This post is a rare departure from the usual content that I publish on this blog. I have been prompted to write it as a response to a message that I recently received asking me to edit the content of a particular article as information contained in it, which I hasten to add is in the public domain and is readily and freely available to view, was considered to be unpalatable.
I will not comply with such requests.
The reason why I spend many hours researching individual soldiers, using information recorded in a variety of primary and secondary sources which are cross-referenced, is to try and tell their stories as honestly as possible. I fully understand that descendants of soldiers can be surprised by information that they come across which they may find uncomfortable. However I am writing about real people, not abstract characters. In order to do them justice I include all the details that are available for me to utilise in order to recount their stories as accurately and honestly as possible. To censor or purposefully omit information that is already available in the public domain is not the right way to go.
As Rudyard Kipling observed in his famous poem ‘Tommy’:
“… single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints…”
Anyone who conducts research into the lives of soldiers and is fortunate enough to discover that their service record has survived is likely to find that recorded on there are any misdemeanors, usually involving drunkeness or insubordination towards a more senior rank, and also instances of individuals contracting sexually-transmitted diseases. These details may not be to the finder’s liking but they are bald facts entered on a service record that cannot, and for the historian, should not be ignored or swept under the carpet as inconvenient truths.
I will therefore continue as I have always done and present my research on individual soldiers or subjects and will do it without purposefully misrepresenting them or their experiences.