Films that brought a world war home

25th October 1996 at 01:00
GPO EDUCATION SERVICE DOMESTIC BLITZ RESOURCES PACK Post Office Education Service, 28A York Place, Leeds LS1 2EZ Pounds 20.

Domestic Blitz is an amorphous and disorganised set of resources produced by the Post Office Education Service, but it is well worth buying.

The core resource of the pack is a 55-minute video compilation of Second World War propaganda films produced by the GPO and the Ministry of Information. It is wonderful, and justification enough for buying the whole pack.

The film Do It Now was issued at the beginning of the war, and provided the public with basic information. You can compare it to the famous documentary, Britain Can Take It, produced in an attempt to win US support; or to Heart of Britain, a film which - against a background of the Hallelujah Chorus - shows war workers fighting the Nazis with the only weapons they had: the skill of their hands. These extremely moving films illustrate the rapid development of government propaganda during the war.

The video also includes personal reminiscences, some of the short government Food Flashes, and the propaganda film Dig for Victory (which taught me more about gardening in 10 minutes than I'd learned in a lifetime). The Food Flashes are presented in two sets, separated by Dig for Victory, which makes them inconvenient to use in the classroom.

The film material offers many opportunities. With younger or less able pupils you will be able to use it to get factual information from a non-written source. With more advanced pupils, you will be able to discuss the nature and development of propaganda.

A booklet with teaching ideas for key stages 2, 3 and 4 accompanies the video, but I found it muddled and difficult to use. It is worth ploughing through, however, for it does contain a number of ideas which you will be able to adapt to your own situation.

Other elements of the pack are less well focused. There are eight worksheets to use on a school visit to the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, but although the exercises would probably transfer into the classroom, I was unhappy about the educational validity of some of the tasks.

There are five pretty posters, but they are not primary sources, and I could not think of anything to do with them except stick them on the wall. Four lovely paintings by Rebecca Avery offer more scope; they are evocative, and could be used at key stage 2 as part of a "look-tell" group discussion about a war-time kitchen, or as an exciting prompt for a piece of imaginative writing about an unexploded bomb. The pack, however, offered no suggestions about how to use any of these materials.

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