Probably the most unusual job the temperature controlled courier firm from Diss in Norfolk has ever been asked to do was assisting a film production company recently. No, it wasn’t supplying a cast of thousands with chilled sandwiches or frozen ice cream but providing a sub-zero environment for just one actor, a cameraman and a director. Not making any sense? – No, neither did it make any sense to proprietor Geoff Lazell when he took the call booking the van!

Well, to explain to the mystified reader, here is the story. A film company from London were using the Muckleburgh Collection museum near Cromer in Norfolk as a location for filming a series of TV programmes entitled, “Great Battles” , one of which was the battle of Stalingrad in the second world war. As any student of military history will know, the tide of that epic struggle turned decisively in the Russian’s favour after many months of siege by the German army when the harsh winter weather played its crucial role. The Russian’s were well equipped for the -25° to -30°C temperatures and icy winds whereas the Germans were not – and duly paid the price with a crushing defeat.

As part of the representation of this particular aspect of the battle, the film company wanted to film a ‘soldier’ equipped in the uniforms of both armies being subject to below-freezing temperatures and figured that a refrigerated vehicle might just provide the stage! So that is how one ‘volunteer’, authentically clad in the uniforms of the day came to spend two periods of 30 minutes or so shut in the back of a Chillspeed van with the freezer unit going full blast whilst being filmed with a thermal imaging camera!

Sure enough, his Russian uniform protected him from the icy blast and the camera showed little drop in his body temperature. As expected, his experience in the German uniform was altogether less comfortable and a significant loss of body heat soon showed up on the camera. (Apparently, his chattering teeth and general shivering were a bit of a give-away too!) Naturally, the cameraman and director were well insulated throughout but happily the standby medical team were not needed to treat the actor either and he soon recovered in the summer sun, none the worse for his experience!

As for Chillspeed, although more used to transporting cold ham than cold hams (so to speak!), it was nevertheless all in a day’s work for this long-established and highly experienced refrigerated transport firm. One cannot help wondering what on earth they will be asked to do next though – haul icebergs for a re-make of “Titanic” perhaps?

Footnote: The series was shown on the National Geographic channel in late 2008.

Photographs reproduced by kind permission of Windfall Films Ltd. June 2008