The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Choose another collection

Ready for the Enemy

German invasion was a continuous threat, at least in the early years of the war. Citizens were expected to be ever-vigilant, while Home Guard volunteers prepared themselves for the worst.

Spies and fifth columnists were a real concern (even if they were far rarer than some feared), hence the relentless - and often alarming - government warnings on the dangers of 'Careless Talk'.

Those not serving overseas were encouraged to do their bit as volunteers: as air-raid wardens, ambulance workers, auxiliary firemen or in the Home Guard, which happily enlisted those deemed too old or unfit for active service - hence 'Dad's Army'.

triangle triangle
Ready for the Enemy

RECOMMENDED

View Home Front and Home Guard - Wartime Woking
Home Front and Home Guard - Wartime Woking
Watch for free 10 mins

Home Front and Home Guard - Wartime Woking 1938

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

10 mins United Kingdom

View Sea Fort
Sea Fort
Watch for free 7 mins

Sea Fort 1940

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

7 mins United Kingdom Director. Ian Dalrymple

View Ack-ack
Ack-ack
Watch for free 9 mins

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 Citizen's Army
Citizen's Army
Watch for free 10 mins

Citizen's Army 1941

Ordinary men from all trades and professions lead double lives to hone their soldiering skills in Britain during the Second World War.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Donald Taylor

View Civilians in Uniform
Civilians in Uniform
Watch for free 20 mins

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 Clandon Home Guard
Clandon Home Guard
Watch for free 11 mins

Clandon Home Guard 1942

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

11 mins United Kingdom

BROWSE THE COLLECTION

View Royal Observer Corps
Royal Observer Corps
Watch for free 7 mins

Royal Observer Corps 1941

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

7 mins United Kingdom

View They Fight by Night
They Fight by Night
Watch for free 10 mins

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 Fighting Allies
Fighting Allies
Watch for free 9 mins

Fighting Allies 1941

Britain’s Czech allies; working, developing new skills and training for the frontline.

9 mins United Kingdom Director. Louise Birt

View Home Guard and Home-movies in Swanmore
Home Guard and Home-movies in Swanmore
Watch for free 16 mins

Home Guard and Home-movies in Swanmore 1935

Conflict seems far away in this film featuring the Green family of Swanmore - but amid the jollity there's a sequence showing the Home Guard training with guns and incendiaries.

16 mins United Kingdom

View Civil Defence Parades in Pre-war Croydon
Civil Defence Parades in Pre-war Croydon
Watch for free 11 mins

Civil Defence Parades in Pre-war Croydon 1938

Peacetime frivolity contrasts sharply with a sense of the Gathering Storm in this film from Croydon made shortly before the outbreak of hostilities.

11 mins United Kingdom

View Basingstoke Home Guard
Basingstoke Home Guard
Watch for free 7 mins

Basingstoke Home Guard 1942

Soldiers amass on the outskirts of Basingstoke... we're doomed! But don't panic! It's just Dad's Army doing a bit of training.

7 mins United Kingdom

View Bomb Damage and Home Guard in Hythe
Bomb Damage and Home Guard in Hythe
Watch for free 14 mins

Bomb Damage and Home Guard in Hythe 1940

After a visit from the Luftwaffe, Hythe's factories and houses inspect the terrible damage done to their town in a film, which also shows the local Home Guard in fighting form.

14 mins United Kingdom

View Home Guard Parade (Cardiff) and Manoeuvres
Home Guard Parade (Cardiff) and Manoeuvres
Watch for free 8 mins

Home Guard Parade (Cardiff) and Manoeuvres 1943

Cardiff City Hall’s Clock Tower offers the film-maker a bird’s eye view of the Home Guard/Royal Welch Fusiliers parade below. Home Guard manoeuvres are shot on the ground.

8 mins Wales

View Wartime Savings Rally, Winchester and Home Guard
Wartime Savings Rally, Winchester and Home Guard
Watch for free 12 mins

Wartime Savings Rally, Winchester and Home Guard 1940

Wartime Winchester is the star of this film, which includes military marches, Home Guard exercises and an outdoor boxing match staged by the American Army.

12 mins United Kingdom

View West Sussex Home Guard 2
West Sussex Home Guard 2
Watch for free 18 mins

West Sussex Home Guard 2 1941

Dastardly Nazi fifth-columnists get short shrift in this film showing the Home Guard defence tactics - which include pulling down a German paratrooper's trousers!

18 mins United Kingdom

View A Home Guard Parade and an Inspection by the Duke of Kent
A Home Guard Parade and an Inspection by the Duke of Kent
Watch for free 11 mins

A Home Guard Parade and an Inspection by the Duke of Kent 1939

The Duke of Kent visits the Southern Railway's Eastleigh Works in this Home Front film which also shows the local Home Guard on the march and a tank that carries its own bridge.

11 mins United Kingdom

View Stand Down Parade of the Home Guard
Stand Down Parade of the Home Guard
Watch for free 15 mins

Stand Down Parade of the Home Guard 1944

Marching in typical determined fashion in the pouring rain, through the empty streets of Bradford, these men of the Home Guard exude steeliness, pride and, possibly, relief.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Training Drills and Parades in Woking
Training Drills and Parades in Woking
Watch for free 19 mins

Training Drills and Parades in Woking 1943

Woking's Home Guard strut their stuff in this sensational mix of training film and social record - with weapons, explosions, rope bridges and lots of climbing over barbed wire.

19 mins United Kingdom

View West Sussex Home Guard 1
West Sussex Home Guard 1
Watch for free 4 mins

West Sussex Home Guard 1 1941

There's a wrong way and a right way to deal with Nazi spies and fifth-columnists - as you'll see in this this hilarious colour film starring the Home Guard and various Nazi rotters.

