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Somme film a major attraction in Dublin
An invitation to a showing of the Battle of the Somme film in the Scala Theatre in London. The film was shown in England before its screening in Dublin. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Somme film a major attraction in Dublin

Dublin, 12 September 1916 - A new film showing images of British operations at the Somme has been playing to large audiences at Dublin’s Theatre Royal.

It is not a film for everyone – and certainly not ‘for little children’. However, The Irish Times considers that ‘men and women who realise what is at stake in the war, and senior schoolboys who want to know what their classmates of last year are doing and suffering, will draw inspiration from these “Somme Films”. The real thing is far more impressive and heartening than all the war pictures of novelists and poets.'

The newspaper hoped that the pictures would not only outline the importance of the munitions work being undertaken in Ireland, but would also help with the ongoing drive to attract more Irish recruits. ‘No true Irishman’, the paper asserts, ‘could follow these pictures without feeling that he should be amongst the band of heroes, performing deeds that will resound in history.’

British Tommies on the Somme: Clip from the film ‘Battle of the Somme’, released in UK cinemas 21 August 1916. (British Pathé)

The film arrives in Dublin from England where it was a source of some controversy. A number of public figures, including the Dean of Durham, voiced reservations about the sensationalising of the war and the impact on relatives and friends of soldiers being confronted by the harrowing realities of life in the trenches. Against that, the King has stated that ‘everybody ought to see these pictures’.

The Irish Times supports the showing of the film, but due to its graphic nature the newspaper has urged the managers of Irish theatres not to sandwich the Somme film between ‘comic films’ and ‘variety turn’.

The film shows men falling dead and the effect of artillery pounding German trenches, it also illustrates the preparatory work that goes into the launching of such assaults. Regrettably, from an Irish perspective, not all of the Irish regiments appear in the film as they were elsewhere engaged when the camera was in range.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.