Wellington woman Anna Cottrell has an enduring passion for keeping war stories alive.
Cottrell directs and produces Great War Stories, a series of short documentaries that will begin airing its fourth series on Newshub this week.
Cottrell believes it is important for these stories to be told.
“The effect of war on families is huge,” she says. “It casts a terrible shadow over some families for generations”.
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Her interest in war stories began during her previous longer-form documentaries, Children of Gallipoli and The Last of the Anzacs.
By researching and sharing stories like this, Cottrell hopes to portray the impact war can have on entire families, including future generations.
She tells of one family where four brothers never returned home.
“Can you imagine losing four brothers?”.
It is interesting for families to share stories about older generations who may no longer be present, she says.
“Letters, diaries, stories handed down, provide a window into the hearts and minds of those living through those turbulent times … you can bring them to life”.
Great War Stories is not a celebration of war, but rather a commemoration of what people went through, Cottrell says.
She recalls the story of one young man who received a white feather – the symbol of cowardice – in his letterbox during the Second World War. The man was a veteran of World War I, during which he lost a leg.
“These are less well-known stories … stories that have never been told.”
Many of the stories are only known within the families.
Response to the fourth edition of Great War Stories has been terrific so far, Cottrell says.
“People have been incredibly enthusiastic and moved.”
During a preview screening for family, cast and crew, the audience burst into applause when it was announced the series would air before the sports section of the news, marking its importance.
Cottrell describes the stories as poignant, tragic and surprising.
“It is a real privilege to be able to tell these families’ stories and to be able to shine a light on these people,” she says.
* The fourth series of mini documentaries, narrated by Newshub’s Mike McRoberts, will begin screening on Newshub on April 19 and run until Anzac Day April 25