Midlothian WW2 project seeks volunteers

Charlotte Johnson who is co-ordinating the project at Newbattle Abbey College
Charlotte Johnson who is co-ordinating the project at Newbattle Abbey College

During World War II Newbattle Abbey College in Midlothian was a vital part of the war effort. With over 2000 military personnel stationed passing through the building, it became temporary home for service men and women from many allied nations.

Now, thanks to a generous grant of £66,100 from The Heritage Lottery Fund, the College has launched a project to preserve and present the memories of the civilians and military staff who were part of the Newbattle community between 1939 and 1945.

The grant will be used to collect oral histories, mementoes and artefacts related to this period. The material will be curated into an exhibition open to the public, be incorporated into a DVD and written into learning materials for use in local schools.

Charlotte Johnson, Project Co-ordinator, said: “This was a vivid and fascinating time in Newbattle Abbey’s long history. It’s a period that is very much alive in the memories of older people in the community, and it’s vital that we capture these experiences and make them available to the next generation. The house was also a melting-pot for service personnel from all round the world and we want to bring these recollections together with more local memories.

“Our students are very aware of the how the past has to be kept alive and re-imagined for each generation. This is an important piece of research which will help to bring a piece of local heritage alive for the entire community. Without the Heritage Lottery Fund this process of retrieving the past would not have been possible.”

In order to share the heritage of the college with the widest possible audience, a group of volunteers will be fully involved in the project: conducting research, undertaking oral history interviews and trained as tour guides to make this history accessible to the public. We are hoping to involve around 15 local people and students of the college who are interested in heritage and the WWII period in this project.

People can support the project by sharing their memories or mementoes or by putting the project in touch with someone who was connected to Newbattle Abbey during the Second World War. If you wish to volunteer Please contact Charlotte Johnson, Project Co-ordinator at 0131 663 1921 or at charlottejohnson@newbattleabbeycollege.ac.uk