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The History Press blog

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  • 03/13/15--03:30: The Friday Digest 13/03/15
  • THP Friday digest

    This week's update features the dogs of the First World War, the ruins of Italy's Ionian coast and nine surprising facts about Anne Frank.

    David Wenham plays Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales, in Jimmy McGovern's new drama Banished

    * Why is Australia so ashamed of its 'founder'

    Mistresses through history: the term wasn’t always about secret sex

    * Mistresses through history: the term wasn’t always about secret sex ... 


    Battle of Waterloo, 18th June 1815, 1898 (colour litho) by Sullivan, William Holmes


    * Why we must remember the bloody cost of Waterloo.

    Staff Sergeant (Horse Farrier) of the Army Service Corps (ASC) with the Corps pet dogs, Hissy and Jack. France, August 1916. The note on the reverse of the card reads 'France, August 1916. Our Corps pet named Hissy 8 months old & the Terrier named Jack. May - just after we came out here 16 months - & our Staff Sgt Farrier Len Nusse'. © The Libby Hall Collection, Bishopsgate Institute Archive

    * In pictures: dogs of the First World War

    ‘A Call From Selma’

    ‘A call from Selma’

    Doric limestone columns from the sixth century B.C., ruins of a temple where the Greeks worshiped Hera, are the most famous attraction in Metaponto, Basilicata. Credit Angelo Antolino for The New York Times

    Discovering the ruins of Italy’s Ionian coast

    The Age of Heroes: Ancient Greece Uncovered Season

    * BBC Four announces The Age Of Heroes: Ancient Greece Uncovered season

    Michelangelo Buonarroti, circa 1520


    * The Michelangelo letter which drew a ransom demand from the Vatican

    The Queen's Maritime History

    * The queen's maritime history.  

    The Wicked Lady, 1945


    Did films reflect or shape gender roles in the Second World War

    9 things you might not know about Anne Frank

    * Nine surprising facts about Anne Frank

    WW2 - luminous flowers for sale

    * How did the Second World War change the way people dressed

    The Museum of London Archaeological Archive. Photo: Museum of London


    * An embarrassment of riches: the UK museums struggling with an excess of archaeological archives

    The History of the Engagement Ring

    * The history of the engagement ring.

    Sandro Botticelli, Primavera, Uffizi Gallery, Florence Photo: PRISMA ARCHIVO / ALAMY

    * Ten paintings with hidden meanings

    Five photographs that (you didn’t know) changed everything

    Five photographs that (you didn’t know) changed everything

    Walking down any street meant you would see an array of fancy dresses with equally elaborate umbrellas. Fox Photos / Via Getty

    * Twenty-three charming photos that prove the Victorian era had the best fashion

    “Horse and Groom” (c.1855), by Jean-Baptiste Frénet ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE WILSON CENTRE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

    * 'Salt and Silver', Tate Britain’s evocative exhibition of some of photography’s very earliest images.

    Why the Magic 8 Ball Still Holds Our Fascination

    Why the Magic 8 Ball still holds our fascination ... 

    Harper Lee's acerbic response to one journalist's letter sent to test her lucidity


    Harper Lee's acerbic response to one journalist's letter sent to test her lucidity

    Reading e-readers wrong ... Fay Weldon. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/Antonio Olmos

    * Fay Weldon has misread 'non-literary' ebook readers


    The Story of Nuclear Power and The Story of Medicine were both published in 1972


    * The strange things we learned from Ladybird Books

    E-reader and books. When you include 'digital audio books, book apps and digital academic textbooks, and we see a sector broadening not wilting'. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian


    * When is a book, not a book


    * The unexpected health benefits of being an avid reader. 

    Why I Love Bookshops

    * Why I love bookshops

    Sir Terry Pratchett

    * Much loved author Sir Terry Pratchett has passed away at the age of 66.  

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    Millions of prisoners of war from the Great War provided vast intelligence covering units, operational plans, techniques in combat, and general information on what was going on the other side of No Man’s Land.

    Modern day attention to information technology access by adversaries can look to the Great War for establishing the standard by which all activity was closely scrutinised through an array of intelligence collection.  Four years of war created incredible advances in weaponry and application to major operations involving millions of men.  Keeping pace with the advances was the ability to collect information and develop intelligence—particularly through the world of science and technology. The entire Western Front benefited from advances in intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination.  Every adversary had access to a variety of sources from the electromagnetic spectrum, the physics of sound and light and from the third dimension employing the latest in aeronautical engineering and aeroplane design.  Information and intelligence had a primary purpose—described by Capitaine Jean De Bissy, an early French pioneer of aerial photographic interpretation, “to follow the destructive work of our Artillery and to register the victorious advance of our Infantry.” 

    The top priority for Allied intelligence collection and analysis in 1918 was enumeration [ordered listing of all of the items in that collection] and position of enemy units, be it army corps, divisions, and regiments, facing the allied sector along the front line. At division-level the intelligence officer’s priority of information collection and analysis involved knowing the enemy infantry’s line of resistance, the number of effective troops in line constituting the order of battle, determining troop material and morale, ascertaining if reserves were being brought up, the strength of that support and when they could be brought into action. For regiments assigned to the front line, the regimental intelligence officer’s priority was to watch over the enemy defensive organisations and determine changes in observation posts, machine guns, shelters, and wire entanglements.  It was essential that the regimental intelligence officer kept his commander informed daily, “…and make him take an interest in it.”  It was a methodology that prioritised identity.  A British intelligence officer described a lucrative source:  “It may be stated that the most certain method of identifying the enemy’s units is by obtaining prisoners or deserters.  Next to this the best things are documents taken from dead or prisoners.” This was a well-established process for all combatants.  The Americans were novices, but relied on more experienced French 2e Bureau intelligence to hone their interrogation skills.  As a senior British intelligence officer further reflected on the experience of acquiring information. “Most of the information which a prisoner has is information in detail regarding the enemy defensive works on his own immediate front.  To extract this information from him requires time.” What did not come with the new wave of intelligence and accessible information was operational solutions to break the deadlock that positional war created.

    Gleaning German intentions for an attack took everything into consideration.  Trench raids (coup d’ main) became the standard for operations up and down the front line.  When information was needed for refining last minute operations, a trench raid was mounted to either capture prisoners for interrogation, gather available evidence from the enemy trenches, or both. The raiding party had priorities to make note of the trench construction, to include how the revetments were configured.  Any article of equipment was a source for intelligence analysis.  Captured booty such as helmets, caps, rifles, shoulder straps and identity discs complemented the analysis. Sources of information from prisoners and raids on enemy territory included orders, personal letters and correspondence, providing immediate importance to opposing units as well as unit identification. Critical to allied intelligence on German prisoners was the Soldbuchen or pay book.  It served as identification and contained the military record and provided discussion for the first interrogation.

    Prisoner interrogation became a science of human emotion and psychology.  German military intelligence was aware that the allies had been told to expect beatings and other ordeals, and so ‘prisoners who, still feeling the violent emotions of battle, found themselves humanely treated….spoke more willingly even than the deserters.”  Allied interrogation centers took great care in ethnically separating German prisoners.  Polish and Alsace-Lorraine prisoners were kept in separate locations to promulgate their anger towards Germans, reinforced by better treatment and food “which nearly always loosens their tongues.”

