The Imperial War Museum asked me to write the music for the Battle of the Ancre in 2002 and subsequently commissioned me to write the music for the Battle of the Somme to commemorate the 90th anniversary in 2006. It was a very exciting prospect to write the music for such an important film, half the British population watched it when it came out in 1916 and there’s some amazing footage. It was only when I was researching about the Battle and decided to visit the Somme battlefields that I found out that my great-uncle Fred was in the 1st World War.
My aunt gave me his diaries to read and it turned out he was positioned right by where we were staying in the Somme. He was a stretcher-bearer and attended the 29th division (who appear in the film) on July 1st 1916, so it’s possible he could even be in the film. All this really made it all come to life (especially as I knew him – he survived the war) and helped me get the right tone when writing the music.
I was particularly interested in the soldiers’ point of view and doing all this research helped me to write the music from this angle. Finding out all about Fred and his diaries has been very important to me so I wanted to transcribe them for others to read and also put up his pictures and letters as I think finding out about someone who was actually in the battle makes it so much more moving to watch the film and brings it all to life. Below are some links related to the Battle of the Somme project including information about the CD, Fred’s diaries and more.