World War 2 family film raises funds for the Poppy Appeal

Anna Littler at the grave of her Great Great Uncle Private Harney, a World War 1 hero from Lancaster.

Anna Littler at the grave of her Great Great Uncle Private Harney, a World War 1 hero from Lancaster.

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To commemorate Remembrance Day, family historian and filmmaker Anna Littler unveiled two wartime projects paying tribute to heroes who died in World War 1 and World War 2, including a family member from Lancaster.

Anna, born and bred in Lancashire, launched nationally the DVD of her heart-warming family drama, Blitz & Bananas, to coincide with this year’s Remembrance Weekend.

This nostalgic and educational community film, which began as a tribute to her great uncles who served in World War 2 and is based on people’s wartime memories, has been described by Emma and Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) as “an adorable film”.

“Even as a child, Remembrance Day was important to me,” she said.

“Watching the service on television, I’d ponder over the loss of a great uncle in World War 2 and my Grandpa’s inability to speak about his time as a Prisoner of War, and I would wait for that incredibly moving moment when all the poppies fell.”

Fascinated by the past, Anna has gathered family recollections since childhood and, now in her forties, her passion for preserving history has led her to find a creative outlet for sharing some of these funny and moving stories of wartime sacrifice.

Blitz & Bananas began as a community project where Anna invited people to share their wartime memories.

The project mushroomed as 150 volunteers (aged from one month to 91 years) offered to get involved mostly from Lancashire, London, Kent and Yorkshire.

They were privileged to have popular TV actor Brian Murphy (George & Mildred, Last of the Summer Wine) and actor/crimewriter Linda Regan (Hi-de-Hi!) lead the cast.

Blitz & Bananas is about a brave little girl, two evacuees, an RAF pilot, a Prisoner of War and ... a banana!

Four-year-old Bessie Smiley decides to do ‘War Work’ but her ‘Secret Operation’ brings her face-to-face with the grumpiest old man in town – the Grumpy Old Granddad, played brilliantly by Brian Murphy.

It developed into a feature-length film which attracted 1,500 people to the sold-out premiere at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, Kent, near to where Anna presently lives.

This authentic period drama soon attracted enquiries from around the UK, so the team is excited to now promote it nationally.

With the involvement of the Royal British Legion, the film is raising funds for the Poppy Appeal.

The DVD is being newly released with optional subtitles, generously funded by Bromley Chain, a charity assisting deaf people.

It can be bought online at www.blitzandbananas.com – the DVD costs £12 (+£2 P&P per item) or you can buy by post to Anna Littler, BBLG, 28 Gumping Rd, Orpington, Kent, BR5 1RX. Cheques payable to Anna Littler.

Anna recently visited Ypres in Belgium to lay poppies and red Lancashire roses on the World War 1 grave of her Great Great Uncle, Private Harney, who was from Bridge Lane, Lancaster, and who died in Ypres.

This emotional visit was also her first research trip for a new project, Poppies & Clogs, a script for a children’s story set in Lancashire and Belgium during World War 1.

It’s partly based on her grandmother’s mysterious childhood in Lancaster and will focus on children whose fathers were serving in Flanders.

Anna is again keen to complement her findings with stories from others.

She said: “People often think no one’s interested in their memories – but I am!

“Few people remain who remember the World War 1 era, though some may have had stories and materials passed down to them. I’m passionate about collecting memories for future generations before they’re forgotten.”

Anna’s new story will focus on children (whose fathers have gone to serve in World War 1) so she is now looking for copies of diaries, letters or stories including these themes: suffragettes, changing role of women, childhood, flu epidemic, mills, mines, workhouse, etc.

She is also keen to hear from anyone related to Harneys or McCardles from the Lancaster area in the hope of solving some World War 1 era family mysteries!

Contact AnnaHopeLittler@yahoo.co.uk, 07757 162114 or write to the above address.