I was watching one of the history channels the other night as I am oft to do. And the ground breaking and possibly the best TV series on the second world war was being shown. The World At War.
It has the gravitas, the meticulous detail, the big name narrator (Sir Laurence Olivier) and incredible interviews with some of the big players from the era.
26 one hour episodes of captivating, harrowing stuff, without any glamorisation and using incredible original footage. It took four years to film and produce such was the effort put in to bring it to the small screen. Anyone would have thought it was made by the BBC, but it wasn’t, this came from Thames TV, whose claims to fame included such guff as the Benny Hill Show and Love Thy Neighbour…
Watching it as a young kid I was frightened and moved by the chilling opening credits. The music was particularly disconcerting accompanied by the photographs of peoples faces, burning and melting into ashes. It used to terrify me, but I couldn’t avert my eyes. (To be fair, other things used to terrify me too, like my big brothers Pink Floyd album (Meddle) and one of the dinner ladies at my school who had a moustache)
I used to consider and wonder who those people in the photographs were, when did they die, what their names were, where were they from, whether they were happy in life, whether the war interrupted their happiness, whether anyone loved or remembered them. As a kid, it’s almost too big a concept to contemplate the transient nature of mortality, but it stayed with me.