Theme Wartime and Military

Films of war-time in the archive begin with images of the First World War on the home front. The archive holds footage of women taking up heavy farm work as part of the war effort in Surrey in 1914. The archive also holds newsreel footage of Sussex regiments on the move and demonstrating their skills at the start of the First World War. Film of the Royal Sussex Regiment across several decades is held in the archive and its history takes us through two World Wars and post-war postings to locations such as India, Korea and Belfast, as well as film of training, events and parades.

Film of the Second World War includes family films, civil defence training films, work on the home front, and war-time events. Preparations prior to the war can be witnessed in film calling for greater production of arms from industry and film of aircraft inspections and testing. During the war, many families continued to record their lives, despite the war-time restrictions on availability and use of cine film. These films illustrate how the every-day lives of people in Surrey, Sussex and Kent were affected by war-time changes - the introduction of ration books and black-out blinds; family members taking up roles in the armed forces and in auxiliary services; building and taking refuge in air raid shelters; and witnessing the effects of bombing raids first hand. The strengthening of community life and community activities is also visible through films of town fund raising and other community activities.

The role of the Home Guard, land girls and other auxiliary services is also strongly represented in the archive. The Home Guard in the Southern Counties represented the front line of ground defence for the UK and their training reflected some of the ingenuity required to defend the land with limited resources. Home Guard training films illustrate many of the tactics used by Civil Defence volunteers to arm and protect the region. Local schools also had to practice their drill for air raids and film again is used effectively as an instructional tool and a reference. The work of hospitals and medical services is covered in a number of films in the archive, including pioneering plastic surgery at East Grinstead hospital.

At the end of the war, VE day celebrations, victory parades and memorial services mark some of the collective responses of the region's communities to the end of conflict. Beyond this, signs of post-war reconstruction can also be witnessed through film in the archive such as the development of Crawley New Town. Some of the latest additions to the archive begin to explore the personal reminiscences of those reviewing their war-time experiences at a time when those memories are fading and the numbers of those who witnessed war-time first-hand are declining fast.