A film that celebrates the unsung heroes of Britain’s Caribbean colonies who volunteered to join the fight against Hitler is getting a special screening on Monday night at the renowned London hangout for journalists and other media folk.
Divided by race - united in war and peace (DRUWP), which explores the experiences of some of the 16,000 people from the Caribbean who volunteered to take part in the second world war, is being shown at the Frontline Club, Paddington, London.
It will be followed by a Q&A with its director Marc Wadsworth. He says that young volunteers were involved at every stage of the filming project and held a dialogue with the veterans who discussed the notion of Britain as a multicultural society and the vexed issue of immigration today.
The project team have also put together a Heritage Lottery Fund backed-Second World War living memorial in which the veterans tell their wartime stories. The website will go live in October during Black History Month.
The 90-minute feature-length version of DRUWP has been edited, under the eagle-eyed gaze of ex-Sky News executive and documentary maker Rob Kirk, who was a consultant on the project, and has a new star narrator, Hugh Quarshie, of Star wars, Holby City and Royal Shakespeare Company, among others.
The screening is a curtain raiser to next month’s Black History Month during which the film will be shown at the Picturehouse, Stratford, east London, on October 1, and the Bernie Grant Centre, Tottenham, north London, on October 16.
The BBC Tv film, Fighting for King and Empire, Britain’s Caribbean Heroes, was based on DRUWP and The-Latest's Deborah Hobson and Marc Wadsworth were among the producers of it.
The Frontline screening comes as The-Latest's team of young volunteers are concluding an innovative Heritage Lottery Fund-backed project, titled the Second World War Living Memorial, that will for the first time in this format put the fascinating stories of veterans on the internet as an online resources for all.
These oral histories will be told in text, still images and seven to 10-minute videos of each of the veterans talking about their Second World War experiences.
We were painfully aware that female veterans were absent from the DRUWP and BBC films. This has been rectified by the online project, which features three women, two white and a Black one, Norma Best, who joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and travelled to Britain, from her native Belize, to join the war effort in the summer of 1944. The women, and new male veterans we have interviewed, have wonderfully inspiring tales to tell.
The enthusiastic volunteers have filmed the veterans, film edited, taken photographs, written text and done research that included collecting memorabilia. They’ve visited the Black Cultural Archives and will also be going on a field trip to the Imperial War Museum’s Churchill Rooms and the London Metropolitan Archives.
It is with great sadness we report the death of one of the stars of DRUWP, Peter Kempson. He passed away this month, after an illness, days before his 92nd birthday, with his beloved daughter Jill at his side.
Deborah Hobson, deputy editor of The-Latest, said: "Peter’s death underscores the urgency of our work recording the important testimonies of the war veterans."
She added: "The camaraderie that developed between the veterans in the film, who hadn’t previously met each other, was made apparent by the fact that some of them attended Peter’s funeral to pay their respect."
* DVDs of Divided by race - united in war and peace will be available to buy after the screening at the Frontline, which begins at 7pm.