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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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West Sussex Home Guard 1
West Sussex Home Guard 1
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West Sussex Home Guard 1

Instructional film/TV programme19414 mins Location: West Sussex

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.

Warwork News No 33
Warwork News No 33
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Warwork News No 33

Government sponsored film194311 mins

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

Start a Land Club
Start a Land Club
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Start a Land Club

Government sponsored film19428 mins

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.

Citizen's Army
Citizen's Army
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Citizen's Army

Documentary194110 mins Location: London

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

When the Pie Was Opened
When the Pie Was Opened
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When the Pie Was Opened

Government sponsored film19418 mins

Welcome to an obscure but delightful corner of film history where Masterchef, rationing and surrealism meet public information films.

Family and Friends in War Time
Family and Friends in War Time
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Family and Friends in War Time

Home movie194126 mins Location: Pudsey

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.

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

Amateur film194510 mins Location: Gateshead

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

V.E. Day Civic Service, Bradford
V.E. Day Civic Service, Bradford
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V.E. Day Civic Service, Bradford

Non-Fiction194512 mins Location: Bradford

A sense of ending is evident among the service personnel and citizens of Bradford as V E Day finally arrives, although it is enough to inspire some jubilant dancing in the streets.

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.

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.

Scotland Speaks
Scotland Speaks
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Scotland Speaks

Documentary194120 mins Location: Stirling

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

"V.E." Celebrations
"V.E." Celebrations
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"V.E." Celebrations

Amateur film194511 mins Location: Whitchurch

The war is over at last and Victory in Europe Day is celebrated on 8/5/1945 at the Iles home in Heathwood Road, Cardiff, and with parties in Heathway and Albert Street.

Double Thread
Double Thread
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Double Thread

Documentary194333 mins Location: Guildford

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

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 mins 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.

Cine Scrapbook
Cine Scrapbook
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Cine Scrapbook

Amateur film193020 mins Location: Harewood

There are some visual rarities in this fascinating compilation spanning three decades - featuring air raid shelter antics, switchback rollercoasters and aerials over Oxford.

Hull Victory Celebrations
Hull Victory Celebrations
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Hull Victory Celebrations

Non-Fiction194540 mins Location: Kingston upon Hull

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.

Victory Parade
Victory Parade
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Victory Parade

Documentary194621 mins

Soldiers from the far reaches of the British Empire arrive in London to take part in the official commemoration of the end of war in Europe.

Peace returns to the garden
Peace returns to the garden
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Peace returns to the garden

Amateur film19455 mins Location: West Wickham

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.

Breathing Space
Breathing Space
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Breathing Space

Documentary194310 mins Location: London

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

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 mins 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).

Victory Day Scenes
Victory Day Scenes
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Victory Day Scenes

Amateur film194514 mins Location: Cardiff/Caerdydd

It’s all over, for Britain at least – the dreaded telegrams, the bombings, the blackouts - and Cardiffians celebrate the end of the war with tea and cake, fancy dress and bonfires.

Total War in Britain
Total War in Britain
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Total War in Britain

Documentary194521 mins

Britain's war - from Dunkirk to D-Day in 20 minutes

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Life Under Fire
Life Under Fire
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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!

Ration Book Britain
Ration Book Britain
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Ration Book Britain

As if the bombs weren't enough, wartime Britons faced another fearsome foe: the ration book...

Ready for the Enemy
Ready for the Enemy
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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.

Dig for Victory
Dig for Victory
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Dig for Victory

Keeping the nation fed and healthy was the greatest priority of the Home Front. Women replaced absent farm workers, while ordinary Britons were exhorted to 'grow their own'.

Keep the Wheels Turning
Keep the Wheels Turning
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Keep the Wheels Turning

The State seized control of much of British industry at the start of the war. Mills and factories now produced munitions, planes, tanks and uniforms, while mines yielded the coal to power it all.

WWII at the Pictures
The Weaker Sex from WWII at the Pictures
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WWII at the Pictures

Once the cinemas were declared open for business, the film industry kept the reels turning, serving up a mixed diet of news, morale-boosting propaganda and uplifting entertainment.

Tessa Dunlop: The Home Front
Tessa Dunlop on The Home Front
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Tessa Dunlop: The Home Front

A journey through BFI Player's The Home Front collection, by Tessa Dunlop, historian, journalist, presenter of BBC2's Coast and Radio 4’s Crossing Continents.