Posted by: sommecourt | 02/11/2008

Last Day of WW1 with Michael Palin

This screened for the first time tonight on BBC2 as part of the current Timewatch series. The programme looks at the last day of the Great War, 11th November 1918, and the final casualties of that war.

Michael Palin was the presenter of the programme; as historical consultant and contributor, I began work on this with producer John Hayes-Fisher back in October 2007. After several recces on the ground, we filmed in February-March. Michael was very moved in the making of the programme, having a personal connection with the war; his unlce died on the Somme in 1916.

As with making an TV documentary the end result is a compromise. Even the story of the last day is a complex one, and we quickly recognised that we could do a whole programme on just the American involvement. In the end we chose to concentrate on the final casualties, and the last section of the film follows almost minute by minute the last men to die.

A high point of the research into these men was finding the family of Pte George Ellison, who died with the 5th Lancers on 11th November 1918. His war started at Mons in 1914, and ended there four years later. We were able to bring his two grand-daughters out to visit the grave at Mons, and Michael did a superb job in making sure it was a memorable occasion.

Press reports are so far very good – it was Pick of the Day in most papers today – and we await the viewing figures.

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