Amazing colour footage of an English road trip, August 1939...

This very rare footage shows a journey along the Great North Road (A1) from London to Grantham.

War looms over the journey both metaphorically - August 1939 was the final month of peace before the Second World War - and literally, in the shape of the barrage balloon in the opening shots. The war was very much expected - as well as the balloons, we see kerbs and posts painted black and white to be visible in a blackout, a banner advertising ARP (Air Raid Precaution) offices, and a military truck carrying equipment.

Almost as remarkable is the way in which the film maker can leave their car at the side of the road while taking shots. Even cyclists are using the A1 without fear.

For The Retronaut, most extraordinary of all is to see the Great War memorial on the eve of another war (2:30). 6 years later it will need to be updated with 32 more names. The memorial is in Biggleswade, but it could be almost any town.

The film is from the Huntley Film Archives.

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