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School screens film about bravery of ‘forgotten’ fighters led by Norfolk war hero

PUBLISHED: 15:45 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:45 25 February 2020

Hugh Seagrim received the George Cross for his leadership of Karen tribespeople in fighting the Japanese in the Burmese jungle. Picture: Archant Library

Hugh Seagrim received the George Cross for his leadership of Karen tribespeople in fighting the Japanese in the Burmese jungle. Picture: Archant Library

Archant

A film that highlights the bravery of one of Norfolk’s most gallant war heroes is to be screened at his former school.

Former Burmese member of the Royal Artillery, David Daniel, 93, in his old dress uniform in film Forgotten Allies. Picture: Grammar ProductionsFormer Burmese member of the Royal Artillery, David Daniel, 93, in his old dress uniform in film Forgotten Allies. Picture: Grammar Productions

Hugh Seagrim received the George Cross for his leadership of Karen tribespeople in fighting the Japanese in the Burmese jungle during the Second World War.

His valiant deeds form an integral part of the Forgotten Allies, a film that tells the story of the thousands of men from Burma who gave their lives fighting a brutal guerrilla war.

A special Q&A screening with award-winning filmmaker Alex Bescoby, who directed the documentary, will take place at the Norwich School on Thursday, February 27 at 6.30pm. One of the houses at the school is still named after former pupils Hugh and his brother Derek.

When the Japanese invaded Burma, Seagrim - who was nicknamed 'Grandfather Longlegs' - was given the task of raising irregular guerrilla forces from the Karens and other groups. He led them in a campaign of sabotage against the occupation and enjoyed much support from Karen civilians despite a series of brutal Japanese reprisal killings against villages.

War memorial, with Hugh Seagrim's name on it, in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Mary's, Whissonsett.
 Picture: Ian BurtWar memorial, with Hugh Seagrim's name on it, in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Mary's, Whissonsett. Picture: Ian Burt

MORE: Remembering the sacrifice of true hero Hugh Seagrim GC

His force was gradually wiped out by a concentrated Japanese manhunt. To prevent further bloodshed Seagrim surrendered himself to the Japanese forces on 15 March 1944. He and eight of his Karen companions were executed by the Japanese on 22 September 1944 in Rangoon.

The film follows a group seeking to track down the handful of veterans in Burma, now Myanmar, who fought alongside the British and whose bravery helped secure the Allied victory in Asia during the Second World War.

Forgotten Allies director Alex Bescoby, left, on location with a veteran in Burma. Picture: Grammar ProductionsForgotten Allies director Alex Bescoby, left, on location with a veteran in Burma. Picture: Grammar Productions

The film screening is being held to help raise money for Help 4 Forgotten Allies (H4FA), a charity which provides financial and practical support to veterans of the Second World War living in Burma/Myanmar.

Director Alex Bescoby said: "Only a handful of veterans remain alive today in Burma, and I was determined that they should get the recognition they deserve before it's too late. Hence why we wanted to make this film.

Hugh Seagrim on hjis brother Derek featured on the Whissonsett village sign. Picture: Ian BurtHugh Seagrim on hjis brother Derek featured on the Whissonsett village sign. Picture: Ian Burt

"I am delighted to showcase it at Norwich School and hopefully raise funds for a very worthy cause that supports veterans. After the Allied victory, Burma sank into isolation, dictatorship and civil war, and Britain forgot the bravery of these men. This film will hopefully help to remind people of their heroism."

Hugh Seagrim was born in Hampshire but moved in childhood to Norfolk when his father became rector of Whissonsett-with-Horningtoft. He and his brother Derek, who was awarded the VC for his own wartime bravery, are recognised on the village sign in Whissonsett, near Dereham.

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