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Friday, 19 April 2019 10:08 am

Wellingtonians get free screenings of 1916 Somme doco with NZSO


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By Chris Visser

Wellingtonians can see the digitally restored 1916 silent film “The Battle of the Somme” accompanied by live music by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on Saturday.

The two free screenings have been put on by the British High Commission.

They are two of 100 international screenings to mark the centenary of the battle in France.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will accompany the film with a specially commissioned orchestral score by the British Composer Laura Rossi.

There will be two performances at the Michael Fowler Centre at 3pm and 7pm Saturday.

The film was made between June 26 and July 9 1916. It covers the preparations for and the first day of the battle.

The first feature length war documentary made was shot by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, and first shown in London in August 1916, as the Battle in France was still raging.

About 20 million people, nearly half the population of Britain at the time, watched the film in the first six weeks of its release.

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Geoffrey Malins filming in 1916. Photo Credit: Collection of the British Imperial War Museum

Many would have gone to the film in hope of catching a glimpse of a loved one at the Front, according to British Imperial War Museum information on the film.

The Battle of the Somme is recognised as one of the bloodiest battles of WWI.

Between July 1 and November 18 1916, one million men were killed or wounded.

September this year marks 100 years since 15,000 New Zealanders joined the battle in France in which 2000 men of the New Zealand Division were killed and 6000 wounded.

On the August 281916, a British Newspaper printed a comment (attributed to Lloyd George, Secretary of State for War and British Prime Minister in 1916): “If the exhibition of this picture all over the world does not end War, God help civilisation.”

The British High Commissioner, HE Jonathan Sinclair LVO, says that this film is an opportunity for people to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have gone before them.

“Over 15,000 New Zealanders were involved in the Battle – a huge and important part of the fighting force.  This very special centenary screening of the film commemorates their sacrifice,” he says.

“The Battle of the Somme” is a UNESECO listed film from the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Free tickets can be obtained from the Box Office at the Michael Fowler Centre or by contacting Ticketek on 0800 TICKETEK (842 538).  Ticketek have waived all booking fees for this event.

Full details can be found at

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