Museum nan Eilean

Through "Lewis at War, 1939-1960", Museum nan Eilean, from October 2008 to May 2009, worked closely with the Comainn Eachdraidh on the island to explore the broad theme of military service in World War II and subsequent conflicts up to 1960. Students from the Nicolson Institute were involved in all aspects of the programme from planning, collection and research to digitisation and publication of all the materials.

Among the memories explored and recorded in both Gaelic and English were service in India, Burma and Africa, bomb disposal on the front line, Lewis participation in major engagements in Europe, and of course the way the war was experienced here at home.

With large numbers of servicemen stationed in Ness in the north and Uig in the south of the island, World War II brought jobs, entertainment and more contact with the outside world for the Lewis islanders than had ever been witnessed before, though it also meant the loss of many young people from the community.

During World War II, Atlantic Convoys between North America and Britain carried vital supplies. One of the protecting planes, an US Airforce B-17 Flying Fortress, crash-landed on a croft in Brenish in West Uig. The crashed bomber provided much entertainment for the boys of the village, still vividly remembered by those who were teenagers at the time.

The project has also compiled a definitive collection of bàrdachd (Gaelic songs) from the time.

Commenting on the initiative in 2008, Mark Elliot of Museum nan Eilean said: "We are pleased to be given this great opportunity to celebrate the lives of our veterans by encouraging young people to research and learn about the personal experiences and the effect war had on peoples lives. This precious resource is a fast disappearing one in our community, preserving the memories of those who experienced war first hand is essential in understanding how people coped in difficult times and the impact that it has had on our lives today."


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