Derbyshire's Unsung Heroes

The Greatest Generation

“There aren’t many left who lived through WW2, yet they were all heroes and heroines. Very few of them received any medals, nor even official recognition, but they all bravely, uncomplainingly, and often at great personal sacrifice, went about the task of winning the war. And when the job was done they set about building a better world for us, their children.

Skimming through the obituary columns of his local newspaper, Malcolm Cowper was drawn to phrases such as ‘Served in the Royal Navy during the war’ or ‘Did war service in the Land Army’.

The author sensed that behind these terse statements there must be many untold stories of life during that extraordinary period between 1939 and 1945. There have been plenty of wars since, but no generation has had to experience Total War, where the lives of every man, woman and child was affected. Thousands have written of their experiences during those years, but many more have not, and time is running out to capture these memories.

Malcolm wrote to Derbyshire’s local papers asking anyone with memories of wartime life to contact him. “The response was extraordinary,” says Malcolm, “and over the next few weeks my phone rang non-stop as more and more people said they had a story to tell. Some had served in the armed forces, some had worked in the factories, down the mines or on the land, some had been children with memories of nights spent in shelters during bombing raids. Interviewing them was fascinating, and I came to realise what an extraordinary generation they were, and how much we owe them for their fortitude and their resilience in the face of one of the most barbaric and ruthless enemies this country has ever had to face.”

The youngest was 73, the oldest 99, many in poor health, yet they wanted their stories told before it was too late, because they knew they had lived through a unique time in our history. This new book tells the stories of some 40 local folk who lived through those times, capturing the comradeship, humour and sense of duty that carried them through fear, loss and sacrifice. Says David, “We owe them an incalculable debt. Not for nothing have they been called The Greatest Generation”.