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  • 2010-01-18T00:00:00+00:00
  • 360 mins
The Royal Air Force at War: The Unseen Films is a unique collection of three DVDs chronicling the R.A.F. in service during the Second World War and covering the period from 1940 to 1944. These carefully selected films cover a truly diverse range of subjects from ditching procedures for Halifax bomber crews to a celebration of the newly introduced Lancaster, and from instructions for navigators on board Stirlings to the best way to rescue crashed fighter pilots from their cockpits. There are film guides to preventing air accidents, fascinating behind-the-scenes accounts of servicing Wellington bombers and even a look at the R.A.F. Regiment. Together, these 24 training and public information films provide a fascinatinig historical record of the Royal Air Force at the height of the war years.

3 episodes

1x01 1940

  • Series Premiere

    no air date — 360 mins

Bits of Our Aircraft Are Missing: This half-hour drama intended for the general public tries to be a rounded entertainment. It has music, nightclub scenes and an entire secondary plotline about the romances of R.A.F. pilots. But the message is that civilians need to stop hunting souvenirs from downed aircraft. A special investigator must track a flawed elevator hinge back to some school kids, to find out what's killing good pilots. The movie makes its point -- the little brats cough up a hardware store of stolen "bits", while the handsome pilot marries knowing he'll be paralyzed for life. Discipline and Morale: This training movie seems rather desperate. The way it keeps drilling the need for teamwork, cooperation, adherence to rules and following orders, you'd think that airfields were staffed with lazy layabouts and malingerers! Or perhaps it was shown to green recruits, country yokels who just have no idea of what military discipline is all about. Enemy Interrogation of Prisoners: A fascinating POW story. It's a teaching tool explaining why fliers must tell the enemy nothing should they be shot down. German intelligence interrogators -- looking and speaking like Englishmen and wearing really unconvincing German uniforms -- easily trick enlisted dopes and "sophisticated" officers alike into volunteering everything they want to know. No waterboarding is necessary. Some of it is very funny now, for all the right reasons. Gun Turret Drill (Fraser-Nash) and The Boulton Paul Turret: Watch these two epics and you'll be ready for a career as a ball turret gunner. Every detail of loading ammo and prepping the two kinds of turrets is covered. I have to say that just seeing the gunners cram themselves into what amounts to a small goldfish bowl gives me claustrophobic shivers. The likelihood of getting out of one of those things in an emergency feels very remote. That fact must have been a strong motivator to shoot the **** out of any plane that came anywhere near! Local Boy Makes Good: Crude animation with a sharp message, this was probably received with laughs and applause at the "aerodromes". A bomber pilot ignores instruments telling him to properly sequence fresh oxygen bottles to his crew's high-altitude masks, and everybody passes out! The little Oxy meter rebels, rips itself free of the instrument panel and fixes the damn problem on its own! Mission accomplished -- local boy makes good! Extra: R.A.F. Fighters Ever On Alert

1x02 1941-1942

  • no air date — 360 mins

The First Thing: A primer about how to salute, when to salute, who to salute to, how to salute sideways, saluting while walking -- every place but in the toilet. Exasperating but also fascinating. The "good saluters" have a snappy form that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of Colonel Blimp. Re-Arming a Bomber: A film for the detail aficionados. It covers the entire period from when a plane lands until it's refueled and re-armed to fly again. The number of dangerous jobs involved is staggering. The guys tending the bombs and arming their fuses must have nerves of iron. Also, the variety of weapons payloads is explained to the nth degree. I know people who dote on this sort of thing. R.A.F. Action: A tribute to the R.A.F., with historical footage of their action in WW1. A recruiting piece, perhaps? The flying corps certainly looks like the service of choice for the bold and daring. Air Sense: A primer begging flying cadets to please, please stop wrecking aircraft through stupid mistakes. It goes at the problem from all sides, as an officer berates fools who don't look where they're taxiing or radically misjudge landings and takeoffs. With some pretty feeble (and thus hilarious) attempts at comedy relief. The officer involved is played by Ralph Michael, easily remembered as the man haunted by the mirror in the horror omnibus Dead of Night. No matter what idiotic error a cadet makes, Michael gives them the same unblinking dressing-down. Civilian pilots will love this one. Fly Away Peter: An interesting film about the ferrying of replacement planes to far-off battle theaters in Africa and the Far East. Fliers collect their tropical gear in the freezing English cold, and are told to pay their commissary bill before leaving. Immunization jokes -- what more can you ask? In the Drink: This short explains the contents of the small life rafts tucked into bomber planes in case they have to ditch in the English channel. The rubber raft has more gadgets and accessories than you'd think, plus rations, etc. We wonder how many of the features actually worked in real use. A framing story shows a crew ditching at sea and picked up by a destroyer. Well done. Sky Giant: An ode to a big bomber called the Avro Lancaster, the Brit equivalent (?) of our B-17 flying fortress. The film celebrates the factories and workers who make them as well -- we see female workers assembling many of the parts. Extra: Newsreel - Terror From the Skies

1x03 1943-1944

  • no air date — 360 mins

A Fighter has Crashed: Quite a movie. David Farrar of the Powell-Pressburger films Black Narcissus and The Small Back Room advises some unhappy locals in a pub. They tried to rescue a downed pilot unconscious in his plane, but succeeded only in bashing him with an ax before the plane caught fire and he burned up. Bad show, that. Farrar explains how to trigger the cockpit latches and access doors on a number of planes and suggests the best way to remove injured pilots. The film is a testament to English trust in its citizens -- American military films would never suggest that a civilian approach a plane no matter how desperate the situation. At the end Farrar says that he doesn't mind trying to give some pointers and advice -- the pilot somebody saves may be him! Missed Date: A cute, sinister little film narrated in rhyme. Some airmen relaxing in a pub make a date with two cute locals -- realistic young women, not picked starlets -- and then foolishly brag about "big doings" back at the aerodrome. Come Saturday night, the boys have been killed in an air raid instigated by info from their own foolish mouths. Effective propaganda, especially because the airmen -- friendly, ordinary guys with bad teeth -- are obviously the real thing. Nought Fleet: A movie about navigation, spelling out the detailed map reading, landmark spotting and course correction skills needed to keep on course during low level raids on enemy territory. The route being investigated is in England, because "the enemy wouldn't cooperate". The movie makes navigating seem both exacting and nerve wracking, and some of the low flying looks very scary. R.A.F. Regiment: Another training film, this time for R.A.F. ground personnel and soldiers who defend the aerodromes from a German invasion, a possibility apparently not ruled out until late in the war. The training footage emphasizes the idea that these rear guard troops are vital as well. Towards the Offensive and We Attack: Both of these titles are morale builders stressing the message that England is no longer holding on by its nails but visiting a deserved retribution on the Germans. We see French, New Zealanders and Americans with Alabama accents joining in the round-the-clock bombing melee. Plenty of flying footage and extended aerial scenes of Berlin in flames. The returning fliers checking in with debriefers seem barely out of their 'teens. Front Line Air Force: An interesting look at a North African air unit relocating to Salerno, and all the effort and planning that's involved. The point is stressed that airstrips need to be reestablished immediately so that the fighters can support the ground offensive. Interesting scenery and hardware, and good filmmaking. Night Flight: Another morale booster showing how the R.A.F. bombers take the night shift to keep Germany under bombardment 24-7. Clearly assembled to give the civvies something to cheer about during wartime rationing. Extra: Newsreel - With the Airforce