Saturday, 30 March 2013

Research is a Journey of Undiscovered Jewels.

I began the research for my novel approximately 18 months ago. Historical fiction is not exactly straight forward -well, you can't simply write from your imagination. Historical accuracy is essential, especially if you want good reviews! The problem I have is that just when I think I have done the ground work, my writing reveals that's not quite the case. I find that I am forever dipping in and out of books, looking up this and that and spending hours online researching. The perils of the latter, as you will be well aware are that one can so easily become sidetracked and waste time.

One of the biggest problems I've encountered is 'place.' Researching the place where particular events happened is clearly essential and the best way forward is to visit the relevant locations. However, whilst location never alters, landscape invariably does. For me, visiting old airfields is great but frustrating. The majority are as if they never existed, the land having been returned back to agricultural use. Decaying old Nissen huts and watch towers are about the most one gets to see with perhaps the occasional old aircraft hangar.
Nissen huts
At the end of it all I have come to realise that I can only discover so much about the past. Times have changed and I'll never really know what it was like during the 1940's. I'll never truly know what it felt like to fly in a Lancaster Bomber or a B-17. I'll never witness the sight of an Me-110 fighter coming straight towards a B-17, firing until he shoots her down, crew and all. These are the sort of facts that I've searched through countless books to discover. Essentially, books, films and museums have been my main resources.
Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, UK.
Museums are invaluable. You can wander around, soaking up the atmosphere as you marvel at the displays. At the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre (above), you can even pay for a 'taxi' ride in a real Lancaster Bomber, named 'Just Jane.' You get to have a look inside and take up a position such as navigator or radio operator, where you sit whilst the aircraft is 'taxied' across the runway. Sadly you don't take off and fly but wouldn't it be fantastic if you could? And in case you don't know, 'Just Jane' featured in the Doctor Who Christmas special 2011.

Control TowerThe museum was established by Fred and Harold Panton, two farmers who lost their elder brother, Pilot Officer Christopher Panton during World War Two. He was tragically killed in a raid over Nuremburg on March 30th, 1944. Christopher was among the many who lost their lives in Bomber Command. The centre also has a Spitfire and some fantastic exhibits -well worth a visit if you ever visit the county. It's on the site of the former RAF East Kirkby. In total, 212 operations were flown from this base during the war, with 121 Lancasters failing to return.

The control tower has been fully restored with recreated sounds of a night operation in Berlin.

A total of 840 airmen gave their lives during the war. Their names are inscribed on a roll of Honour within the Station Chapel.

The Panton brothers made a trip to Germany many years after the loss of their brother, to visit his crash site. They discovered fragments of his plane just beneath the surface of the ground, fragments which they collected and put on display in the museum. They also found the cycling spanner which their brother always kept in his uniform pocket -still with a piece of his uniform attached. They never cleaned it.

The museum is amazing and worth visiting especially if you'd like to show your support. The family have done  fantastic preservation work here, keeping a small piece of England as a memorial to those who gave their lives and so much more so that we might have a safer future.