Kent filmmaker dedicates new WW1 movie to 'tragic story' of long lost great-grandfather

  • ITV Meridian's Megan Samrai visits the cast and crew of Somme 16 at their set in Hawthorne Trench, Elham

A quiet farm in Kent is currently the set for a new film depicting what life was like in the trenches during World War One.

Hawthorne Trench in Elham is a network of reconstructed trenches being used for Kent Independent Films' project Somme 16, hoping to portray the everyday life of soldiers, rather than the violence they endured.

Writer and Director Steve Davis, from Romney Marsh also wants to show what life was like for the wives, girlfriends and mothers back home.

He said: "I want to try and show the worry that they had, the concern they had for their loved ones. I can't begin to think what that would have been like, so I want to try and portray that.

"I want to educate in any way I can as well as get other people thinking 'wow how would I feel if my loved one was away fighting, you know, what would I do if I was in a trench.' It was just hell on earth at that time."

The film was inspired by Steve's great grandfather, who was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme.

Albert Ernest Peeke was a Private in the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, who died on the battlefield during the first day for the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, on September 16, 1916.

Albert Ernest Peeke died on September 16, 1916 during the first day for the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

The film focuses on four key points during Albert's time in the Somme from the first day of the battle until his death, along with scenes in the UK depicting the soldiers' loved ones.

The role of Albert is being played by actor Matt Thompson from Gravesend.

He said: "Steve is a close friend of mine and he approached me to play the role of his great grandfather. And there was a privilege in that because it's such a personal story to Steve that he entrusted that role to me. The gravity of a role like that is something you don't take for granted.

"You take pride in the fact that your home county has so much to offer when it comes to film and there's a great scene emerging here I think from both independent and other emerging studios.

"But you have to try and find, within that beauty, you have to find the horrors of it as well when it comes to war. It's been great, but at the same time it's been harrowing."

Capturing Albert’s story on screen meant Steve could create a lasting record of his family’s history, when much of it was unknown to his adopted grandmother, who passed away in 1997.

Steve's Grandmother Diana Arras Peeke passed away in 1997 and knew very little about her birth parents.

The filmmaker said: "It's really emotional, but it's nice to now know who my great grandad was. You know, my nan did have a dad and parents that cared for her. It's sort of closure in a way, I just wish my nan could see the information that I've found.

"It's just like proof that she was loved and she was there, and when I found that photograph of him for the first time through looking for Paris records, it was so moving to put a face to the name.

"I just wish I could show my nan that photograph and say look nan, you are loved."

Capturing not only Steve's family history, Somme 16 aims to shine a light on a whole generation of men who were sent to war.