Great Battles of the Great War (1999)

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Released 5-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Bonus Episode-John Simpson Kirkpatrick
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 194:58 (Case: 200)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ed Skelding
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Great Battles of the Great War is a documentary series that examines in detail three of the crucial battles of World War I. The Somme, Gallipoli, and Messines/Passchendale are the three pivotal battles examined here across the first three episodes. This disc also includes a bonus episode dedicated to one of the most famous Australian military legends - John Simpson Kirkpatrick (known to many schoolchildren as simply Simpson and his donkey), and his efforts at saving many wounded during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

    Each of the 50 minute episodes feature significant amounts of archival film footage, many early battleground photographs, and new footage of the battlegrounds as they appear today. The images are accompanied by a voiceover narration, plus interviews with several military historians. There are also several readings from letters and poems composed by troops on the front lines. While a little dry and academic in its delivery style, military history buffs will love the detail taken with each episode and the analysis of why each battle was crucial in determining the outcome of the war.

Part 1- Here Comes Kitchener's Army (49:30)

    Often regarded as the most bloody and bitter battle of the Great War, the Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 when a hundred thousand British soldiers attacked the heavily fortified trenches of the German army in a field in northern France. 20,000 men died on the first day of a battle that would eventually rage for more than four months, and claim another million lives from both sides. The result was a gain of just seven miles by the British forces.

Part 2 - The Last Crusade (49:30)

    The story of the nine-month campaign that was Gallipoli - a name synonymous for Australia as a place of war time sacrifice. This is the story of how several thousand men from many countries, including Britain, France, Canada, and of course Australia and New Zealand, came to land on the narrow stretch of land that was the Gallipoli peninsula. The Allies lost 50,000 men during this campaign which was deemed an absolute failure in military terms, but a roaring success in defining the Australian and New Zealand national identity.

Part 3 - The Salient (46:50)

    The battles around the Belgian city of Ypres during the Great War were among some of the most pivotal in defining the outcome. Three major battles between 1914 and 1917 culminated in the Battle of Passchendaele where the number of dead matched those of the earlier battle of the Somme. Of the million British soldiers who died in the Great War, it was around the town of Ypres where most met their end.

Bonus Episode - John Simpson Kirkpatrick (49:08)

    Everybody will be at least slightly familiar with the story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the stretcher bearer, who along with his donkey saved the lives of several hundred men on the battle field of Gallipoli. His is a story often told in schools, and this episode examines just who Kirkpatrick was and how he came to be enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, when he was actually born in county Durham, England in 1892.

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Transfer Quality


    As you would expect, with archival footage nearly one hundred years old, the quality of the video runs the full gamut of quality. Sharpness is excellent for the recent interviews and current shots of the various battle grounds, while the archival material suffers from age and old technology and varies greatly in sharpness. Grain is almost non-existent, while there is also no low level noise.

    Despite a picture that is dominated by black and white archival footage, colour footage is shown for the new location shots and the interviews. All of this footage appears clean and free from the usual sort of colour problems.

    There are no compression artefacts. There are no video artefacts on the new material, and while the older source material does of course suffer from every artefact in existence, it is exactly as expected.

    There is one set of subtitles present, these being English. They are well presented and easy to read.

    The disc is dual layered with two episodes per layer. As a result there is no layer change to contend with.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Quite a reasonable and well-mastered Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is provided. This being the only option, it is the soundtrack of choice and the one that I listened to.

    Dialogue is by way of narration and interviews with a couple of military historians. There are also several letters and poems read by various other speakers. There are no audio sync problems.

    There is a subtle musical score that is played throughout much of the documentary.

    There is no surround activity and no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

Bonus Episode

    The bonus episode has been detailed in the plot synopsis above.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is not available in Region 1.


    Great Battles of The Great War is a documentary featuring three episodes dedicated to some of the more important battles occurring during World War I. This disc also contains a fourth bonus episode, dedicated to one of Australia's favourite war heroes, John Simpson Kirkpatrick. While the delivery of the subject matter is a little dry, those passionate about military history will find each episode filled with information.

    The video and audio perform well.

    Aside from the bonus episode there are no other extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Monday, November 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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