Sunday, 25 October 2015

Legacies of War - Dawn, Hyde Park Picture House - My personal thoughts

(Accessed from

I had the opportunity to attend this screening of Dawn on the 24th October.  Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds is the only venue in the UK to screen this unique silent film. I felt privileged and it gave me an opportunity to know more about Edith Cavell, a heroine and martyr, depending one one's view point. I'm intrigued about Cavell after seeing a mountain named after her in Canada and seeing her memorial in London.

Cavell, a British nurse, was executed on the 12th October 1915 in Brussels.  The reason for her execution was aiding the escape of Allied soldiers in German-occupied Brussels. 

Firstly experts gave presentations about Cavell and the surrounding circumstances.  It is agreed that Cavell became a focal point in public conciousness from that point until today, the centenary of her death.  There are different versions of the nurse's death and her persona was and is carried out throughout particularly in pro-war propaganda.

This silent film is produced by Herbet Wilcox, a war veteran,  Dawn initially didn't go down well particularly with the German Embassy, British Foreign Office, the War Cabinet and British Board of film censors.  It was then considered distasteful and questioned its historical accuracy.  Therefore it was banned but eventually the ban was circumvented and screened in local cinemas.

Dawn, starring Sybil Thorndike, was accompanied by live piano, played by Darius Battiwalla.  The credible film gave a humane and realistic perspective about Cavell in her nursing duties and how she cared for everyone including her enemies in her care.  Certainly contradicts the propaganda carried out in World War I.  It was an excellent screening which draws the legacy of Edith Cavell. Further information about the work Legacies of War and Gateways to the First World War do can be found here.

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