    Positional war meant continual observation of the enemy through a network of observation post stations strategically positioned along both sides of the front line. Ground observation’s incessant watch of the same enemy turf day after day acquired the fleeting opportunities that became valued intelligence.  Telescopes, periscopes and field glasses combined with panoramic ground-level photographs, pasted together to form a horizon line mosaic, provided detail for infantry analysis.   The panoramic mosaics were annotated with degrees marked so a consistent bearing to a recognised permanent point could be given for all observations.   Ground observation intelligence collection was not shared by all front line positions like sentries and machine gunners.  Their role required total concentration to react effectively against observed activity.  Instead, the ground observer was a highly experienced infantryman who could piece together an evolving situation and report in a timely manner back to intelligence elements or artillery units.

    A private serving in the 26th Division in 1918 provided a testament to the environment. “Let me tell you of something we learned which proves that Fritz is no dub, even if he is a Hun.  It’s hard for the man on the front line watch during the night time to tell what’s going on out yonder in the shell-marked contested area.  He’s continually looking for something to develop.  Every possible precaution must be taken against raids or surprise attacks.  That’s why each side sends out men on listening duty to crawl around on their stomachs and get as close as possible to the opposite line to pick up any little scrap of conversation that might happen to float over the enemy’s parapet.  It’s a strict military order that there shall be no talking in the front line trenches, but soldiers under the long strain of the night will talk to each other now and then, generally in whispers or low overtone.  Sometimes listeners have brought back valuable bits of information foolishly dropped on the wings of the night by a nervous soldier who couldn’t restrain his tongue.  That is why each side sends up flares.  Always there is the hope of catching the other fellow in the act of spying.”

    Sound ranging observation posts dotted both sides of No Man’s Land throughout the Western Front.  Sound Ranging used acoustical principles to locate enemy artillery.  Integral to the sound ranging operation was a forward observer who could recognise the artillery piece being fired by the sound created and phoned to headquarters any specifics regarding the weapon and location.  As the sonic wave traveled at the rate of 300 meters per second, it created an arc, which was measured by several stations emplaced along the front.  The time interval of the sound arc was measured and plotted on a map.  Sound ranging data was synthesised via a computer and the resulting information was passed on to the artillery via telephone. 

    This is an actual computer that synthesized the information acquired from the sound waves of artillery captured by the Sound Ranging sensors.

    Complementing sound ranging of artillery fire throughout the Western Front was an extensive flash spotting network.  When an enemy battery opened fire, the flash spotting observer set his observation glass towards the flash and called his angle to the central station; these angles were laid off on the map at central, and where the lines subtending the angle from each observer crossed, there was the battery. The discharge of a high velocity gun was distinguishable from a howitzer by the sharp blade-like stab of flame emitted and the fact that little or no smoke was observed.  The flash of a howitzer on the other hand had a more deliberate appearance—a distinct yellowish color accompanied by a certain amount of smoke. So accurate was the system that a report was made every time an enemy battery fired the data was placed on a chart showing active and inactive locations of enemy batteries.  The absence of sound and light data prompted the artillery command posts to look elsewhere for targets.

    Aviation on the Western Front was an essential component of intelligence.  Aeroplanes extended the visual range for analysis by corps and army planners and operators.  By virtue of their ability to cover a given area the two had similar missions of artillery direction, information gathering on enemy organisation and enemy works, monitoring front and rear echelons, and assisting long term analysis as it concerned combat sustainability through rail and road traffic.  The process was extensive throughout.  Products included “hasty drawings, sketches, and diagrams for the General Staff of the Division, study aeroplane photographs of enemy territory, to keep up to date the sector maps showing both Intelligence and Operations Information, to distribute maps, and to collect and forward to the Corps at prescribed intervals the corrections in trenches and other military features for incorporation in new editions of the battle map at Army Headquarters.”

    Communication between aeroplane and division employed wireless radio, visual signals, signal rockets from the aeroplane, and written messages dropped from the aeroplane.  Ground communication to the aeroplane employed large panels, rockets, and Bengal flares. Communication between aviation and division was covered by long distance telephone lines maintained through regional exchanges.  In addition, pigeon lofts were set up at the airdrome to provide additional communications networks between the division and the Group.

    Captive balloons were ideal for monitoring operations close to the front lines especially with telephonic connectivity to provide constant updates for ground commanders and artillery units.  The sector of surveillance for the balloon was the same as the zone of action for the artillery which it was supporting.  Divisional balloons supported division artillery fire with limited range.  Balloons attached to heavy artillery devoted their time to counter-battery work and the demolition of batteries recognised by their emplacements and works within the second position of the sector.  During an attack the divisional balloon followed the advance of the infantry, informing the commanders of the situation and disposition of the battle lines.  Enemy disposition and movements were also monitored.  During the battle aerostiers [and their German equivalent] watched enemy batteries that commenced fire and informed artillery of their locations for counter-battery.  Machine guns protected the balloons from enemy aviation.  The cardinal rule was they never took their eyes off their sector.

    On the actual battleground, intelligence networks proliferated employing state of the art wiretapping techniques.  By 1915, communication networks at the front became obliterated thanks to incessant artillery, requiring ground telegraphy to provide communications within the trenches.  Electro-magnetic currents of comparatively low frequency could be detected directly by the telephone receiver. Wire-tapping units intercepted ground telegraph lines. Three kilometers was the normal range for transmissions, enough to support the average front line unit sector.  In turn, intercept stations working from the most forward trenches used the earth lines to listen in to the enemy telephone conversations in the opposite trenches.  Their intercept reporting provided indication of enemy relief and warning of imminent attacks. Conversations were intercepted either by induction through earth pickups or through actual wiretapping of the telephone lines that covered the front.  It was a testament to the bravery of both sides that many risked their lives to go into enemy lines and tap lines.  What resulted up and down the front line was conversations between all echelons became accessible by the enemy.  Attempts to counter this vulnerability resulted in the ultimate cryptographic development in the war—trench codes.

    Spies within the units also added to the mystique of intelligence collection.  It was endemic, particularly when American forces arrived at the front lines.  An American officer from the 26th Division recalled, “Spies inside our line evidently knew as much as we ourselves, for the relief was made under a very severe bombardment, all roads and trenches leading to the rear being heavily shelled practically all night long.  All the towns in the rear of the lines were infested by German spies.  Being so near the German frontier, and having for years intermarried, the natives who had been allowed to remain in their homes were in constant communication with the enemy.”  Another American officer reminded his troops, “The uniform is not a passport.”

    Caudron [G 4s] Signalling - The great French aerial reconnaissance Pilot Capitaine Roeckel commented on the ability of aviation to support artillery targeting with, “The point of aim - whether it is a trench, a battery, or a shelter - his will for destruction concentrates upon that.”

