Unveiling of the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, the Somme, France, by King George VI, accompanied by Queen Elizabeth and the President of France, Albert Lebrun [on 22 July 1938]. Photographed for the Commonwealth Government by Movietone News. [AWM F00175]
The movie begins with the dignitaries on the official dais as King George VI's unveiling speech begins. Queen Elizabeth stands to his left on the right of screen, the chaplain to his right.
King George's halting speech:
This ridge on which we stand surveyed those hard-fought actions. And the monument that crowns it will commemorate them for all time. Its very surroundings are emblematic of that comradeship which is what works of our British Empire. For it looks down on a hallowed field beneath whose soil consecrated by the God and of our glorious memory, lie the men who came from every corner of the earth to fight for ideals that are common to the whole Empire. They rest in peace. While over them all, Australia's Tower keeps watch and ward. It is fitting that it should do so and as your king I feel a great pride in unveiling it. Pride and a deeper sense of reverence and gratitude towards those whose last resting place it guards.
As King's speech concludes, the movie cuts to the unveiling as the Australian flags that have been covering the main entry to the Memorial building are dropped down. The crowd applauds and heraldic trumpets begin to play as the movie cuts to a wide shot of the official dais, then to crowds in front of the left wing of the memorial, then to a close up of the sculptural detail above the entrance that has been revealed.
Heraldic trumpets continue …
The movie cuts to a wide shot of the official dais now seen to be located in front of the memorial entry. The dignitaries have now turned back to face the entry.
The movie cuts to a closer view of the English King and Queen with their backs turned to face the memorial.
As the trumpets conclude, the movie cuts to a long shot of the memorial scene in which rows of soldiers can now be seen in the foreground facing back to the memorial in the background.
The movie cuts to a view of the dais, with the Memorial tower and entry behind it, as the 'Lord's Prayer' is recited by the chaplain.
… this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespasses against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever amen.
The movie cuts to a view of the memorial bell tower … as the movie's narrator begins …
[Narrator]: The Buglers of His Majesty's Grenadier Guards …
Buglers in the bell tower play the 'Last Post' as the movie cuts to a wide view of the dais and memorial entry with a crowd of soldiers in the foreground, some saluting. As the 'Last Post' concludes, the movie cuts back to the view of the centre dais and the main group of dignitaries.
With a wide shot of the dais, the narrator speaks …
[Narrator]: One minute of silent prayer is broken only by the roll of drums.
[Sound of military snare drums.]
With a high shot of the memorial tower against the sky, the narrator continues …
[Narrator]: … then the triumphant notes of the Reveille.
[Buglers sound the Reveille]
During the Reveille the movie cuts back to the dais, to the bell tower and to a section of crowd.
The movie cuts to a view of the choir with soldiers in regimental uniform in the foreground.
[Narrator]: The 'Hymn of Valiant Hearts' led by the chaplain echoes far away down the ranks.
The choir sings 'Hymn of Valiant Hearts' during which, the movie cuts back to the main dignitaries who also stand and sing holding their programmes.
O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.
[Narrator]: In honor of President Lebrun, the French Republic, there follows The Marseillaise …
[Band plays portion of the French National Anthem.]
[Narrator]: … and finally our own national anthem.
[Band plays as the choir sings 'God Save our King']
[Narrator]: The ceremony of dedication over, the royal party moves from dais to lay their tributes on the steps of the memorial.
The movie cuts to various shots as the dignitaries as they walk down from the front of the dais and slowly around towards the memorial entry. Solemn orchestral music is heard to play.
[Narrator]: On the way there is a brief halt while the President presents to His Majesty, General Castelnau, whose memorable part in the heroic resistance at Verdun is already recorded in history.
Solemn music continues to play throughout with various shots of dignitaries and the crowd at the memorial.
[Narrator]: Standing in respectful silence, guests await the climax of the ceremony. Notice the young Australian blue gums planted in the forecourt.
[The King and Queen are shown laying wreaths at the steps of the memorial entry, then looking upward at the tower above them with the other dignitaries.]
[Narrator]: The wreath barriers, ex soldiers whose vocation now is to tend the graves of their comrades … are wearing for this occasion their AIF uniform. His Majesty and President Lebrun lay their wreathes simultaneously. Then Sir Earl Page, in laying a wreath on behalf of the Commonwealth government, acknowledges the tributes of Great Britain and France and pays homage for the people of Australia. Unforeseen [to] all-present—there follows the kindliest of all, pictured now and never to be forgotten the Queen, every eye upon her, and every heart instantly attune, lays on the King's wreath the Flanders Poppy, which the child held [for] her. Hearts are overflowing at this dramatic moment as eyes are lifted to the great memorial towering above.
At the conclusion, the music ends and the movie cuts to a wide shot of the waiting crowd and the sound of cheering who begin to mill around the dignitaries as they walk through.
[Narrator]: Leaving the inner sanctuary, the King and Queen and President are greeted with an outburst of cheering, for the rank of guests can keep their emotions pent up no longer. It is a triumphant and completely informal progress back to the meeting point. Eager, friendly crowds pressing in on every side.
The King and Queen are shown moving along the front of the memorial area away from the building with the crowd on both sides, the crowd is heard giving three cheers.
As the movie concludes, vibrant music and the sound of cheering continues with various views of the dignitaries as they begin to leave through the crowds led by two Australian soldiers. The crowd raise their hats in salute and wave as they pass.