4 mins United Kingdom

View Homeguard 2
Homeguard 2
Watch for free 15 mins

Homeguard 2 1942

Doubtless civilians would have been re-assured in 1942 had they seen this training film for the Home Guard, learning fieldcraft, positioning and close quarters combat.

15 mins United Kingdom

View Beverley Commemorates the Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
Beverley Commemorates the Anniversary of the Battle of Britain
Watch for free 8 mins

Beverley Commemorates the Anniversary of the Battle of Britain 1943

Four years into the war and by now marching in procession, as here, is second nature for the large numbers of civil defence personnel, and much more fascinating to watch as a result.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Homeguard 3
Homeguard 3
Watch for free 10 mins

Homeguard 3 1942

A fascinating glimpse into the training of the Home Guard –learning how to hide from enemy invaders – showing that they were far from being the farcical shambles of Dad’s Army.

10 mins United Kingdom

View Chinese in Wartime Britain
Chinese in Wartime Britain
Watch for free 10 mins

Chinese in Wartime Britain 1944

A documentary about the benefits and influences of Chinese immigration on Britain’s home front.

10 mins United Kingdom Director. Carl Heck

View Road Blocks
Road Blocks
Watch for free 14 mins

Road Blocks 1941

Should you ever need to set up a roadblock then watch this film as the West Sussex Home Guard reveal the right and the wrong way to stop the Hun in his tracks.

14 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 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 Control Room
Control Room
Watch for free

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 Simey: Historic Hereford
Simey: Historic Hereford
Watch for free

Simey: Historic Hereford 1940

From GIs dancing in High Town in 1942 and on into the New Elizabethan era: this is a true celebration of the city of Hereford from the austere 1940s right into the 'swinging' sixties.

34 mins United Kingdom

View Suffolk Territorials
Suffolk Territorials
Watch for free 6 mins

Suffolk Territorials 1937

A recruitment film for the Suffolk Territorials, featuring scenes of a Drumhead military service on Empire Day and training exercises; narrated by Colonel Coburn O.B.E.

6 mins United Kingdom

View Americans
Americans
Watch for free 2 mins

Americans 1942

'John' and 'Johnny', two American GIs billeted in with the Iles family in Heathwood Road, Cardiff, enjoy a bit of fun with their new friends and neighbours.

2 mins Wales

View Lefevre's Funeral and Montgomery's Visit
Lefevre's Funeral and Montgomery's Visit
Watch for free 2 mins

Lefevre's Funeral and Montgomery's Visit 1945

There's a huge turnout to see the victor of El Alamein in this short film which starts with, of all things, a funeral in Canterbury Cemetery!

2 mins United Kingdom

View Auxiliary Fire Service in Training - 1939
Auxiliary Fire Service in Training - 1939
Watch for free 9 mins

Auxiliary Fire Service in Training - 1939 1939

Adorable amateur film showing the work of the Auxiliary Fire Service in Finchley with a mixture of pride and self-deprecation.

9 mins United Kingdom

View Montgomery's Visit
Montgomery's Visit
Watch for free 2 mins

Montgomery's Visit 1945

Canterbury goes wild when the hero of El Alamein's in town - watch Monty meet dignitaries, inspects soldiers and greets thousands of cheering well-wishers.

2 mins United Kingdom

View Canadian Army 1943
Canadian Army 1943
Watch for free 8 mins

Canadian Army 1943 1943

Canadian troops stationed in Yorkshire get a civic reception before a tour of the county, including a typical textile town and watching a typical wartime football match.

8 mins United Kingdom

View Auxiliary Fire Service Practice, Ilford (1942)
Auxiliary Fire Service Practice, Ilford (1942)
Watch for free 6 mins

Auxiliary Fire Service Practice, Ilford (1942) 1942

Short amateur film showing the men of the Auxiliary Fire Service in Ilford in training in Ilford during the Second World War.

6 mins United Kingdom

View High Explosive Bombs and their effects
High Explosive Bombs and their effects
Watch for free 1 mins

High Explosive Bombs and their effects 1940

Controlled explosions take place in a field, probably organised for civil defence training purposes, and are shot by Aberaeron pharmacist Evan John Thomas.

1 mins Wales

View Man in the Street
Man in the Street
Watch for free

Man in the Street 1940

A wonderful, and often comic, peep into police training as the war gets underway; after having their chests measured, they learn how to control traffic and deal with dead bodies.

30 mins United Kingdom

View Fricker's Trained Alsatians
Fricker's Trained Alsatians
Watch for free 14 mins

Fricker's Trained Alsatians 1945

An intriguing look at the training of police dogs, climbing up ladders blindfolded and rescuing documents from wounded soldiers.

14 mins United Kingdom

View 4th Battalion Duke of Wellington Regiment at Redcar Camp
4th Battalion Duke of Wellington Regiment at Redcar Camp
Watch for free 12 mins

4th Battalion Duke of Wellington Regiment at Redcar Camp 1938

With war looming on the horizon, troops from the Duke still find time to relax and joke even when learning how to grapple with mortar launchers and lie flat firing anti-tank rifles.

12 mins United Kingdom

View Home Guard, Hounslow
Home Guard, Hounslow
Watch for free

Home Guard, Hounslow 1940

Detailed and absorbing look at the training of a battalion of the Home Guard in Middlesex captured by a local amateur film-maker.

30 mins United Kingdom

View Home Guard On Manoeuvres And Parade, Enfield
Home Guard On Manoeuvres And Parade, Enfield
Watch for free 11 mins

Home Guard On Manoeuvres And Parade, Enfield 1940

Amateur footage of the home guard on patrol and at ease in the fields outside London, where anti-tank weapons are tested in front of suburban houses.

11 mins United Kingdom

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later