Title ID 1104Collection ID610
TitleThe Last Year of Peace
Date1939 - 1940
CollectionSpot Botting
ThemeRural Life Wartime and Military Case Study The Home Front
KeywordsAccidents Canals Festivals Leisure Time Activities Second World War (1939-1945) Travel Wars Winter
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionErnest A. "Spot" Botting
CameraErnest A. "Spot" Botting
DirectorErnest A. "Spot" Botting
ParticipantsCosmo Gordon Lang
Format9.5mm Black & White Silent
Duration17 min.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A compilation by a local amateur cameraman, portraying the passing from peace to wartime. Shot just prior to and during the first year of the Second World War, the film provides a snapshot of everyday life as it continued against the backdrop of the impending war, and signs of the war’s effects around the village.


The film begins with idyllic rural images: orchards in bloom, lambs in the field, a woman gathering meadow flowers. An animated intertitle announces the disappearance of an old landmark, and images follow of Pluckley Mill destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning. Children playing and people out walking and rowing along the Hythe Canal on a sunny summer day. Scenes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, opening the Egerton May Festival. A young bugler announces the May Queen and she is crowned with a floral garland. Further scenes of the festival show children in fancy dress, dancing and taking part in a hobbyhorse race. Scenes of family and friends on board a cross-channel ferry. Views of Boulogne harbour as the ferry approaches are followed by a trip to Le Touquet. The family visit the beach and town, then take the ferry home as the sun sets. “Winter 1939-40. Most severe in living memory”. Cars and people struggle to make their way along the street in a blizzard. Men clear snow from stranded vehicles and a postman struggles with his bike in the heavy snow. Children have a snowball fight. People attempt to clear paths in the deep snow while a dog barks at their efforts. Scenes of people tobogganing and views of a peaceful snow-covered landscape are followed by the declaration, “War”; storm clouds and aeroplane trails (from a dogfight) in the sky represent the “sombre clouds of battle”. “Sunday September 8th 1940” - crowds look on as firemen fight fires caused by bombing raids. The effects of further bombing is shown; people walk over the rubble and bomb craters. A young woman and her dog pose next to two bombshells.


A still from The Last Year of Peace (1939-1940)A still from The Last Year of Peace (1939-1940)A still from The Last Year of Peace (1939-1940)

Contextual information

The film-maker provides some insights to life at the beginning of the Second World War in this film. His editing gives the film a sense of loss (of the idyllic rural peace) which must have appeared nostalgic even at the time of making the film. The plane-trails from a dogfight (very likely part of the Battle of Britain), although brief, are particularly poignant. As in some of the other films listed below there also seems to be a sense of people’s desire to carry on as normally as possible, yet underpinned by a fascination with what was beginning to happen around them.

The Gowlland family’s War Time 1939-40 (1939 - 1943) and Sadler Family Pictures (1937 - 1941?) also show scenes of everyday family life during wartime.

Related titles

Related resources


Imperial War Museum

In addition to its permanent exhibits, the collections of the Imperial War Museum include Film and Video, Photographs, Sound, Art, Documents and Printed Books. Amateur film is well represented in the Film and Video Archive. The collections’ database is searchable online.

Mass-Observation Archive

“The Mass-Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass-Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981.” The Archive holds a large amount of material relating people’s experiences during wartime. A search facility is available online.


Egerton Village

The website provides a history of Egerton as well as information about present day life in the village. There is also a link to the Egerton Local History Group.