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Remembered Today:

PoW voices recorded in POW camp in Germany 1917


Moriaty

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There was an interesting article in Saturday's Times "Voice from the past leads to an archive of dialects - recordings made at a POW camp in Germany give an insight into how our accents have evolved"

In 1917 the British PoWs (at an unspecified camp) were recorded reciting The Parable of the Prodigal Son for 2 minutes on to shellac. The brittle sheallac was found at Humbolt University in Berlin.

The recording was done by Alois Brandl, an Austrian scholar fascinated by the rich variety of British dialects. Each speaker had to fill out forms, detailing personal histories, and experts recorded every voice in phonetics. Apparently there are hundreds of these recordings.

The Times gives details of Philip Jarvis, a former gamekeeper from Alderley Edge, Cheshire, who was recorded in 1917, he was born in 1881 near Macclesfield, moved to London and joined the army in 1915. Researchers are now hoping to trace the soldier's family.

The interest from this find will be with both accents and dialects and the personal details of the POWs.

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Hi,

I saw the same article. It's a fascinating find, and while it probably says little about the actual horrors and experience of war, it does say something of those who were taken prisoner, and the eclectic mix of accents of those who served; often within and between regiments and units, as I understand it. I wonder if the Curators at the Humboldt University in Berlin have plans to release the Archive?

'The Parable of the Prodigal Son'--Luke 15: 11-32

Regards,

Dave

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Guest Simon Bull
The recording was done by Alois Brandl, an Austrian scholar fascinated by the rich variety of British dialects.

I wonder if this means that native English speakers have an unusual variety of dialects?

I am a not too bad French speaker and certainly I have rarely encountered people who seem to speak French with the sort of degree of dialect they do in eg County Durham. My parents live up there and when I visit I have real difficulty understanding some of the locals. I also spent some of my childhood in Corby in Northamptonshire where there are many Glaswegians and I think a serious case could be made that they actually speak a language which is not entirely English!

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You may be right Simon,

and while wishing to avoid steroetypes, the Geordies have published their own phrase book. Regards to Will in Washington, and his courage for wearing a Sunderland strip in Newcastle--with hilarious results.

Thanks,

Dave

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It would be fascinating to hear the voices (even if they were only saying 'Mary had a lttle lamb') - apart from the dialect interest they are direct link with the men whose memories we are all keen to preserve.

Edwin Astill

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Echoing Edwina's comments I find a fascination in recordings made both before and after the war by singers who served. Heddle Nash of 2/20th Londons is but one name who springs to mind and you can also find recordings by German, Austrian, Italian and Russian singers. Unlike more recent oral history recordings these date from around the period. Sadly fine singing tends not to reflect the war experience directly, however. Another name I often recall is Alessandro Bonci, a fine tenor who served in the Italian Air Force (in what role, I do not know) and managed to sing at La Scala Milan on his "nights off".

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