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Life Under Fire

The horror of Luftwaffe bombs coloured daily life in Britain's cities and beyond, and war brought myriad daily hardships besides. But Britain could take it!

The Blitz receded after May 1941, but even after the Battle of Britain, the nation faced a barrage of incendiary bombs, V-1s and V-2s. While young men fought Axis powers across three continents, their families listened anxiously to the wireless, while many worried too about children far from home.

But in the face of the destruction, sirens, blackouts and hours in shelters, the now-legendary 'Blitz spirit' kept despair at bay. Britain held her nerve thanks to mutual support, defiance and wit - plus a good grumble and as many cups of tea as rationing allowed.

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Life Under Fire

RECOMMENDED

View Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post
Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post
Watch for free 15 mins

Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post 1939

An air raid could come at any moment and Derby had to be ready to deal with the casualties. The people of Littleover were so well prepapred they filmed one of their exercises.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre
Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre
Watch for free 9 mins

Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre 1940

From their sandbagged headquarters, the Sandiacre ARP and Red Cross await their call to action.

9 mins United Kingdom

View London Can Take It!
London Can Take It!
Watch for free 9 mins

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

View Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
Watch for free 2 mins

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 Bombed Out
Bombed Out
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Bombed Out 1945

Step into the aftermath of a WWII bombing raid in south London in this startling amateur film.

8 mins United Kingdom

View How to Fit a Gas Mask
How to Fit a Gas Mask
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How to Fit a Gas Mask 1939

Matter-of-fact wartime instruction in how to fit your gas mask efficiently - leaving no margin for error.

2 mins United Kingdom

BROWSE THE COLLECTION

View Auxiliary Fire Service in Walton on Thames
Auxiliary Fire Service in Walton on Thames
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Auxiliary Fire Service in Walton on Thames 1940

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.

5 mins United Kingdom

View ARP: A Practical Demonstration of Nottingham Precautions
ARP: A Practical Demonstration of Nottingham Precautions
Watch for free 10 mins

ARP: A Practical Demonstration of Nottingham Precautions 1938

As the nation slides into conflict, Nottingham prepares for a new type of warfare: the horrors of aerial bombardment and mustard gas attacks.

10 mins United Kingdom

View London Autumn 1941
London Autumn 1941
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London Autumn 1941 1941

Stirring portrait of London in autumn 1941 - its streets and monuments battle-scarred, but its spirit intact.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Training in Cambridge
Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Training in Cambridge
Watch for free 1 mins

Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Training in Cambridge 1940

An alternative home movie; mother and daughter participate in Air Raid Precaution Training, captured at the family home by amateur filmmaker Trevor Spittle.

1 mins United Kingdom

View The District Nurse
The District Nurse
Watch for free 13 mins

The District Nurse 1942

An indefatigable district nurse crisscrosses her rural patch to tend to the sick at home and on the farm.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. John Page

View The Blitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath
The Blitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath
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The Blitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath 1942

Vivid colour footage of the wartime devastation wreaked on Bristol and Bath - and the barely affected village of Chew Magna.

51 mins United Kingdom

View Firewatch Dog
Firewatch Dog
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Firewatch Dog 1943

An English Bull Terrier warns wartime cinema goers to put their cigarettes out with more care.

1 mins United Kingdom

View Newspaper Train
Newspaper Train
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Newspaper Train 1942

The story of how newspapers were distributed during the Blitz, stressing the importance of an accurate and objective press on the home front.

6 mins United Kingdom Director. Len Lye

View They Fight by Night
They Fight by Night
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They Fight by Night

An account of the many ways people contributed to the war effort on the home front, focusing on the work that went on through the night.

10 mins United Kingdom

View The Shepherd and His Flock
The Shepherd and His Flock
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The Shepherd and His Flock 1941

Shooting and incendiary bomb extinguishing practice; the home front activities of the Hertfordshire Special Constabulary and Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) Unit in Hitchin.

24 mins United Kingdom

View Fire of London
Fire of London
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Fire of London 1945

This British propaganda film, made in 1945 for newly liberated countries in Europe, takes a positive view of British resilience during the Blitz.

16 mins United Kingdom

View Post 23
Post 23
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Post 23 1941

A documentary picture of an Air Raid Wardens’ post during the Second World War, demonstrating cooperation between its workers and the community.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Ralph Bond

View Evacuees and ARP Training Exercises
Evacuees and ARP Training Exercises
Watch for free 19 mins

Evacuees and ARP Training Exercises 1939

Members of Herne Bay's First Aid Posts gear up for gas-attack casualties in this remarkable film, which also features a visit to the deep tunnel shelters in the cliffs of Ramsgate.

