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  • 02/21/14--04:30: The Friday Digest 21/02/14
  • THP Friday digest 

    This week's update features the forgotten Scottish troops of the First World War, a mysterious 600-year-old manuscript written in an unknown language and a hundred books to read in your lifetime.

    52nd Division Christmas card. Image courtesy of Scotland at War

    * Just why have the 52nd (Lowland) Division been omitted from the centenary commemorations so far? @ScotlandsWar look at the forgotten Scottish troops of the First World War.  

    WW1 letter

    * First World War letters and drawings from University of Manchester students have gone on show for the first time.

    * A look at the fascinating objects which are mute witnesses to the horrors of the First World War

    Empty rooms. Image courtesy of Historical Honey


    * Emma Gough shares her experience of interning at Historic Royal Palaces.  


    * Robert Galbraith’s (aka. J.K. Rowling’s) follow up to The Cuckoo’s Calling is titled The Silkworm and will debut this June, according to the publisher

    Shipstone brewery and John Pye and Sons (c) John Pye and Sons

    * Breweries often dominated their communities and their closures mourned not just for the loss of jobs but for the loss of a household name. But what has happened to these sites since their closure?

    Commemorative gold pound coins (c) PA

    * With a credible claim to be the oldest living currency in the world, the pound has an interesting history. But is Scotland soon to end its use of the currency?


    H G Wells


    * Was H.G. Wells the first celebrity charity campaigner? 

    Two girls in flared trousers kiss each other on the cheek Anonymous 1975-1970, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani. From Akram Zaatari's Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices Collection: AIF/ Hashem el Madani Copyright © A. Zaatari/Arab Image Foundation

    For many years the pictures that came out of Lebanon were of bomb-damaged buildings and human tragedy, but an archive of photographs from the 1950s to 1970s reveals a very different picture.

    German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, emphasizing his points with clenched fists, is pictured addressing the gathering of his staff chiefs at the giant Nazi demonstration held on the Reichsparteitag area in Nuremberg, Germany. In today’s Germany the debate about the Nazi past continues. There are some who think there is too much guilt and self-flagellation, with Berlin now little more than a “Holocaust memorial city”, whereas the majority view is undoubtedly that the nation which built Auschwitz should not forget Photo: AP


    * A public encounter between the sons of two high-ranking Nazis, Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter, raises disturbing questions for Britain as well as Germany

    Voynich Manuscript


    * A breakthrough has been made in attempts to decipher the Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious 600-year-old manuscript written in an unknown language. The manuscript, carbon-dated to the 1400s, was rediscovered in 1912, but has defied codebreakers since.


    While many may see Edinburgh's beauty from North Bridge in the foreground to Edinburgh Castle in the distance, Ian Rankin's Inspector John Rebus views the city as a "crime scene waiting to happen." (c) Scottish Viewpoint


    * Five trips for crime fiction lovers

    Not many of us are this well equipped … a mobile library. Photograph: Stefano Archetti / Rex Features


    * Moving stories: what do you do with your books when you change houses? 

    Nun on the run: a sister sprints to a good vantage point in Saint Peter's Square before the inaugural mass for Pope Francis at the Vatican in May 2013. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

    * Can't kick the habit: why do so many writers create fictional nuns? 

    Excuse me, do I know you? A hand removes a copy of Great Expectations from a bookshelf. Photograph: Alamy

    The hundred books to read in your lifetime


    Check it out … stamping a library book. Photograph: Geraint Lewis /Alamy

    * National Libraries Day - have you visited your local library recently? 


     Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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    What Is a ghost?

    So what is a ghost? I suppose if you were to ask most people that question, they would probably describe a ghost as a disembodied spirit, cursed for eternity to wonder aimlessly through dark, musty corridors of some spooky old mansion or the like. This may indeed be true, in fact many sightings have been reported in such places, Avebury Manor being one.

    Ghosts have been known to take on many different forms, some are seen as amorphous, whilst others have a distinct shape, whether it be human or animal, some are defined shadows, often referred to as shades, and some even appear as solid as you or I. Indeed there have been many stories where people claim to have engaged ghosts in conversation believing them to be quite real, only to be told later that they have in fact been happily chatting to the dead.

     Many who research ghosts are of the opinion that past events, especially powerful emotional ones can be retained in inanimate objects such as wood and stone and when conditions are suitable (whatever suitable conditions maybe) are triggered and played back. This theory may well account for ‘cyclic hauntings,’ where an apparition appears to go through a repetitive program or sequence of actions, before ultimately fading away at the completion of the recording. These apparitions are often referred to as ‘imprints,’ and I am inclined to believe this theory is probably closer to an explanation for the ghost phenomena as any other. 

    The White Lady haunts the grounds of Avebury Mannor where her inappropriate shoulder tapping has startled many a visitor. (Source: Haunted Wiltshire, C Christine Bozier)

     Do Ghosts Exist?

    A question as contentious as a belief in a God; both are supernatural entities and both  have fuelled many debates over several millennia and will I’m sure fuel a many more. Many millions claim to have seen ghosts throughout history but how many claim to have seen God? If you were to ask men of science if they believed in the existence of ghosts, their response would almost certainly be, science deals in facts, specifics, things have to be measured and quantified, experiments have to be carried out again and again and anything that defies the laws of physics, e.g. passing through solid objects can’t possibly be entertained. They may have a point.

    Sceptics are only too quick to dismiss ghosts as figments of the imagination. Many encounters are probably just that but to dismiss all encounters as fanciful rubbish, a trick of the light or a vivid imagination etcetera is folly by any standards.

     I refer to myself as an open minded sceptic, I know that sounds somewhat contradictory. I will be the first to admit that I have my doubts about the existence of ghosts, although there have been one or two incidences in the past that I am at a loss to explain… 

     When asked where in Wiltshire I think is most haunted? I would have no hesitation in choosing the pretty little village of Avebury, which is probably best known worldwide for its magnificent standing stones and henge ditch, built around 2600-2400BC. What many of the 500,000 visitors who flock annually to marvel at its mysterious sarsen monoliths are blissfully unaware of are Avebury’s plethora of hauntings.

    Haunted Wilshire

    As mentioned earlier, the 16th century Manor house is rumoured to have five ghosts; The Red Lion pub, the only one of its kind in the world to reside at the heart of a Neolithic stone circle (also said to be haunted) has several ghosts. Many of the cottages in the village were constructed from sarsen stone quarried from the stone circle at a time when the stones held little interest other than for building material. These quaint little cottages hold many tales of ghosts and poltergeist activity. The High Street is said to be haunted by a ghostly coach and four. Many of the Neolithic burial mounds constructed high up on the surrounding downland and which overlook the circle are said to be haunted by giant demon hounds and wraith cats; guardians of the tombs.

