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However, the family of one, Robert Crowder, had held his memory dear and had kept a remarkable archive of unpublished material.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 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.
Our film tells the story from the point of view of those left behind.