Asunder archive film stills courtesy of
British Film Institute,
Imperial War Museum and North East Film Archive.

Asunder contemporary footage of Sunderland and the North East, and Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire.


"In making Asunder I wanted to uncover hidden social histories to thereby give prominence to stories that may not have been given space in the history books. During research there was a focus on revealing stories of WW1 that you don’t hear about – moments of magic during the horror, attempts at finding normality in abnormal circumstances – to find a new way of understanding the war. In researching rarely seen films of the war years, I was keen to find footage of WW1 that you might not expect – shots that clearly show the friendships forged between young soldiers; animations of zeppelins, a man-in-the-moon, and ships at sea; a soldier attempting to kiss a girl under the Christmas mistletoe; graphics and inter-titles; and footage from a different point-of-view, be it taken from the front of a tank, or from an airship. Archive material is mixed with contemporary footage of locations in Tyne and Wear as they exist now in order to bring the period of 1914–18 to life in sometimes surprising ways. Further research was undertaken in local and national archives with a focus on letters, diaries and drawings from the period, and later memoirs and oral history recordings from those who survived the war. We were lucky enough to get Kate Adie and Alun Armstrong on-board, both from the North-East, for the narration of the film, the text of which has been woven from existing oral testimonies, in addition to material from 1914–18 copies of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette.

The individual stories in Asunder consist of: Norman Gaudie, a conscientious objector, devout Quaker and Sunderland AFC centre-forward; Lizzie Holmes, the first woman in Horden to wear trousers; Margaret Holmes, a tram conductress who survived a zeppelin raid on Sunderland; Bella Reay, a young munitions worker and whizz footballer scoring 133 goals in one season, and; Lisbeth Simm, a working-class staunch campaigner for women’s rights. Their stories are spliced with the narratives of James Hepple (also known as Robert Hope), a 19 year old soldier shot at dawn for desertion; Arthur Linfoot, a soldier in the non-combatant Royal Army Medical Corps; George Thompson, a Sergeant transport driver who loved his horses, and; Garnet Wolseley Fyfe, a Lance Corporal and piper killed on the first day of the Somme whilst going ‘over the top’ playing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’."

– Esther Johnson, Director of Asunder