    Finally, when the Germans advanced into France and Belgium and set up their battle lines that became the longstanding Western Front, wherever possible they purposely chose the high ground offered through the available terrain. Positional war required constant surveillance to maintain advantage.  In the St. Mihiel sector, Cote 380 “Montsec” was the celebrated advance sentinel of hills facing the allies in the southern Woëvre front – a geographical high point that became the subject of legendary press dispatches. The Germans made Montsec one of the most lucrative observation posts on the Western Front providing continual observation until a month prior to the armistice.  Concrete underground observation stations overlooked every movement to the horizon.   Six galleries were constructed within the mountain with entrances facing the opposite northern reverse slope for extra-added protection from allied artillery fire.  Montsec internal galleries were located on the highest part of the ridge, configured with massive timbers, extended lighting and communication throughout using speaking tubes that connected each observation post.   The primary observation deck was configured to withstand any aerial or artillery attempts to blind the operation. Montsec governed the Woëvre battlefield not only in confirming the ultimate higher ground advantage but also a never-ending psychological dominance over the allied infantry. From Montsec the battleground spread like a map.  Every allied move for miles south of Seicheprey, to include the Beaumont Ridge, “Dead Man’s Curve,” and the towns to the south.  A better vantage point could not be imagined.   Soldiers in the Seicheprey area complained that they could not change a vermin-infested shirt without permission of the Germans.  Slogging each day in the eternal muck that was the trenches only added to the frustration and despair for each soldier because they saw a German adversary living high and dry.  On clear days, American soldiers were forbidden to walk on the roads, as the olive-drab uniform was easily detected from Montsec observatories on the white surface of the roads.  The only way to effectively reinforce ongoing operations was under cover of darkness or inclement weather with a very low cloud ceiling.  Likewise, Montsec effectually blocked American ground observation of gleaning German intentions for a potential attack. To maneuver everyday with movement open to enemy observation, to advance along roads accurately registered for enemy fire, and to conduct offensive operations without incident was miraculous at best.  Perhaps the most eloquent summation of aviation operations in the southern Woëvre region came from America’s leading ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s post-war memoir that the high ground of Montsec dominated aviation’s role.  From the observation posts the Germans maintained constant surveillance of the airfields south of the front lines at Seicheprey.  “Not a machine could leave our field at Toul without being seen by these watchers atop Montsec!  No wonder their many photographing machines escaped us!  Many and many a time we had hurried out to the lines in answer to an alert, only to find that it was a false alarm.  Now we understood why we lost them.  The Germans had seen our coming, and by signaling their machines had given them warning in time to evade us.  They retired and landed and waited until we had returned home, then they calmly proceeded with their interrupted work!”  

    For the Great War veteran J.R.R. Tolkein, author of Lord of the Rings, the standard by which all activity was closely scrutinised through an array of intelligence collection most likely served as the nightmare inspiration for the all-seeing eye of Sauron that insured evil ruled over all the land of Mordor and kept the enemies under constant surveillance.

    Terrence J. Finnegan is a retired US Air Force Colonel and senior civil servant whose career spans four decades of military service. His career as a Military Intelligence professional covered analysis, production and planning at the US Department of Defense. He is the author of ‘A Delicate Affair’ on the Western Front: America Learns How to Fight a Modern War in the Woëvre Trenches (Spellmount, 2015). He is also the author of Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance of the First World War (Spellmount, 2011). 

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  • 03/20/15--06:30: The Friday Digest 20/03/15
  • THP Friday digest

    This week's update features the Apian Emperor, England's abandoned mansions and the dreams of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

    Mont Orgueil Castle on the Isle of Jersey (photo by Lady Dorothy)

    * The Jersey connection to Napoleon.

    wellington young

    How Arthur Wellesley became 'Wellington'

    The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David, 1821. Charlotte is on the left, behind Zénaïde. Painted in Brussels, the sisters are reading a letter from their father Joseph, who is in America.

    * Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon’s artistic niece

    Napoleon Tapestry Portrait and detail of the coronation robe after a painting by Baron François Gérard, 1805

    * Napoleon, the Apian Emperor

    Lesley Simpson

    Lesley Simpson, the first female Guizer Jarl   or chief Viking   in the 130-year history of Shetland's world-famous fire festivals is preparing to don her armour and make history

    Suite Francaise

    * Michelle Williams and the preparation for her Suite Francaise role

    A skull at the Crossrail dig, London

    * Archaeology: remembering the ordinary people ... 

    The Queen Mary steams out of New York. The Queen Mary and her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth provided a twice weekly transatlantic service for Cunard between the 1940s and 1960s

    * What do you do with an old ocean liner

     ‘We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way,: from the earth,’ says Julian Spalding, who believes it served as a raised altar on which masses of worshippers would gather. Photograph: Peter Adams/Getty Images


    * Stonehenge's origin is the subject of a new theory proposed by former museum director Julian Spalding

    Tissot, The Bridesmaid

    * Etiquette for the Victorian gentleman

    Dickens in his study at Gad's Hill Place (c) Alamy

    * Why did Charles Dickens have a personal postbox?  

    Trapeze artists, in lithograph by Calvert Litho. Co., 1890.

    * The high-wire act of the Victorian and Edwardian circus

    Friends and Lovers, Lords and Ladies The lovers of “Downton Abbey” become more passionate with age—but it’s the most aristocratic couple that remains surprisingly steadfast.

    The lovers of Downton Abbey become more passionate with age — but it’s the most aristocratic couple that remains surprisingly steadfast.

    From Norma Jean To Marilyn Monroe Max Factor

    * Marilyn Monroe and Max Factor: the business of looking good ... 


    The lost Gillender Building at 14 Wall Street

    Winstanley Hall in Wigan

    * What happened to England's abandoned mansions?

    Century-long history of RAF Leuchars commemorated in exhibition. Some of the exhibits on show.DC Thomson

    * The century-long history of RAF Leuchars has been commemorated in an exhibition

    A Stagecoach bus profiling the story of one Gloucestershire soldier

    * The stories of a number of soldiers from the Gloucestershire Regiment are being carried on local buses to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

    The Holy Land Jewish refugees and survivors of Holocaust. Haifa, Palestine, July 1946. David Douglas Duncan

    * A war photographer’s ninety-nine-year journey.  


    Mackintosh design for "House for an Art Lover"


    * The dreams of Charles Rennie Mackintosh


    Simone de Beauvoir

    * Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Richard III skull next to facial reconstruction (c) Getty


    * Soil from the village where Richard III was born will be placed in his coffin when he is reburied next Thursday

    Research has confirmed, and in many cases shed further light on, known historical migration patterns.


    * A new genetic study of the UK shows 10,000 years of immigration and invasions



    * The first spacewalk was fifty years ago and was almost a disaster ... 

    The total solar eclipse seen from Svalbard, Norway. The Faroe Islands and Svalbard in the Arctic Circle were the only places to experience a total eclipse.

    People across the UK and northern Europe have gathered to see the best solar eclipse in years. A path across the Earth's surface was plunged into darkness when the Moon covered up the Sun earlier today

    Fritchley Tunnel

    * The 'world's oldest railway tunnel' in Derbyshire has been awarded protected status

    Attaching top edge of the print to a rod and taking the print down.

    * Conserving Dürer’s Triumphal Arch: a moving experience

    A blue and gold fabric design of a single peacock in full tail display catalogue reference: BT 43/102/319345

    * The challenges of archiving the arts.  



    The most heated, passionate and intense letters of love, lust and anger ever written. (NSFW) 


    Sam Husain

    * The man who transformed bookshop chain Foyles

    Why I Love Bookshops


    * Some interesting thoughts on how to rebuild a publishing business

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  • 03/26/15--01:00: The betrayal of Richard III
  • File:Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpg

    Scrape away the accumulated filth of tainted evidence which has disfigured the memory of Richard III for the past five hundred years, and there is really very little that remains mysterious about the outlines of his story. In fact it can be summed up in one sentence: he accepted his dead brother’s throne when it was offered him at a moment of desperate crisis, and no record survives of the ultimate fate of his nephews.

