Chorley soldiers feature in short films of messages sent from frontline

Two Chorley soldiers feature in a special series of film footage from the Far East during the Second World War.

Gunner Tommy Byrne tells his family that he had a good Christmas in the ‘Calling Blighty’ project – which are a series of short films made between 1944 and 1946 of servicemen and women.

A Chorley soldier, referred to only as LAC Gillett, features in film footage from the Far East during the Second World War.' Courtesy of the North West Film Archive

A Chorley soldier, referred to only as LAC Gillett, features in film footage from the Far East during the Second World War.' Courtesy of the North West Film Archive

These poignant filmed messages were shown in local cinemas at the time, to the mixed laughter and tears of the specially invited audiences.

In his short segment, Tommy says: “Hello mother and May, I’m in the best of health here; had a good Christmas, and I hope you had as good at home.

“I don’t expect to be home for the next nine months, so goodbye now, and God bless you.”

Another Chorley soldier, referred to only as LAC Gillett, from No.5 Ops Room RAF, says: “Hello Winnie, it’s nice to be able to speak to you like this.

“I suppose Terry’s swanking now that he’s got long pants.”

LAC Gillett

“I hope you are all right and that the baby’s coming along fine.

“I suppose Terry’s swanking now that he’s got long pants.

“Tell Dennis to get stuck into that homework or he knows what he’ll get.

“Give my love to mum and dad and all the family.”

Waving his hat, he finishes his message with: “Cheerio, God bless. I’ll be seeing you.”

Now, the North West Film Archive is trying to track down the families of soldiers whose relatives researchers have been unable to trace, including those of Byrne and Gillett.

They have launched ‘A Message Home’, 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.

Prof Steve Hawley, from the Manchester School of Art, said: “These few remaining films are a unique picture of young servicemen and 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 shine through in a very moving way.”

In the brief clips, some of the servicemen can be seen outside with their colleagues, some record their messages in small groups and sign off before handing over to the next one.

The footage is partly-stilted, occasionally emotional, but mostly containing stiff upper-lip testimonies, filmed direct to camera in one take.

Most of the servicemen are keen to reassure their families they are fit and well, including canteen assistant Tom Lambert, from Preston.

He tells his family: “I hope you are keeping well, as you can see I am.

“There’s not much to do here, only swimming, no women.

“All the best.”

And one soldier, from Manchester says: “I think I’m very lucky to be speaking to you like this; I only wish you could be speaking to me.

“How are you getting on? I’m fine and in the best of health.

“Well how was Christmas? I had a very good one, there wasn’t much beer though.”

- If you are related to either of the Chorley soldiers, please contact Flashback by emailing kay.taylor@lep.co.uk or calling 01772 838104.