    Haunted Wiltshire by Keith Wills

    Find out more about the hauntings of Wiltshire with Haunted Wiltshire by Keith Wills

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  • 02/25/14--00:30: Families at War
  • The war memorial in Great Rissington church. Image from

    Picture the face of a fourteen year old boy, his face crystallised as if frozen, his mouth open. It was unfathomable to him. I watched him as he asked a question of his teacher: 'But how? How could that happen?'

    'In war people fight for all sorts of reasons - patriotism, duty - for the one's they love, for family.' She responded.

    His face tightened. 'For family.' He looked back down at the graves in front of him and shook his head. Two men on two gravestones. The same name.

    But how do you explain how members of the same family could die in the same war, the same day, the same battle?

    In the small Cotswold village of Great Rissington, Annie Souls had five sons - Albert, Frederick, Walter, Alfred and Arthur – who all enlisted to fight for King and country. Not one would return home from the trenches of the Western Front. Their names are immortalised as the greatest British familial sacrifice of World War One. A hospital chaplain wrote to Annie Souls to say that she and her son, Walter had given a great sacrifice – she had given her son, he his life. But in the end, she had given five sons.

    Corporal Harry Gilbert wrote to his local paper, saying that his two brothers had joined him on the front, 'there are now three of us doing our bit.' Mr and Mrs Gratton of Landkey, Devon were 'congratulated on their family’s patriotic record' by the King – across three continents, from England, Canada and Australia, her eight sons enlisted to fight. Half of her boys would be dead by war’s end.

    They say that no family escaped World War One; that no individual didn’t know somebody who died in the Great War. And yet even so, there is something more to say. A huge part of the armies fighting were fighting as a part of a family. How many fathers, sons and brothers stood next to each other in queues for the army recruiting office to add their name, to do their bit for King and country?

    Two men are buried side by side in Dartmoor Cemetery in the village of Becordel-Becourt on the Somme in France. Both served together in the Royal Field Artillery. Both died in the same action on the same day, the 5th September 1916. Serjeant George Lee lies forevermore alongside his 19 year old son, Corporal Robert Fredrick Lee. What more tragic reminder of the personal cost to war than a father and son dying on the same day, the same battle?

    Tyne Cot Memorial & Cemetery. Image from

    A number of twin brothers fought in World War One. Some fell, some survived. In some instances, both twin brothers were lost to the war. Privates Adolphus and Archibald Gallienne, twin brothers serving with the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry were both to die within two days of each other in March 1918. Their bodies were never found. Their names are listed on the Tyne Cot memorial to the missing. Their brother Thomas also fell – his name is listed on the Cambrai Monument.

    On a simple brass plaque at Hartington Church within the Derbyshire peak district, the same name repeated three times calls out to you. Originally from Derbyshire but who emigrated and enlisted as part of the Canadian Infantry, L/Cpl Sidney Oliver 7th Battalion, and his two sons, Private William Evelyn Oliver, 7th Battalion and Private James Oliver, 54th Battalion all died during the war. Both Sidney and his son, William were to die on 24th April 1915 in the same battle and are commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. James fell nearly 2 years later in April 1917 aged just 19.

    You do not have to venture far into the records to find examples of great sacrifice of both those who served and those who sat waiting for the door to open. Those tragic episodes are not limited to the fathers, brothers and sons, but to sisters and wives too. Women who took up the challenge of administering care and respite all too often got caught up in the shelling of casualty clearing stations and then with the flu pandemic that killed too many during 1918 and 1919.

    Mrs Mildred Davis lost her husband Capt. Reginald Noel Davis of 2nd Battalion West Riding when he was killed in action 12th October 1916. They had been married for 9 months. In October 1918, Mildred herself died of pneumonia whilst serving with the French Red Cross. She is buried in Mazargues War Cemetery in Marseilles but in Hazelbury Bryan Church in Dorset is a plaque to the memory of the couple. The same church where they were married on January 1st 1916 and where Mildred’s father was rector.

    Captain Charles A W Pope was 'one of eleven brothers and four sisters, all of whom fought or worked for their Country in the Great War.' He was to die in 1917, part of the Royal Army Medical Corps. For the Smith family from Ledbury in Herefordshire, there are two casualties, navy men William and Thomas who are listed as part of a family of 'six brothers and one sister, all of whom served in the Great War.' William was killed when HMS Defence was sunk at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and his brother Thomas, Leading Telegraphist on board HMS E47 was killed when his submarine sank in the North Sea.

    One thing is certain when looking at the role of families during the First World War that multiple family deaths appear to be all too common. The combined sacrifice of men and women from families across the country deserves an unquestionable commendation of bravery and respect. But to go back to the schoolboy on his trip to the battlefields, I heard him remark to his teacher one final statement: 'I don’t know how they did it Miss, I’m not sure I could have.'


    Joanna Gleed is a researcher, writer and educational consultant with a particular interest in researching historical events from unusual perspectives. 

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    Simon Mills - The Unseen Britannic


    I don't know why but whenever someone asks me what it was that made me buy the British Government's title to the wreck of the Britannic I can never give them a definitive answer; I don't know why I did it – I just did. It is a bit like the young lady who once told me that although I was the owner of the Britannic I was not at all what she had expected. When I asked her what or who it was that she had expected, her reply was simply: ’I don't know – just not you!’


    Simon Mills - The Unseen Britannic 


    All I can really say for sure is that my interest in the Britannic developed from an accidental involvement in a Titanic documentary project in the late eighties, and by the time I had finished the project, I found myself in the position of being the supposed "expert" on her two sister-ships. As the ’expert‘, since 1995 I have helped to coordinate seven expeditions to the wreck resulting in seven documentaries, and I have now also published and edited three books and written countless articles on the subject, so whenever anyone tells me that Britannic is Titanic's "forgotten" sister they usually get a suitably choice response. Personally I prefer the soubriquet of "Titanic's big sister", because as any schoolboy should know, Britannic was the third and largest of the White Star Line's Olympic class trio.


     Simon Mills - The Unseen Britannic


    As if the story of the Titanic isn't dramatic enough some people still want to embellish it and as a result the supporting characters (people and ships) have also found themselves drawn into the controversy. Because of this for the first ten years, I probably spent more time disproving the many myths and legends that have subsequently grown up around the Britannic, with conspiracy theories of secret name changes, illicit wartime cargos, the deliberate misplacement of the wreck, an illegal U-boat torpedo and even a secret treasure!


     Simon Mills - The Unseen Britannic


    The second decade was a lot more exciting and after a succession of expeditions to the wreck using submersibles, manned divers and remote operated vehicles (a.k.a. ROVs) we now understand more about the Britannic and life on-board the ship than ever. Direct comparisons between the Titanic and Britannic wrecks are probably inevitable, and thanks to our work, it is now finally possible, but with Britannic being that much more accessible, the potential for controlled archaeological and coordinated scientific study is greater than ever. Although the wreck is still –almost- in one magnificent piece, inevitably the hull will one day collapse, but if a conservation project that is currently being discussed in the corridors of power between London and Athens gets the go ahead, then the work that we have carried out to date will only have scratched the surface.

