Cheering up the troops through various entertainment activities has been a common element of warfare for a long time. In the face of the emergence of modern mass media, it underwent a profound transformation during the time of the First World War. In order to create a symbolic unity between soldiers at the front and people at home, military strategists – after an initial period of scepticism – increasingly aimed at providing soldiers with forms of amusement as closely related to civil life as possible.
Besides theatres, canteens, sport events and music halls, mobile cinemas emerged as a common feature of the back area, chiefly from 1916 on. Their programmes resembled those of cinemas at home and were to a large extent composed of entertainment films. British troops, for example, particularly loved Charlie Chaplin’s comedies, whereas German soldiers were eager to see Germany’s most famous film star Henny Porten. Enjoying such films, military commanders hoped, would compensate for the strain of trench life and regenerate the men’s fighting spirit.