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30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 10 November 2009

Vanessa Collingridge and the team investigate the impact of racial segregation in the American armed forces in Britain during WWII, why we don't know as much as we think we do about our historic battlefields, how Indian soldiers on the Western Front have been misprepresented in history, and a chance buy at auction reveals a 300-year history of navigation at sea.


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  • Battlefield Archaeology

    Following the news that the Battle of Bosworth took place at a different location to that previously thought, a listener contacted Making History to ask for more information about what we know about our historic battlefield sites. Making History consulted Dr Glenn Foard of the Battlefield Trust about the need for better battlefield archaeology.

    Dr Foard explained that battlefield archaeology is a relatively new area of academic endeavour and that archaeologists have been slow to pick up on new technologies. In particular, because many artefacts from battles are ferrous and are left in the topsoil they are more easily picked up by metal detectorists and these people have only recently been accepted into the archaeological community.

    One issue that Dr Foard highlighted was the surprising lack of protection for our historic battlefield sites and he urged government to address this before more damage is done.

  • Useful links: The Battlefield Trust

    The Battlefield Trust aims to:

    - save battlefields from destruction by motorways, housing developments etc.

    - provide a range of battlefield-related activities and information, including the quarterly journal 'Battlefield', battlefield walks and conferences.

    - liase with local and national organisations to preserve battlefields for posterity.

    - improve the interpretation and presentation of battlefields.

    The Battlefield Trust
  • Useful links: Centre for Battlefield Archaeology

    "The Centre for Battlefield Archaeology was established in April 2006. Drawing experience from GUARD and the Department of Archaeology the Centre is the first facility of its kind and has earned a reputation as an international centre of excellence for the burgeoning study of the archaeology of battlefields and other archaeological manifestations of human conflict."

    Centre for Battlefield Archaeology
  • Useful Links: Battlefield Archaeology

    "This document contains a series of guidelines which are intended to assist a variety of individuals, from
    development control officers, land managers, prospective developers, archaeologists, to metal detectorists and other interested parties in assessing the impact of potential work on sites of historic battles or conflicts."

    Battlefield Archaeology - A guide to the archaeology of conflict (.pdf)
  • Useful links: Battlefield Archaeology on the BBC

    "Battlefield sites provide rich seams of frozen history: skeletal remains, weaponry, artefacts and ammunition can bring skirmishes and conflict vividly back to life, and sometimes revise accepted views of history. Military archaeologists Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard describe the array of techniques employed to reveal the past."

    Two men in a trench discuss Battlefield Archaeology
  • Further reading

    Battlefield Archaeology
    by Jon Cooksey and Tim Lynch
    published by The History Press Ltd 2007
    ISBN 0752440942

  • Black and White GIs

    A listener in Leicester wrote to the programme asking us to confirm that black and white American GIs used guns on each other in Leicester during the Second World War.

    Making History’s Lizz Pearson compiled a report which explained why the American armed forces were racially segregated, how this effected the relationship between civilians and troops and why this all came to an end.

    Put simply, the racial segregation of American forces mirrored that in American society. The continued segregation whilst here in the UK was essentially a political fudge and one that genuinely baffled many British people – though this is not to deny that there were racist responses.

    Making History consulted Professor David Reynolds at the University of Cambridge.

    The following links help tell the story of racial segregation of American troops:

  • Useful links: Blacks in Britain, 1942

    "From the vantage point of nearly half a century, it is hard to remember that in World War II, the United States military was almost as segregated as the American South, whence came a disproportionate share of its leaders. Although blacks' involvement in wars and uprisings dated back to the Boston Massacre, their participation was limited."

    NY Times review of When Jim Crow met John Bull
  • Useful links: Brown Babies

    "Brown Babies are an exclusive but little-known group - children born of the relationships between white English mothers and black American soldiers stationed in Britain during World War II."

    Brown Babies (from Channel 4's Black History Month)
  • Useful links: The black GIs

    "The way that the black GIs were kept apart from the white troops - different camps, different off-duty nights to come into Truro - astounded our parents. It was puzzling and disappointing."

    This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer, Pam McCarthy on behalf of Bernard Peters.

    The black GIs (from BBC's People's War)
  • Further reading

    When Jim Crow met John Bull: Black American Soldiers in World War II Britain.
    By Graham Smith.
    New York: St. Martin's Press.

    Race War: Black American GIs and West Indians in Britain During The Second World War
    Neil A. Wynn - Professor of 20th Century American History at the University of Gloucestershire.
    Published in Immigrants and Minorities 2006.

    Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945 (1995)
    Professor David Reynolds
    Random House
    ISBN 0517168715

  • Elements of Navigation

    A Making History listener contacted the programme about a book he bought at auction. It’s a hand-written manuscript by a boy at Christ’s Hospital in the early years of the nineteenth century. His name was George Charles Searle and the book is a copy of something known as "The Elements of Navigation.

    Making History consulted Pieter Van Der Merwe the General Editor at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and he explained that the book was essentially an exercise book for students at the Royal Mathematical Foundation which was based at Christ’s Hospital from the end of the seventeenth century and was a way of allowing poor students to train as navigators for the Royal and merchant navies.

  • Useful links: Brtitish Society for the History of Mathematics

    "The British Society for the History of Mathematics exists to promote research into the history of mathematics and its use at all levels of mathematics education."

    Brtitish Society for the History of Mathematics
  • Useful links: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

    "These silver badges were struck for sewing to the coats of the 40 mathematical scholars of the nautical school - known as the Royal Mathematical Foundation - established within Christ's Hospital School (the Bluecoat school) in 1672 by Charles II."

    Badge of the mathematical scholars of Christ's Hospital
  • Useful links: Christ's Hospital

    "Christ's Hospital is a co-educational independent boarding school originally founded in the 16th century."

    Christ’s Hospital
  • Useful links: Christ's Hospital

    "Christ's Hospital is a co-educational independent boarding school originally founded in the 16th century."

    Christ’s Hospital
  • Indian Troops on the Western Front

    A listener is trying to research the career of his grandfather, a Sikh who served in the cavalry on the Western Front.

    He wanted advice on how to go about this. Making History consulted Andy Robertshaw, Director of the Royal Logistic Corp Museum at Deepcut in Surrey. He is a specialist on World War I and explained the record of Indian troops and dispelled some myths.

  • Useful links: Andrew Robertshaw

    "Andrew Robertshaw is Curator/Manager of The Royal Logistic Corps Museum in Deepcut. He was previously Head of Education at The National Army Museum."

    Andrew Robertshaw
  • Useful links: India and the Western Front

    "The Indian Army fought in every major theatre of operations during World War One. Letters home from Indian soldiers on the Western Front offer extraordinary insights into their feelings about the conflict and their impressions of European culture."

    India and the Western Front (BBC History)
  • Useful links: the Indian Army in WWI

    "During World War I, 1,040,000 Indian Army troops were deployed on various fronts oversees."

    World War I and Post War Reforms of the Indian Army
  • Useful contacts: Army Personnel Centre

    Andy Robertshaw explained that if the listener’s grandfather had finished his service before 1920 his records would most likely be in the National Archive or in India.

    However, we know that he was serving until 1925 and for reasons of confidentiality an application has to be made to the MoD Historical Disclosures office in Glasgow.

    Army Personnel Centre
    HQ Secretariat
    Historical Disclosures
    Mail Point 400
    Kentigern House
    65 Brown Street
    Glasgow G2 8EX.

  • Contact Making History



    Write to:

    Making History
    BBC Radio 4
    PO Box 3096
    BN1 1PL

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