Sailors greet a sister ship on the high seas, from the 1927 film 'The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands' (courtesy of the BFI)

Classic film telling the story of 1914 naval battles restored for Centenary

Posted on on 01 October 2014
Share |

The British Film Institute continues its First World War commemorations with a special screening of The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, an epic cinematic recreation of two key naval battles 100 years ago.

Newly-restored for the Centenary by the BFI National Archive, the silent film will be given its world premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on October 16th 2014.

A new musical score will be performed by 24 members of the Band of the Royal Marines in honour of the 24 bandsmen who lost their lives in the sinking of HMS Monmouth at the Battle of Coronel.

The BFI says scenes of naval warfare have rarely been captured on film with such a degree of authenticity.

On November 1st 1914, Britain suffered its first defeat at sea for 100 years when a Royal Navy squadron engaged German cruisers off Coronel on Chile's Pacific coast.

Little more than a month later, most of the German warships were sunk by the British off the Falklands while making for home across the Atlantic.

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, released to critical acclaim in 1927, is now virtually unknown. But Bryony Dixon, curator, Silent Film, BFI National Archive says it's a thrillingly accurate recreation of the first major sea battle of the Great War.

"This new restoration by the BFI National Archive will showcase the hugely ambitious filmmaking task set by Walter Summers, a much underrated director, who called on the full resources of the British Admiralty to film using actual battleships. 

"The film was hugely successful in its day and is a fitting memorial to the thousands of sailors who died on both sides."

Filming took place in the open seas around Malta with the Scilly Isles standing in for the Falklands. No models and or trick photography were used, although some interiors were recreated in the studio. 

A special screening was held at Balmoral for King George V. 

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands will be released across the UK on October 17th, and will be screened at selected cinemas on Remembrance Sunday. More details here

Information & images supplied by British Film Institute

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News