“An Old Welshman”, by Victor Jones

http://www.bbc.co.uk/tellinglives/ww2/2004/yeovil/04_yeovil_ww2_intermediary.shtml

I found this story on the BBC website. As part of their Telling Lives project, the BBC hosts workshops to teach people to make digital stories. Within the project archives, there is a World War II Memories section, which is where I found this story.

It is a war memoir detailing the experiences of a Welsh soldier during the British evacuation at Dunkirk. It is told from the point of view of the creator, who serves as the narrator. The story is told in chronological order and details that one specific event, with his story leading up to the evacuation and what happened to him later tacked onto the beginning and end.

The story starts with Mr. Jones describing the rushed way the British forces were mobilized and sent to France, and their quick retreat to Dunkirk. He describes the civilians along the way to the Channel, waiting at the beach before evacuation, seeing the bodies of his dead comrades, and the reception they received upon returning to England. He ends the story by stating that he returned to France on D-Day and by contemplating the loss of life there.

The story is put together very simply, just photos in a slide show with voiceover narration. The images are typical WWII snapshots – groups of soldiers in front of trucks, the narrator standing alone in fields or in front of buildings, an official British Army portrait. The only other resources used besides photographs and narration are highlighted sections from letters written by Mr. Jones.

The movie is not very polished, but that adds to its authenticity. The BBC website really focuses on the personal nature of the stories and how easy it is for average individuals to make a digital story of their own. I really felt that they wanted people to come and actually create stories themselves. Knowing that this veteran had carefully written his script and chosen the photos he wanted to put into his story so he could share his memories with other people really added to my experience in viewing it, and brought a lot of humanity to the story.

The most compelling thing about the story, however, was the script. There were several things he said which were extremely poignant. He described the civilians along the road as “the young, the old, babies in arms…tearfully begging us to pick them up and tearing at our hearts”. He described himself as, “No soldier, just a scared Welsh lad sent to France, hardly knowing how to fire a rifle”. After telling about civilians picking through the clothes of the dead in the surf he said, “Let no one say it wasn’t so – I saw it and I remember it”. When he arrived in England, he said “a cup of tea was handed to me by an angel”. This language really enhanced the imagery and served to highlight the human experience of war, and that is what really made this story stand out to me.

Category: W2: Digital Story
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2 Responses
  1. Chris King says:

    This is a compelling story from a very interesting primary source. My only complaint is the quality of the images, which leave much desired. I would have identified this as digital storytelling even before last week’s class, since this seems to be to be the classic archetype. After seeing some of the examples from last week, my definition of DST is definitely expanded. This type of story will remain the backbone of the storytelling methodology in my mind anyway.

  2. mplumb says:

    I would agree that the pictures themselves leave a bit to be desired, but I loved this DST and I loved the project of which it is a part. Although very simple, projects like Telling Lives allow ordinary individuals who may not even be computer literate share their stories. It made me want to head home to record my grandfather’s recollections of his service in the Navy during WWII!