2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War I. In one of my news roundups last month, I discussed Paul Milner’s blog post about the Operation War Diary project, a cooperative venture of The National Archives and the Imperial War Museum.
After the announcement, BBC news asked its readers to share the stories of their families. They were quite surprised at the wide variety of materials submitted to them. From letters to diaries and photographs to oral histories, they received a tremendous amount of contributions. They recently published some of these materials in World War One: Family Stories Uncovered.
Germaine Louise Wall from Kent had “armfuls of stuff that had been in her bedroom 60-odd years.” Her father-in-law, John Wall, was injured in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. His life was saved by papers and documents he was carrying in his breast pocket. Germaine saved those documents, which show the damage.
Back in the 1970s, WWI soldier Edmund Mellor sat down to discuss his wartime experiences with his grandson, Andrew Wadsworth. Andrew recorded the conversation, which has been stored on cassette tapes since then. At one point, he discusses an attack he participated in after mines were exploded under the German lines. “They were ready for us with machine-guns and whatnaot. But luckily, for me at any rate, I wasn’t wounded in any way.”
In a related project, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) is creating Lives of the First World War. This websites is being built to be an interactive experience for individuals to share the stories of more than eight million men and women from across the British Isles and throughout the British Empire who served in the armed forces during the war.
The IWM has partnered with DC Thomson Family History (the parent company of FindMyPast.co.uk) on the project. Just a few other participating groups include:
- Auckland War Memorial Museum
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- Llibary and Archives Canada
- The National Archives
- National Archives of Australia
- National Archives of Ireland
There is a brief, introductory video about the project at the Lives of the First World War website. There is also a list of frequently asked questions that explain more about the project, which hopes to launch soon.
Remembering these important stories is a valiant project. The last of that generation is now gone, and it is up to us to preserve their memories. Read more, and think about how you can participate in the projects.