Rare colour footage of wartime West Country goes online

  • Watch Rob Murphy's report


Rare colour footage of the aftermath of a Nazi air attack on Bristol has been broadcast for the first time.

It was found by a Somerset film editor as part of a collection showing life in a village near the city in the late 1930s and 1940s.

It was filmed by a man who returned to Chew Magna after moving away to America years before.

Starting in 1938, it shows Ernest Fear meeting old school friends on a trip back from Kansas City, Missouri.

Mr Fear hired an early colour camera crew to record life in the village.

But the cameraman returned four years later when the village - and Bristol - were under attack by the Luftwaffe.

Life in Chew Magna 1938 Credit: Chew Valley Films

Ernest Fear was born above a butcher's show in 1872 but moved to the USA in the early 1900s.

He was filmed visiting an old school friend, the place of his birth and the church where records were held of his parents marriage and his birth.

The film also shows the working village water pump, and the Pelican Hotel, which still stands today.

Ernest Fear on his homecoming in 1938 Credit: 11032021_ERNESTFEAR_CHEWVALLEYFILMS

Film-maker Peter Brownlee was given the video ten years ago, but didn't know what to do with it until he came up with the idea for a Chew Valley YouTube channel in lockdown.

"My first thought was how little the buildings have changed," said Mr Brownlee.

"But the people I was meeting, these wonderful characters, the postman in his amazing postman's hat, who apparently cycled to Pensford every morning to collect and then brought it all the way back to Chew Magna (A seven-mile round-trip).

"But he was also the saddler. He made saddles and harnesses."

Chew Magna's postman, 1938 Credit: 11032021_POSTMAN_CHEWVALLEYFILMS

Villager Joanna Shaw said she'd learnt a lot from watching the film of life in 1938.

"It was just before the war, so it's interesting to think about what they're about to go through but don't realise. All the things you read about as a detached, historical thing, you think these are real people that are going to experience these big events."

A horse and cart showing life in 1930s Chew Magna Credit: 11032021_HORSEANDCART_CHEWVALLEYFILMS

Ernest Fear returned to the USA, but re-hired the Bristol-based cinematographer, R G Lawrence, to capture the aftermath of a bombing raid on the city. This footage was shown to American audiences to help people across the Atlantic understand what was happening in wartime Britain.

Buildings and three buses were destroyed, killing and injuring people in Bristol Credit: 11032021_OFFICER_CHEWVALLEYFILMS

Mr Brownlee's edit of the film can be seen on Chew Valley Film's Youtube Channel.


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