Apr 12, 2011

Premiere of the ‘Breathing Fire’ documentary on the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector at RE Barracks, Chatham

I attended the premiere of the Breathing Fire documentary on last May’s search for the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector at Mametz (Somme) last night at the home of the Royal Engineers – Brompton Barracks in Chatham. Many of the team involved came from all over the country and it was good to meet up again with them and to catch up with the officers, NCOs and sappers who had been such an integral part of the dig.

A replica flame projector stands between the marquees

The Corps had excelled themselves once again and three marquees had been erected to provide appropriate cover from the rather unwelcome showers that greeted us on arrival. These also housed the bar, tables and a good deal of information on the dig site including photographs and biographical details of Captain WH Livens and his various weapons of war. To add an authentic note to proceedings there were several serving soldiers kitted out in Great War period uniforms. The most impressive element was a small scale replica of the flame projector (approximately 12 ft long) which had been constructed in the square. Apparently it had been tested and could fire flame 30ft but this was (perhaps wisely) considered a bit of a risk with so many civilians around and so remained benign all night.

Even the showers could not dampen the evening

After canapés and bubbly we all made our way (via the red carpet) to the auditorium and after welcoming speeches we sat down to watch the long, international version of the ‘Breathing Fire’ film. A break was provided halfway through with time for ice-cream and then afterwards a curry supper was provided.

The auditorium during the ice cream break

As the film highlights the skills of the Royal Engineers – in 1914-18 and nowadays too – it was well received by all. The evening was held in aid of the Army Benevolent Fund and was a resounding success with approximately 250 people attending. My thanks to all of those personnel who were part of the project and yesterday evening – it has been a remarkable experience to have been involved.

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4 Responses to “Premiere of the ‘Breathing Fire’ documentary on the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector at RE Barracks, Chatham”

  1. Mark Vent says:

    What a truly sensational documentary – congratulations to all involved.

    been looking forward to it since some sneaky peeks on Peters laptop 🙂 – turned out even better than I’d imagined … I wonder if the Livens Large gallery Flame projector has a future as a means of getting the BBQ going 😉

    Well done all!

    Mark V.

  2. Michelle Young says:

    What a shame it was so dumbed down, there was obviously so much good material left out of the programme which was in my opinion quite average in the end.

    Michelle

  3. admin says:

    Was it really that dumbed down Michelle? Remember that at least half the people watching it had only a scant knowledge of the Somme. Programmes like this are for the mass market and it is impossible to get down to the level of detail that you, as someone with an avid interest in WW1, would like in a mere 48 mins running time.
    We are planning on writing a dedicated book on the subject of British flamethrowers in due course so there will be plenty more detail in there – I already have loads from months of research that could not even make it near the programme. There is also much more detail in the forthcoming exhibition at the Historial and the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology have already completed their academic report on the project which will be made available in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology. So, TV is a window in to a subject for the mass market but for those requiring more info there are other outlets available. I’d be interested to hear what would you have done to the programme to have improved it from average to good….or even great.

  4. Michelle Young says:

    I look forward to seeing the extended programme later in the year as hopefully a lot of the material that didn’t make the cut this time will be given rightful airing. What would I have done? Well I’m a health worker not a producer. You can’t please all the people all the time, and hopefully the programme opened some eyes to the wonderful subject of WW1


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