Sponsorship Secures Future Of Second World War Experience Centre

By David Prudames | 02 November 2004
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Shows a black and white photograph of three sailors in uniform.

The centre collects material from those who took part in WWII, including Eric Such (right) who served in the Navy and the Fleet Air Arm.

The future of the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds has been secured thanks to major support from a charitable foundation.

Following a period of financial uncertainty for the centre, The Mike Gooley Trailfinders Charity has pledged to underwrite a substantial part of its annual running costs over the next three years.

In addition, the Trailfinders travel company is to sponsor the centre’s semi-annual journal, Everyone’s War, for three years.

The news was set to be announced at the centre’s annual lecture, due to be held at the Royal Hospital in London on the evening of November 2.

Shows the blue and white logo of the Second World War Experience Centre at the centre of which are four cartoon images of a plane, a warship, a tank and a factory.

Based in Horsforth, Leeds, the centre was founded in 1999.

Expressing his gratitude to the Mike Gooley Charity, Chairman of the Board of Trustees George Kieffer told the 24 Hour Museum what the new funding means to the institution.

"In the immediate future, it means that we can continue to press on with the most important task," he said, " which is gathering as much material as possible in the first hand, from the people that are still alive."

Founded in 1999, the Second World War Experience Centre is dedicated to the rescue, preservation and study of the material evidence of the individual in the circumstances of war, 1939-45.

An archive of both national and international importance, it brings together documents from the UK, USA, Italy, Germany and the various occupied countries.

From the armed forces to civilians, merchant seamen, firefighters, Land Army, Home Guard, evacuees and conscientious objectors, the centre has material representing all of those who were involved in the conflict.

Shows a photograph of a woman wearing white gloves and showing some artwork to a man, both are seated at a desk.

Anyone can gain access to the considerable collection, including artwork by eminent Scottish artist and soldier Fyffe Christie as shown here.

As well as diaries, letters, drawings, personal memorabilia and an extensive library, it holds over 6,000 case histories and oral recordings and is home to the Mosquito Aircrew Association Archive.

The centre doesn’t receive any funding from national or local public sector bodies and has to rely solely on private donations from individuals and trusts.

Having achieved registered museum status in November last year, it has endured a difficult 12 months. Despite receiving a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to catalogue its Home Front collection, financial issues almost saw it lose its independence.

However, with the new sponsorship, its immediate future has been secured and George Kieffer feels confident that the organisation’s goals will be achieved.

The plan now is to continue adding to the collection and complete the cataloguing, so that in around five years time it can be donated to an institution capable of holding it on behalf of the nation.

Shows a photograph of a Christmas message sent home from the war to a sailor's family.

Among the collection is a vast archive of photographs and memorabilia from former sailor, Eric Such. More information about his wartime experiences and the material held in his collection at the centre can be viewed online.

"All the trustees are amateurs, committed though they are," he said, adding: "We’ve built up, in national terms, a unique archive."

"We want it to go to a home that will make it accessible to the public and researchers," he said, "and will recognise that work that many of us have put in over the last six to seven years."

The charity that will make this possible was founded by ex-SAS officer Mike Gooley who started his travel company, Trailfinders, in 1970.

Over the past five years, the charitable foundation has given over £10 million to various organisations, including cancer research.

The centre welcomes contact from people who experienced the Second World War in any capacity and will gratefully receive any diaries, letters, photographs, other memorabilia or personal recollections.

To find out more information about the centre and its work, visit the institution’s website: www.war-experience.org.

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