An Analysis of British Army Veterans’ Oral Testimony and the Campaign in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945
AbstractWar veterans have long been seen as natural subjects for oral history, and the task of collecting their reminiscences has been the focus of substantial attention by institutions such as the Imperial War Museum. Military historians often draw upon such interviews in their research; however, their handling of this evidence remains hesitant and largely divorced from the substantial theory which has been developed by academic oral historians. Oral historians have themselves devoted little attention to the particular problems posed by the use of veterans’ testimony. This thesis applies oral history theory to the testimony of thirty-three British Army veterans of the 1944-5 campaign in Northwest Europe, in order to explore the unique features of veterans’ oral history and assess its usefulness in military history. This involves firstly establishing the basic reliability of oral evidence, and then considering the effects of popular memory, the individual circumstances of the interviewees, and trauma, in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of the distortions that can arise in veterans’ testimony. The interview evidence is then applied to three key issues of the 1944-5 campaign, combat experience, morale, and doctrine, to assess the contribution it can make to key issues in military history. The thesis outlines a more complex understanding of veteran’s testimony than has previously been put forward, and contends that when subjected to an appropriate research methodology interview evidence can be a valuable tool in the military historian’s arsenal.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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