Calling Blighty: Lost Films of the British Army
This new Channel 4 documentary about the Calling Blighty project will be shown on Sunday 26th June at 8pm on Channel 4. Made by Oxford Scientific Films, the programme introduces us to five of the families the project found and reveals their amazing stories. All comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Project
Calling Blighty is a series of short films made in 1944-46 of individual servicemen and women in the Far East sending personal messages home to their family and friends. These poignant filmed messages were shown in local cinemas, to specially invited audiences of families and friends. 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 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. You can find here a searchable database of over 600 names, with clips.
Alongside the attempt to trace people, a new artists’ film by Steve Hawley has been made, summing up these unique and compelling films. 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. They also contradict the heroic warrior myth, and give voice for the first time ever to the Lancashire working class man, speaking in regional accents unmediated by filmmakers who in the documentary movement were predominantly upper middle class.
This new film, and some of the original Calling Blighty issues, was screened on Monday 23rd November 2015 at HOME – Manchester’s new cross arts venue. We are also planning other screenings around Greater Manchester later in the year. The project appreciates the support of Manchester School of Art, HOME, Imperial War Museums, Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and Archives+
The Channel 4 film by Oxford Scientific Films looks at six stories of the men in the films