Thursday, July 25, 2024

Recording Thurrock’s history: Must do better…….

Editorial Comment

IN THE past two weeks, two hugely significant figures in the borough have passed away. SAS war hero George Denny and world ten mile record holder, Mel Batty.

They have now gone without any filmed record of their personal testimony. I am told that George Denny had people rapt as he told them of his war exploits. Some stories were harrowing as George recalled how he recovered the body of the Polish prime minister,(Mr Sikorski) in exile, who died when his plane crashed off Gibraltar.

I would loved to have sat down and filmed Mel Batty for ten minutes to talk us through every second of that world record and indeed why he found it hard to convert that road race ability to track times (and that is why he didn’t make the olympics.)

But those opportunities are gone and all were are left with are sepia photos and Pathe news reels.

With today, being YT’s third birthday it is always important to reflect on what you do well and what you don’t do so well on and one of our least successful pages is the History page.

We have made 3,500 films since Sept 2008. Should we fail, then we feel that we have left a rich archive of what was happening in Thurrock between 2008 and 2011 but we still feel that we have failed to chronicle the personal history of the individuals that make up the borough.

What we would like to do is film three people every week over ten minutes and talk about their history. Just a snapshot but a valuable snapshot.And so as to avoid confusion, we are talking about people of all ages.

We doubt we will ever get help from Thurrock history enthusiasts (please don’t call yourself historians, AJP Taylor, David Bebbington, Eric Hobsbawn are historians). We suggested for a long time that the recording of the personal testimony of the borough’s residents would be a good thing but time and time there faces would glaze over. For them history is all about standing up in a room and telling people all they know in front of slides.

Lots of people will in Thurrock will say: ‘Oh we have done that or we are planning that.” Ask them where it is and they will be somewhat vague. Ask them what the plans are and they will say…soon.

So, we guess it is down to us to up our game when it comes to this side of the site.We will try to do better.

This journalists degree is in History but I became interested in the subject in first year at school (1973) when the World at War series came out. It wasn’t the photos or the film of Japanese planes at Pearl Harbour but the personal testimony of those who experienced the war.

However in the “Making of” documentary, producer Jeremy Isaacs detailed what he felt was the most significant moment when they interviewed an SS Colonel who waxed articulately about the war. They were all enrapt. They had a break. He asked for a cup of tea. As a blonde haired, blue eyed female research assistant placed the cup of tea near him, he grasped her hand and said to her: “You would have been perfect”

The moment chilled the air but Isaacs realised that this was the importance of personal testimony. This wasn’t an actor, this was a Nazi.

We hope you get our point that personal testimony is so vital to recording and treasuring the heritage of an age, of a borough, of its people.

Take a look at the film, below. I guess our point is that each person, has a day, has a day in which they can say that they were a hero, just for one day….



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