Much of my recent research and event activity has been connected with The Secret WW2 Learning Network, an educational charity established in 2014 by Martyn Bell (former Chair) and Martyn Cox (Chief Executive). In 2016 I became a Trustee of this organisation which has the aim of creating greater public awareness of the contributions and experiences of the men and women who took part during the Second World War in Allied special operations, intelligence gathering and resistance. Much, but not all, of the charity's activity centres on Britain and France, but I have also covered SOE training and operations in what is now Israel (formerly Palestine), in Italy and in Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia).
Martyn Bell stepped down as Chair in 2017 due to other commitments, but remains a Trustee. Under its new Chair, Louisa Russell, the charity continues its work of establishing a unique partner network of specialist historians, researchers, writers, teachers, veterans’ descendants and associations, museums, local communities, and media outlets who work proactively with the charity’s Trustees and volunteers to instigate learning initiatives and special commemorative events.
Access to a unique archive of filmed personal testimony from more than a hundred British ‘secret warriors’ and French resisters provides a key resource, and the charity’s innovative approach regularly brings recognition to these remarkable wartime exploits and also to the cross-channel links that were forged.
The ultimate aim of The Secret WW2 Learning Network is to ensure that the wartime contributions and sacrifices of the ‘secret warriors’ will become their lasting legacy in both countries by continuing to engage, inform and inspire people of all ages.
Very few Second World War veterans are still with us and the information they all had in their memories will be lost if not recorded and archived. In present-day society few individuals have had such experiences, and so the accumulation of such information together with other records is already providing a database from which can be extracted significant information about them and the context of their experiences.