Recognise it? It’s Lochnagar Crater as you’ve never seen it before – a model in an animated movie made by young people to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
The short film is called Somme Tales and it was produced as part of the centenary commemorations by the National Archives based at Kew in London.
Youngsters between 16 and 19 from all over the country were invited to take part. Ten of the outstanding applications were selected, and the young people were given access to documents about the Somme and the First World War, including letters and war diaries, accounts of accidents in munitions factories, propaganda posters and details of what happened to the injured. They were then encouraged to create scenes and stories to illustrate their interpretation of what they found. These were filmed with help from producer Nigel Kellaway.
Lochnagar Crater appears in the movie because the group spotted an aerial picture on TV during the summer, near the time of the July 1st centenary, and realised its iconic importance. But it proved one of their greatest challenges.
How did they resolve it? By getting hold of a large up-turned cardboard box, which one of the Education Team sat in, crushing the centre and creating the Crater-like effect. This was then painted and filmed.
The result is an evocative summary of the pain and the bravery from a hundred years ago. One of sequences tells the stories of winners of the Victoria Cross, including Corporal George Sanders, of the west Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own), who won his award at Thiepval at the beginning of the Somme battle. At the premier of the film at the National Archives, the young film-makers spoke of the power of reading the original words from people who were there.
One said: “Seeing the original documents really put the Somme in perspective”. Another remarked: ‘I’ve learnt that The National Archives is a place for everyone to be, not just historians and academics, but anyone who wants to learn fully and richly about almost any part of British history’.
The National Archives see the project as a key part of their mission. Emily Morris of the Education Department said: “What else are we here for but, as custodians, to allow access to any sort of enquiring mind?”
You can see the recreation of Lochnagar Crater in Somme Tales by following these links: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pYNHYxPf54 and the Archives Media player media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/somme-tales/