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D-Day, bouncing bombs and other stories – the benefits of volunteering

Sue Jackson has been discovering untold stories from the Second World War by volunteering for the New Forest Remembers World War II Project. She’s been recording the oral history of the people who fought and lived through the period when the New Forest was effectively turned into a large military camp and became a key staging post for the liberation of Europe from German occupation. Here Sue explains why volunteering has been so fascinating.

I initially volunteered to help with the project because I have a small amount of spare time (I work four days a week) and wanted to do something worthwhile but which I would also find interesting, because any spare time is precious.

Also, since I turned 50 I have forced myself to undertake at least three challenges every year in order to gain new experiences and to stretch myself.

The experimental blast research station SAE Millerford where Betty McCarthy and Vera Storr worked - two of the oral histories recorded by the New Forest Remembers World War II Project volunteers

I expected just to be helping with transcribing as I have experience of doing this for work.  However, I had always been interested to know more about oral history projects. I thought I should challenge myself to apply to help with interviewing, and I was delighted to be accepted.

The main challenge is keeping on your toes, as you never quite know where the conversation is going to take you. You need to build up a relationship with a stranger very quickly in order to encourage them to share their memories. One of the main challenges for me has been to get to grips with the technology – sophisticated digital equipment rather than the basic tape recorder I was expecting!

The New Forest Remembers World War II Project volunteers, including Sue Jackson (centre, middle row), with their certificates at a celebration event at Hurst Castle in October 2013

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience of interviewing. I have met some very interesting people with amazing stories to tell and these stories will hopefully now be recorded for future generations. I have made friends among the volunteers and have had the opportunity to attend several interesting events.  I have learnt so much about my local area and seem to find out something new at every interview. Having always enjoyed walking in the New Forest, the stories I have heard have made these walks more interesting and I have discovered many new places to explore. I have gained new skills to put on my CV, whilst hopefully also contributing to a project which should help to educate future generations.  

If you’d like to do something different and volunteer for wildlife projects, archaeological surveys and outdoor activities then head to the New Forest Volunteer Fair on Saturday, March 15, from 10.30am to 4pm at Lyndhurst Community Centre. Find out more at

This entry was posted by Communications on Wednesday 05/03/2014


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