19 mins United Kingdom

View Canterbury 1939 to 1940
Canterbury 1939 to 1940
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Canterbury 1939 to 1940 1939

As the last months of peace pass quickly by, Canterbury's firemen gear up for the war to come.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Civilians in Uniform
Civilians in Uniform
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Civilians in Uniform 1946

Leatherhead applauds and thanks its Civil Defence Service volunteers for their sterling efforts, in this fascinating film made during the last months of the Second World War.

20 mins United Kingdom

View Bewdley Fireman at Practice
Bewdley Fireman at Practice
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Bewdley Fireman at Practice 1940

The Bewdley Auxiliary Fire Service demonstrate their readiness as the tranquil Worcestershire town prepares for war.

13 mins United Kingdom

View Ack-ack
Ack-ack
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Ack-ack 1941

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

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Peter Baylis

View Derbyshire Red Cross Flying Column
Derbyshire Red Cross Flying Column
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Derbyshire Red Cross Flying Column 1942

The Flying Column of the Derbyshire Red Cross takes its vital blood collection service onto the road with a visit to Ashbourne.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Techniques of Bomb Disposal II
Techniques of Bomb Disposal II
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Techniques of Bomb Disposal II 1942

Fascinating, technical military film made during the Blitz showing how to deal with unexploded bombs in London.

35 mins United Kingdom

View This Could Happen to You
This Could Happen to You
Watch for free 4 mins

This Could Happen to You 1950

Drama created after the end of WWII by Neath brick-layer/projectionist Malcolm Brinley Jones to commemorate the bombing that people endured and those “who gave their lives”.

4 mins Wales

View Incendiary Bomb Demonstration
Incendiary Bomb Demonstration
Watch for free 3 mins

Incendiary Bomb Demonstration 1940

Learn how to deal with incendiary bombs the correct way in this short and fiery film from Sydney Bligh.

3 mins United Kingdom

View Carry On Lombard Street
Carry On Lombard Street
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Carry On Lombard Street 1941

Barclays Bank's London HQ adapts to wartime banking, as a keen amateur filmmaker records staff at work, rest and play.

28 mins United Kingdom Director. NOEL Rogers

View Bomb Repair Speed Up
Bomb Repair Speed Up
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Bomb Repair Speed Up 1945

Britain counts the cost of war on its beleaguered housing stock and looks to rebuild new homes where thousands once stood.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Listen to Britain
Listen to Britain
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Listen to Britain 1942 U

Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister's masterly collage of the various people and classes of Britain - at home and at work, at war and at peace - is one of the great films of war-time Britain.

United Kingdom Director. Stewart McAllister, Humphrey Jennings

View Incendiary Bomb Practice
Incendiary Bomb Practice
Watch for free 3 mins

Incendiary Bomb Practice 1940

Men and women of the ARP learn how to deal with incendiary bombs, evacuate buildings and rescue the injured from smoke and flames in this fascinating short film from Sydney Bligh.

3 mins United Kingdom

View Ottershaw 1939
Ottershaw 1939
Watch for free 14 mins

Ottershaw 1939 1939

The Giles family makes the most of the last weeks of peace with outings, sports and floral domesticity before ending with antics in an air-raid shelter.

14 mins United Kingdom

View Bombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket
Bombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket
Watch for free 3 mins

Bombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket 1940

A film of two halves, beginning with the citizens of Bradford wandering through a city centre ravaged by the bombs of the Luftwaffe, and then enjoying a leisurely game of cricket.

3 mins United Kingdom

View Control Room
Control Room
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Control Room 1942

A behind the scenes look at civil defence work during and after a Luftwaffe bombing raid on Bristol during the Second World War.

22 mins United Kingdom Director. Geoffrey Bell

View Health in War
Health in War
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Health in War 1940

The young, old and infirm are evacuated from Blitz-hit cities in this moving testament to Britain's wartime organisational prowess.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Pat Jackson

View Heavier Than Air
Heavier Than Air
Watch for free 8 mins

Heavier Than Air 1942

An instructional film informing the British public how to act in the event of a gas attack during the Second World War.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Mother and Child
Mother and Child
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Mother and Child 1940

While Jack Crawford is serving at sea his pregnant wife Alice has access to all the care she needs at the local North London welfare centre.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Frank Sainsbury

View All Hands
All Hands
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All Hands 1940

A commercially produced Ministry of Information film, explaining how vital information could be carelessly leaked to prying enemy ears on the home front.

