Some people who have very little interest in history find a love for the past in researching their own family history. With shows such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ (which one of my tutors was on), people have started to look for their families past in search of hidden treasure, famous links and controversy.
I am someone who personally I feel has a very interesting family and am even more lucky that a lot of our history is easy to find from what my family can tell me and other interesting sources.
One of the saddest but most documented parts of my family’s history is that my Great Grandfather died during the Second World War when Germans bombed the Guard’s Chapel in London. A short walk away from Buckingham Palace and 120 deaths with hundreds more injured make this World War Two disaster one that was recorded throughout the press.
My Great Grandfather had just finished the lesson at the service and was walking back to his seat as the bomb hit. Survivors talked of how the sound of the bomb stopped and they knew it was coming for them, and the pictures of the devastation make these stories all the worse. The rubble and surprisingly the alter were all that seemed to survive. I went to the rebuilt building a few years ago and the alter that stayed through the devastation and a new building built in memory of those who lost their lives that day and for those who lost their lives in combat was something that alone proves the importance of history, because history is predominately memory and we need to remember people such as these.
On Wednesday my Grandmother gave me a folder of newspaper articles about the event- with pictures showing the sight after the bombing and articles of eyewitness records. One that shocked me the most was that because of the bomb all the leaves were blown off the trees from the park and covered everything, which is a very disturbing image- something so green covering something so devastating. In this folder that my Grandmother gave me was also a letter that was left in my Great Grandfather’s typewriter- unsent. This letter and the last one he wrote to my Grandmother which had a drawing at the end, so like the ones my Grandmother does to me in her letters, are the sort of history that probably mean very little to most people, but to me mean everything.
I did not get enough time to read through all the articles, obituaries and letters that my Grandmother gave me, but what I read so far was extremely thought provoking. Once exams are over my plan is to read through all of them and photocopy them so we have copies and to organise them so my entire family can read them. Once I do all this I will upload some photos and tell you more.
I think our own history can impact are understanding of a greater history. World War Two for most people involved involvement and death, but now seems so far away from my generation that it is just history- not that much different than reading about English Civil War. However, many people are still living with the emotional and physical scars of the war and I personally think more people need to feel a more personal connection to events like this, especially historians, because at times all history blurs into something that is almost fiction- interesting to learn, but difficult to connect with.