Watch the film here.
In 1925, with the cooperation of the War Office, British Instructional Films set out to make a dramatic, feature-length reconstruction of the five Ypres battles in which 1.7 million soldiers lost their lives.
Directed by William Summers, the result is a silent classic. Unlike the famous 1916 documentary The Battle of the Somme, the Ypres footage is entirely “faked” and the film shares some of Somme‘s propagandist approach. Regardless, the film is no less fascinating as an artistic endeavour of its time and it features some stunning images. A degree of authenticity is provided by real soldiers taking part and by the filming having taken place in the actual Ypres trenches.
The documentary, called simply “Ypres”, can be viewed in its entirety on the British Pathé website, via this link. Some of the footage is quite dark and you might need to adjust the settings on your monitor, but it is well worth a watch.
William Summers also directed the film Nelson (1926), starring Cedric Hardwicke. The silent motion picture, also made for British Instructional Films, can be viewed here.
For the film and related footage, click here.
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