The Diary and the Mannequin: Surviving the Trenches

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Video Description:

In this video you will explore how ordinary soldiers tried to cope with the hardships and violence of trench warfare.

Duration: 2:58
Codec: h.264
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  • A screen shot of the mannequin during battle
    00:00:00 - 00:00:30

    Piano music is playing as the scene opens. Lottie is at her computer and Joe is waiting by the door of the storage room.

    Lottie: need to go soon.
    Joe: sure about this?
    Lottie: YES - the boss in gone - go now.

    Lottie waves Joe out the door.

    Lottie is watching footage from the museum’s security camera on her computer and the footage also appears on the wall behind her.

    Lottie then opens up a book lying near her on the table and finds a photograph of Byron Cooper Sisler’s battalion. A voice over by Old Sisler begins accompanied by images of the mannequin-soldier’s boots trudging through the mud, then in the trench with a rifle, the trench floor littered with gas masks and other discarded weaponry.

  • Black and white screen shot of Joe captured on security cameras.
    00:00:31 - 00:01:20

    Voice-over: So, they’re finding out about my buddies, eh? Well, we were quite the bunch! Don’t think I’d have made it through without them.

    I can see us all straggling into the Somme, there to take Courcelette and the Regina trench, the cold, autumn rains turning everything to mud. It looked like we were walking into hell. I guess we were.

    And then the time came, all of us heading up Walker trench into the moonlight, crammed in and tripping over each other, trying to get in place for the morning. And all that time Fritz was sending over steady machine-gun fire. Lots of guys died there and then.

    Once the sequence ends, Lottie is watching Joe on security footage as he sneaks through the museum towards the front door.

    Joe finally arrives at the front window. Crouching down, he slowly edges up a trench periscope over lip of window and looks out. Joe looks across the street and scans the view for the cenotaph.

  • Screen shot of the mannequin-soldier being pulled out of the muddy shell crater.
    00:01:21 - 00:02:58

    Young Sisler’s voice-over is heard reading from his diary. Through the view of the trench periscope, there is a sequence of impressionistic battle scenes and explosions as the mannequin-soldier is buried in a shell crater. He is rescued by his fellow soldiers.

    September 14th
    Started in at 12 p.m. and had difficulty getting up the Communication Trench on account of Stretcher Bearers.

    September 15th
    It was hell getting into Communication Trench and we had a lot of casualties. We got off at about 6 a.m. and we went over at 6:20. Our artillery Machine gun barrage of fire was wonderful. We took our objectives and dug in by 12 a.m. and then Hell opened up. Green was killed this afternoon and I was buried and then after they dug me out my memory and hearing was gone for some time.

    The strain is pretty bad on the nerves. Our fellows took the trenches 150 yds further, 1350 altogether. I will be glad to get out of here alive. Pulfer was killed at 7 p.m.

    September 17th
    Relieved this morning at 6 a.m. Only three left on our crew and I was in charge. Steder was killed and Samuelles, Brown wounded.

    View from periscope ends. Joe slowly lowers periscope. He turns and leans against the wall looking depressed, takes out his phone and texts.

    Joe: how did he do it  - what kept him going through all of that?

    Screen freezes.