Frequently Asked Questions about World War II Today
What is World War II Today?
World War II Today is my personal exploration of daily events in the 1939 – 1945 World War.
World War II Today presents what happened on the day, seventy five years ago. It focuses on individual incidents and experiences, rather than attempting a complete narrative history. So the history of the Second World War emerges with the progress of time. Wherever possible links are provided where a proper context can be found, either on another site or to a related book.
The first version of World War II was written between 2009 and 2015 on a daily basis, seventy years after the event. It then became necessary to ‘restart the war’ 75 years after the event on the leading page of World War II Today. Conveniently the war in Europe ended on 8th May 1945, it had begun in earnest almost exactly five years earlier, on 10th May 1940 ( I realise the Poles, Danes and Norwegians might not wholly agree – although the stories from the first months of the war 1939-1940 remain accessible in the WWII Today archives).
So, as from May 10th 2015 World War II Today began retelling the dramatic events of 75 years ago; the first battles in France, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the beginning of the Blitz. Alongside this World War II Today also followed events in Burma, Japan and the Far East in May 1945 through to August 1945, although not every day.
I realise it is a bit awkward to have a cross-over period of a few months covering both 1940 and 1945. Nevertheless it does seem to be the most natural point to make a break. This also means that that “Earlier in the War” links at the bottom of each entry are not strictly chronologically correct for a 4 month period during 2015.
The Archives, which can be accessed from the top of the blog should continue to be available in chronological order. The “forthcoming” month in the war will not always be available in the Archives – because I am revising the material for these entries with new stories, pictures and contemporary Newsreel, usually with material that was often not available when I first wrote the entry.
I have not provided individual links to topics on the most obvious sites such as Wikipedia, or the BBC, where you can find a fuller historical context. I try to provide as many links as possible to sites that deal with particular aspects of the war, these can be found on the individual daily entries to which they relate.
Why does a link not work? Why does a video say it is “private” or not play?
All the links and embedded videos were publicly available when they were first published on this site between 2009-2015 (seventy years after the war). Over time some of these external websites have become defunct or they change their web address for individual web ‘pages’. Videos that were publicly available suddenly have their status altered to private or are removed altogether. None of this is under my control. If you cannot see this material then neither can I.
I do not immediately remove these faulty links when I discover them – usually I find them during the republication of posts on this site. Sometimes they are a useful starting point for discovering the same material which may have been archived somewhere else on the web – for example using the Way Back Machine. They are also a reminder to me that this material exists somewhere – some one else may be publishing the same material or there may be an alternative somewhere on the web. It takes time to resolve these issues and to search around for a replacement.
How is this approach possible?
Web sites provide an excellent opportunity to present history in a new way, providing for the inclusion of a much greater volume of original or primary source material than would be possible in a conventional book, including many more photographic records than could be economically included in a book.
This site would not be possible without the the wonderful people at WordPress. This is a truly great free resource that allows anyone to start blogging or building rich websites.
Why World War II Today ?
I planned to do some original research with a view to writing a book about some aspect of World War II. It seemed useful to put some of my research online whilst I determined the exact area of the war I wished to examine.
Since then the blog has developed its own life. It has not been possible to do as much original research as I first intended, as well as maintain the blog daily. But I have discovered a great wealth of material already online that has made it possible to keep to the daily schedule.
As may be imagined I now have rather more developed ideas for a book or books.
Why has my comment not [yet] appeared in the comments section or in the Guestbook?
The most likely reason is that I have not yet seen it and approved it for publication. Even though I use quite strong spam filters some irrelevant (or worse) material continues to get through – so it is necessary to approve comments before publication. Usually this is done once a day, usually PM GMT. Occasionally I go away and it takes a few days longer if I don’t have ready access to the internet. It is also possible to Contact Me without expecting to see your message published.
What about Copyright?
I have sought only to make ‘fair use’ of illustrative quotations from copyright material, never using more than a small part of the whole work and always linking to where the whole work may be obtained. My purpose is to bring the whole work to a wider audience. More extensive extracts have been used with prior permission.
If you are a copyright holder who believes I have erred in any way please contact me and I will swiftly rectify the situation.
Does every episode correspond to an actual event on a particular day in World War II?
As far as possible, yes. My primary interest is in finding a personal memory of a particular event on a particular day. Failing that I look for an official account, or some other relevant material like a photograph, that can form the basis for the story.
Sometimes I find interesting material that does not correspond to a particular day but says something about that particular time. Or it may be that it is unclear exactly which date is being written about.
Not surprisingly men who were writing journals whilst on operations or in combat would not necessarily have carefully recorded every date. This becomes more likely in the cases of memoirs written some time after the event. It would be disappointing to exclude some of these.
So where someone is writing about a particular period but not a specific day I may include it and make it clear that this is the case. Also a series of photographs may be undated but represent a particular episode or aspect of life, such as the home front or military training and worthy of inclusion.
What I have not done is include material for one date that definitely relates to something that happened on another date.
Is all of your original material authentic?
So far as I am aware, yes.
The work that I use has always been presented by the publisher as a factual record taken from a diary or memoir and not a work of fiction. Similarly with official records.
There are works that are presented as memoirs that are definitely complete works of fiction, and I have even seen these included in otherwise authoritative anthologies. I have avoided these when this has been clear to me.
More problematic is a memoir that has been based on notes taken at the time and developed some years after the event. I think it is reasonable to include these but readers may be skeptical about some aspect of them. Such issues can be raised in the comments box.
Perhaps needless to say, if you are relying on material appearing on World War II Today for research purposes then I recommend looking at the original source material.
Do you cover every important aspect of the war?
It depends what you mean by ‘important’. Most of the events covered would have been considered important by the people personally involved in them.
