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Emily Watson: Grandmother inspired War Horse empathy

War Horse

Story by Rob Carnevale

EMILY Watson has paid tribute to her grandmother for helping her to gain a very personal insight into the feelings experienced by mothers, siblings and wives who are forced to watch their children go off to war.

Speaking at the London press conference for Steven Spielber’s War Horse earlier this week, the actress recalled the “very personal connection” to what it must have felt like to be on the home front.

She said: “When she was 12, her brother lied about his age. He was 17 and went off to war and was injured and died later in a German prisoner of war camp. But he sent a letter home saying he had just got a scratch and was fine, so not to worry about him, but please pay someone he owed a pound to, which was the last act in the honourable death of a 17-year-old.

“When I was in my mid-20s and she was in her 80s she talked about it for the very first time and showed me this letter, which she had kept, with his photograph and his medal by her bed for her entire life. And she sobbed her heart out as if it had been yesterday.

“And that single experience, sitting in her cottage in Dorset by the fire hearing this story, gave me the minutest glimpse into what must have been the most profound nationwide grief and loss because that story was replicated in every family across the land.”

Watson went on to say that she felt War Horse was a very timely film in ensuring that the memory of those sacrifices that were made during the First World War does not fade.

“Harry Patch was the last surviving British fighter from the First World War and he died last year and it [the war] is now leaving living memory, so that’s why I think this film is very timely because it shines a light again on that terrible conflict, which was so meaningless in a way that the Second World War wasn’t.”

Read our review of War Horse

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