Our War is a documentary series on BBC Three, of which the third series has recently begun. This series documents the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, with the previous series covering everyday operations as part of the British war effort in Afghanistan, covering issues such as defusing IEDs or performing street patrols.
I’m by no means sympathetic to the British government’s decision to intervene in the Middle-East and to be completely honest in the last two years, I’ve found myself struggling with the question of whether to wear a poppy or not on remembrance day. This is for a range of reasons that I shan’t go into detail on, but it’s safe to say that I’m both torn and confused as to how I feel about the treatment of people within the British military.
I’m both torn and confused as to how I feel about the treatment of people within the British military.
What this series does for me is open my eyes as to what life is like out on the front-line in those countries and this at least gives my thoughts some clarity. The show splits filming between following what happened to the soldiers out in Afghanistan, and then interviewing them, and occasionally their families, once they’re back home about the events covered in Afghanistan.
The use of helmet mounted cameras, whilst in Afghanistan, produces some of the most organic footage that has been shown of the war to date. It shows the immediacy of how quickly situations can escalate and gives a very stoic, almost plain, view of things which seems most suitable for the subject matter covered. The narration is well written so as not to disrespect the situation and to not make it over melodramatic as could easily be done.
The use of helmet mounted cameras produces some of the most organic footage that has been shown of the war to date. It shows the immediacy of how quickly situations can escalate…
It has to be remembered that the MOD authorises the release of the footage, so it can’t be treated as a completely neutral source of information, but it’s probably about as close as can be gotten with such ease. It by no means is propaganda for the war, with both series to date covering the death of various soldiers and the frankly abysmal conditions in the base-camps.
The show has a very strong emotional dimension to it. Interviews with the families of deceased soldiers are truly heart-wrenching and various ticks and twitches can be seen in the faces of those who have returned, which again just helps bring home what they’ve been through. Whilst they clearly put on a thick skin, the emotional damage from watching one of their friends die is clearly always with them and reinforces why watching the show can be such a powerful experience at times.
A particular example can be taken from the very first episode, which covers the disastrous attempt to cross into enemy territory for the first time. The episode documents how Private Chris Gray tragically lost his life as a result of the operation and the grief was clear for all to see, both amongst his comrades and his parents who bravely agreed to share their thoughts.
That said, the show isn’t just about showing how hard it is out there: it also depicts the importance of the experience for so many of the soldiers. They gain important life skills and the show doesn’t always paint such a miserable picture, with many of the soldiers enjoying their time on tour and at some points smiles can be seen all round. Still, the fragility of this is often apparent as it can be blown apart in minutes.
Whether you’re pro-war, anti-war or have no agenda in particular, everyone has something to gain from watching Our War…
If nothing else, I would recommend watching the show as it is, at the simplest level, a well presented and relatively unique view into life on the front line. Whether you’re pro-war, anti-war or have no agenda in particular, everyone has something to gain from watching Our War and it really is one of the best things that BBC Three have ever done, in terms of attempting serious programming. The show has certainly left its imprint on me.