Jewels of our past

Recording memories of the British Armed Forces

Project duration: 18 months

Project summary:

This project shows how individuals have been affected by the British Armed Forces, either through personal service, or the service of their friends or relatives. It is hoped that the material that has been collected will be published in book format in mid 2013.

I have taken the decision to limit the area of study for this book to the North of Britain. Largely, this is a matter of personal affinity. I have lived and studied in this area and thought I could write more passionately about a geographical area that I share a connection to. I also thought it was of utmost importance to personally meet as many of the interviewees as possible, which would be facilitated by my close proximity.However, the testimonies are not only applicable to the North of Britain. They make broader statements about the impacts of warfare and military service, as well as the benefits of oral history. The stories of the participants featured within this book, although individual, are also representative of the many thousands of people whom have been influenced by the British military.

Project reflections:

It is perhaps symptomatic of the increasing rarity of those who experienced the Second World War, that such recollections form the majority of this project and book. It is likely that this is the case for two reasons. Firstly, because people are aware that time is growing short to pass on their memories. This also has an influence on family members who experienced the consequences of their relatives military service during this conflict. They now increasingly feel the desire to preserve their memories too, precisely because they are aware of the declining numbers of veterans of the conflict means that time is growing short to do so. Secondly, the Second World War involved millions of British men and women, both in the services, or who had family serving. Therefore, for varying reasons, it should be noted that people of all ages had the opportunity to become involved with the project, be they witnesses or grandchildren with family stories to tell. The War affected everyone; therefore most families have a story to tell.

Appeals for interview subjects were placed using a variety of different media, both traditional (newspapers and family history journals) and modern (websites and social media.) By doing this, the possibility of inadvertently targeting a specific age-bracket was reduced. As a result of these precautions, the demographics provide strong evidence to link advancing age with likelihood of passing on memories. Older people are far more likely to want to share their stories than younger people. Whether this is a theme relevant exclusively to the Second World War generation, or whether it is a consequence of advancing age, cannot be determined at present. Nevertheless, this analysis shows why recollections of the Second World War, recollections from personal experience or memories of family history, are the most prevalent material collected in this project.

Contact details

Contact person: David Hiscocks


4 Ripon Gardens
Jesmond Vale
Newcastle upon Tyne