To mark the centenary on November 11th 2018 of the armistice of World War One, Seaford Community Cinema was pleased to offer one of the special commemorative events that took place in the town throughout Remembrance Sunday. These included projections by Seaford-based company Filmspot featuring animated poppy sequences, rolling names and photos of local soldiers; installations and an exhibition of artefacts at the Crypt Gallery; and, come evening, St Leonard’s Church bell ringers joining others around the country in a coordinated ring.
The cinema’s contribution was a showing at 4pm with added extras of the very well-received film of 2017 Journey’s End starring Sam Claflin, Paul Bettany and Asa Butterfield. Hard-hitting and extremely affecting, this is a screen version of the original play of 1928 by RC Sherriff, based on his own experience of life as an officer in the trenches, having fought himself at Vimy Ridge and Loos and suffered severe injuries at Passchendaele.
In the cinema foyer before the film a display was set up, bunting pinned to the walls and trays of fairy cakes with poppy wafers were prepared for audience members on arrival:
Many of us present had in mind relatives who had fought in the war. You’ll see lying flat on the table in the above picture one of the famous ‘death pennies’, bronze plaques of condolence which were sent to the families of servicemen killed in the First World War. This one is a family memento brought to the event along with photographs of relatives by our SCC Chair Paula Ross who opened the evening with a short introduction
Paula recalled her grandfather’s service, his wounding in action, subsequent blackouts and the silence he observed on the subject of the war that was so characteristic of all who fought in this conflict. She mentioned the fact that PTSD was barely recognised in the early part of the last century though is now a fully acknowledged condition, particularly associated with war experience.
Paula then moved on to introduce our special guest, Seaford-based Corporal Dan Phillips who recently saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan but sustained serious spinal cord injury in 2012 while under fire in Helmand Province.
Many of us were struck by how adeptly Dan winched himself from his wheelchair to a sitting position on stage and that he looked so extremely fit. This is because of the intensive training he underwent post-recovery to take part in the Invictus Games in Sydney this year where he won a silver medal in the Men’s IR4 Four-Minute Endurance heat. Dan spoke of his army experience and his struggles after medical discharge to deal with anxiety and flashbacks. Professional help has enabled him over time to control the stress; he learnt to scuba dive and eventually a range of other sports, benefiting from looking after both his physical as well as mental health.
After Dan’s talk the lights went down for a short film before the showing of Journey’s End in which the Brighton poet Tommy Sissons read his poem specially commissioned for the centenary of Armistice Day. Against black and white footage Our Children Will Inhabit a Wilderness features Sissons as a young WW1 soldier telling his story of call-up, of camaraderie and action in the trenches against an ‘invisible enemy’ and the feelings of desolation when back home again at the war’s end.
The evening ended on a sombre note after the screening of Journey’s End, the audience on exit quiet and visibly moved. But quite a few commented that while the film was extremely disturbing, it was important to face the reality of the trenches to understand exactly what the men who fought went through. Dan’s presence at the event was much appreciated, not least in the foyer afterwards where many remained to take the chance of a word with him.