LISTEN TO THE SOLDIER
Something very important indeed - in its own quiet kind of way - has been developing in County Durham over the last couple of years. In fact, it’s taken almost 20 years to come to fruition. And now, as a result of this long collaboration between the DLI Museum in Durham City and the Imperial War Museum’s Sound Archive, visitors to the County’s Record Office can access Listen To The Soldier - 200 digitised recorded interviews with veterans who served with all the battalions of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) during the Second World War.
You can hear the voices of DLI squaddies from all over the north-east and beyond: Sunderland, Hetton-le-Hole, New Herrington, Stanley, Pelaw, Thornley, Tantobie.....and of their experiences training and fighting. Normandy, North Africa, Sicily, Kohima, Tunisia, Dunkirk and elsewhere.
This kind of ‘oral history’ is undoubtedly the best there is. Listening to the voices of men who were in the thick of the action - and to their unexpected light touches concerning new, starched uniforms and food parcels from home - is a sobering and uplifting experience. Not that you need me to tell you that!
I guess it’s going to be more and more difficult to keep memories like these alive and ‘relevant’ to the experience of modern life. Veterans of the First World War are, of course, already extremely thin on the ground and the number of men and women with first-hand memories of the Second will decline in the same way and just as quickly.
So if you can, make a date with the Durham County Record Office to Listen To The Soldier. Warmly recommended. 0191 383 3253/3274. firstname.lastname@example.org. durham.gov.uk/recordoffice.
CHILDREN IN NEED
Thanks for all your contributions. I’m afraid the balloon idea turned into the usual kind of Ian Robinson fiasco; cheap balloons combined with a mischievous colleague (David) with a razorblade (no less) didn’t make for a world-record challenging attempt at balloon-inflating. It was great fun, though.
I must admit to being the teeniest bit heartbroken that nobody called with a bid nearly high enough for me to shave off my beard. Where are all the rich businessmen when you want them? (Good grief - I seem to have been saying that for years.)
....is arguably the oldest complete building above ground in England. Our Anglo-Saxon ancestors used the stones of the nearby Roman fort of Vinovia to build it; the chancel arch is a Roman arch dismantled, shipped a couple of miles upstream and re-erected here. The church almost certainly existed while the Venerable Bede was still alive in the seventh century AD and is so old that its original dedication is unknown.
It stands - admittedly a little forlornly and forgotten - in the middle of a typically unkempt and even drab west Durham mining village near Bishop Auckland (of all places). For me, it is typical of the 'hidden gems' with which County Durham is adorned. I would say that its ancient and silent humility is awe-inspiring but that would sound like, and be, pretentious nonsense.
Post comments on this blog or contact me in any one (or more) of these ways....
text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.