River View Lodge retiree and former BBC picture editor, Alastair Wells, reminisces on editing films on the Vietnamese War.

Following a successful career working as a picture editor for the BBC, Alastair Wells is enjoying his retirement at Churchill Retirement Living’s River View Lodge in Shepperton.

Having downsized from a three-bedroom bungalow to a one-bedroom Churchill apartment in December 2022, Alastair now has a much calmer pace of life compared to the one he led as a picture editor.

Alastair spent 45 years at the BBC, during which he travelled greatly.

In 1975, Alastair was commissioned to Bangkok, Thailand alongside a reporter and journalist to provide news updates on the Vietnamese War. With the situation in Saigon getting increasingly worse, Alastair travelled to Aranyaprathet, in Eastern Thailand, to meet with crews and was tasked with processing the film reports and set up the satellites in order to feedback to London.

Alastair collected the magnetic strip films and took the hour-long taxi journey back to Bangkok. When he arrived, he met with Bangkok TV and spent three hours with the director editing down over 3,000 meters of film to just three minutes which had to be ready in time for the 6pm news in the UK. During this time, he communicated via Telex so he could provide information ready for when the news went live – and when it did, it clearly stated ‘edited by Alastair Wells’; a proud career moment for the BBC veteran.

Alastair spent a total of two weeks away with the BBC, and during that time also travelled to Hong Kong and Singapore to further experiment with satellite transmissions and reported back on the progressing news during this period.

Speaking about his career as a picture editor, Alastair said: “I thoroughly enjoyed working at the BBC and feel extremely lucky to have visited and experienced the places I have. The days during the war were long with us sometimes working 12 - 14 hour days, however it was very rewarding to see my name on the final edit of the 6 o’clock news. It’s a moment I will never forget. I am still in touch with some of my colleagues at the BBC and it’s great to reminisce on the good old days.”

Having retired in 1990, Alastair is now enjoying life at River View Lodge in Shepperton. Alastair said:  “When my wife sadly passed away, I always said I wouldn’t stay in the bungalow. Even though we had resided there for over 50 years it was time for me to move on. River View Lodge is fantastic and I love my time here; I have made friends for life and it’s lovely to have people around me again. With my grandchildren close by, I am able to see them twice a week and they help to bring me my shopping which is lovely.”

Alastair has most certainly had an interesting life and with the warm and friendly community Churchill Retirement Living has to offer, Alastair is able to enjoy his retirement and look back on an incredibly successful career with pride.