With the anniversary of the First World War approaching we felt strongly that we should do something to mark it. After much deliberation we decided to tell the story of one small Lincolnshire war memorial, but we should choose it without any knowledge of the stories it might tell. We had in mind a twenty minute drama documentary.
We chose the small village of Thimbleby in Lincolnshire because of its remarkable range of vernacular houses, Victorian village school and working water pump, all surrounding the village church. Only then did we begin to research the war memorial. Many WW1 military records are lost, so we held our breath as we researched, fearing that we may find nothing of the five men listed. We were right too – we found little more than name, rank and number for three of the men on the memorial and only a little more on the fourth.
However, we found that the family of one, Robert Crowder, had held his memory dear and had kept a remarkable archive of unpublished material. The family had erected a stained glass window in his memory in Thimbleby Church and kept all his letters written home from the front line. His brother wrote his memoirs and sister-in-law had kept an autograph album through her years as a VAD nurse in the local hospital. Combined with photographs, family memories and artefacts, we found we had enough material for a full length film. We had too just the story we wanted to tell, one that represented so many of that generation who were torn from their ordinary lives and thrown into the hell of war. Robert Crowder was not famous; he was neither an officer nor a decorated hero, though he was undoubtedly incredibly brave. He was just a gardener and a country boy who played the organ in his village church and loved, and was loved by, his family.
The film has had a charity premiere and been shown at Lincoln’s museum, The Collection, with an accompanying exhibition, for four weekends across November and December.
The film is now available on DVD at the WAG Screen Shop
Here are some of the comments:
Nancy Snowdon – Historian: I am just so impressed with your film! I found it so wonderfully sensitive, well acted, beautifully photographed. We were reduced to tears by it (quite unusual for us). And best of all not mawkish, which it could so easily have been. Well done all of you! And the knitting … looked wonderful. What a brilliant idea. I am so thrilled that I can’t stop gushing and showing it to everyone! It’s a small masterpiece and does you enormous credit!
Nicholas Boot, Lincoln Minster School: We took Year 6 and Year 9 to see the film at The Collection this morning: I’m very pleased we did so. It was a very poignant depiction of the family’s perspective and it was very interesting to hear the letters from the sons and see the family’s response. I thought it was a very interesting and moving film: thank you.
Daniel Brown, Media production undergraduate:Just watched @ww1Film what a beautiful, poignant and emotional film. Glad to have been a small part of it. Some channel needs to pick it up!
Chris Williams, Archivist, Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School:‘Magnificent piece of work! My wife and I were at the charity premiere in Horncastle on Saturday 22nd November. We were captivated by the film, and, in passing, the venue’s own history. Congratulations to all at WAG Screen, Crowders and of course the Thimbleby community. A huge effort and a great outcome.’
Deb Gillanders: Having heard about this film & the knitting it inspired from several different sources I went to Lincoln & saw it on Sunday. The whole thing was fantastic – so much attention to detail by so many people & so many angles to the whole project, that all came together so effectively… I hope this exhibition & film travel to as many places as possible. Congratulations & all strength to WAG Screen!
Jo Turner, photographer: Went to the Collection on Saturday morning to see your film and display – loved it, even though it brought tears to my eye. I wasn’t alone, I think a lot of tissues were in use. The costumes were excellent and the ‘taste’ of the trenches and explosive scene were amazing. Well done to everyone.
Darren J Scales, filmmaker: Go see this!!!! Well done Nick Loven – such gifted filmmaker!
Maria Precedo: I recently day-tripped to Lincoln from London especially for the Centenary Stitches exhibition. I was so enthused about it, I emailed the Imperial War Museum in London to see if they’d be interested in housing the exhibition at all. I’ve forwarded their reply below, and leave it to you to take it further, if you want.
Billy Clapham – award winning photographer: ‘Finally got round to seeing @ww1Film tonight, a stunning production all round that I’m very proud to have helped out with!’
Mari Roberts – Book Editor: What a fantastic film. Beautiful photography, costumes, music, settings. The tension of the story very well held. Terrific acting. We both cried!
Hilary Harrod: Brilliantly done! Get your hankies out, it’s emotional, poignant and true.