Who's Who - Geoffrey Malins

The blowing of the Hawthorn Mine, signalling the start of the Battle of the Somme Geoffrey Malins (1886-1940) was one of two official British photographers assigned to the Western Front during the First World War.  He is chiefly remembered today for the film The Battle of the Somme shown to huge success in British cinemas in the late summer of 1916.

Considered risky at the time, the decision to allow Malins to compile a film based upon the initial attacks at the Somme in July 1916 proved a massive if somewhat controversial success when put on general release in late August and September that year.

Although it is estimated that some 20 million tickets were bought for the film it was considered overly graphic by some, sparking a correspondence on the matter in the Times newspaper.

Filmed by the War Office (actually by the British Topical Committee for War Films), the film's footage was compiled by Malins with assistance from the war's 'unknown' photographer J. B. McDowell.

Although considered by many as merely a propaganda film (and it was certainly successful as such), its depiction of the dead and dying went further than required for propaganda purposes.  It is therefore a genuinely valuable record of the war in 1916, despite the fact that a number of the 'over the top' scenes have since been demonstrated to be fake (actually filmed before the attack began on 1 July).

The film's most famous scene, oft shown on television, is of the blowing of the Hawthorn Crater which actually signalled the start of the battle.  Click here for photographs of the Hawthorn Crater today.

Malins published his war memoirs in 1920 as How I Filmed The War.  These were remarkable for Malins' redrafting of his role in the war; he never once mentions his colleague, McDowell.  An entertaining read nevertheless, much of its content has to be regarded with perhaps more than a pinch of salt.

Geoffrey Malins died in 1940.

A "Bangalore Torpedo" was an explosive tube used to clear a path through a wire entanglement.

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Who's Who