COI Collection: Volume 3 - They Stand Ready DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 1985
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
The BFI’s third volume in this series of films from the archives of the Central Office of Information looks at the British armed forces in a period of great change, as empire gave way to a new world order. It’s a fascinating history, says James Oliver.
With their third excursion into the vaults of the Central Office of Information, They Stand Ready, the BFI turn their attentions to our armed forces. It's a disparate collection of films, made over four decades by unconnected creative teams. And yet when placed together, a cumulative story emerges: the tale of a country losing its Empire and adjusting to a new world.
We start in full Imperial pomp with Victory Parade, saluting those troops from the Colonies who fought for His Majesty during the war. But things are changing. From the boastful Men Of The World (showing British outposts across the globe), we encounter anti-British insurgencies in Malaya (They Stand Ready) and Aden (Routine Adventure).
But it was the Suez crisis that really put the cap on the Empire. It's documented here by Suez In Perspective, a jaw-dropping slice of propaganda that exonerates Britain of any wrongdoing in a way that history has singularly failed to do. It's complemented by an equally egregious Egyptian film; the truth, perhaps, lies somewhere between them.
As the country's power declined, so the military's role changed. The COI no longer had to make films extolling the benefits of conscription (They Stand Ready); instead, it started producing adverts encouraging volunteers to join up. War becomes more technical and specialised: whereas earlier films celebrate the virtues of the stout British Tommy, later efforts like Voyage North and Tornado hymn the equipment instead (a submarine and jet, respectively.)
One of this set's great virtues is how it confounds expectations. Far from being a gung-ho celebration of martial virtues, it points to often unsung aspects of the forces. Girls: did you know you could join the military? As a couple of films (Out of the Groove, The Best Of Both Worlds, the latter boasting an incongruous Reggae soundtrack) make plain, young ladies can enjoy a career in uniform too – at least until they get married.
Taking care to give each service equal representation, They Stand Ready shows how much the world has changed since the war. This is social history at its rawest and most fascinating.
James Oliver on 25th June 2010
Author of 184 reviews
The third volume in the COI Collection, They Stand Ready, looks at Britain’s armed forces. To help paint a positive picture of life in the Services the COI produced morale-boosting documentaries, propaganda items and numerous recruitment films, which placed emphasis on escaping humdrum daily life. Join the Services, we are told, and a world of opportunity awaits you.
Highlights include: Victory Parade (1946), in which troops from all over the British Empire arrive in London to celebrate victory over the Nazis; They Stand Ready (1955), a look at the vital role of national service; Suez in Perspective (1957), where the Suez Crisis is given a positive spin; Routine Adventure (1965), about the RAF’s role in Aden; When You Wake Up (1974), a recruitment film for schoolgirls which attempts to recruit them into the Women’s Royal Army Corp (WRAC); HMS Sheffield (1976) and Tornado (1985).
Contains: Victory Parade (1946), Men of the World (1950), Eagles of the Fleet (1950), Out of the Groove (1950), They Stand Ready (1955), Suez in Perspective (1957), Musicians in the Making (1958), Military Policeman (1961), Ten Foot Tall (1964), Winged Horizons (1965), Egypt Today: Anglo-French Aggression Against Egypt (1956), Voyage North (1965), Routine Adventure (1965), Army Summer of 1968 (1968), Exercise Enterprise (1968), Best of Both Worlds (1971), Community Relations Officer (1974), When You Wake Up (1974), Ark Royal (c.1970), HMS Sheffield (1975), Tornado Trailer (1985), Royal Navy Amazon (c.1980), Tornado (1985).
Length: 296 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 19th July 2010
Cat No: BFIVD882
- 2 discs
- Egypt Today: Anglo-French Aggression Against Egypt (1956, 11 minutes): a very different story is told in this Egyptian response to British Suez propaganda
- Fully illustrated booklet including comprehensive contextualising notes and essays
- Dolby Digital mono audio (320 kbps).