     As to what the future reveals, that will be in the next book!

     Simon Mills - The Unseen Britannic

    Simon Mills is the author of the Unseen Britannic: The Ship in Rare Illustrations - which is available now at

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    The Unseen Britannic - Simon Mills

    What does it feel like to own one of the most iconic ships in history?

    "Owning" can be such a sensitive word! Some people find it amazing that anyone can own a shipwreck (it rarely occurs to them that just because it has sunk that there isn't still someone with rights to a ship or its cargo) and maritime law can be a real minefield if you consider potential pollution issues. Fortunately the Britannic was a coal-burner so there is no chance of any oil leakage, unlike the HMS Royal Oak, but aside from the kudos of owning the wreck there are also legal and technical issues. Shipwrecks in Greek waters are usually the property of the Greek Government, but because the HMHS Britannic is an ex-warship, paid for by the British Government as the ultimate war risks insurer, this means that they effectively owned the wreck. (On a point of information the wreck of any warship always remains the property of the state that paid for it, no matter where it is located) The fact that this legal title is currently held by a private individual has created a somewhat unique legal situation in Greece, but following discussions at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was agreed that I do have rights which cannot be obstructed, but that any activities on the wreck have to be conducted within the bounds of Greek law. My rights only really kick in when it comes to entering the wreck or the possible retrieval of artefacts; otherwise I am generally happy to leave it in the hands of the Greek Ministry of Culture, who take the issue of conservation very, very seriously.


    Why did you decide to try and restore the ship?

    We have to be careful with using words like "restoration". In 1995 Bob Ballard made a passing comment that the Britannic looked to be in such good condition that you could almost clean off the marine growths to find the hull in pristine condition. Unfortunately quite a few people took him literally and as a result you would be surprised at just how many people have suggested that the wreck should be raised, restored and opened to the public. Some have even suggested putting her back into service! The logistical practicalities of raising 50,000 tons from the seabed are mind-boggling enough, to say nothing of the subsequent ruinous maintenance and conservation costs which will probably ensure that this never happens – I'm not sure that I would want it to anyway – but that would be for the next owner to ponder. Even so the Britannic is a fascinating and easily accessible link to her sister-ship Titanic, and a long term study of the two wrecks in their individual environments by marine archaeologists, engineers and micro biologists can provide valuable insights into the manner in which surviving artefacts become encapsulated within concretions. By monitoring these events at selected sites around the world it may even help to develop better protocols for the effective recovery of compromised artefacts.

     The Unseen Britannic - Simon Mills

    What is your ideal vision for the restoration project?

    The current proposal is really just getting up and running and as such there is still so much to discuss. The project will be based in Belfast, right where the Britannic was built, but currently most of the discussions are at the diplomatic level between the British Government (DETI in Northern Ireland are backing the project) and the Government of Greece. When theUK Ambassador (effectively the representative of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office) communicates with the relevant Government Minister of any country then mere mortals like me have to wait quietly in the background, but the vibes fromBelfast andAthens look to be encouraging. It's quite possible that the project will expand in time, but the immediate intention is to conduct a full mapping of the wreck and conduct the controlled retrieval of selected artefacts for conservation and public display. The initial proposal is to have permanent displays inBelfast andAthens, with a view to also arranging a number of travelling exhibits, but the key emphasis has to be on control and making sure that we don't damage the archaeological integrity of the wreck site in the process. Otherwise we would have nothing...


    What has been the most interesting thing about owning the wreck?

    Owning the Britannic has been full of surprises and at times something of a double-edged sword. When I first acquired the British Government's legal title I rather naively thought that it would all be relatively straightforward. I originally wanted to leave the ship exactly as it was and keep people from interfering with it, but gradually over the course of time I began to cooperate with dive groups who I had previously tried to keep at a distance; as a result over the years we have between us created a far more detailed and credible analysis of the wreck, which have also clarified details of the ship's last hour afloat, and also the wreck's prospects for the future. I virtually had to be dragged kicking and screaming into opening up to the divers, but on balance I am probably glad that I did. Perhaps the most frustrating thing has been liaising with officialdom, in bothLondon andAthens, but with the two governments currently talking with each other on the wreck's future perhaps the lesson learned was to have got everybody talking at an earlier stage.

     The Unseen Britannic - Simon Mills

    How did it feel when you first visited the wreck?

    My first visit to the wreck was an unexpected bonus. In August 1995 I was one of the historical advisers for the American broadcaster NOVA during Bob Ballard's expedition, which was the first time that anyone had been back there since Jacques Cousteau in the autumn of 1976. The twenty-year interval had left everyone feeling very apprehensive as to how much the wreck might have deteriorated since it was last seen almost twenty years ago, but we were delighted to find that not only was the ship still almost completely intact, but that there was no indication that she was likely to deteriorate any further in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately I was the only Brit on the production team and because I was not a USnational I was told that the US Department of Defense would not allow me to dive on the US Navy's NR-1 submarine, but courtesy of Rear Admiral Richard Mies (USN) they waived the rules and my moment finally came. My first glimpse of the Britannic was on the afternoon of 3rd September 1995 (it was the port bridge wing cab) but while it was wonderful to finally be seeing the ship for real, it occurred to me that Ken Marschall had been right when he said that the view from the submarine viewport was very limited and that the topside video was far better – not to mention far more comfortable! As I recall we were down there for about twenty-four hours, but the whole experience had quite an impact on me and it's just possible that I may be the only person who has ever bought a shipwreck "as seen."


    What surprised you most about the wreck?

    Up until 1995 I had actually given the wreck itself very little thought. My principal focus had really been on the story of the ship and her crew in the years between 1911 and 1916, but that all changed in the early (very) hours of Thursday 31st August 1995, when I was given the dubious honour of keeping the dive log for the ROV (Phantom) during our first look at the Britannic in almost twenty years. Having seen the footage of the Titanic's twisted and broken hull, the most pleasant surprise was to find that the Britannic, far from having crumbed into nothingness, looked to be as intact as the day she had sunk – not necessarily the impression given in the 1977 Cousteau documentary. In spite of the technology at our disposal we only began to appreciate the full extent of the scale of the wreck over the next few days as we set about analysing the footage in more detail in the comfortable environment of the support vessel Carolyn Chouest's lab; it was here that the true magnitude of what we had filmed really became apparent.

     The Unseen Britannic - Simon Mills

    Why do you think it is important to preserve history?

    Studying the story of the Britannic really opens the door to so many other aspects of history. For years there were certain truths that people believed about the ship simply because it was written in a book, but these authors were not always writing from personal experience and hardly any of them would have had access to the level of archival information that we now enjoy. There is a tendency to criticise revisionist historians but the simple fact is that with the level of information that is available today it would be very rash to regard any book written twenty or thirty years ago as definitive on any subject. The same goes for my histories of the Britannic; they are based on information that is currently in the public domain and who is to say what will turn up in another twenty years? The ongoing study of any subject can never be a bad thing, and in the case of the Titanic and Britannic we not only have the opportunity to give the archival files the closest scrutiny, but also the technology to visit their last resting places and analyse the events as they actually happened on the day. If all of these techniques combined can help us to re-write history in a meaningful way then I don't think anyone can say that is a bad thing.

