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Australia in France, Part One (c.1918)

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clip ‘Shells, shells, and more shells’

This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Australian troops and artillery have now moved up near Pozières, in the Battle of the Somme, which began three weeks earlier on 1 July 1916. The men occupy old German trenches, enjoying the sunshine and waving at the camera as they await orders to move. They house some of their horses in old shell holes made by British guns. British Field Artillery moves up behind horse teams. British 8-inch howitzers are now pounding Pozières. The shells land on a devastated horizon, where the village once stood. The need for shells is constant: troops from the West Indies work feverishly to meet the demand.

Curator’s notes

The key title here is ‘Shells, shells, and more shells for the guns’. These same words appear on page 13 of Charles Bean’s Diary 69 as part of a detailed listing of shots. Those notes cover ten reels, and include many of the shots that ended up in this film, Australia in France, Part One (AWM F0047). That helps us to identify what we are watching. For instance, on page 12, Bean notes a shot ‘Austs. Resting in Sausage Gully’, which was a section of the staging area for Pozières. He next lists ‘horses in crater Sausage Gully’. That tells us the location of the shots at the beginning of this clip. At the end of this clip, we see black troops unloading shells. On page 13, Bean lists them specifically as West Indians.

In general, the titles here are more specific and concrete than the titles on With the Australians in France 1916 (AWM F00050). The titles in AWM F00047 take pains to list who owns what in this battle: they list ‘Australian infantry and artillery’, ‘German trenches’, ‘old British shell craters’, ‘Field Artillery (British)’ and ‘British shells’ which burst in the distance over Pozières. Compare these titles with those in With the Australians in France 1916 (AWM F00050) which are more patriotic and stirring. Bean loathed that kind of writing and he was scathing about the Jury version of his titles. He called them ‘fancy titles without sense or truth’ in a diary note from January 1918 (Diary 96, p 25).

During his visit to London in January 1917, ostensibly a holiday, Bean had reviewed all of the British official film taken by various cinematographers working for the War Office. Australia had no photographers at this stage and had to borrow British photographers. The diary notes make it clear that he watched several films including The Battle of the Somme and The Battle of the Ancre, both of which were completed during 1916. He notes that there is ‘nothing Australian in Somme film’, but we know that he found a number of scenes involving Australians in the Ancre film, because they turn up in both. The ten-reel plan appears to be a listing of all the scenes that Bean looked at, in their raw form, including much that was not used in the Somme or Ancre film. There is a direct relationship between his notes for the ten-reel plan and what turns up in this film, Australia in France, Part One.

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