Blitz and Peaces
Copyright © 2013 A.Cook
All rights reserved.
Variety Acts and Turns of the Second
World War 1939-45
Strike Force Entertainments 3.5 Hours
Another quality product from Strike Force. The menu really is
extremely user friendly, so simple which makes for a pleasant change
from most DVD’s. The main feature is absolutely packed with typical
variety entertainments from the war years.
a peep back into our social history through these Pathetone Parade
movie shorts, (which were played before the main features at cinemas
all over Britain), we are able to catch a real glimpse of the
diversity and styles of the popular entertainment of the time.
Big Bands and Orchestras, such as Mantovani, Jack Hylton and Joe
Loss amongst many, are truly brilliant and it must be remembered
that most of what you are seeing was filmed and recorded in one take
which shows the incredible skill of the top musicians of the day, no
overdubs here, just talent, dedication and real subtlety. One of the
soloists featured is Teddy Brown, billed as “The World’s Largest
Musician”, is featured several times playing a concert Xylophone.
Yes he would not get the slimmer of the year award, but his skill in
playing his instrument is absolutely amazing and is delivered with
wry humour. He knows how good he is and he delivers great music with
incredible, faultless music, effortlessly. I have watched this
several times now, it’s brilliant.
George Formby is featured many times throughout the presentation. He
can be seen entertaining the troops at the front, playing the song
“Maginot Line” on the Maginot Line and is also featured in small
film clips and live stage performances playing both the ukulele and
the Banjolele. In one sequence he makes an appeal to the audience in
a theatre, to make donations to help victims of the blitz, which
really brings home the difficulties people were facing and why the
role of the entertainer was so important. He always comes across as
such a genuine character with real integrity and love for his work.
crowning glory of the video for me is the myriad of “Variety” acts
on the DVD. All aspects of old time theatre, music-hall and circus
acts are covered in the presentation and boy are they good! Mae Wong
a Chinese contortionist puts on an incredible show of bendiness!
Rupert Hazel plays the Strohviol, a one stringed trench fiddle with
a “gramophone horn” attached to the bridge to amplify it, really
interesting and I would imagine very rare footage. Stetson the
juggler, showing us his remarkable skills with tops hats, was a
fantastic spectacle and once again was delivered effortlessly.
With ventriloquists, jugglers, gymnasts, dog trainers, stilt
walkers, magicians and everything else that you could possibly think
of and more, it made me wish that variety shows would return to our
smaller theatres in Britain, perhaps on Saturday or Sunday
afternoons. It is worrying to think that some of these incredible
skills will be lost to future generations if they are not exposed to
them and have regular access to live performances.
Some entertainers have faired better than others over the years, by
still retaining their appeal to 21st century audiences and this
particular aspect of changing social history style can be seen
reflected by certain acts. I found it fascinating trying to work out
why some of the material of theses acts did not seem to work these
days, thankfully, there were very few!
operatic male tenors and baritones and the female “squawking and
warbling” sopranos are now out-moded and seem almost comical now.
Their propensity to strike ridiculous poses to look relaxed in front
of the cameras, which was fashionable at the time doesn’t help. I’m
afraid Gracie Fields, although massively popular with the British
Servicemen, (until she left for Canada with her film producer
husband and fortunes), has a harsh and shrill voice which is
difficult to bear, but the footage of her performing to hundreds of
“Tommies” is till quite moving.
Comedy has changed a lot too over the years too. Comedians Arthur
Askey, Jack Warner and Max Wall amongst a host of others are
featured, catch phrases and all! Most of the topical issues of the
day are reflected in the comedians work and this comes across as
relevant and quite funny. It is easily interpreted by modern
viewers. Some of the less topical issues which have been picked are
difficult to put into context with today’s humour and thus it’s hard
to see what the comedians are trying to get at.
this variety video with most acts good and a few bad makes great
viewing for those interested in WWII or the music of the period.
Thank you E.N.S.A. (Entertainment National Service Association) for
all your stirling work during the war. The entertainers must
certainly have helped make a terrible time more bearable.
Rosie Newman’s Britain at War in Colour
Strike Force Entertainments.