     The Unseen Britannic - Simon Mills

    Simon Mills' The Unseen Britannic is available today from The History Press.

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    The flight of Rudolf Hess to Scotland in May 1941 is the last unexplained mystery of the Second World War.

    Quite why the Deputy Fuhrer of Germany should choose to make such a dramatic act has remained unexplained ever since. In the intervening 70+ years the absence of firm evidence as to motivation and methodology has led to speculation taking hold, which, in turn has made the discovery of the truth that much more difficult. In some instances speculation is now seemingly accepted as fact and vice versa.

    The official German communique in 1941 simply stated that Hess was suffering from delusions, a convenient explanation first mooted by Hess himself in his farewell letter to his leader. Such a statement was necessary to allay any Russian fears of an Anglo-German peace as a pre-cursor to any pre-emptive strike.

    Britain was also in a similarly embarrassing position. Churchill’s principal strategy in May 1941 was the hope of an eventual Anglo-American alliance. How might the isolationists in Congress act of the news of the Hess flight? Would they think that their further allegiance was not necessary in the face of an Anglo German accord?  

    The intervening years have seen some limited release of official files on the affair, most notably in 1992 with the release of some Intelligence Service data.

    However, despite this partial release, fundamental questions still remain:

    -          Why did Hess fly? Was it the solo flight of a madman?

    -          Did Hitler know of the mission?

    -          What was Hess hoping to achieve?

    -          Were the British party to the flight?

    Incredibly, these questions still exist 70 years later, with all the protagonists long dead.

    Given the inherent difficulties; speculation, lack of official evidence and the families of those involved trying to justify their relative’s positions, John Harris and Richard Wilbourn have chosen to examine the actual flight in micro detail, drawing on much contemporary data. It is this detailed analysis and the use of the contemporary source information , that has produced startling results, far beyond their original expectations.

    The use of engine data, lubrication systems data, wartime navigational systems and some other existing, but under researched files have produced startling results of real historical significance.

    Far from the act of a madman, the Hess flight was a minutely planned mission that drew on the then latest Luftwaffe technology. The degree of knowledge necessary alone made official German support a necessity.

    Hess was undertaking an officially sanctioned peace mission to Britain. The flight would be the climax of detailed negotiations that had been carried out throughout the Spring of 1941. It would end with King George V1 deposing Churchill and replacing the coalition with a government that would then settle with Nazi Germany.

    Or so Hess thought...

    Rudolf Hess

    Rudolf Hess: A New Technical Analysis of the Hess Flight, May 1941 is out now at £18.99 Through their long investigation, authors John Harris and Richard Wilbourn have come to a startling conclusion: whilst the flight itself has been well recorded, the target destination has remained hidden. The implications are far reaching and lend credence to the theory that the British establishment has hidden the truth of the full extent of British/Nazi communications, in part to spare the reputations of senior members of the Royal Family. Using original photography, documentation and diagrams, Rudolf Hess sheds new light on one of the most intriguing stories of the Second World War.

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    General Sam Browne

    Bearded, kindly, courageous Sam Browne was perhaps the classic beau sabreur of the Indian Army. He is still remembered by the belt he designed which bears his name and has been in use ever since. His father was an HEIC doctor and Samuel was born in India on 3 October 1824. After an English education, he returned to the land of his birth in 1840 and was commissioned in the 46th Bengal Native Infantry. The period was one of great expansion of British power and though he missed some wars, the young Browne was active throughout the Second Anglo-Sikh War 1848–49, including the bloody battle of Chillianwallahm and the decisive victory at Gujerat.

    With the Sikhs conquered, the British set their sights on bringing order to the mountainous Punjab-Afghan frontier north of Peshawar. A new kind of irregular cavalry and infantry were needed to police these badlands and Browne began to carve out a name for himself and his new regiment – the 2nd Punjab Cavalry. He took part in frequent skirmishes against the wily tribesmen and in major campaigns against the Waziris, Bozdars and Black Mountain fanatics in 1851–52 and 1857.
    The year 1857 saw the Great Uprising break out across northern India and Sam, now commanding his regiment, led them in countless actionsbefore winning his coveted Victoria Cross in an amazing display of courage at Seerporah on 31 August 1858. In a fierce engagement that saw 300 mutineers slain, Browne galloped with just one orderly sowar against a 9-pounder gun and its crew who were about to fire on the advancing British infantry. Surrounded by increasing numbers of the enemy, he managed to kill one gunner before receiving a severe sword wound on the left knee. With blood spurting, he fought on until a mutineer sliced his left arm off at the shoulder. The blow was struck so hard that Brown’s horse toppled over on top of him. Luckily sowars of the 2nd PC then arrived and saved their commandant.

    The famous belt that Browne designed is usually ascribed to the loss of his arm, but recent research suggests otherwise; as early as 1852 he told
    a visiting English politician that he was ‘designing a new belt for his regiment and was finding out the best way of carrying his arms’. It seems Sam experimented with bits of harness and in 1856 he paid a London saddler to make a belt based on his Indian design. The old-style cavalry belt caused the sword to trail on the ground when a trooper was dismounted and it had no easy attachment for pistols. His new design allowed a man to easily reach his sword, pistol and ammunition. The waist belt also gave greater support to the back and the whole thing frankly looked smarter. The old belt stayed in use for some years, but by 1859 several officers in the 2nd PC had adopted the ‘Sam Browne belt’ and it gradually became universal in the British Army. Another VC hero, Sir Dighton Probyn, commented that soon after the 1857–59 uprising, officers of the 2nd PC had lengths of bridle chain sewn across the shoulders of their jackets. Clearly, the loss of Sam’s arm had an effect and shoulder chains became an increasingly common dress feature of Indian cavalry regiments.

