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London 1942

About the film

Chronicling London during the midst of World War II, 'London 1942' illustrates the changes in daily life brought about by the pressures of war.


Release year
Ken Annakin
Production company
Greenpark, in association with Verity Films
Ralph Keene
A. T. Dinsdale, John Havinden
David Moule Evans
Robert Speaight
Peter Tanner
Sound recording
Al Rhind
Musical director
Muir Mathieson
Running time (minutes)
13 mins 46 secs
Music Played by
London Symphony Orchestra

Original Description

A Picture of Wartime London
‘A picture of London in 1942 showing a cheerful though bomb-scarred city. The streets are full of British and Allied servicemen. In the parks there are allotments; tomatoes grow on roof tops. The film shows Londoners in the Home Guard and Civil Defence. It ends with scenes of London after dark.’
(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1942-1943)


  • A uncredited young Bill Owen, most famous known for his portrayal of the character 'Compo' in ‘The Last of the Summer Wine, can be seen at 08:45, performing a cabaret act that he toured music halls with in order to pay for acting classes. This is the second-oldest known footage of him, following a Ministry of Information short. After the war, he would go on to find roles in feature films.
  • The Ministry of Information censored a shot of  Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.) personnel manning an anti-aircraft gun, as the predictor shown on the gun was still on the ‘secret list’.


Click below - or the link on the right - to see a transcript of the film



English Voiceover

After three years of war, the familiar outlines of London are much the same, but there are many new and unfamiliar sights in the streets


English Voiceover

Affairs of state in Whitehall have a new urgency, for here is the organising centre of the British Commonwealth and free world at war.


English Voiceover

The Allied servicemen have settled down pretty quickly and for the time being feel that London is their home.


English Voiceover

Under Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, one sees the uniforms of twenty different nations.


English Voiceover

London thrills to see the growing forces in her midst, and welcomes them just as one September morning in 1942 she welcomed the first American troops as they marched through the city.


English Voiceover

The cinemas of Leicester Square are open, but precautions for the safety of London are maintained.


English Voiceover

Emergency water-tanks spill out the defiant symbol of victory and, though scarred, London still presents a smiling face.


English Voiceover

Ruins there are, but there is also new life.


English Voiceover

Out of the danger has arisen a great citizen army, a home guard. Clerks, factory hands, bank mangers, are trained in the very streets they may one day have to defend.


English Voiceover

Weapons are made from railings London has sacrificed. Children like the idea – a park without railings reminds them of the open country. In 1942, even children help with the salvage campaigns.


English Voiceover

Today, every man, woman, and child, has a job to do. Youths under military age give up their weekends to train in the park for future service with the RAF.


English Voiceover

Across the grass, soldiers and workers take an hour or two off. They can relax with a free mind because others are always on the alert.


English Voiceover

No petrol to waste means holidays at home, and this summer all the fun of the fair brought right into the heart of London.


English Voiceover

Holidays for some, but duty for others.


English Voiceover

Everyone is growing food wherever they can. Acres of allotments have been cut into London’s parks and gardens.


English Voiceover

Exhibition allotments show beginners how to get the most out of their plots, and food is grown in all sorts of unexpected places.


English Voiceover

On a roof garden high above the city streets, vegetables grow amongst the flowers.


English Voiceover

Men of the national fire service make good use of a battered basement. Allotments and pig clubs ease the food situation, and rationing ensures that everyone gets a fair share, no matter where they shop.


English Voiceover

Communal feeding is wartime economy. British restaurants and canteens have been established all over London. This was once a college. Now, 2000 lunches are served here daily. Labour is voluntary, the meals are supplied at cost, and all types of Londoners take advantage of the service.


English Voiceover

Meal time in war time is also recreation time. Inside the National Gallery, world famous musicians give luncheon concerts of classical music whilst, on the steps and lawn outside, office workers eat their midday meal. And in factory canteens a laugh and song at mealtime renews the workers’ energies for more long hours at the machines.


Performer (singing)

Does your stomach sag? / Do you lack technique? / No need to be a clinging thigh / You too can have a body like mine!


English Voiceover

Women mobilised into war work lock up their homes and hand over their children to communal nurseries, while they go off to do their jobs.


English Voiceover

While the mothers work, the children play and grow strong.


English Voiceover

The most striking change in London’s life has been brought about by the mobilisation of women.


English Voiceover

In Downing Street, the efforts of the people are coordinated into terms of world strategy at the house of the Prime Minister. Here the statesmen and the service chiefs of the United Kingdom meet in the cabinet room to set their seal on the covenants which pledge them to the common cause.


English Voiceover

London in 1942 is the hub of the Allied war effort and Buckingham Palace is the background for a display of Britain’s growing strength.


English Voiceover

Dusk falls over London. With darkness comes the blackout. Gone for the present are the bright lights of Leicester Square and Piccadilly. But behind the blackout is warmth and companionship.



Come on everybody!


Audience (singing)

I’ll call again said he / And don’t forget it / Scan the horizon and the open sea / Watch for the little boats and watch for Johnny / I’ll be back, I’ll be back, said he.


English Voiceover

Theatres ring to the old songs, while the night shifts are taking over in the factories. The machines must never stop. And all the time, the defenders are on guard.


English Voiceover

In basements and cellars, the Civil Defence Forces settle down to all night duty.


English Voiceover

If the raiders come again, London will be ready.


English Voiceover

And, as his turn comes round, every able-bodied Londoner stays after work for fire watch. He is the ordinary citizen. One of the worldwide brotherhood of men and women who will work and watch and fight until the lights go up again over a world freed from want and fear.