    From these flimsy foundations has grown the grotesque figure of evil which was the work of Henry Tudor and his propagandists. Therefore, in considering the evidence either for or against Richard it is essential to trace it to its source, and in assessing its value, to take into consideration the  background, personal prejudices and ulterior motives of the-witnesses. Thus the evidence of John Rous, whether in Richard’s favour or not, is of little value, for the man was obviously a time-server whose aim was to please the king of the moment, whether Edward, Richard or Henry.

    Mancini, as he himself admitted, retailed the current gossip as he heard it, giving a vivid picture of the difficulties with which Richard had to contend. The writer of the Croyland Chronicle evidently disliked Richard even when he was Duke of Gloucester and disapproved of his accession, regarding it as a usurpation. Many worthy people at the time, not knowing the urgent necessity to keep the peace which lay behind Richard’s acceptance of the crown, undoubtedly thought the same, and Richard himself was under no delusion as to the censure which his action would incur in many minds. None the less the chronicler tries to be fair, though his information is by no means always accurate.

    Writers who lived during Richard’s lifetime but who wrote after his death, such as Fabyan and the writer of the Great Chronicle of London in England, and de Commines in France were either, as in the first case, pro-Lancastrian, or, as in the second, anti-English, and were further influenced by the Tudor line, which had become the official and generally accepted version within a few years of Bosworth. They were thus prejudiced and their evidence is correspondingly suspect. Later writers, such as Polydore Vergil and More, depend entirely on hearsay; in the case of Vergil the inspiration comes from Henry VII and in that of More from Morton, which practically rules them out of court. In every case ‘common fame’, in other words vulgar gossip, is the source quoted.

    It will therefore be seen that the contemporary or near contemporary chroniclers are of little value, and the only reliable sources of information are the records of the period, both public and private, of which a considerable number have survived, contrary to the generally accepted view. Among these are the record of Richard’s legislation in the Parliament Rolls, references to him in municipal records, his grants in the Patent Rolls, and various miscellaneous documents relating to his household and his public departments. There are also a few revealing private letters which still survive and show a very different man to the monster of legend. Among the latter is a letter to his mother (BL. Harl. MS. 433) which goes far to prove that mother and son were very close to each other and to dispose of the story that Richard caused Shaw to slander the Duchess of York in his sermon at St Paul’s Cross. In the same collection there is a letter to his Chancellor, the Bishop of Lincoln, written when his Solicitor General, Thomas Lynom, succumbed to the charms of the fair Jane Shore and wished to marry her, in spite of her complicity in the Hastings-Woodville plot and her subsequent disgrace.

    The letter is a model of tolerance and kindliness; far from forbidding the unwelcome match and ordering the disgrace of Lynom as he might well have done, the King merely asks the bishop to use his influence to stop it, adding that if Lynom is resolved he will give his consent, and in the meantime Jane is to be released and placed in the care of her father. Hardly the attitude of a tyrant.

    There is also the letter now in the Public Record Office, written to the Chancellor at the time of Buckingham’s rebellion, with a postscript in the King’s own hand expressing his horror at his friend’s treason and calling Buckingham ‘the most untrue creature living’, which he undoubtedly was. There is no trace of the cruel monster in any of these letters; indeed they arc those of a gentle and honourable man and tell us more of the real Richard than anything else could possibly do. They are not official documents written with one eye on public opinion and the other on posterity. His legislation shows consideration for his poorer subjects and a zeal for justice which benefitted the people while it lost the King powerful support. The civic records of York show the esteem and affection in which he was held by that city when he was Duke of Gloucester, and the touching entry in the council minutes recording his death is as fine an epitaph as any man could wish for:

    ‘King Richard late mercifully reigning over us was through great treason … piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.’ Brutal tyrants arc not so mourned. The homely fact that he was known as ‘Dickon’ to his meanest subjects is in his favour, for men who are hated arc not called by affectionate diminutives. His loyalty to his brother was remarkable in that time of easy treasons. The only recorded occasion on which he opposed Edward was at the Treaty of Picquigny, when he alone refused the bribes of the King of France and spoke against what he considered to be a shameful betrayal of his country’s interests and honour.

    Far from being the subtle schemer and ‘deep dissembler’ which later chroniclers accuse him of being, he had a great distaste for intrigue. He kept himself apart from the constant plottings which riddled Edward’s court, going about his business in the north. Indeed, so little was he versed in intrigue that when he met it himself he was quite incapable of dealing with it. His own nature put him at a hopeless disadvantage with men like Buckingham, Hastings, and Stanley, to whom the atmosphere of plot and counterplot was as natural as the air they breathed. They were  incomprehensible to Richard as he was to them; each judged the other by his own standards until it was too late and tragedy was upon them all.

    It is impossible for the most biassed anti-Ricardian to find any tenable charge that can be brought against Richard up to the time of Edward’s death. He was a loyal and honourable man to whom his brother need feel no hesitation in committing the safety of his wife and children and the welfare of his country. Had that been all that Edward bequeathed to Richard the sequel would have been very different, but he was also leaving to his younger brother an impossible situation. From that unspoken bequest arose all the disasters of the next two years, culminating in Richard’s own betrayal and death and the end of the House of York.

    It is important to judge Richard’s actions after Edward’s death as we find them recorded at the time and without the embellishments of later writers, who, though they like to assume an inside  knowledge of his motives, are in no position to tell us what went on in his mind.

    Richard’s actions on receiving the news of Edward’s death away in the north were irreproachable. The ride to York with his train of mourners, the requiem mass and the public oath of allegiance to his nephew were both natural and fitting. There is no sign of indecent haste or impatience to ride south at speed and seize the reins of power. Even after receiving Hastings’ news of what was going on in London he does not summon reinforcements but continues on his way with his small escort to meet his nephew at Northampton, and it is only here, after receiving further alarming news, that he takes the first strong measure to deal with the crisis brought about by the Woodvilles.

    It is from now on that it becomes possible to put two diametrically opposed constructions on Richard’s actions, the one honourable and the other base. The Tudor historians for their own reasons have chosen the latter; all Richard’s acts arc diabolical, his motives the very worst. In order to make their version at all consistent they have juggled with facts and dates, and where these have proved intractable they have not scrupled to fall back on sheer invention. On the other hand Richard is entitled to be judged, in default of direct evidence, in the light of his own past record- the record of a man who for thirty years had shown himself loyal, honest and trustworthy. It is unlikely that such a man should almost overnight become false, double-dealing and perfidious. Evidence of character is all in Richard’s favour and in its light the events of that summer of 1483 are at least comprehensible, whereas the Tudor version makes them improbable beyond the wildest imaginings.

