Was your ancestor a prisoner of war during the First World War? Could his voice have been recorded by the Germans as part of an academic and linguistic study during the height of the First World War?
This small collection of sound recordings made during the First World War was part of an academic study conducted by German sound pioneer, Wilhelm Doegen, and forms part of the larger Berliner Lautarchiv which has been digitised by the British Library.
For the most part, the information comprises:
Click on the link to be taken to the British Library website where you can hear these recordings.
Enlisting the support of numerous academics, Wilhelm Doegen had sought to capture the voices of famous people, and languages, music and songs from all over the world. The collection acquired by the British Library in 2008 comprises 821 digital copies of shellac discs held at the Berliner Lautarchiv at the Humboldt Universität. This particular subset features recordings of British prisoners of war held in captivity on German soil between 1915 and 1918, and Findmypast has been able, in many cases, to add key regimental details about many of the men.
Men were asked to read the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son’ in their native dialect. This text, notes the British Library, “was popular in linguistic surveys at the time and was used, for instance, in sound recordings made between 1913 and 1929 for Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India. Its academic value derives from the fact it permits a comparative analysis of several grammatical features, such as personal pronouns, noun declensions and the present, past and future tenses.” These recordings of British prisoners of war represent some of the earliest known recordings of ‘ordinary’ speakers and, for that matter, shine a bright light on humanity at a time of mass carnage and destruction on an industrial scale never previously known.
The men recorded her served with a number of British Army regiments as well as the merchant navy.
Search on first name, last name, regiment, rank and regimental number.