Sunday, February 26, 2006

A letter to an unknown researcher of the year 2056

Photo shows: Ron in March 2005 ready for a BBC TV interview

Dear Researcher

The BBC WW2 Peoples War website was set up in 2003 to gather in stories of servicemen and civilians who had taken part in what was generally known as World War II.

Late in 2005 it was announced that the site, at least in its present format, was to close for future submissions on the 31st January 2006 and would re-open at a later date as a permanent ‘sealed’ archive.

The BBC have promised that this site will become a ‘permanent’ archive.

With that in mind I am being reasonably optimistic in hoping that it will still be available in 2056 and that is why I have addressed this article to a researcher of that date.

As an eighty-two year old ex-serviceman who came across the site shortly after it opened in 2003 and who had posted about 80 odd articles (some would say very odd!) I felt it incumbent on myself to leave a message for future readers of the ‘new’ archives.

The first thing I would expect my reader to notice is that the postings on this site are a bit of a mish-mash (if such a term is still understandable to my future reader) as the articles run the gamut from “This is what I experienced, backed by my diaries” to “This is something my Grannie told me” .

The ages of those who have posted run from “I joined up in 1939 at the age of 21” to “I was born after the war ”.

Some articles are ‘tribute stories’, where a grateful grandchild writes about a grandfather he or she never knew

Some of the older contributors (including myself) have crossed swords with the controllers of the site because we felt that some articles were, to put it politely, risibly inaccurate. The Organisers in turn have told us in no uncertain terms that the individual posters were responsible for their own stories and that there was even merit in what was referred to by the organisers as “perceived memories”.

In an effort to keep the record straight I would urge future readers and in particular researchers to take nothing that has been written on this site as being factually correct unless it has been confirmed by other research sources. I would also urge future researchers to read any threads that have been added to the stories as these have been, in the main, added by those who were concerned for factual accuracy.

Having stated my case, and with that proviso safely out of the way, may I now praise the site and its organisers.

There are some wonderful stories here.

People have given freely and generously of their memories and have created an amazing patchwork picture of life during the most catastrophic of times.

Despite the difficulty of their task, the organisers have kept the ball rolling and have not allowed petty bickering to distract them from their main task which was always to offer help to prospective contributors, gather their stories and to analyse and categorise them.

I have no idea what innovations will be available to you folk in 2056 but judging by the progress I have seen within my own lifetime I envy you.

Make good use of this site, a lot has been put into it and as you do, spare a thought for those of us who have placed our stories on this site so that the future generations would know about who we were and what we did during World War II.

Ron Goldstein

Ex 49th Light Ack Ack and 4th Queen’s Own Hussars.

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