Lawrence (Curly) Blyth attained the rank of Lt Colonel in World War I.
Once again, Anzac Day on television will feature short films made by David Blyth of Manly.
This year, five of David’s films are on TV One and Maori TV on Anzac Day morning. Three of them are being shown publicly for the first time and one, Grandfather’s Footsteps, is a very personal story.
In November 2018, David, his sister Jennifer and her son David, travelled through Egypt, Belgium and France in the footsteps of David and Jennifer’s grandfather, Lt Colonel Lawrence Blyth.
Curly Blyth, as he was known (for his distinctive hair), was a decorated veteran who had a long and distinguished military career. He was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery during World War I and commanded the 2nd and 5th battalions of the Auckland Regiment during World War II.
He received a state funeral in Auckland when he died, in 2001, at the age of 105.
David interviewed his grandfather many times and this is the third short film he has made about him – it is also the most personal.
During their three-week journey, people who still honour and remember Lt Colonel Blyth were interviewed and the sites of significant battles were visited.
A little town called Beaudignies in northern France was where they found the strongest connections.
“We met the Mayor and she’s a living link to my grandfather, because he met her in the 1960s,” David says. “On one wall of her office she has a photo of French President Macron and on the other, one of my grandfather. When he died he was an honorary French citizen because of the part he played in securing the railway line to the town, which was crucial in its liberation.”
“It was very sobering to see the locations, and talk to local historians and people like the Commonwealth War Graves gardener,” David says. “It also brought a new generation, my nephew, into that 100-year-old story.”
David, who began his film career making horror movies, has been making short films about war veterans for seven years.
“I’ve become ‘The Veteran Guy’. To me it’s all about family, loss and sacrifice, and adventure,” he says. “I got my love of storytelling from Curly.”
He says his grandfather was a dominant character, who didn’t totally approve of the path David took in his work.
“I was the black sheep, but he told me I’d have to cut my own track and now that I’m in my 60s, our tracks have crossed again. I’ve come to understand what his dedication to service means. I have done 100 interviews and made nine documentaries all on this topic of war veterans, most of which the family has paid for. So, for me personally that has been about service.”
Currently he is working on a movie about the Korean War, including interviewing many veterans on the Hibiscus Coast.
“But in reality, I can’t afford to make it. It’s beyond my resources,” he says.
The other Blyth films to premier tomorrow morning, on Anzac Day are:
Paradise Soldiers, the untold stories of 107 years of service by Cook Islands Soldiers in the NZ Defense Forces from WWI, WWII and Vietnam through to the present day; and Lest We Forget, which interviews descendants of WWI soldiers involved with the liberation of Le Quesnoy in France.
David Blyth’s Anzac Day films, April 25
• 7am, Maori TV, Kiwi Service Women of WWII (repeat)
• 8.55am, TV1 Paradise Soldiers (premiere)
• 10am, Maori TV, Grandfather’s Footsteps (premiere)
• 10.30am, Maori TV, Lest we Forget (premiere)
• 11am, Victor 4 Company, Maori TV (repeat)