I was extremely interested in having the opportunity to be involved as a Research Assistant in the University of Manchester Normandy Campaign Summer Project. I have a real passion for the history of World War Two, and being able to interview veterans with first-hand experience of the conflict was an incredible opportunity.
I read History at Cambridge University and pursued modules that have provided me with a detailed knowledge of World War Two. In my final year I specialised in a module entitled ‘Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin: The Grand Alliance’. This developed my skills in handling wartime primary sources, and had a strong focus on evaluating the uses of oral histories from the period. My study at university enhanced my ability with regards to historical research and operating within strict deadlines. I also have a personal interest as a result of my Grandfather having fought at Arnhem. Although this was not part of the Normandy Campaign, it has made me aware of the sensitivities of people who were involved in the Second World War and provided an insight of how to discuss their experiences whilst understanding some of their personal traumas.
Following successful completion of my History degree I joined the Teach First programme as a history teacher in a secondary school in the Midlands. Teaching History in a challenging urban context has developed my capability to produce engaging historical resources that can inspire a range of audiences. Managing conflict in a sometimes volatile atmosphere has also enabled me to become an effective mediator between different groups. These skills of mediation were developed as President of St Catharine’s College History Society, where I successfully negotiated with academic staff for undergraduates to receive revision supervisions prior to their final exams.
The opportunity to capture the testimony of the Stockport and District Normandy Veterans Association was an exciting opportunity, and I relished the chance of working with a prestigious university to develop resources based on their experiences. It was also an unforgettable experience to be able to visit Normandy for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings and join up with the veterans socially, as well as conducting interviews. I think that the immediacy of the visits to the cemeteries made their recollections more real and more poignant. All of them acknowledged that, as survivors, they were the lucky ones.