    Every act of Richard’s till the middle of June is entirely consistent with an intention to crown his nephew. Not only is the boy treated with every respect as King and the preparations for his coronation speedily carried on, but the fact that Richard made no attempt to send for reinforcements seems conclusive proof that he was not contemplating any drastic change of the accepted plans. The shattering upheavals that took place between June 9th and 25th clearly indicate a crisis as unexpected as it was serious, and the urgent call to York for help on the 10th is not the action of a man who has been carefully plotting a coup d’etat in his own favour, but rather of one who is suddenly confronted with a desperate and unexpected emergency. The whole incident of Shaw’s clumsy sermon which was much more calculated to alarm the people than to allay their fears has an atmosphere of panic about it which is very foreign to Richard’s character but may well have reflected the feeling of the Council, faced with the problem of an illegitimate heir, Woodville plots, an uneasy country, and the threat of civil disturbances. It is not surprising if the citizens, frightened and bewildered by these sudden changes which they did not understand, were at first reluctant to commit themselves and became the prey of inspired rumour. Who should blame them? It was only when Richard had finally accepted the crown and had taken his seat on the King’s Bench in  Westminster Hall that the common people felt it safe to acclaim him, but when it came, their approbation was whole-hearted, and throughout the coronation celebrations there is no hint of there having been unrest or dissatisfaction.

    Richard’s real motives in accepting the crown remain buried in his own heart, as he has left no personal record which could supply a clue to his thoughts. They were probably, as is usually the case, mixed, but it is certain that he capitulated to the urgent demands of the leading men of the country, and it is equally certain that by so doing he saved it from a renewed outbreak of civil war. He was no more a usurper than his brother Edward had been, and neither then nor at any later time had he cause to fear that his title, confirmed by the Titulus Regius, could with reason or legality be called in question. He had therefore no reason to wish his nephews dead. On the contrary, their continued existence was a safeguard against an attempt on the throne by Henry Tudor, the only potential pretender, through marriage with the boys’ sister.

    It is significant that the only public reference to their supposed murder comes from the Continent, when, in January of1483/4 the French Chancellor, in a speech to the Etats-Generaux, accuses Richard of having had them put to death. His inspiration probably came from Mancini’s gossip, for Mancini was a friend of the Chancellor. Morton had also arrived in France shortly before. The Great Chronicle of London records that after Easter 1484 there was ‘much whispering among the people that the King had put the children of Edward IV to death’. Thus it will be seen that the stories were current in France sometime before they were at all general in England, and it is not difficult to trace their source to Henry Tudor and his advisers.

    Rastell in his Pastyme of Peoples tells of a variety of stories which went the rounds as to the fate of the boys, thus proving that nothing was known and that the various stories were nothing but tittle tattle. The secrecy in which the whole affair was wrapped is in itself proof that Richard was not their murderer. If for any reason he had decided that their deaths were necessary he would have had to give out some explanation of their fate, for obviously a secret murder would defeat its own ends. If it was expedient that they should die, it was equally expedient that they should be known beyond all shadow of doubt to be dead.

    Richard’s only course would have been to let them be seen to be well treated until speculation as to their future had died down, then arrange a murder which would look like a natural death – not a difficult task in those days of epidemics and little medical knowledge – followed by an exposure of the bodies at St Paul’s and a funeral  befitting their father’s sons. Richard could have picked his own time for the murder and if he had been what the Tudors made him out to be, cruel, deceitful, a ‘deep dissimular’, this is what he would have done. The one thing he could not afford was a secret crime, followed by a mystery, at a time when there had been considerable speculation as to the future fate of the children, and at the beginning of what there was every reason to suppose would be a long reign.

    It is impossible to say with certainty that any person is incapable of murder. In the history of crime the most unlikely people have committed the most improbable homicides. Given a sufficient motive, enough courage, and the opportunity, we are all potential murderers; but if ever there was a man of whom it could be said, having regard to the circumstances and all the reliable evidence we have as to his personal record and character, ‘this man is incapable of this crime’, then that man is Richard III, and the crime is the quite pointless and incredibly stupid murder of his nephews. There is no single factor which could account for his guilt; no motive, nothing in his previous character or in his subsequent treatment of others. Yet it is not any of these things which speak loudest in his favour, nor even the implied testimony of Elizabeth Woodville’s confidence in him six months after he was supposed to have murdered her sons. Richard’s strongest advocate is Henry Tudor himself.

    Henry Tudor, who worked so hard to blacken the name of the man he had supplanted; Henry Tudor, who suppressed the Titulus Regius because he dared not remind the world of the validity of–Richard’s claim; Henry Tudor, who has by his own tortuous schemings, gradually revealed, provided the strongest proof of Richard’s innocence. If Richard was guilty, why no accusation in the Act of Attainder? Why no solemn requiem mass for the dead children at a time when these pious exercises were considered of such importance, and which would surely have been ordered by Henry from policy or by his Queen as a family duty to her brothers? Why did it take Henry twenty years and a faked posthumous confession to establish a story whose main outlines he must have discovered within twenty four hours of taking possession of the Tower had there been a word of truth in it? Why all those years of anxiety over pretenders to the throne if proof of their impostures lay ready to his hand? How is it possible that in all that time he could gain no clue to the mystery if the story which he ultimately gave out had been true? No word of the taking over of the Tower for one night by Tyrell, coinciding with the disappearance of the children, and no hint of the reburial by the priest who could not have carried out his task alone and in complete secrecy. If, on the other hand, the bodies were lying all the time under the staircase where they were originally supposed to have been buried, why did Henry not find them when he made ‘diligent search’? And why was Tyrell not tried on a charge of murder and regicide instead of being hastily executed on a minor charge before his ‘confession’ was made public? That Henry had to make use of such a ridiculous story to bring about a result which he had ardently desired for so long is the best possible proof that he was unable after years of trying to find any grounds at all for his accusation.

    In English law a person is innocent until he is proved guilty – not merely asserted or supposed to be guilty on prejudiced evidence. In the matter of Richard III and the supposed death of his nephews there is no case to bring before the court at all. It should be dismissed from the bar of history.

    Richard’s whole reign, short as it was, clearly shows that he intended to rule with justice and mercy. The liberal reforms which he sponsored in his one parliament arc an indication of what he might have done had he been given time. His treatment of both friend and foe was noticeable for its generosity. After Buckingham’s rebellion there were few executions and he showed great, and in the event, misplaced leniency towards Lady Stanley and innumerable lesser offenders.

    The reason for his failure and his downfall lay in the fact that he was no politician, and that he had no sense of expediency or of timing. His goal was what he held to be right and he aimed straight for it regardless of the enemies he might make on the way. Honesty and straightforwardness, the very qualities which had brought him success as a soldier and an administrator, were responsible for losing him the support of the powerful men of his kingdom, who found their own interests to be in direct conflict with their King’s determination to ‘use his authority and office as he ought’ (Buck, Vergil). Nevertheless, he might have weathered all storms had it not been for the devastating blow he sustained in the loss of his only son and heir, a blow which left him a broken man and the kingdom in the desperate hazard of an unsecured succession, and which together with Richard’s own fatal tendency to place his trust in traitors, gave to Henry Tudor, his scheming mother, and a handful of treacherous nobles their chance to take the road which led to the tragic disaster of Bosworth field.

    The only stain on Richard’s memory remains the execution of his false friend Hastings. Of the many thousand words written about him, the fairest and most balanced summing up is that of Thomas Carte: Facts, and the general tenor of a man’s conduct best show his real character, and all the virulent and atrocious calumnies founded purely on surmises, a perverse imagination, or downright falsehood, and thrown upon Richard by the flatterers of his successor whose cruelty came by that means to be overlooked, will never efface the just praise due to Richard for his excellent laws and his constant application to see justice impartially distributed and good order established in all parts of England. 

