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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Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid PostActivities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post

Amateur film193916 minsSilent Location: Littleover

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.

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Kingsbury: ARP in SandiacreKingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre

Home movie19409 minsSilent Location: Sandiacre

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

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London Can Take It!London Can Take It!

Documentary19409 mins Location: London

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.

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Keep Them Safe, Keep Them HappyKeep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy

Charity appeal19392 minsSilent Location: Norwich

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

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Bombed OutBombed Out

Amateur film19459 minsSilent Location: Southwark

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

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How to Fit a Gas MaskHow to Fit a Gas Mask

Public Information Filler19392 mins

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

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Auxiliary Fire Service in Walton on ThamesAuxiliary Fire Service in Walton on Thames

Amateur film19406 minsSilent Location: Walton-on-Thames

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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ARP: A Practical Demonstration of Nottingham PrecautionsARP: A Practical Demonstration of Nottingham Precautions

Amateur film193810 minsSilent Location: Nottingham

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

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London Autumn 1941London Autumn 1941

Government sponsored film194110 mins

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

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Air Raid Precaution (ARP) Training in CambridgeAir Raid Precaution (ARP) Training in Cambridge

Amateur film19402 minsSilent Location: Cambridge

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

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The District NurseThe District Nurse

Government sponsored film194212 mins

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

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Blitzed Cities of Bristol and BathBlitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath

War194235 minsSilent Location: Chew Magna

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

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Firewatch DogFirewatch Dog

Government sponsored film19431 mins

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

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Newspaper TrainNewspaper Train

Government sponsored film19426 mins

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

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They Fight by NightThey Fight by Night

Government sponsored film194310 mins

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.

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The Shepherd and His FlockThe Shepherd and His Flock

Amateur film194132 minsSilent Location: Hitchin

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.

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Fire of LondonFire of London

Government sponsored film194516 mins Location: London

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

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Post 23Post 23

Documentary194110 mins

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

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Evacuees and ARP Training exercisesEvacuees and ARP Training exercises

Amateur film193920 minsSilent Location: Herne Bay

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.

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Canterbury 1939 to 1940Canterbury 1939 to 1940

Amateur film193911 minsSilent Location: Canterbury

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

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Civilians in UniformCivilians in Uniform

Amateur film194621 mins Location: Leatherhead

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.

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Bewdley Fireman at PracticeBewdley Fireman at Practice

Amateur film194013 minsSilent Location: Bewdley

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

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Government sponsored film19419 mins

‘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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Derbyshire Red Cross Flying ColumnDerbyshire Red Cross Flying Column

Amateur film194216 minsSilent Location: Ashbourne

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

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Techniques Of Bomb Disposal IITechniques Of Bomb Disposal II

Training film/TV programme194236 mins Location: Tower Hamlets

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

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This Could Happen to YouThis Could Happen to You

Amateur film19505 minsSilent Location: Neath

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”.

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Kingsbury: Buoyant Upholstery Fire and Incendiary BombKingsbury: Buoyant Upholstery Fire and Incendiary Bomb

Home movie19404 minsSilent Location: Sandiacre

With thoughts of the dangers of the Blitz in people's minds, a local tragedy in Sandiacre brings preparations into stark focus.

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Incendiary Bomb DemonstrationIncendiary Bomb Demonstration

Amateur film19403 minsSilent Location: Canterbury

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

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The National Fire Service in Woking and a Pump Relay competition in GuildfordThe National Fire Service in Woking and a Pump Relay competition in Guildford

Amateur film19427 minsSilent Location: Woking

Men of the NFS demonstrate their fire fighting equipment skills before an audience in this splendid colour film from 1942. And the best crews get the best prizes.

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Carry On Lombard StreetCarry On Lombard Street

Amateur film194121 minsSilent Location: City of London

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

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Bomb Repair Speed UpBomb Repair Speed Up

Government sponsored film194515 mins Location: London

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

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Listen to BritainListen to Britain

Documentary194220 mins

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.

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Incendiary Bomb PracticeIncendiary Bomb Practice

Amateur film19403 minsSilent Location: Canterbury

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.

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Ottershaw 1939Ottershaw 1939

Amateur film193915 minsSilent Location: Ottershaw

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.

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Bombing BFD (Bradford) CricketBombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket

Non-Fiction19404 minsSilent Location: Bradford

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.

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Control RoomControl Room

Government sponsored film194223 mins Location: Bristol

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

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Health in WarHealth in War

Government sponsored film194013 mins

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

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Heavier Than AirHeavier Than Air

Government sponsored film19428 mins Location: Falfield

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

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Mother and ChildMother and Child

Public Information Filler194010 mins

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.

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All HandsAll Hands

Public Information Filler194011 mins

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

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Other Men's LivesOther Men's Lives

Government sponsored film194410 mins

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

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Food for ThoughtFood for Thought

Government sponsored film19405 mins

Grumpy Grandma is put in her place during wartime food demonstration

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Hospital NurseHospital Nurse

Government sponsored film19418 mins

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

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

Amateur film194612 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

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

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Brighton's BlitzBrighton's Blitz

Amateur film194019 minsSilent Location: Brighton

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

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Public Information Filler19416 mins

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

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Government sponsored film194420 mins

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

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Out WorkingOut Working

Government sponsored film194513 mins

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

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Britain's YouthBritain's Youth

Sport194012 mins

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

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Cambridge American Military Cemetary ServiceCambridge American Military Cemetary Service

19454 minsSilent Location: Coton

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

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Scrapbook for 1942Scrapbook for 1942

Home movie194010 minsSilent Location: Groby Pool

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

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VJ DaysVJ Days

Amateur film19455 minsSilent Location: Aspley Guise

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.

