War 2 stories sought by researcher

Storytellers . . . Researcher Renee Hollis compiles a book of letters from World War 2. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O'CONNOR

Dunedin researcher Renee Hollis wants your family’s World War 2 stories, no matter how big or how small.

She is compiling an ambitious new social history of the 1939-45 conflict, which seeks to tell in people’s own words not just what fighting overseas in the war was really like, but also the experience of those still at home.

“There could be an old suitcase or a box sitting in an wardrobe which has some incredible stories which haven’t been read or shared, things that we could learn from,” Ms Hollis said.

“A lot of people perceive being in the frontlines as being ‘World War 2’, but some of the people in the Home Guard and some of the women who took over running the family farm or took on other duties have quite amazing stories to tell as well.”

For a previous work, the oral history Keepers of History: New Zealand Centenarians Tell Their Stories, Ms Hollis’ interview subjects included 21 war veterans, an experience which highlighted the need to collect as many personal stories as possible before they were lost.

“The whole process captured me, but it also got the thinking that these were people who were 100 and thinking back to when they were 20, that we should look at their actual diaries and letters, back when their thoughts were fresh.

“A lot of these men will never have written letters before if they were aged 17 or 18; some of them are quite gifted in the way they describe things, and others are quite blunt and might only say a few words.”

Ms Hollis is searching for untold World War 2 stories which will give modern readers a unique insight into a time which few alive still remember.

“I might be opening a whole can of worms really, in terms of people sending me huge amounts of information, but I suppose I will have to be a bit of a detective and wade through it all for those human interest stories.”

Submissions and inquiries can be emailed to voicesofWWIINZ@gmail.com, by the August 31 deadline.