Film ID:
NEFA 10491

MOVIE NO. 24: BELGIUM AND HOLLAND AUGUST 1939

1939

Visitor Tabs

Description

Amateur travelogue shot in Dufaycolor by Middlesbrough filmmaker and local dental surgeon Tom H. Brown. The film documents the Brown family’s travel in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1939. The film records the architecture, landscape and local culture of the places visited, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Footage includes scenes of the construction of the German Siegfried Line defences, filmed in the Ardennes region around Clervaux; and of the 1939 International Exhibition of Water Technics at Liege in Belgium, including footage of the German Pavilion decorated with National Socialist insignia and flag. In some sequences filmed in the Netherlands, the filmmaker has focused on the women wearing traditional Dutch costume. The Ostend Harbour scenes were recorded amidst turmoil as people cut short their holidays at the outbreak of war.

Titles: Movie No.24 Belgium and Holland August 1939

Credit: Photography by T.H. Brown

The film opens with shots of the busy ferry terminal in Dover. People are boarding the boats with suitcases in hand. There are several sequences that show Helen and Kate Brown on deck as the ship leaves Dover. General view of Dover cliffs and harbour as the ship pulls out to sea.

Title: 'Arrived Safely In Belgium.'

Helen and Kate Brown write postcards at the hotel. There are shots of the Hotel Majestic, Ostend. Next, there is a sign that reads: ‘Durbuy. The Smallest Town In The World.' An aerial view of Durbuy follows. Helen Brown helps two women place a great number of sheets on grass to dry.

Title: A Choir Trip From Holland.

There is a brief shot of a group of men singing in a choir with the choirmaster conducting.

Title: Belgium 1939. Durbuy. Feast of the Assumption

Various shots of the religious procession through the streets of Durbuy on Assumption Day, which concludes with the scattering of flower petals.

Title: Liege Belgium International Exhibition.

This sequence shows exterior shots of exhibition spaces and pavilions at the 1939 International Exhibition of Water Technics held at Liege, Belgium. It opens with a view of landscaped gardens and fountains. Next, there is a view of a pool and water fountain display with large white statues. Crowds make their way towards a monumental German Pavilion decorated with a gold eagle and swastika insignia. The National Socialist (Nazi) flag is flying in the forecourt. Close-up of the insignia. People travel through the grounds in an on-site mini rail system. The camera pans across a large-scale display of exhibitors’ national flags set by a lake. Brief travelling shot from the train recording the crowds of visitors moving through the exhibition grounds. General view across a large lake towards the pavilions and grand technical water displays. A pleasure boat passes by on the lake. More shots of pavilions, statues and small water fountain displays follow. Visitors interact with the displays.

Title: A Few Places In - -

Close-up of the sign 'LUX LUXEMBOURG' painted on the rear of a van or bus. A woman and man hang out of the rear window of the stationary excursion bus.

Title: Luxemburg. The Castle of Esche Sur Sure.

A short film sequence shows the Esch-sur-Sure castle on a mountain crag that looms over the town below. A close-up of a square castle tower follows.

Title: Luxemburg. Diekirch.

Kate and Helen Brown browse at a stall in the market square of Diekirch.Panning shot around the buildings. A flag with the red lion coat of arms of Luxembourg flies from a building.

Title: Luxemburg. Diekirch. French and German.

Kate and Helen Brown stand at a crossroads in Diekirch by a signpost pointing to towns in the region. There is a close-up of a dual language street sign on a wall.

Title: Luxemburg. Diekirch. Chateau of Vianden A.D. 486.

General view of the Vianden Castle and the camera pans to another imposing building situated in hills across the valley.

Title:The Siegfried Line.

The following scenes show construction under way of the concrete bunkers and other defences of the second Siegfried line in the rural landscape near Clervaux, Belgium.

Title: Luxemburg. Clervaux.

High angle view of Clervaux in a wooded mountain setting.

Title: Luxemburg. Clervaux. The Chateau Spit.

Kate and Helen Brown examine adjustable iron spits with a cooking pot that are attached to a wall at Clervaux Castle.

Title: Belgium. We visit The Limestone Caves of the Ardennes.

A sign on the front of a building reads: 'Grottes de Han et de Rochefort. Tickets.' The sign advertises the limestone caves of Han-sur-Lesse and Rochefort in Belgium. Kate and Helen Brown board the tram that leads up to the caves. There is a brief travelling shot of a steep mountain valley taken from the tram.

Title: After Tramping Through Muddy Caves.

Kate and Helen Brown have their shoes polished by women in white bonnets.

Title: Belgium. Ostend.

The holiday continues at the Belgian coastal port of Ostend and there is a shot of the imposing entrance to Ostend railway station.

Title: Belgium. Ostend. The Fish Shop.

Kate Brown runs towards a shop with racks of dried fish suspended outside the building, probably a harbour front building. Kate and her daughter walk by fishing boats with sails, tied up at a quayside in Ostend harbour. There is a good view of the long landing stages of the harbour that extend into the sea. Kate Brown points left. There are many vertical racks of fish drying at the dockside, probably herring.

Title: Belgium. Blankenberghe Beach.

