Anthony Delahoy, one of the British Second World War veterans interviewed by Greg Tinker as part of his PhD research project. Photograph courtesy of Greg Tinker.
Our guest blogger, Greg Tinker, conducted his doctoral research on cultural memory and the Second World War. Studying for his PhD at the University of Reading, he explored the relationship between British veterans and remembrance. Here he describes some of the findings of his thesis.
I joined the University of Reading’s Languages at War team to research and write my doctoral thesis on British Second World War veterans’ remembrance activities. Languages at War was an AHRC-funded research project that aimed to provide new insights into the policies and practices of language contacts in conflict. The research documented veterans’ ‘Heroes Return’ visits to former sites of battle, embarked on as part of the government’s Veterans Reunited national remembrance programme, mounted to mark the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day and the end of the Second World War in Europe in 2004-5.
The IWM contributed to the programme with Their Past Your Future (TPYF), an education project that grew out of a youth remembrance scheme created by the UK government’scross-departmental Veterans Task Force. The Task Force had been set up by the Prime Minister in 2001 to promote wider public recognition of the achievements of British armed forces veterans and service personnel.
The visit of Margaret Thatcher to the Cabinet War Rooms, 4 April 1984. IWM-1984-15-1.
With all the recent coverage of the life and times of Margaret Thatcher, I thought it might be interesting to delve into the Radio Moscow material stored at Duxford to see how the election of Britain’s first female Prime Minister was reported to British listeners by a Soviet media source. Expecting a diatribe against the ‘Iron Lady’ from a committed ideological opponent, I was surprised to find instead concentrated criticism of James Callaghan’s outgoing Labour government.
Initial analysis found only a passing reference to Thatcher. There was an official greeting offered by Soviet Statesman Aleksey Kosygin and an acknowledgement that the first woman Prime Minister had made history. Otherwise, Radio Moscow reserved its criticism for Callaghan, and his predecessor Harold Wilson, accusing them of losing the election and attacking them on terms that would later become familiar amongst opponents of Thatcher.
The BBC monitoring reports in store
The wooden library trolley creaks into our Board Room. Piled on its shelves are around twenty boxes of transcripts made by the BBC Monitoring Service during and after the Second World War. Around the table are gathered four academics – Professor Hilary Footitt, Professor David Welch, Dr Alban Webb and Dr Peter Busch – who have kindly agreed to give us their thoughts on where we go next with this large, academically potent collection.
The reports were compiled by specially-recruited linguists (many of them refugees from Nazi Europe), to furnish the wartime government with an additional source of intelligence – how events were being reported on the radio within Axis and occupied countries. The reports show what the British Government knew from this ‘Open Source intelligence’, when they knew it and how that knowledge was used.