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Preserving the memories of the Second World War

28 November 2023

 Trevor from Bognor Regis u3a talks about a recent event, as part of the Their Finest Hour campaign, in which members interviewed people from the local community about their memories of the Second World War.

People interviewing each other in a hall. There are strings of flag bunting in the background.

Their Finest Hour (TFH) is a Lottery funded campaign being run by the University of Oxford to collect and to digitally preserve the stories, memories and objects from the Second World War before all these memories are lost. It was mentioned in the u3a newsletter and a notice was placed in the Bognor Regis weekly bulletin to gauge the interest in us getting involved with the project.

Two members volunteered and by the end of June had enrolled us into the project and themselves on the Their Finest Hour training. A planning group was formed and a decision made to hold our digital collection day on 11 November starting just after the two-minute silence. Planning continued throughout the summer and into autumn, posters were displayed in prominent places around the area, discussions of refreshments and just how many might turn up seemed to be endless. There was then the question of how best to do this and how many volunteers would we need to do the welcoming, interviewing, transcribing, photographing, scanning. We would need an army of helpers if the advertising and weather did their jobs!

Given the demographic structure of the Bognor Regis area we were hopeful that we would get at least fifty people telling their story. The backup was that we had an army of helpers who would have their own story if nobody turned up on the day or the weather was foul.

The day arrived and the areas were set out as per the planning. By 11:15 a queue had formed and that queue became bigger and length of wait increased. The welcoming team took the details and we had four, sometimes five, teams interviewing. If the interviewees had any interesting objects, these were then recorded and forwarded to the imaging team of four.

By the end of the day, we had interviewed over sixty, taken over a thousand images and scoffed through a large proportion of the victuals. None of the teams were allowed to rest, it was full on “work” for most of the day that finally ended at 5:00pm. The work continues as none of the volunteers were interviewed and some could not wait in the long queue.

Highlight of the many and varied stories were two different families that had fathers that were part of the Great Escape.

There is still time to arrange an event in your area, but the closing date for uploading is 5 April 2024. Find out more on the Their Finest Hour website.

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