I’m well into the swing of reviewing books now, having been working on my blog for almost 9 months. But it was a pleasant surprise to receive a copy of this brand new DVD from Pen and Sword. In fact, im surprised that its only now that this concept is taking off!
The DVD is broken down into three sections, and follows Richard Hone as he sets off on a journey of discovery, looking to find out more about his Uncle Bill who died in the First World War. In the first part genealogist Simon Fowler shows Richard how to get started. Armed with these details, in the second part Tim Saunders takes Richard to visit the Battlefields in France and Belgium where his Uncle Bill fought, from Loos, via the Somme and Passchendaele, to where he was killed in the Ypres Salient in 1918. Finally, medal expert Phil Mussell explains about First World War campaign medals.
There are also some pretty nifty extras, including a printable family tree planner, a full-colour magazine and book extracts. This aspect of the product is something that could be developed more in the future – would it be possible to include digital examples of documents, for instance? Maybe even film clips and/or music? I’m not sure how licensing would work, but its a thought…
It makes a very pleasant change indeed to be watching a DVD on family military history, rather than reading a book – it brings it to life so much more vividly. I can imagine it being a lot more friendly too if you want to research your family history but are not into reading. It is structured very well, with a nice gentle introduction. I am a big fan of getting out there to ‘smell the battlefield’, so it’s very pleasing to see that the viewer is encouraged to do just that. The use of a case study is a sound idea, and adds a nice personal touch. At the moment I am researching the men of Portsmouth who died in WW1 and watching this DVD has given me plenty of inspiration.
In some respects the presentation is rather rusty, however. Some of the editing is less than crisp in places, and we hear Tipperary and one other WW1 era song throughout. Also, it might make an interesting sideshow to run a sweepstake as to precisely which British Army regiment Tim Saunders was an officer in! But these are issues of style: the substance is all there.
I think we can expect to see a lot more DVD’s like this in the future. I must admit it has got me thinking too: how about some DVD’s in a similar vein, but aimed at younger people?