Welcome to the World at War

Growing up in the 1970s the Second World War was ever present. Even though it had ended nearly 30 years ago, it touched almost every facet of my childhood. Comics like Battle and Victor carried story after story of the war, the few television channels we had then were filled with films about WW2, my toys were Britain toy soldiers and vehicles, Dinky and Corgi tanks and planes, and of course ours was the Airfix Generation, growing up making plastic kits and re-fighting WW2 with model soldiers. To say I was obsessed with the Second World War at that time was perhaps an understatement.

Bert Reed 1945.

Unusually I had a father who was a WW2 veteran. In addition my grandfather had been at Dunkirk, and most of my uncles had served, so I grew up on their stories of the conflict. Like many veterans, my father never really spoke about the war much, except in general terms or relating the funny stories. He had fought in Italy and spent six months in the bridgehead at Anzio in 1944. In 1979 we nearly went back to Anzio, but he couldn’t face a return to that part of his past so instead he took me to Normandy, and a whole new level of interest in military history developed here as I climbed over tanks, went wandering around beaches and bunkers, and got to meet Major John Howard at Pegasus Bridge. This trip more than any other is probably why today I work as Head Battlefield Guide for Leger Holidays. That work has put me in touch with hundreds and hundreds of WW2 veterans and enabled me to be with them on the ground where they fought. Over the years they have taught me so much and in many respects they are the inspiration for this new site.

York veterans in Normandy 2014 (World At War)

One other piece of popular culture that was so influential to anyone like me who grew up in the 1970s was the landmark television series The World At War. It’s incredibly opening moments at Oradour sur Glane, its haunting music and superb narration from Laurence Olivier meant that few who watched could not have been affected and inspired in some ways. It was such an important part of my understanding of the Second World War, and still is – and the title of this new website is a clear nod, a direct acknowledgement of that.

So what will World At War be all about? And why another WW2 website? Well, there is a huge amount of material out there but I want to build a new community here based on good but accessible history. So the articles on the site will be magazine style, focussing on many well known subjects but also some lesser known ones, and there will be new and unique content in the form of veteran accounts and never before published images.

The Second World War was arguably the most important event of the twentieth century. We still live in its shadow; join us at World At War to remember and understand a conflict that touched us all.

 

40 thoughts on “Welcome to the World at War

  1. So excited for this Paul 😊 being a 70’s child also I think it is our blood. And shaped us as
    children. Also the tv series World at War was truly amazing for its time and when I pluck my
    box set out now it still gives me shivers

    1. Thanks Stuart – and absolutely. It was a landmark series that inspired so many of us to have an interest in the Second World War.

  2. Good luck with this project, I’ll be following the development closely! 80s kid here, but equally
    fascinated by the whole era (My wife would probably say too much so) Looking forward to
    seeing where this leads.

  3. Looking forward to seeing articles on here. As you said World At War gave the 70s kids an
    insight into the war. I love reading people’s stories from this period so I am really glad my son
    told me about this sight.

  4. I very much look forward to revisiting this website in the weeks, months & years ahead. Knowing the passion and
    attention to detail that you have for your subject matter, I am certain it will become another essential resource in
    helping our understanding of this hideous conflict.

  5. We are a direct line to the
    generation which fought in WW2 and
    most of our parents are now gone and
    with them their memories, a sad fact
    of life and a milestone we all must
    navigate past.
    On a lighter note so much of the
    material in the introduction “Victor
    ” comics, “Airfix” kits so much part
    of growing up and an almost
    prerequisite to more serious reading
    and a deeper undertanding of what was
    the eefining event of the 20th century.
    I can still see through the eyes of
    an eight year old my Dad rpocking
    with laughter as he read “Captain
    Hurrinace in “The Valiant” comic.

  6. Looking forward to visiting the website regularly.
    I still use the World at War frequently with my pupils. It helped influence me in becoming a
    History teacher (another child of the 70s). Combination of footage, some extraordinary
    interviewees, music and that narration still sets it apart.

    1. Thanks Simon. Good to hear you use that excellent series in the classroom. It has stood the test of time so well.

  7. Good luck with this project, I too grew up in the 70’s and had a veteran as a father and regularly
    watched world at war together.
    Will check back on a regular basis

  8. Nice site Paul, and an excellent intro article. Full of memories and
    introducing history as it should be read, informative yet accessible

  9. So many memories from my 1970s childhood..Airfix, the comics, the movies and especially watching the haunting
    World at War series as a 10-12 year-old on gloomy Sunday afternoons. I loved Colditz too (the board game and the
    BBC series) and I eventually realised one of my dreams by visiting the castle last year: wonderfully moving.

    Good luck with the website.

