Video story

This Propaganda Film Shows Life On The British Home Front In 1939

The British propaganda film, The First Days, was made in the early months of the Second World War, before the expected bombing of Britain's cities had begun. This period became known as the 'Phoney War' because little military activity had taken place in Western Europe since war had been declared in September of 1939. 

The film's producer, Alberto Cavalcanti, instructed his production team to go out and film what was happening on London's home front in 1939. The resulting film captures the mood around London at the time and shows how ordinary people were preparing for the challenges ahead: laying sandbags, boarding-up windows and evacuating their children to the countryside.

This extract from the film shows what life was like on the British home front at the start of the war.

  • The First Days (1939)

    Loading the player ...

    This is an edited clip. Watch the complete film.

You can find out how war has inspired film in our exhibition Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies.