Looking back at the original post, where I define our objective as understanding more about the unspoken history of our Grandfather’s role in the War, we seem to have strayed a rather long way off topic.
To use a flying analogy (sorry), I’d like to think that we are circling over the target rather than veering hopelessly off course.
Before I could start to really think about Grandpa, we needed to gather more context. How could we understand his circumstances without first gaining a broader understanding of the wider picture?
The Battle of Britain marks the first major air-engagement for England and was a logical starting point. As previously noted, to gather the widest view, we’ve been looking at histories, biographies, visiting airfields etc.
This early effort has started to build up the knowledge base, but it then opened up a new question: how does one record history?
If I was a history academic, this question would have been exposed and dealt with during an undergraduate degree (thanks to all those post-modernists), but as an amateur, it’s a troubling matter.
How do you get to the core meaning of any event? Surely facts alone can’t tell a story (look, for example at Westhampnett at War. It gives a list of Squadrons who were based there, but the meaning of the book comes from the long letter of a veteran written many decades later).
This tension is well-represented by Park and Leigh-Mallory. Park, unrecorded in the official history of the Battle, had a bronze statue unveiled in his honour 70 years later. Leigh-Mallory, celebrated and promoted in his short life-time now stands as a political climber who misplayed his hand.
The challenge will come in both interpreting the information we find and in transcribing the facts into our own history.