Hello again, my long suffering readers and while the weather is still nice thank you for joining me in a ramble along the path of film history.

Today we are going via dead men's gulch but avoiding lovers lane as that is no longer something for my more sensitive readers.

In the old movies young couples used to arrive and smooch while listening to Ricky Nelson on the car radio. Today it is like a love battlefield with arms and legs everywhere. I wish I was young again as my back goes out more often than I do.

I tend to retire to my master bedroom earlier than ever these days at night to watch a couple of DVDs under my luxury Egyptian cotton sheets and as winter hits my 25-year-old duvet.

I have just watched Saving Private Ryan, which was shot in Hatfield and elsewhere but the original production department was based at the recently reopened Elstree Studios. Personally I consider it the best realistic war film ever filmed and Spielberg achieved great special effects. None of the John Wayne and Errol Flynn 'how I won the war' stuff but of course their films were made in an era where the censors would never have allowed such scenes.

Very sadly the generation who were adults in the Second World War are now far and few between but this film shows what these often teenage soldiers endured.

I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the Saving Private Ryan exterior set built in Hatfield that features in the last part of the film. It was a bomb-destroyed French village in which the final battle takes place. I have kept two souvenirs of my visit. One is a photo signed by Tom Hanks and Matt Damon and the other is a replica rifle carried by the American soldiers. Back in 2005 I dressed up as a Dad's Army officer in our local parade to help celebrate that anniversary. I had to get a letter of permission from the police to take it but it would not be allowed today.

In the late 1990s, after Private Ryan was wrapped, several of these rifles ended up at a prop store at Elstree Studios run by my friend Nick Harrison, who tragically died soon afterwards at such an early age from cancer.

I was showing a group of Miami University film students around his prop store and Nick presented their professor with one of the rifles. When they were flying back I got a call from Heathrow security asking me to fax across that this was a replica presented to them by Elstree Studios and they had no bad intentions. It was a more innocent age and they were allowed to take it back home.

The Miami University presented me with a lovely jacket with a hood you can wear indoors with felt tip signatures of the students on it. I will be wearing it this winter as I feel the cold but with my heating turned down and with fond memories.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios