The Telegraph is doing a free DVD offer all this week of the extraordinarily good series 'The Second World War in Colour'. This was made in 1999 by Carlton Television. One of the diarists they drew on was my mother, so the Social Secretary and I got to represent her at the launch at BAFTA in Piccadilly. As simple country cousins we were rather excited about going, associating BAFTA with glitzy awards ceremonies. And as luck would have it, when we got to the front of the queue for taxis at Victoria, along came a head-turning reproduction vintage cab, all headlamps and mudguards and cream livery, so we felt appropriately important as we arrived at the doors.
Carlton followed this in 2000 with a second series, 'Britain at War in Colour', which also drew on her diaries. A small team travelled up to Skye and spent a long day interviewing and recording my mother at home, which she enjoyed, although she was far from well at the time.
The SS and I again went to the launch, this time in the main hall of the Imperial War Museum. While I chatted to a liveried Chelsea pensioner (who invited us to tea at his gaff at the Royal Hospital) and wolfed the delicious canapés and champagne being handed round by (it seemed) increasingly pretty girls, the SS got to meet Ian Lavender of 'Dad's Army' fame, who she said was charming. For the screening we sat behind Dame Vera Lynn (I would love to have told her that at school at the turn of the 1970s, as rock blared from out other studies, being too broke to buy a stereo it was her voice that crackled out from mine via old 78s and a wind-up gramophone). Next to us was a pleasant fellow named Bob Hanna, who very kindly gave me a copy of his father's memoir. Sam Hanna was a teacher from Burnley who spent his spare time recording local trades and tradesmen, making very early use of colour film.
Although the available wartime colour footage is limited, the immediacy it brings helps to shrink the years between and put us in closer contact with that world.