Second World War veterans’ voices recorded for online sound archive

The voices of Second World War veterans and their relatives are being recorded to mark the 75th anniversary of some of the conflict’s most momentous battles.

Their stories will be captured for an online sound archive created by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which commemorates more than 100,000 service personnel who died in 1944.

From first-hand accounts from veterans to tales of family pilgrimages to the battlefields, the public will be able to explore the recordings and add their own.

Among the contributors to Voices of Liberation is 99-year-old Victor Gregg, who served with the Parachute Regiment and was captured by the Nazis at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.

“I was a frontline soldier from the day war was declared right to the gruesome end,” he says.

“I was never out of a frontline unit so I can presume that I’ve seen it all – the best things that man can do and probably the worst.”

Voices of Liberation
Soldier William Gaudern never got the chance to meet his son (Commonwealth War Graves Commission/PA)

In another poignant recording, Alan Gaudern, 74, who was born on D-Day, reads the last letter from his father – who died without meeting his son on July 11 1944 – to Alan’s mother Ethel.

It says: “You know we’ve faced up to the likelihood I may not come back … but you know I feel I shall come back because I want to so much.

“We’ve had a perfect married life together haven’t we?  We must look forward to a more settled future.

“But if I don’t come back I want you know how much I owe to you and thank you for our lovely life together and to let you know it isn’t my wish that you remain a widow, if you really fall in love again.”

Other contributors include historians Guy Walters and Julie Summers, and the businessman and politician Lord Ashcroft.

“I feel privileged to have been invited to play a small part in it, particularly as my late and much-loved father Eric Ashcroft took part in the D-Day landings as a young officer,” Lord Ashcroft said.

“In the longer term, I hope Voices of Liberation will provide an important and fascinating archive that will inform and entertain future generations.”

The CWGC hopes the archive will be a fitting tribute to the dead and highlight its cemeteries and memorials across the world.

Chief archivist Andrew Fetherston said:  “We believe that by capturing these stories from the public we are creating an archive of international importance and a lasting legacy for those who died for our today.

“We want people to share their connections to the war and our cemeteries to ensure that as Commonwealth nations we have not forgotten their sacrifice.”

You can contribute to Voices of Liberation and listen to the CWGC’s new podcast series Legacy of Liberation at liberation.cwgc.org.

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