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Words for Battle (1941)


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 sun shines down on rolling clouds. A 16th-century map of England is revealed to be the frontispiece of an old book and a narrator reads from Camden's Description of Britain, the first in a series of poems and prose passages that are each accompanied by their own montage sequence. Here, shots of rural England - its pastures, its wildlife, its coastline, the everyday traffic in a provincial town.

Milton's Areopagitica - The interior of Westminster Abbey, with its huge stained-glass windows and memorials to the poets. New RAF recruits arrive at the airfields and start training on the fighter planes. As they glide through the sky, the verse speaks of "timorous and flocking birds" and the scene changes to Germany, where the Nazis parade and Hitler has intimate conversations with his officers.

Blake's 'Jerusalem' (the preface to his poem Milton) - Children are evacuated from London and sent by train to the countryside. They play on the river and collect sticks from the forest.

Robert Browning's Home Thoughts On The Sea - Dolphins frolic in the water and Naval destroyers go out on patrol. Gibraltar lies in dappled sunlight as officers raise the Union Jack on deck.

Kipling's The Beginnings - Military police and firemen pick over the remains of some bombed-out houses. A horse-drawn hearse passes followed by a large line of mourners.

Winston Churchill's 'on the beaches' speech (made in June 1940) - The Prime Minister inspects a parade of soldiers. Builders start work on new houses. St Paul's looms through the rubble as Churchill declares, "We will never surrender". He talks of support from the 'New World'. Shots of Anzac soldiers marching towards the front before a cut to the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address - Tanks stream past the statue as the chimes of Big Ben ring out. In the busy streets, civilians join soldiers and wrens on their way to work.