Heroes of the Somme
Documentary uncovering the stories of seven of the men whose remarkable bravery in the Battle of the Somme won them the Victoria Cross, Britain's most prized military medal.
The Heroes of the Somme uses original archive from the Western Front to uncover the stories of seven of the men whose remarkable bravery won them the Victoria Cross, Britain's most prized military medal.
The WWI Somme offensive lasted 141 days and involved 13 Allied nations fighting 14 separate battles. Day One of the battle, 1 July 1916, was the worst in British military history with 60,000 casualties. By the end of the offensive the total for both sides was a million. This extraordinary sacrifice was made for just six miles of empty farmland.
Of roughly a million British and Dominion troops who fought on the Somme, just 51 were awarded the Victoria Cross. In this programme, military historian Dr Gavin Hughes travels to France to piece together the stories of seven of them. Their experiences, covering four key days of the battle, tell the story of the entire offensive.
Gavin uses a copy of a 100-year-old battle map to navigate the Somme landscape today, using the map to pinpoint the locations of individuals and the battalions they fought in. The VC winners featured came from England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and New Zealand. These men came from every rank and social background.
The programme features contributions from leading historians, who explain the broader context of the battle and describe how the offensive has come to be remembered, rightly or wrongly, as a exercise in futile military sacrifice.
Meanwhile, interviews with surviving family members reveal the personal stories of each character, exploring the differing fortunes they experienced, and the variety of reasons for which they fought. This programme reveals their differences, but also what made them the same - they all risked everything, won the Victoria Cross and were genuine heroes of the Somme.