They Stand Ready, the third release in the BFI’s DVD series of historical films made by the Central Office of Information, out on 19 July, takes a look at Britain’s Armed Forces.
To help paint a positive picture of life in the Services, the COI produced morale-boosting documentaries, propaganda items and numerous recruitment films which placed emphasis on escaping the hum-drum of daily life. Join the Services, they say, and a world of opportunity awaits you!
Viewed today, many of these films offer a fascinating snapshot of mid to late twentieth century Britain; some reinforce decades of prevailing social mores and others reflect changing social attitudes. All show skilful and imaginative filmmaking and are both informative and wonderfully entertaining.
Among the highlights of these 23 films, spanning 1946-1985, are: Victory Parade (1946) in which troops from all over the British Empire arrive in London to celebrate victory over the Nazis; They Stand Ready (1955), a look at the vital role of National Service; Suez in Perspective (1957), where the Suez Crisis is given a positive spin; When You Wake Up (1974), a recruitment film for schoolgirls which attempts to lure then into the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC), typing skills an advantage; HMS Sheffield (1975) and Tornado (1985), big boys’ toys on the high seas and in the skies.