Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

War film to help understanding

The plight of Australian prisoners of war will be commemorated next week at a special screening of the powerful film The Railway Man.

MONIQUE FREER March 12, 2014 9:22am

Time to reflect: Benalla RSL appeals officer Alan Ould, Benalla RSL life member Norman Davis, State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes, Benalla RSL president Jeff Lewis and Benalla RSL member Max Wright at the ‘Weary’ Dunlop memorial.

The plight of Australian prisoners of war will be commemorated next week at a special screening of the powerful film The Railway Man.

State Member for Benalla Bill Sykes has initiated special screenings of the movie at Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre as a community fundraiser for the Benalla RSL and an opportunity for students to see the film.

‘‘This is an extremely evocative film about the horrors of war, post-war suffering, forgiveness and friendship,’’ Dr Sykes said.

‘‘The film is based on the book by Eric Lomax which tells of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war working on the Burma-Siam railway, and the story has many parallels with our local Benalla ‘Weary’ Dunlop story.’’

Benalla RSL president Jeff Lewis said the purpose of the screenings was to educate all age groups about the history of prisoners of war.

‘‘The amount of Australian personnel that were POWs and didn’t return to their families — it should be explained to the population from students up what really happened in the war years,’’ Mr Lewis said.

All Years 10, 11 and 12 students from Benalla P-12 College and FCJ College will attend a screening of the film on Thursday, March 20, and the community is invited to attend the fundraising screening on Friday, March 21.

‘‘I encourage as many people as possible to make the most of this opportunity to see this movie, which reinforces that the freedom we enjoy today was paid for by immeasurable suffering by many of our servicemen and women and their families,’’ Dr Sykes said.

Before the community fundraising screening, members of Benalla RSL will share their experiences as servicemen.

Benalla RSL life member Norman Davis said every day something reminded him of his experiences as an air gunner in World War II.

‘‘I don’t think many people realise that post-traumatic stress is part of war experiences, and that’s what we’re trying to get through to people who are coming from the Middle East and Iraq wars — that it affects their mental attitude,’’ Mr Davis said.

Benalla RSL appeals officer Alan Ould said the film would help increase the understanding of what locals went through during times of war.

‘‘I hope that they get a real appreciation of what happened to our POWs, including many from this district,’’ he said.

The screenings coincide with new digital technology installed at BPACC, and The Railway Man will be one of the first films screened with this state-of-the-art equipment.

The community fundraising screening will begin at 7pm; tickets are $25, or $20 each for a group booking of 10, including light supper on arrival and a complimentary drink.

Tickets are available from Bill Sykes’ electorate office, 2/55 Carrier St Benalla between 9am and 4pm Monday to Friday. For more information phone 57622100.

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