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War-Time ActivitiesWar-Time Activities

Home movie19424 minsSilent Location: Shirley

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

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Llandrindod Wells CarnivalLlandrindod Wells Carnival

Non-Fiction19406 minsSilent Location: Llandrindod Wells/Llandrindod

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.

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

Home movie194415 minsSilent Location: Knighton

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

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Road to YesterdayRoad to Yesterday

Travelogue194432 mins

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

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V.J. Day CelebrationsV.J. Day Celebrations

Non-Fiction19458 minsSilent Location: Bradford

Soon after the VE 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.

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Ibberson Family and VE DayIbberson Family and VE Day

Home movie194517 minsSilent Location: Sheffield

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.

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Baer: VE DayBaer: VE Day

Home movie194519 minsSilent Location: Littleover

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!

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VE Day Party at ColwickVE Day Party at Colwick

Amateur film19459 minsSilent Location: Colwick

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.

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A Welcome to BritainA Welcome to Britain

Government sponsored film194355 mins

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

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Exeter after the BlitzExeter after the Blitz

War19424 minsSilent Location: Exeter

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

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Family Album to EntertainFamily Album to Entertain

Amateur film194014 minsSilent Location: Broadwater

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.

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What Is One among So Many?What Is One among So Many?

Documentary194317 minsSilent

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

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U.S. And UsU.S. And Us

Advert19432 mins

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

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Welwyn Garden City - The War YearsWelwyn Garden City - The War Years

Amateur film193915 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

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

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V.E. Celebrations at Newport May 1945V.E. Celebrations at Newport May 1945

Amateur film19459 minsSilent Location: Newport/Casnewydd

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).

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A Ride with Uncle JoeA Ride with Uncle Joe

Documentary194311 mins

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

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London Fire Raids 29th-30th December 1940London Fire Raids 29th-30th December 1940

Documentary194012 mins

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.

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The King And Queen Leave Hillingdon House, Uxbridge (1944)The King And Queen Leave Hillingdon House, Uxbridge (1944)

Amateur film19442 minsSilent Location: Uxbridge

Brief film of the King and Queen leaving the RAF base at Hillingdon House in Uxbridge in the latter days of the Second World War.

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Street teas - Aberaman, after 1939-45 warStreet teas - Aberaman, after 1939-45 war

Home movie194510 minsSilent Location: Aberaman

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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Armistice Day - Llandrindod WellsArmistice Day - Llandrindod Wells

News19393 minsSilent Location: Llandrindod Wells/Llandrindod

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.

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

194023 minsSilent

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.

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The Nose Has It!The Nose Has It!

Public Information Filler19428 mins

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

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Twinkling FingersTwinkling Fingers

Musical194011 mins

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

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The Weaker SexThe Weaker Sex

War194885 mins

Following one family from 1944 onwards, this film tells the story of the women who worked to keep the home fires burning. An affecting tribute to the vital role women played ensuring that husbands, sons and daughters had something to come home to.

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Special! With Farnham's Own Anti-Aircraft Battery in Training - Somewhere in EnglandSpecial! With Farnham's Own Anti-Aircraft Battery in Training - Somewhere in England

Amateur film19401 minsSilent

The 137th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery in training at Hurst Park in the early days of WWII

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The Big CityThe Big City

Travelogue19406 mins Location: Westminster

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

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Government sponsored film194336 mins

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

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Comedy194068 mins Location: Highbury

This morale-boosting variety extravaganza – filled with radio personality Carroll Levis' discoveries - is like a wartime Britain's Got Talent.

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A Follow Me Sing Song No.2A Follow Me Sing Song No.2

19404 mins

Forget your troubles with this wartime cinema singalong.

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Signs of the Times No.58Signs of the Times No.58

Advert19414 mins

A curious blue lake, a wonder tablet, a river boat and a picnic essential - sounds like the beginning of a story!

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Sketchbook of Fashion (Knights Castile Advert)Sketchbook of Fashion (Knights Castile Advert)

Advert19402 mins

The key word in the book of fashion is simplicity

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Musical194510 mins

Set during rehearsals for a cabaret show, this short film features singer Rosalind Melville.

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Elopement in FranceElopement in France

Advert19442 mins

A Richard Massingham advert for Rinso detergent, featuring dirty petticoats and bloomers.

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Quiz Crimes No. 2Quiz Crimes No. 2

Detective drama194419 mins

You too can solve the case of the stolen boy, courtesy of this film from 1944.

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Musical194317 mins

Short revue film starring female performers Renara, Irene Cutter and Shirley Lenner, plus Harry Parry and his Band.

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There's Reason in RhumbaThere's Reason in Rhumba

Musical193912 mins

Rhythm and romanticism rules over realism in this recreation of the origins of the rhumba dance

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Lift the BlackoutLift the Blackout

Charity appeal19413 mins Location: Church Stretton

St Dunstan's Charity in Church Stretton assists those who've lost their sight to become "self-supporting citizens"

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National Fire ServiceNational Fire Service

Charity appeal194411 mins

Focusing on the wartime threat to north-west England, this charity appeal salutes the "angels with grimy faces"