[October 27, 2019] Yesterday, I got to see the film They Shall Not Grow Old for free on one of the Comcast channels. Just over a year ago, I wrote a short article on the film and how Director Peter Jackson has brought back to life old footage from World War I, found in the British Imperial War Museum’s archives. I enjoyed watching how Director Jackson was able to help us all relate to the soldiers that fought a terrible war 100 years ago.
I’ve always admired the British soldiers and sailors. Tales of great battles against overwhelming odds; the heroism, comradeship, stiff-upper-lip stuff all made my journey through childhood that much more colorful. Hearing about the “Brits” during World War II from my uncles was one of the bright spots of my memories of them.
Great leadership, bravery, sticking to it, fear, determination, and sportsmanship were part of the many stories I listened to for many years. Perhaps that was one of the reasons I finally joined the U.S. Army and finally got my commission as an officer. I want to think that films like this and my uncles’ stories were a positive influence on me. Yes, they were. I wanted to be a good person like I believed they were. A good soldier I wanted to be with character and honor.
More than a decade ago, I was working for a British Major General who was in charge of the Multi-National Corps’ support effort in Iraq. Every single day that my team and I met with him, he would give us a big “how’s it going lads?” greeting. A big smile, tolerance of our American aggressiveness, and lack of patience, mentorship, and friendship made my second combat tour of duty in that war tolerable.
From my childhood to those times in Iraq, I have had high regard for the British Army and its history. The British General gave us insight into how the British military had not just survived but had grown during the Empire years. One thing did surprise me, and that was his view that the Empire’s growth was not at the expense of native populations but to their benefit. The Brits brought modern medical techniques and advanced engineering to countries that much needed it.
This film gives us a little dash of the reality of war on the front line. It is much easier to relate to those soldiers of the Great War when we see them in the original film corrected for frame-rate, colorization, and proper narration. This technological improvement has elicited a big reaction from viewers. It brings home the visual that young teenage soldiers, fighting this war so long ago, looked like any person in any city in 21st Century Britain.
If you get an opportunity to see the film, please do so. Like many of us, we might have had our grandfathers or great-grandfathers in that war. We just got a peek at what they went through, and I think that is a good idea. How’s it going, lads?