IWM's impressive film collection holds over 25,000 hours of moving images, including official newsreels, public information films, cartoons and documentaries, representing over a hundred years of filmmaking. 

For this series, IWM curators introduce us to their highlights from this vast collection. 

Halas & Batchelor's RAF recruitment cartoon

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First Line of Defence is a short cartoon recruitment film for the RAF created in 1949 by animation duo Halas and Batchelor. The story follows a trainee pilot dreaming about the history of flight, and it's one of the dozens of films created by John Halas and Joy Batchelor for the War Office. IWM Curator Helen Upcraft introduces us to this delightful cartoon.

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Second World War

Calling Blighty from Burma, 1945

This film is from an extraordinary collection called Calling Blighty, in which Armed Forces personnel stationed in India and East Asia during the Second World War recorded messages to be sent back home. Here the Brighton Boys stationed in Burma are given around 10 seconds each to record their message. 

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Second World War

Vera Lynn chats with troops, 1944

The only known wartime footage of Vera Lynn, shot on 14 May 1944 near the Burmese border. The film captures Vera Lynn not singing but chatting to soldiers.

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Second World War

Choose Cheese, 1940

With rationing introduced early in 1940 in Britain, this public information film was created to advocate the advantages of eating cheese, explaining its health benefits with some (unverified) experiments as well as its versatility in cooking, from grilled cheese to cauliflower cheese.

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Second World War

Filming the D-Day Landings on Sword Beach

On 6 June 1944, Sergeant Ian Grant was among the thousands of men landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on D Day, armed only with a revolver and a cine camera. He was part of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU) and captured this incredible mute footage of the landings.

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Britain at War by Rosie Newman

Britain at War is a 99 minute film, filmed and edited by amateur camerawoman Rosie Newman, capturing diverse scenes from the British home front during the Second World War. Curator Jane Fish introduces us to this remarkable film.

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Second World War

A Welcome to Britain in 1943

This 1943 film presents a guide to British society for American troops arriving in the UK prior to the Normandy Landings. The film features an introduction to British pubs and warm pints, as well as an awkward overview of race relations in America and Britain.

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Second World War

Make Do and Mend, 1943

From June 1941 until 1949, buying new clothes was rationed in Britain. This newsreel trailer, made by the Ministry of Information in 1943, is called ‘Make Do and Mend’, introduced by film curator Michelle Kirby.

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Cameraman at war still

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© IWM (A70 217-3)
Second World War

Christmas in wartime

During the Second World War, film cameras captured how people celebrated the festive season on both the Home Front and the fighting fronts.

Evacuated troops on a destroyer about to berth at Dover, 31 May 1940.
© IWM (H 1637)
Second World War

The Photographers And Filmmakers Who Captured The Second World War

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, just one Army photographer, Geoffrey Keating, and one cameraman, Harry Rignold, accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France. On 24 October 1941, the Army agreed to form a corps of trained photographers and cameramen.

A man chips away at a part of the Berlin Wall. Grafffiti above him reads 'Build Doors Not Walls.' Still from the NATO film collection.
© IWM (NAT 3544)
Cold War

The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall on Film

The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. By the end of 1990, much of the Wall had been demolished. 

Explore our timeline of key events in the Berlin Wall’s history using IWM’s film collection.

Cunningham Combat Camera Model C 35mm cine camera
© IWM (PHO 345)

7 Cameras Used To Film War

Since the First World War, those filming in warzones have risked their lives to get close enough to the combat to capture it. The types of equipment they have used to do so have changed over time, from cumbersome and heavy early cameras to lightweight, mobile ones in use in the 21st century.

First World War veterans in the LDV line up for inspection, 1 July 1940.
Second World War

Rare Colour Footage Of The Real 'Dad's Army'

The Home Guard (originally the Local Defence Volunteers) was established in May 1940. Made up of men below or above conscription age and those unfit or ineligible for the front line, this 'Dad's Army' was to be Britain's last line of defence against German invasion.

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First World War

Sam Mendes on directing 1917

Sam Mendes grew up hearing stories of the First World War from his grandfather Alfred H. Mendes, a Lance Corporal who served as a messenger on the Western Front. Watch our interview with Sam and learn more about his inspiration and the importance of telling stories of the First World War.