TELEVISION documentary at its very best – that’s the accolade deserved by the British series 1914-1918 shown for the past seven weeks on ABC TV.
Simple in its presentation but profound and moving in its narrative, the series encapsulated both the sheer insanity of war and its horrifying consequences with remarkable clarity and sensitivity without indulging in historical sentimentality. The insights it provided into the pursuit of glory by the imperial leaders of Europe and their disregard for the cost of human life were detailed without tendentious comment, a tribute to the facts rather than fictitious romanticism. Nine million people died in the war and the programs revealed the tragic reality not just for the soldiers, but for the people left behind at home. While TV can parade the banal and superficial in its quest for entertainment, this series showed the power of its responsibility and knowledge. At a time when wars and human suffering still pervade global experience, we should remember the words of Siegfried Sassoon, who exhorted us in his writings not to forget the Great War. We do so at our peril!