  10. I like your site. Good luck with it!
    Being born and grown up in the village in the south of in the Netherlands in the 60s and 70s memories of WW2 were
    never far away. I remember the many bunkers in and around our village, many destroyed by now. Being at the mouth
    of the river Schelde, the waterway to Antwerp, our area saw a lot of heavy fighting. Our village was heavily bombed on
    in 1944, over 200 inhabitants were killed, many wounded. Many buildings destroyed. Emergency housing still there
    when I was very young.
    Today there’s still a lot of ammunition in the ground in the area. We are never surprised when we hear about people
    being evacuated again when another huge WW2 bomb is found and removed. And there’s also lots of small ammo
    around. And sometimes this still claims lives. Just over 2 months ago another live was lost due to WW2 ammo. A
    teenage boy. My nephew…

    1. Oh gosh, that’s terrible. But it shows how the echoes of WW2 never fade, often with tragic results.

  11. Very best wishes for the new website… I
    had a real “rememberance of things past”
    when I saw the DDay transfers and Battle!
    Did anyone else collect the World at War A-
    Z from the TVTimes? My WW2 was stories
    from my parents of the Birmingham Blitz
    etc – I recall Mum’s story of a visit to
    Tewkesbury as a child with the road
    jammed with invasion traffic headed
    south…

    1. The Transfer books by Derek Knight were just fantastic. Echoes of a simple but meaningful childhood.

  12. Congratulations! Will you admit a
    Yank and native California to your
    most interesting project? I was born
    in late September 1940, by
    coincidence between the Battle of
    Britain and the beginning of the
    Blitz. While I’ve always been a
    historical follower of all theaters
    of WWII, perhaps because of the
    timing of my birth and my name, I’ve
    a special affinity for the struggles
    of the British and Commonwealth
    forces during that period. In my
    visits to London, I’ve spent more
    time at the Imperial War Museum, the
    RAF Museum at Hendon, and quiet
    reflection at St. Clement Danes than
    at the Tate or Westminster Cathedral.
    I am particularly drawn to the
    history of Fighter and Bomber
    Command. I’m looking forward to your
    blog and photos.

    1. Of course Jim! My father served with US soldiers at Anzio and has many fond memories of being with them.

      1. Hi Jim
        Next time you in UK you should go to the Air Forces Memorial near Runnymead
        (where the Magna Carta was signed) which is near Windsor…. only need an hour or
        so but a lovely reflectful memorial with amazing views over Windsor , London and
        Heathrow etc. Here is the link but says work being carried out on the roof at present
        for a few weeks.. I really enjoyed it 👌🏻
        http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-
        cemetery/cemetery/109600/RUNNYMEDE%20MEMORIAL

  13. I have a bookstore that specializes on History, very much interested in the WW II since my
    deceased father in law was an officer in the 82nd Airborne who made the Normandy and
    Holland jump. He spoke German, received a Silver Star in Normandy and met with the under
    ground in Holland with two other 82nd soldiers , one spoke Dutch and the other French.His
    name was Alfred Landgraff from Milwaukee.

  14. Looking forward to this site becoming the WW2 equivalent of your Old Front
    Line site, which has been of tremendous help to me (and others no doubt )
    over the years.
    Fortunately my father had, as he put it, a “cushy” war at RAF training bases in
    Rhodesia – or I might not be here!

  15. First chance to have a look at this, brilliant stuff. I watch the series over and over again.

  16. Hi.
    Good to see a new project on WWII.

    My dad was in Italy in ’44 with R.E.M.E and ended up in the Occupation Army in Vienna.
    Six months after he died in 2004 I was touring Belgium with a group and found the grave of his
    best mate, Harold, who was killed 25/09/1944 – the day the paras pulled back across the Rhein
    near Arnhem.
    Finding that grave changed my life completely. I had no interest in history before that day in the
    cemetery (which happened to be on the 60th anniversary of Harold’s death) and I’m now a
    history buff with a particular interest in WWII. I wrote a book about the experience which helped
    me come to terms with Dad’s death.
    I find it very sad that generation is all but gone.

    Good luck!

      1. Thanks. It was an adventure from start to finish…not that it has finished as you can
        see from my interest in your site! Best, Bruce

      2. Thanks. It was an adventure from start to finish…not that it has finished as you can see from my
        interest in your site! Best, Bruce

  17. Congrats on the website. I too am a
    child of the 70’s. A lot of my
    childhood was influenced by ex
    soldiers..teachers, Scout leaders etc.
    My Grandad was involved with D-day
    in the Guards. He spoke little about
    the war. My Dad has his tunic &
    medals..he was a very brave man &
    an inspiration to me to this day.

    1. Thanks Carl, so many of us have become interested like this. Important we make sure WW2 is never forgotten.

  18. Hi Paul. Well done on the new website chap, another child of the 70’s and have always been
    interested in the war, especially with a lot of my ancestors in service during those dark days
    (grandfather was a Commando in North Africa & Burma). Keep the good work up, always
    something of quality when you are involved, looking forward to your posts on social media and
    updates on the website, keeping the memories alive and being informative to the newer
    generations. All the best.

  19. Same for me My father fought at Anzio
    with the Grenadier guards was wounded
    and taken prisoner. I went back to
    lay flowers on his opo’s grave some
    years back very emotional. My parents
    had me late so everyone of my
    relatives had fought in Burma italy
    and africa 8th army, RAF wellington
    and a alive at Arnhem who never made
    it to the ground alive.
    Both Grand parents fought in the
    first world war and a great grandad
    in the boer War

    Many happy our is company of old
    comrades that had nothing to prove in
    live and since then found out a VC
    and George cross holder amounst these
    simple and modest men.

  20. This seems a great idea! I also grew up in the 70’s, i remember the world at war series, it was
    really good. I loved watching programmes like secret army of which i never missed an episode
    and i still have my collection of commando comics!

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