Produced by British government agencies in October 1940, London Can Take It was intended for release in the then-neutral United States to help drum-up support for Britain in the Second World War. The film profiles a day in the life of Londoners during the Blitz - the regular German bombing raids on British towns and cities which lasted from September 1940 to May 1941.
American war correspondent Quentin Reynolds narrated the film, focusing on the people of London and their ability to come together in the face of adversity. The film proved to be successful in the US, where it was distributed in cinemas by Warner Brothers. A shorter version of the film, entitled Britain Can Take It, was released in the UK.
I'm speaking from London. It is late afternoon and the people of London are preparing for the night. Everyone is anxious to get home before darkness falls, before our nightly visitors arrive. This is the London rush hour, and many of the people at whom you are looking now are members of the greatest civilian army ever to be assembled. These men and women who have worked all day in offices or at markets are now hurrying home to change into the uniform of their particular service.
The dusk is deepening. Listening crews are posted all the way from the coast to London to pick up the drone of the German planes. Soon the nightly battle of London will be on. Now it's 8 o'clock. Gerry's a little bit late tonight. Searchlights are in position, the guns are ready, the people's army of volunteers is ready. They are the ones who are really fighting this war: the firemen, the air raid wardens, the ambulance drivers.
And there's the wail of the banshee! The nightly siege of London has begun. The city is dressed for battle. Here they come. Now the searchlights are poking long, white, inquisitive fingers into the blackness of the night.
[explosion] These are not Hollywood sound effects, this is the music they play every night in London, the symphony of war. [explosions]
Now the army of the people swings into action. The bombs have started fires. If a bomber starts a fire, he immediately returns, uses it as a target and drops more bombs, hoping to spread the fire. Yet the people's army ignores the bombs and the shrapnel which rains down constantly. Brokers, clerks, pedlars, merchants by day, they are heroes by night.
The night is long, but sooner or later the dawn will come. The German bombers are creatures of the night; they melt away before the dawn and scurry back to the safety of their own aerodromes. And there's the wail of the banshee again, this time a friendly wail. The all clear signal tells us that the bombers have gone. It's just 6 am, and in this last hour of precious sleep this strange new world finds peace.
London raises her head, shakes the debris of the night from her hair and takes stock of the damage done. London has been hurt during the night. The sign of a great fighter in the ring is can he get up from the floor after being knocked down? London does this, every morning.
I am a neutral reporter. I have watched the people of London live, and die, ever since death in its most ghastly garb began to come here as a nightly visitor five weeks ago. I have watched them stand by their homes, I have seen them made homeless, I have seen them move to new homes, and I can assure you there is no panic, no fear, no despair in London town. There is nothing but determination, confidence and high courage among the people of Churchill's island.
And they know that every night the RAF bombers fly deep into the heart of Germany bombing munition works, aeroplane factories, canals; cutting the arteries that keep the heart of Germany alive. It is true that the Nazis will be over again tomorrow night, and the night after that, and every night. They will drop thousands of bombs, they'll destroy hundreds of buildings and they'll kill thousands of people. But a bomb has its limitations. It can only destroy buildings and kill people, it cannot kill the unconquerable spirit and courage of the people of London. London can take it.
London Can Take It (1940)
This film contains flashing images. This is an edited version of the film. Watch the full 9-minute cut.