Paul Reed, Historical Consultant
An expert in military history, with over 10 years' experience in television, Paul Reed discusses the rewards of lending his expertise to the series.
My background is as a military historian; I studied history to post-graduate level and have spent a lifetime researching the subject and visiting battlefields all over the world, as well as writing numerous books on the subject. I have had the luck to spend time on these former battle sites with many WW2 veterans and interview hundreds of them over the years; among them my own father, who fought in Italy. So for me working on a series like this is a very personal experience in many ways.
As the historical consultant for the entire series my job was to assist in the research on the stories, advise on locations that could be filmed and make sure the history of each episode was on the right track. In fact my work on War Hero began several years ago during the original research for the series, and it was very exciting and challenging finding and developing stories like those for Chris Tarrant and Helen Lederer. With Chris I heard him talk about his father on the radio, and for Helen I found an article she wrote wondering what her connection to the Lederers who died in the Holocaust was. One of the great successes of the series is hopefully that both of them now have answers to the questions they have long wondered about.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some very experienced producers on the series, some of whom I have worked with on other projects. They all realised the value of having a historical consultant on the project, which meant that rather than – for example – follow the more well known story of David Gower’s Naval ancestor, we were able to find a lost uncle who died on D-Day and bring that whole episode to life through the experiences of one young man – and what a moving story it proved to be!
War Hero In My Family is not just about the men who stormed the beaches and charged the German guns. It tells the story of some of the unsung heroes of WW2: men like Lisa Faulkner’s grandfather, who was RAF ground crew; and Sara Cox’s relative, who was a motor mechanic in an infantry battalion and drove Jeeps in the Italian mountains. Everyone served, but without series like these, they don’t all have a voice.
I am very lucky that my passion and my hobby is my job; I have been working as a historical consultant to television now for more than a decade, and it is an excellent way of reaching an audience that perhaps would not always pick up a book on the subject. Television is by its nature a visual medium and can be a powerful tool for learning, and I hope that if nothing else the stories we tell in the series pay a long overdue respect to the many forgotten heroes of the Second World War.