Before Sky News and other 24 hour rolling news broadcasts, if you wanted to see the news, as opposed to listening to it on the wireless, you had to get on down to your local movie theatre and watch either Pathe News or British Movietone News.
So as part of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, you can now have all the newsreels from the whole war from the pre-war gathering of the storm clouds over Europe, the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the ‘Phoney war’, right up to the end of the war, with the occupation of Germany and the atomic bombs being dropped on Japan.
If like me you have seen one or two hundred WWII documentaries over the years, then you will be all too familiar with the newsreel clips as they have often been used by other documentary makers. Here though they are shown in their entirety, which is fascinating because you see them in the same way that our ancestors would have done when they went to the ‘flicks’ to catch up on how the war was going.
Of course the way that the news was reported then is totally different to the way that it is reported today, in fact a lot of what we know about the war now was either censored completely at the time or reported in such a way so as not to cause alarm and potentially damage the war effort. So expect lots of received pronunciation, terms like ‘the bosch took a hammering’, Gracie Fields and George Formby.
Covering six discs, the box set provides over 1,000 hours of footage that show the dark days of the war at home and abroad, when the tide began to turn and the slow progress to victory.
With Christmas rapidly approaching this would make an excellent present for any resident history buffs who, like me, will find great interest in seeing all this old footage together in one play for the first time.
World War II: The British Movietone Newsreel Years is out now on DVD in the UK, released by Odeon Entertainment.