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, aims to empower local communities to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity. 

How are we doing this?

In three ways:

  1. We have trained people to organise Digital Collection Days in their local communities. Digital Collection Days are typically one-day 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.
  2. By encouraging people to attend a Digital Collection Day in their area.
  3. By encouraging those who cannot attend a Digital Collection Day in person to submit their stories and photos of objects directly to our archive from the comfort of their own home.

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


How are you doing this? 

Over the course of the popular Lest We Forget First World War project, many people asked whether we were going to organise a similar project for the Second World War. Thanks to funding from the University of Oxford and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we can now say, 'yes'!  

More importantly, we are doing this now because 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 kinds of war-related stories and objects were you looking for?

Any, from the extraordinary to the seemingly 'ordinary'. We want our archive to reflect the diverse experiences of all those affected by the war: men and women across the British Empire and the Commonwealth who worked in industry, on the land, or in other roles; ran households and fought a daily battle of rationing; served in or supported the armed forces; and even those who refused to go to war for political or religious reasons. We were also interested in preserving children's experiences of the war and wanted to hear about any relatives who refused to talk about their wartime experience.

Where can I find the stories and objects?

All digitised stories and objects will be free to access via this website from 6 June 2024

Can I get involved?

Unfortunately, we are no longer accepting submissions to our archive and all Digital Collection Day events have been held. All submissions are now being reviewed and evaluated by our team, and you will be able to see the complete collection on 6 June 2024.