By Megan Spencer © 2018
Episode 1: “Harry’s story, Megan’s pilgrimage”
In episode 1 Megan introduces the story of her grandfather, Corporal “Harry” Spencer, 2/7th Battalion. A prisoner of war in Germany for four years in the Second World War, Harry was one of several thousand of Australians captured by the German Army in 1941, during the ill-fated battle of Crete.
Corporal Spencer’s story provides the catalyst for interviews, conversations, and insights that help broaden our understanding of history, remembrance, and the human consequences of war.
What kind of an effect did being a prisoner of war have on Harry and his family both then and now? A chance family reunion, revealing the inter-generational ripple effects of two world wars, inspires Megan to embark upon a life-changing pilgrimage to recover the past and practice remembrance, walking in the shoes of her ancestors.
Credits and additional information - Episode 1
Episode 2: “Walking a mile in Harry’s shoes”
In episode 2 Megan visits the crumbling, 75-year-old ruins of two of the four Stalags in which her grandfather Corporal Harry Spencer – prisoner No. 91985 – was held in Germany between 1941 and 1945.
The first, Stalag VII-A, is in Moosburg in Germany’s south; the other, Stalag XI-B/357 in Bad Fallingbostel in the north. These were two of Germany’s biggest prisoner-of-war camps, and each housed thousands of prisoners from all over the world.
With the help of locals, family members, military historians, and excerpts from her grandfather’s handwritten memoirs, Megan dives deep into Corporal Spencer’s prisoner-of-war experience, reimagining it in situ. It is a highly emotional trip – one that, as she finds out, is only just beginning …
Credits and additional information - Episode 2
Episode 3: “City as war memorial”
Harry Spencer was just a young boy when his older brother Dick died serving in the First World War. A twin, Private Richard Spencer, 14th Battalion, was killed on the Western Front in 1918, a few days shy of his 19th birthday. No doubt this played a role in Harry’s decision to join up in 1939.
Hungry for even more knowledge about her family’s military past, in episode 03 Megan drives from Berlin to Belgium to find out how, when, and why Richard died. It is the first time any Spencer has visited his grave. Alongside thousands of other “pilgrims” just like her, Megan discovers an entire town built as a war memorial.
In the muddy paddocks of Ypres and under the solemn Menin Gate, Megan shares common ground with total strangers, founded in history, empathy, and remembrance.
Credits and additional information - Episode 3
Episode 4: “Remembering well”
“Lest we forget” is a phrase that memorialises those fallen in war. In episode 4 Megan takes a step back to look at the world in which we now live, asking: Are we forgetting? What happens if we do? And, while we might remember, do we remember “well”?
In our fast-changing “post-truth” world, she explores the consequences of forgetting our history, and more, by digging in with the historians, those whose business it is to keep history accurate, lessons alive, and society accountable. How do we remember and what do we do with those memories?
Amid the Australian War Memorial’s fields of woollen poppies heralding the centenary of the Armistice - and recorded on her travels elsewhere too - Megan “knits” together insights gleaned from everyday civilians, eager to share what remembering means to them.
Credits and additional information - Episode 4
Episode 5: “And yet they served”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every conflict in which Australia has been engaged. One of the most celebrated warrior-soldiers is Gunditjmara man Captain Reg Saunders. While it is not known whether they knew each other, Saunders and Megan’s grandfather served in the same battalion during the Second World War, fighting the German forces in Libya and Greece, and both were eventually stranded on Crete.
As soldiers they would have been equals, sharing many similar experiences. Back home it was not the same; Saunders and his family faced racism and discrimination in spite of his service to the nation.
Continuing further down the road of remembrance and historical empathy, in episode 5 Megan explores how we can remember “better” when it comes to our Indigenous servicemen and servicewomen.
Credits and additional information - Episode 5
Episode 6: "Making Peace"
Across land and sea, through two world wars, three generations, and umpteen conversations, Megan has been on an epic journey, listening and leaning in to significant conversations about remembrance, its importance and possibilities.
Set against the recent Centenary of the Armistice, in this final episode, Megan reflects on what she’s learned across the series, from what others have said and by walking in the footsteps of her soldier grandfather.
She speaks to eminent historian Professor Margaret MacMillan and looks at where Australia has come to as a nation with its practice of remembrance. What role does it serve? Do we need to rethink it? Can empathy make a difference? One hundred years after the end of “the war to end all war”, do we take the responsibility of peace seriously enough?
In this emotional final episode of ‘From A Whisper To A Bang!’ Megan also asks: what would Harry make of all this?
Credits and additional information - Episode 6
From a whisper to a bang! A six-part podcast series about war, remembrance, Australian prisoners of war in Germany during the Second World War, and an emotional journey of historical empathy, presented and produced by Australian broadcaster Megan Spencer.
With her grandfather’s handwritten wartime memoirs tucked in her back pocket, Spencer’s podcast takes her around the world and back: from the crumbling ruins of Germany’s Stalags and the historic battlefields and gravesites of Flanders, to the hallowed halls of Australia’s biggest shrines and institutions, and its unassuming neighbourhood RSLs.
Beginning with her family’s story, Spencer attempts to “walk a mile” in the shoes of her late grandfather, Corporal H.B. “Harry” Spencer, 2/7th Battalion. She will examine the inter-generational ripple effect of her grandfather’s wartime experience as a German prisoner of war after being captured in the battle for Crete in 1941.
One of 13 children, (five of whom served over two world wars), Corporal Spencer went from being a “39-er” on active service in North Africa and Greece, to overnight becoming a “Kriegie” – an Allied prisoner of war. He was interned between 1941 and 1945 in four separate camps, crossing vast distances and encountering innumerable hardships, the consequences of which have never really been talked about – until now.
Spencer’s podcast investigates the role of remembrance: what we remember and how we remember it, exploring the tenet of “Lest we forget” and whether it still means what it used to. One hundred years after the end of “the war to end all wars”, Spencer posits that perhaps the time has come to ask, do we remember well? Do we take the responsibility of peace seriously enough? In this age of “post-truth”, “unsocial” media, and “alternative facts”, are we forgetting the legacy of the two world wars?
From a whisper to a bang! includes rich and revelatory conversations with family members, military historians, civilians, serving members, Indigenous culture custodians, and experts on empathy. It also features discussions with battlefield “pilgrims” who, just like Spencer, are searching for answers about their own loved ones. Everyone has a story.
The narrative is punctuated by field recordings and intimate voiceover links, with music by Cretan–Australian duo Xylouris White, bridging the fateful shore on which Corporal Spencer’s wartime fortunes changed in an instant.
Each month’s episode will be released on the Australian War Memorial website and will be available through all major podcast hosts.
The opinions expressed in this podcast series are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian War Memorial.
08 January 2019
My heart stops. There he is.
At the end of another endless click of the mouse – it’s him. Harry. My grandfather. Hiding in plain sight on the Australian War Memorial website.
“I found you,” I say out loud.
Credits from episode one of From a whisper to a bang podcast.