Curator's Choice: Christmas Under Fire

© IWM MGH 633. Clip from Christmas Under Fire (1941)

Assistant Curator Charlotte Ross joined IWM's licensing team in October 2023 and has almost completed her MA in film programming and curation at Birkbeck College. This December Charlotte has highlighted a seasonal film in our collection which explores how the British public were getting on with life and celebrating Christmas during the Second World War. 
Commissioned by the Ministry of Information and produced by the Crown Film Unit, Christmas Under Fire is the sequel to 1940’s London Can Take It! (COI 943). Designed for an American audience during the period of U.S. neutrality, the propaganda film evidences the resilience of the British during the Blitz with a view to rallying support for the Allied cause.

The film’s most significant moment is its striking closing sequence. Cutting from the Kings College choir singing O Come All Ye Faithful, the camera descends an escalator onto a packed London Underground platform. Children are seen decorating a Christmas tree, and the camera dollies along a platform packed with sheltering Londoners. In one particularly resonant shot, a mother swaddling her baby on the platform evokes the birth of Christ. It is not difficult to see why this poignant film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.


How Britain Celebrated Christmas in Wartime
Christmas in Wartime

The Christmas Truce, 1914. British and German soldiers fraternising at Ploegsteert, Belgium, on Christmas Day. © IWM Q 70074

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IWM houses the biggest archive of wartime film in the UK and our collection also includes posters, photographs, oral history recordings and documents. Please contact us for licensing enquiries.