Channel 4 documentary features North West Film Archive project

Secret History – Messages Home: Lost Films of the British Army

This new Channel 4 documentary featuring the North West Film Archive’s ‘Message Home ‘ 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 found and reveals their amazing stories. Don’t miss it! And tell us what you think by emailing 


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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 in Manchester and the North West, to the mixed laughter and tears of the specially invited audiences. ‘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 is being 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.


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, Film Hub NWC, Imperial War Museums, Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and Archives+.”

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