Northern Region Film & Television Archive


Second World War Collection

The Northern Region Film and Television Archive (NRFTA) was founded in 1998, its immediate purpose being to house and preserve two large regional television collections dating from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Since then it has acquired a variety of titles predating these collections, dating back to local topicals from 1912. The NRFTA does not, however, contain a large collection of films directly related to the Second World War - only 11 titles in total. In relation to the pre-television era, the collecting remit of regional film archives tends to focus on amateur, industrial, promotional and advertising film, the production of which declined sharply during the war. Second World War-related acquisitions, therefore, have tended to be few and far between; but the material we do have provides a unique perspective on the conflict which isn't necessarily apparent from the feature films, newsreels and official propaganda through which many of us are most familiar with from the period.

During the Second World War, film stock and processing was difficult to obtain. Official permission was needed to purchase 16mm and 35mm stock, and although 8mm and 9.5mm was not controlled in this way, the supply of film and the availability of processing for members of the public was severely limited. Permission from the local police constabulary and/or the War Office was needed to film in public, and was usually denied when the subject was considered to be of any strategic importance. This, therefore, makes the archive's footage of bomb damaged houses in South Shields (as seen in the film Newcastle ARP (ca. 1940) ) all the more unusual: such images were generally excluded from officially sanctioned films lest they damage morale.

The films Holidays at Home (1944), V.E. Day (1945) and Kendal Home Guard (ca. 1943) are even more of a rarity, being in colour: Kodachrome stock was not sold directly to the general public at all during the conflict, with all supplies being controlled by the Board of Trade. It is clear that these films must have received official approval, at least at local level.

The immediate post-war reconstruction period remained a time of major adversity in Britain. One example film from the Northern Region from during this post-war period is the 1947 educational film Jack Frost Strikes Again, which offers hints of some of the living conditions experienced at the time. The road safety film As Easy as A-B-C (1946), also made in the Northern region in the immediate post-war period, perhaps indicates a new focus on more domestic dangers, after the fears of bombing campaigns were over.

Click on the links to see and read about war-time films from the Northern Region Film & Television Archive.

Contact the archive to find out more.