1943 War Department film, “Welcome to Britain”

Reader and veteran librarian Judy Crook sent a Tweet alerting us to a recent release from the U.S. National Archives, “A Welcome to Britain, 1943.”

It’s a fascinating little film, if 38 minutes is still “little.”

Yes, that’s Burgess Meredith playing the soldier. I haven’t confirmed whether he was actually enlisted, but he often played soldiers or people at war — in 1945, playing war reporter Ernie Pyle, for example. In the 1950s, the House Committee on Unamerican Activities (HUAC) claimed Meredith had consorted too closely with communists, and he was blacklisted for years including a seven-year drought of work.

When this film was made, the Soviet Union was an ally of Britain and the United States.  How times change.

This is a training film made by the War Department (later renamed “Defense Department”), to acquaint U.S. soldiers with what they would confront in Britain.  Why did soldiers need such training?  You can guess, perhaps.   258

Teachers, can you use this film in history class?  Is the discussion on civil rights, about 20 minutes at 25:30 in, instructive in the history of the time?

From the National Archives’s description on YouTube:

Published on Feb 5, 2014

Creator(s): Department of Defense.~. Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. (1954 – ) (Most Recent)

Series : Information and Education Films, compiled 1943 – 1969
Record Group 330: Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1921 – 2008

Access Restriction(s): Unrestricted
Use Restriction(s): Restricted – Possibly
Note: Some or all of this material may be restricted by copyright or other intellectual property restrictions.

Scope & Content: This film introduced soldiers to Britain and told them what to expect, how to behave and how not to behave in Britain during World War II. It includes footage of military cameramen and black soldiers.

Contact(s): National Archives at College Park – Motion Pictures (RD-DC-M), National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001
Phone: [omitted here]

National Archives Identifier: 7460305
Local Identifier: 330-IEF-7


What else hides in the vaults of the Archives?

2 Responses to 1943 War Department film, “Welcome to Britain”

  1. Bob Becker says:

    Grinned at the monumental “coming attractions” music that begins the film, and the film using “Over There” as its theme song.

    PS Civil rights segment starts at 25:30 minutes in, not “about 20.”


  2. Jude says:

    One source, Projections of War: Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II by Thomas Patrick Doherty, Columbia U. Press, says Burgess Meredith was discharged for sinus problems: This .com side has an interesting biography: http://www.bellybuzzonline.com/celebrity-veterans/2011/3/28/burgess-meredith-us-army-air-force-1942-1945.html

    Aside from the integration message, what surprised me about that film was that Bob Hope was actually funny. On my trip to the UK last summer, I visited a museum at a former army air corps base where my dad was stationed, and I could easily imagine him watching that film when he was there. It would have appealed to his sense of humor. Since I received a 3-hour personal tour of the museum just because I’m a descendant of someone who was stationed there, I can attest to the hospitality they talk about in the film.


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