Historical Information Officer
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matt lucasI have to be honest; I can’t remember a time when the Great War did not feature in my life. Listening intently as a small child to stories regarding my Grandfather (who survived) and his 2 brothers (who did not) and their service in the Royal Welch Fusiliers during the War. Followed by the discovery of my mother’s family’s involvement in the War, including a father and son who fell respectively on the first day of the Somme in 1916 and Ypres in 1918. My interest, or is that obsession? Grew with ‘Charley’s War’ in the comic Battle and books my father got from the local library, including Norman Gladden’s accounts of the Somme 1916 and Ypres 1917, all this before the age of 10! My interest in memorabilia from this period, likewise grew, from my grandfather’s medals to the large collection that I have now, that I show to students, both young and old. In fact from August this year the bulk of my collection ‘The Matthew Lucas collection’ will be on show at the Welsh Guards collection at Park Hall Oswestry, interestingly enough the military hospital there was where my Grandfather's older brother died whilst serving in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1917! So be sure to have a look if you find yourself in that part of the world. Qualifying as a nurse in 1994, I turned back to my passion – the Great War and military history, with a degree in War Studies and History at Wolverhampton University where I graduated in 2000. This was followed by work as a visiting lecturer, a role I still perform on an annual basis with the University’s field trip to Normandy. I now head up the oral history programme at the university where I have been interviewing British army veterans were served in the NW Europe campaign of 1944/45 the initial results available on the university’s web site and John Buckley’s ‘Monty’s Men’ published by Yale in 2013. John is working with me on D-day to victory: British soldiers and the experience of war in Northwest Europe 1944-45, to be published by Pen and Sword in 2015. More publications are to follow during the 2014-2018 period! I have also found myself, since 2001 guiding groups around the battlefields, both adult groups and schools and not just of the Western Front, but further afield as well. The sense of awe and wonder that greeted me the first time I visited the battlefields of the Western front back in 1990 has never left me. Be it the Somme, Ypres, Verdun, Gallipoli, Tobruk and even Vietnam, the privilege of being there remains. The school groups I find myself doing on a regular basis have been truly inspirational and one aspect of my work that I find very interesting. As for the WFA, I joined back in 1990 after seeing an article on the Merseyside branch in my local paper, at last, people with the same passion as myself! Over the years I have spoken at a number of branches, both in this country and overseas, and have seen some of my studies published in Stand To! Since 2008 I have been the Historical Information Officer for the association. What you may ask does this entail? During this period I have answered hundreds of queries from members of the WFA and public. Mainly on the topic of family history, I have been able to put the last piece of the jigsaw together for a number of people although sometimes asking more questions that I answer! From being to finally piece together the last movements of a lost relative to being able to bring together a colleague from university and the family of a man who was involved in the very attack he has just written about, has been a fascinating and sometimes humbling experience. I have also been getting a large number of queries from TV and the press and expect to get plenty more over the next few years! So for all you out there, be it family history, a battlefield visit or anything about the Great War drop me a line.

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