Bravery Under Fire, a docudrama feature on the life of Irish WWI Jesuit chaplain Fr Willie Doyle, will have a special screening in the Vatican on 12th October to an invited audience of senior clergy and Catholic leaders.
The film, directed by Co Down Director Campbell Miller, tells the story of Fr Willie Doyle, a WWI chaplain from Dublin who served and died ministering to the fallen in 1917 in Ypres, Belgium. It will be shown at a private screening in the Vatican.
Fr Doyle SJ served with the British Army in Passchendaele, ministering to soldiers of all faith and none including German prisoners and casualties, showing incredible faith and a heroic disregard for his own safety.
Fr Willie Doyle went into No Man’s Land to the assistance of two officers who were dying, Second Lieutenant Arthur Green from Co Down and Second Lieutenant Charles Marlow, a former captain of the King’s Hospital School cricket team.
According to one account, Doyle, who served with the 16th Irish Division alongside the Ulster 36th Division, was anointing one of the men when a shell burst among them and killed them all including Pte John Meehan, a previous winner of the Military Medal, who had taken shelter there. Their bodies were never recovered from the battlefield.
Campbell Miller says that Fr Doyle had made repeated forays into the battlefield and No Man’s land to give the last rites to the wounded and dying. “Ironically for a man who sought Christian burial for battlefield casualties he lost his own life trying to save others and his body was never recovered,” he adds. “He was revered by Soldiers in the Irish 16th Division but also by the men in the largely Protestant 36th Division. We can only imagine the horror experienced as Fr Doyle ministered in the mud, decay, destruction and terror of unexploded shells and incoming fire.”
The film’s director believes it is a ‘remarkable achievement’ to have the film shown in the Vatican. “We are delighted and very honoured to be invited to show this docudrama in the Vatican to a such a high profile audience. And we feel the assembled guest list does justice to the memory of Fr Doyle.”
The Belfast director, cast and crew, got to know Fr Doyle very well over time working on the documentary, he says. “He was a man of incredible courage and bravery under fire. His selflessness and humanity towards his fellow man was astonishing and we found it very humbling to bring the story to life in a film. So now to take it to Rome does justice to Fr Willie and his fallen comrades. Men of all faith and none were consoled by his love and compassion in their darkest and most terrifying moments.”
Bravery Under Fire has already screened to a worldwide audience on EWTN and had its Irish premiere in Newcastle, Co Down in August. Barney McGuckian SJ who features in the film, attended the event. “It’s a marvelous documentary,”according to Barney who says, “The awful scenes of bombs exploding and men dying in such horror are powerfully portrayed in the film, some of which was shot in the mountains of Mourne.”
As well as Ireland the production was also filmed on location in Belgium with trench scenes painstakingly recreated and filmed in the depths of winter to attempt to replicate the harrowing conditions on the front line.
One spellbinding and heartrending account describes the Jesuit offering mass for the dead surrounded by the unburied corpses of soldiers, comrades he had served with.
Watch the trailer here.