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All the King's Men is a feature-length World War I drama by the BBC starring David Jason, first broadcast on Remembrance Sunday, 14 November 1999. The film is based on a book by the film's co-producer, Nigel McCrery. It derives its title from a line in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme.

Plot

The film was based on the story of the 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment which included men from the King's estate at Sandringham Housemarker. These were grouped in a "Sandringham Company", following recruiting practices of the period which sometimes attempted to keep "pals" of similar background together in the same unit.

The battalion suffered heavy losses in action at Gallipoli on 12 August 1915 and a myth grew up later that the unit had advanced into a mist and simply disappeared. The film dramatises these events and the origins of the myth back home, in the process following an investigator sent after the war on behalf of the Royal Family to find the truth about the company's fate. As represented in the film, after becoming separated from other British troops and suffering heavy losses the remannents of the Sandringham Company were taken prisoner by Ottoman soldiers and then massacred. One survivor wakes in a German military hospital and is told by a doctor that he was fortunate to have been found by German troops accompanying the Turkish forces.

The scene in which prisoners are killed as they tried to surrender was criticised by both the Turkish Ambassador in London as being unsupported by evidence and by a descendent of the central character Captain Frank Beck.

Background to claimed massacre

The book itself only hints at the possibility that a proportion of those who died were "executed" after being captured. The Reverend Pierrepoint Edwards, who discovered the mass grave was reported to have revealed, much later, in a private conversation that the bodies he'd found had been shot in the head. The veracity of that claim has remained unresolved, the suggestion being made in the film that it was not revealed at the time to protect the feelings of the King and Queen and relatives of the deceased. There is stronger evidence though in the form of the account of one survivor, (Private Arthur Webber of the Yarmouth Company), taken prisoner during the battle. He was wounded to the head and claimed to have both heard other wounded being bayonetted and shot by Turkish soldiers; and to have been attacked in the same fashion himself but was saved by a German officer. In addition at least one British officer was seen being taken prisoner during the battle but for whatever reason he never turned up as a prisoner of war and was not heard from again.

However, the suggestion in the book is that, based on evidence from the time, the Turkish soldiers struggled with the concept of taking prisoners as opposed to a deliberate extermination policy. The Germans are said to have had problems getting the Turks to understand that they needed enemy troops alive for intelligence information.

The film does go quite a way beyond the book in the way it portrays a larger group of men taken prisoner being deliberately executed. This is both questionable in terms of the portrayal of the Turks and in terms of recognising the fight the troops put up. From the accounts of the time, as related in the original book, it would seem that far from being tamely slaughtered as prisoners, most of the men who died did so in heavy fighting, either being killed outright or dying from the wounds suffered. The unit had advanced way beyond any other unit in the line and as a consequence had actually found themselves isolated some distance behind Turkish lines. Ultimately a group of anything up to 200 men had been surrounded at a farm house and wiped out during the ensuing fighting. In the fate of Captain Beck the film makes assumptions as well. The last sighting of Captain Beck was by one of the survivors, who saw him slumped under a tree with his head to one side, some time before the end of the battle. They couldn't be sure that he wasn't already dead at that point.

Production

Filming occurred at Sandringham, on the North Norfolk Railwaymarker and elsewhere in Norfolk, with Andaluciamarker in Spain serving as Gallipoli.

Reception

David Jason won Best Actor in the TV Quick Awards for his performance.

The rendition of the Norfolk dialect in the film was one of the instances that led to the creation of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect to preserve and promote the proper recreation of it.

Cast

Principals



Other



Crew


  • Original Music by Adrian Johnston
  • Cinematography by David Odd
  • Film Editing by Chris Gill
  • Casting by Maureen Duff and Gail Stevens


References

External links




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