Rosie Newman was a keen amateur photographer and film maker. During
the years of 1940-41 she wanted to her own personal record of life
in Britain and was granted a licence to do so by His Majesties
Government. Although she also filmed in black and white, which was
the norm for the day, she also filmed in colour film which was
expensive and hard to obtain at the time. She travelled extensively
throughout Great Britain and managed to film a unique window into
the past, catching many civilians and service people in their
everyday surroundings, going about their day to day business,
without having to submit to many of the propaganda clichés seen in
many other wartime professional film makers. The result of her
labours is stored in the Imperial War Museum archives and has
recently been published by Strike Force entertainments on a 2 hour
DVD, accompanied by Rosie Newman’s 1948 original 48 page booklet.
footage, most of which I had never seen before, is probably the best
colour footage available, as a real insight into what life was like
on the British home front. If you teach young children at key stage
3 this is an ideal piece of primary source material for your young
charges. It shows the true extent of the damage caused by the London
Blitz and goes on to show evacuees having a wonderful time in their
new surrounding away from the nightmare of the nightly raids. It
also shows children getting used to their gas masks and involved in
school and holiday activities.
There is a great section filmed around the time of the formation of
the Local Defence Volunteers (in black and white) and this expands
into the era of the Home Guard and shows the men training with hand
grenades, rifles and practising bayonet drill. There is a small
section on dispatch riders of the Home Guard and also training with
home-made mortars firing smoke rounds, which actually looks more
perilous to the user than the enemy.
films also deal with salvage, women’s roles in WWII showing the
fashions for the civilians as they stand in ration queues and the
uniforms of the service men and women in colour which must make this
DVD a must for any living history group wanting to portray the Home
the sequences taken during the London blitz there is plenty of
footage showing the ARP services, AFS, Police and Rescue Services
searching for people amongst the debris of demolished streets.
This has quickly become one of my favourite wartime DVD’s and have
watched it several times now never getting tired of the content,
especially that of the Spitfire sequences, absolutely wonderful!
|Public Information Films of the British
Home Front 1939-1945
Strike Force Entertainment 2009
This is the compilation of films that I have been personally waiting for,
It shows what the British public were really up against during the war years
and how the Government implemented rationing, recycling drives, utility and
austerity measures and a host of hastily assembled, “Common Sense”
initiatives to make sure that the population all got an equal share of what
Raw materials for the manufacturing industries, which were imported from
overseas, were constantly being consigned to Davy Jones’ locker because of
the increasing efficiency of the U- Boat menace and therefore anything that
could be used, or re-used, was used, in the most effective and economical
The sense of urgency which was transmitted through the, sometimes serious,
sometimes humorous approach to the film making gets the messages across very
succinctly, without causing too much alarm to the public.
The section on the Fire Guard and their training procedures is excellent! On
top of the standard 40 hour working week, a lot of people joined the
Supplementary Fire Parties for a further 12 hours a week on a voluntary
basis, a lot of these volunteer Fire Guards were young women and they saved
incalculable damage to property in the blitzes of the big cities and also
saved many lives, due to their selfless actions in dangerous conditions.
The amount of training and simple counter measures in dealing with the new
types of German “Anti-Personnel” incendiary bombs is shown very clearly here
and has been an area sadly lacking in books published about the British Home
Front over the years. At last, here it is in moving images!
My only criticism of the complete package is that on two occasions American
information films appear in the middle of footage dedicated to the British
Home Front and I would have preferred to have seen these as “Additional
Features” at the end of the D.V.D. These films are once again very
informative but are out of context with the rest of the footage, this
coupled with poor quality sound and the change in accent does tend to spoil
the flow of the British films, but this is only a small irritation and does
not detract form the excellence of the whole product.
As a document for the study of British social history this presentation is
excellent, a must for any school, person studying WW II or for the
enthusiast who loves his viewing in black and white, with a received
This D.V.D. set is available at all good D.V.D. outlets.
Weapons and Explosives of Churchill’s Secret Army
Produced by Goldeneye Creative for:
Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team.
During WW II a secret underground
resistance organisation was formed to disrupt enemy and harass the enemy in
the event of invasion and occupation of the British Isles by the Nazis.
There were many cells formed in complete
secrecy and based all over
information has only just come to light in the last few years about these
units and their operational duties during the war years.
The D.V.D. is split into three
main sections, dealing firstly with the weapons and explosives and their
intended uses. Secondly the Operational Bases described and thirdly the
unearthing of the O.B. at Coleshill House. Bob Millard an ex Auxilier and
Richard Ashley an ex-Military and Police armourer with 55 years of
experience, talk you through the role of the Auxiliary Units and their
weapons, Early examples of shotguns, cudgels and many other more sinister
weapons including specialist explosives, switches, detonators and fuses are
dealt with in this fascinating look at an illegal episode British history,
Sanctioned for development by
Winston Churchill and under the direct control of MI5, the video is quick to
point out the clandestine nature of the Auxiliary units, who although some
were recruited from the Home Guard and who also wore Home Guard uniform in
order to throw inquisitive locals of the scent, were in fact a highly
trained organisation who would have stopped at nothing to disrupt and
destroy enemy equipment and resources in the event of the Occupation of
This video leaves you wanting
more, the courage of these men is without a doubt, second to none each
knowing that they would have lost their lives in the event of being
discovered by enemy forces, the Geneva Convention did not apply to these
secret units and they would have effectively been put to death as terrorists
in their own country if they had been discovered.
