Voices of war: Council calls on veterans to share their stories

Royal Sussex Regiment receiving new Regimental Colours from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, at Arundel Castle, April 1954
Royal Sussex Regiment receiving new Regimental Colours from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, at Arundel Castle, April 1954

Military Voices Past and Present is a new West Sussex County Council Library Service project which needs your help.

The council needs military veterans willing to be interviewed about their wartime experiences, together with volunteers to conduct the interviews.

William Gardiner, Royal Flying Corps aerial photographer, c.1917

William Gardiner, Royal Flying Corps aerial photographer, c.1917

This ground-breaking oral history project aims to compare the experiences and sacrifices made by Great War combatants with those made by modern-day veterans.

This has been made possible by generous grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Ministry of Defence’s Community Covenant Fund.

The key source is the Peter Baker Collection, comprising 32 interviews with 1914-18 veterans recorded over 30 years ago, three of them from the Royal Sussex Regiment.

Peter has been teaching history at Our Lady of Sion School for almost 30 years and is now semi-retired.

Training in Bognor Regis

Training in Bognor Regis

He was inspired to make the recordings because of his own interest in the first world war and also to use in the classroom, a ground-breaking initiative from the 1980s.

A spokesman for the council said: “Creating a new collection of interviews with current military veterans is another key aim of the project.

“We hope to find veterans, living in West Sussex, who experienced any conflict from 1939-45 to the recent wars in the Gulf and Afghanistan.

“Their experiences and views will then be analysed and compared with those of their first world war predecessors.”

Run by West Sussex County Council Library Service, with support from West Sussex Record Office, all material will be digitised, preserved and significant extracts made freely

available online.

David Barling, cabinet member for residents’ services, said: “We plan to work with at least 25 volunteers who will be taught new skills and take on a wide range of tasks, including interviewing, historical research, writing and digitisation.”

The project will run from November 2015 to November 2018 and results will include a travelling display, new webpages with audio clips and an inventive educational programme involving local schools.

A book of the interviews will be supplied free to all West Sussex schools, public libraries, colleges, universities and veteran associations.

Key partners in the project are the Royal British Legion, Royal Sussex Regimental Association and Queen Alexandra Hospital Home in Worthing.

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