The RAF on Screen 1940-1942
During the early days of UK involvement in World War II, official British films deliberately created a particular view of the air war, perhaps distorting our perceptions of some key phases.
Wartime cinema has generally been regarded as the classic period in British film history. Much film production was in the hands of the documentary film-makers – John Grierson, Harry Walt and Edgar Anstey, among others – who brought a critically-acclaimed element of realism to British cinema. One of their most interesting experiments was the 'faction film', a strange but frequently successful hybrid, scripted as a traditional feature but employing real servicemen and women in situations which were posed as commonplace in military life. Among the most popular of these films were those which dealt with the Royal Air Force: Target for Tonight (1941) and Coastal Command (1942). These films, together with several straightforward documentaries, helped to create a powerful and enduring image of the RAF at war which not only became firmly entrenched in the public mind but which continued to influence film-makers long into the post-war period.