Recording of the Month April 2014: ‘I didn’t want medals’ – One man’s experience of the First World War

Our Sound Archivist Martin Astell brings us another highlight from the Essex Sound and Video Archive…

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This month we have extracts from a talk given in 1992 by Alf Webb who had served as a machine gunner in the First World War. The recording from which these extracts are taken is an incredible resource. Alf Webb was talking to a group of school children and his recollections of both the mundane detail and the harsh reality of the war are delivered in a matter-of-fact and unflinching way (perhaps surprising given the audience) as he talks about mud and lice, tactics and trenches, the death of friends and colleagues, and his own unheroic attitude towards the war as he did his best to ‘try and survive and get out of this.’

If you are interested in finding further resources held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive which relate to the First World War, a sources list is available.

We will be hearing a great deal about the First World War over the centenary period, but few things will bring us closer to understanding the reality of events than to hear the experiences, thoughts and authentic voices of people who actually lived through them.

Sharing Our History: Marconi in Chelmsford

On Wednesday 7 November, the ERO is hosting a University of Essex event focusing on the centenary of the opening of Marconi’s famous Chelmsford factory…

Do you have memories of working at or with Marconi?  As part of the Festival of Social Science, the University of Essex is hosting an oral history event to commemorate Guglielmo Marconi, and the centenary of the opening of the world’s first purpose-built radio factory in New Street in Chelmsford.

Marconi, who is often credited with being the inventor of radio, first established his company in a former silk works in Hall Street in Chelmsford in 1898. But this soon became too small for his expanding operation, and in February 1912 work began on the 70,000 square foot factory in New Street. The works were opened in June that year. 

Eight years later the factory played host to the first experimental wireless broadcast, which featured Dame Nellie Melba singing two arias. The signal was received throughout Europe and as far away as Newfoundland, Canada.

Marconi's New Street factory

Marconi’s New Street factory

This free event is open to all, for people wanting to find out more about Marconi the man and the technological advances he made, as well as those who worked for Marconi, or who had relatives who worked there, to come along to share and record their memories.

Chaired by Martin Astell, Sound Archivist at the Essex Record Office, the event will feature a film and short talks by Peter Turrall, Chairman of the Marconi Veterans’ Association, who will talk about Marconi the man and how he came to be in Chelmsford, and Dr Geoff Bowles, curator of the Sandford Mill Museum, who will talk about the collection of Marconi artefacts which are held there.

Members of the audience will also be asked to share memories of Marconi’s history in Chelmsford.

Afterwards there will be free tea and cakes and a small exhibition relating to Marconi. A film crew will be on hand and those who wish to do so will be asked to take part in interviews which will then be placed on a website to form a lasting record of the event.

Entry is free and no booking is required: if you have any queries please email or phone 01206 872400

Wednesday 7 November 2.30-4.30pm

Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 6YT

Women at work in the Marconi factory

Women at work in the Marconi factory

Men at work in the Marconi factory

Men at work in the Marconi factory