War Stories are part of Family History

War Stories are like deep underground rivers of a network of experiences

War experiences are such personal and sensitive stories. Whether they are from recent wars and conflicts such as Afghanistan or Vietnam wars or earlier world wars, the impact on those involved and their families is dramatic and life-changing. Telling your story in whatever way you wish can be a powerful tool to work through emotions and mental health. It is so important to family history that the contribution made by veterans is documented and acknowledged. The life messages that will be generated could make such a difference to younger family members and those of the future. 

A few years ago, an elderly lady contacted me about writing her life story. When we were half-way through, she commenced crying.

Womens Land Army
Source: Australian War Memorial. ARTVO1062

Women’s Land Army

We had reached that part of her life when she enlisted in the Women’s Land Army as her personal contribution to the war effort. Her story poured out through her tears and laughter as she recalled the harshness of the working conditions, the friends she made (and the difficult personalities), the jobs she had to perform and the social activities that the women invented to amuse themselves.

‘This is a wonderful story’ I told her. ‘I expect your family knows all this?’

‘No’ she replied. ‘They were never interested. This is the first time I have told anyone.’

Now it was my turn to cry. This wonderful woman, who was now 81 years old, embarked on this journey when she was 18 years of age, as an act of responsibility to meet the shortage of rural labour in Australia. She was a city girl and embraced farm jobs that would challenge any strong male. She adjusted to the heat and cold, dust and insects, long hours working outside and minimum wage and leave opportunities.

Young Vietnam Soldiers

The project led me to wonder how many others involved in the war effort, talk about their journey. As a young trainee nurse, I worked in Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney, during the Vietnam War. We heard many stories as we did back care on the young soldiers when they were bed-bound, or when we were dressing their wounds or just sitting with them in the darkness of the ward after lights out. The psychological support we provided was just as vital to their rehabilitation as the medical and nursing duties that we provided. The stories bubbled out of them like a deep underground river of experiences which had gathered from a network of sources. We were allowing the young soldiers to tell their story however they wished, and we provided no judgment or criticism. We were under 20 years of age ourselves and today, I marvel at the maturity my peers and I displayed. 

Australian Soldier
August 1968.
Australian Soldier. Double amputee.
Concord Hospital
AWM LES/68/0312/BC

I remember one young soldier thanking me for listening. He could not tell his family of his experiences because of guilt and shame that he felt, but also because he wasn’t sure how to control his feelings of anger and confusion. He thought the family didn’t want to know but were happy just to have him back safe.

War Journals

War stories are important. I was contacted last year by an elderly gentleman who had his aunt’s war journals dating back to the 1st World War and wondered what he could do with them. I read some of those articulate entries and realized how powerful and important the stories were and what a roadmap of the aunt’s involvement in the war effort and illustrations of her character and personality.

Don’t lose their stories

These stories are so important to families and send such an important message to young people of today. The courage and commitment of those involved in providing services to their country in whatever format must not be lost.

If you have a family member who would like to tell their story and have it documented in a book, please contact me. The journey will be a wonderful recognition and they will thank you as it may be something they have secretly wanted all these years.

Ring me today and let’s get to work.

 

‘God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far-flung battle line, Beneath whose awful hand we hold dominion over palm and pine—Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!’

Recessional. 1897. Rudyard Kipling.

Another war story that needs to be told

References

Australian War Memorial.  Australian Women’s Land Army.  Accessed online Australian Women’s Land Army

Images

Australian War Memorial.  Sydney NSW August 1968. Liet. Gordon Lyall Simpson (24). and Nursing Sister Kay Worsley. Concord Repatriation Hospital. Accessed online  AWM LES/68/0312/EC

Australian War Memorial.  Australian Women’s Land Army  Accessed Online.  ARTVO1062

How to start my life story

How do I start my life story?

My life has been so long.

This is the question I get asked every time a potential client contacts me.

It’s true your life has been long and so much has happened. Approaching the documenting of your life is worthy of consideration before you commence and the skills of a life writer are there to help you on your journey.

life story
Just start your life story – just start

How to start my life story – a few pointers

 

  • Make the commitment.

