Dramatic reconstruction of events during the Battle of Ypres in the First World War.
Credits: New Era Films Ltd presentation. Produced for British Instructional Films Ltd Surbiton, Surrey by Walter Summers under the direction of H. Bruce Woolfe. Photographed by E. Warneford. Produced with the sanction of the Army Council.
"Dedicated to all those who fought and suffered in the Salient and to the memory of our comrades who sleep beneath that 'foreign field that is for ever England'"
"The immortal story of the Ypres Salient begins in October 1914. Indomitable Belgium, wrested of all save her immortal soul, resounds to the heavy tread of the invader's heel." Panning shot of German cavalry riding through Belgian village. "Freed by the fall of Antwerp, the field-grey hordes are pounding through Belgium to force a way to the sea and the Channel Ports. Low angle shot of marching German soldiers. "While before them stream the innocent and helpless victims of War's ruthlessness." "The German Crown Prince awaits in pleasurable anticipation the news of a conquered sea board and a dominated England." M/S of the Crown Prince and his entourage standing in the grounds of a grand house. They laugh, salute and shake hands. "Meanwhile a little Army not so "contemptible" as at first imagined, is hastening forward to bar the way." "The mounted men, moving ahead, are seizing their last opportunity to act as cavalry." Low angle shot of British soldiers mounting their horses in camp - tents visible in the background.
Low angle shot of a narrow road cut through the countryside. Soldiers walk past the camera then a shell explodes behind them (staged footage). The cavalry ride towards the camera as shells explode either side of the road. Scene of combat in a wood - obviously staged. Enemy close to camera stand up with their arms in the air in surrender. As the cavalry rides through the woods towards the camera, enemy soldiers run away.
"Having landed in Zeebrugge and hastened South to join the Main Army, the 7th Division are the first British Troops to enter Ypres." High angle shot of 7th Division advancing through Ypres in front of the "Cloth Hall". The Cloth Hall building may have been matted in to the shot - it looks somehow unrealistic - optical printing? C/U of some of the soldiers as they march - the camera follows them. Some of the soldiers sing, some smoke. "Laughing and singing, they pass the ancient Cloth Hall with never a care for that which lies before them." More soldiers pass the camera, horses pull artillery or supplies. "The veterans of Mons are marching to join them..." High angle shot of marching Belgian soldiers. A marching band plays, some of the men look at the camera. This sequence looks like real unstaged footage.
"A rough line is formed covering Ypres. On the 19th October the enemy attacks, and the First Battle of Ypres begins." M/S of men in battle, most lie on the ground firing rifles, others load artillery. "On the 20th October the French to the North and the British Cavalry to the South, retire before superior forces, and the Ypres Salient is born." Aerial photograph of the terrain is shown, a line is drawn across the countryside. "Occupying the surrounding hills, the enemy is able to overlook and bombard from three sides the low lying Salient." "Determined to hack a way through to the sea, the enemy attack ceaselessly - by night as well as by day." Staged night shots of men in battle. Men are wounded, officer fires a pistol. "Fresh enemy forces are thrown into the attack. Stunned and blinded by a hurricane of shelling the 1st Division are forced from their trenches and Gheluvelt is lost." Staged footage of battle, shells explode shots are fired, men are wounded the enemy advances. M/S of soldiers running past the camera. One man falls and a German soldier stands over him. British soldier puts his arms up to protect himself. Quite scary, looks quite realistic although is obviously staged.
"The flank of the 7th Division is exposed, Royal Scots Fusiliers, refusing to leave their trenches without orders are annihilated." M/S of men in battle, several are shot and fall down, the enemy advances. Strong images. "The barrier is breaking - the situation is "of the utmost gravity." when Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence, VC determines on a desperate expedient." M/S of commanding officers standing on a hill surveying the battle. The Brigadier General looks through binoculars. Shells explode close by them and frighten the horses but the men stand firm. They discuss manoeuvres. They point and gesticulate. They mount their horses and ride off. "With the 2nd Worcestershire he organises a counter-attack on Gheluvelt."
High angle shot of large artillery, smoke, horses and men move through the landscape. C/U of Officer talking to one of his men, giving instructions. "The 41st Brigade R.F.A. is called upon to cover the advance." Two men crouch in a trench. A messenger arrives then one of the men stands on the hilltop signalling with flags. Various shots of the signalling and men firing large artillery. "Under the command of Major E.B. Hankey the 2nd Worcestershire advance to the assault." Various shots of staged battle action. Good stuff! M/S of Major Hankey looking through his binoculars then a point of view shot framed with a circular mask of the men advancing through shelling. "The village is reached and stormed." M/S of the men advancing through a broken down section of wall (one man is given a leg up to climb over the wall even though if he took a step to his right he could simply run straight ahead!) "Pressing on through the village, the gallant troops link up with what is left of the Scots Guards and South Wales Borderers." Men advance over the hillside to join them as they fire from behind barricade. One man waves his hat at the reinforcements. "It's all right - my line still holds north of the village." Thus is the General able to report. (Brigadier General FitzClarence unhappily lost his life attempting another counter-attack later in the battle)." M/S of General looking through binoculars then riding off. See other reels.