War Time 1939-1940

Archive: Screen Archive South East
ID No.: 1705
Title: War Time 1939-1940
Date: 1939-1940
Film-maker: Geoffrey Price Gowlland; Amy Mary (Peggy) Gowlland
Colour: Black & White
Sound: silent
Duration of complete item: 11 min. 16 sec.
Themes: Children in War-time; Home & Family Life; Women's Role


Domestic scenes of everyday life for the Gowlland family in Croydon during the first few months of the Second World War; signs of the war begin to emerge in everyday life.


Filmed during the first few months of the Second World War, the film begins by showing the newly erected signs directing people to air raid shelters around the town. Close-ups of ration books, identity cards and government-issue information cards are shown. Friends and family pose in the garden; Mrs Gowlland poses in a nurse's uniform and a man in a civil defence uniform puts a gas mask on. A parade of civil defence wardens march along the street. Inside the family house Mr Gowlland and his young daughter Rosemary carry blackout boards to cover the windows.

The Gowlland's new born baby, John, is weighed then handed to his sister to hold. Mrs Gowlland and her daughter Rosemary push prams in the garden. Domestic scenes follow, showing the young daughter washing dishes, dusting and playing.

A title reads: "Another White Christmas". Mother and daughter sweep snow from the front garden path, soldiers march past on the street behind them. Scenes of the family's Christmas at home include the family enjoying tea and the children playing with their presents. The last few scenes show the family enjoying a walk (Rosemary points out a sign 'Danger - Unexploded Bombs') and posing together with friends in the garden. There is a final brief shot of a woman looking out of a window at a row of motorcycles.


The Gowlland family films span the 1930s to the 1960s, offering a vivid portrait of family life. The well constructed films recorded the Croydon-based family across the decades, starting with the births of their three children and proceeding to follow them growing up during the Second World War. The films go on to cover family holidays, outings and local events in the post-war years, recording the children until the youngest son's wedding in the early 1960s.

Geoffrey Price Gowlland jointly ran the family business with his father in Croydon, where they produced medical and scientific instruments. His work at the business ensured that he was not called up for military service during the Second World War.

This example from the Gowlland collection is a neatly observed record of family life during the early days of the war. Evidence of the war begins to encroach on everyday scenes: directions in the street pointing the way to bomb shelters, ration books, identity cards, country walks with signs warning of unexploded bombs. The family's desire to carry on as normally as possible is evident, yet underpinned by a fascination with what was beginning to happen around them.

War Time 1939-1940

War Time 1939-1940

Play Clip


Windows Media Format
Low / Medium / High

Get Windows Media Player

MPEG4 format
Medium / High

Get Quicktime