Malcolm Atkin Military Research
Malcolm Atkin, BA, FSA, FRHistS, MCIFA, is a retired professional archaeologist, with over 30 years experience, who specialised in urban and post-medieval archaeology. He was also a visiting lecturer at the University of Worcester, where he was a pioneer of Archaeology teaching as part of Heritage Studies. Malcolm also has a long-standing interest in military history, best known before 2015 for his publications on local aspects of the English Civil War. He was County Archaeologist for Worcestershire from 1993 - 2009, during which time he served as representative of local government archaeologists on the Steering Committee of the national Defence of Britain Project. In Worcestershire, an enthusiastic volunteer project was established under the wing of the County Archaeology Service by Mick Wilks and the late Colin Jones.
Since 2009, when the progression of MS both obliged an early retirement from work and ended his career as a musketeer with the Fairfax Battalia of the English Civil War Society, Malcolm has been carrying out research on the Auxiliary Units and the organisation of the SIS bodies that made up the 'British Resistance'. This was published in 2015 as Fighting Nazi Occupation. As well as an important re-assessment of the Auxiliary Units, this included the first detailed publication of the ultra-secret SIS Section VII resistance organisation. Research then extended into a broader history of Section D of SIS, published in 2017 as Section D for Destruction: forerunner of SOE. In 2019 To The Last Man: the Home Guard in War and Popular Culture provided a re-assessment of the much misunderstood Home Guard and placed the history of the Auxiliary Units within this context. The natural follow-up was research into the the Military Intelligence (Research) department of 1938-40, which provided a military partner to Section D of SIS and laid the foundation of modern special forces. This work was published in spring 2021 as Pioneers of Irregular Warfare: the Military Intelligence (Research) department in the Second World War. Current research seeks to analyse how the the doctrinal approach championed by MI(R) was translated into the development of Special Operations during the Second World War. The work has only been possible due to the support of his wife, Susanne, and the services of Lee Richards of ARCRE, which brings all of the resources of The National Archives to one's sofa!
A consistent theme has been the development and impact of popular mythology upon the pattern of historic research and publishing. This can be seen in the continued myth of Worcester as the 'faithful city', the romantic (if chilling) stereotypes of WW1 and the development of the popular perception of the WW2 Home Guard and the Auxiliary Units as a result of the Dad's Army TV series and modern marketing. The development of the internet has also spawned a number of special interest groups whose focus on particular organisations and personalities risk skewing history in favour of a romantic cult of personality. The first of a series of essays on this topic was published in 2016 as Myth and Reality: The Second World War Auxiliary Units (followed up on this website by a case study Aux Units Thompsons).This was followed by the major new study of the Home Guard in To The Last Man: the Home Guard in War and Popular Culture, whilst Pioneers of Irregular Warfare: secrets of the Military Intelligence Research Department in the Second World War unpicked the legend surrounding Colin Gubbins, the head of SOE. Historic integrity seems to be increasingly suffering at the hands of media soundbites, some dreadful films, 'artistic interpretation' and fanciful reenactments.
Malcolm Atkin is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society, and a Member of the Chartered Institute of Field Archaeologists.