    Sam Browne served nineteen years with the 2nd PC and in 1865 was given the prestigious command of the Corps of Guides. The rank of majorgeneral came five years later and in 1875 he was chosen to escort HRH the Prince of Wales on his Indian tour. This resulted in a knighthood and further promotion. In 1878 he was made Military Member of the Viceroy’s Council. Here Browne and the C-in-C India, Sir Frederick Haines, both tried, without success, to curb the rash fantasies of Lord Lytton, warning that Afghanistan would not be an easy nut to crack if war broke out, but the Viceroy was determined on a show of force. When invasion came, Browne was given command of the northern column. His Peshawar Valley Field Force immediately ran into transport difficulties (largely not his fault as the other two invading armies had grabbed the best animals and supplies). Then, in attacking the fort of Ali Musjid that dominated the Khyber Pass, his frontal assault failed because the three brigades involved were not well co-ordinated. One critic who took part, the religious Colonel Ball-Acton, wrote that ‘the whole thing was a mistake … We were much too weak to attack so strong a position … We ought to have waited a day or two …’ Luckily, the Afghans evacuated the fort under cover of darkness (Browne had warned the Viceroy of the dangers that would be faced attacking Ali Musjid before the war even started). He was now able to advance on Jellalabad and by 2 April occupy Gandamak, where a treaty brought a short-lived peace in May 1879. Lytton now had a petty revenge on the man who had cautioned him a year earlier. He told British government that Browne should have been court-martialled instead of being honoured with a GCB, that he ‘was utterly unfit for any responsible command, had neglected every duty of a commander and displayed almost every disqualification; at the end of the campaign, his troops were demoralized and nearly mutinous through lack of confidence in their commander and his neglect of their simplest requirements’.

    The Viceroy’s wrath was harsh indeed and Browne was relegated to command the Lahore Division and not sent to the front when war resumed. Lytton’s censure was vindictive, but it was not wholly unfair; one Gurkha officer wrote at the time that Browne had ‘a well-earned reputation of being a regular old woman and quite unfit to command an army’.Sam Browne retired soon after the war but lived for two more decades, until 14 March 1901. A monument ‘to his perpetual memory’, showing a Punjab cavalryman, was unveiled in St Paul’s Cathedral (with a copy in Lahore Cathedral), where it can be seen today. At the time, Lord Roberts said there never was ‘a truer man, a firmer friend, a braver soldier’.


    Warriors of the Queen


    William Wright is the author of Warriors of the Queen which is available now. Based on original research and complemented by over sixty photographs, Warriors of the Queen provides new insight into the men who built (and sometimes endangered) the British Empire on the battlefield. 

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  • 02/24/14--02:49: Commemorating Waterloo
  • Wellington meeting Blucher at La Belle Alliance

    With commemorative events for the centenary of the start of the First World War now receiving daily media attention, might not one also reflect upon how the nation celebrated the end of the original Great War a century before? News of Wellington’s great victory at Waterloo precipitated an outpouring of celebration across the United Kingdom. The Iron Duke’s fame was then generally held to have outshone Marlborough’s; his triumph on the slopes of Mont St Jean to have eclipsed even Agincourt.

    Celebration and commemoration took many forms. The ringing of church bells was the first and most common. Individuals marked the news in their own way. The Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, went with William Wordsworth and other Lakeland acquaintances to the summit of Skiddaw, where they ate roast beef and plum pudding whilst singing the national anthem. By the end of 1815, there were at least seventy books or pamphlets relating to the battle in print. Byron’s Childe Harold, completed in June 1816, remains a classic. More solid memorials followed. By the end of 1815, from Haworth Parsonage, the Rev Patrick Brontë and his daughters would be able to look across the moors and see the monument surmounting Stoodley Pike. On the Blackdown Hills in Somerset, overlooking the market centre of Wellington, in October 1817, some 10,000 people watched the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for an obelisk to the man who had taken his ducal title from the town. London’s Waterloo Bridge had been officially declared open by the Prince Regent on Waterloo Day earlier that same year. There were countless other tributes in the more mundane forms of road names and pub signs. 

    Carlo Marochetti's 1844 equestrian statue of Wellington in Glasgow; current Glasweigan humour is to cap it with a traffic cone.

    Popular celebration each 18 June remained common during Wellington’s lifetime: it was, after all, a convenient midsummer date on which ordinary Britons could meet to eat, drink and make merry. It was only the combination of the Duke’s death, in September 1852, combined with Britain’s allying with France during the Crimean War that brought a relative end to such proceedings. There were, however, plans for a series of international events to mark the centenary. In Britain these were to have focused around an imperial exhibition. Instead, the outbreak of the new Great War in 1914 rendered most projects irrelevant. The failure of the European powers to keep the peace, both before and after 1914, however, and moves towards greater European integration in the years since 1945, have invested both Waterloo and the Vienna settlement with a new relevance as we approach their bicentenary.

    Wellington and Waterloo

    Russ Foster is the author of Wellington and Waterloo. Drawing on many under-utilised sources to illuminate some less familiar themes, this timely study offers fresh perspectives on one of Britain’s best-known figures, as well as on the nature of heroism. The reader is also given pause for thought as to appropriate forms of commemoration and how national celebrations are prone to manipulation, for their own purposes, by those in government.

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    The invasion of AD 43 began the Romans’ settlement of Britain. The Romans brought with them a level of expertise that raised iron production in Britain from small localised sites to an enormous industry. Rome thrived on war and iron was vital to the Roman military establishment as well as to the civil population. In this pioneering work, David Sim combines current ideas of iron-making in Roman times with experimental archaeology.

    The Roman Iron Industry in Britain stretches far beyond dry theory and metallurgy alone; it covers all the stages of this essential process, from prospecting to distribution, and describes the whole cycle of iron production. Photographs and line drawings illustrate the text well enough to allow keen readers to reproduce the artefacts for themselves. Fascinating to the general reader and all those with an interest in Roman history, this book is invaluable to students of archaeology and professional archaeologists alike. Dr David Sim is an archaeologist who has combined studies of the technology of the Roman Empire with his skills as a blacksmith.


    The Roman Iron Industry in Britain


    Dr David Sim is an archaeologist who has combined studies of the technology of the Roman Empire with his skills as a blacksmith to provide an interesting and insightful study of ancient iron production and is invaluable to students of archaeology and professional archaeologists alike.

    It is arguable that Rome's success was largely due to its unparalleled expertise with iron which enabled the production of all manner of domestic, utilitarian and military artefacts. This detailed study of the iron industry, focusing primarily on Britain, uses both archaeological evidence and experimental work to highlight the enormous investment of time, labour and skill required in the production process. Sim outlines the various stages in the production process from prospecting and mining, to the preparation of the ore, fuel, smelting, and the production of artefacts, looking especially at those associated with the military: shield bosses, swords, arrows, chain mail, nails and so forth.

    The book is divided into eight chapters, which do not simply follow a logical order of stages of production followed by how individual objects were made, but instead break up the narrative by adding historical information and types of objects produced. I find this to be an excellent way of keeping the reader interested, as the information is a little dry.

    The first chapter provides an overview of the Roman iron industry in general, showing its value and importance in the ancient world, and is surprisingly interesting and insightful. Even after years of studying this period I had no idea just how important iron was.

    The second chapter relates to the most important raw material necessary for the blacksmith- charcoal. It tells us about places and methods of charcoal production, discusses evidence for its manufacture, and explains its relevance for the iron industry.

    The third chapter is on smelting, or turning the raw iron ore into a useful material.

    The fourth chapter breaks up the monotony by looking at the blacksmith himself, his role and importance in society and his life.

