Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
If War Should Come (1939)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

The commentary doubles as a synopsis, and is reproduced here in full:

No-one in this country of ours wants war. If war should come, we shall not call a halt until the aggressor is beaten. Democracy will triumph.

Not everyone will be in the fighting forces but all have a vital part to play. There are some things you can and should do at once. The warning may be short. Prepare now. Official information and instruction will be given over the wireless and in the newspapers. Pay no attention to rumours.

If you are provided with a steel shelter and have not erected it, do so at once. First, dig a pit four feet deep. Then, build your shelter inside it.

Avoid panic buying. There are plenty of food supplies in the country. Those who have laid in an emergency food supply should not consume it now. Continue to obtain your normal supplies from your usual shops.

Clear your loft of all junk to minimise risk of fire. Have buckets of water and sand on every landing. If you have no sand, use dry earth. Always keep your gas mask handy in the house. If war should come, never go out without it.

Note down official instructions, otherwise you might forget them. Keep pencil and paper by your wireless set. Do not use the telephone except for very short, urgent messages. You may be causing delay to vital calls.

Everyone should carry an identity label with name and address clearly written. These labels should be sewn on childrens' clothing. Railway and road services will be drastically reduced and subject to alteration at short notice. If you have made plans to go away, remember that the government has its own plans for the evacuation of schoolchildren and others. Your arrangements must not interfere with these. Here in the country, children are safe and happy.

You must be ready to obscure all lights in your house. And to extinguish all lighted street signs. When you hear these warning sirens, take cover at once. The warning may also be given by short blasts on police whistles. This hand rattle means gas. Put on your gas mask and keep it on. Do not be alarmed by noise in an air raid. Much of it will be the noise of our own guns dealing with the raiders.

Now, this siren means that the raiders have passed. If there has been gas, wait until you hear this bell. It will tell you when there is no longer any danger from gas. Only then is it safe to leave your shelter and remove your gas mask.

No-one in this country of ours wants war. But if war should come, don't be alarmed. Keep a good heart. Whatever happens, Britain is a nation prepared.