Victoria filmmaker preserves stories of WWII veterans
Victoria veteran Horace “Gerry” Gerrard was in the Battle of Hong Kong, in which Canadians were trying to help protect the then British colony from a Japanese invasion. (Eric Brunt)
Published Thursday, June 13, 2019 4:26PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 13, 2019 5:42PM PDT
After dozens of interviews with Second World War veterans, Victoria filmmaker Eric Brunt thought he had some idea of what they had gone through.
But, it wasn’t until he stood in their footprints in the sand on Juno Beach to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day that it really hit home.
“It’s pretty surreal to now actually be in the places that they talked about especially being there at Juno Beach and having heard some of the stories of the men who landed there,” said Brunt, speaking to CTV News from his hotel in Paris.
Brunt travelled across Canada collecting the stories of WWII veterans. Of the 37 who attended the D-Day ceremonies, Brunt had interviewed 22 of them before.
Sharing the anniversary with them was poignant, he said, but some of the most amazing moments happened in the following days, far from official events.
Brunt went to a cemetery with a veteran from Alberta who tracked down the grave of someone from his regiment.
“He laid a poppy at their tombstone and got pretty emotional," said the 26-year-old UBC film school graduate.
Brunt started his quest to document veterans’ experiences after his grandfather, who was in the air force, passed away.
Brunt realized no one in his family had ever recorded or written down his stories about the Second World War, so he decided to film as many of the histories as possible.
One of his first interviews was among the most memorable, it was with Victoria veteran Horace “Gerry” Gerrard.
Gerrard had been in the Battle of Hong Kong, in which Canadians were trying to help protect the then British colony from a Japanese invasion.
When the Japanese won the battle, Gerrard became a prisoner of war for over three years.
“I think he was under 100 pounds when the war finally finished, said Brunt. "I interviewed him when he was 96 years old in his little apartment just outside of Victoria – just this incredible man with some incredible stories of resilience."
As part of Brunt’s project he is giving a copy of the full interviews to every veteran he spoke with so their families can pass them down through the generations.
He plans to release his feature-length film in 2020, which is also the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.
Brunt’s documentary will be called Last One Standing.
He said he was sad to hear Gerrard passed away on May 22, leaving just seven Hong Kong veterans alive in Canada, hammering home Brunt’s motivation for his documentary.
“These stories of his own sacrifice and these men that he was with, their sacrifice, is now preserved onto film,” said Brunt.
“I was very grateful and honoured to be able to capture his story.”