    The Betrayal of Richard III

    In this classic work, Peter Hammond and the late V.B. Lamb survey the life and times of Richard III and examine the contemporary evidence for the events of his reign, tracing the origins of the traditional version of his career as a murderous tyrant and its development since his death. The evident grief of the citizens of York on hearing of the death of Richard III — recording in the Council Minutes that he had been 'piteously slane and murdered to the Grete hevynesse of this citie' — is hardly consistent with the view of the archetypal wicked uncle who murdered his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, and there is an extraordinary discrepancy between this monster and the man as he is revealed by contemporary records.

    An ideal introduction to one of the greatest mysteries of English history, this new edition of The Betrayal of Richard III is revised by Peter Hammond and includes an introduction and notes. 

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  • 03/27/15--06:30: The Friday Digest 27/03/15
  • THP Friday digest

    This week's update features the reinternment of Richard III, the secret Second World War pact with the devil and eleven female inventors who helped power the 'Information Age'.  


    Statue of Alfred the Great in Winchester. Getty/Matt Cardy

    * 'The dust of kings' and the questions raised by exhuming dead monarchs, meanwhile a search for the bones of Henry I is planned in Reading for later this year.  

    Richard III lowered into the ground (c) PA

    The service to mark the reburial of King Richard III took place at Leicester Cathedral yesterday with the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev Justin Welby, presiding over the service with local senior clergy and representatives of world faiths.

    Richard III


    * Putting Richard III on trial

    * Nine reasons why GQ would probably have been Richard III's friend ... 

    6 myths about Richard III. © Heritage Image Partnership Ltd / Alamy


    * Six myths about Richard III – the supposed murderer and usurper who wanted to marry his niece


    Banquet at a wealthy home in ancient Rome. © North Wind Picture Archives / Alamy 

     Dormice, ostrich meat and fresh fish: the surprising foods eaten by people in ancient Rome.  

    A Roman street in Pompeii

    * Roman roads – the phenomenon that held a world empire together

    Sculptures on display in the exhibition, from left to right: Bronze reconstruction of around 1920 by George Römer of the Doryphoros or ‘spear-bearer’ by Polykleitos, made around 440–430 BC. H 212 cm. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich. Marble statue of the Diskobolos or ‘discus-thrower’. Roman copy from 2nd century AD of a bronze original of the 5th century BC, from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, Italy. H 169 cm, W 105 cm. British Museum, London 1805,0703.43 Ilissos, marble statue of the river god, from the west pediment of the Parthenon in Athens. Greek, about 438–432 BC. H 81.28 cm, D 56 cm. British Museum, London 1816,0610.99

    Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art.

    Reims Cathedral hit during a German shell barrage, 19 September 1914. (c) Getty Images

    The destruction of Europe's medieval architecture, and the resultant emergence of heritage tourism, are among the lesser-known legacies of the First World War

    * The story of the First World War by those who lived through it.

    A building in ruins at the Teyu Cuare ("Lizard's cave" in Guarani) provincial park, near San Ignacio, in the northern Argentine province of Misiones, on March 9, 2015. DANIEL SCHAVELZON/AFP/Getty Images

    Ruins found in a remote section of the Argentinian jungle 'may be secret Nazi hideout'.

    Mugshot of Charles "Lucky" Luciano from 1936


    * The Second World War pact with the Devil ... 

    A picture of Napoleon Bonaparte.


    * What would have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had won the Battle of Waterloo

    Magna Carta (c) The British Library


    * Magna Carta: a manuscript for all seasons

    Hedy Lamarr


    * Eleven female inventors who helped power the 'Information Age'


    Women feeding chickens at the Indiana Women's Prison.,Women feeding chickens at the Indiana Women’s Prison. Courtesy American Historical Association/Indiana Historical Society


    * A revisionist history of Indiana Women’s Prison

    Was James Bond the Result of Ian Fleming's Midlife Crisis?

    * Was James Bond the result of Ian Fleming's midlife crisis?  

    Famous writers’ insults

    * The best insults from famous writers ...

    Johann Weyer, History of Magic, woodcut 1577.


    * Johann Weyer: the founder of modern psychiatry

    An armed guard provides security for white Rhodesian golfers at the Leopard Rock Hotel, Manicaland, 1978. Eddie Adams / Press Association Images

    * A secret history of African decolonisation

    Elizabeth held prisoner in the Tower of London. (c) Mary Evans

    * Elizabeth I, from troubled child to beloved Queen

    Who decides what culture is?


    * Who decides what culture is

    Should museums ban selfie sticks?


    * Should museums ban selfie sticks?  

    What 17 Adults Learned From Rereading Their Favourite Childhood Books


    * What seventeen adults learned from rereading their favourite childhood books

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    The charge of the Life Guards, the most senior mounted regiment in the British Army, dating back to the restoration of King Charles II in 1674. As a result of fighting during d’Erlon’s advance and subsequently against the massed French cavalry attacks, the Life Guards suffered severe losses: of the 490 officers and other ranks of the two regiments, 244 were killed and wounded, representing a staggering loss of 50 per cent. (Author’s collection)

    The Battle of Waterloo, fought on 18 June 1815, has an enduring fascination – and so it should. After more than two decades of nearly uninterrupted conflict in Europe and across the world, in a single action lasting nine hours fewer than 200,000 men decided the fate of Europe – whether France would reassume the mantle as master of the continent or rejoin the community of nations and re-direct its martial power abroad in the drive for colonial expansion. Few battles in history are dubbed ‘decisive’ and many undeservedly carry that designation; not so Waterloo, which has to rank very high indeed on the scale of battles of great significance. Not only did it mark the final overthrow of a regime which constituted the greatest threat to European security since Louis XIV a century before – and, indeed, far outmatched any forces which the Bourbon kings put into the field against their neighbours – it signalled a hundred years of relative peace in Europe until the outbreak of the First World War. Little wonder that in Britain contemporaries referred to the Napoleonic Wars as ‘The Great War’, a century before the term was applied again in another, far more horrifying context.

    Waterloo is not significant as representing a passing era of warfare and the beginning of a new phase, for the weaponry arrayed there bore a great deal in common with that deployed by the Duke of Marlborough’s army over a century earlier, and warfare on land would not undergo any genuinely significant change until the 1850s, with the application of rifling to small arms and, later, artillery, followed rapidly by the advent of breech-loading technology. But if the subtle difference between the weapons employed on either side at Waterloo did not palpably contribute to its outcome, the tactics employed there certainly did. In the absence of any great flanking movements on the field, the battle amounted to a great slogging match, with the balance between victory and defeat depending heavily upon the degree of French determination to press home the attack and the stubbornness with which the Anglo-Allies were prepared to meet that attack. The sheer scale of the fighting and the extraordinary spectacle of over 150,000 men fighting almost entirely within the confines of an area measuring approximately two and half miles square also strongly contributes to the compelling interest aroused by a battle which remains a great epic in the history of the British Army.

    Contemporary accounts of Waterloo reveal consistent themes which explain the longevity of interest in the battle. A paragraph from a letter written by Colonel Colin Campbell, Commandant at Headquarters, refers to several such themes:

    We have gained a great and most glorious victory yesterday evening and totally defeated Bonaparte’s army…it was the severest and most bloody action ever fought and the British infantry has surpassed anything ever before known…this victory has saved Europe, it was frequently all but lost; but the Duke alone, by his extraordinary perseverance and example, saved the day.

