What is Their Finest Hour?

Many of us have Second World War-related stories and objects that have been passed down to us from our parents, grandparents and other family members. Their Finest Hour, a University of Oxford project launched in July 2022 and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, aimed to empower local communities to preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity. 

How did you do this?

We trained and worked with hundreds of volunteers to organise 73 free events in 2023 and early 2024. Over 2,000 people attended the events, called ‘Digital Collection Days’, to share their war-related stories and mementos and have them recorded and digitised (i.e. photographed) by volunteers. Those who could not attend a Digital Collection Day in person were able to submit stories and photos via the project website.

Can I read the stories and view the digitised items?

Yes! Over 2,000 stories and 25,000 digitised items are now preserved in the Their Finest Hour Online Archive. The archive and its contents have been free to view from Thursday 6 June 2024.

Why did you do this? 

The stories and objects of the men, women, and children who were part of the 1939-1945 generation are being lost. Very few families in the British Empire and the Commonwealth were untouched by the war. In what was a truly global conflict, over 8.5 million people from the Empire and Dominions served in all major theatres of the war. Many of those affected have since passed their stories and objects onto their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of whom now act as custodians of their relatives’ remarkable legacy.

The photographs, letters, diaries, medals and other artefacts symbolise the experiences of the wartime generation, and it is vital – for individuals, families and communities across Britain and the Commonwealth – to preserve and value this heritage before it is lost to posterity.

What are Digital Collection Days?

Digital Collection Days are volunteer-led events where members of the public can bring along war-related stories, memories, photographs, diaries, letters and any other mementos to be digitised (i.e. photographed) and uploaded to a free-to-access online archive.

Where did you hold Digital Collection Day events?

73 Digital Collection Days took place in all regions of the UK:

Project Team

Dr Stuart Lee, Principal Investigator

Dr Matthew Kidd, Project Manager

Nell Carrington, Project Co-ordinator

Catherine Conisbee, Technical Officer

Dr Joseph Quinn, Project Co-ordinator: Outreach, Networking, and Media

Project Assistants