Songs of the Great War Patricia Hammond CD
 Songs of the Great War


Songs of the Great War


 Patricia Hammond
 Patricia Hammond


Patricia Hammond is a classically trained mezzo soprano who has a fascination for the popular songs of the Victorian and Edwardian era. Blessed with the voice of Ute Lemper and the looks of Cate Blanchet, Patricia has become a regular performer at First World War Centenial Events in Europe and America.


In her new CD, 'Songs of the Great War', Patricia demonstrates her versatility with the variety of songs she performs, in French and German, as well as English, from the more classical to the informal 'song of the inn'. The instruments played, often vintage, are those that any centennial time traveller would hear: from accordion to mandolin, flute to harp, piano and guitar. You get that extraordinary sense that 'you are there'.


Listening to the CD, although it is a studio performance, the choice of songs, the arrangements, instrumentation and performance, is done with such craft that it evokes the era of the First World War: you think you can hear the audience in a Musical Hall - you can sense them; it isn’t hard to imagine hundreds of soldiers packed up and ready to move listening to an impromptu ballad, lighting cigarettes, tapping their feet and calling out in delight. You can then imagine these songs being picked up by the men and sang as they marched, or relaxed in their billets, or hummed in the trenches or picked out on a mouthorgan. Just as much, you can imagine loved ones at home remembering the tunes, or playing them from sheet music at their piano. 


‘If you were the Only Girl in the World’ is immediately evocative of the old musical halls, or the soundtrack to any period drama from the 'Upstairs Downstairs', to 'Downton Abbey' and the 'Duchess of Duke Street'. For anyone following BBC Radio 4’s drama ‘Home Front’ much of which is set in a musical hall, your senses fool you into smelling the odours of the packed theatre, the bodies, cigarettes, khaki and boots. ‘Somewhere in France’ could have been performed at a recruitment rally, in the bandstand, on the back of a decorated cart with bunting flying and waving flags while young men in flat caps push forward to take the King’s shilling.


There are a number of linking pieces, instrumental interludes, that creates a sense of narrative. There are instrumental pieces too. All created with great skill and each a gem that takes you to a different part of the war, and a different army, as there are French and German songs too.


Listening to the CD several times the tunes and arrangements begin to stick, so that every book on the First World War that I now open has its own accompaniment. You can hear a track or two here 'Patricia Hammond Songs of the Great War CD' on YouTube.


‘Over There’ is a jolly, marching, witty song. It is performed like a piece of musical theatre. Gorgeously arranged, with rich orchestration where every instrument played like it was 1914-18, while ‘Roses of Picardy’ includes the most haunting flute playing and delicate harp.


You’ll find the full song list and how to purchase the CD on Patricia Hammond’s website.


The CD includes the songs that would have been heard in theatres and recruiting halls, from Great Britain to Canada, at a peace rally in New York, to a French Inn. The collection also includes songs that would have been heard in the German trenches of Verdun.


You can read more about 'Soldiers Songs of the First World War 1914-18' in this article on The Western Front Association website. 


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Interactive trail guides New Zealanders on the Western Front


Following on from the success of Ngā Tapuwae Gallipoli, the First World War Centenary Programme (WW100) has released the final part of its legacy project, Ngā Tapuwae Western Front.


“The trails are a fascinating way of exploring the past, blending audio narratives, maps, photographs, background information, oral history, original accounts, and practical travel information into a single, accessible resource,” says Chief Historian for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Neill Atkinson.


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The Western Front trails explore First World War sites of significance for New Zealanders and are located in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Five trails in Belgium focus on the battlefield at Passchendaele and Messines, four trails in France explore the famous Arras tunnels and Somme battlefields, and the trail in the United Kingdom lets you discover the former New Zealand hospitals and training camps.


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Ngā Tapuwae Western Front also takes you behind the frontline where you can learn about where wounded soldiers were treated, their training and recreational activities, and the towns in which they were billeted.


