Principal Acoustic Consultant Ben Dixon is keeping Second World War memories alive

June 06, 2024

Like many acousticians, our Principal Acoustic Consultant Ben Dixon has an immense general interest in audio production and a background in music and audio engineering.

When he’s not doing RIBA acoustic designs for hospitals or the occasional planning application, Ben works with filmmakers, digital artists, designers and other creatives to help them realise the audio aspects of their productions. Somewhere along the way, this has included restoring and repairing audio recordings for a range of different interests. These works, carried out in Ben’s free time, have ranged from restoring the audio on old family films recorded on VHS to cleaning up garbled wedding speeches recorded on early mobile phones.

Sometime ago, Ben was approached by an affiliate of the Imperial War Museum (IWM), who requested Ben’s assistance with some old cassette recordings (of some older reel-to-reel recordings) of interviews with surviving veterans from the Second World War with the intention of digitising them in the future.

This vital work is worth highlighting on any day of the week but even more so today, the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe. We asked Ben about the process so far.

“Trawling through the recordings was truly eye opening. This tape is 1 of 3 and is an interview from many years ago with a man named A.S. Leggatt. The filing of the tapes is a bit higgledy piggeldy but so far, I’ve gleaned that he was in the Merchant Navy before the war, and then Royal Navy during. I think he was one of the civilian sailors who helped with the rescue at Dunkirk. Hearing Mr Leggatt speak, it’s clear that there’s so many things that most books don’t speak of and Hollywood is yet to capture. Everything from harrowing to downright bizarre; such as the barter system in previously occupied allied countries, or using grenades to get submarines to surface, or the sound of a town full of cyclists using bikes with no tyres. All recounted with nonchalance and a stoicism that I simply haven’t encountered anywhere else.”

Ben’s brilliant work will no doubt greatly benefit generations to come as we task ourselves and future generations with remembering the sacrifices of a generation which stood face-to-face with pure evil and conquered it.