This film is part of Free

Battle Fleets of Britain

A modern fleet, centuries of tradition - and properly ironed collars - lay the foundations for victory, as the Royal Navy prepares to battle the U-boat threat in September 1939.

Documentary 1939 19 mins


This rousing March of Time issue from September 1939 concludes that ‘England will win victory’ and defeat the Nazi U-boat menace. There is some fine footage of the ships of the fleet, including the Ark Royal aircraft carrier, but it is the behind-the-scenes footage that really engages the viewer, showing cadets and junior officers unselfconsciously going about their daily routine: climbing rigging, using sextants, sewing sails and ironing their uniforms.

A judicious balance of description and analysis, combining archive footage, contemporary film, the familiar March of Time maps, and a stirring commentary, ensured that this issue was well received by British and American audiences and critics. Behind-the-scenes footage from the Admiralty Building and the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, together with a survey of the China Squadron, the Mediterranean Fleet, and the Home Fleet, and a close look at the dropping of depth charges, and other anti-submarine methods, all contribute to an informative issue that was an effective morale-booster in the early days of the war at sea.