A Message HOME - The Calling Blighty Films
The Calling Blighty series of short films, made in 1944-46, shows servicemen (and a very few women) in the Far East recording a message to be seen by their families and friends in local cinemas back home. A sort of one way Skype of their day, these are remarkable and moving documents, bringing their authentic and unscripted voices to the big screen for the first time. A Message Home is a project to try to find as many families and veterans as possible and to tell their stories.
Produced by the Services Film Centre India for the Directorate for Army Welfare during the Second World War, these films were essentially a response to issues of low morale and poor welfare provision amongst British service personnel of the 14th Army stationed in the Far East – in India, Burma, Singapore, Malaya... This was a genuine attempt to improve communication with families back home who may not have seen their loved ones for as many as six years. Welfare amenities were poor, home leave was not possible, mail services were erratic, and the long separations were painful and difficult. Bringing the men and women together in groups from the same town, rather than regiments, the resulting films were screened to invited family and friends in the cinemas and Town Halls back in Blighty. Compared to those in the European theatre of war, these troops were truly the ‘Forgotten Army’.
Each Calling Blighty production or ‘issue’ contained on average around 25 individual messages. Of the 391 issues made, only 64 are now known to survive, and nearly half of these are of the Greater Manchester area.
There are now records from 40 issues in our database, featuring 940 service personnel, and we have found over 150 families so far – help us to find more, and reconnect them to the messages!
Do you know any of these servicemen and women? We'd love to find out as much as we can about these films so please do tell us if you
- belong to one of the families
- know of someone who is connected
- know something about the films or the original screening
Please contact Marion Hewitt at the North West Film Archive by email or by calling 0161 247 3097.
Since the launch of the project in 2015 there have been four phases as more Calling Blighty issues have been incorporated, and more screenings reuniting families with the messages:
In November 2015, a recreated screening event was held in Manchester at HOME, where over 70 of the Greater Manchester servicemen’s families were traced, and the films were shown for the first time in 70 years to an audience of relatives – and two living veterans. A subsequent Channel 4 documentary about the project was first broadcast in June 2016, and repeated several times since. Made by Oxford Scientific Films, the programme introduces us to five of the families we found and revealed their amazing stories.