As I look back over the past 7 or so years of writing a book that I never intended to write, I often
ponder the skills I learned while delving into to story of my Dad and his crew.
I have always been a bit of a Luddite – modern technology often seemed to me to promise more
than it delivered (and to sometimes bring nasty and unexpected pitfalls), and I still feel that way about
social media. But there is no doubt that without the internet, this book could never have been written.
The resources available today online mean that anyone can bring to bear research power that would
boggle the mind of a scholar, a whole department of scholars, only 30 years ago.
I can still recall my amazement and delight when I opened up a document I had downloaded from
the U.K. National Archives and saw the original Bomber Command squadron records detailing that
night’s raid. My Dad and his crewmates were each listed, and what they had seen and experienced was
detailed, often in their own words (see an example above). This was real history, and it thrilled me!
Similar discoveries awaited me as I honed my research skills through trial and error, and by watching
YouTube tutorials. Online forums proved invaluable – I joined a community of curious researchers who
valued the past as much as I did. We helped each other whenever we could in our individual areas of
Then there was eBay. I decided to try and find and purchase some original WW2 documents and
photographs rather than just download “stock” images to illustrate The Job to be Done. Bidding on
eBay turned out to be another skill I needed to learn, and at the beginning, I was often “sniped” at the
last second by bidders using purchased software to assist them in the bidding process. Over time,
however, I gained skills, and ended up acquiring some amazing original photos and documents,
including an autographed card from Sir Arthur Harris.
Writing itself was a skill that required honing. I have been a voracious reader all my life, and I
aspired to write as well as my favourite military history writers, people like Robin Neillands and
Martin Middlebrook. No, I don’t feel I reached anywhere near that level, but a wise man once told me
that goals are like the North Star – you can walk for a hundred years and you will never reach it, but if
you keep it in sight you will always be sure you are going the right direction.
It was often hard work – I am positive that every paragraph in The Job to be Done was written and
re-written at least half a dozen times over the years. But often the words just flowed and I am
convinced this is because I felt so passionate about the subject – it was a labour of love and I put my
heart into it.
I think the point I am trying to make with all this is that the days are gone when you had to have a
degree or some sort of professional training to dig into history! If you are curious about someone in
your family’s past, then there are resources out there that will allow you to delve into it. Don’t be
intimidated, if I can do it, anyone can. I am willing to wager that there is an ancestor in your family tree
whose story is waiting to be told. You might not end up writing a book, but I promise you will make
some thrilling discoveries, and learn new skills in the process!
If I can offer any advice or pointers, please reach out, I would be glad to help.
Thanks for reading!
Clint L. Coffey is the author of The Job To Be Done, available now through FriesenPress. Check back soon for new blog posts