Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A History of the BBC's WW2 People's War site

There are some interesting pages here giving a full history of the project.

This brought a smile: Most of the wartime generation did not have computer access or the skills to use a computer, and much is made of this in the following pages. Whilst no doubt true, I think something could have been said about the many who were more than able to handle a computer, even if well past seventy. :)

Just an afterthought, wouldn't 'the wartime generation' have ranged between the ages of a few days and six years old in 1945? The majority of those who fought were of the 1920s' and earlier generations.


Blogger Tomcann said...

While it was true that the "Wartime Generation" would not have had either the computers nor the expertise to handle them - the fact remains that we did get our pay via a computer handled by the Army Pay Corps - and most efficient it was - with very few of the glitches which appear to dominate computer life to-day.
My own personal computer life started when I was 42 when the General Manager dropped into my office and announced that he would like the whole company to go on Computer - and without missing a beat - he then added that I would be running it and wanted it working inside nine months ! This was in l966 when all we had was whacking great IBM 360's and puch cards to enter all of our transactions - fortunately for me - I had a good staff and a sensible Systems Analyst and we made all targets inside the time frame.
Since then of course computer are way smaller and now my daughter e-mails me from her hand held blackberry - and I can understand it at 82 !

Wednesday, 19 April, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...

I think there's a world market for maybe five computers - Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, in 1940.

Wednesday, 19 April, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...

The Archive is not a historical record of events.

Even bearing in mind discussions about the accuracy of certain contributions, the Archive is most certainly a historical record of events.

Wednesday, 19 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Steve -
I have an everlasting memory of a photograph of Watson looking over the shoulder of Babbidge and his computer at Manchester University long before IBM became a force, so he was no visionary, and as a friend once remarked - "Tom Watson should have stuck to Golf and winning the British Open" !

Wednesday, 19 April, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hello folks,

Wasn't it Alan Turig who developed much of what led to the modern computer during WW2? The 'Wartime Generation' drove forward so many things we now take for granted. I must also say I do not find contributing via this 'Blog' method very easy (eg I still cannot fathom out how to get my photo posted to my User Profile!). Those of you from the 'Wartime Generation' seem to have mastered it, so you are far ahead of me on that account!

I do agree totally with your views about 'offical history', Frank. In fact, sometimes I have come across items in the 'official' historical record that is wrong. In cases where I have written about something and I believe the official record to be incorrect I have stated the reasons for this view.

Getting an 'official' authority to accept inaccuracies in their records and correct things is not easy. This is so even with 'irrefutable' documentary evidence if it is not of a type an authority will accept. For example, one inaccuracy I have referred to before is that a WW1 casualty I know about died on 9 April 1915. I know the family of the man concerned, they have newspaper cuttings from 1915, his name is on the local memorial as having died in 1915, and I have seen the official CWGC headstone which says he died in 1915. Yet, the 'official' CWGC website says Private 5882 Isaac Cartmell, Border Regiment, died in 1918.

Sometimes, 'official history' is corrected, but it is probably rare. For example, a lot of my WW2 University research dealt with the East Riding Yeomanry in WW2. Several articles I contributed to the "People's War" project werew about the ERY. Although I did not deal with this aspect for "People's War", the official 'War Diary' of the ERY for 1940 was amended after WW2. I What happened was that many of the officers and men actually involved were made POWs, and it was only aftert they were released at the end of the war that they found the 'official record' had several important inaccuracies. So, the 'official record' was amended to give the real facts of what happened. I would pay great credit to everyone in the ERY.

As I learnt a lot about the war in France, I have read a lot of the 'official' French viewpoint, especially according to Charles de Gaulle. in many respects this is different to the 'official' British, Canadian, American or Russian history of WW2. Sometimes, I feel 'official' history depends on who is writing it. For example, what is the 'official' date of the start of WW2 for example? For the French, British, Polish and Canadians it is September 1939. For the Russians the start of WW2 then they might say it is June 1941. For an American WW2, would be the 'day of infamy' in December 1941.

Returning to computers, they are an excellent tool and medium for recording many things. They are the means by which many things are recorded. But they are still only a tool.

Wednesday, 19 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ritson -
as I recall Alan Turig was the master mind of the computer built by a post office engineer involved in the Ultra carry on at Bletchley.
Turig finally committed suicide.
Babbidge was the forerunner of the computer as we know it to-day, but if you listen to the Americans - it was Thomas Watson who built IBM to what it is to-day - the big blue -
AND invented the computer.
Manchester University has all the records of the development of Babbidge's work, including the photo of Watson looking over Babbidge's shoulder.1928 - I think it was !
The British Army used the Hollerith Computer punched card system to calculate all the wages - such as they were - for all the troops - including stoppages for barrack damages !

It has to be said however that many nationalities - as in most scientific researches - claimed to have invented the computer as they did for the Atom Bomb - nevertheless the first step towards that event was made at the Rutherford research facility at Oxford.

Thursday, 20 April, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

The first computer was built by Tommy Flowers. Go here for a short history of computers.

Thursday, 20 April, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter -
that's a short history - looks pretty full to me - and I thought I had a large capacity PC. ?

Friday, 21 April, 2006  
Blogger Steve Wright said...


Sorry, I can't agree. For historians, the accounts in the Archive are Primary Sources of information. I would happily give examples of contributions to my students, in a History lesson, and get them to compare and contrast them with 'official' accounts of the same events.

Here's an example of the 'official' version being exposed as propaganda:

"It is interesting that in the official account of the British First and Sixth Airborne Divisions (HMSO 1945), it says that 'both machines were working on the strips within an hour of landing'." One Night In June, Kevin Shannon & Stephen Wright, Airlife 2001

These machines were bulldozers carried to Normandy in two Horsa gliders. Leading up to the above quote are the accounts of pilots who
flew those gliders. One states that his bulldozer took some getting out but was working within an hour of landing. The other says that his didn't even leave the glider because of the circumstances in which the glider landed and the reception it and its occupants received. Without these accounts the official one stands as recording historical 'fact'.

Friday, 21 April, 2006  

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