Coast filmmaker honouring women’s World War II ser

David Blyth says that listening to stories from World War II veterans has been a moving and fascinating experience, providing a wealth of material for films.

The first documentary to come from interviews conducted with war veterans by filmmaker David Blyth of Manly is ready for release.

David interviewed 50 veterans for his Memories of Service project, including a large number from the Hibiscus Coast. The interviews took place over a four-year period and David is now turning all that footage – around 75 hours of material – into a series of documentaries.

He recently completed the first – Kiwi Servicewomen of World War II – which features the memories of five women, in their own words. The subjects are two from the Navy, one from the Air Force, one from the Women’s Land Service and an Army nurse who went to the Middle East and Italy.

At the start of the project, in late 2013, David made contact with Patricia Stroud at the Hibiscus Coast Community RSA and got support from that organisation to interview some of the veterans.

Kiwi Servicewomen opens with the story of Doris Coppell of Arkles Bay, who has since died. She served in the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service). David showed the film of Doris’ story to local retirement villages and also to the Women’s Section of the RSA.

“For a story teller, this project has been an incredible opportunity,” he says. “Aside from the filmmaking, listening to those stories has made me a better, more compassionate person.”

David’s interest in creating a pathway for veterans to tell their stories began with recording his grandfather, a World War I veteran. The resulting documentary screened in 2002 on the Paul Holmes show.

He says the work is part archival, part entertainment: four of the women he interviewed are in their nineties and many of those stories could otherwise have been lost.

Getting Kiwi Servicewomen broadcast on television is important to David, as he says many of the older folk who would get so much out of it might not access an online version. He is currently negotiating with various TV networks.

He also hopes that the material can be put into a format suitable for the college curriculum.

This week, David will be at Government House, where he was invited to mark the 40th anniversary of the NZ Film Commission; David was the first recipient of film commission money for Angel Mine.

“I turned up with a 10 minute show reel and came out with a cheque,” he says. “Funding and getting your work on screen is a very different ball game these days.”

The next documentary he will compile from the Memories of Service material will be about the experience of five prisoners of war.


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