Many obstacles will fall into your path as to why you shouldn’t start your journey of commencing your family legacy. There are too many to name but here are just a few; ‘too expensive’; ‘too much work’; ‘don’t want to remember it all’; ‘what will the family think’; ‘will I seem like a loser’.

Well, some of those things are true and some aren’t. You won’t seem like a loser – in fact, people will admire you and wish they had done the same. Yes, it is work and yes, it is expensive but so is anything worth having.

You don’t have to remember it all, and you don’t have to document it all. Your life writer will help you through this. Yes, there will be some memories you wish you didn’t have, and yes, you may shed a tear or two – but life writers are skilled at supporting you through that.

Making the commitment to do your legacy for your future generations has to be first and foremost.

  • Contact your life writer and be honest about your budget and your story.

    start my life story
    Be honest with your life writer

Deciding on how much you wish to spend is just another financial decision like others you have made through your life. Some customers say they wish to just get their life story in print and don ‘t care about the cost. Other customers prefer the package deal used by Write My Journey and you buy a unit – you know where you are at each point in the project.

 I think being honest about your story is also important. Some people say they want the minimum budget and then expect to get everything in. I don’t think this is fair to them and certainly not fair to the life story writer.

Being honest about your expectations up front is most important. Compiling your life story is no different to any other service you may have done – both you and your contractor have to know what is expected to obtain a great result.

  •  Do an overview

 Your life writer will do an overview of your life journey and help you put it into chapters. Together, you will work on each chapter until it is complete. This is a very flexible working system and even if you jump from one chapter to another, your final product will be organised and complete.

Keeping to your chapters helps you keep to your budget and control over your story, at the same time as allowing you to adjust your budget and content.Some customers prefer to make notes as they think of different times of their life. Others prefer just to talk and let their memory take them down its path, opening whatever gates come their way. Photos are great and any other memorabilia you may have. Discussions with other people are great memory boosters, as are journals, old calendars or even just googling dates to see what was happening in the world at that time.

  •   Life Stories are boring

A common comment I hear from people is that life stories or biographies are boring to read. I agree with this and therefore, I place the responsibility with the life writer to guide the narrator in the creation of a book that readers can’t put down.

Most people think they must include every single bit of information they remember. That is not true. You can, of course, include everything, but that will be reflected in a bigger budget. Most people will take snippets of their life to reflect their journey, e.g. if you are a cricket player, you could just highlight your most memorable games, rather than every game.

  • Final TipStart my lif

A final tip is not rush it. Knowing that documenting your life story is going to take time and work in the narration, reviewing and reviewing is a fact, so it is wise to keep your deadline in the distant months or even a year.

Writing Life Stories 

Life Stories Australia Inc. 

How to start my life story
Life Story Professionals are life story writers

Write My Journey is a foundation member of Life Stories Australia, the Industry Association for life story professionals.

Start My life Story    Start my life story   Start my life story   Start my life story

 

 

 

Is a Memoir all Fact?

When writing a memoir, the issue of fact or fiction must be addressed. It is an issue often discussed amongst memoirists and a fear born out of a deceiving one’s readers.

The issue came to mind recently when reading the novel written about Margaret Cathpole’s life as written by Reverend Richard Cobbold, the Rector of Worthham, Suffolk (http://hawkesburywriters.org.au/margaret-catchpole-her-life-and-her-letters/s).

People in the Hawkesbury did remember Margaret according to the Hawkesbury Writers website when she lived local to them. Their memories were very different to the Reverend Cobbold’s account of Margaret’s life.

The mind can play tricks and even with the best of intentions can replay events not quite as they were. I wrote an account of a memoir of my childhood to do with the opening of the Parkes Radio Telescope.  I then went about and researched the facts of the day and surprisingly many facts were not as I remembered. Of course, I was a child, and interpreted events through my own understanding.Continue Reading

How to structure your story

Structure your story

How to structure your story is really up to you. Your story could be arranged in years, in seasons, on a significant day each year e.g. Christmas seasons, each generation or what is appropriate for you and your story.  Recently, I structured a book according to the houses the client had lived in.  This sounded a little odd at first, but as I made progress on the book, I realised this was a great way to tell this particular story.

Continue Reading