So far the project to photograph World War Two veterans is going well. Having a deadline by which to have everything ready does add a sense of urgency. As I write this we have two months to get everything processed and printed.
How have we done up to now? More than a dozen veterans have kindly allowed us to photograph them and listen to their stories. The results are pure gold! We have stories of humour and comradeship, of near death experiences and pride.
Every visit has results in splendid portraits, an hour or so of recordings and a group of people happy that they have been involved. Amongst those that have sat for us are veterans of D-Day, men who sailed with the Arctic Convoys to Russia, a Durham Light Infantryman who was captured whilst trying to reach Dunkirk in 1940 and spent the war as a POW, mostly in Poland, and a WRNS who worked on the famous bombe at Bletchley Park.
This project is intended to be as inclusive as possible. Included in this collection will be a couple of Bevin Boys; those who were conscripted into the coal mines. It is still a matter of some bitterness for at least one of them that they were given no choice and were not allowed to join one of the services. The process of selection was simple: one of Ernie Bevin’s secretaries picked a number at random from a hat. That single number determined if you were to go down the mines or not; if it happened to be the last number on one’s call-up papers. The Bevin Boy scheme lasted 1943 to 1948 and amongst those so conscripted were the footballer Nat Lofthouse, the actor, Mencap president Brian Rix and the comedian Eric Morecambe.
Knowing that there are others out there who served and yet we have no knowledge of we have enlisted the good offices of Sam Wonfor at the Journal to help spread the word.
To all those who given of their time willingly, a great big THANK YOU!