Creating the sounds of WW1

Video and sound editor, Alvy Vincent, writes about helping to create the sounds of the 21st Century and the First World War to give us an immersive, rich listening experience for our Dear Poppy podcast.

I am a 22 year old freelance film maker who usually edits with visuals. One of the things I have learnt over the years is that SFX can really glue a video together and they are so important when setting a scene. When working on the ‘Poppy Project’ I absolutely loved making the audio soundscapes.

I loved the creativeness of listening to someone speak, imagining the settings that they would be in and then layering lots of SFX (sound effects) to create a world that the person speaking could sit in. This project was especially interesting as it focused around a specific time period. This meant that I was forced to think about what noises you might hear at that time. I used a lot of old aircraft soaring overhead and air raid sirens screeching but I also liked the SFX that are more generic but still created a soundscape that felt old fashioned, so I used things like church bells ringing in the distance, horses hooves on cobbled streets, dogs barking, wind blowing in the trees.

For the hospital scene [listen to the audio below], I was looking for the hospital sounds but my sound effects library was all modern-day sounds with phones going off and stuff.


I searched for the sound of a trolley in a hospital, a trolley passing, and that worked quite well. It wasn’t completely clear what it was, but it made you realise that it was inside a hospital. When the nurse starts speaking about the hospital ward, I wanted to have a sound for the injured men, so I recorded myself making groaning sounds and put it in the background. It seems ridiculous but it actually works really well, you hear the faint, quite subtle, not too obvious, sound in the background.

I look forward to working on more projects like this in the future.

Listen to the full podcast here:

Teaching creatively

Retired teacher, Jane Griffin, talks about her involvement in We Are Poppy and inspiring a new generation.

I was invited by Tayler Cresswell to take part in the Poppy project because of my experience as a teacher. I have been retired for 13 years so the chance to interact with young students again was a very exciting prospect for me. Tayler and I met up with Rosie Scott and a small group of girls at Hove Park School in Brighton.

This is what I told them:

My name is Jane. I am a teacher, an artist and a photographer.

I did my first teaching practice in this school when it was girls’ grammar school. I taught Art in a big comprehensive school for 10 years

I then moved to BHASVIC (local 6th Form college known to them) where I taught Art and Art History A level. I worked there for 18 years. Art History is a great way to learn History or even Herstory.

In 1996 I set up GCSE and A level Photography at Bhasvic. In those days there was no digital photography. The main building there was built in 1912-13 for Brighton and Hove Grammar School for Boys. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, it was commandeered as a military hospital.

There is plenty that was written about the men who were treated there but very little about the women who tended them.

I love to hear people’s stories.

I would like to help you imagine your Poppy stories.

The girls we met at Hove Park were mental health ambassadors, which is why they chose to join us. They knew a bit about the First World War and the effects of shell shock on the soldiers but they didn’t know what impact it had on women. This is not surprising as little research has been made in this area until recently.

We made a great start working at the school. The sessions were lively and the pupils delighted me with their ideas, enthusiasm, energy and wit.

When Covid-19 Lockdown was announced we had to pause, hoping this would be short-lived. We still hoped to visit the Imperial War Museum and The Keep at Sussex University for research.

It gradually became clear that we wouldn’t be able to continue face to face sessions with the pupils. I was gutted!

Although the Pandemic put a stop to our sessions in school, it did, however, make the parallels between mental health now and the situation in WW1 all the more pertinent.

We had to think of ways to work on the project remotely. We set a piece of work, similar to one I have used before, to send a letter to Poppy from someone living now. A reply would then be sent back. This certainly fired up the girls’ imaginations. The evidence of research in the letters produced is impressive as is the passion felt about feminist issues.

I have been so impressed by the quality of work made by the girls who chose to take part in the project. They were already well informed about women’s issues and mental health issues.

I have loved working with young people again. It has always been a joy to see how a teacher can give a germ of an idea to inspire her students and watch as they take that idea into realms she could never imagine.

Interview with therapist Denise Poynter about women and shellshock

In this interview, historian and therapist Denise Poynter talks to Daisy and Amelie about her search for elusive records about women who suffered from trauma and shellshock in World War One.

Denise’s work shines a light on women’s experiences of war trauma, long ignored by historians until fairly recently. Denise argues that women working near the front as nurses and VADs showed the same symptoms as men when it came to shellshock and trauma. Her discovery in the archives of a doctor’s note reading: “the report on her transfer was shell shock”, became the title of her thesis into the subject.


You can read Denise’s thesis here: The Report on her Transfer was Shell Shock.

Living with Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD)

We Are Poppy Producer, Saba, talks about living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and how it helped her to better understand the trauma of the First World War.

I live with CPTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is usually when an individual has experienced one traumatic event in their lives, whilst CPTSD is when you have experienced repeated traumatic experiences. PTSD is very common in soldiers and other people that have been involved in war. CPTSD can be a result of enduring repeated childhood neglect, physical, mental and domestic abuse. It can also affect people that have lived in war-torn countries for a length of time.

Small things today, when I am feeling low or sensitive, can trigger my CPTSD. Logic tells me it will pass and I can see what’s happening and I can see the effect it’s having but I can’t do anything to stop it. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll feel fine as if nothing happened. CPTSD and PTSD can be torture to live with. It takes over and you lose all rational sense.

I recently started feeling low within myself, I wasn’t getting much sleep, felt at odds and could tell I was being over-sensitive – I began to feel unheard and invisible. It made me think of the work we’ve been doing on Project Poppy – how our imagined character might cope in my position today. Would her plight and trauma experienced during World War One affect her today? Would loss of loved ones leave her feeing empty and at a loss herself? Would those past events trigger reactions in her present day? I know certain noises can stress me out because of all the screaming and shouting I experienced in the past. Would loud bangs or bursts of noise cause Poppy the same feeling of dread that it can conjure up in me?

Poppy made me think about all the children that suffered in World War One and other wars since then. How did they deal with their trauma and what long-term effect did it cause them, or even their children, their grandchildren and generations to come?

I consider myself lucky as I’ve had multiple forms of treatment, medication and care. I’ve tried various types of psychological therapies such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), group therapy, psychodynamic therapy which did wonders for learning how to have healthy relationships today. There are various forms of medication such as antidepressants, and other neurobehavioral medicines. I’ve tried Sonic Reset Therapy (SRT) – using the power of sound to reset your mind; reprogramming your memory. Some more holistic treatments are yoga, mindfulness, meditation – taking time out for self-care. With all these tools and knowledge I am able to monitor my symptoms. I know when things are starting to trigger, and I can put in place an action plan. One of the most important things is to reach out to someone; family, friend, a safe person you can share how you’re feeling and know you are not alone.

Working on the Poppy project highlighted two main things for me

1) we need to understand why people behave in the way that they do today, how their past can have a knock-on effect, rather than just assume they are bad, problematic, destructive, withdrawn, shy, nervous, emotional people – the list is endless.

2) Given circumstances today, especially for young people having been through months of lockdown, missing school, time with friends, regular routine, the stress of exam results, the worry about climate change or recent protests such as Black Lives Matter and other global events, we must prevent this manifesting within them and making way for trauma in adulthood.

If we can provide the support, tools and help at a young age, if we can give children hope and faith and let them know they are loved, cared for and listened to, then with any luck they won’t have to deal with trauma such as CPTSD/PTSD later on in life.

Listen to the interview about Trauma with trauma therapist Darren Abrahams for more information and insights into PTSD.