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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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Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post
Activities Pictured at Littleover First Aid Post
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Activities 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.

Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre
Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre
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Kingsbury: ARP in Sandiacre

Home movie19409 minsSilent Location: Sandiacre

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

London Can Take It!
London Can Take It!
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London Can Take It!

Government sponsored film19409 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.

Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Happy
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Keep 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.

Bombed Out
Bombed Out
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Bombed Out

Amateur film19459 minsSilent Location: Southwark

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

How to Fit a Gas Mask
How to Fit a Gas Mask
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How 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.

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

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.

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

London Autumn 1941
London Autumn 1941
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London Autumn 1941

Government sponsored film194110 mins

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

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

The District Nurse
The District Nurse
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The 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.

Blitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath
Blitzed Cities of Bristol and Bath
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Blitzed 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.

Firewatch Dog
Firewatch Dog
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Firewatch Dog

Government sponsored film19431 mins

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

Newspaper Train
Newspaper Train
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Newspaper 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.

They Fight by Night
They Fight by Night
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They 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.

The Shepherd and His Flock
The Shepherd and His Flock
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The 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.

Fire of London
Fire of London
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Fire 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.

Post 23
Post 23
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Post 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.

Evacuees and ARP Training exercises
Evacuees and ARP Training exercises
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Evacuees 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.

Canterbury 1939 to 1940
Canterbury 1939 to 1940
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Canterbury 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.

Civilians in Uniform
Civilians in Uniform
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Civilians 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.

Bewdley Fireman at Practice
Bewdley Fireman at Practice
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Bewdley Fireman at Practice

Amateur film194013 minsSilent Location: Bewdley

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

Ack-ack
Ack-ack
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Ack-ack

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.

Derbyshire Red Cross Flying Column
Derbyshire Red Cross Flying Column
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Derbyshire 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.

Techniques Of Bomb Disposal II
Techniques Of Bomb Disposal II
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Techniques 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.

This Could Happen to You
This Could Happen to You
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This Could Happen to You

Amateur film19505 minsSilent Location: Llantwit

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”.

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

Incendiary Bomb Demonstration
Incendiary Bomb Demonstration
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Incendiary 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.

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

Carry On Lombard Street
Carry On Lombard Street
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Carry 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.

Bomb Repair Speed Up
Bomb Repair Speed Up
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Bomb 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.

Listen to Britain
Listen to Britain
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Listen to Britain

Government sponsored film194220 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.

Incendiary Bomb Practice
Incendiary Bomb Practice
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Incendiary 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.

Ottershaw 1939
Ottershaw 1939
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Ottershaw 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.

Bombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket
Bombing BFD (Bradford) Cricket
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Bombing 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.

Control Room
Control Room
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Control 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.

Health in War
Health in War
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Health 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.

Heavier Than Air
Heavier Than Air
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Heavier 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.

Mother and Child
Mother and Child
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Mother 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.

All Hands
All Hands
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All 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.

Other Men's Lives
Other Men's Lives
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Other 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.

Food for Thought
Food for Thought
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Food for Thought

Government sponsored film19405 mins

Grumpy Grandma is put in her place during wartime food demonstration

Hospital Nurse
Hospital Nurse
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Hospital Nurse

Government sponsored film19418 mins

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

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

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.

Brighton's Blitz
Brighton's Blitz
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Brighton'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.

A-tish-oo
A-tish-oo
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A-tish-oo

Public Information Filler19416 mins

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

Jig-Saw
Jig-Saw
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Jig-Saw

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.

Out Working
Out Working
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Out Working

Government sponsored film194513 mins

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

Britain's Youth
Britain's Youth
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Britain'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”.

Cambridge American Military Cemetary Service
Cambridge American Military Cemetary Service
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Cambridge 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.

Scrapbook for 1942
Scrapbook for 1942
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Scrapbook 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.

VJ Days
VJ Days
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VJ 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.

War-Time Activities
War-Time Activities
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War-Time Activities

Home movie19424 minsSilent Location: Shirley

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

Llandrindod Wells Carnival
Llandrindod Wells Carnival
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Llandrindod 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.

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

Home movie194415 minsSilent Location: Knighton

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

Road to Yesterday
Road to Yesterday
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Road 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!

V.J. Day Celebrations
V.J. Day Celebrations
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V.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.

Ibberson Family and VE Day
Ibberson Family and VE Day
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Ibberson 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.

Baer: VE Day
Baer: VE Day
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Baer: 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!

VE Day Party at Colwick
VE Day Party at Colwick
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VE 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.

A Welcome to Britain
A Welcome to Britain
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A 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.

Exeter after the Blitz
Exeter after the Blitz
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Exeter 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.

Family Album to Entertain
Family Album to Entertain
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Family 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.

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

U.S. And Us
U.S. And Us
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U.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.

Welwyn Garden City - The War Years
Welwyn Garden City - The War Years
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Welwyn 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.

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

A Ride with Uncle Joe
A Ride with Uncle Joe
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A Ride with Uncle Joe

Documentary194311 mins

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

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

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

Amateur film19442 mins 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.

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

Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells
Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells
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Armistice 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.

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

194023 mins

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.

The Nose Has It!
The Nose Has It!
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The Nose Has It!

Public Information Filler19428 mins

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

Twinkling Fingers
Twinkling Fingers
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Twinkling Fingers

Musical194011 mins

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

The Weaker Sex
The Weaker Sex
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The Weaker Sex

War194885 mins

Following one family from 1944 till after the war, this film tells the story of the women who worked to keep the home fires burning - not to mention cleaning the grates, darning socks, feeding a houseful on rations and waving off the uniformed heroes with a brave smile. It's an affecting and affectionate tribute to the vital role women played ensuring that husbands, sons and daughters had something to come home to.

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

The Big City
The Big City
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The Big City

Travelogue19406 mins Location: Westminster

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

Scabies
Scabies
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Scabies

Government sponsored film194336 mins

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

Discoveries
Discoveries
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Discoveries

Comedy193968 mins Location: Highbury

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

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

19404 mins

Forget your troubles with this wartime cinema singalong.

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

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

Advert19402 mins

The key word in the book of fashion is simplicity

Cabaret
Cabaret
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Cabaret

Musical194510 mins

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

Elopement in France
Elopement in France
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Elopement in France

Advert19442 mins

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

Quiz Crimes No. 2
Quiz Crimes No. 2
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Quiz Crimes No. 2

194419 mins

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

Swingonometry
Swingonometry
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Swingonometry

Musical194317 mins

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

There's Reason in Rhumba
There's Reason in Rhumba
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There's Reason in Rhumba

Musical193912 mins

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

Lift the Blackout
Lift the Blackout
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Lift 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"

National Fire Service
National Fire Service
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National Fire Service

Charity appeal194411 mins

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