Second World War letters and photographs preserved in…

Thousands of “lost voices” which share experiences of those who lived through aerial bombing campaigns in the Second World War have been preserved in a digital archive.

More than 1,000 interviews have been conducted with people directly affected by the bombing, many of whom served in Bomber Command and who have since died.

The archive, which showcases letters, photographs, diaries and logbooks, was launched on Thursday at the University of Lincoln.

There are currently about 3,500 personal documents, including 2,000 photos, in the archive and some have never been seen before outside the families who own them.

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

It was created by experts at the University of Lincoln who also devised the exhibition at the city’s International Bomber Command Centre.

The free-to-access archive includes the story of Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) veteran Vera Willis, who drove crew to their aircraft, and the wartime letters of Frances Zagni, the daughter of John Valentine, who wrote Gepruft: The Remarkable Second World War Letters of Prisoner of War John Valentine and His Wife Ursula.

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

“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.”

Professor Hughes, a senior academic at 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.

“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.”

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