“The Trails help us understand the ordeal that many of our ancestors endured on the Western Front by transporting people back in time. Visiting the peaceful rural landscapes and quaint villages of the Somme or Flanders today, it can be hard to imagine that these were once devastated war zones,” says Neill.


One of the main features of the Western Front Trails is a smartphone and tablet app, which gives people the full immersive experience.


New Zealand Historian, Chris Pugsley who narrated the audio guides for both Ngā Tapuwae Western Front and Gallipoli, found it an amazing experience.


“I had walked the ground many times over the last 35 years, but it was interesting to work out how to tell key stories in short cogent sound bites and in words that would make New Zealand's achievements in both defeat and victory come alive, not just for my generation but for generations to follow.

“My part was easy, as I got to speak about what I knew. The clever part of the guide is the skill in which the stories and images of the day have been woven together in a captivating and linked series of trails which put New Zealand's story into the context of the wider World War,” says Chris. WW100 Director, Sarah Davies is very pleased with the legacy project and thinks the Western Front Trails are particularly timely.

“In 2016 our centenary commemorations will move from Gallipoli to the Western Front. Next year there will be ceremonies in both New Zealand and in France to commemorate the 100th Anzac Day and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme,” says Sarah.


The Trails have been designed for the traveller who plans to visit the Western Front and as an informative guide for those exploring from home. There are three ways that people can experience the Western Front Trails: download the smartphone or tablet app, explore the trail highlights on the website, or print off the paper guides.


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To discover Ngā Tapuwae Western Front and to download the app, visit To learn more about the 2016 commemorations, visit For more information contact:


Clare Fraser

Senior Communications and Engagement Adviser

WW100 – First World War Centenary Programme

PH: 021 436 561 or 04 499 4229 xtn 327


Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

O sector vimy ridgeThe Durand Group/Fougasse Films

Duration 96 minutes (additional CD ROM folder over an hour)

Published April 2007

Although this film and CD Rom of additional graphics was first released in time for the 90th Anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 2007, the content has not lost much of its dramatic impact. The graphics may today seem a little simplistic, but this helps the viewer understand the complex subject matter and keep up with events as they unfold.

The actual subject matter is two tunnels in the Vimy sector, originally dug by British Sappers in 1916. The research at the National Archives, uncovering diaries, maps, plans and photographs, eventually led to initial exploration as early as 1996 until finally excavation began in earnest in 2005. The film focuses on the work in one tunnel to determine whether a camouflet had prevented the explosives being detonated. The chalky tunnel is eventually broken through to, and a cornucopia of items is found – sacks of black crumbly ammonal, still in good condition, rubber air tubes, detonators, and even graffiti (the three dimension 'T' for tunnelers being especially poignant) including names and Army numbers of those who found themselves in the chthonic world, where every sense was heightened to detect the merest implication of the enemy nearby.

Some of the issues or problems encountered are covered – such as the further into the filled in tunnel the larger the pieces of chalk, which meant the portable conveyor belts began to struggle – until a solution in the form of sandbags was introduced. Also, to provide air to those working some ten plus metres below ground (a bore hole which was hooked up to a motor driven air supply along with a telephone cable). As the mine had not exploded in 1917, the group decided to neutralise the decaying explosive by "one man risk" protocol – in summary one man defusing the charges on his own. Tense minutes indeed.

The narration is clear, succinct and balances providing information with allowing the viewer to take in the amount of information (visually and audibly). Fittingly, the whole film is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Mike Watkins, who was killed attempting to create an entrance to the tunnels in 1998.

Reviewed by Richard Pursehouse


nery retreat monsPen and Sword Digital 2014
100 minutes

One in the series of DVDs that Pen and Sword have put together to explain to the casual and expert battlefield student, events as they unfolded at specific flash points in Belgium and France in the opening stages of The Great War.

