With the North and South Irish at the Front, Part 1

With the North and South Irish at the Front, Part 1

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The Western Front




1918 (release)


16min 01sec




35mm, film, intertitles

black and white


Imperial War Museum


Imperial War Museum

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Imperial War Museum

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Part One of a two-part compilation showing Irish Guards, 16th (Irish) Division and 36th (Ulster) Division on the Western Front between late 1915 and the middle of 1917. Source: Imperial War Museum Film Catalogue Vol 1.The First World War Archive, ed Roger Smither, England, Flicks Books, 1993. What is interesting about these films is what is not shown - and even these clips were not released until 1918. The footage is taken well behind the lines and was clearly intended to show the brighter side of trench warfare for the benefit of home consumption. The clips are all from the Western Front between 1915 and 1916 behind the lines where Irish regiments fought at Aubers Ridge, the Somme, Loos and Messines. The small pigs, bannamhs, would have been for killing and eating.


'With the North and South Irish at the Front' was a compilation film (made from footage taken between 1915-17) which was ultimately released in 1918. Its original release details shed further light on its use as a propaganda piece to demonstrate Irish unity. Parts of it were initially released as a one reel film entitled With the Irish at the Front. Significantly it was released by the War Office on 1 May 1916, just days after the Easter rising as part of a series of Official films. This would have appeared to counteract the display of insurgence by the Irish rebels during the Rising. This first film dealt only with the 16th division, a division made up largely of Nationalist volunteers and appeared days before Topical Budget’s film covering the Dublin Rebellion. This original footage was later re-edited to include material of the 36th Division, comprising mostly members of the UVF, the division which was to suffer heavy losses during the Battle of the Somme the following July. The final two reel version of the film was released in 1918 as With the North and South Irish at the Front. The footage of Irish regiments appearing in the 1916 version was repackaged and juxtaposed with footage of northern soldiers to produce a propaganda film displaying unity amongst Irish soldiers in their support for Britain in the war effort. In the Imperial War Museum catalogue, notes on the second, longer film state 'British propaganda towards Ireland during the war was understated and covert, at least in films. This episode makes no effort to enlist sympathy for the British cause or the Irish soldiers. It merely provides evidence for the fact that the British Army on the Western Front contained a number of organised formations made up exclusively of Irishmen.' Source: Imperial War Museum Film Catalogue, vol 1 The First World War Archive, ed Roger Smither, England, Flicks Books, 1993, p77.

Shot List

'With the North and South Irish at the Front'. Reel 1. 'Issue of dinner billets to a Company of the Connaught Rangers'. Near Hulluch, March 1916. Soldiers queuing for food. Man with small pig. Steaming food. Soldiers with lots of small pigs. 00:50 'The Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers on their way back to a rest camp'. Near Messines, June 1917. Soldiers on horseback followed by foot soldiers. Some men are waving. Drums and small band. 03:18 'Royal Munster Fusiliers going to Mass' near Hulluch, March 1916. Parading down dirt road. 03:58 'The flag of the Irish Guards. The Regiment carried this flag thro' the Battle of Loos'. 2nd Battalion, near Aubers Ridge, December 1915. The flag is impaled in the ground. Beside is a sign - 'Sutherland Avenue'. Soldiers are creeping towards the flag. The ground is very muddy. 04:30 'Irish Regiment, which especially distinguished themselves coming from the trenches to a rest camp.' 16th Division at Messines. Soldiers marching along a dirt road. They walk past other soldiers in a camp. There are corrugated iron huts behind. 06:27 'And next comes a good wash.' Trouser legs are pulled up and the men half-heartedly clean their feet in a large area of water. 07:00 'An issue of stout to men of the Royal Irish Regiment'. Men queuing for a billy tin of beer. 07:55 'The Late Mayor Redmond, MP leading his company'. Royal Irish Rifles, early 1915. Soldiers marching on a road. 08:16 'Royal Irish on their way to the trenches'. 08:57 'Clearing a drain on the front line'. Irish Guards clearing water with spades from a drain, right beside sandbagged trenches, near Aubers Ridge. There are white crosses in the foreground. Reel 2. 09:30 'Connaught Rangers preparing to attack'. View from above of soldiers in trenches. Zig-zag trenches. 09:48 'Bombing enemy's sap'. Trenches. Smoke from gunfire. 10:32 'Occupying the crater'. Men throwing granades. Large puffs of smoke. 11:53 'The Irish capture a position'. Soldiers going over the top. 12:07 'Well constructed German Dugouts. Note the evidence of comfort.' Covered trenches. High enough to stand in. They look like huts. Palm leaf (?) like roofs. 12:35 'German batteries endeavour to shell our positions'. Gunfire and smoke across a field. 13:34 'German prisoners help to carry the wounded' of the 16th Division, Somme area, late 1916. The wounded are carried on stretchers. There is a bombed building behind. 15:38 'German dead on the battlefield'. Pan across dead bodies on the muddy ground.


Sponsor - Ministry of Information; Production Company - British Topical Committee for War Films.


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