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People's War: Our World
Vivian Blake
Vivian Blake - one of Gloucester's Untold Stories
Last updated: 07 March 2005 1300 GMT
lineThe BBC Learning Centre is leading an exciting project to gather the war memories of Gloucester's multicultural communities - get in touch if you can help.

Elders from the city's black and minority ethnic groups are being urged to share their memories of the Second World War to help today's schoolchildren appreciate the role people from the Commonwealth and other countries played in the conflict.

People’s War: Our World is part of an ambitious BBC project to create the largest-ever online archive of personal memories of the Second World War.

With the message 'If you lived through the war, your memories are an important part of history' the aim is to show future generations what wartime life was like in every walk of life, from front-line to Home Front.

People’s War: Our World has been launched because The People’s War website has so far recorded little about the contribution to the war effort by, and experiences of, people of the Commonwealth and other nations whose descendants now live in the UK.

Gloucester's multicultural roots

Gloucester has been chosen because of the good work that has already been done in recording the city's multicultural roots by ethnic services librarian Nasreen Ahktar.

The BBC Learning Centre in Eastgate Street will co-ordinate the People’s War – Our World campaign, which hopes to involve city schools and community groups in collecting and recording stories. Learning Centre manager Clare Parrack said:

"The People’s War is used as an educational resource in schools so the BBC wants all children who use the website, wherever their family originated, to be able to find out about the experiences of elders from their own communities and backgrounds.

Men and women from the Caribbean, South-east Asia, other parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere made a huge contribution to the war effort but their stories are not as well known as those who were living here when war broke out.

So alongside a general invitation to everyone in Gloucestershire who lived through the war to share their experiences we are making a special appeal for memories and mementoes from Gloucester people whose families came to Britain from abroad, whether before or during the war or afterwards

This is an exciting and ambitious project. We will be gathering stories in audio, video and written form and want to include photographs and memorabilia to illustrate them.

I hope we can collect enough material to create an educational pack for local schools and for an exhibition to coincide with this summer's commemorative events about the end of the Second World War."

Untold stories of Gloucestershire

Stan Boreland

Gloucestershire has already made a head start in recording the history of its Asian, Chinese and African-Caribbean communities through the Untold Stories books put together by Nasreen Akhtar.

Several of those stories record war experiences. Stan Boreland, Claude Correia and Vivian Blake came to Britain from the Caribbean to join the RAF.

Our Untold Stories: Stan Boreland
Our Untold Stories: Claude Correia and Vivian Blake

Mohamed Sharif, born near Lahore in what is now Pakistan, came to England in the 1930s and lived in the Midlands during the war before settling in Gloucestershire later in life. There were no Indian families living in Birmingham at the time, it was men only until the 1950s and 1960s, but he said these were his best years in England with no colour bar and everyone pulling together.

Our Untold Stories: Mohamed Sharif

Frank Wing Yow Soo

Frank Wing Yow Soo, from Cheltenham, was born in Birkenhead where his father ran a Chinese laundry. The family home was destroyed in an air raid while Frank and his parents were taking refuge in the local shelter - the cellar of the Birkenhead brewery

Our Untold Stories: Frank Wing Yow Soo

Wider picture

This project is a great opportunity to build on the success of Untold Stories and put together a wider picture of the experiences of elders from the Gloucester's black and minority ethnic families. Clare Parrack added:

"Our Untold Stories was one reason why Gloucester was picked for the project and I am sure there are more fascinating stories waiting to be told.

One story we would love to be able to confirm is a persistent local rumour that Emperor Haile Selassie, now worshipped by Rastafarians, visited Gloucester when he spent time in the West Country while in exile from Ethopia at the beginning of the war. He is said to have watched cinema newsreels at what is now the Mecca bingo hall in Eastgate Street."

Anyone interested in taking part in People's War - Our World can find out more by visiting the BBC Learning Centre at 71 Eastgate Street, or contacting Clare Parrack on 01452 305378 or e-mail

PointerSee also: The People's War

PointerSee also: People's War: the Commonwealth contribution

PointerPeople's War workshops at the BBC Learning Centre

PointerBBC People's War

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