Directed by: Various (Documentary)
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 296 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 19 July 2010
Cat No: BFIVD882
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COI Collection: Volume 3 - They Stand Ready
A collection of short information films made by the Central Office of Information (COI) throughout the latter half of the 20th century.... Read More
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.