Priest who was WWI hero features in new film by local director

Priest who was WWI hero features in new film by local director

8 August 2018

A ground-breaking docudrama about a priest who was also a war hero is being released later this month.

The World War One based Bravery Under Fire is directed by award-winning Newcastle film maker Campbell Miller.

Campbell tells the tale of Fr Willie Doyle, a Jesuit priest from Dublin and chaplain in the 16th Irish Division, who lost his life saving others on Flanders Fields.

Disregarding the advice of his superiors and his own personal safety, he saved many lives, repeatedly going into no man’s land to drag soldiers back to safety.

Filmed in Ireland, London and Belgium, Bravery Under Fire is scheduled to air on television network EWTN during August.

“I accepted this project as I believe Fr Willie Doyle is a forgotten hero,” said Campbell. “While other soldiers have got the Victoria Cross for showing one act of bravery, Fr Doyle performed miraculous acts of bravery each day he was on the front line. In this secular age there is a lot to be learned from his actions.”

While Fr Doyle’s early life sets the stage, his story really comes to life after the outbreak of the First World War when the 42-year-old priest joined the British Army’s 16th Irish Division as a Catholic Chaplain.

“All denominations loved him and knew that he looked out for them,” said Campbell. “They knew no matter what happened, even if they were out in no man’s land and left for dead, Father Willie would go out for them.

“He did this time and time again. He would drag that soldier back if injured or, if they weren’t going to make it, would lie down beside them and give them the last rites.”

Campbell, who studied film at Ball State University in Indiana, brings to the project over 10 years of experience directing documentaries, receiving accolades in film festivals around the world. 

His award-winning films, Respite at Christmas and Family, were pivotal in EWTN selecting him as the director of this film.

Paying tribute to the man at the heart of his latest story, Campbell explained that all the soldiers wanted to be in Fr Willie’s dugout because it appeared that no-one who fought near him was killed. 

“However, that changed in August 1917 when he went out on the battlefield to rescue two men, and was caught in a mortar attack.

“Fr Willie always wanted to give the men that passed away a dignified Christian burial. It feels very odd that this could not be awarded to him because they never actually found his body. He was blown to bits.”

EWTN Global Catholic Network is the largest religious media network in the world, broadcasting seven days a week to over 275 million television households.

Following a private world premiere in Newcastle, Bravery Under Fire airs on EWTN Ireland/UK at 4pm on Sunday, August 12.