Friends’ Events in 2021

New articles and podcasts are available in the Members’ area and we have more talks planned with a mini series of themed talks around climate change and weather related records in the archives, the Cold War, Spies in the Archives and research methods and evidence gathering.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 1 June 2021 – Rachel Trethewey

The Churchill Girls

Rachel Trethewey, author of The Churchill Girls, will talk about the wartime of Diana, Sarah, and Mary. They were each so different, but all three were imbued with a sense of responsibility to each other and their country. They not only contributed to the general effort at home, but also supported their father in his own war efforts. His daughters were eyewitnesses at some of the most crucial events in twentieth century history, travelling with him to the war conferences at Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam, where they met Stalin and Roosevelt.

Their contribution at the heart of his inner circle helped to change their father’s attitudes to the role of women in society. Yet being the children of the war leader brought with it a difficult blend of privilege and pressure, which would tell in later life.

Rachel Trethewey read History at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where she won the Philip Geddes Prize for student journalism. During her subsequent career she wrote features for the Daily Mail and Daily Express. She regularly reviews historical books and biographies for The Independent and has previously written Pearls Before Poppies: The Story of the Red Cross Pearls (The History Press, 2018) and Before Wallis: Edward VIII’s Other Women (The History Press, 2018).

The event is free to members but guests are welcome to attend for £5 (+ booking fee) per head. The £5 ticket price will be refundable against the cost of membership. Please log in as a member and navigate to The Talks Programme to see the booking link.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 30 June 2021 – Anne Curry

Henry V and the Conquest of Normandy 1417-1422

In 1417, two years after his army’s victory at Agincourt, Henry V returned to France with an equally large force. Within two years he had conquered virtually the whole of Normandy. This conquest is a truly remarkable campaign for which we have an exceptional, vast, and largely unexploited source in The National Archives. Almost as soon as Henry V landed a new chancery enrolment, the Norman rolls (C 64), was started to record the King’s acts in Normandy. This source gives detailed information not only on military aspects but also on relations with inhabitants of the duchy, reflecting Henry’s commitment to winning hearts and minds as well as territory. Anne Curry’s talk will show how these Norman rolls enhance our understanding of Henry as conqueror.

Anne Curry is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Southampton, where she was also Dean of the Faculty of Humanities from 2010 to 2018. She is a past president of The Historical Association and past chair of The Battlefields Trust, and has also served as Trustee of the Royal Armouries. She is Master elect of the Worshipful Company of Fletchers. She has published many books and articles on the Hundred Years War, and especially on the battle of Agincourt, which draw heavily on records in The National Archives. She edited the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England and co-directed the Gascon rolls project ( as well as a database of late medieval soldiers (

The event is free to members but guests are welcome to attend for £5 (+ booking fee) per head. The £5 ticket price will be refundable against the cost of membership. Please log in as a member and navigate to The Talks Programme to see the booking link.


Friends’ Event – Talk on 11 May 2021 – Stephen Taylor

Jack Tar’s Own Story

The common seaman was crucial in Britain’s rise to prosperity and expansion up to the Industrial Revolution. From crossing the globe in voyages of exploration to trading with India and China, and taking part in the naval battles that established command of the oceans, Jack Tar held the nation’s destiny in his calloused hands. Despite being witness to major historical events, Jack’s own story was largely untold.

Come along to hear Stephen Taylor tell that story as he challenges the assumption that sailors, as commoners of their time, must have have been illiterate. His talk is based on his book, Sons of the Waves, in which sailors’ memoirs and letters as well as archival records are used to tell the story. It is that of proud and spirited men, learned in their own fashion, who had robust opinions and the courage to challenge overweening authority.

In his talk the author will not only give us a picture of Jack’s role in our maritime past but also explain how he used documents at The National Archives to help him confirm the veracity of seafaring tales, some of which appeared on initial reading to be absurdly far-fetched.

Stephen Taylor is a former journalist, foreign correspondent and the author of eight books, of history, biography and travel.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 6 April 2021 – Dr Helen Fry

The Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in WWII

When Allied fighters were trapped behind enemy lines during WWII, one branch of military intelligence helped them escape: it was called MI9. The organization set up clandestine escape routes that zig-zagged across Nazi-occupied Europe, enabling soldiers and airmen to make their way back to Britain. Secret agents and resistance fighters risked their lives and those of their families to hide the men. Central to MI9’s success were figures such as Airey Neave – the first British prisoner to successfully escape from Colditz. Helen’s talk sheds light on escape and evasion with the previously untold stories behind the establishment of MI9 which was headquartered at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. She reveals for the first time that not only did MI9 save thousands of Allied lives, it contributed to a massive intelligence gathering operation that impacted on the Allies’ ability to turn the tide of the war.

Historian Dr Helen Fry has written numerous books on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. Her latest book is MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII – the first history of MI9 for 40 years. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily Mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War (2019). She has written over 25 books – including The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. Helen has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, including  David Jason’s Secret Service (Channel 4), Spying on Hitler’s Army (Channel 4) and Home Front Heroes (BBC1). Helen is an Ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence and President of the Friends of the National Archives.

Friends’ Event – AGM and talk on 23 March 2021 – Dr Alexander Hall

Who speaks for the flood? Exploring changing expectations in response to flooding and extreme weather in the UK

In this talk, historian Dr Alexander Hall will explore how across the twentieth-century, institutional, community and individual responses to flooding and other extreme weather events have changed. Using a range of different historical records, he will demonstrate how we can build a more in-depth picture of such fleeting, but often devastating disasters. By juxtaposing and incorporating views from national, regional, and scientific records, along with personal accounts, he will show how different historical events can look when viewed from a range of perspectives.

Dr Alexander Hall is a historian of science and an environmental historian who researches the history of science in popular media; exploring how scientists have gained positions of expertise in society, used the media to communicate complex theories to the public, and how non-scientific understandings of the natural environment have interacted with scientific knowledge. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham working on the project ‘Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum’, the co-project lead for the International Research Network for the Study of Science and Belief in Society, President of the International Commission for the History of Meteorology, and the History of Science Section Recorder for the British Science Association.

He has published works on a wide range of subjects from the history of flooding in the UK to the relationship between science and religion as depicted on broadcast media, and is currently working on a book titled, The story of evolution on British television and radio: Transmissions & Transmutations, which is under contract with Palgrave.

Friends’ Event – Talk on 1 December 2020 – Dr Caroline Sharples

Documenting the Death of Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler died in his Berlin Führerbunker on 30 April 1945. The conventional historical narrative, established by British Military Intelligence in November 1945 holds that the Nazi leader shot himself in the head once it became apparent that the Russian advance on the German capital was unstoppable. What evidence was there to support this conclusion – and what traces of this enquiry remain in the National Archives? This talk explores the scope of post-war Allied investigations, the political impact of Hitler’s passing and the challenges of finding clear-cut proof of death. Following the archival trail, it takes us beyond the usual scholarly focus on Hitler’s final movements to also consider public encounters with key documents and eyewitnesses and the meaning that Hitler’s death held for different audiences.

Dr Caroline Sharples is Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Roehampton. Her research interests encompass memories of National Socialism, representations of the Holocaust, war crimes trials and perpetrator burials and commemorations. She is the author of West Germany and the Nazi Legacy (Routledge, 2012) and Postwar Germany and the Holocaust (Bloomsbury, 2016), and co-editor, with Olaf Jensen, of Britain and the Holocaust: Remembering and Representing War and Genocide. She is currently completing a monograph on the cultural history of the death of Adolf Hitler.