    With the next chapter we return to the technical aspects of bloomsmithing and barsmithing, creating and working billets of iron to make them ready to produce the finished products.

    The following chapter moves onto artefact production, and is by far the longest section of the book, explaining the production of a wide variety of military and every day products.

    The seventh chapter describes the uses and production of steel, which while very interesting is a little more based on the authors opinion, so needs to be considered carefully.

    The final chapter discusses mechanical processing, specifically milling and uses of water power. This is an extremely interesting section as it brings together a lot of recent research into Roman water mills and mechanisms.

    This is particularly useful as a sourcebook or a point for further research as it gives a different perspective to most archaeology books as it is based more on experimental archaeology, allowing us to understand production in a new way. The appendix gives a list of iron artifacts in British museums, thus providing excellent assistance for finding further information.

    The book is excellently illustrated, with images, charts, schematics and colour prints to provide greater explanations and clarity with the actual processes of forging and artefact production, and allows a much greater understanding for the non-blacksmiths among us, and also makes it possible for the objects described to be reproduced. His explanations are very clear and easy to follow, and I feel I learnt a lot from this book.

    As the authors experience has been with Roman Britain he keeps this as the focus , but the majority of the information could be applied to any part of the empire, so one should not be put off by thinking it is only relevant to England, while conversely if one is only interested in Britain it may be a little disappointing.

    My only criticism with this book is that by looking at how things can and could have been made the author shows possible ways the Romans may have created other objects, however, he does not seem to realise that just because something was possible to the ancients does not mean they did it, consider all the historical changes that were provided by just making small modifications that appear obvious with hindsight, for example gunpowder was around for centuries before people turned it into a weapon.


    Book: The Roman Iron Industry in Britain

    Author: David Sim

    Review by Joe Medhurst 

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     The physical destruction of Borley Rectory - famously known across the world as the ‘most haunted house in England’ - on a winter’s night only months before the outbreak of World War II was the culmination of many strange and dramatic happenings in this isolated corner of East Anglia over the proceeding seven decades. Today only photographs and a handful of disparate relics survive, with the result that the Revd Henry Bull’s gloomy and rambling red-brick house is now fast disappearing from living memory: even Peter Underwood, one of this country’s most experienced and respected paranormal researchers whose long and unprecedented association with the Borley case began in the mid-1940s, was unable to see the rectory in its entirety before it was finally demolished and the site levelled in the early months of 1944.

    In the years since the death of psychical researcher extraordinaire Harry Price, the greatest champion of genuine supernatural phenomena at Borley, the rectory case has divided the paranormal community as to its merits, not only a haunted house per se, but as one worthy of the ultimate ‘most haunted’ crown. Perhaps in the shadowy lamp-lit interior of Borley Rectory anything was possible, but despite much of the hysteria that tales of the haunting have and continue to generate, a thread of the unexplained runs through the many and varied chapters in its long and compelling history that cannot be completely dismissed or ignored.

    Set against accounts of phantom figures, ghostly wall writing, mysterious lights and midnight vigils, is a human drama of particular richness and extravagance which is the key to the longevity and enduring appeal of the Borley story. After much original research into the Borley ghosts during the 1970s, the late Bedfordshire ghost hunter Tony Broughall came to the perceptive conclusion that the rectory was probably never haunted – only perhaps by a succession of very strange occupants – both the haunters and the haunted - that fate had brought together. As to its grounds, the roadway alongside and the twelfth century church in whose shadow it stood between 1863 and 1944, he was not so sure. Undimmed by the passage of time, the ghosts of Borley continue to hold a fascination for all those who fall under their sway.  

    The Borley Rectory Companion

    Paul Adams is one of the authors of The Borley Rectory Companion

    For the full story of the most haunted house in Britain, please see The Borley Rectory Companion.

    For the complete range of The History Press's Haunted Books, please see the Haunted section of our website.



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  • 02/28/14--03:00: The Friday Digest 28/02/14
  • THP Friday digest 

    This week's update features the history of decimation, tank design and a look inside Broadmoor Hospital.


    A 1966 file photo shows members of the Trapp family as they gave a public concert at the family lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Maria is third from the left.

    Maria von Trapp, t
    he last surviving member of the Trapp Family Singers (the group whose story inspired The Sound of Music) has died at the age of 99.


    The first design - christened Little Willie - failed to cope with test trenches but a new concept was waiting (c) Richard Pullen


    * From their first appearances, tanks terrified the men unlucky enough to come face to face with them, but did you know that the tank was designed by two men, in little more than two months, in Lincoln?

    Image from


    * Remembering the lessons of how we 'stumbled into war' in 1914.


    Vis en Artois - VeA British Cemetery 07. License Attribution Some rights reserved by jinterwas


    * This year Britain is commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War, but what is the likelihood of a third world war?

    * Since there are no footnotes on television, Jessica Meyer asks how do professional historians (both academic and otherwise) working on the history of the First World War ensure that their work is properly acknowledged?

     Japanese pupils carrying out a traditional ceremony in Osaka

    * Educationalists and historians have been meeting across borders to attempt the seemingly impossible - a common history textbook for South East Asia. But is a 'textboook history' the answer?

    Richard III

    * The first glimpse of how Richard III could be reburied has been revealed, with the service to be conducted as an authentic medieval reburial service.


    No one was safe from decimation --  a terrifying form of punishment in the Roman army in which one out of every ten men was put to death for the offences of the larger legion.  

    * Murder by numbers – Military History Now takes a brief look at the history of decimation.

    James Patterson is giving some $1 million back to independent bookstores. 

    * After James Patterson announced that cheques had been sent out to fifty-five bookstores across the United States, Publishing Perspectives asks, should more top authors give back to indie bookstores? 

    Philip Pullman: author of His Dark Materials and a new Twitter tale about Jeffrey the housefly. Photo: Clara Molden/Wikimedia Commons

    Jeffrey the housefly: Philip Pullman's latest literary endeavour (on Twitter).   

    Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren's classic heroine Pippi Longstocking is the perfect World Book Day dress up. She can carry a horse, what's not to like? Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Beta Film

    * World Book Day is on Thursday 6th March but if you are already wondering what you should wear, then take a look at some costume ideas here

    Wearing glasses doesn't stop Harry Potter fulfilling his destiny and it shouldn't stop anybody else! Photograph: Max Toporsky/AP


    * With Harry Potter as an obvious choice, which books will help children feel good about wearing glasses? 

    Image from

    History Today have gathered together the most useful articles, hints and tips for history students which are well worth a read ...

    License Attribution Some rights reserved by mikeymckay. Image from

    * More useful resources, but this time focusing on social media and marketing for authors ...


    Tower Bridge c.1920 and 2014.

    London then and now in pictures ...

    hardcover-books. Image from

    * 'You had me at hello': 10 first lines to hook you ... 

    Brooadmoor Hospital. Copyrighted images courtesy West London Mental Health NHS Trust, Berkshire Record Office, Wellcome Trust and Getty Images.

