Historical Eye

The Second World War

It is no exaggeration to say the world in which we live is still greatly influenced by the Second World War. But as a social and cultural historian, I find myself less interested in the geo-political or 'Top Down' considerations, important as they are; I am  more intrigued by the thoughts, hopes and goals of the individual and how they tied in to the overall experience of being at war.

It is worth reflecting that the last generation of men and women who witnessed the events we so often write and read about is fading fast. Thus it is important we attempt to capture as many oral accounts as possible. And while oral history is full of pitfalls, and sometimes raises more questions than answers, not to record these voices and memories would be an academic loss of unimaginable proportions. Fortunately, museums, archives and agencies have been doing this with great zeal over the past decade or more. Still, there is much work to be done and  time is now running out as the last generation to fight in the frontlines fades away.

I hope readers will find the stories of the Poles in the Second World War of particular interest. The Polish war record, while ably recorded in their mother tongue, has, for one reason or another, often been overlooked by many English-speaking historians. Thankfully, this is being fast corrected and the number of excellent works carefully charting Poland's war and the wider conflict in Central and Eastern Europe continues to grow, offering valuable reappraisals that are essential reading. In some small part, I hope to offer readers a little bit more insight here.

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This section is dedicated to the men and women I have interviewed who witnessed the Second World War.

The masters of Monte Cassino

The Polish pilot

First steps to freedom, Narvik, 1940

The art of survival: Axis POWs

Eagles on the Rhine

Who killed Yamamoto?

Kowalski's war

Volleyed and thundered, 1940

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