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The Home Front

Sandbags and searchlights, firefighters battling blazing streets; trains packed with departing children or servicemen... film has given us some of our most enduring images of war.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the government closed the cinemas as a public safety measure. But it soon realised the huge value of film for propaganda and maintaining morale.

Filmmakers fought to convey official propaganda messages like 'Dig for Victory' or 'Careless Talk Costs Lives'. Instructional and informational films offered news and practical advice. Feature films and novelty shorts provided much-needed entertainment and a brief escape from the anxieties of war. Also featured here are a multitude of official newsreels and documentaries, cinema adverts, trailers and charity appeals, while a fascinating array of amateur films gives us a matchless insight into life on the domestic front.

This collection brings together an extraordinary range of material capturing the experience of life under fire. There are images of ruin, grief and despair here, and plenty more of reminders of how hard life in wartime could be. But what's striking here is how Britain somehow kept its smile despite the bombs, splintered families and the daily tyranny of rationing.

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The Home Front

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Warwork News No 33 1943

Wartime news magazine for factory workers, sponsored by the Ministry of Supply. News items often stressed the value of the 'factory front'.

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Family and Friends in War Time 1941

Forget the war; life goes on in West Yorkshire, with weddings and family days out, the lively Pudsey Carnival and, on the eve of the Battle of Britain, an overflowing Ilkley Lido.

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You can almost hear the cheers in this gorgeous silent film of VE Day celebrations on the red, white and blue decked streets of Gateshead.

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V.E. Day Civic Service, Bradford 1945

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"V.E." Celebrations 1945

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The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds (1940s-style) at a nursery in Guildford.

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The war is over so out come the cake and ale, the smiles and ‘V’ signs, and the effigy of Hitler that, tied to a lamppost, is for burning when night falls.

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Cine Scrapbook 1930

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Hull Victory Celebrations 1945

After nearly six years at war the people of Hull show their relief and joy through dancing, children’s parties and other celebrations seen here breaking out all across the city.

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Victory Parade 1946

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The War might be over but there's work to be done in the Lauste family's garden. So their son, Leslie, now back from active duty, helps his mum with the apples and the hollyhocks.

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Whilst some cultural treasures were stowed away in wartime, there was still an array of objects, artworks and experiences on offer to the public.

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Woking's AFS demonstrates its fire-fighting skills in a colourful competition held in 1940 followed by slumbering firemen leaping into action when duty calls.

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Healthy eating advice goes down easy in this fun public information film.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Jack Ellitt

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Austerity Britain reaches for the humble spud in this earnest wartime cookery film.

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National Flour at the ready: peppy WWII cookery short sponsored by Vim.

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The fundamentals of rationing on Britain’s home front during the Second World War.

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Watching over the skies, a volunteer force helps identify enemy aircraft for RAF fighters to intercept over Britain’s home front.

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‘ACK ACK’ is a profile of the soldiers who manned anti-aircraft positions on the home front during the Second World War.

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Surrounded by water and manned to defend the coastline, sea forts were remote outposts of Britain’s home front.

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Woking gears up for war in this remarkable film about the Home Guard and its contribution to the town.

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Dad's Army, Clandon-style, are at it again in this fascinating film about life in Surrey's Home Guard.

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How Somerton, Oxfordshire benefits from membership of the Village Produce Association during WWII.

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Heronsdale Manor Harvest 1942

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Wartime Harvesting 1944

World War II's Food Front is seen here in the fields of Kent as farmers labour to get the harvest in on time. By way of entertainment, a barrage balloon sinks majestically to earth.

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Start a Land Club 1942

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7 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Buchanan

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Salute to Farmers 1941

With feeding the nation a wartime priority, agricultural workers are heralded as soldiers of the plough.

17 mins United Kingdom Director. Montgomery Tully

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A wartime magazine made to motivate and inform war workers, commissioned by the Ministry of Information in 1942 and exclusively screened in factories.

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Shipwrights, plate-fitters and riveters support the war effort as their ships take majestic shape in this tour of British shipyards.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Leon Schauder

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Yesterday Is Over Your Shoulder 1940

A rousing government call for men to retrain as skilled engineers to help with the war effort.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Thorold Dickinson

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A Second World War propaganda film, looking at the industrial might behind Great Britain’s armed forces.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Cecil Musk, Montgomery Tully

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Warwork News No 11 1942

Wartime news magazine for factory workers, sponsored by the Ministry of Supply. News items often stressed the value of the 'factory front'.

12 mins United Kingdom

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The Port of Cardiff 2 1943

Meat and wheat, oranges and eggs (dried), salmon and peaches (tinned) arrive in Cardiff from Brazil, America, Canada and New Zealand to keep war-time’s wolf from the allied door.

24 mins Wales

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The finest example of British wartime fictional propaganda follows a group of women who take on factory work to support the war effort.

103 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder

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116 mins United Kingdom Director. Leslie Arliss

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Happy Family 1939

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9 mins United Kingdom Director. Walter Forde

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Tim Marches Back 1944

A Peter Strausfeld animation, encouraging the public to use the telephone more sparingly in wartime.

1 mins United Kingdom Director. George Hoellering

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Two evacuee boys from London sent to live on a farm face a tough decision when a German plane is shot down.

70 mins United Kingdom Director. John Krish

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Waterloo Road 1945 PG

John Mills is the soldier who goes AWOL upon hearing of his wife’s affair, returning home to confront Stewart Granger’s home-wrecking spiv.

76 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney Gilliat

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HD

Millions Like Us 1943 PG

The finest example of British wartime fictional propaganda follows a group of women who take on factory work to support the war effort.

103 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder

Tessa Dunlop: The Home Front

Tessa Dunlop: The Home Front

6 films selected by Tessa Dunlop

View V.E. Day May 8th & 9th Thanksgiving Day May 14th
V.E. Day May 8th & 9th Thanksgiving Day May 14th
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V.E. Day May 8th & 9th Thanksgiving Day May 14th 1945

You can almost hear the cheers in this gorgeous silent film of VE Day celebrations on the red, white and blue decked streets of Gateshead.

9 mins England

View Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
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Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy 1940

Sweet and touching wartime cinema appeal for 300,000 London children spending Christmas far from home.

2 mins United Kingdom

View London Can Take It!
London Can Take It!
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London Can Take It! 1940 U

Humphrey Jennings and Harry Watt’s famous GPO film is an enduring example of British self-mythology; a hymn to London’s resilience that helped persuade America to join the war.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Harry Watt, Humphrey Jennings

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Happy Family
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9 mins United Kingdom Director. Walter Forde

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Scotland Speaks 1941

Well-known landmarks such as Stirling Castle and Bannockburn fields feature in this propaganda film about Scotland during the Second World War.

20 mins United Kingdom Director. Jack Ellitt

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Start a Land Club
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Start a Land Club 1942

The wartime potato shortage is addressed in this marvellous film from 1942 - exhorting workers and school children to lend a hand on local farms by joining Land Clubs.

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Buchanan

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