    * It is 150 years since Broadmoor Hospital opened its doors to patients of both sexes who were deemed mentally unfit. Now a new hospital is being built next door, with plans to redevelop some of the original Victorian buildings. 

    Mawson's ship, the Aurora (c) SLNSW

    * One hundred years ago this week, Australia's foremost polar explorer, Douglas Mawson, returned home after two years of triumph and terror in East Antarctica.  


     Which history and publishing stories have you enjoyed reading this week?

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    Loco Motion


    Michael Bailey will be at the LUL Headquarters on Tuesday 1st April from 6pm giving a talk entitled ‘The Archaeology of Early Steam Locomotives’ for his new bookLoco Motion: The World's Oldest Steam Locomotives

    The steam locomotive is a machine that has inspired imagination, innovation and invention from the time of its origination and continues to evoke passion in enthusiasts today. Here Michael R. Bailey, expertly and in fascinating detail, describes the development of the steam locomotive during its pioneering first half-century until 1850 by exploring the surviving locomotives that may be seen in Britain, Europe, and North and South America. In addition to surviving relics, he also takes a look at operable replicas, which fill many gaps in international collections, to provide continuity in this evolutionary story.

    Exploring in depth each example’s operational and preservation history, along with design characteristics, component materials and modifications made, no detail is left unmentioned. With unparalleled detail, incredibly stunning images and a list of museums housing all of the world’s oldest locomotives, this truly is a volume that no student of railway history should be without.

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    They Did not Grow Old


    Tim Lynch will be at Great Boughton Library (afternoon) and Neston Library (evening) on Friday 21st March talking about his book, They Did Not Grow Old: Teenage Conscripts on the Western Front, 1918

    Looking beyond the war as portrayed by poets and playwrights, Tim Lynch tells the story of Britain’s true Unknown Soldiers – the teenage conscripts who won the war only to be forgotten by history. These were not the naïve recruits of 1914 who believed it would all be over by Christmas, but young men who had grown up in wartime – men who knew about the trenches, the gas and the industrialised slaughter, but who, when their time came, answered their country’s call anyway. For the first time, following the experiences of a typical reinforcement draft, this book explores what turned men so often dismissed as ‘shirkers’ into a motivated, efficient and professional army, but it also reminds us that in the cemeteries of France and Flanders, behind every headstone is a personal story. 

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    They Did not Grow Old


    Tim Lynch will be at Winsford Library and Upton Library on Tuesday 4th March talking about his book, They Did Not Grow Old: Teenage Conscripts on the Western Front, 1918

    Looking beyond the war as portrayed by poets and playwrights, Tim Lynch tells the story of Britain’s true Unknown Soldiers – the teenage conscripts who won the war only to be forgotten by history. These were not the naïve recruits of 1914 who believed it would all be over by Christmas, but young men who had grown up in wartime – men who knew about the trenches, the gas and the industrialised slaughter, but who, when their time came, answered their country’s call anyway. For the first time, following the experiences of a typical reinforcement draft, this book explores what turned men so often dismissed as ‘shirkers’ into a motivated, efficient and professional army, but it also reminds us that in the cemeteries of France and Flanders, behind every headstone is a personal story. 

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    Women in the War Zone


    Anne Powell will be at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday 6th March giving a 1 hour lecture on her book, Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War. She will also be selling and signing books

    In our collective memory, the First World War is dominated by men. The sailors, soldiers, airmen and politicians about whom histories are written were male, and the first half of the twentieth century was still a time when a woman's place was thought to be in the home. Yet there were some women who contributed to the war effort between 1914 and 1918 as doctors and nurses.

    Author Anne Powell has selected extracts from first-hand accounts of the experiences of those female medical personnel who served abroad during the First World War.  Filled with stories of bravery and kindliness, it is a book that honours the often unsung contribution made by the female doctors and nurses who helped to alleviate some of the suffering of the First World War. 

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    Ceredigion Folk Tales


    Peter Stevenson will be at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Thursday 6th March launching his new book, Ceredigion Folk Tales

    Ceredigion is a land shaped by mythology, where mermaids and magic mix with humans and where ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. This is a captivating collection of traditional and modern stories, including the submerged city of Cantre’r Gwaelod, or the ‘Welsh Atlantis’, how the Devil came to build a bridge over the Rheidol, the elephant that died in Tregaron, and how the Holy Grail came to Nanteos. All the while the tylwyth teg (the Welsh fairies) and changelings run riot through the countryside. Storyteller and illustrator Peter Stevenson takes us on a tour of a county steeped in legend, encountering ghosts, witches and heroes at every turn. 

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     Pembroke Dockyard and the Old Navy: A Bicentennial History


    Lawrie Phillips at will be at Pembroke Dockyard on Monday 10th March launching his new book, Pembroke Dockyard and the Old Navy: A Bicentennial History

    The Royal Dockyard at Pembroke Dock produced over 250 warships for the Royal Navy, including five royal yachts, between its founding in 1814 and its closure after the First World War. Prior to this, no ocean-going ships had ever been built on the south shores of Milford Haven, where the most complex piece of machinery used was the horse-drawn plough. Yet within twenty years Pembrokeshire men were building major British warships and they did so for the next hundred years. This long century, from the Napoleonic Wars until after the First World War, covered all the major changes in warship design and construction, from wood to iron and then steel, and from sail to steam, and paddle wheel to screw propulsion. In this authoritative and splendidly illustrated work, naval historian Lawrie Phillips, who was born and bred just outside the dockyard walls, tells the story of this royal yard, its ships and the Pembroke men who built them. 

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    Operation Unthinkable

    Jonathan Walker will be at the National Archives, London on Thursday 13th March talking about his book, Operation Unthinkable: The Third World War: British Plans to Attack the Soviet Empire 1945.  

    In Operation Unthinkable Jonathan Walker presents a haunting study of the war that so nearly was. He outlines the motivations behind Churchill’s plan, the logistics of launching a vast assault against an enemy who had bested Hitler, potential sabotage by Polish communists, and he speculates whether the Allies would have succeeded had the operation gone forward. Well supported by a wide range of primary sources from the Churchill Archives Centre, Sikorski Institute, National Archives and Imperial War Museum, this is a fascinating insight into the upheaval as the Second World War drew to a close and former alliances were shattered. Operation Unthinkable became the blueprint for the Cold War

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  • 03/04/14--06:00: The RNLI: 190 Years On
  • The Lifeboat Baronet - Janet Gleeson 

    Gales and stormy seas mean extra work for the RNLI. Over the last few months its lifeboats have been extra busy. Among the callouts, they assisted a French trawler when she lost power and her steering failed leaving her at the mercy of thirty foot waves off the Cornish coast. In Port Talbot, they towed a cruiser without engine to safety; and off the coast of Sunderland they rescued two teenagers stranded on rocks with an incoming tide.

