Oxford Scientific Films reveals treasure trove of extraordinary personal films from WWII servicemen fighting in Burma
Channel 4 history documentary to explore extraordinary “Calling Blighty” films, featuring Manchester based soldiers from “The Forgotten Army” in the Burma Campaign of WWII.
For the first time in 70 years, the films will be shown to veterans and families at a special screening.
Oxford Scientific Films (OSF), in association with Manchester’s North West Film Archive and the Imperial War Museums, has been commissioned to produce a 1 x 60’ special (working title – “Calling Blighty”) for Channel 4, honouring Britain’s “Forgotten Army” through unique filmed messages they sent home to their nearest and dearest.
For these troops – fighting a savage battle against the Japanese in Burma and India – home leave wasn’t possible, post was slow, and sometimes letters didn’t get home at all. Some left behind pregnant wives or elderly parents who would pass away before they returned, or young children who would barely recognise them by the time they came home.
Fighting in far flung jungles, soldiers suffered from tropical diseases. Morale was low, so the Ministry of Defence decided upon a scheme to provide a much needed boost for the disaffected soldiers in the Far East and their families back home.
That scheme was “Calling Blighty.” The films – a series of personal messages home to loved ones – were sent back, and families were invited to cinema screenings to try and catch a glimpse of their relatives on screen – some of whom had tragically died by the time the films reached home.
Now, OSF and Channel 4 will bring together some of the incredible, real life stories of the troops featured in the “Calling Blighty” films – and the families they left behind on the home front in wartime Manchester – through archive film, letters and photographs, along with interviews with veterans and relatives. Thanks to this landmark project, many of the relatives will come together to see the “Calling Blighty” films for the first time at a special screening.
Emma Morgan, Head of Popular Factual at OSF, said: “When we first heard about the North West Film Archive’s incredible discovery of the lost Calling Blighty film reels and their plan to contact the veterans and their families, we thought it was a unique, very personal and highly emotional way to tell the story of the everyday heroes from the North West who found themselves fighting in an extremely tough and often forgotten episode of World War II.”
Rob Coldstream, Commissioning Editor, Channel 4, said: “The Calling Blighty film reels are such an exciting historic discovery. In many ways these brave service men and women were the forgotten heroes of World War II, so it is an honour to be able to bring their moving personal stories to life again after 70 years.”
The programme will be executive produced by Emma Morgan and produced and directed by Paul Berczeller. It is set to air in 2016.