British 20-something takes to real-time tweeting of World War II

The Takeaway

Story from The Takeaway. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

Since Aug. 31, the eve of the anniversary of Germany’s invasion into Poland, Alwyn Collinson has been tweeting the events of World War II as if they were happening in real-time.

For the next six years, he’ll do the same, marking each day, 72 years ago, using the Twitter account, @realtimewwii.

“I just have too much time on my hand,” 24-year-old Collinson joked. “Basically, I wanted to see if I could use Twitter to give that feel of breaking news to events that happened so long ago.”

Collinson, 24, said he thinks it’s easy for people to forget that those who lived through World War II were just like us.

Collinson sends up to 40 tweets a day chronicling the war, using eyewitness accounts, photographs and video. His Twitter page now has more than 118,000 followers and his tweets are translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

People care about World War II, Collinson said, which is part of what led him to choose to tweet about it. He also said that the plethora of material out there about World War II, including photos, videos and eyewitness accounts, gives him a lot of interactive, immersive content to use while tweeting.

“It’s much easier to give that sense of being on the ground,” he said.

The tweets don’t cover everything that happened, Collinson acknowledged, but his hope is to provide a representative sample of what it was like to be living during thw war. Of course, speaking English and being British, the content tilts slightly toward that perspective of the war.

But he’s also included information about the Holocaust and other tragedies that would not have been known to Brits during the War.

For the first few weeks, Collinson had a few hundred followers, but quickly his popularity took off.

“I think it’s about people being really interested in seeing what it must have been like at the time,” he said. “People really do seem to care a tremendous amount.”


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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