We have previously written about the importance of collectors to our research, but veteran families are another vital source of information for Air War Publications. We have been exceedingly fortunate to establish contact with more than 100 families of Second World War pilots and airmen. In some cases, these contacts have led to meetings in person and genuine friendships.
The Air War Publications team feel that it is vital we provide the human element to our stories, and we like to inform families of the activities of their forefathers during the war. Sometimes it is sad, when we inform them of how their loved one lost his life, but on other occasions we are able to tell them for the first time just what their father, grandfather, or uncle did between 1939 and 1945. As one nephew of a reconnaissance airman recently wrote to Andrew: “It is interesting that you have more information about my uncle than his family“!
Veteran families were vital for Adam and Andrew to tell the stories of the 1. Wüstennotstaffel and 2.(H)/Aufklärungsgruppe 14. In both cases we were fortunate to establish contact with the descendants of some key members of the unit. This provided us with previously unpublished photographs and first-hand accounts, and in return, the descendants of the veterans read the full story of their loved ones during the war. There was a sad aspect to these contacts, because both Luftwaffe airmen (Heinz Kroseberg and Günter Schultze-Quentell) lost their lives during the conflict, and their daughters had little to no memory of their fathers.
Some veteran families have no desire to learn more about their relative, and of course we respect that and leave them be. However, others are able to rummage through basements and attics to discover diaries, logbooks, photo albums, or memoirs. These are often previously unpublished, so are exceedingly valuable sources. Some veterans wrote down their air force stories during the post-war years, recorded them on cassette, or shared them orally with family members. It is an important goal of Air War Publications to ensure that these stories are not lost.
Veteran families will continue to be a valuable source well into the future, with the Air War Courland project in particular. We are very grateful that the numerous Americans, Australians, Austrians, Germans, Italians and people of numerous other nationalities have replied to our emails and letters enquiring if they are related to a particular airman. Without them, our publications would be much less interesting and valuable.