100 years of Westland in Yeovil created as living history on new website

The 100-year story of Westland is being told through a series of recorded oral histories with people who worked at the Yeovil factory on a new website launched on Jan. 17.

Steve Haigh and Dave Gibbings who jointly developed the Westland100 website
Steve Haigh and Dave Gibbings who jointly developed the Westland100 website. Heritage Lottery Fund Photo
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The website – Westland100.org.uk – features the voices of more than 30 former Westland employees and is the result of an 18-month project to build a spoken archive of aircraft manufacturing in Yeovil 1915 to 2015.

A film about the World Helicopter Speed Record set by a Westland built Lynx (G-LYNX) on Aug. 11, 1986 called Westland ONE can also be watched on the site.

The project – Yeovil’s Magnificent Flying Machines – provided students studying media at Yeovil College with skills training in editing and storytelling, and members of the Westland Retirement Association transcribed the oral histories.

One highlight of the new site is the oral histories recorded with 103-year-old Mini Ostler of Higher Odcombe and 96-year-old Norman Pilton of Montacute who talk about working at Westland during World War II building Spitfires.

“The creation of this living history is an important contribution to the social fabric of Yeovil,” said Steve Haigh, project manager of Yeovil’s Magnificent Flying Machines. “The intention is for the site to grow with people uploading their own memories and photographs. Without this initiative, it’s unlikely any of this remarkable material would have been preserved.”

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“I learnt many good things making this film, not least, how to edit and write to pictures,” said Luke Cawley (18), media student at Yeovil College who helped produce Westland ONE. “I enjoyed in particular working alongside members of the Westland Retirement Association. Westland ONE has given me an amazing film to show to prospective employers.”

The Yeovil’s Magnificent Flying Machines project was managed by Radio Ninesprings – a new community radio station serving Yeovil and South Somerset – with grant funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from Leonardo Helicopters and Yeovil College.

To hear the full-length oral history interviews click oral histories at www.westland100.org.uk.

The recordings on CD are available for lending from Yeovil Library.

CD copies of the recorded oral histories have been deposited with Leonardo Helicopters, Yeovil, The Community Heritage Centre, Yeovil, The Royal Aeronautical Society, and the Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare.

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