History on Screen – is it always correct?

I am not talking about dedicated documentaries. I know many people have a tendency to fall asleep at such programmes. I am referring to TV and programs and Films shown at the cinema. The latter is more shocking. Why I say that will become clear.

This particular blog has come about (the 1st in a long time from me), because of a program I saw last night on British TV. Its  a popular detective mystery series called Midsumer Murders. Set in and around a fictional village/ town of Midsumer which is somewhere in the English countryside.

The population of the surrounding areas are being bumped off regularly and the local detective and his sidekicks have their work cut out – for 2 hours every week to discover how and why these people are being murdered.

Last night’s was of interest to me for one thing – flying. A flying club was at the centre of the evil shenanigans. The episode was called the Flying Club. A flying instructor and organiser of the airfield’s airshow was murdered when he went to check an aircraft out on the dark airfield (he was working laet). He saw a light shining from the cab of a Cessna 150/152. This is a 2 seat light training aircraft, popular with flying clubs. On investigating he was bashed on the head with a wrench. The assailant took off and dropped the victim out the passenger door into a lake from about 400ft!

Nothing much wrong there. The problem comes later when there is a Spitfire flying at the display. It is the famous Mark IX Spitfire MH434.The actor portraying the commentator said it was a Mark II. There is a difference.

Spifire Mk II _1471

From these photos the main difference are the Cannons, protruding on the MkIX (right hand picture), non existent on the MkII. The MkIX was also faster and had a more powerful engine This may seem a petty statement but when a number of people learn their history from TV and Film, it would pay the program and film makers to get their facts correct.

People also get ideas on how to do things!

Last night in Midsumer Murders, it showed a man:

  1. Pre-filght checking an aircraft in a hangar, – Not to be encouraged (besides the better light outside enables you to see better)
  2. Giving a cursory look under the wing – NO- check properly for damage and water content in the fuel
  3. Starting up the engine in a confined space next to other aircraft and containers.! No way – not under any circumstances

Programs like this generally have a more restricted budget then big blockbuster films. Hence my comment earlier – take time to obtain correct fact when making films. The one film with a huge historic error that comes to mind is U571. A film about how the US Navy found the German Enigma machine which then led to a drop in attacks on shipping convoys and ultimately a reduction in the length of time the war could have progressed for.

It was of course the British Royal Navy who found the Enigma machine. HMS Bulldog boarded U-110 in may 1941 and recovered code books etc aswell.  There was a note to say the Americans were not the first but this was in the small print with the credits! Who actually reads them at a cinema?

Hollywood is notorious for re-writing history. It distorts it too, just to make it more entertaining! The fact they may insult and or disrespect those who took part in the actual event being portrayed seems not to matter. But with those who go and watch, they may know nothing different. America, as a whole is not known for having worldly-wise citizens, the image is somewhat of naivety to the world and events that have happened or happen. It doesn’t help when America is seen to some as the only country that matters in the world.

Not getting the facts correct in films and programs that are produced does not with help this image. The same unfortunately can be said over here. Some people here in the UK are just as ignorant. A recent survey said that youngsters – (14-25yrs) thought Churchill was the dog from the insurance advert and not the greatest Briton who lived – Sir Winston Churchill, wartime (World war II) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. They had not heard of him. Mostly because they are not taught history as they should be or are not encouraged to learn it. No one corrects them when they are wrong.

I saw a program (I hesitate to say a reality program) where someone (aged about 30-35) didn’t realise the First World War was started by Germany and who it was involved. They only just grasped the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

Americans and British youngsters would be able to tell you the ins and out and gossip around popstars and celebrities, but ask which historical figure did what and what happened when, they would be less able and forthcoming if at all bothered! Mainly because the media cuts costs and corners with the important facts.

A travesty with society and as history is known to repeat itself a frightening prospect. So lets be prepared by knowing our history and ensuring others know their’s!