I particular liked the references
to Stuart Mc. Crae and Millis Jeffries in the presentation. These two men
ran Winston Churchill’s “Toyshop” at the Firs in Whitchurch, where all
manner of secret weapons and devices were devised and perfected during WW
This part of wartime Britain’s
history has been seriously overlooked over the years and thank goodness
C.A.R.T. have made this information available to the public, in a simple
no-nonsense approach and not as you would expect being delivered by men from
this era, it is not without it’s humorous moments.
This D.V.D. makes the perfect
accompaniment to John Warwicker’s informative book and both are a must for
those you out there who have a feel for clandestine warfare.
For more information and to purchase the DVD please see here
To learn more about the Auxiliary
Units you can visit
Churchill's Underground Army
By John Warwicker
Published by Frontline Books London
This excellent book has
at last, brought it home to me what was expected of the Men and Women of the
G.H.Q. Auxiliary Units and Special Duties Sections during WW II.
operations of these units, working on British soil during WW II, have been
held under for far too long.
It has been a joy to
read John Warwicker’s account of the preparations that were made to develop
an underground resistance movement, which could attack and harass the enemy
in the event of a full invasion of Britain, which was expected as imminent
around the dark days of September 1940.
From the in-depth look
at the characters that were charged with initially setting up the Scout
Units, to the designs and ingenuity, of the secrecy and camouflage utilised
to conceal underground Operational Bases and their entrances. The problems
with supply and with dealing with the regular Army have been well researched
and presented in a way which is easily accessible to the reader and is not
For any individual
interested in the development of early radio equipment, or Radio “Ham”, this
book is a must, as it shows what was achieved with minimal resources, time,
budget and equipment by radio amateurs who designed radio equipment which
was way ahead of it’s time and later help shape the way that military
radio-systems and communications would be manufactured and employed in later
This book is testament
to the Secret Underground Army of both Men and Women of Britain, who would
have and did, willingly give their lives for their country, under the most
severe of circumstances, to then, not be recognised until now.
Laughter - Silvered Wings
By John Pascoe Watson
Taking its title from
the 1941 poem “High Flight” written by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Jnr., of
the Royal Canadian Air Force John’s book explores the switch from childhood
dream to fully fledged, fighter pilot, in this fascinating account of his
life in the R.A.F.
Exmouth at war is the
starting point for John’s Journey. He had previously been bitten by the
flying bug in 1930, at the age of 5 on an air experience flight with his
father, in a De- Havilland Rapide.
At the age of 12, John
was presented with a school prize for being top of the form. The prize was
a book about making a career in the R.A.F. as a pilot. John made up his
mind there and then. It was going to be a pilot’s life from now on!
From joining the R.A.F.
on the 4th June, 1944, John takes you through an incredible
journey explaining how he made a career from flying and sometimes crashing,
(occasionally through no fault of his own), 26.5 (all explained in the book)
different types of Aircraft.
These aircraft ranged
from the Tiger Moth and Harvard trainers. Also post-war combat missions in
Spitfires and Tempests, through the early years of Jet fighter design
(Gloster Meteors and Vampires) to the Blackburn Buccaneer. John eventually
emerged from his flying career as a highly skilled pilot, with an Air Force
Cross for his troubles.
My own understanding of
the dangers that fighter pilots faced on a day to day basis, plagued with
constant mechanical problems and unexpected changes in weather, has
completely changed my mind about any of my own boyhood dreams. The author
has managed to, in his own quiet way, given the reader a real white knuckle
ride in some of the accounts. The unexpected happens on a regular basis
invariably for the worst.
John and his fellow
pilot’s ability to deal with these problems, with nerves of steel and a cool
head, comes across well. Along with the sadness of his personal accounts on
the loss of fellow officers.
Although this book has been written with a complete technical knowledge of
the way aircraft, fighter and training units function, it is not over-laden
with meaningless jargon. In short, it is a very enjoyable read, sometime s
funny, sometimes sad and always difficult to put down.