Screen Archive South East


Second World War Collection

Films of the home front in the Second Word War in the Screen Archive South East include images from around Surrey, Sussex and Kent showing pre-war preparations, family life during war-time, civil defence, work on the home front, war-time community events and post-war celebrations.

During the war, many families in the South East continued to record their lives, despite the war-time restrictions. Films of the Gowlland family in Croydon, Surrey, show the introduction of ration books and black-out blinds and family members are seen taking up roles in the auxiliary services. Members of the Sadler family in Sussex are seen at home in their RAF uniforms and building air raid shelters. Keen amateur film-maker Ernest 'Spot' Botting also captured on film the effects of bombing raids in Kent communities. But the strengthening of community life and activities is also visible through films of town fund raising, and parades in places such as Leatherhead and Walton in Surrey.

The role of the Home Guard, land girls and other auxiliary services is also strongly represented in the archive. Screen Archive South East's West Sussex Home Guard training films illustrate many of the tactics used by Civil Defence volunteers to arm and protect the region. Urban schools in Portslade and Hove had to practice air raid drills and film was used to record these activities as an instructional tool. The work of war-time hospitals and medical services is covered in a number of films in the archive, including film of the pioneering plastic surgery unit known as the 'Guinea Pig Club' at East Grinstead hospital.

At the end of the war, VE day celebrations, victory parades and memorial services mark some of the collective responses of the region's communities to the end of conflict. Film of revellers dancing in the streets of Brighton in 1945 is followed by films of wreaths laid at memorials around the South East in the ensuing years. Beyond this, signs of post-war reconstruction can also be witnessed through film in the collection such as the development of Crawley New Town, West Sussex in the mid 1950s.

Some of the latest additions to the archive also begin to explore the personal reminiscences of those reviewing their war experiences. Fred Brushett's account of 'The British at Belsen' offers a poignant reminder of the role played by the British forces in dealing with the aftermath of the Holocaust.

Click on the links to see and read more about war-time films from Screen Archive South East.

This description and the extracts from films held on this site are just tasters of what Screen Archive South East holds from the Second World War period. Contact the archive to find out more.