Ex­pert's choice

Jac­que­line Wadsworth is the au­thor of Let­ters from the Trenches (Pen & Sword, 2014)

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - BEST WEBSITES -

“There’s a fas­ci­nat­ing film called They Stand Ready, posted on YouTube by The Na­tional Ar­chives ( www.youtube.com/ watch? v= U3aerP7GyWE), which brings to life the way that Na­tional Ser­vice was pro­moted by the govern­ment dur­ing the 1950s.

Clever and so­phis­ti­cated, it runs for 19 min­utes and fol­lows a fic­ti­tious ‘or­di­nary man’ called John Saun­ders through his time with the Royal Ar­moured Corps. The film is shot in the style of films that were pop­u­lar at the time, with sweep­ing shots of for­eign climes and plenty of com­i­cal mo­ments, ac­com­pa­nied by a lively se­quence of in­ci­den­tal mu­sic. The ef­fect is com­fort­ing and re­as­sur­ing.

No at­tempt is made to deny the dif­fi­cul­ties that com­pul­sory ser­vice could bring: the dis­rup­tion to fam­ily life and to men’s ca­reers, the ner­vous­ness felt by those with no mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence. But a smooth-voiced nar­ra­tor coun­ters this with the mes­sage that many find ‘new self-con­fi­dence’ as they work to se­cure a ‘ free and safe’ world. The en­emy is never shown or even men­tioned.

Else­where on the in­ter­net you can find a wealth of per­sonal, first-hand ac­counts by those who ex­pe­ri­enced Na­tional Ser­vice. This Scot­tish ex­am­ple has lots of in­ter­est­ing ephemera and rem­i­nis­cences ( re­mem­ber­ingscot­landat­war.org.uk/ Ac­ces­si­ble/ Ex­hi­bi­tion/ 87/ It-was-eas­ier-to- put- me- in-the-Black-Watch- Na­tional-Ser­vice), although sadly the short video clips don’t ap­pear to be work­ing.”

Re­cruits are put through their paces in the Stand By Me footage

They Stand Ready is a clas­sic 1950s news­reel

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