ONE WOMAN’S quest to uncover the story of her late grandfather – an Australian prisoner of war – has formed the basis of a new podcast series launched by the Australian War Memorial.
The first in a six-episode podcast series, From a whisper to a bang!, presented and produced by Australian broadcaster Megan Spencer is about war, remembrance and Australian prisoners of war in Germany during World War II.
Beginning with her own family, Spencer investigates the story of her late grandfather, Corporal H.B. ‘Harry’ Spencer, examining the inter-generational ripple effect of his experience in the World War II.
Corporal Henry James Bailey Spencer was a ‘39-er’, one of the original volunteers who enlisted in the Second AIF to fight against Hitler’s relentless German army.
The last survivor of 13 children – ten boys and three girls born between 1897 and 1917 – Harry” was born in 1910 and died in 1987.
Assigned to the 2/7th Australian Infantry Battalion, part of the second formation of the Anzacs in Greece, Harry fought in the battle of Crete.Then on June 1, 1941, along with thousands of other Australian soldiers he was captured by the German army.
“Instantly – from a whisper to a bang! – Harry went from Allied soldier to prisoner of war, spending the next four years (1941–1945) in as many prison camps,” writes Spencer about the project, in a feature story on the War Memorial’s website.
“Waiting at home, not knowing whether they’d ever see him again, were Harry’s wife Lillian (my grandmother) and their two small children, Margaret and “Bobbie” (my father).”
With Harry’s handwritten wartime memoirs tucked in her back pocket, Spencer takes the audience from the crumbling ruins of Germany’s Stalags and the historic battlefields of Flanders through to our nation’s shrines and memorials.
In the podcast, there are Spencer’s conversations with family, military historians, serving members, battlefield “pilgrims”, Indigenous culture custodians, and experts on empathy which discuss the role of remembrance.
Instantly – from a whisper to a bang! – Harry went from Allied soldier to prisoner of war, spending the next four years in as many prison camps.
The narrative is punctuated by field recordings, voiceovers, and the music of Cretan–Australian duo Xylouris White.
Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson the medium of storytelling was the most successful way to process information and learn.
“As human beings we learn best when sharing stories that open a world of possibility beyond our own lived experiences,” he said. “That is exactly what we want to do with this new and exciting podcast series.
“The Memorial tells the stories of our nation. Through the medium of podcasting, we are offering immediate access to our curators, historians, and our collection for listeners who want to know more about the Australian experience of war and conflict, wherever they are. This is not just about those who serve; it is also about those they loved and, often, leave behind forever.”
From a whisper to a bang! launched on January 31. Monthly episodes will be released on the Australian War Memorial website and will be available through all major podcast platforms.
You can listen to the first episode by clicking HERE
Megan Spencer’s feature story on series can be found HERE