No I have not been ostracised by my family…
Instead I have made my move to begin my PhD, which begins tomorrow. The move raised an important decision for me as I had to decide where to live and this decision was very much dependent on two key factors. First, ease of getting to the various archives here in the UK. Second how close I wished to be to my uni.
On the second issue it was a relatively easy decision as I wished to be close as Birmingham has a thriving postgraduate community and the Centres for First and Second World War Studies have an excellent series of seminars and day schools, which was something I wished to experience as I did not have that chance while doing my MPhil.
Having made that decision I need to look for somewhere in the Midlands area and for me it really came down to three choices. First, uni accommodation, which having experienced before I was not keen to do again and it was not helped by the fact that due to over subscription universities only guarantee accommodation to first year, even that is becoming rare too. So that was out of the window. Second, private accommodation in Birmingham, this did not inspire me either. Being a student means there would be limitations and to be honest I have gotten used to a certain standard since I left my undergrad years. My finally choice, the one I picked, was fortuitous. My father is from Coventry, about 40 minutes away from uni by train, therefore, we have family living in the area. In particular my uncle, who is single, has his own house. So a phone called was made and deal done. Coventry is a good choice for me as it is in central England with good routes to London and Birmingham and then from there I can get anywhere in the country. I suppose I am lucky in this but it does show one of the key decisions that have to be made when considering any university course. Accommodation is important and a good decision will I think save a lot of hassle in long run. It is not just about whom you live with, or not as the case may be, but also ease of travel is vital for the research aspect of the course.
Anyway Coventry was also fortuitous for another reason too; its link to air power. It has two important links. The first is that Coventry is the birth place of Sir Frank Whittle who was one of the early pioneers of the jet engine, though there has been some debate over this. He shares credit with Germany’s Dr. Hans von Ohain for independently inventing the jet engine, he is hailed as a father of jet propulsion. Outside of the Coventry Transport Museum, which I will be visiting tomorrow, there is a statue and blue plaque dedicated to Whittle. Here are a couple of pics.
The other link is more infamous. Of course it is the bombing of Coventry in November 1940, the so called Coventry Blitz. Coventry became, alongside London, Hull and Plymouth the most bombed city in the UK. The bombing has been controversial principally because of its links to ULTRA intelligence and the argument put forward by Winterbotham in The Ultra Secret that Churchill knew of the bombing through decrypts and that in order not to compromise this vital intelligence source no warning was given about the bombing of 14 November 1940. However, Winterbotham’s view has been contradicted by several accounts. The raid of 14 November was also important for its use of X-Great and was part of the Battle of the Beams between the RAF and Luftwaffe. The bombing also led to the term to Coventrate by the Germans. It is defined as:
Coventrate, v. (temporary.) To bomb intensively; to devastate sections of (a city) by concentrated bombing, such as that inflicted on Coventry, Warwickshire, in November 1940. So coventrating vbl. N
During the war Coventry became twinned with Stalingrad (Volgograd) as a sign of solidarity between two devastated cities from the conflict. Also most recently Coventry has become twinned with Dresden, which was devastated by bombing in February 1945 and has similarly aroused controversy in the historiography of air power.
Maybe more on my new hometowns links to air power when I get the chance…