VE75 in Oberursel

Whilst the UK commemorates the 75th Anniversay of VE Day, Germany calls it the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation from National Socialism.

Commemoration events in Oberursel were held at the Opferdenkmal (memorial to victims of the National Socialism) and at the stone in front of the town hall, which contains a quote from Richard von Weizsäcker, who was Germany’s President at the time of the 40th anniversary.

“Wir Gedenken in Trauer aller Opfer des Krieges und der Gewaltherrschaft.  Nur wer die Vergangenheit verleugnet, ist in der schrecklichen Gefahr, sie zu wiederholen.”

Opferdenkmal, 8th May, 2020
Gedenkstein am Rathausplatz, 8th May 2020

Whatever happened to… the Domesday Discs?

Who remembers the BBC Domesday Project and the resulting Domesday Discs?

Well, I do at least. I’m not quite sure why, but the other day I started wondering what had happened to the project and the collected data.

Never heard of the project? Well, back in 1984 the BBC started a project with a number of companies to create a modern version of the Domesday book which was due to celebrate its 900th anniversary in 1986. School children were asked to write about their local area and send in photographs. All of this data was then collated onto two laser discs, along with statistics such as census data as well as maps, short videos and virtual walks around parts of the country. The texts that the children had written were saved as teletext pages and the whole thing required a specially adapted BBC micro computer to run.

I’m not quite sure if I ever wrote anything in school that got submitted to the project, but I do remember some years later when the discs were available that we didn’t have them at my school or in our local library, so when a set became available at another school it was arranged for me to spend an evening looking at them.

In the days before the World Wide Web and all the modern sources of information that are now available, this was a fascinating project of which I know no equal, and a few days ago I started wondering what had happened to all of that data and I was surprised to find an answer so quickly just by searching the internet.

Actually, what seemed like a revolution in terms of the amount of data back then is by comparison today quite small. Each of the laser discs could store 300MB on each side, meaning the combination of both sides stored less than a data CD today.

Recently, a project had been set up to recover the data and make it readable again. This included reverse engineering a set of discs to convert the data into modern formats. I read all about this at a fascinating website called Domesday Redux. Then I came across another site about the history of the project.

But the main surprise was this site: www.domesday1986.com – this is the result of that reverse engineering, an online version of the community disc (the one with the children’s texts and photos on).

I have been able to re-visit texts about places that I used to live and go to school in, and I have seen photos of those places as they were in 1984-1986, even one showing my school and the house that I used to live in!

Visiting that site is a real treat and I am so glad to have found it. Let’s hope that it remains on-line as long as possible so that future generations can learn about how we put together this amazing collection of information – without writing a single E-mail!

The secret Indian army of WWII

I’m always fascinated by lost tales from World War II – small unknown facts that have only now been made public.

Such stories are not becoming rare, so I was interested to read this report on a secret army of recruits from India that had trained in Germany.

The information had originally been locked away for 75 years, having been deemed too sensitive to be made public any earlier, but now it has been and it really does stun me as to the countries involved.

When you learn about the British Raj in India and the time around WWII, you learn about the threat from the Japanese army. The thought that Nazi Germany was training Indian recruits in secret is something completely new.

I have certainly never heard of the “Free India Legion” defending the Atlantic Wall before.

I wonder what other secrets are in the archives, waiting to be discovered before the people who were alive then can no longer enlighten us to their personal experiences.

One example are the documents concerning the occupation of the Channel Islands – these were sealed for 100 years!

Will these now be available earlier as well?

I’ll leave the 9th May 2045 in my diary for the moment.

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