Wednesday 8 April 2015
The World at War....A Personal Reflection
A television classic - I own this on DVD and also have
the book that accompanied the series.
As a young boy bought up on a diet of Commando and Battle comic books and endless supplies of plastic models seeing images of real tanks and soldiers, sailors and airmen in action was an exciting experience and fuelled many a game using Airfix figures and Charles Grant's Battle: Practical Wargaming.
The series made for compelling viewing and I suspect that I probably had little time for the 'boring' interviews and the seemingly more mundane aspects of the conflict - the political and human dimension. I wanted to see action! Such is the limited attention of a 13 year old.
Fast forward a few decades and I have just finished watching the entire series again. It is safe to say that the experience has been altogether a very different one. True enough the 'action' sequences are still as enthralling as I remember although the previously 'boring' interviews have taken on a new significance with my more rounded and mature outlook - 40 years of reading and research have ensured that my understanding of the conflict is far better than in 1973. The human dimension though has had a much bigger and if I am honest, more harrowing yet uplifting impact. You can see the suffering and with the benefit of advancing years and of hopefully a greater level of emotional maturity can understand at least a little of what those people went through. The nature of loss. The nature of death.
The true enormity of a conflict that consumed the world and that changed it forever - the redrawing of international boundaries down to the death of a beloved relative - is really what this series is all about. The war impacted the world at every level and showed no favours to any nation, race or creed. The pain of loss of a close loved one knows no boundaries whether you are British, German, French, Russian, American, Japanese - the grief is universal.
As a technical achievement the World at War is a magnificent piece of work. The footage, interviews and narration is first class. It has the power to inspire, horrify, anger and shame by turns. Above all it has the power to make one think. To think about the truly global epic of the war and and how humanity was able to, in the space of a few years, demonstrate every emotion and passion from the heroic and noble sacrifice to animal levels of bestial behaviour. All human life is here, for good or ill.
In closing it is fair to say that I have struggled to get the right words out for this post. The images I have seen have affected me deeply - more so than I would have expected - and form a balancing counterweight to the purely martial dimension, the dimension that we as war gamers routinely enjoy.
I can do no better than to quote the last word narrated in the final episode by the late and great Laurence Olivier: