20 September 2019

Arnhem veterans unveil CWGC sound installation at Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is welcoming people to experience the stories of ‘the greatest generation’ as it today launches a sound installation at CWGC Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery.

 Veterans on the bench

The installation was unveiled by Ron Johnson, 97, Geoff Roberts, 94, and Ray Whitwell, 100.

Voices of Liberation gives the public a chance to immerse themselves in the stories of those who fought in some of the key battles in the Second World War, as well as the importance of CWGC’s places of remembrance in paying tribute to those who never returned.

The installation is in the form of a memorial bench and will be triggered when visitors sit down - playing the recordings of those who have shared their connections to some of the key battles of 1944, as the world marks their 75th anniversary.

The CWGC commemorates more than 100,000 service personnel who died during 1944. Commonwealth servicemen and women are commemorated in CWGC war cemeteries and memorials across the world and today, these iconic sites of remembrance remain places of pilgrimage for veterans and descendants. The sound installation aims to pay tribute to those who gave their lives and shine a light on CWGC’s sites of remembrance.

The Sound installation will be available for the public throughout the commemorations in the Netherlands. CWGC Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery is one of the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery of the Second World War in the Netherlands and contains the graves of 1700 commonwealth Servicemen.

The public are also able to explore the recordings on the CWGC website and are encouraged to record their own stories and feelings, relating to the Second World War and its sites of remembrance. The stories will reinforce these sites as unique places of memory and create a resource that is both a moment in history and a fitting tribute to those who died.

Veterans joined by CWGF Interns

The sound installation and accompanying online archive explores the stories of veterans who served in infamous battles during the war, such of that as of Arnhem veteran Les Fuller- who survived losing an arm during bitter house to house fighting in the Dutch city of Arnhem.

Les served as a tank driver in North Africa before volunteering for service with the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment. He parachuted into the Netherlands on 17th September. After landing in Arnhem- over the next few days Les and his comrades attempted to hold out against overwhelming German forces.

“I got wounded coming out of the Rhine Pavilion on the Tuesday morning just before daybreak. Right by the river there was this brickworks and the Germans had machine guns and God knows what. To cut a long story short, I was wounded there. Bill Pettit, my pal, gave me a quick shot of morphia and put some bandages on me and I was bleeding like hell. And then he took my Bren gun and off he went. He went to cross the road where the other chaps had gone and he only got halfway. There was a tank just up the road and they just drilled him – so he was killed there.”

Seriously wounded, Les’ life was saved by a German act of kindness which moves him to this day.

“Our Corporal Medic stumbled across me. Brave fella. He went up the road shouting Red Cross and got a German tank crew. Two of them came back with him and they put me in a truck and took me up to the hospital. The hospital was chock-a-block. They took one look at me and gave me priority. Anyway, they took my arm off.

“A little while after they wheeled me off in a trolley to another room and there was a wounded German soldier already in there on another trolley. They put my trolley alongside his and there was this wooden box between us that was going tick-tock-tick-tock and it was a blood transfusion pump and they gave me a transfusion. The next morning, Les Harrison, a pal of mine who also lost his arm at Arnhem, came to see me. He said, “How do you feel?” I said, “I feel alright.” And he said, “You know the German they gave you the transfusion from? Well he’s still in there but he’s dead.” They didn’t need to do that for me. They could have ignored me. They saved my life.”

Arnhem veterans in conversation

Max Dutton, Assistant Historian at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said:

“We’re incredibly proud to unveil our Voices of Liberation sound installation in the Netherlands, alongside Arnhem veterans. Thousands of servicemen like Les Fuller took part in the Battle of Arnhem and for the 75th anniversary the CWGC has honoured the memory of those who never came home. Everyone visiting the Netherlands are welcome to come and share this immersive and evocative experience, and we hope that people will be inspired to contribute their own stories through our website.”

Alongside the sound installation the CWGC has launched its new podcast series “Legacy of Liberation”, the six-part series explores the key moments of the Second World war conflict, and the historic cemeteries and memorials which commemorate those who fought and died. Historian Dr Glyn Prysor and heritage expert Dr Lucy Kellett explore the unique experience of visiting these sites of memory and mourning, taking a fresh look at events which have become almost legendary, and examining the artistic, architectural and social legacies of these iconic places.

You can contribute to Voices of Liberation and listen to the podcast here: liberation.cwgc.org

Latest News

A new temporary exhibition will help visitors to the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the Republic of Ireland learn more about those buried there. Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin contains more than 600 war casualties from both World Wars.

The second phase of a major restoration project will be starting in March 2020 at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, France, and continuing through to 2021.

18 October 2019

Burials in November 2019

The following burial services are due to be held at CWGC Cemeteries in November 2019.