In the immediate post war period in Britain the main elements of the war seemed to be the Battle of Britain, El Alamein and D-Day. Little was known of the Eastern Front. The Bomber Command campaign was neglected, seemingly deliberately at an official level. The contribution of Enigma was completely unknown. And that was in a democracy.
Our perspectives on the war, and what is ‘important’, will shift over time.
The kaleidoscopic nature of history as presented on World War II Today may not suit everyone. I enjoy a well argued, coherent ‘proper history’ as much as anyone else, but I think this is an equally valid method of approach – especially for the internet. And if it makes you think about what I have not covered then so much the better.
So I try to include some stories reflecting as many theatres of war as is possible. I do not attempt to include everything that even I might regard as ‘important’.
Are you too Anglo-centric?
Definitely. I am based in Britain and most of my research comes from what material is relatively readily available here.
There are some strange biases here. Just one example: in Britain it seems easier to obtain German memoirs of the war than its does Australian memoirs, particularly relating to campaigns in the Pacific.
But I do actively seek out as wide a range of material as possible and I am always open to suggestions.
Can I promote my book or website on World War II Today?
In general I do not just feature links to other websites or book promotions by themselves.
My primary interest is in personal accounts about specific individual events in the war.
If I think a book is relevant to World War II Today I will either feature an extract from it in the main blog – where it will be seen by the daily audience, or an extract from it in the ‘New’ section. That way readers have an opportunity to assess whether it is of interest to them.
You may wish to send me a review copy of the book – see Contact Me. Although I do not ‘review’ books in the conventional sense this would give me an opportunity to assess whether I can fit a short extract of it into the main blog as an account of something that happened on a particular day.
In every case where I feature an extract from a book I also include a link to where the book may be purchased or otherwise obtained. This is generally an Amazon site because this is most convenient to most readers – and is most likely to remain a relevant record of the books details over time. However I am happy to make the link to any other website you choose.
Do you benefit from Affiliate links to Amazon from books cited on World War II Today?
Yes I do. This makes a small contribution to the overall cost of running the website.
I use Amazon because this is most convenient to most readers – and is most likely to remain a relevant record of the books details over time. And it saves me having to write out all the details of a particular book, many of which are available in a variety of formats.
Can I search for lost relatives by posting a comment on World War II Today?
In general I do not encourage this. A general appeal contained in a comments box on this website is not a very effective method of doing this.
I do include memories of individuals who are mentioned in posts or involved in a particular incident or, for example, served on the ship mentioned. But this is rather different from “Did anyone know X ?”.
Can you help me trace a relative from World War II or tell me where to start?
This is really not my area of expertise at all … for British forces the best general guide I have seen is on the BBC website.
If you really want to find out about one of your ancestors you have to be organised and resolute. The best thing to do is gather all the information you have about the individual, dates, places and units served in, etc and start from there.
There are many other specialist sites for doing this type of research, and there are forums where you can get much better advice on this type of research than from me.
What tips can you offer on doing general military research in the UK?
I have written a general guide on How to start Military Research in the United Kingdom which covers some of the territory that may be useful for people doing research into their relatives or their relatives’ likely experiences in a particular unit or particular theatre of war.
Where can I post some information / pictures / diary about a relative who served in World War II?
There are many different websites that are dedicated to the history of individual units, most of them welcome contributions.
It is very easy to set up a web site or page about a particular individual – or perhaps more effectively the unit they were serving in – using many of the free facilities available on the internet – I can recommend http://wordpress.com . If you are more adventurous you can do the whole thing yourself very easily from http://wordpress.org.
What is ‘TNA’?
TNA stands for ‘The National Archives’.
This means the National Archives in Great Britain. For many years this was known worldwide as the Public Record Office – PRO – and there are thousands of old publications that use this reference.
Then a government decided to engage in an expensive ‘rebranding exercise’ and the National Archives was born. Until someone remembered that National Archives often meant the National Archives in the USA. So to make sure that everyone knew that it referred to the National Archives of Great Britain they called it THE National Archives.
The National Archives based at Kew in west London is a fascinating place for anyone interested in history. The staff are exceptionally helpful and very geared up to assist amateur historians and interested members of the public. If you plan a visit make sure you take the right personal documentation so that you can get a pass to get direct access to real historical documents. See http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.
Can I use the photographs that appear on this site?
All images used are believed to be in the public domain or freely licensed for re-use, unless otherwise stated. Most British images are Crown Copyright expired, being created for the Crown before 1st June 1957. Images shown as from the Bundesarchiv are from the Commons:Bundesarchiv under a Creative Commons license. Other images are from the United States National Archive, taken by Federal employees. Other images are believed to be copyright free because they were captured from the enemy and became Crown or Federal copyright which has now expired.
However I make no guarantee or warranty as to the copyright status of these images. Any copyright holder who believes I have erred should contact me and I will swiftly rectify the situation.
If there is definite information about the status of the image – and possibly an original caption or description – then I include this in the IPTC information in the image file. You can usually view this by doing a “Get info” about the file or similar, or viewing it in an image editor such as Photoshop. The nature of the web means that this information is not always available.
Where can I find a high resolution copy of an image used here?
Try a reverse image search to see who else has a copy of the picture. See https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en-GB
How do I find official British pictures taken during the war, including those taken overseas in every theatre of the war?
The best source is the Imperial War Museum … try searching for a range of terms at:
There are many photographs that the IWM does not have the resources to put online, so you would have to visit the museum itself in London to see the extent of the collection.
Note that pictures that were Crown Copyright during the war are now in the public domain because copyright has expired. A large number of them are also available on Wikimedia Commons.
How do I add World War II Today to my iPad or iPhone?
How do I contact you directly without leaving a public comment?
Please see Contact Me
World War II Today