It is a long time since I shared with you what I was up to, away from the knockabout world of blog posting. Some of you will know that for the last four years at least I have been researching the boys of the High School who gave their lives in the Second World War. At first, it was seven days a week, four hours a day, but I am now down to six days a week with three hours as a minimum and the usual being around three and a half hours. It’s difficult to describe what a huge job it was:
I began this mammoth task because as far as I was aware, nobody had ever carried out any research whatsoever about the brave Old Nottinghamians who gave their lives during the Second World War. At the moment I have around 120 people to include in an eventual book, of which 110 are men who qualify 100% as war casualties. Because of the volume of information I have discovered, hundreds of thousands of words, the final work is likely to be in three volumes if not four:
The majority of research I have carried out on the Internet which has supplied me with details which have never been known before. Most of all, I have discovered a large number of former pupils who deserve to be recognised as Old Nottinghamian war casualties but who were not included when the original lists were being compiled:
That is far from a criticism. In the late 1940s, how could anybody have found out that a little boy of eight or nine who spent just a couple of terms in the Preparatory School in the early 1920s had been killed in a tank three miles east of Hamburg five years before? Communication by letter:
and communication by postcard:
with other information distributed in newspapers could not possibly have coped with demands of this kind:
On occasion, the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, got me started with my researches, but overall, the solutions were largely provided by the men who have dedicated their entire lives to the recording of the minutest details of the Second World War. Men who have recorded the names of every RAF man killed in an aircraft of Bomber Command. Men who have recorded the names of every sailor who did not come home from the sea in World War Two. Every U-boat captain and his every kill. Every nightfighter pilot and every bomber he shot down:
I just felt that, unless I did produced some committed and detailed research of my own right now, there was a real risk that nothing would have been done by the time we reached the centenary of the beginning of the conflict in 2039.
In many ways, that absence of detailed research by others might even be seen as a bonus, because there would be very few people out there who could contradict what I had written. On the other hand, I do feel that after so many thousands of hours working on the project, there should be no huge errors in what I have produced. (Touch wood). Even my best guesses have often proved later to be quite reasonable ones, based on what, in many cases, is a paucity of actual facts.
26 responses to “My Book (1)”
It’s a huge undertaking and Knowing what wartime records are like, fraught with pitfalls and contradicting information, I’m sure your tenacity and dedication will see you through. I know it’s something close to your heart John, and that it’ll be written in the best possible way. I admire the effort you are making to record the lives and deaths of these young men, it would make a great reference for others to follow. Well done and keep at it!
Thank you for those words of encouragement. All of my research is from the Internet and books. My circumstances prevent my going to look at archives, but I’ve still found the proverbial shedload of material to use.
It’s certainly been a godsend for historians, both ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’.
A formidable task and wish you well in your research, it appears to be a monumental endeavour but a great legacy for those that time has forgotten.
Absolutely. I’ve also tried to include a little ,about the colleagues of the casualty and to talk about why they were all doing what they were doing. Campaigns such as clearing the banks of the Scheldt estuary don’t mean a great deal these days and neither does the vast list of code names…..Operation Husky, Operation Fustian. Most young people today would not even recognise Operation Market Garden.
Such an enormous task on which you are doing so well, John
I had told people that I would be finished by Christmas, although I rather foolishly meant Christmas 2015. At the moment I would be disappointed not to have produced something by this Christmas.
You assigned yourself a formidable task and I trust you will do your utmost to accomplish it as thoroughly as possible. We may only know each other on the cyberspace realm, but I believe I can trust my instincts here. You, my friend, are one excellent researcher!!
Thank you very much for those kind words. I have done as much research as I can, given that I an constricted by a back problem which means that I cannot get around like I used to. On the other hand, that is what the Internet is for, and I have found out a great deal of hitherto unknown material by the googling skills I learnt from Scooby Doo all those years ago.
Take care of yourself, my friend!!
It is wonderful that you are doing this research. We wish you all the best.
Thank you very much. I’ve actually found three or four casualties who died in India or present day Pakistan. Most commonly, they were doctors who finished up by dying in their own hospital from the diseases they were trying to cure.
I suppose that is life, but it hurts to read about people who die young. We read about violence everywhere.
Well done in persevering in this huge task.
Thank you. As I mentioned above, I developed a serious back problem in the year before I retired, but I’ve tried to use it to my advantage by sitting at a desk and researching for a certain number of hours per day.
I’m very impressed indeed John. Best of luck with it. So much information, even on the Web, goes unspotted. (Yesterday I found some old slides of the “digs” done during the wholesale trashing of Nottingham in the 60s and 70s – it had taken 30-40 years to get the stuff on the internet).
I hope I’m not speaking out of turn, but it would be nice if the School could help somehow.
They have helped me mainly by letting me have time in the archives where I photographed the form lists so that I knew everybody’s exam results. I did the same with a good few of the Nottinghamians of the period so I have some idea of school plays, sports results and so on. The Headmaster also had any school reports about the people concerned photocopied and passed on to me.
Having said that, at least 70% of my investigations has come from statistical books about the RAF and their casualties, Kelly’s Directories, Wikipedia and plain googling which has turned up a lot of web pages about individual incidents during the war.
Congratulations! Researching is fun and exhausting. I’m really happy for you. Your efforts are close to fruition. When will you publish it so I can read it?
Thank you very much. I’m hoping for something by Christmas, and that’s Christmas this year. I am currently involved in trying to do corrections to the text and sorting out who goes into the book and who is perhaps an error. Over here we had an enormous number of people called George Brown involved in WW2!
But Christmas is my sincere hope for something to appear!
It would be a fine way to wrap up the year. Lot’s of George Brown’s, eh? Who’d of thought!
John, I am so darn proud of you and am humbled that I know you through this means. Reading your posts over the years, I know how thorough you are. I have every confidence that your series will be a great hit. AND that you will have done your very very best. My Dad if he were still alive, probably would have tears in his eyes if he knew about you and what you are doing. Yes he was in WWII. Bless you from the bottom of my Heart for getting such an important piece of history right!!
Thank you, Amy. I appreciate your words of encouragement. I have tried to be thorough and I have done my best although it is inevitable that I will have missed things out. At the moment I have around 120 accounts in Word and I am working on the typos and on trying to work out how to divide them up to form reasonably sized books. It would be silly to have a book that is too heavy to lift!
This sort of project is no small undertaking. Wishing you well in the completion of your book!
Thank you so much. And you are right…it has proved an enormous project because there are so many of them, but each and every one deserves the very best treatment and I hope that I will manage to give it to them.
This is very impressive John, i wish yiy all the best with getting it done.
Thanks a lot, Lloyd. I’m determined to get this finished, hopefully in the next six months.