Any good documentary series on World War One.

As the centenary approaches I’d like to watch a good documentary series on the First World War. Ideally I’d like to see something as comprehensive and well-made as ITV’s The World at Warbut about the first war rather than the second. I know the BBC made back in the 60s. Is this the best around or is there something else I’m not aware of?

The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century

Is that the BBC series?


Shame it doesn’t seem to be out on DVD…

Lots of people bitching about that. The tapes I use in my classroom are wearing kinda thin.

Wow, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it, and that it’s not been scooped up by the Military channel.

Looks like it’s easily available on YouTube. I’d include links but I’m not sure if that’s kosher since it’s undoubtedly bootleg. But full episodes are the first thing to pop up when you search the title.

And…thanks for the suggestion, silenus. Sounds like a great series.

This one is pretty good. 10 part series. Should be on You-Tube. I think it aired on PBS at one time

Doh! didn’t even think of youtubing it. Thanks

The Hew Strachan one looks good too, I’ve got his book and it is excellent.

I’ve not seen anything better than the BBC’s The Great War. It was made in 1964 and, so, was made when there were plenty of people alive who had been through it. I’m not sure by your post whether you’ve watched it, but I’ll recommend it to anyone who is interested.

It was almost a template for The World At War.

IMHO, Well worth watching.

Yes that was the one I first had in mind. I haven’t watched it but have long been meaning to.

The Great War from 1964 by the BBC (links to part one on YouTube) was the inspiration for The World at War a few years later. It’s best feature may be the interviews with the veterans then in their 70’s (and Michael Redgrave’s narration)

The BBC revisited the topic in the 2000’s (again, the first episode). This version went more in depth into the global and economic war.

CBS did its 50th anniversary series in 1964 too, narrated by Robert Ryan and with an excellent score by Morton Gould.

(I really didn’t care for the 2003 PBS series. Except for small interesting parts like the women munitions workers who turned yellow, it was a melodramatic slog with lingering shots of pipes smoldering in ashtrays for atmospherics.)

I’ve started with the 1964 BBC series. First episode was very good, so will go through them all.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Also on YouTube is World War I, the CBS documentary series that was aired for the 50th anniversary of WWI in 1964–65. It uses period photography exclusively and is narrated by the actor Robert Ryan. I still get chills watching it.

I can second that. It’s based on a WWI “survey book” called The First World War by Hew Strachan. I can’t find the cite for it, but my recollection is that he’s considered one of the foremost military scholars.

I can third it! I’ve seen it several times on The Military Channel if you get that (or YouTube). Very modern but at the same time very thorough, not flashy or simplistic (like everything you see on The History Channel!)

Most disturbing thing I took from it was how much nobody, none of the Great Powers of Europe at the time wanted it to happen, but as the last gasp of chivalrous gentlemanly Empire still survived they all knew it was completely unavoidable. And in the end completely pointless (other than causing Germany to start WWII twenty years later)…

See if you can find Fall of Eagles, a British drama series set in the years leading up to WWI. It is superb.