A man carries a platter of food for sale on his head on the beach at the busy seaside resort of Blankenberge. The Brown family enjoy themselves on the beach. There are scenes of Kate and her husband making sandcastles with their daughter.

Title: Belgium. Blankenberghe. Bathing Is Sixpence Per Person Per Dip.

Various shots of a man with a small megaphone strapped on his back standing at the sea’s edge, probably collecting fares for bathing. The 1930s concrete pier with an end pavilion housing the Aquarama is seen in the background. Tom wears an all-in-one swimsuit and plays with his daughter in the sea along with many other bathers.

Title: Belgium. Blankenberghe. The Prom.

General view of people strolling along the wide Blankenberghe sea front promenade. The seafront buildings include large art deco buildings. A stylish young couple walk by.

Title: Belgium. Blankenberghe. Leg Taxis.

There are scenes of the Browns cycling past in unusual dual cycle vehicles on a roadside special lane. Other people cycle by in similar vehicles.

Title: Belgium. Blankenberghe. The ‘Muck’ Cart.

There is a shot of a horse drawn wooden rubbish cart driven through the cobbled streets of Blankenberghe.

Title: A Trip Into Holland.

People get board a period bus for a trip to Holland.

Title: Zeebrugge - Bruges Canal.

A ferry is pulled into Zeebrugge port by tug boat.

Title: Train Ferry.

There is a shot of a train ferry pulling into Zeebrugge port.

Title: Ferry Over River Scheldt.

Shots on board the car ferry to Holland along the River Scheldt, boarded in Belgium. These include a view of many black cars parked in the holding bay and of the expanse of the river estuary.

Title: Middelburg Town Hall AD 1450.

There is a view of the façade of the grand Gothic Middelburg Town Hall in the Netherlands, which was to be almost completely destroyed in 1940 during World War II. Groups of women in traditional Dutch white cotton bonnets and long dresses are pictured on the streets.

Title: Holland. Goes Market.

There are several sequences of many different groups of women in a market who are wearing traditional Dutch national costume including white lace bonnets. A number of shots focus on individual men and women who are wearing old fashioned clothing. People pass and look at a window that displays a small poster titled 'Bulletin ‘De Zeeuw.’' There is a close-up of the detail and lacework on Dutch traditional costume worn by two women with their backs to camera.

Title: Holland. I Spy.

There is a shot of some kind of double frame contraption attached to the exterior window frame of a building.

Title: Holland. Flushing.

People buy ice creams from a street vendor in the city of Flushing, Netherlands. A woman in Dutch traditional costume accompanies three children. There is a view of a busy beach with pier in the background.

Title: Holland. Sluis. Young Nationals.

A group of a small child, young boy and girl pose for the camera. The young girl and boy are dressed in Dutch traditional costumes and the boy holds milk pails balanced on the shoulders in traditional style.

Title: A Use For Everything.

The film next depicts a metal mine that has been placed in a tulip flowerbed as a decorative sculpture.

Title: Belgium. Bruges. Capt Fryatt’s Grave.

Brief shot of the grave of Captain Charles Fryatt in a cemetery just outside Bruges. He was charged with sinking a German submarine in 1915 and was tried at a Court Martial in Bruges Town Hall, and executed by firing squad.

The film switches to shots of a Bruges canal. Three women look over an old canal bridge. A cobbled pathway leads over a canal bridge, probably the entrance to the Burg square.

Title: Belgium. Bruges. A Dog Cart.

The film shows a man in boater hat holding the reins of a dog harnessed to a wooden cart in Burg Square. In the background we can see an ornate white building that may be the Church of the Holy Blood. There is another brief shot of different styles of buildings and a statue in the square. Brief background shot of the prominent Belfort, a medieval bell tower also known as the belfry of Bruges.

Title: Belgium. Bruges. The Panier D’Or.

We then see the façade of the Panier d'Or Hotel in Bruges.

Title: Belgium. Bruges. The Belfry of Bruges.

View of top of the belfry tower of Bruges that stands in the main market square. Pan down to frame the base of the building. Close-ups of the tower follow.

Title: Belgium. Bruges. Farewell To Ostend On The Eve Of War.

Shots of the wooden walkways and the buildings at Ostend harbour with a red arrow sign pointing to Dover. Porters load luggage onto the ship. There is a shot from the ship as it pulls away from the dock. Many people wave from the dockside and the background buildings are in mist.

End title: The End

Note: The filmmaker's son Anthony Brown writes: "Starting their tour with a stay at the Hotel Majestic in Ostend, they visited Luxembourg where Tom was able to film some very interesting footage of the building of the Siegfried Line, just over the border from Germany. They also visited Zeebrugge and Bruges. In 1990, the BBC programme "Cine Nemo" included these 1939 shots of the Siegried Line in a film about the Second World War and its build up and Tom helpfully provided the following account of the trip:

"We had a week's holiday in Ardennes. There was nothing to indicate the approaching disaster. I took advantage of a trip to Luxembourg to film the Siegfried Line. We were closely observed, from a distance, by the Germans. Lord Halifax's speech made us leave a day early.

At Ostend, many cars were left behind. The station was in turmoil. A train had run through the buffers and we thought the bombing had started. Eventually, after a long wait, we got away. It was impossible to move on deck."