    Therein lay a series of compelling points of interest: a dramatic, decisive event whose outcome hung in the balance throughout the day, with far-reaching political repercussions, only achieved after monumental exertion, determination and the costly expenditure of human life, with the leadership of a single man playing an instrumental role in the outcome of the contest.

    It is for these reasons that Waterloo remains one of history’s greatest battles and the object of so much enduring interest.


    Gregory Fremont-Barnes holds a doctorate in Modern History from the University of Oxford and serves as a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. A prolific author, his books on this period include Waterloo 1815: The British Army's Day of Destiny, The French Revolutionary Wars, The Peninsular War, 1807–14, The Fall of the French Empire, 1813–15, Nile 1798 and Trafalgar 1805. He also edited Armies of the Napoleonic Wars and the three-volume Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. As an academic advisor, Dr Fremont-Barnes has accompanied several groups of British Army officers and senior NCOs in their visits to the battlefields of the Peninsula and to Waterloo. 

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  • 03/28/15--04:30: Edgar Wallace at the movies
  • Edgar (left) working in Hollywood with Robert Curtis, shortly before his death.

    Edgar Wallace. Prolific best-selling author. Soldier poet. Dramatist, responsible for West End hits. Racing tipster. Journalist who wrote thousands of articles and who scooped the signing of the peace treaty which ended the second Boer War. Parliamentary candidate. As if that wasn’t enough for one rather short lifetime- Wallace also worked in the movies too after becoming enticed in the late 1920s by the exciting new world of the motion picture industry.

    Silent film versions of several of Wallace’s books had already been made by the time the newly formed British Lion Film Corporation invited Wallace on to its board as Chairman in 1927. Wallace granted the company the exclusive rights to everything he wrote.  It was a contractual arrangement which suited British Lion more than it did Wallace- but it enabled him to play the part of a movie mogul which he greatly enjoyed. From 1928-9 British Lion made nine silent films from Wallace’s books, starting with his classic work, The Ringer.  But not all of these films were well received critically.  Wallace decided to start directing the films himself. He was confident, as he was in everything he did, that he’d be a great success. He was certainly prepared to make considerable  sacrifices on the set. ‘For hours he went without a cigarette, the only time in his life, so far as I know that he spent more than a few minutes without a lighted cigarette in his holder. He believed that smoke interfered with the photography‘, noted Jim, his wife. Instead of chain-smoking, Wallace sucked toffees as he directed Red Aces. 

    He proved to be benign director, not given to shouting and screaming  at the actors. Making his film debut in Red Aces was Nigel Bruce, the actor most remembered today as Dr Watson to Basil Rathbone‘s Sherlock Holmes. Red Aces was a silent film, but the talkies were soon to take over and Wallace’s name features prominently in the early history of talking pictures. 

    After the British Lion studios were refitted for sound, Wallace directed an all-talking version of The Squeaker, starring Nigel Bruce and Gordon Harker. He wasn’t just active behind the camera, but in front of it too, as he also appeared, in a small role, in a film of The Crimson Circle, one of his most popular thrillers.

    As if his directing- and acting- was not enough, he also started to write regular articles on films for Sunday News. Wallace was bitten by the movie bug- and it would only be one year later that he was to say yes to the lucrative offer of working as a script-writer in Hollywood.

    It was in Hollywood that he wrote his scenario for Kong the film that became known as King Kong. Sadly, Wallace never lived to see his greatest film success,  but his important place in the history of the motion picture industry is guaranteed. By 1973, over 200 films had been made from his books and plays, making him one of the most filmed authors of all time. 

    Some of the best film versions of Wallace’s work were made in West Germany, by Rialto films in the 1960s. These films were incredibly popular: in 1986 a television showing in West Germany of The Green Archer, was watched by 17.07 million people. There have been good British film versions too, and I particularly recommend the 1940 version of The Case of the Frightened Lady starring Helen Haye and Marius Goring, and the 1937 version of The Squeaker, featuring the marvellous Alistair Sim.  Apart from remakes of King Kong, film-makers have tended to neglect Wallace’s work in recent years, but with such a wealth of great material to chose from, let’s hope that he’ll soon be rediscovered.    

    Stranger than fiction: the life of Edgar Wallace, the man who created King Kong

    Neil Clark is the author of 
    Stranger Than Fiction:The Life of Edgar Wallace, the Man Who Created King Kong
    . Edgar Wallace was the author of 173 books, translated into over thirty languages. More films were made from his books than any other twentieth century writer, and in the 1920s a quarter of all books read in England were written by him. The illegitimate son of a travelling actress, rose from poverty in Victorian England to become the most popular author in the world and a global celebrity of his age. He scooped the signing of the Boer War peace treaty when working as a war correspondent, before achieving success as a film director and playwright. At the height of his success, he was earning a vast fortune, but the money went out as fast as it came in. Famous for his thrillers, with their fantastic plots, in many ways Wallace did not write his most exciting story: he lived it. ‘It is impossible not to be thrilled by Edgar Wallace’, said the blurb on Wallace’s books. Indeed, it is impossible not to be thrilled by his rags-to-riches story, told for the first time here ...

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    The Punjabi Mussalman company of the 129th Baluchis behind breastworks near Wytschaete, October 1914. Although the photograph is obviously posed, it shows the khaki drill uniforms in which the Indian Corps would spend the winter. The British Officer in the rear rank has attached a non-regulation chinstrap to his turban to prevent it being knocked off. The sepoys were more practised at tying turbans securely.

    It was said at the time, and has been said many times since, that the British Expeditionary Force, the BEF, that went across to France and Belgium on the outbreak of war in August 1914 was the best led, the best equipped and the best trained body of troops ever to leave these shores.  That was probably correct, but it was pitifully small: four infantry divisions compared to France’s sixty-two, and one cavalry division to ten French ones.  If Britain was to have any influence on the course of the war on land then that initial contribution would have to increase massively.  In due course the Territorial Force of part-time soldiers would play its part, but in 1914 not all members had signed up for overseas service, and what’s more, its units were ill-equipped and unprepared for all-out war.  

    The New Armies being raised as a result of Lord Kitchener’s appeals would come on stream eventually, but they had to be trained and organised and equipped before they could play any part in the war.  The dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would make their presence felt in due time, but in 1914 their armies were tiny – a few thousand men at most – and it would be some time before they could be effective.  In 1914 the only source of trained, professional reinforcement was the Indian Army, almost as large as the British Army (itself as yet tiny in comparison to those of the European powers) and composed entirely of long service regular soldiers.

    Pre-war the Indian Army had been told that should there be a European war they would not be involved.  This was a budgetary decision, as while the Indian army was well equipped to deal with troubles on the frontier and in campaigns in India’s near abroad, its infantry were equipped with the Mark II Rifle, rather than the Mark III of the British Army, and it had only mountain artillery, rather than the field and heavy guns that would be needed in Europe.  To equip the Indian Army to British standards would cost money, and neither the British nor the Indian governments were prepared to spend it.  In the event that stricture was swiftly reversed, and on the outbreak of war an Indian division was despatched to the Persian Gulf to safeguard the British owned oil. Three days after the declaration of war two Indian infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade were ordered to mobilise for the Western Front.  

