Retro: Messages to Blighty from war

Calling Blighty film still: "Hows the old tWicker Arches going on then?"
Calling Blighty film still: "Hows the old tWicker Arches going on then?"
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A new website allows relatives of Sheffield and South Yorkshire soldiers who fought in Burma and India to see whether they sent a message home via special films made at the time.

As reported in Retro before, Professor Steve Hawley of Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University is running a Calling Blighty project.

Calling Blighty film still: "Oh and Dad the next time youre down at Hillsborough, give the Owls a good cheer for me"

Calling Blighty film still: "Oh and Dad the next time youre down at Hillsborough, give the Owls a good cheer for me"

Hundreds of films of soldiers fighting in the Far East sending their messages home to loved ones were made and shown at cinemas during the war.

A picture gallery on the website features 150 Sheffield and South Yorkshire servicemen and one woman.

Some of them, including messages from Doncaster and Anston, were identified and digitised by the Yorkshire Film Archive.

One film on the website features Doncaster men.

This was a great success, with many tears and much laughter, and a packed house of 250

The idea is for relatives to have a look at the photographs and also to share their memories of the soldiers with Steve.

Some are unidentified and Steve hopes to fill some gaps.

He said: “The Calling Blighty series is nearly 400 12-minute films that were made in 1944-6 of servicemen (and a very few women) in the Far East recording a message to be shown in local cinemas to wives and families back home – a sort of one-way Skype of their day – remarkable and moving documents.

“Of the 391 issues made, only 64 are known to survive, and of these the majority are of the Greater Manchester area.

Calling Blighty film still: "And lets hope soon we will be able to see this film together in the Regent cinema house"

Calling Blighty film still: "And lets hope soon we will be able to see this film together in the Regent cinema house"

“However, seven of them are of Sheffield servicemen, and a further two have some South Yorkshire men, and have not been seen publicly for many years (or probably ever), and are held by the British Film Institute.”

A special screening event featuring Manchester soldiers was held in the city last December, where 60 of the servicemen were traced.

The films were shown for the first time in 70 years to an audience of relatives – and two of the men featured in them who were still alive.

Steve said: “This was a great success, with many tears and much laughter, and a packed house of 250.”

A Channel 4 documentary about the project was broadcast in June and repeated on More4 on November 6.

Steve plans to run a similar event at the Showroom cinema in Sheffield city centre, probably next year, showing edited highlights of the local films to relatives.

To see the picture galleries, go to A Messager Home Email S.Hawley@mmu.ac.uk if you recognise someone or know something about the films.