A new book of insightful interviews charting West Sussex residents’ military service throughout the 20th century is now available across the county.
Military Voices Past and Present is a collection of memories from local veterans who served in the First and Second World Wars, and more recent conflicts. The stories have now been published in a 550-page book and also released as digital audio recordings.
The project began with 32 First World War veteran interviews made in the 1980s by Worthing history teacher Peter Baker. He deposited the interviews at West Sussex Record Office in 2014 to make sure they were preserved as a vital part of social history.
Inspired by his work, staff and volunteers from West Sussex County Council Library Service embarked on a project to build on this collection. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, they interviewed a further 63 local veterans from the period 1939 to the 1990s.
These interviews describe training, fellow servicemen, front line action, how service affected them as individuals and included are female veterans such as nurses and a Bletchley Park code-breaker.
Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “People who signed up and gave service whether in the First, Second World Wars or any other conflicts right up to Afghanistan have done so to protect our country for democracy and freedom of speech.
“Many gave their lives, others have received significant injuries and traumas that have stayed with them throughout their lives. The Military Voices project is one small way to thank all those alive and passed on who have given service to their Country to protect our freedom. A fitting tribute to so many heroic men and women.”
A limited print run of the book is on sale for £10 from all West Sussex libraries and West Sussex Record Office in Orchard Street, Chichester. Lending copies can also be borrowed via any library.
The full interviews can be listened to on public computers at all 36 West Sussex libraries. There is also a special listening turret with over 130 of the audio clips at Worthing Library until 13 July and at Horsham Library from 19 July till 31 August.
The clips are also available online at www.westsussex.gov.uk/militaryvoices.