World War Two

British prisoners of war held at Stalag VIIA in November 1943

My most recent research has focused upon the lives of British prisoners of war in the Second World War. This is the first cultural history to be written on the lives of British prisoners of war in the Second World War who were held in Germany and Italy. I have sought to explain how these men made sense of their experiences both during captivity and once back in civilian life. I focus upon three aspects of their experiences: the social worlds in which they lived in whilst held behind barbed wire, the psychological strains they experienced in captivity and their memories of captivity. This research is based upon the records kept by 110 prisoners of war: their diaries, letters and memoirs.  To contexualize their personal narratives, I have also drawn upon psychiatric research and reports, government papers, and other post-war representations of captivity, such as film and literature.

My research shows that during captivity, and immediately afterwards, the ways in which these men made sense of their experiences were ambivalent, confused and contradictory. Later in life, however, British prisoners of war in the Second World War came to understand their lives in captivity by drawing upon the traditional discourses of warfare.

For more information on British prisoners of war in the Second World War, please see my speaking engagements and publications.