Oral history project highlights Second World War work by military charity in Shropshire

Date
19 January 2016 15:46

A military charity for blinded Service men and women that relocated its rehabilitation and training work to the safety of Church Stretton during the Second World War has released a selection of stories from that time.

A military charity for blinded Service men and women that relocated its rehabilitation and training work to the safety of Church Stretton during the Second World War has released a selection of stories from that time.

The poems, letters, interviews and diary extracts form part of '100 Voices, 100 Years', an oral history project to celebrate the 100th birthday of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

Hattie Lockhart-Smith, co-organiser of the project, says, "It's been a real privilege to be let into people's houses and subject to their private thoughts. Audio is a powerful medium that everyone can relate to and we had a lot of tears and laughter."

The project took 18 months to complete and involved 100 oral history interviews and archive recordings spanning the life of the charity from its founding in 1915, with interviews not just with Service men and women helped by the charity, but also with their families, staff and volunteers.

Among the stories is an account by Blanche Thomas of Blind Veterans UK moving its operations to Church Stretton during the Second World War. She said, "They used to occupy some Nissan huts in Church Stretton. They had workshops there, and they made trays and worked with lathes. As children, we were allowed to go inside, we would talk to them, and they would show us what they were doing."

During the period 1940 to 1946, the Long Mynd Hotel, Brockhurst Estate and Tiger Hall were all used by the charity, formerly known as St. Dunstan's, to train 700 blinded Service men and women to gain jobs, including factory work. A cul-de-sac in the town is named St Dunstan's.

The oral history project, which aimed to document the experiences of people who might otherwise have been hidden from history, was produced by Kathryn Jones-Romain and Hattie Lockhart-Smith for Blind Veterans UK and supported by Jo Palache from the Oral History Society.

You can listen to the Blind Veterans UK 100 Voices project at: www.blindveterans.org.uk/100-voices/