ONE FAMILY’S WWI STORY THAT INSPIRED STAGE SHOW
Fromelles, France July 19 1916 – a battle less renowned than Gallipoli, it is the bloodiest 24 hours in our nation’s history with a shocking 5,533 Australians paying the ultimate sacrifice.
Adelaide, Australia July 19 2016 – Adelaide’s, Lane Hinchcliffe pays tribute to the bloody story of Fromelles at Her Majesty’s Theatre in a special theatrical event combining original music and poetry, audio visuals and storytelling. Behind The Front,written and produced by Hinchcliffe, features a number of local artists, with insights on the battle from high school students, as well as an appearance by the Keswick Army Barracks Cadets. The stories, visuals and music are sure to move, educate and stir many emotions – pass the tissues!
Behind the Front also explores the story behind Hinchcliffe’s inspiration to write his highly acclaimed musical based on Fromelles called The Front, which debuted at the 2015 Cabaret Festival. Both The Front and Behind the Front were also inspired by his own family’s stories and memories of those lost in the great war in France.
‘Behind the Front’ – Her Majesty’s Theatre, on the 100 year anniversary of Fromelles, 19 July 2016 – book at BASS. It will be emotionally charged, contemplative and expose the horrors of that day in France exactly 100 years ago. It will invite the audience to reflect upon that day, consider the horrors faced by the bravest of our brave and show respect for and pay tribute to the 5533 Australians who gave their lives that day.
Several years ago, Dr Lane Hinchcliffe GP took time out from his medial career to finally complete The Front, a musical 13 years in the making. Inspired initially by a series of letters between a young man at war in France, and Lane’s great grandmother. Hinchcliffe truly captured the emotions and stories of those at war and those left behind.
A family torn apart by war – the story that inspired The Front as told by Dr Lane Hinchcliffe…
I have 2 generations of family members who served – my great grandfather Rupert Holloway (and his brother Harold) served in WWI. My grandfather Keith (Rupert’s son-in-law) served in New Guinea in WWII.
Rupert met and married my great-grandmother Alicia after they met in Canada (she was Canadian) at the end of WW1
During the Great War, Alicia would often write to soldiers through the Red Cross. One such soldier was the son of a family friend, a boy called Private Dyson. We believe (based on content in the original letters we have between Alicia and Private Dyson) that they never actually met.
She wrote to him out of kindness and out of the blue and surprised him with a parcel that contained knitted socks, candles, chocolate, fruit cakes (based on the letters we have where he has thanked her).
The letters we have are about 4-5 pages long each, all of them are his except for one final letter from her. Tragically, this is the last letter she wrote him – it was sent in May, appears to have arrived at Western Front in June – July by which time he had been killed in action. The letter was returned to her with KIA (Killed in Action) scribbled across the front of it.
At end of the war, many Australians returned home via Canada including my great-grandfather Rupert Holloway. We believe he had met private Dyson in France and therefore knew of Alicia from her “famous packages and letters”.
Rupert had his own tragedies to deal with having recently lost his own brother Harold right at the end of the war, at Hamel.
Rupert met Alicia in Canada where he stayed only a few weeks but apparently told her that he would “marry her if she came to Australia”. He left Canada the next day and she was on ship 2 weeks later – she never went back.
Together, they had one daughter Elaine (my grandmother) who married my grandfather Keith.
The Holloway family were severely affected by WWI. Of the three siblings (Rupert, Harold and Inez), Rupert was the only one to ever have children and a single child at that.
Inez lost her fiancé during the war as well as her brother Harold and she never married. Harold was a single man when he was killed. Their mother it would appear never recovered for the shock and heartbreak of losing a son and potential son in law – we only recently came to understand that she spent years in an asylum after the war. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing for me, having known my family to always have been very religious, was discovering in 2011 that Harold’s mother had apparently requested only one thing after he died – that no crucifix was to be put on his gravestone at Villers Bretonneux.
When almost all the gravestones have a cross (Harold’s is the only one ever not included at the family request), this is very symbolic of his mother’s pain as it suggests she lost her faith. Can’t really blame her!
Alicia died very young and never met her grandchildren (including my father Geoff who was born in 1955). We were certainly told by my late grandparents and their friends (who knew her) that she was an incredibly kind and beautiful soul.
Incidentally, when I wrote The Front, I wrote a story that was based around a family with 4 generations of men spanning 1916 – 2010. Although the characters were themselves fictitious, the family name is Holloway – a tribute to my own family and reminder that they will never be forgotten.
Keith and Rupert are the names of other characters in the story.
Transcripts of the three letters are available – the originals are with Lane Hinchcliffe
‘The Front’ Reviews
It’s a good sign when an hour-long show seems to flash by, as this did, in a fraction of the time. — The Advertiser
His powerful and expressive voice, excellent piano style and irresistible story make the evening’s entertainment all too short and not to be missed. — In Daily
A show that is as near perfect as one can get. — Adelaide Theatre Guide