12 mins United Kingdom Director. John Paddy Carstairs

View Other Men's Lives
Other Men's Lives
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Other Men's Lives 1944

A commercially made Ministry of Information film, explaining how vital information could be carelessly leaked to prying enemy ears on the home front.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Waterloo Road
Waterloo Road
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HD

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

View Hospital Nurse
Hospital Nurse
Watch for free 8 mins

Hospital Nurse 1941

A glamorous young student nurse charms patients and staff alike as she sails through her training.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Francis Searle

View Victory Parade Newcastle upon Tyne 8 June 1946
Victory Parade Newcastle upon Tyne 8 June 1946
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Victory Parade Newcastle upon Tyne 8 June 1946 1946

As the shadow of the Cold War looms over Europe, Newcastle celebrates the soldiers and civilians who helped win the fight against fascism.

England

View Brighton's Blitz
Brighton's Blitz
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Brighton's Blitz 1940

Brighton suffers in this sensational colour film showing the effects of the Luftwaffe's devastating raids on the seaside town.

19 mins United Kingdom

View A-tish-oo
A-tish-oo
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A-tish-oo 1941

The face mask comes of age in this intriguing wartime guide to germ prevention.

6 mins United Kingdom Director. Maxwell Munden

View Jig-Saw
Jig-Saw
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Jig-Saw 1944

A ‘Careless Talk’ film made during the Second World War illustrating how scraps of information were pieced together and used to the enemies advantage.

20 mins United Kingdom

View Out Working
Out Working
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Out Working 1945

A Ministry of Information film encouraging the wartime public to increase productivity by “taking work to the workers”.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Gilbert Gunn

View Britain's Youth
Britain's Youth
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Britain's Youth 1940

The British public are encouraged to keep fit, as audiences are reminded they are “a nation of sportsmen” and “not a nation of spectators”.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Jack Ellitt

View Cambridge American Military Cemetary Service
Cambridge American Military Cemetary Service
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Cambridge American Military Cemetary Service 1945

A commemorative service in honour of the American servicemen who died in World War II, held at the purpose-built cemetery in Coton, Cambridgeshire.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Scrapbook for 1942
Scrapbook for 1942
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Scrapbook for 1942 1940

It's clear from this homemovie that the war had only a fleeting impact during a very bleak year.

10 mins United Kingdom

View VJ Days
VJ Days
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VJ Days 1945

A Bedfordshire village celebrates Allied victory in the Pacific with a street party, captured in full colour by amateur filmmaker and Aspley Guise resident A.R. Sinfield.

4 mins United Kingdom

View War-Time Activities
War-Time Activities
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War-Time Activities 1942

The Morton family from Shirley show the way forward in Britain's war effort.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Llandrindod Wells Carnival
Llandrindod Wells Carnival
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Llandrindod Wells Carnival 1940

The inhabitants of Llandrindod go all out to make carnival day special, despite war-time privation. They muster floats, majorettes, a sparkling dragon and a walking blackout.

6 mins Wales

View The Story of a Great Day: 3rd June 1944
The Story of a Great Day: 3rd June 1944
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The Story of a Great Day: 3rd June 1944 1944

As the world changes, Harry and Eithne celebrate their wedding at Knighton in Leicester.

14 mins United Kingdom

View Road to Yesterday
Road to Yesterday
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Road to Yesterday 1944

Widgey Raphael Newman, the short-lived, extraordinarily-named director of this period piece, has assembled attractive images of Wales but beware the commentary!

32 mins United Kingdom Director. Widgey R. Newman

View V.J. Day Celebrations
V.J. Day Celebrations
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V.J. Day Celebrations 1945

Soon after the V E Day celebrations, there is a second chance to let the hair down, and these dancers make the most of it with much humour, besides the pomp of the official ceremonies.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Ibberson Family and VE Day
Ibberson Family and VE Day
Watch for free 16 mins

Ibberson Family and VE Day 1945

Whether it’s the height of the war or its aftermath makes no difference to these children enjoying themselves: at the seaside, on V E Day and around the bomb sites of Sheffield.

16 mins United Kingdom

View Baer: VE Day
Baer: VE Day
Watch for free 19 mins

Baer: VE Day 1945

At Littleover in Derby the end of war in Europe is marked by Britannia leading a fancy dress parade. And, after nearly six years of war, it's finally time for a street party!

19 mins United Kingdom

View VE Day Party at Colwick
VE Day Party at Colwick
Watch for free 9 mins

VE Day Party at Colwick 1945

With races and a Punch and Judy show for the children and tug of war and a 'drunks' race for the adults the VE party at Colwick is soon in full swing.

