The Centre is extraordinarily fortunate in being able to rely on the support of a team of dedicated volunteers…
The volunteers span all age ranges and come from all walks of life. Men and women from Great Britain, Europe, Canada, the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand have generously devoted spare time to promoting the Centre and its work, tape-recording wartime recollections, securing the placement of documentation and memorabilia in the Centre and seeking sources of financial support for our work. The Centre is always pleased to hear from new contacts who want to learn more about volunteering.
A document with advice and guidelines for potential volunteers is available by request. For more information about becoming a volunteer, please contact us.
Take a look at the thoughts of some of our Volunteers past and present.
Cant make tea.
As an ex-teacher I am very keen that young people should not be allowed to forget about the two World Wars and other 20th century conflicts. A friend of mine, Henry Metelmann, a Stalingrad veteran, concurs with this view and spends much of his time visiting schools and colleges talking about his experiences. It is amazing what people remember when they are in front of a tape recorder and many find this preferable to writing down their thoughts – all their memories and emotions come flooding back. These veterans know that time is not on their side and for future generations views must be put on tape. To me they have seemed humble and modest and always praise others’ bravery. Many are happy to hand to the Centre for safe keeping maps, diaries, photos, letters, magazines, books and other wartime souvenirs. It is a great privilege to meet such fine and courageous men and women from many different walks of life who experienced some of the most challenging years in our nation’s illustrious history”.
The first memoir I worked on was written by Dr Albertine Gaur, who now lives in London but was a young girl growing up in Austria in 1944-5, the period covered by her memoir. Her beautifully written account reminded me of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Dr Gaur describes how her life went from being hardly touched by war, to being affected by it in the most harrowing way, as defeat and capitulation were followed by brutal occupation. My job was to prepare a summary and index the memoir, so that it would be easily accessible to researchers. Since then I have worked on material written by four Polish nationals, all of whom have provided fascinating accounts of their – often extraordinary – experiences during the war. Most moving was the material concerning Mr Ludomir Cabut, who was deported with his family to the Soviet Arctic at the age of fourteen, but managed to join the Polish units which formed up in Russia in 1942, and ended up fighting through the Normandy campaign.
It is a delight for me to be involved, however peripherally, in history and scholarship once more, and I never manage to read Centre material without my emotions becoming engaged. The Second World War has this effect, I suppose, in part because I grew up in its shadow; in part because of its gargantuan scale and significance; and in part because it involved human experiences of a sort quite unlike anything within the range of my peacetime generation. To read first-hand accounts of them is to hear the wings of history beating”.
A number of interviewees belong to ex-servicemen’s associations and, or, attend reunions. These people are, therefore, more used to discussing their wartime activities. Others, perhaps, have not mentioned their experiences for many years and almost certainly to no one outside their family. But whoever has been talking to me has done so without conceit, exaggeration, or bitterness even. As one limbless veteran said in relation to his feelings about losing his legs – ‘it’s all part of the game of war, isn’t it?’ By and large all those people have spoken in conclusion of their reminiscences by telling of the positive part the war played in their personal lives, and that they would not want to have missed it. To post-war generations this may seem odd, but all the taped experiences happened to people before they reached the age of thirty. For some it really was a question of – follow that!
Playing a small part in helping the Centre to develop its collections has, without doubt, been one of the most interesting activities in which I have ever been involved.