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Western Approaches HQ team members will all be taking a turn in providing content for our blog over the coming weeks and months. This post introduces Olivia, giving some background to her interest in researching the personnel who worked here and why she loves her role within the team….

“I’ve been a part of the Western Approaches team since the site re-opened in October 2017. We are a relatively small team here in the bunker, and as such we have been encouraged to explore other avenues of interest in addition to our usual roles to provide a more rounded visitor experience. My main interest in the museum had always been the stories of the people who had worked in the bunker, and I was naturally drawn to the stories of the women of Western Approaches in particular.

I’ve undertaken my own research project to confirm some of the more notable names in the bunker, initially using records on Ancestry to locate and contact relatives of former staff members, I was able to make useful contacts and gain further knowledge of the conditions and relationships in the bunker through first hand recollections.

Until recently I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting or speaking to anyone who worked here, however I visited Stephanie Pigott (nee Higham) in May and was able to record some of her memories of Western Approaches, and more recently I met Elizabeth Copley (nee Altham), who was also kind enough to be pictured with me.

I’m sure you can tell I was rather chuffed!

Having spent hours researching these women and their stories it was an immense privilege to actually speak to them in person and I find it hard to contain my excitement! A lot of the time, I feel my enthusiasm may confuse some of the women who see their work in the bunker as just that – work, and therefore not worthy of the interest and importance I place upon it. It is their stories of their ‘ordinary’ work in the bunker, that I find the most interesting and revealing and I trust that readers of this blog will find them just as fascinating.

One of the most intriguing finds of my research was the relationship between the WRNS and WAAF officers as they worked side by side in the bunker. There was considerable rivalry between the two groups of women, and it was only through studying recent personal accounts of the women that this came to light.

In the next post, I will be sharing some of my favourite items which have been donated to the museum. Other team members will also be sharing their thoughts on the blog in the coming weeks, and there’ll be contributions from guests representing various organisations who have a relationship with Western Approaches.”

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