Interviews: pieces in the World War 2 jigsaw
Probably the most challenging interviews are those occasions when the interviewee offers very brief or even one-word answers in response to questions.
On the basis that an interview has been arranged with the agreement of all parties involved, the person being interviewed will have enough time to ‘gather their thoughts’ in order to give some detail and some depth to the questions posed to them.
There have been no more than three occasions when I got really stuck interviewing members of the wartime generation. Answers were ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or something like, for example, ‘We did what we were ordered to’ in response to ‘how did you feel personally when you were given orders which seemed almost suicidal in their expectations?’
In my experience, it is sons, daughters and other family members of Veterans and those who lived through the war that prove to be the most awkward to interview. I have been asked very many times to come and hear about ‘My Dad and his wartime service’ or ‘My Grandmother who served in the ATS’. A very interesting and welcome prospect for an author, of course!
However, more often than not these enthusiastic ‘representatives’ don’t have all the information needed to tell the full story. ‘I’ll have to check that and get back to you’ or ‘I forgot to ask my Granddad that, sorry’. Nonetheless, even a part story can be completed at a further interview or by email and I will always recognise and appreciate that ‘snippets’ of information eventually pieced together like a jigsaw will produce another fascinating story and another aspect of life during World War 2.
So, patience and a willingness to give time to research are just two of the essential requirements needed by every author.