Leading up to the Interview
- It is a good idea to speak to the interviewee on the phone before hand to get some basic information from them, and also to see how talkative they are.
- Ask them what is the best time for them?
- Obtain sufficient information about the veteran to be well briefed before the interview takes place.
- Consider an initial visit to establish how you might conduct the interview, layout for filming or recording and so on and it also puts the interviewee at ease when it comes to the interview as you will not be a complete stranger.
- Talk over the Consent release form that they must fill in.
Conducting the Interview
- Always test your equipment before you start recording. Do audio/video recordings and ask a test question to the interviewee – mine is ‘What has the weather been like today’?
- Do an introduction to the recording, eg: This is [interviewer name] for WarGen. The date today is [date and year]. I shall be speaking with [interviewee full name] at [location – town only, not full address]. We shall be discussing their experiences during the Second World War when they were [brief summary, eg: An evacuee in Devon; serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment in North West Europe 1944-1945; etc].
- Always mention that you are aware there may be topics people would rather not discuss, and if these happen to come up, they should not feel any obligation to talk about them. It does not happen very often, but you can inadvertently bring up painful memories which people don’t want to discuss. If this happens, stop the recording or change the subject after a pause for them to collect themselves.
- These events occurred over 70 years ago, and people can get confused. If someone is struggling to remember a name or date, just move on to another subject. Don’t put pressure on them to remember, as this can end an interview very quickly. It is good to focus on personal stories that happened to them. Asking about interactions with local people in France or Belgium can generate interesting replies for instance or childhood friends if civilians.
- Watch out for noise and distractions. For example interviewing near an open window – outside traffic can cause major problems. So can pets – budgies can be very noisy so bear in mind before starting the interview.
Below are questionnaire guides you can download and use.
After the Interview
- Be sure to thank the interviewee for their time.
- If at all possible provide them with a copy of the recording and a thankyou letter.
- Get a photo of the person with their permission as it is good to have a picture to put on the WordPress page.
- Lastly, always hang around for a chat afterwards if you can. Accept the cups of tea which people kindly make and have fun – these are fascinating stories and need to be recorded.