4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2009
Wow. Just recieved my copy of IWM's 'The Official Collection: The Home Guard & Britain's Citizen Army' 2-disc DVD. Really amazing. Most of the footage I haven't seen in over 20 years of studying the HG. Of particular interest are the following short films on it:
'Citizen's Army' (1941): Shows the HG in the early days with denims etc and shows a lot of training at Osterley Park with Tom Wintringham & some other Spanish Civil War character in a flying helmet (Yank Levy?) chucking grenades. Nice early uniform detail.
'One Man Two Jobs' (1944) is only 10 mins but particularly interesting: filmed just before stand down, it shows all the HG's different roles, so there's HGs manning and firing a z-battery on Hampstead Heath (nice insignia detail); firing 3.7" AA guns, firing a 20mm AA Hispano - the fast firing certainly wakes up the HG firing it and he almost loses control of the cannon!; manning a coastal battery - nice building detail and loading/firing etc; MT unit embussing under cover - good kit/weapon detail. Also nice footage of loading & firing a spigot mortar at an old tank - makes a nice big explosion! Also various HG weapons used Thompson, Browning on a tripod, BAR at full auto (puts a smile on the HG firer's face!).
HOWEVER, the real star of the show is two 13-minute HG training films: 'Home Guard Town Fighting - Weapons & Equipment' & 'Home Guard Town Fighting - Platoon Assault on a House' (October 1943). These two films have absolutely loads of really interesting, close up detail of footage which I don't think has been on TV before and surely documentary filmmakers would kill for.
The first starts with an explanation of the enemy. Obviously HGs dressed as Huns, but unlike the usual ex-theatrical props/WW1 kit they are properly dressed with MP40's/MG34's etc (a bit more seriously than the Dad's Army episode Ring Dem Bells!). Then it moves onto the HG battle platoon. The commentator goes from each man explaining their kit, down to what they carry in their pouches etc. Of interest is that they wear their bayonets behind their left shoulder as fighting knives; they carry jemmies/crowbars for mouseholing walls and one HG in each section carries a shortened shotgun (ever wondered what happened to those shotguns of 1940?). They also wear trainers instead of boots. Nice detail of various mark Stens and P17's etc.
The second film shows an assault on a house. It looks like it is filmed on the bombsite area of the Birmingham townfighting school. Great close-up footage of loading and firing (!) a Smith Gun and EY Projectors. The Smith Gun looks very light - one man pulls it with a toggle rope. Makes a good explosion on the front of the house (though this may be a stunted charge). The assault on the house is interesting: although in theory it looks quite professional, there is some worrying aspects: they clearly don't think the Germans will be keeping a look out as their preparations (reccying, knocking mouseholes in overlooking walls etc) are very unsubtle. They advance over open ground. Although the 3 HG assault teams have their own areas of the house to clear, their is danger of shoot throughs/friendly fire/surprising each other. They use a jemmy to smash a hole in a ceiling and then put a grenade in the ceiling space to enlargen the hole (they're still standing in the same room!) then chuck a grenade up into the room above! Throughout all this they manage to only get one casualty! Interestingly, these two HG films are numbered 7 & 8, so where are/what are the others?? The rest of the two discs are about ARP and wardens posts etc and are also interesting.
The DVD is part of a series done by the IWM called 'The British Home Front at War'. There are 3 other discs in the series are also all top quality: 'London Can Take It!' (good Blitz films), 'Words for Battle' (stirring and well made wartime propaganda pieces about Britain by famous authors/film makers) and 'Women & Children at War' (about ATS, WVS, evacuees etc). Enjoy.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 25 December 2007
This is a large collection of short films made for the British government, covering many different wartime topics. It would be easy to sneer at the sometimes ham acting, or to complain that the quality of the film is not perfect. But far more important is that these films really reveal the reality behind the United Kingdom in the Second World War: we see ruined streets, used as a backdrop for a Home Guard training exercise, we see allotments dug in factory grounds so that there's (basically) enough for everyone to eat, we see a (rather posh) ARP warden explaining how he looks after twenty streets (and his lady assistant has an upper-crust accent that would cut glass). This is a very good collection, which I would recommend very strongly.