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Remembering war

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

These days, it's all too easy to neglect the hardships and sacrifices of those who fought in the world wars. So, when Findmypast approached us to help find stories from the public that brought wartime to life through the memories of our ancestors, we jumped at the chance to help.

Building a campaign around Remembrance Day, we asked people to tell us what their ancestors did during the war. Whether they were a soldier or a nurse, we aimed to truly humanise the storytelling by asking them to research and find pictures and letters to show in their video. What came back was so much more than we expected.

Loves and loses of war

For us, there were an incredible amount of highlights from the submissions, but we wanted to call out some that really stuck with us, like Mike McVeigh's. His recalls a love story between his relative and a Canadian bandsman who met in a restaurant at Russell Square, where he insisted in paying her bill. We hear a real-time recording of his relative recalling how the 'cheeky little b*stard', pursued her to get a date, only to turn up to it 30 minutes late! We're charmed by this brilliant woman, who talks of her courtship with Leo and recalls such gems like the three things the English didn't like about the American soldiers; they were "over sexed, over paid and over here!". Mike's video leaves us with warm hearts as pictures of the pair and their life together flash up on the screen.

Screenshots from submissions on the thread

Daphne Hannam also shared the wonderful story of her Grandfather, Donald, who immigrated to Canada in 1914. Signing up to the First Canadian Battalion later that year when war broke out, he was 'rendered inoperative' by taking two bullets to the knee whilst dragging his machine gun. As he was stretchered to number 3 casualty clearing station, the enemy launched a gas attack, affecting his health even further. Daphne then describes the process of Donald being taken back to the UK to recuperate, and later discharged. She makes us aware of her Grandfather's patriotism, 'wanting to do his bit' in the war even though he could not fight. Helping out at the Canadian Training School, his commitment to his duty was then rewarded by fate when he met his wife, Lilian. Daphne ends her story in a way that makes us all think about what could have been for all of those lives that were lost. By concluding her grandparents story with 'dot, dot, dot', we are left feeling grateful that so many families were created because of and after the war.

Our learnings

In terms of our own process, we also learnt how to adapt and tailor our approach to brands with an older audience. There existed a worry around how their demographic would find the thread, and whether or not they would reply. Lots of the Findmypast community love to share their stories on their social channels. However, just because they are active on social media, it did not necessarily mean that they would all see the post promoting the thread, or want to engage with it. So, as well as posting on their Facebook and Instagram sites, mentioning the thread in their Friday live, blog, and posting an in-app notification, we focussed on sending out over 150 messages to the most engaged users on Facebook and Instagram.

Image by talha khalil from Pixabay

This process opened up another layer to Findmypast's communication with their community, as it offered that humanisation of the brand which they wanted to promote. Each message was genuinely individual, tailored to the member's past interactions with the brand, so they were able to feel the human element to Findmypast beyond the Facebook and Instagram posts.

What this achieved was some moving, highly authentic engagements with their community and over 5,500 views of the thread between the day it was launched and the day we ceased promotions.

Our single biggest thing we learned from this campaign is the vitality to which we must capture our wartime ancestors' stories, so that we can honour and remember them for generations to come.

More about Findmypast

Findmypast are distinguished from their competitors by their personal, more connected relationships to their members. This is something which is central to their brand. That's why it was so integral to create a campaign which would not only bring to life Remembrance Day, but also Findmypast as a brand. Nowadays, the voice of a brand is not enough. Findmypast acknowledged this disparity and wanted to instead appeal to their valued community to speak for their brand. It was an honour to work with a company with such a pure but important mission, and we hope to work again with them on future campaigns they may run.

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