Battlefield guides and historians have been brought together to describe and explain what happened and where, with most of the narration from the locations as they are today, which provides an excellent feel for the topography of the locations where specific actions took place. This overcomes the problem of there being a dearth of photographs and film footage from the time, breaks up the narrative, avoids being vapid and leaves the viewer with a better understanding of a time when the clashes with German forces were ones of manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre; these manoeuvres and the main leaders involved (von Kluck, Smith-Dorrien, Maxse, Haig) are covered adequately. The interpretations by the guides and historians are clear and concise, and the interspersion of maps is cleverly calculated to assist in a visual understanding of events such as Mons and Le Cateau.

Interwoven with the narration, re-enactors representing the British "Tommy" have been filmed in 'action' and also help to explain their equipment (for example the Lee Enfield rifle, and also why the wire was removed from flat caps – the tops reflected the sun and gave away your position). The crucial role of the RFC is also covered, as the British struggled to understand from where the Germans were advancing. The provision by British cavalry of a screen as the PBI withdrew is emphasised too, as well as the British 'moral ascendency' over German cavalry. The Royal Horse Artillery Victoria Crosses at Nery are also covered in detail.
The Bonus section provides information on the Schlieffen Plan.

Reviewed by Richard Pursehouse


durrandP73G3/ST19-21 Vimy Ridge (DVD), The Durand Group, 2009

97 minutes with additional features of:

  • Durand Group report on their work at Vimy Ridge
  • War Diary of 172nd Tunnelling Company, RE
  • Durand Group background information

I found this DVD to be compelling viewing and the Durand Group and its members are to be congratulated for the battlefield archaeology and exploration they are undertaking. This is not a DVD telling the story of a campaign, battle, or prominent soldier. It does not detail the unit history of a tunnelling company, although the 172nd Tunnelling Company RE does feature, as does one of their officers, Captain Richard Brown Brisco. There is no sensationalism to be found here. What is to be found is a video diary of events surrounding the excavation and exploration of two tunnel complexes, one British and one German, in a very specific corner of the Vimy Ridge battlefield. It is a detailed step by step record of the group's activities over a ten year period. The story is illustrated by the use of First World War aerial photographs, maps, computer graphics of the tunnels and through the ongoing comments of the Durand Group members as they go about their work inside and outside of the tunnels. While some may find the pace a little slow, I found the straightforward description of the work undertaken to be of great interest and believe serious students of the First World War will as well.

The video diary begins in 1998 when a team from the Durand Group enters the British tunnel P73G3 in the La Folie (P) mining sector of Vimy Ridge to neutralize an unexploded 600lb Camouflet charge. They complete this work the following year. This charge is just meters from a German tunnel known as ST19. ST 19 is part of a self-contained tunnel complex driven forward from the German second line. There are three entrances to this tunnel complex ST19, 20 and 21. Over the years Durand Group members repeatedly return to continue their work at Vimy, but the greatest part of the DVD is devoted to their attempts to enter the German tunnel complex followed by their exploration of it.

Beginning in May 2003 a concerted effort commenced to enter ST 20 and 21. One team sought to locate the entrance to ST21 through Washing Machine Crater. This is the second largest crater on Vimy Ridge, and was blown by the Germans in June 1916 to support an attack against the French. It received its name from Durand Group founder Lt Col Phillip Robinson due to a smashed up household appliance that had at some point been dumped there. The fact that the appliance was subsequently found to be a stove has quite rightly not resulted in a name change. A second group sought access to ST20 by cutting down through its roof. Both attempts proved unsuccessful, although during the excavations the remains of two soldiers were discovered. The endeavours of the Durand Group are not solely wrapped up in the exploration of First World War tunnels. They are based on the proper application of archaeological techniques and, most importantly, respect for human dignity. Not only were the soldiers' remains carefully and respectfully excavated, but all the artifacts found with them were catalogued and cleaned prior to being turned over to the Canadian authorities. The rosary found with the remains of one of the men was particularly compelling. "Painstaking and rewarding" was a comment from one of the group members.

