With D-Day Dodgers, we have recorded over 70 hours of interviews with World War Two veterans, (some are on the web site) not just infantry either, there is medics, gun fitters, engineers, signals, naval etc. etc. All have really interesting stories to tell. Some had not spoke to anyone about their experiences since the end of the war others had taken the time to write it all down. We have only just scratched the surface of those veterans that are still alive but we must not forget that the numbers are dwindling fast. I am a member of the First Army Association and in every issue of their news letter, it lists those who have passed on and sadly it takes up more space in each issue. Other Associations such as the Italy Star Association are being forced to close district offices because they no longer have members.
Today, historians spend many hours trying to work out how soldiers lived or how they did their 'job' or what equipment they carried etc. in times past. Think how different the history books would be if we knew for certain what a Roman military engineer or legionary did, what he carried etc. And those long standing debates into shield design and tunic colours would not be necessary - and lets face it - we still do not know for certain. TIME IS RUNNING OUT for us to ensure similar knowledge about the men and women who fought in World War Two is not lost for ever as well!
A few of our observations so far:-
Many veterans have written their memoirs but the majority remain either in private collections or with their families.
Nearly every Regiment had their own way of doing things and rules on clothing etc.
Most oral histories concentrate on the big picture and ignore the detail.
Soon, the soldier's association's of WW2 will be gone.Who will fly the flag for them and for the small part of history in which they took part. Especially, when it is already all but forgotten in the eyes of the public.
Because so few families are interested in what their relatives part in WW2 was, unpublished memoirs will be filed in the bin (see my earlier post). Somehow these need to be collated and saved.
Talk to a veteran today - ask the right questions and make the story publicly available even if anonymously.