Lipreader helps Tommies find their voice





Their voices have not been heard since the First World War.

The soldiers in these photographs are all long dead – some meeting their fate only minutes after the pictures were taken. But now, thanks to a lipreader, we know what the Tommies were saying.

The stills are taken from a silent movie shot at the bloody Battle of the Somme in 1916, which on its opening day, July 1, alone claimed the lives of 20,000 British and Empire troops.

One wounded soldier swears. Another voices deep foreboding about an imminent attack. Others, away from the Front, smile and shout greetings to their mothers.

Their comments have been revealed for the first time in more than 90 years by lipreader Jessica Rees who, with three historians, has been analysing the film held in the Imperial War Museum – likely to have been one of many shown as newsreels in cinemas back home at the time.

One clip shows a company of Lancashire Fusiliers about to go ‘over the top’ on that first day.

One Tommy, operating a mortar, is now known to have been saying to his second lieutenant: ‘I hope we are in the right place this time because if not, I’m going to bomb ’em all and then bugger off.’


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