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Film revisits regiment's war

Brandon filmmaker and historian Graham Street introduces his latest documentary on the Westman-based XII Manitoba Dragoons at Brandon University’s Evans Theatre on Friday.

COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Brandon filmmaker and historian Graham Street introduces his latest documentary on the Westman-based XII Manitoba Dragoons at Brandon University’s Evans Theatre on Friday.

Marking Remembrance Day with a movie and popcorn?

Well, in this case it was appropriate given that the film was a documentary about the XII Manitoba Dragoons.

Filmmaker Graham Street retraced the path the regiment took as it helped liberate Europe in the Second World War.

In that sense, Street says, the film itself is a tribute to the liberty the soldiers helped to defend.

"Without the men from the XII Manitoba Dragoons, the footage that I capture of them now probably might not have been possible at this point if they hadn’t sacrificed what they did," Street said. "Because, who knows what the world would have been like?"

"Then and Now: Life in the Regiment" premiered on Friday at the Evans Theatre at Brandon University.

It took two years to make, and Street had the assistance of Shaun Cameron and Nate Bower.

Veterans of the regiment were among those in the audience for the 50-minute film’s premiere.

It’s now available to view as part of MTS’s Stories from Home programming.

MTS funded the film, which is free to all MTS Ultimate TV customers through video-on-demand.

The movie uses footage taken by members of the regiment themselves during the Second World War in Europe to create the "Then" aspect of the film.

While it shows some battle scenes, much of the footage shows life when the soldiers weren’t in the midst of fighting — from training near Virden to a liberation ceremony in Ostend, Belgium.

"It’s not Department of Defence footage, it is from the unit level, so it’s very, very authentic," Street said.

Street’s role was to provide the "Now" of "Then and Now." He followed the path of the XII Manitoba Dragoons through Europe and filmed footage in the same locations from the same angles to show how the areas look now.

In that way, past and present are connected and the movie shows the world made possible by the regiment’s efforts.

The regiment’s task was reconnaissance. They went ahead of the main allied force to scout German positions, then relayed what they found back to commanders to decide on a course of action.

Using quick armoured scout cars, sometimes they were days ahead of their fellow soldiers in the allied force behind.

As such, they were the first troops that liberated Europeans would see as the German army.

Former regiment member 93-year-old Jack Houston saw the film for the first time Friday.

Not only was he a subject of the film as one of the soldiers who served with the regiment, but he was also interviewed by Street for modern perspective.

The film showed mainly the better times of the regiment’s time in Europe, Houston said — not, for example, when 17 lives were lost in one day due to friendly fire.

But the film is a fitting tribute to the task that regiment members undertook on behalf of its government, he said.

"The film shows that it was a success," Houston said.

Houston said that he hoped the movie would help audiences appreciate the sacrifice he and his colleagues made.

"Just be thankful that we went and preserved the peace and harmony that we’ve enjoyed in this country for so long," Houston asked. "Every one of those men had their life on the line at any moment."

Bill Pierson, who is from the Eden area, was a member of the 12 Manitoba Dragoons in the 1960s as a reservist.

He marvelled at the footage taken during the war and said it made him proud to be a former regiment member and others should be pleased, too.

"They should be proud of it," Pierson said.

The XII Manitoba Dragoons Museum helped produce the film, and is located at the Brandon Armoury.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @IanHitchen

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 12, 2016

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Marking Remembrance Day with a movie and popcorn?

Well, in this case it was appropriate given that the film was a documentary about the XII Manitoba Dragoons.

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Marking Remembrance Day with a movie and popcorn?

Well, in this case it was appropriate given that the film was a documentary about the XII Manitoba Dragoons.

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