9 mins United Kingdom

View A Welcome to Britain
A Welcome to Britain
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A Welcome to Britain 1943

Britain for beginners... or Americans, at least. An information film explaining the wonders of Britain to new American arrivals during WWII.

55 mins United Kingdom Director. Burgess Meredith, Anthony Asquith

View Exeter After the Blitz
Exeter After the Blitz
Watch for free 4 mins

Exeter After the Blitz 1942

Wartime meals-on-wheels and some rare snapshots of the bomb-damaged Georgian terraces of Dix's Field, Exeter.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Family Album to Entertain
Family Album to Entertain
Watch for free 14 mins

Family Album to Entertain 1940

Life in Broadwater seems unaffected by the war in this film - especially when friends and relations drop by - though a closer look reveals that all is not quite what it seems.

14 mins United Kingdom

View What Is One Among So Many?
What Is One Among So Many?
Watch for free 17 mins

What Is One Among So Many? 1943

"A bomb's cut the gas off. Where can we get a meal?" Look no further than the Friends Relief Service.

17 mins United Kingdom

View U.S. And Us
U.S. And Us
Watch for free 2 mins

U.S. And Us 1943

An American G.I. learns how to brew a proper English cuppa in this jolly wartime ad for Maypole tea.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Welwyn Garden City - The War Years
Welwyn Garden City - The War Years
Watch for free 15 mins

Welwyn Garden City - The War Years 1939

A great example of ‘despite war, life continues’, Welwyn Garden City residents continue with annual traditions, festive occasions and celebrations, during wartime.

15 mins United Kingdom

View V.E. Celebrations at Newport May 1945
V.E. Celebrations at Newport May 1945
Watch for free 10 mins

V.E. Celebrations at Newport May 1945 1945

Beautifully presented production from The Newport and District Amateur Film Society which gives a real flavour of city celebrations on Victory in Europe Day (8th May 1945).

10 mins Wales

View A Ride with Uncle Joe
A Ride with Uncle Joe
Watch for free 11 mins

A Ride with Uncle Joe 1943

Cockney kids learn road sense the fun way in an entertaining and surprising wartime safety film.

11 mins United Kingdom Director. Ken Annakin

View London Fire Raids 29th-30th December 1940
London Fire Raids 29th-30th December 1940
Watch for free 12 mins

London Fire Raids 29th-30th December 1940 1940

The devastating firebombing of London in December 1940 is captured in great detail in this extraordinary film showing the work of the London Fire Brigade.

12 mins United Kingdom

View Street teas - Aberaman, after 1939-45 war
Street teas - Aberaman, after 1939-45 war
Watch for free 10 mins

Street teas - Aberaman, after 1939-45 war 1945

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.

10 mins Wales

View Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells
Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells
Watch for free 3 mins

Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells 1939

This is thought to be footage of an Armistice Day parade in Llandrindod which includes armed forces veterans, police, Girl Guides, nurses and Air Raid Patrol [ARP] wardens.

3 mins Wales

View Surrey Commercial Docks, Enemy Action September 7 1940
Surrey Commercial Docks, Enemy Action September 7 1940
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Surrey Commercial Docks, Enemy Action September 7 1940 1940

Relentless, dramatic footage of the fires and aftermath caused by bombing of Surrey Commercial Dock by the Luftwaffe on the first day of the Blitz.

22 mins United Kingdom

View The Nose Has It!
The Nose Has It!
Watch for free 8 mins

The Nose Has It! 1942

Cheeky comic Arthur Askey advocates safe sneezing into a handkerchief to stop the spread of germs.

8 mins United Kingdom Director. Val Guest

View Twinkling Fingers
Twinkling Fingers
Watch for free 10 mins

Twinkling Fingers 1940

Pianists Charlie Kunz and Mark Hambourg tickle the ivories for our entertainment in this jolly musical short.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Denis Kavanagh

View The Weaker Sex
The Weaker Sex
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The Weaker Sex 1948

Housewives do their bit in WWII

84 mins United Kingdom Director. Roy Ward Baker

View The Big City
The Big City
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The Big City 1940

Personal stories from the Londoners who rely on a successful and reliable transport system

13 mins United Kingdom Director. Ralph Bond

View Scabies
Scabies
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Scabies 1943

Burrows, baths and benzyl benzoate – advice is shared on how to understand and treat the scourge of scabies.

36 mins United Kingdom Director. Robin Carruthers

View Food for Thought
Food for Thought
Watch for free 6 mins

Food for Thought 1940

Grumpy Grandma is put in her place during wartime food demonstration

6 mins United Kingdom Director. Adrian Brunel

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