I wanted to let you know about the work of The Second World War Experience Centre, which collects, preserves and shares the experiences of people who lived through the Second World War. The Centre’s collection is of relevance to all as it documents the achievements of all our families and uses them for educational purposes. Since 1999 we have been working hard to develop the archive and ensure that the unique, wartime memories we have rescued are accessible to as many people as possible, so that future generations will not forget the bravery, sacrifice and values of such a remarkable time in our heritage.

We are a small, national charity (No. 1072965), which is wholly reliant on donations from individuals, charitable trusts and companies. Our collection is UK-wide and to an extent international. The Centre has three part-time staff and a team of more than 50 volunteers. Being based on the outskirts of Leeds means not only can we offer free parking and local facilities to our volunteers (some of whom are themselves veterans) but also our rent is a great deal cheaper than the equivalent space in the city centre.

The Centre now holds details of approximately 9,000 individuals’ wartime experiences, split, approximately 50:50, between recollections, documents, photographs and memorabilia on the one hand and recorded interviews on the other. Our team of recording volunteers works throughout the UK and beyond, to interview people in their homes about all manner of wartime experience, whether in the forces or on the home front.

As well as providing an invaluable resource for historians, societies, researchers, authors and broadcasters, we also provide teaching resources for schools to ensure that the knowledge of this period is not forgotten. We are committed to recording as many people’s experiences of the war as possible and are engaged in a battle against time to capture people’s memories. We are currently producing a DVD for Key Stage 3 classes, which will be available free to schools later this year.

We have recently redesigned our journal, Everyone’s War, to increase its appeal to a wider audience. It is sent on request to a growing readership of supporters, students, researchers, authors, care homes, volunteers and veterans and is also distributed at the Centre and at our events. We also hold an annual Veterans’ Day event, which celebrates the achievements of all those people who lived during the war. In 2008, 200 veterans enjoyed an afternoon tea-party, wartime performance and sing-along, quiz and raffle. This event was entirely free for those attending and creates community awareness of the veterans’ sacrifice and an opportunity for inter-generational interaction.

As you can see, we are working very hard to rescue as many experiences of wartime life as possible before this remarkable generation has passed away and their stories are lost forever. In addition to increasing the collection and creating a permanent record of our wartime heritage, we also focus on making it more accessible to relevant audiences. We are committed to increasing the content of the archive for use by schools, researchers, broadcasters, family history enthusiasts and any other interested parties, whilst widening access to the information we hold. We share wartime experience by making resources available on our website, where people can download free case studies and order teaching resources.

There are also many benefits for the 50 volunteers who carry out so much of our work collecting and preserving stories and memorabilia. Most are retired and many miss the social aspect of working and value the opportunity to make a difference to the preservation of the nation's history, whilst also making friends, attending our events, etc. Volunteers benefit from their time with us by gaining new skills in interviewing, publishing, administration or archival work. Volunteering provides our retired and elderly volunteers with an opportunity for social interaction, maintaining or increasing confidence and self-esteem.

The people who preserve their stories with us also very much appreciate the opportunity to record their memories and celebrate their achievements during the war; they often tell us that they feel secure to know their efforts will be recorded for future generations and used as a learning tool to reduce conflict, increase tolerance and understanding and impart values such as community, bravery and comradeship. Our activities are creating a unique, first-hand resource that will be available across the globe and will ensure that the bravery and sacrifice of those who “did their bit” will not be forgotten.

I wanted to ask whether you could help to promote our services or help us to raise the funds required to continue collecting and preserving people’s wartime experiences. For example, £10,500 would enable us to record and preserve the memories and memorabilia of 300 additional people who lived through the war. Is there any possibility that you could assist in one or more of the following ways:

Do you have a publication / website where you could feature our advertisement (attached)? We have no advertising budget and are reliant on free advertising space to let people know that we exist;

Are there ways in which you could raise funds to support our work? Perhaps on your website, through mailings or at events;

Do you have access to people who might like to subscribe to our journal (a sample of this is also attached) for £30 per year?

We would be so grateful if you were able to assist in any way. If you would like to visit the collection to see some of the treasures that we are privileged to hold, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’d be delighted to show you around.

Carol Vickers

Fundraising & Communications Manager

 

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