An Unhealed Wound: Britain and the First World War

Emma Hanna

in The Great War on the Small Screen

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780748633890
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671175 | DOI:
An Unhealed Wound: Britain and the First World War

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In Britain the First World War has been commemorated more than any other conflict. The small street shrines erected during the war years were soon replaced by memorials in stone and bronze in every one of Britain's villages, towns and cities. Death and mourning have always been closely associated with the conflict. The commemorative rituals which developed organically in the immediate aftermath of the war were designed to be self-generating, to reassure a grieving nation that it would never forget those who had died in foreign fields. In the wake of the Second World War – perceived by comparison as a ‘good’ war which was worth fighting – the legacy of 1914-18 in popular memory began to change. The accepted idea of the conflict as senseless slaughter was buttressed by the writings of a handful of soldier-poets, some of whom were largely unknown until the 1960s. As History programmes became increasingly popular on British television from the 1950s, the medium developed the modern grand narrative documentary style in time for the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of 1914-18. Successive television documentaries became central sites of national memory and mourning which utilised the modes of remembrance established in the interwar years.

Keywords: Commemoration; War Memorials; Memory; Poetry; Television; Remembrance

Chapter.  10994 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Television

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