As part of the ongoing World War Two anniversaries, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has created its first online sound archive, Voices of Liberation.
To mark the 75th anniversary of some of the most momentous battles in history, the CWGC will be working to record the voices of veterans, relatives and pilgrims for a unique online sound resource that explains why the Commission’s war graves, cemeteries and memorials are as poignant today as when they were first built 75 years ago.
Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in CWGC war cemeteries and memorials around the world and these remembrance sites are places of pilgrimage for veterans and descendants. The archive aims to pay tribute to those who gave their lives and shine a light upon these places of remembrance.
Tales of war
The archive highlights the role that CWGC cemeteries and memorials hold for family pilgrims today, such as the heart-breaking account of William Guarden, told by his son Alan. Alan was born on 6 June 1944 and never met his father, who died on 11 July 1944. Alan reads the last letter his father wrote to his mother Ethel, dated 18 June 1944:
“My Dearest Ethel,
I expect you have read between the lines this last week and knew that something was afoot. Dad sent me a cheque for five pounds, but I haven’t had a chance to cash it, so I’m sending it to you. Please spend it on something you would really like, and I should look forward to hearing what it is a little later. 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. I am happy in the knowledge that you bring up Joyce and Alan to be useful and god-fearing citizens. I hope we can sit down one day and laugh at what I’ve written. Wish me a happy landings and be a brave lass, you’re not to worry or else the milk will go sour .
Alan said of visiting his father’ grave: It’s a moving experience to visit one of these wonderfully kept war cemeteries, but of course when you’re visiting a particular grave it’s even more poignant. It is an emotional experience. I think everybody at some point in their lives should visit such a place… to see the result of the carnage and the way in which the Commission cares for them.'
Alongside the sound archive the CWGC has launched its new podcast series “Legacy of Liberation”, the six-part series explores the key moments of the Second World war conflict, and the historic cemeteries and memorials which commemorate those who fought and died. You can contribute to Voices of Liberation and listen to the podcast here
Lord Ashcroft, KCMG PC, military historian, gallantry medal collector and philanthropist, said: 'I congratulate the CWGC for launching this innovative and exciting project, 'Voices of Liberation'. 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.
"For more than a century, the CWGC has been honoring our war dead and this project, in the short term, provides an opportunity to highlight some of the historic events from 75 years ago, including the bravery and self-sacrifice of members of our Armed Forces.
"In the longer term, I hope 'Voices of Liberation' will provide an important and fascinating archive that will inform and entertain future generations.'
(image shows Northern area of Britische Soldatengräber (Commonwealth War Graves), Hamburg cemetery Friedhof Ohlsdorf at Lärchenallee (bend) and is copyright Vitavia)