Parades and Campaigning

Parades during the war years provided the government, the armed forces, the civilian services (such as the ARP) and the public with organised public spectacles that focused on particular aspects of the war effort. They signified the need for communities to work together to fight the enemy, care for those who were in need and raise both money and support for particular causes. They present the nation as unified and committed to the war effort.

The Leatherhead Newsreel (1940–1945) is a unique document in this respect because it provides an overview of public events in this Surrey town throughout the war, focusing on parades, particular fundraising campaigns and Civil Defence activities. It serves as not only an official view of the town’s wartime history but also as a paradigm for all towns during the conflict. Leatherhead Newsreel features 'Weapons Week' (1940), 'Warship Week' (October 1941), 'War Savings Week' with a parade and summer fair (July 1942) and ‘Wings for Victory Week’ (1943). The film concludes with a sequence in colour on VE Day, 8 May 1945 and a parade of servicemen and women and members of the civilian services.

Other films in this theme chronicle fund-raising events in particular communities. Walton's Parade for Victory (1941) was commissioned by the Regal Cinema in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The parade marched through the town in order to mark the opening of Walton and Weybridge’s War Weapons Week. Its screening within the cinema served as an important tool for this fund-raising campaign. Audiences were encouraged to purchase National War Bonds. Salute the Soldier Week (1944) documents fundraising events, including a parade, for the ‘Salute the Soldier Week’ held at Chapeltown, South Yorkshire.

The end of the war in Europe and the Pacific initiated a set of victory parades across the country, beginning with VE Day in May 1945. The film Newton Abbot Street Party (1945), in Devon, is a good example as it combines a victory parade with a street party. Sheffield V.E.Day / Indian Victory Parade (1945-1946) is a more comprehensive portrait of the formal parades after the end of war. It features the official VE Day ceremony and parade and then the ‘Indian Victory Parade’ of 18th June, 1946. It included Allied and Commonwealth forces and members of the Civil Defence services.

Parade films, such as these, present a view of staged events that were designed for communities to share. They present order and dignity at a time when many were adjusting to the chaos and tragedy of the war experience. The parade films made from VE Day onwards acquire an additional significance as they are part of a formal and official commemoration of the war’s end. In order the counteract the impersonality of these events and appreciate how individuals felt at this time, we have to turn to other films of wartime life along with additional sources such as diaries, letters, reminiscences and stories.