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If War Should Come

With its soothing Elgar soundtrack and calm commentary, this retrospectively poignant public information film aimed to reassure a pre-war Britain.

Public Information Filler 1939 10 mins


Made for theatrical release, If War Should Come comprises a catalogue of civil defence precautions to be taken by householders in the event of war. The soothing Elgar soundtrack over commentator Jack Livesey's instructions to keep 'buckets of water and sand ready on the landing', 'a pencil and paper by the wireless set' and 'your gas mask handy' were designed to instil calm and reassurance at a time of uncertainty.

Despite its matter-of-fact approach, for today's audience the film has a special poignancy borne of knowledge of the reality that lay ahead. Just a month later, the original project had been overtaken by events and the film was hastily revised and awarded the more urgent title Do It Now in time for release at the outbreak of war. If War Should Come was one of the last films to be produced by the GPO Film Unit before it was renamed the Crown Film Unit and incorporated into the Films Division of the Ministry of Information. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.