The Battle of Ancre and the Advancement of the Tanks, screened in the Dutch East Indies

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Newspapers advertisements from Dutch colonial newspapers about the official British war documentary The Battle of Ancre and the Advancement of the Tanks (1917).


The Battle of Ancre and the Advancement of the Tanks came to the Dutch East Indies in August 1917. It was the second official British war documentary to be distributed in the Archipelago, mostly in Java and Sumatra. The film, showing British advancements on the Western Front, attracted large crowds by showing tanks, then a technical novelty, and actual fights in action. The film was very successful in Great Britain and it was hoped that it would repeat the international success of The Battle of the Somme. The film was advertised widely in the Dutch colonial press but little is known about its actual impact on the local communities. The Dutch colonial press and British officials believed that war documentaries would serve as a remedy against German propaganda in the vernacular press. Yet, war films proved on the whole to be less effective than intended. European audiences were not particularly interested in the outdated reports from the Western Front. Indigenous audiences, the intended target for this film propaganda, were unmoved, even amused, by watching the death and suffering of European soldiers. German citizens and agents put pressure on Dutch colonial authorities to enforce a policy of neutrality and were successful. Very often, propaganda films were screened only for a selected European public for fundraising purposes.