Wakefield film premiere – THE STORY OF NELLIE SPINDLER

Special premiere screening on 3rd July at theatre royal Wakefield.

A new educational film about Nellie Spindler, the young nurse from Wakefield who was killed at the Battle of Passchendaele in World War One, is set to be premiered in Wakefield on the evening of 3rd July. The film is called The Angel of Passchendaele.

Co-hosted by Wakefield Civic Society and Cardiff-Based film company Just Druid, the premiere, to be held at Theatre Royal Wakefield, will form part of an evening commemorating the 100th anniversary this year of the end of WWI.

Nellie Spindler was born in Wakefield in 1891. After leaving school, she trained to be a nurse, starting at Wakefield Fever Hospital. Later, she was to enlist with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1915 and she worked at Whittington Military Hospital, Lichfield. It is possible that she lied about her age to qualify to serve with the corps as there was an age requirement of 25 to join and, at the time she enrolled, Nellie was only 24.

In May 1917, Nellie travelled to Le Havre in France where she was stationed until July when she moved to Belgium and was posted to a Casualty Clearing Station No 44 at Brandhoek, just a few miles from the front line and within range of German guns. Being close to both a railway and a munitions dump, the area was a target for German bombing. On the morning of 21st August 1917, Nellie was hit by an exploding German shell and died 20 minutes later in the arms of Minnie Wood, another nurse from Wakefield. Nellie was buried in the Lijssenthoek War Graves Cemetery in Belgium with full military honours, the only woman to be buried there amongst over 10,000 men.

In November 2017, Wakefield Civic Society unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate Nellie’s life and this plaque is now located on a building in Stanley Road, Wakefield on the site where the Spindler family home would have stood. The unveiling was attended by Nellie’s niece, nephew and great niece.

Shortly afterwards, the Society was approached by Just Druid who wanted to make an educational film to be used in schools and military colleges to encourage young people to think about the implications of war and to encourage children to undertake research into their own local heroes from the war. As part of the new film, pupils from Pinders Primary School Wakefield (the school that Nellie would have attended) have undertaken such a project and their work will feature in the film.

The premiere, which will commence at 7.00 pm at Theatre Royal on Tuesday, 3rd July will also feature a live performance by pupils of Wakefield Girls’ High School, short presentations about Nellie’s life and the screening of another film by Just Druid – Futility. Set in 1917, it tells the story of 2nd Lt Glyn Morgan of the Royal Welch Fusiliers  who wrote a letter to his dad, the night before “Going over the Top”. The film also includes readings of letters also sent to Glyn’s father by Glyn’s comrades from the trenches. These are read by veterans of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan

The film ends with a series of remembrance projects by the pupils of Glyn Morgan’s old school- Pontypridd High School

Kevin Trickett, president of Wakefield Civic Society said “Usually, when we put up a blue plaque, that is more or less the end of the project for us and we move on to planning the next plaque so it was an intriguing idea to be approached by Just Druid who wanted to make a film about the subject of one of our plaques and we have been delighted to assist where we can. That the premiere will be held in Wakefield is an added bonus as it is bound to appeal to local people. We saw that there was huge interest in the blue plaque and the very poignant story of Nellie’s life and untimely death.”

Just Druid makes these educational films through their not-for-profit Just Druid Foundation. Chris Ready, Head of Production at Just Druid, explained “We only base our films on real people, who gave their lives in order to keep our country free. Our main purpose is to take these films arounds schools to inspire their pupils and teachers to find out and research their own local heroes who didn’t survive WWI, particularly as we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the War. We make these films because we believe it is so important for young people to learn about their history and to think about the impact of war.

“We would like to put on record the support we have had from local people in helping to make this project a reality and look forward to showing the film in Wakefield next week.”

Tickets for the premiere cost £10 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office, on-line, by phone or in person. Members of the Spindler family are expected to attend.

The premiere evening has been partly sponsored by Jordans Solicitors and Wakefield Civic Society.