Second World War memories to be preserved at university collection day

People across Scotland are being invited to share their family's stories and memories from the Second World War.

The University of Edinburgh is hosting a digital collection day to collect stories from the Second World War as part of Their Finest Hour initiative.

The nationwide project, which is being held in partnership with the University of Oxford, aims to preserve stories fading from living memory by recording them in a digital archive.

Fiona Hendrie works at Edinburgh University and has been looking out old pictures of her grandfather ahead of collection day.

She will be interviewed by a volunteer who will ask about her grandfather’s involvement in the war.

Fiona said: “I didn’t actually know my grandfather, he passed away before I was born, so I’ve learnt about his experiences during the war through my auntie and my dad, so it’s been really interesting to pull all the old photo albums out.

A picture of Fiona’s grandfather, Steven Langley Hendrie.

“He was a train painter by trade and he was conscripted into the RAF and sent down to join 617 squadron, who then became more commonly known as the Dam Busters.

“As a train painter he was ground crew and his title was a plane fitter. He had quite an artistic flair so one of the things he did was paint the nose cones of the planes with cartoons to represent the pilots who were flying them.”

As well as their memories, people are being encouraged to bring any artefacts they may have at home from the war, such as an old helmet, a ration book or even a can of dried eggs.

The Museums of Galleries Edinburgh have provided a memory box of artefacts for people to view on the day.

Events like the one at University of Edinburgh’s Rainy Hall are happening all across the country – with all of the information to be collated in a digital archive.

Eden Swimer, a fourth-year history student at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This will all go to the University of Oxford who are, from collection days across the country, going to compile everything into an archive and from next summer this archive will be uploaded and it’ll be free to access for anybody.”

Lorna Campbell, manager of Their Finest Hour collection day at the University of Edinburgh said: “We have a sort of fixed idea of what a historical event is – there’s the authorised version of history but that only ever tells half of the story and we really do believe that it’s important to collect everybody’s stories of their experience of these pivotal events in world history.

“So, it’s not just the stories of the service personnel’s who were on the front lines, it’s also the stories of the women who worked at home and what their experience of the war is.”

The University is keen for as many people as possible to come along on Saturday but those who can’t make it can also share their stories through Their Finest Hour website.

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