Truth about the Trenches

The Lord of the Rings di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son shares some sur­pris­ing sto­ries from Bri­tish tom­mies…

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Ev­ery No­vem­ber we stop to re­mem­ber the sol­diers who fought in World War One, but how much do we re­ally know about what life was like on the West­ern Front?

In a film to mark a cen­tury since the end of the con­flict,

The Lord of the Rings di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son has re­stored hours of footage to shed new light on trench war­fare.

‘Nowa­days we look at th­ese guys with a lot of pity,’ says Peter. ‘We thought the war de­stroyed their lives, but most didn’t feel like that. We lis­tened to in­ter­views from the 1960s and 1970s and many sol­diers said they en­joyed it, that it made men of them.’

The New Zea­land di­rec­tor spent four years restor­ing old black-and-white film given to him by the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum, re­mov­ing scratches, sharp­en­ing the images and adding colour. Yet the big­gest break­through came when he ad­justed the speed of the film.

Brought to life

‘The films we see of World

War One usu­ally have sol­diers walk­ing around like Char­lie Chap­lin,’ says Peter. ‘But once you slow the film down they move like us. They be­come hu­man be­ings again and their fa­cial ex­pres­sions come alive. The re­sults were fan­tas­tic!’

Peter then added in­ter­views from the sol­diers, be­fore ded­i­cat­ing the film to his Bri­tish grand­fa­ther, who fought on the West­ern Front.

‘He died in 1940, so I never got to meet him,’ says Peter. ‘Mak­ing this film helped me un­der­stand what his life was like in the trenches. It brought me closer to him!’

Por­tal to the past… Peter Jack­son re­stores filmfrom World War Onefac­tualThey Shall Not Grow OldSun­day, 9.30pm BBc2 In liv­ing colour…Bri­tish sol­diers re­lax at the front

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