18 July 2017

CWGC's Richard Groom shares his red carpet experience at the Dunkirk premiere

The Commission's Service Delivery Manager Richard Groom and Assistant Historian Max Dutton were on the red carpet last week for the world premiere of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Here Richard shares his experience, and thoughts on the film depicting the campaign which became one of the most remarkable episodes of the Second World War.


"On a pleasantly warm evening, Max Dutton and I, ventured up to The Odeon in Leicester Square, London, to see the hotly-anticipated world premiere of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Max was looking for that detailed and faithfully accurate portrayal of the allied forces’ descent into despair and the desperate need to be evacuated and escape the catastrophic results of Operation Dynamo as the German forces cut off and surrounded them. While, I was looking for big explosions and hopefully a selfie with Harry Styles.

I don’t think either of us expected the stellar circus that greeted us when we pushed our way through the crowds and stepped onto the famous red carpet.

Hastened on by a bewildering number of security staff and the need to clear the carpet for Prince Harry, we were ushered past the screaming fans. As we approached the BBC interview stage I could see Max preparing himself, but no, apparently One Direction trumps military history and we were swept on to our final descent, down into the stalls of the Odeon Cinema.

As we took our seats, the atmosphere was jubilant, but expectant as live footage of Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, Christopher Nolan, to name but a few, was streamed onto the big screen. All of a sudden the crowd became captivated by Prince Harry’s arrival and subsequent journey along the red carpet. As the Prince was passed along the cast line up, handshake by handshake, the anticipation in the cinema noticeably heightened. It was almost here, it was almost time to start.

The live feed was cut, and a curtain closed in front of the cinema screen.

Somewhat randomly, Edith Bowman appeared and introduced the head of Warner Brothers in the UK (probably a Warner cousin).

He then introduced the cast…just look on IMDB or Wikipedia, or just wait for the Oscar nominations to come out – they’ll all be there.


As the applause subsided we were left with Christopher Nolan’s final words, “I won’t say ‘enjoy’ the film as that doesn’t feel appropriate. Please experience the film,” and Max and I did just that.

It was a visceral, sonic assault that rarely let up on the tension. The action scenes were punctuated by occasional minutes of calm and stoic dialogue from a haunted looking Kenneth Branagh. There were moments of bravery and quiet sacrifice presented alongside wholesale slaughter, with a rare triumphant note at the end of the film, savagely undercut as the camera blurred and faded out.

You have to see it and experience it for yourselves, I am not going to ruin it for you. See it at a cinema where the constant bassline and screams of the dive bombers will leave you jangled and on edge.

As we left the cinema we paused to watch a number of veterans get thunderous applause from all but the most jaded paparazzi. Even a protester with a megaphone became silenced for these men, as the reality they presented cut through all that celebrity glitz and glamour. The crowd said thank you in the only way it knew how."

Latest News

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is helping those who cannot make the annual pilgrimage to Normandy to pay tribute to the Second World War dead. Every year veterans and relatives return to CWGC’s cemeteries in France to remember those killed on D-Day and the pivotal battles of 1944. In today’s unique circumstances tributes will instead be laid by our gardeners on behalf of those who cannot travel.

Travel advisory and other information surrounding Covid-19 and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Last updated 15 May 2020.

An appeal for relatives is a search to locate the next of kin for soldiers who fell in war. Could you be connected to any of these individuals?