How I Filmed The War by Geoffrey Malins

Lieut. Geoffry Malins, (O.B.E. (1920) How I Filmed The War: a record of the extraordinary experiences of the man who filmed the great Somme battles, etc.

CHAPTER XIX: Along the Western Front with the King

Day 1 (6/8/1916): GM is sent to the quay at Bologne for 12 o’clock. Finds the King’s arrival is delayed until 9 a.m. the next day.

Day 2 (7/8/1916): French officials and the North Staffordshire Regiment, as guard of honour, await the King’s arrival. He is on board the boat alongside the quay chatting with the Naval officer in command.

From 9 a.m., the Governor of Bologne and French officials are received on board by the King. At 9.30 a.m. the King, in Field Marshal’s uniform descends the gangway with Lord Stamfordham, Sir Derek Keppel, Lt. Col Clive Wigram and Major Thompson. He inspects the guard of honour, says farewell to the officers present and leaves by car for British G.H.Q.

At the G.H.Q. the Prince of Wales is standing near the building’s entrance. The King arrives the Prince salutes him, then the King embraces him not as King but as a father. The incident is partly obscured by an officer side stepping in front of the camera. GM then films scenes of the King and General Sir Douglas Haig visiting headquarters offices during the rest of the day.

Day 3 (8/8/1916): GM drives to where the Royal group is to meet. The weather is very dull. A cavalry patrol trots forward, followed by the car from which the King alights to greet General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The convoy leaves for Fricourt passing groups of soldiers cheering the King. He alights at the Citadel, a German sandbag fortification at Fricourt. This is in the form of a circle, with underground passages and dug-outs, machine-gun emplacements in the walls, and located on top of a hill.

The King and his party, guided by a lieutenant from the Engineers, start walking then stop for a general to describe Fricourt’s capture, GM filming from the parapet of an old German trench. The Prince explores an old dug-out. At the next one, the guide goes in leaving the King and the general outside. When the guide invites the King in, he declines the offer with a laugh, shared with the others present. The King is then pulled out of the trench by the Prince and an officer, others having difficulty getting out – “quite an amusing episode”.

The King passes over old mine craters, then stands with deer-stalking glasses resting against a tree to watch the bombardment of Pozieres (where the Anzacs take Park Lane but later withdraws from that part west of Mouquet Farm track). He then inspects an isolated grave with a rough wooden cross bearing the name and number of the interred soldier. The shrapnel helmet has a hole in the top. The King stoops, picks up a shell fragment and puts it in his pocket. The King gets into his car and crowds of soldiers cheer him and afterwards the Prince. The car passes an Australian battalion covered in filth having just been relieved from the trenches at Pozieres.

The car arrives at the No.18 (Casualty Clearing Station). GM makes a reference to “yesterday” at the Fricourt battlefield. The King and Prince alight, and the King talks to wounded officers. About to leave, he stoops to pick up a small puppy, caresses and kisses it, then hands it back to the Colonel. GM films the King’s departure.

CHAPTER XX: King and President meet

Day 4 (9/8/1916): A sunny morning. The King’s car leaves for Haig’s house. GM positions the camera to film both the main gates and the house’s entrance. Lining the drive are the 17th Lancers, Haig’s former regiment. The King drives in with Haig. As the King alights, a small girl gives him a bunch of flowers, he smiles, stoops and pats her cheek before passing along the Lancers with the Prince behind. The King and Haig come down the steps of the entrance to meet President Poincare and General Joseph Joffre. The King warmly greets the President and the same little girl offers Joffre another bunch of flowers. He guides the girl to the President who takes them, stoops and kisses her forehead. She then runs away. The President not knowing what to do with the flowers, looks round for an officer to take them to his car. Joffre calls up his aide de campe to take them away. The party and General Foch then enter the house.

The King comes out of the French window on to the balcony with the President, followed by Joffre and Haig. Foch joins the chatting laughing party. GM then films the King and Prince leaving. Later David Lloyd George arrives and goes into the house.

DAY 5 (10/8/1916): GM calls this a Sunday as the King attends Divine Service (but Chris McCarthy shows this to be a Thursday). The King and Prince drive to La Panne to see the King and Queen of the Belgians, with a Belgian guard of honour playing. The Royals have lunch in the King of Belgian’s villa. Assisted by Prince Alexander of Teck, the King awards decorations and medals to the Belgian officers. The two Belgian princes and Princess Josephine are present with their mother.

The King visits a 6-inch howitzer battery before going to see the Canadians, being greeted by General Burstall. He spent a considerable amount of time with them.

DAY 6 (11/8/1916): GM is told the King is leaving at midday. He gets on board before the King climbs the gangway The Prince then salutes him before going ashore. The King and the admiral in command of the flotilla of the ship and 7 torpedo boats then enter the cabin before GM films the King on the bridge from the top deck. Finally, after filming the white cliffs and Dover castle, GM films the King coming ashore.

The spools were edited into a 40-minute film projected at silent speed. Roger Smither, Keeper of the Department of Film, the Imperial War Museum, called the film an “intimate and personal” view of Royalty in the forward passages to the reprint of GM’s book.