70th Anniversary of VE Day

Date: 08/05/2015 11:28

With events across Europe marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day, we delve into the Digital Film Archive to look at Northern Ireland's contribution to the Allied war effort as depicted in newsreels, government and amateur films of the time.

The significance of Northern Ireland's role in World War II was highlighted by Winston Churchill who, in a 1943 letter to J.M. Andrews - the recently resigned Prime Minister of Northern Ireland - stated, '(but) for the loyalty of Northern Ireland... we should have been confronted with slavery and death, and the light which now shines so strongly throughout the world would have been quenched'. Ulster At Arms shows how local industries were adapted to assist the war effort, with the film placing great emphasis upon the efforts of the factory workers, particularly female workers - albeit we do not get to hear their voices. Instead the narrator - a middle-class, RP voice-over - speaks on their behalf.

Meanwhile, this rare piece of film from RMC Media Partnership highlights the human contribution to the Allied forces, showing a World War II army parade and recruitment drive in Northern Ireland.

And, finally, Letter From Ulster, is a 'story documentary' that looks at the experience in Northern Ireland of American G.I.'s - so called as their equipment and military issue clothing was stamped GI 'General Issue'. By June 1944, there were some 120,000  G.I.'s in the North - about one-tenth of the local population - each of whom was given a handbook to prepare them for their time here. The handbook dispensed the following sage advice: "There are two excellent rules of conduct for the American abroad. They are good rules anywhere, but they are particularly important in Ireland: (1) Don't argue religion (2) Don't argue politics."

Directed by the great Northern Irish filmmaker, Brian Desmond Hurst, Letter From Ulster is a curious hybrid in which actual locations and real soldiers provide the backdrop to a fictional story. The film tells of two brothers - Don and Willy Carver - American G.I.'s who are told by their Colonel to write a 10-page letter home. Their letter - and discussion about its composition - becomes the source of the film's voice-over, as they comment upon their experiences since arriving in Northern Ireland.

 

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