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D DAY HEROES - 70 years on...

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Watching the moving footage of the 70th Anniversary celebrations of D Day always conjures up such a mixed range of emotions. From pride and patriotism to deep sadness and horror  - most of us cannot fail but to try to imagine what it must have been like to have both been part of that invasion force with all the ensuing horror, guns and death but also to empathise with the feelings and thoughts of those left behind - the mothers, wives, lovers, sisters and brothers. Like many I know, I wonder how I would have dealt with the separation and the loss. Our generation really has not had to deal with loss on this scale - would I have been brave or pathetic, what would the effect have been on our family? Nearly everybody was affected in some way or another with some families seeming to be inflicted with the most terrible toll, losing multiple members. Too many horrors and too much misery.

Overview of troops landing on D Day WW 2

 

 

Troops landing on D Day World War 2

 

 

 

 

 

And yet coupled with that is a massive sense of pride that our little country rose up and selflessly gave of its finest in order to protect the values which we held and indeed still hold dear. The altruism and selflessness of a generation is truly awe-inspiring and I personally think it is vital that we continue to be grateful for that sacrifice and keep alive the memories of the past to guide us in today’s troubled world. As the living witnesses to those events 70 years ago dwindle in numbers with the inexorable cycle of life, so we have a responsibility to teach our children and theirs about the events of the last century and why this pattern must simply never be repeated.

On a smaller scale though, we remain fascinated by the human tales of bravery and heroism and also of luck and survival, of families torn apart and friends reunited. This is where the web and social media are now playing such a huge part and changing the way information can be resourced. Even ten or fifteen years ago, for people endeavoring to trace their family history, the process tended to be laborious and slow, not to mention expensive, necessitating many visits to record sites around the country and tedious letter writing to request copies of certificates and forms. In the past years, more and more records or every kind have been digitalised thus enabling families to trace details at the click of a mouse and from the comfort of their living rooms. From all three branches of the Armed Forces  both in the UK and the Commonwealth, to Trade Union records, Medical services, Home Guard and archives of personal reminiscences, so much information is now available online for those interested in piecing together the story of their family. I have listed below some excellent sites to get  you going.

Many of you have probably heard of the new initiative from the Imperial War Museum: The First World War Project (See www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org) which is aiming to be a sort of digital Facebook memorial for that generation. Combining official war records of all kinds with biographies and photographs, personal reminiscences, diaries and individual recollections the project is interactive and the public is encouraged to add information where possible, including missing names, stories and letters. The hope is that once this digital memorial to all those who served and lost life in the Great War is properly up and running, the same project will be launched for the 2nd World War. I urge you to log on and have a look - just to dip into such personal testimonial is both deeply moving and endlessly fascinating.

In a somewhat sombre mood, I leave you with Wilfred Owen’s masterpiece Dulce et Decorum Est which sums up the reason why we celebrate those who gave so much on our behalf, plus some ideas to get you going to try and find our more about your unique family history.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
"Dulce et Decorum Est "

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.

 

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

 

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

So, enjoy following the coverage of events this week and if you feel inspired to try and find  out the stories that shaped your family’s history, why not give it a go? Do be careful as many of these sites do charge a fee for downloading information which is free to access from some public record offices. We would love to hear about any amazing stories you might uncover - do please share them with us.

Some useful sites:

https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/

http://www.ancestry.co.uk

http://www.findmypast.co.uk

http://ukarchives.com

http://www.genesreunited.co.uk/

and if you have relatives from North of the border, http://scotlandspeople.gov.uk

And when you’ve got those stories and photos together, why not send them to us and create a special family history collage http://collaggecompany.co.uk/collage-for.html to keep those memories alive.

Good luck and happy hunting!

 

Just send us your family photos & memorabilia, call us on 01420 562208 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - we would love to hear from you!

www.collagecompany.co.uk

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Emmy Watt set up ‘The Collage Company’ in 2010 after finding a gap in the digital photographic market. Instead of creating photo books, which end up on the shelf along with long-forgotten photo albums, they wanted to find a way of getting all your favourite photos out on show and still produce a quality product. Taking their marketing and design experience they have taken the traditional collage idea into the 21st century...

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