Bomber Command valentine letters bring back lost voices of WWII

A thousand lost voices of those who lived through aerial bombing campaigns of WWII have been brought to life through a new digital archive in Lincoln.

Stories featured have been digitised and preserved for future generations in the project launched by the University of Lincoln on Thursday, September 6.

Amongst inspiring tales is that of Vera Willis – a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) veteran who was responsible for driving aircrew to their aircraft during the war and who lived with the horror of so many of them not returning.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The archive has been created and curated by experts at the University of Lincoln who also devised the exhibition at the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln.

“What we’re doing here at the University of Lincoln as part of the International Bomber Command Centre project is unique,” said Professor Heather Hughes who is leading the project.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“We have amassed a vast collection of content that has never been assembled before. In addition to the aircrew, it includes the experiences of women, ground personnel and minority groups who are sometimes forgotten.”

The archive, which has been funded with a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, is being developed at the University of Lincoln, UK, in partnership with the Lincolnshire Bomber Command Memorial Trust as part of the wider International Bomber Command Centre project.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The team has already carried out more than 1,000 interviews with those who were directly affected by the bombing war, many of whom served in Bomber Command and who have sadly since passed away.

In addition to the interviews, the archive consists of personal documents, such as photographs, diaries, letters and log books.

There are 3,500 such items in the archive already, including 2,000 photos. Many of them have never been seen before outside the families who own them.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Professor Hughes, a senior academic in the University’s Lincoln International Business School, added: “This archive tells the story of the bombing war and it represents a social history rather than a military one, telling tales of shared suffering and common humanity.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“It embraces a truly international perspective. It acknowledges the remarkable stories of those who served in the RAF and were posted to the Command, the far-reaching consequences of bombing on both friend and foe in mainland Europe, and the many complexities that the bombing war continues to reveal.”

The collection is a living archive which will continue to grow as more items are added and the team is still interested in hearing from anyone who has anything to contribute.

Please email [email protected] to contact the team.