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Birmingham Museums First World War Sound Archive


Birmingham Museums First World War oral history recordings were made in the 1980s for the exhibition ‘We Were There’ and are now being made available online on SoundCloud.

A number of Birmingham men and women were interviewed about their experiences during the First World War. Their personal stories account for a whole range of experiences and include men and women who served on the Western Front as soldiers or in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, women who worked in munitions factories or who served as nurses in the city’s military hospitals, conscientious objectors, and experience of the war from a child’s perspective. These interviews have been used over the years by researchers, and in exhibitions, most recently Birmingham its people its history.

Highlights from this first batch of interviews include:

Lilly Duckham OBE volunteered to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). She was one of the first groups of women to serve overseas with the WAAC. Lilly was awarded an OBE for her service during the war.

Marjorie Peers was born in 1887. When war broke out Marjorie was apprentice clothes designer. She initially went into war work as a sail maker for a company in Bromsgrove Street, She also served in the WAAC.

Elizabeth Cross was born in Small Heath. Cross discusses war on the Home Front from a child’s perspective. She discusses patriotic songs she sung at school, children’s games, as well as other popular songs, and seeing Belgium refugees in Birmingham. She also discusses the impact of Spanish flu epidemic after the war.

Max Berner was the son of Jewish immigrants from Latvia. He was born in Manchester but moved to Birmingham aged 3 months old. After leaving school Berner worked in the metal industry which led to him setting up his own scrap metal business at the beginning of the war. In March 1917 he enlisted with ‘H’ Special Company, Royal Engineers in the Poison Gas Section. He served in France and Belgium.

Birmingham Museums are making these recordings available online as part of their First World War Centenary Programme. More interviews are to be uploaded to SoundCloud and updates on releases, along with transcripts, will be provided via the Birmingham Museums blog.