www.hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk     Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
© Keith Collman

© Keith Collman

Return of the Liberators

A convoy of ninety six London Black 
Cabs took 120 World War II veterans to The Netherlands to take part in commemorations for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. Lauris Morgan-Griffiths writes.

Accompanying them on their journey was local filmmaker, Janet Hodgson. She has been working with The London Taxi Benevolent Association for the War Disabled – a charity run by black cab drivers – for several years, earning the Veterans’ trust,  documenting their work and organising musical happenings.

The result is the Return of the Liberators. Filming this extraordinary veterans’ road trip, she has produced a heart-warming documentary, capturing the antics, camaraderie and acts of remembrance. On film she has documented personal moments of remembrance and music performed by the veterans themselves.

© Keith Collman

© Keith Collman

Janet Hodgson acknowledges it is a huge privilege to be able to spend time with these veterans, who are in their 90s and time is spooling in. It was a special time for them as well. And not all deadly serious – like all people away from home, there was fun as well as poignant moments as the veterans remembered, made connections, swapped stories – whether as a member of the airforce, royal marines or as a land girl – about their wartime experiences.

Out of 80 hours of film, not all the incidents and camaraderie made it to the final cut. The whole journey was memorable but there were a few moments that were particularly touching and will stick in Janet’s memory.

Ian Bonner landed a vast plane carrying several tanks into a field in Belgium, and was captured soon after. It was an affecting moment when he visited the exact spot in that field where he had landed that day. He was visibly moved by the experience.

© Keith Collman

© Keith Collman

Des Paige visited Oosterbeek cemetery near Arnheim to scatter a friend’s wife’s ashes. Oosterbeek was the site of a major offence, resulting in major British losses – over 1,000 British airmen and paragliders lost their lives there and now lie in the graveyard. The time of scattering the ashes coincided with the day, May 9, of the Dutch two minute silence. It was 8pm and as an eerie silence settled, birds began to sing.

The veterans will be transported by the charity, The London Taxi Benevolent Association for the War Disabled, in London Black Cabs to the KinoTeatr – which aptly is an atmospheric restored cinema dating from 1913 and was bombed during World War II.

The film will be screened as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. After the screening, Janet and St Leonards based pianist, Robert Connelly will be joined around the piano by some of the veterans and cabbies who appear in the film – for some good old-fashioned wartime songs and Cockney favourites. 1940’s fancy dress is optional.

The event includes a pre-screening talk by anthropologist Gemma Aellah and a Q&A with the filmmaker, Janet Hodgson.

Return of the Liberators is at Kino-Teatr, 43-53 Norman Rd, St Leonards-on-sea TN38 0EQ 
on Sunday 6 November, 5-8 pm. Tickets are free, but booking is essential.

Posted 17:04 Tuesday, Nov 1, 2016 In: Film

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