Lee Mack Discovers World War 1 Comedy Roots | Who Do You Think You Are


Oh he’s meeting military historian and
soldier dr. Paul Knight the winter 1915 into 1916 nothing particularly biggest
happening for the battalion that your great-grandfather’s part of and then the
move down to peer and they’re moving down here ready for the big push this is
the first of July 1916 this is the first day of the Battle of the Somme and your
great-grandfather is right in the middle of it Wow he was actually the Battle of
the salt absolutely this is a map from July 1916 this blue line here this is at
the beautiful line the blue line crosses the road that’s where we’re standing at
the moment so we’re actually on the British for a lie on the persistent line
of a 1st of July 1916 so zoom is literally on this spot indeed Wow
so this would have been a big trench yes the cost of Oh DISA French army the
French artillery they have a lot of heavier guns and the British are we’ve
got access to you want to be nice to the French you do want to be next to the
French on a day like today and all the Reds that’s all the German positions at
Dublin trench and listen the Old Vic grandfather it’s an objective their
target was to get from to there yes it’s about eleven hundred metres up this road
so zero 7:30 in the morning the infantry attacks your big dong
father heating the third wave that attacks all the soldiers who have been
issued them to steady their nerves so they’re basically getting a bit tipsy
before they Britain Dutch courage so roughly 7:30 a.m. my great granddad
is here going over the top yes cross this field in front of you all
right so you should be Rebecca knows what’s on the screen well that’s this
map so that red dot I’m assuming is is that where we are now absolutely well
y’all know right so if I move that will move with me yes this is incredible so
using this we can follow Billy Mac’s footsteps going into no-man’s land
absolutely and he definitely did it with an iPad that’s gone okay
I mean it’s incredible to think that my great granddad was actually doing this
yes so he’s now in no-man’s land here yes I mean once he said one of the
masses of men left and right all moving forward at the same time as far as he
can see though he’s in the middle of all these big movements of
I’m picturing barbed wire yep I’m seeing sort of smoke everywhere from the also
artillery fire but the still the shells gone overhead then with the machine guns
firing to support him smoke has been fired onto German positions to try and
stop the Germans from seen the attack and it’s sound counterintuitive if you
see a man in front of you fall to the ground should be the last thing you
think is I’m run in that direction well a lot of the accounts are saying that
they are walking forward it’s to control the man and also when you get up late
you don’t want to be exhausted so I even believe gets in the German trenches at
the same time blimey so we’re very close now to the trench
that he was trying to get to is the idea to get in and kill these soldiers or to
capture them either both so they surrender good if not he’ll go in with
the bonus and he’ll though you know shoot people if needs be that’s what
he’s been trained to do for the last two years but this could be the first time
he’s got to do that wait probably yes and he won’t know how he reacts until
he’s in that position were you’ve got to do it take somebody else’s life it’s a
sobering thought right so this is it the red dot is on the trench so this this is
his target yes so your great grandpa this is his objective the war diary says
weak resistance but also we do know that 300 of the Germans have captures so he
would have been responsible for capturing them and taking them out to
the village maybe possibly yes so I got one more thing to show you in the
village so you’re gonna have a look let’s have a look Lee has come with Paul to the village of
Montee Ball which before the battle lay behind German lines so here’s another
thing for you to have a look at ah the Liverpool pals 17th 18th 19th and 20th
battalions the King’s Liverpool Regiment my great-grandma being the 17th of
course yes to the glorious memory of the Liverpool
and Manchester powell’s who was passed to the 30th division liberated this
village first of July 1916 so after Billy Mac and his pals got
through those trenches they liberated this village Billy max actually is out
in the fields we’ve just been this is a team effort so the fact that he secured
the section out in the fields allows other battalions to advance on the
village this is immensely successful and very very few casualties so that’s the
first day of this push but how long did the whole thing go on for well the
battle the summons on until November 1916 and Billy Mac would have been out
here fighting throughout that whole period a couple weeks apart to be
another battle alright so we’ve got something else to show you here ok this
is the account by his commander FC Stanley yes we turn to page 177 I got
meeting from there I have hardly made any mention up till now of our
entertainers the optimists so it mentions in the summer of 1916 so that
implies that they were performing here yes that’s incredible Lee wants to know more about Billy
Mack’s act when he was performing at the front with the optimists to find out more he’s traveling north to
Belgium just outside eeep following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather
who was sent to this area with his regiment in the summer of 1917 he’s
meeting historian dr. Rebecca de montagne so things to discuss about my
great granddad Billy Mac we are literally just a few miles away from
where Billy Mack was fighting in the Battle of lys and they’ve got an account
of his time in the battle performing with the optimists in the afternoon the
optimists undefeated fellows gave an outdoor concert in the ordinary and very
much stained clothes the concert was a great success both with our own men and
also with the French troops I found that gobsmacked in that it says
gave an outdoor concert in their ordinary and very much stained clothes
ordinary been literally yeah the same day is walking off a battlefield yeah so
the very morning of the performance there was still a battle going on and
Billy Mac was part of that and it was a very bloody battle a very difficult
battle with lots of people who were killed for us unbelievable so I see be
shot at or perhaps have killed someone and then on the stage putting on these
performances became a way for them to normalize their experience it helped
people feel more sane in such a complicated and difficult situation it’s
not just a bit of fun that the people at the top thought if we can keep these
soldiers entertained and distracted it might be better for everybody I think it
was a complete lifeline but I’m thinking of my granddad Billy mater thinking is
it what’s he going through because he’s he’s not watching this before was he’s
in it yes then it wasn’t just that they were putting on a performance in a
ready-made theatre this was actually happening on the front line so you could
see all the trenches around them I was incredible it is incredible Wow
what kind of comedy was Billy Mac doing when I’m guessing it wasn’t
observational stuff I’ve debated it’s a funny thing happened
to me this morning and they were yeah we know we were with you Mike wasn’t funny
okay really so the kind of humor that there was
could be very dark there was a story told about a soldier walking along one
day in the trenches and finding a cap and he kept scrubbing down eventually
fund found a soldier underneath that cap buried in the mud and he said oh no you
all right and the soldier said yes I’m upset fine I’m just worried about the
driver of the bus that I was standing on top of and obviously a lot of people
were buried alive in the margin and died that way so this is a way then to use
comedy as as a release as a way of dealing with that very difficult
situation take a look at this do you include so what we got here we’ve got
two postcards ah and that is the optimists Wow the big question is is any
of those people Billy Mack oh my gosh that is him I think in the middle that’s
right it is that is Billy Matt that is amazing and
another one far left Wow to see him in the optimist like that you don’t get a
sense of it and there’s always writing on the back as well there is writing one
of the many concert parties traveling about near the front line they are the
best I have seen so far that’s a good review it is very and there were
hundreds of concert parties at this time so it shows the high esteem in which the
optimists were held well this isn’t brilliant I’m so impressed with it
and it’s a video footage of it okay the big question is is did they stay
together after 1918 there is no other reports that we can find of the optimist
which suggests that they’ve broken up or gone their own way maybe Billy Matt was
the Robbie Williams of his day and said sorry lads I’ve got my own tours to do
unbelieva hang on I’m coming you

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