THE North West Film Archive are looking for WW2 veterans who appeared in the famous “Calling Blighty” films of 1944 and 1945.
Calling Blighty was a series of short films of servicemen and women in the Far East sending personal messages home to their family and friends. These poignant filmed messages were shown to invited audiences in local cinemas, bringing much laughter, and certainly a few tears.
A Message Home is a project to try to find as many families and veterans as possible, to bring them together to show the films again, and to tell their stories.
Of nearly 400 issues of calling Blighty made, only 48 are known to survive. Of these, 23 feature service personnel from the Greater Manchester and wider North West areas, and were found complete with the sheets of contact details showing the names and addresses of the family and friends who were invited to the screenings. The film archive are preparing a searchable database of 600 names, with clips, to go online as soon as possible.
Alongside the attempt to trace people, a new artists’ film is being made by Steve Hawley, from Manchester School of Art, combining some of the most interesting and appealing stories.
Steve said: “”These few remaining films are are a unique picture of 600 young Manchester servicemen (and two women) in the Far East around VJ day. As a research resource this is priceless, and as a human document the spirit and humour of the soldiers shines through in a very moving way.
“They are partly stilted, occasionally emotional, but mostly stiff upper lip testimonies, filmed direct to camera often in one take. Sometimes funny, and always very moving. In a way, they predict video communications such as Skype, but also offer a window on the understated courage of servicemen who had endured the long separation from their home – in both time and space – often since the start of the war.”
This new film, and some of the original Calling Blighty issues, will be screened in the autumn at HOME – Manchester’s new cross arts venue. There are also plans for other screenings around Greater Manchester later in the year.
If you know someone who was in one of the films, or who went to see the films, Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 247 3097.