World War 2 and BBC2


Geoffrey Gowlland (1908 – 1974) was an enthusiastic cine film amateur, and shot many hours of film.  Of particular interest nowadays are those taken between 1937 and 1947. 

About six years ago Rosemary and John agreed that they benefited nobody by being left abandoned in an attic, and deserved a better fate.  Rosemary accordingly contacted The South East Film & Video Archive SEFVA, whose website is listed below.  They agreed to accept the films on permanent deposit.  These are now stored under archival conditions, have been catalogued, and are available for enquirers.  Over the last few years, different excerpts have been used by researchers for a variety of projects.  The most recent of these was the Surrey History Centre (website also below), who transferred two small sequences on to a VHS Video called “Surrey on Film 1914-1953”.  This is now on public sale.

SEFVA recently telephoned Rosemary to ask if we were prepared to be approached by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), who were interested in the possibility of using some shots of the end of the war as part of a series called “Nation on Film”.  We agreed to this and their researcher Alex talked to us both.  Rosemary showed him the archive of letters, dated between 1940 and 1947 which were exchanged between Geoffrey Gowlland and his Canadian cousin Gladys Gowlland.  These proved of much interest and were quoted from extensively.  At a subsequent meeting it was agreed that Rosemary and John would be interviewed on camera concerning their memories of VE Day.

On Monday 7th March a team of three from the BBC descended on John’s house in Sanderstead, comprising the producer and interviewer Rosalind Bain, with a cameraman and sound-recordist.  They spent about four hours in all and included a session looking at the letter transcripts.

The programme was transmitted at 22:00 on Friday 13th May.

The previous evening, May 12th, BBC London News contacted Rosemary and John to arrange an interview for transmission in the 18:30 News on May 13th.  Interviewer Tom Edwards discussed with them a video of Geoff's films and their recollections of those times; and the all three subsequently visited Lloyd Park, the location of the anecdote Rosemary had told of the three children out walking and realising that a descending V1 appeared to be heading for the family home.

And now for some pictures of the BBC at work. . .  firstly, Ros Baines and team on 7th March  . . . .

Ros in serious (?) mood Getting ready
Waiting nervously Camera set-up
Cameraman checking monitor R & J with the file of letters

And secondly Tom Edwards and team on Friday 13th May . . .

John, Rosemary, Gordon, Tom and Ray Gordon, Tom and Ray
Ray, Tom and Gordon Filming in Lloyd Park




















Geoff's Correspondence

The letters between Geoff and Gladys Gowlland having proved so interesting, John has embarked on the task of transcribing and annotating them.  As they are dealt with, they are being published to the web and to access them click here.  For Index to letters by date order, click here.

Until a printed and illustrated complete version is available, here are pictures of (a) Geoff Gowlland in about 1937 (son of Egbert Gowlland, b. 1872), and of (b) Gladys Gowlland in about 1947 (daughter of Henry Orford Gowlland, b. 1870): Gladys is shown with her cousin Melissa, on the left-hand side of the picture, (daughter of William Gowlland, b. 1870)


Geoff Gowlland

Melissa and Gladys Gowlland


In addition to Gladys's letters, those exchanged with numerous other correspondents are also being published.  For an index to them in date order click here.

If you would like further information regarding any of the above, please contact by e-mail Mrs Rosemary Milton-Thompson (née Gowlland).


Website of Surrey History Centre                            www.surreycc.gov.uk/surrey/historycentre

Website of South East Film & Video Archive        www.brighton.ac.uk/sefva/sefilmarchivenews


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