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Recently the British Council, an organization that focuses on educational 10 Educational History Podcasts To Subscribe & Listen To 10 Educational History Podcasts To Subscribe & Listen To A lot of us left history back in the classrooms. For some it made for ponderous reading. Thanks to the many history podcasts available for free on the web, listening to it is both entertaining... Read More and cultural importance, released a bounty of historical films produced during the Second World War for viewing online. These reels were produced to counter Nazi propaganda and convince the world that Britain was doing “just fine” despite the devastating effects of war.

In them we see a country at war, an army stretched to its limits and some prime examples of national pride and the “stiff upper lip” attitude that is uniformly recognised around the world as being quintessentially British.

There’s not enough room for 80 films here, so here are 6 of my favourites. You can check out the rest on the British Council’s website.

British News

This is the first of five films produced under the “British News” name. This one is particularly interesting as it covers the rescue at Dunkirk, one of the most important and defining events of the war.

Also seen is a visit by King George VI to an arms factory where workers used lathes and volatile raw materials to produce munitions for the war effort, and naval servicemen being given a hero’s welcome after the Battle of River Plate in South America.

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London 1942

Much of the country was devastated by bombing during the war, and London How The London Riots Showed The Dark Side Of Social Media [Opinion] How The London Riots Showed The Dark Side Of Social Media [Opinion] As I sit here wondering how things will pan out for London after the riots, I can’t help but turn towards Twitter for relevant information about my local area. The media is repeating the same... Read More was no exception. This video takes a look at a capital city scarred by air raids, while at the same time retaining a business-as-usual attitude.

The film also shows non-British allies “settling in”, including the first American troops to arrive and be welcomed. In one scene, there are more than 20 different nationalities present around Nelson’s Column.

Women in War

The damaging view of a woman’s place in society that was upheld before the war was soon forgotten once much of the country’s men were sent to the front line. In this film we see women being inducted into military duty, shedding the “diversity of fashion” for khaki uniforms instead.

Women performed many important roles on the home front during the war. Much of the remaining fire service was run by women, and women were often called to care for returning soldiers and to evacuate children from dangerous areas.

The Great Game

Football is, has and always will be bordering on religion in Britain. The FA Cup is the world’s most prestigious club trophy, but in 1945 it was substituted for the Football League War Cup as seen in this video.

Sport was one of the few respites for a country torn apart by war. This film shows a group of then-famous footballers teaching schoolboys a thing or two, as well as footage from the 1945 War Cup.

Morning Paper

These days, the traditional printed press is on the decline but at the time of the war the opposite was true. Even though the war meant that the papers were never short of news, the blitz experienced by London complicated the process of creating and distributing the news.

This film takes a look at the work involved in producing an issue of The Times – to quote the film’s original description: “Bombs may fall, but the newspaper comes out on time.”

City Bound

A look at London’s public transport system during the blitz, though this film does show the sunnier side of the situation. In particular the London Undergound was home to more than 150,000 people by 1940 as it provided safety and shelter from bombs and gas attacks.

The Underground became such an important residence for many of the capital’s residents that 22,000 bunk beds were installed along with washroom facilities, food trains and even entertainment in the form of films, music and libraries in some stations.

Conclusion

There are another 74 films in the recently released archive that I haven’t featured here, so if you’ve enjoyed these then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy digging through the historical collection which is diverse in its contents. These are largely propaganda films that don’t dwell on the wounds opened by the blitz and massive loss of life incurred.

In fact there’s very little front-line footage contained within, and cities that were virtually razed like Coventry aren’t mentioned at all. That doesn’t make the archive any less historically important however, so dig deep and enjoy.

If you’ve enjoyed these films, why not check out these related Stuff to Watch articles:

Did you enjoy these films? Do you have any favourites of your own from the British Council collection? Let us know what you think in the comments, below!

  1. Alex Olariu
    July 31, 2012 at 12:43 am

    lovely

  2. john wills
    June 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/80-fascinating-historical-british-wwii-propaganda-films-stuff-watch/

    on the above page you mention that the battle of the river plate was in South Africa, I think you would fine the river plate is in Southe America

    JW

    • Tim Brookes
      June 16, 2012 at 1:54 am

      I have absolutely no idea how that happened but rest assured it's been fixed!

  3. Joe Bligh
    May 15, 2012 at 4:31 am

    Brilliant. What a great collection. I know I will enjoy the collection from Tim Brookes.

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