A soldiers story

Project Proposal

My intention is to produce three, five to ten minute  video’s of ex service personnel, ideally one from each of the armed services, the RAF, Army and the Royal Navy. 

I hope to record their memories of their times served and also to reflect on their lives post service. I wish to find out if they feel the prepared sacrifice they were willing to make was worth it and if this is still a country that they are proud of.

Each video will contain a location interview with the individual interspersed with period footage and still photographs from their personal archive of images. The interview style will be much like this example (Click here).

As someone who works regularly on civic events where the ex services often parade I have noted the steady decline in numbers and think that these videos would be an archive that may be of interest to future generations. This has been a project I have wanted to do for sometime and I feel that now time may be running out if I do not take action soon.

Documentary photography and videography has always interested me and it is something I would like to pursue further as a career path. 

Today we take for granted our safety and can not even begin to understand what it must have been like to be taken, many at a very young age (some even lying about their age to be selected) from our shores to fight bloody battles world wide. I can not imagine what it must be like to know you have to kill or be killed, living every day, even moment knowing it could be your last.

I hope that these videos will help to bring home these feelings and what these men and women went through so that we could live free lives today.

It also saddens me that many of these ex service men and women are still suffering now, from memories of back then or by the hardships that they endure in these times of ousterity.  

Many of these men and women never made it back alive and many more were physically and mentally damaged by what they saw and did during the period 1939 to 1945.

I have started to make initial enquiries with contacts that I have made from the local RBL and the Wolverhampton United Ex-service Council, I  hope to hear back from them in the next few days.

It is estimated that around 15,000,000 Service men and women died during World War 2 and there are around 100,000 veterans still alive in the UK today. Inevitably this number is now declining rapidly as many of them are now in their 90’s.

The two videos above were shot only three years apart 2018 and 2015 both celebrating Victory in Europe day. Most of the men standing in the 2015 video are no longer with us in fact I heard only today (26th September 2019) that another sadly passed away last Saturday.

The ranks of the old guard are now getting very small and we should never forget their sacrifice.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary themnor the years condemn; At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them”.

Research Video footage

Some of my images from past events

Meet the boys.

Jesse
Jim
Steve
Ken
Cyril

Above is my finished video that I recorded on Thursday 5th December 2019.

It features four amazing men Richard (Jesse), Tony, Jim & Ken, you can tell by watching this video that these guys have a special bond that only ex-service personnel seem to possess. They are so comfortable in each others company and you can just tell that they have a deeper understanding due to their shared experiences.

Due to time constraints the finished video was heavily edited down but I wanted to include the full recording also as a record of the day and to also give a copy to the four fellows to keep and ultimately pass on as a keepsake for their family. 

The guys are very proud of Their regimental birthplace, the Kings Head in Lichfield and also the regiments museum on the Tamworth Rd near Whittington.

As part of my research i decided to visit both locations and took along my camera, bellow are some video rushes and photographs from both locations. 

This is Cyril Jones who in 1952 was conscripted in to the RAF under the United Kingdoms national service scheme, he served in the Royal Air Force for two years as part of number thirteen maintenance unit at RAF Stoke Heath, also known as RAF Ternhill in Shropshire. 

Cyril was widowed eight years ago when his wife died of a brain tumor, he is so proud that he is able to look after himself even at the age of 85.

Below is my edited video which was recorded on Monday 2nd December 2019

He also was a member of the Labour party and became a councilor and a magistrate. 

In the edited version of the video I have concentrated on his service in the RAF but have also preserved the full video as an archive of my time with him. 

Since making the above videos, I have been approached by the Regiments museum to create video and images for them to use, they are in particular very interested in me continuing to record interviews with veterans and have offered me space and facilities with in the museum to this end. 

Homeless soldiers

While making these videos I have come to realise that homelessness among some of the bravest people in the UK is a real issue, with hundreds of former service men and women now sleeping rough.

There are only two bodies in England who record the number of UK nationals who have served in the Armed Forces, so it is hard to produce an accurate total, but estimates suggest there are around 13,000 ex service personnel who are homeless or couch surfing in the UK. 

Tragically, these figures do not mirror a true picture of veteran homelessness as, despite their service, many veterans have fallen off the radar. 

To solve this issue, and further understand the UK’s veteran population, veterans support charity The Royal British Legion believe the next UK wide census should include a record of whether someone has previously served. 

It believes this would be a huge step forward in understanding the demographics of the UK’s veteran population and therefore give a better idea of the sheer number of homeless soldiers.

The two following videos show the problems veterans face on the streets.

Veteran Community project

Could something like this be set up here in the UK?

I now realise that I missed an important element to my veteran video project. I should have spent some time with soldiers who are not doing OK back in civvy street. All the veterans I interviewed are housed and reasonably comfortable so far as money and provisions are concerned. Whereas the people who really need a voice are these forgotten heroes who are not coping and we as a nation should be totally ashamed that we are letting them down when they never failed us when called to arms. 

Online resources.

www.historyonthenet.com/how-many-people-died-in-world-war-2

www.reddit.com/r/AskUK/comments/4q807o/how_many_british_wwii_veterans_are_still_alive/

www.historyextra.com/period/second-world-war/boys-who-lied-about-age-to-fight-ww2-teenage-soldiers/

www.underground-england.co.uk/news/stuart-griffiths-para-turned-photographer/

www.stuartgriffiths.net/

www.staffordshireregimentmuseum.com/

https://www.thekingsheadpublichouselichfield.co.uk/