyextra.com/period/first-world-war/real-history-trench-runners-ww1-messengers-1917-what-like/?utm_source=Twitter referral&utm_medium=t.co&utm_campaign=Bitly

    The real trench runners of WW1

    Sam Mendes’s blockbuster film 1917 follows two young British Army messengers in an against-the-clock attempt to deliver a message behind enemy lines. Historian Alexandra Churchill reveals what the conflict was like for the real trench runners of World War One

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    With the release of 1917, film director Sam Mendes promises a unique, continuous-shot cinematic experience that won’t feel like your average war film. The premise concerns two British Army messengers crossing enemy lines to deliver a crucial communication that could save the lives of 1,600 of their comrades. The action is set amid the German staged retreat to the Hindenburg Line at the beginning of 1917, and as a time of chaos and unpredictability, it gives a writer much scope to stretch their imagination. I should know – I chose exactly the same setting for my 2016 novel Black Winter. It makes the plot improbable, rather than impossible, and I’m looking forward to a hugely entertaining watch. But what was life really like for messengers in the First World War?

    Firstly, they didn’t necessarily operate on foot. A feature of the First World War was the graduation from horse-mounted men delivering information to the motorcycle despatch rider. Operating towards the rear of the front lines, it was still a risky existence. The terrain was difficult, as was the maintenance of temperamental vehicles by complete amateurs at times when the British Army was still fighting a war dominated by movement.

    One 27-year-old messenger, named George Fletcher, grew to despise his motorbike. He had no experience of them before the war and spent much of late 1914 pushing it rather than riding it, kicking it, cursing it at every opportunity, and wishing he had a horse instead. With all sides covering ground rapidly, it was easy to end up with the wrong army. On one night during the retreat of 1914, Fletcher rode into the middle of a German patrol. Luckily for him, he taught French and German at Eton, and he simply began bellowing at the men and pretending to be one of their officers, before jumping on his bike and making his escape before they realised what was happening. Luckily, on this occasion, the motorbike behaved.


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    George Fletcher, who served as a trench messenger during the First World War. (Image by Alexandra Churchill)
    Despatch riders are a good example of how new technologies and innovations changed communications at the front. But although innovation exploded during the Great War – especially in terms of artillery – in actual fact, the progression of technology did not make the humble runner, who had operated on the field of battle for thousands of years, redundant. Radio communications were still primitive, and therefore units relied on contact maintained by field telephones linked up by vulnerable copper wire, often laid tentatively around surviving tree stumps and along trenches. As soon as battalions disappeared into the lines for a spell in the trenches, all it took was one shell among thousands to smash the delicate telephone wire and cut them off from those in charge. Then, officers would begin calling on their runners, because the best way to ensure that your orders had definitely arrived was still to send a man on foot.

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    Despatch riders, such as these soldiers at Gallipoli, show how new technologies and innovations changed communications at the front. (Image by Alexandra Churchill)
    What was the job of a trench messenger like?
    A lot of runners doubled up as ‘batmen’, or officer’s servants. This could be a plum job, with better conditions. Often, if a man had experience as a runner, he would be continually recruited by new officers throughout the war. As commanders died, the runners moved on and changed units.

    Others remained with the rest of the men until they were called back to headquarters to deliver a sealed envelope or a discreetly folded piece of paper. The runner would shove it safely in his pocket and be on his way. This could go on for days as German batteries continually shelled telephone communications out of existence. Messages went from company to company in the trenches, back to battalion headquarters or even further, to brigade or divisional HQ.

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    A messenger delivers information on the western front. (Image by Alexandra Churchill)
     
  2. barbagris

    barbagris Mad Scientist

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    It's on my "search list". :whitstling:
     
  3. phar2slo

    phar2slo Top Fuel

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    I have been and I not sure I like the way it was filmed.

    Made me feel sick.

    I did enjoy the story line but was good.
     
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  4. barbagris

    barbagris Mad Scientist

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    No side effects here - Good film. Not sure it's a GREAT film, but worth watching once in a while.
     
  5. albertaduke

    albertaduke former airline pilot without the big bucks

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  6. albertaduke

    albertaduke former airline pilot without the big bucks

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    went to see the movie on big screen and there was only 14 paying viewers in the whole theatre!!
    did not get enthralled nor particularly interested by the movie and also found a certain number of unprobable situations
    I would not particularly recommend this movie yet it got lots of Oscar nominations go figure!!!
     
  7. Kojack1970

    Kojack1970 Supercharged

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    Saw it last weekend with my wife and I enjoyed it. I always accept the fact that Hollywood is going to take dramatic liberties and not always portray historical accuracy. That said, I thought it was well done and its nice to see a WWI movie in the mainstream. It was a brutal war, which gets overlooked and is completely underappreciated by the youth of today. People don't appreciate what they have and how lucky they are to be living in the current times.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
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  8. albertaduke

    albertaduke former airline pilot without the big bucks

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    you might also appreciate the movie "merry Christmas" based on a true story about trench warfare at Christmas time
     
  9. Kojack1970

    Kojack1970 Supercharged

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    Thanks, I'll check it out.

    To your comment about 14 paying viewers, I was happily surprised, there were over 50 people of all ages in our theater.
     
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  10. TRIIICK

    TRIIICK Living Legend

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    I saw it the other day... it really depicted the era. I enjoyed it. It was hard to tell what was computer generated and what was not...!
     
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