    Heart-warming and heroic as such stories are - there’s also something reliably familiar about them. Rescues in harsh conditions are what the RNLI does. After all, since its foundation 190 years ago, it has become one of our favourite charities, the dependable saviour of anyone finding themselves in peril at sea.

    The Lifeboat Baronet - Janet Gleeson

    That said, it seems odd that few people recognise the name of the RNLI’s founder, Sir William Hillary, let alone know anything about his struggles. And yet, outside the RNLI headquarters in Poole, Dorset there’s a dramatic sculpture showing drowning mariners being saved from the waves emblazoned with his family motto, ‘ with courage nothing is impossible’. It is hard to pin point a reason for his disappearance from public consciousness. His life was eventful enough to be the stuff of fiction: a blend of financial tribulation, privilege, scandal and heroism. And there’s substance to his story. A cache of manuscript letters in the RNLI library gives vivid insight into the risk-loving man who lobbied the highest echelons of society to achieve his aims, and, despite being unable to swim, took to the lifeboats himself in the most vicious storms to save stranded mariners.

     When Hillary was born, in 1770, travel beyond Britain’s shores depended on the sea, and shipwrecks were all too familiar tragedies. With few purpose-built lifeboats, and no national organisation to coordinate them, even vessels foundering close to shore had little hope of being saved.  This fact was brought home to Hillary, when, following a series of private disasters, he was forced into exile in the Isle of Man. Witnessing shipwrecks in the stormy Irish Sea, he became convinced such disasters could be alleviated. And so his campaign began.

    The Lifeboat Baronet - Janet Gleeson

    Were the scandals littering his private life to blame for his subsequent disappearance in the shifting sands of time, or was it simply a historical blip? The only thing we can say for certain is that 190 years on, Hillary’s colossal achievement in making the sea safer for all of us deserves greater recognition.

    The Lifeboat Baronet - Janet Gleeson

    The Lifeboat Baronet: Launching the RNLI by Janet Gleeson is available from The History Press.

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    * Bodmin – The Dog Memorial

    In 1938 Prince and Princess Chula (an englishwoman, born Elizabeth Hunter) of Siam, now Thailand, came to Cornwall, lived at Rock for some time and then moved to Tredethy, a country house near Bodmin, which later became a hotel. They were joined there by his cousin Prince Bira. Both men served in the Home Guard during the war and Princess Chula became superintendent of the St John Ambulance Brigade. Prince Chula was a great animal lover, and had a granite memorial incorporating a drinking bowl for dogs, erected in the Priory car park. An inscription on it reads, ‘Presented by His Royal Highness Prince Chula of Siam in memory of his friend Joan, a wire-haired terrier who died in 1948 in her 17th year. Further endowed in memory of the bulldog Hercules 1954.’ Chula died in 1963 and his wife eight years later.

    * Bude – The Storm Tower

    An octagonal building, built partly for ornament but also as a refuge for the coastguard, in about 1835, designed by George Wightwick who described it as being ‘after the Temple of the Winds at Athens’. Sometimes known as the Pepperpot or the Winds Tower, it stands on a plinth with three granite steps up to the entrance on the east side, and the points of the compass carved as a frieze in sans-serif below the moulded cornice. It was demolished in 1881 as the condition of the cliff below had rendered it unsafe, and was re-erected further from the cliff edge.

    * Falmouth – Jacob’s Ladder

    A Wesleyan chapel was built in the town in 1791. It is said by some that Jacob Hamblyn, a builder, property owner and tallow chandler, thought that it was on too high a level for many would-be worshippers to reach easily, so he helpfully added 111 granite steps from the centre of town. He may have overlooked the fact that only worshippers possessed of exceptionally strong stamina would be able to scale them all at once and then attend a service in the chapel. The latter is now an inn, which some may feel offers more of a reward for those with the necessary stamina to reach the top. others suggest that his real reason for building them was to provide access between his business at the bottom and his property at the top.


    * Falmouth – Church Street Shop Front

    Built in about 1780, the shop at 54 Church Street has a bow-fronted window built in the early nineteenth century thought to be the oldest existing such front in Cornwall.

    * Falmouth – The Queen’s Pipe

    An incinerator built in the early nineteenth century to dispose of the large amount of smuggled tobacco being brought into port. As the trade diminished, the increasingly small amounts of confiscated weed were passed to the workhouse for the men there to enjoy.

    What was once the furnace used to burn the smuggled tobacco (Source:

    * Helston – Grylls Gate, Coinagehall Street

    A Victorian Gothic gateway, at the entrance to Helston Bowling Green, erected in 1834 by public subscription to the memory of Humphrey Millet Grylls, a Helston banker and solicitor who helped to keep the local tin mine Wheal Vor open, saving over a thousand jobs in the process. A vellum copy of a eulogy written for Grylls by the Revd Derwent Coleridge was placed in a bottle and deposited in a hole made in the first stone laid as the monument was being erected.



    * Launceston – The Quarter Jacks

    Sometimes known locally as the Black Jacks, they are two figures which wield their hammers on a bell by clockwork every fifteen minutes. Carved in the 1640s, they originally stood at Hexworthy House, a few miles south of the town. Later they were moved to a site over the old Guildhall, and after that to over the Butter Market clock, until the latter building was demolished in 1920 to make room for a war memorial. They were then placed over the Guildhall clock, where they can be seen to this day.

    * Morwenstow – Hawker’s Hut

    Parson Robert Hawker built a small shanty hut under the cliffs at Morwenstow, from driftwood which he had collected, hauling it up from the beach. Most of it probably consisted of wreckage from ships which had come to grief on the rocks. Naturally accessible only by foot, it is at present the smallest property owned by the National Trust.


    * Penzance – The Egyptian House

    A house was built in Chapel Street by Plymouth architect John Foulston in about 1835, in keeping with a brief craze at the time for copying egyptian motifs, and in imitation of the egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London. It was commissioned by John Lavin, a Penzance bookseller specialising in maps, guides and stationery, and dealer in minerals, who had bought two cottages for £396 and wanted to make something more picturesque out of them, raising the height of the two buildings now turned into one and adding the façade to the street front. In addition to carrying on his business from the premises, he also created a small museum of fossils and minerals inside. The building has since been turned into three flats, with two shops beneath, although the present owners, the Landmark Trust, have taken care to preserve the original decoration.


    * Saltash – Union Inn

    In 1995 a union flag was painted on the front of the union Inn, Tamar Street. Incorporating the red crosses of St George for england, the white and red diagonal crosses of St Andrew for Scotland, and that of St Patrick on a blue ground, it was intended as a temporary measure to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Ve Day, and was so popular with the locals that it has since been maintained. It also has two striking murals on the gable end, painted by local artist David Wheatley.


    * Extracted from The Little Book Of Cornwall by John Van Der Kiste. (Photos taken from outher sources)

    Cornwall Day - 5th March

    For further reading on Cornish history, take a browse through our Cornish history section.

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