The Oral History of the First World War

Michael discovers a war-memorial-webwonderful audio collection of wartime memories

We have mentioned before how the diminishing number of people who were alive during the First World War is having an impact on the role of memory in our understanding of it. Direct experience is becoming a rarer commodity and  those snippets that we do have are of tremendous value.

It’s a joy, then, to review the First World War collection at the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA). Based on a collection of 300 recordings made in Leicester in the 1980s, the archive has been listened to, catalogued and made available for listeners via Soundcloud.

Grouped under the headings ‘The Start of the War’, ‘Life on the Home Front’, ‘Death and Absence’ and ‘Aftermath’, the clips offer a personal insight into how the war was experienced by people in the Midlands. We can hear about peoples’ attitude to the Germans, ‘I knew the First World War was coming because my dad, right from when we was kids, was always talking about the Germans coming down the street’, about access to food in wartime: ‘The bread was almost black…there were a lot of shortages really…we had to make potato dripping for instance. My aunt was very good at contriving, she was a good cook’ and, dramatically, on unexpected Zeppelin attacks ‘All I heard was a thud on the door…the windows came in. Everything was in confusion’

A treasure trove. Have a listen for yourself.

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