During the 2003 excavations no attempt was made to find the entrance to ST19 as its precise location was unclear. However the following year Canadian authorities cleared the secondary vegetation from an area of 100 square meters in which the entrance to ST19 was situated. French démineurs swept and cleared the area to a depth of 18 inches. The scale of detritus, including 384 items of unexploded ordnance, was truly amazing. Durand Group experts were available for what would be found at deeper levels.

There is a strong component of detective work in the labours of the Durand Group members. After consulting aerial photographs, Great War maps and completing a survey of the recently cleared area, group members found that the German and British records could not be completely reconciled. This was dealt with by placing the British map over the German and then shifting the British map slightly sideways. Things then made a great deal more sense.

In October 2004 the entrance to ST19 was discovered and access was achieved, though initially to ST19 only; no way into ST20 or 21 was found at this time. In addition to telephone wire, a blackened patch on the wall showing where a candle had been situated, ventilation tubing, and writing on the walls giving the tunnel dimensions and dates, tucked into easily accessible locations the team also found Masher grenades. ST19 was very close to the British tunnel P73G3 and the Germans were clearly concerned about a British break in. The close proximity was demonstrated when Durand Group members at the tunnel faces of British P73G3 and German ST19 made loud noise to make themselves heard to those at the other tunnel face. Though muffled they could clearly hear each other. There is a sense of irony here when one contemplates the conditions the Great War miners operated under. They would of course have been working as quietly as possible and all the while fearful of being buried alive by an enemy Camouflet or unwittingly breaking into the other side's chamber.

Although plans showed ST19, 20 and 21 as a self-contained connected unit, as mentioned above, at first a connection could not be found. However, in January 2005 the entrance from ST19 to the other tunnels was located, albeit with a significant blockage. In May 2006 the group excavated the blockage and entered ST20 and 21. As the narrator says, "the result is well worth the wait".

Durand members returned to the German tunnels on three more occasions (October 2006, October 2007 and May 2008). They explored, surveyed, recorded the artifacts found and plotted their positions. They also found evidence of a Camouflet in ST19, but could not find the charge itself. It may have been removed by the Germans themselves at some point. The Durand Group's work in the tunnels ceased in 2008 when Canadian authorities removed tunnel access to all groups pending a policy review.

Returning to the original Camouflet in P73G3, the Durand Group believes it was the work of Lieutenant, later Acting Captain, R.B. Brisco. The British had laid a larger mine in P73G4 and Brisco would have been cognizant of the close proximity ST19 and the consequent danger of a German break in compromising it. P73G4 was blown late in 1916 creating Edmonton Crater.

Brisco is an interesting character. A solicitor by training from Cumbria, he travelled the world gaining mining experience along the way. He served in the Boer War eventually being taken prisoner. After enlisting in the 2nd King Edward's Horse in 1914, he transferred to the 172nd Tunnelling Company. Two months later he won the Military Cross for his role in an underground skirmish after his men broke into a German gallery. He lost his life on April 9, 1917, the first day of the Vimy Ridge offensive, after he led a team from the 172nd Tunnelling Company into the German tunnels to complete a survey and recover any Germans sheltering there. As he was presumably reporting his findings to officers of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, he was killed by a shell blast. The activities of Brisco and the 172nd Tunnelling Company are illustrative of the fact that Vimy Ridge was not solely a Canadian offensive and it has been good to see some acceptance of this recently in Canada with the publication of books such as Vimy Ridge; A Canadian Reassessment, edited by Hayes, Iarocci and Bechthold.

This DVD is very good viewing for the serious student. The video of inside the tunnels is of great interest and the information brought to our attention through the comments of the group members as they go about their work is illuminating. For example, I never knew that German tunnels were typically deeper than those of the British. While at first blush this might seem to be a positive, we find that it often took them below the water table and so a great deal of effort was spent on drainage issues.

Sales of Durand Group DVDs helps raise funds to continue this important work and I for one will be seeking out other DVDs they have produced. I include the Durand Group's website address for those looking to find out more about them. This is the first I had heard of them and I'm impressed. 

Review by Paul McNicholls



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