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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Film tells how Annie, 100, befriended German POW

WHEN Annie Day talks, you cannot help but listen.

WAR STORY: Annie Day, 100, pictured in a still from the short film The German Who Came To Tea, produced and directed by Kerry Kolbe of Signal Films and Media, right

There is a twinkle in her eye and a timbre in her voice that makes the 100-year-old nothing short of mesmerising.

And all that charisma radiated from the screen during an eight-minute film that premiered in Barrow last month.

The German Who Came To Tea has Mrs Day recounting the remarkable connection she forged with a German prisoner of war.

Produced and directed by Kerry Kolbe, the director of Signal Films and Media, it received rapturous applause at its first public airing.

The film begins with Mrs Day, who now resides at the Risedale retirement home, asking the question: “Have you ever thought what a wonderful thing your memory is?”

From there she transports the viewer back to Barrow post Second World War when German prisoners were housed at the Earnse Bay camp.

The detainees were increasingly allowed to mix with the locals and one afternoon Mrs Day’s young son Brian asked if they could host two Germans for Christmas dinner that year.

“One was very, very tall and blonde – a typical German,” Mrs Day, who was in her 30s at the time, said. “But the other, Philipp Hammermann, was small.”

The Day family took an immediate shine to Philipp and after dinner they draped a plain coat over his uniform and took him to the cinema – the first of many such visits.

“It was a regular thing and when we’d come out we’d go to the chippy. And he did like fish and chips.”

A long way from home in a foreign land, Philipp asked Mrs Day to write to his mother in Germany to assure her he was well.

“You see, he’d written and told her he was alright, but she thought he was lying,” she said. “His poor mother, what if I’d not known where my son was for all that time?”

Philipp remained a part of the Days’ lives until he was relocated from Earnse Bay to a POW camp in the United States when they lost contact.

Thirty-five years passed without a word from Philipp until one day – in the early 1980s – her doorbell rang.

“We were just watching telly one night and the bell rang and I opened the door and just looked – and I looked again – and said ‘It’s Philipp!’ and I knew him, I just knew him,” she said.

“He went to the house where we used to live and the people knew where we lived, which was lucky.”

Mrs Day, whose husband passed away in 1981, reciprocated the visit and went to Germany to see Philipp and tour his homeland.

“It was a funny thing,” she said. “He took me to Cologne to get my plane and when I had to leave him to go on the plane, he got hold of me and he kissed me like a sweetheart.

“And I knew that that boy at that time had fallen in love with me. I just sensed it. Whether it was right I don’t know, but I had that feeling.”

It was the last time the two would ever see each other, with a heart condition claiming Philipp’s life not long after.

Miss Kolbe, 34, knew Mrs Day was a special person with a special story to tell the first time she met her.

“What I really like is that you can see on Annie’s face that she’s reliving all the emotions,” she said.

“I think older people often get pushed into the shadows and people think they haven’t got anything interesting to say, but Annie’s the opposite.

“She holds court and gets everybody’s attention because she’s so interesting and has such a great sense of humour.”

Miss Kolbe intends to enter The German Who Came To Tea in film festivals.

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