I found out the other day that I had a paper accepted for another conference. This paper will form part of a panel of academics from the War Studies Group at Birmingham. It actually consists of myself and my two PhD supervisors. The conference is The Second World War: Popular Culture and Cultural Memory and is being held at the University of Brighton in July. This is the panel:
The British Military and the People’s War: Politics, Popular Culture and Cultural Memory
Chair: Dr. Steffen Prauser, Co-Director of the Centre for Second World War Studies, University of Birmingham and the German Historical Institute, Paris
Air Commodore (ret’d) Dr. Peter Gray, Senior Research Fellow in Air Power Studies, University of Birmingham – A Culture of ‘Organisational Squeamishness’: The Air Ministry and the Bomber Offensive
Professor Gary Sheffield, Chair of War Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Second World War Studies, University of Birmingham – Civilians in Uniform, Politics and The People’s War: Political Opinions of British Soldiers in the Second World War
Ross Mahoney, PhD Candidate, University of Birmingham – Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory and the Cultural Representation of Air Power Leadership
Here is the abstract for my paper:
Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory remains one of the greatest enigmas of the historiography of the Second World War: how did a leader with so many detractors reach the highest ranks and gain the most prestigious posts? His representation in the popular culture of the Second World War has added to this conundrum with most depictions viewing him as a stuffy, pompous and inflexible leader. This depiction was made famous by the 1969 film The Battle of Britain where Leigh-Mallory, portrayed by Patrick Wymark, is depicted as the bête noir of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding and Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park.
This paper seeks to assess the reasons why this image of such a senior and significant Royal Air Force commander has developed and how this popular portrayal has coloured any significant analysis of his contribution to victory in the Second World War. It will argue that the construction of a deep-rooted cultural memory is at the heart of this problem. It would be hard to imagine a statue of Leigh-Mallory appearing on the fourth pillar in Trafalgar Square, however, he played an important role in the defence of Britain in 1940 and the subsequent victory over Germany until his death in 1944.
This paper examines representations of Leigh-Mallory in a variety sources such as film, newspaper and popular historical works. It will seek to understand the contribution that these depictions have played in the construction of popular cultural memory and how this has shaped and shifted popular perceptions of him from a positive wartime representation in the media to a negative one in the post-war years. In understanding these perceptions, an attempt to compare and contextualise the cultural memory of Leigh-Mallory’s career regarding the historic record can begin to re-focus the debate over his contribution to the Second World War.
Hopefully this will get published at some point as it does not fit in with the central thrust of my thesis. At some point I will get roung to writing my thesis too.