Film ID:
NEFA 21379

THE WORST YEARS OF OUR LIVES

1939-1945

Visitor Tabs

Description

Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, George and Norah Cummin take a retrospective look at their lives during World War Two using amateur film, commercial newsreel footage and cartoons. The couple were members of Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA).

Credit: George and Norah Present

Title: Impressions and incidents from –

Title: The Worst Years of our Lives

Title: In August, 1939, we were at Whitby

General views of Whitby sands and cliffs open this sequence. Women stroll in the wind past Whitby Spa Theatre. George Cumin and his band are playing at the Whitby Spa Theatre, George on his saxophone. The bandleader speaks into a microphone on stage.

Norah climbs down a harbour-side ladder into a boat. The sailing boat heads out of the harbour onto the North Sea. Norah rides in the boat next to the owner.

Title: I sang, Norah sailed and all was peace. But 200 miles to the south –

Newsreel footage of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Winston Churchill.

Title: And on September 3rd, we felt the effects of all this activity

George Cummin packs away his saxophone. He closes the door to the Whitby Spa Theatre. Close-up of a notice that reads “Spa Closed until further notice”. Norah waits on a platform at Whitby railway station with her suitcase. George joins her with his saxophone case. Shot of a steam train. Brief shot of the Tyne Bridge, then the No. 14 bus drives up a back street in Newcastle upon Tyne. George and Norah enter their terraced house and close the door.

Norah and George start to tape and black out their windows in preparation for war.

Newsreel footage of Carliol House, Pilgrim Street & Market Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (?) follows. Norah enters the building and is then seen writing in a ledger, having joined the National Emergency Services.

Title: So that was Norah fixed up, and from then on, she says, she was either hurrying –

Various shots show Norah rushing from the back entrance of a building, a train arriving and Norah rushing into the station.

Title: hiding –

Norah comes out of a brick-built shelter or out-house.

Newsreel footage shows barrage balloons in the sky. Norah enters a brick-built shelter.

Title: - or hanging about

Newsreel footage of women queuing for food rations. Housewives buy food from a home delivery man with their ration coupons.

Title: Meanwhile, everyone was going for their medical

A Mickey Mouse cartoon is inserted of Mickey having an army medical.

Title: I, too, was marked OK – though not in the same place – And in due course –

George walks out of a door marked “Stores” with his regulation wellington boots and uniform, as he begins his time as a reserve fireman.

The next shot is of regiments of auxiliary firemen standing in a street, possibly in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne (?) It is not known whether this is amateur footage or newsreel.

Title: We expected lots of work –

Footage from a public information film or documentary follows. Firemen leap into action at a fire station and drive out to a fire. A man leaps from a burning building onto a fireman’s trapeze below.

Title: And we got it

Two auxiliary firemen clean a fire engine, then roll up a fire hose. George Cummin cleans his boots, dressed in his fireman’s hat.

Title: Spring brought my first leave but we weren’t supposed to go far

George Cummin visits the Jesmond Dene Public Park in the East End of Newcastle upon Tyne. General views follow inside the park, the waterfall and bridge over the Ouseburn, and Paddy’s Pond George walks across the stepping stones. 

Title: We had not been back on the job long when there was serious news from France

Newsreel footage of troops in France, warships at sea, battles in air and on sea, Dunkirk landings, army tanks, and troops on ship eating and smoking.

Title: The RAF put a stop to the threatened invasion, but air raids did become heavier

Newsreel footage of bomb damage to buildings, men running with a stretcher, smoke from bombing hanging over city, fires burning in a city.

Title: And in 1941 we were glad to get away

Archive footage of a steam train and a traveling shot along rail track.

Title: to the quiet of Galloway’s hills and lochs

Norah hikes up a path. Various shots of lochs and a picturesque church tower follow.

Title: Back at home we had an active spell – all along the North-East coast and as far as Leeds and Manchester

Newsreel footage of air raids, buildings burning, auxiliary firemen in action, bomb damage, and people rescued from the wreckage.

Title: And as winter and blackout came on again, we thought longingly of dreamy South Sea Islands –

Newsreel of the surprise attack by the Japanese on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii Territory.

Title: But some little yellow men had the same idea

More newsreel footage follows of the Pearl Harbour bombing and destruction.

Title: We didn’t need to go all the way to Pearl Harbour to see that sort of thing, so we decided, instead, on a peaceful little pub not far from Keswick

Exterior shots of the Punch Bowl Hotel and gardens.

Title: 1943. Norah still at the N.E.S. and me still in the N.F.S. Only variation – a holiday at the Old Mill, Coverham, Yorks.

[out of focus]

Norah arrives at a guest house, a couple greeting her on the doorstep.

Title: From here we explored the moors and streams.

 George Cummin explores a river. Close-up of the water. A woman opens up the gate to Jervaulx Abbey (?). Shot of an old bridge.

Title: Then the NFS became music-conscious, so I applied for a band job

A National Fire Service brass band are standing in a cobbled street. Brass bands march in a parade.

Title: But the Brass Band proved too weary on the feet –

Band musicians stop at a pub for refreshment. High angle shot of Northumbrian pipe band marching on some wasteland and along a wet street.

Title: And the Pipe Band was too draughty round the knees. So it had to be the Dance Band

A dance band practice outside a park. Portrait shots of the musicians follow, including George Cummin on saxophone. He poses in front of a slow moving coach, smoking a cigarette, his National Fire Service musician colleagues on the roof, waving as they pass.

Title: No doubt our music provided the inspiration (or desperation), for suddenly the Invasion was on

Newsreel of war footage and military action, including D Day landings.

Title: For nearly a year, as the struggle went on, we could only work and wait. And then, at last –

Newsreel footage of London VE Day celebrations in 1945, including Winston Churchill making his famous V sign from balcony, cheering crowds, and the royal family appearing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Title: But we held our celebrations in peace –

Profile shot of Norah quietly seated in front of a living room fire, smoking. George has his feet up with his slippers on and a glass of whisky in his hand.

Title: - perfect peace

The couple drink together until the last drop of whisky is poured.

Title: The End