First World War: 1917

First World War: 1917

Voices from the BBC Archive


From the Russian Revolution to America’s declaration of war and the lasting horror of Passchendaele, this unique collection of historic recordings contains the voices of those who were there.

Among the memorable voices in this compilation are Commander William Ibbett, who experienced the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution at close quarters, Sir Edward Spears on the mutiny in the French Army and Royal Flying Corps pilots ­ whose life expectancy could be a low as a single day.

1917 was a year of decisive events. Germany raised the stakes at sea, America eventually declared war; the Nivelle offensive almost destroyed the French army; and, following two revolutions in February and October, Russian forces collapsed. For the Allies, despite their successes at Messines and Cambrai, the year was overshadowed by the losses at Passchendaele. Survivors recall their despair as men and horses drowned in mud: ‘a viscous, tenacious mud which smelt of death’.

In the Middle East, British fortunes changed with the capture of Aqaba and Jerusalem. General Allenby, Commander of the Palestine Campaign, recalls the vital, if unorthodox, feats of one officer in particular: Colonel TE Lawrence.

By December, troops on the Western Front were digging in for yet another winter. Victory now depended on the arrival of the Americans. Duration: 2 hours approx.

About the author

Sarah Kilgarriff

Sarah Kilgarriff has produced numerous audio titles since leaving the BBC Radio Drama Department in 1994. Her archive-based history documentaries for BBC Audio include the award-winning ten volume history of the 20th Century, Eyewitness, and Titanic: Voices from the BBC Archives. She is currently writing the final two volumes of the five-part First World War series, following the death of her long-term collaborator, Mark Jones.
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