The idea of writing a ‘real time’ project following the crew of B for Baker first came to me in late 2012. I’d realised the significance of 2014 as the 70th anniversary of the loss of the crew, and wanted to mark it in an appropriate way. A few weeks later I took the first steps in sorting through and assessing what information I had.
A year and a half, 102 posts and more than 81,000 words later, what has come out of the project? In pure blogging terms, I’ve seen a 50% increase in traffic – average daily views – since this series began. This is not to say that my traffic has ever been particularly high to begin with (let’s face it, it is a fairly niche subject), but I’ve been happy to see the level of interest increase as I’ve gone deeper into the story. Comments received through the blog have also been excellent and have produced some good contacts. It turns out there are more people interested in the Lille raid than I previously thought!
As I said right at the beginning, digital publishing is ideally suited to a project of this nature. 80,000 words is almost a book in itself, but I wouldn’t want to read all of these posts in one hit. Each post, by design, is really a stand-alone article (though it helps to have some idea of the back story to follow the thread). Publishing the story in chunks spreads out the effort of reading all that detail at once and, I hope, keeps the interest going.
The other advantage of digital publishing, of course, is that revisions can be made if and when new information becomes known. My copy of the ORBs in particular is sometimes not very clear to read and there are errors dotted throughout the original documents… and sometimes I’ve simply mistyped in either transcription or writing. In particular I am indebted to Graham Wallace of the Bomber Command History Forum who sent numerous corrections through as the project progressed. Thanks are also due to Chris Dean of the RAF Waddington Heritage Centre, who reminded me of the existence of the excellent ‘Waddington Collection’ of photos that follow the history of the squadrons on that airfield. Among others, the highly atmospheric photo of the bombers taking off from Waddington for Munich on 24 April 1944 came from that collection.
All in all, I think this was a very worthwhile exercise. I’ve researched and produced what is probably the biggest single piece of work I’ve ever written. I’ve gained a reasonably detailed knowledge of what those seven men were doing while they were on the squadron. I’ve been able to share the story of the crew, seven decades to the day since the events described, with a whole host of interested people, from all around the world.
And that was the main aim. While people know about them, the memory of those seven men will live on. If I’ve contributed to that in some way, I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve.
© 2014 Adam Purcell