Our Two Co-Founders
Martyn Cox has filmed oral history interviews with more than a hundred British and French WW2 veterans. Most of the interviewees had taken part in clandestine operations in support of wartime resistance in France, or had been resisters themselves – and so this unique archive is now known as OUR SECRET WW2.
Martyn Bell’s interest in French resistance history has spanned his entire adult life. He’s a fluent French speaker and until recently was the Chairman of Chichester’s French twinning association ‘The Friends of Chartres. He’s also been Chairman of Chichester District Council and remains a Friend of the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.
Martyn’s interest in wartime resistance in France was sparked while at the University of Lyon during the 1960s, when he’d lived close to the place of Jean Moulin’s arrest and subsequently learned about his life and death.
After graduating from the University of Manchester Martyn had a career in international marketing, and when he retired he eventually settled in Chichester and became a city councillor.
Having joined ‘The Friends of Chartres’ and hearing about the city’s history, Martyn learned that Jean Moulin had been a Prefect in Chartres in 1940. He also discovered that when Moulin had later become a key French resistance leader he’d needed to travel to and from Britain for meetings with the French government-in-exile in London.
These visits were often by means of top secret cross-Channel flights operated by the RAF on behalf of Britain’s wartime secret services, and many of these used its airfield at Tangmere near Chichester.
With these Chichester-Chartres-Moulin dots now well and truly joined up, Martyn was keen to create greater awareness of these lesser-known links between the two cities, and he has frequently given local talks about Britain’s wartime links with the people and groups in wartime France whose courage to resist had been supported by the Allies.
It’s fitting that when Martyn Bell first met ‘the other Martyn’ in 2009 the introduction had been made by the daughter of a notable SOE agent.
They soon became firm friends and ever since they’ve instigated or assisted with many commemorative projects and events in Britain and France.
Their contributions since 2012 to what has become the Resistance Studies initiative at the University of Sussex have included establishing relationships with specialist museums, historians, teachers and veteran associations in Britain and also France; and this cross-channel ‘dot joining’ initiative had resulted in an informal network of kindred spirits and like-minded organisations in both countries.
The two Martyns were soon well aware of the enormous potential for learning initiatives that could only be realised by establishing a credible, pro-active and professionally run educational charity so that the appropriate partners could be identified in order to jointly raise funding and manage their implementation. In 2014 they formally established The Secret War Museums & Learning Network (now branded as Secret WW2) to devise and develop museums & learning projects, principally linking Britain and France.