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.
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.
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.