Thursday, 1 June 2017

Military Voices Past and Present: a very special project

Last Wednesday saw the launch of a very special book. Not your usual novel, nor a great biography, something far more important and special. This is about the launch of Military Voices Past and Present from West Sussex Veterans – residents’ reminiscences from the First World War, Second World War and other conflicts.

It all started back in 2014 when a gentleman named Peter Barker deposited his collection of 32 interviews with veterans of the First World War with our Records Office for safe keeping. By that time there were sadly no remaining Veterans from the First World War living, so these recordings had become even more precious.

We decided to explore the idea further to build a library of interviews from Veterans living in West Sussex or with close connections to the county.

Thanks to successful bids for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Military Covenant a small project team was formed. Staff from our Library and Record Office together with 45 dedicated project volunteers started on a fascinating journey of talking with and listening to the Veterans recollections.

They completed 63 new interviews with 29 Veterans from the First World War and 34 post-war Veterans. The interviews took time but for both the interviewers and Veterans they were rewarding and illuminating.

This is not about the Wars, there are plenty of military historians who have written on these conflicts. What makes this book and recordings so special is that it is a personal account - a view from the Veteran.

These, together with the original recordings, are now available on a Listening Turret, a place to listen to recordings, which is touring libraries across the county, as well as online.

On top of this they have produced a new book which is a fascinating read and one I recommend. A limited print run of the book is on sale for £10 from West Sussex libraries and West Sussex Record Office in Orchard Street, Chichester.

People who signed up and gave service whether in the First, Second World Wars or any other conflicts right up to Afghanistan have done so to protect our country for democracy and freedom of speech. Many have given their lives, others have received significant injuries and traumas that have stayed with them throughout their lives. The Military Voices project is one small way to thank all those alive and passed on who have given service to their country to protect our freedom. A fitting tribute to so many heroic men and women who have done so much, but it is the personalised accounts that makes the book a great read.

Best wishes,

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