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Meet the Team: Megan Kelleher

Megan is a final year PhD student who, at the time of writing in November 2022, is currently completing a study of the commemoration and care of First World War dead by the Imperial (later known as Commonwealth) War Graves Commission in the United Kingdom. She also currently serves on our editorial board, and is in charge of uploading our blogs. 

Megan’s research aims to highlight the context surrounding why there are war dead buried and commemorated in the United Kingdom, and how the cemeteries and memorials these stories are found in conform to and contrast with the broader work of the Commission overseas. Across the five chapters of her thesis, she highlights the administrative work required to undertake this work, plus the emotional responses by the bereaved and the impact that these sites of memory have had on the public’s understanding of the legacy of the First World War. During her PhD research, she has presented papers on her subject across the United Kingdom and in Germany, and she has published a number of blogs and journal articles to share some of her findings. 

In addition to her PhD research, Megan has worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission throughout her studies. Her research, combined with her work in public engagement, has enabled to share her research with a broader audience and to highlight some of the casualty stories she has learned about as part of her research.

When asked what her favourite primary source has been, she said the following: 

“I have been incredibly lucky that my research has enabled me to look at a range of fascinating primary sources. From Home Office records relating to the creation of the German Military Cemetery at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, to the Meeting Minutes where key decisions were made, each record has answered may of the questions I had while simultaneously creating more!

However, my favourites to look at were the Enquiries, or ‘E,’ files held within the Commission’s organisational archives at Maidenhead. At the start of the pandemic, they released a number of these digitally and their decision to make these accessible remotely enabled me to continue with my research at a time of great uncertainty. The records relating to the war dead in the United Kingdom provide a fascinating insight into the bereaved’s involvement in commemorating their loved ones at home, and emphasises how far the Commission had to adapt their policies and practices in order to ensure that the legal and moral responsibilities that the family had was acknowledged. From simple requests, such as amendments to errors on headstones and changes to the commemoration type, to extraordinary circumstances and rumour relating to how the casualty came to be at a particular site, they provide an insight into the intricacies of the Commission’s work, and share some of the thoughts and emotions the bereaved felt towards the loss of their loved ones.”

When Megan isn’t working on her thesis or doing her day job, she is usually spending her time with her dog Millie and partner Josh exploring the Nottinghamshire countryside where she lives, knitting or reading lots of fiction books!

Find out more about Megan’s research, and read some of her publications here or follow her on Twitter @MeganEKelleher.

Image Credit: CWGC Archives, CWGC/8/1/4/1/2/530 (CCM101740), Correspondence relating to Mechanician AG Buurma of the Royal Navy. License: CC BY-SA 4.0 

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