    Embarking on hastily assembled ships adapted for carrying troops, horses, mules and all the impedimenta of war, the Indian forces set off from Bombay and Karachi and started to arrive in Marseilles on 26 September.  A multi-racial army recruited mainly from the Punjab and the north, commanded by a small number of British officers who were required to immerse themselves in the languages and cultures of their men, they arrived just in time and in just enough numbers to plug the gaps in Flanders. It was here the First Battle of Ypres raged as the Germans attempted to break through to the Channel Ports. 

    It was said at the time that the arrival of the Indian Corps ‘saved the Empire’, and it certainly saved the BEF.   The Indian Corps fought in all the major battles of 1914 and 1915, before being re-deployed to Mesopotamia at the end of 1915.  Indian troops fought not only on the Western Front but also in Gallipoli, in Egypt, in Palestine, in Persia and in Salonika.  True to their salt and professional soldiers all, they fought gallantly and at great cost. They fought in lands that they hardly knew, against enemies of whom they had never heard and in a war the nature of which no-one had anticipated. 

    Major Gordon Corrigan retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas in 1998. He is the author of  Sepoys in the Trenches: The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914-15, Mud, Blood and Poppycock and Loos 1915 – The Unwanted Battle, as well as several other military titles. He has appeared extensively on television and lectures and conducts battlefield tours in Europe, Asia and Africa.

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  • 03/30/15--02:30: British Napoleonic Uniforms
  • The first phase of the Napoleonic Wars began in February 1793 and continued until the Peace of Amiens in March 1802. The second phase started in May 1803, and continued until after June 1815 when Napoleon abdicated following the Battle of Waterloo. At the beginning of the conflict the uniforms of the British Army were beginning a process of change. The shortcomings of the long coats had become self evident and the war provided the stimulation to provide a progressive replacement of the unsatisfactory items. The exact nature of the dress of a unit at any one time is difficult to pinpoint as there were no official dress regulations published before 1833, just a random series of orders and individual regulations published by Horse Guards, most of which are recorded in the papers of the National Archive. There are the contemporary illustrations of the period and those known extant examples have been consulted during the preparation of this study. It may be that other regulations and items exist in private collections, but those available in the public domain have been considered. In some of the regimental illustrations hat plates, breast plates and buttons have been included; these are selected examples to give a feel for the type and style and do not attempt to record the changes in pattern for any particular regiment throughout the period. In every case, the reader should remember that uniformity was an ideal rather than a fact, and it must also be remembered that it was the practice of officers to adopt whatever variations of dress they considered appropriate, both for themselves and their men. It is quite clear that whatever the regulations prescribed, the personnel were often dressed in a manner contrary to the current regulations. In many cases the resulting uniform was the result of a number of significant factors: regimental practice, the amount of money to hand, the desire to be dressed à la mode, and often simply what was available. Provision of the uniforms for the other ranks was the responsibility of the colonel of the regiment. They arranged for manufacture and supply according to the laid down pattern or their whim, on repayment from the treasury, and so regimental variations were common. Officers purchased their own uniforms, usually following the practice and tradition of the regiment rather than regulations. The history of dress for any regiment invariably relies upon many influences, not least the decisions of the colonel. In many cases, the apparent absence of any surviving clothing or records has meant many of the previous studies have been limited. This book draws together contemporary information to provide a new insight into the uniforms and regimental identification of the different regiments of the period; while some of the material has been considered before, much is placed into the public domain for the first time.


    Dress Regulations

    The dates at which regulations were issued should not be confused with the dates when uniform changes were adopted. While there are instances where the regulations were anticipated, often they were adopted much later. This was in part due to the vagaries of the supply system, particularly for those regiments serving abroad, but often the regimental attitude to new changes and the loss of old distinctions acted to delay the introduction even further. Wellington was notoriously indifferent to who wore what, and the drawings by contemporary artists make it clear that the outfits worn in the field often depicted uniforms and equipment outdated by the regulations. While the new regulations may have been received, the ability to meet them, or even maintain current uniforms, was often beyond local resources, the exceptions being new arrivals who may well have been dressed in the style prescribed by the current regulations. It should be noted that the new cavalry jackets, formally introduced in 1812 and passed to the military tailors in December of 1811, were not available until February 1812 at the earliest, and had still not been adopted by some regiments serving abroad until after 1816. The regimental titles used to identify the regiments are those of the Army List of 1815 and the index refers to regiments by both number and name. The numbers of the British cavalry and infantry regiments during the Napoleonic Wars varied considerably. It peaked about 1794 when there were 33 regiments of light dragoons and 135 regiments of foot, but many of these higher numbered regiments only existed for a very short time and most had been disbanded by the Peace of Amiens. Most of the infantry regiments were allocated a county or area title, ostensibly the area from which the regiment drew recruits, but this was often not the case. Ranks The senior officer of a regiment was the colonel; in rank often a lieutenant colonel, but sometimes both. A senior or field officer referred to majors and above and could include the adjutant, but more usually he was a junior officer. Junior officers included captains, also known as company officers. Subalterns referred to lieutenants, ensigns or cornets. Enlisted men included non-commissioned officers (NCOs) usually used to refer to ranks of lance-sergeant and above, including the corporal of horse who ranked as a sergeant. The rank and file included corporals, lance corporals or chosen men, later known as junior NCOs. Within the rank and file, private soldier referred to those men without any distinction of rank, although trooper was often used within the cavalry. The rank structure in use during the period is given at Appendix A. Regimental Distinctions During the Napoleonic period the regimental distinctions took many forms. The cavalry regiments were more readily recognised by the style of their uniform, some involving special badges or other regimental devices worn on the shabraque or sabretache. In the infantry, where there were many more regiments, each was prescribed a series of differences that enabled it to be recognised. These differences were published in regulations from the Horse Guards and are discussed in detail under the relevant headings. The regiments in the British Army were identified in three main ways. The first was the colour of the facings, the second the arrangement and colour of the lace or buttons worn on the coat or jacket, and at much closer quarters the design and number on the buttons and in the infantry the coloured threads woven into the white lace of the private soldiers and junior NCOs. All of these factors together with the style of hat or helmet and a multiplicity of other distinctions (including tartans) adopted by the regiments contributed to the overall identification of any particular regiment. Clothing This is a term usually applied to such items as caps and helmets, jackets and coats, breeches, trousers, boots, greatcoats, spurs and sashes, in fact any articles for which sealed patterns existed. It was supplied by contractors to the regiment, theoretically once a year on 25 December, and then fitted to the men by local or regimental tailors. Variation in the design, workmanship and quality, particularly in the uniforms of the other ranks, was common. The reader is reminded that what was actually worn on any given occasion depended on the fashion of the time, available materials and the wealth of the commanding officer, rather than on the regulations in force. Appointments or Accoutrements These items included all belts, pouches, sabretaches, sword knots, horse furniture, harness and saddles. They were provided in the same manner as the clothing but had to be replaced at the owner’s expense if lost before the due expiry date. Necessaries These were considered such items as stockings or socks, waistcoats, gloves, stocks, shirts, brushes, small tools and personal cleaning materials for both men and horse. These were ‘sold’ to the other ranks, supposedly at no added cost, and the money stopped from their pay.


    These were the weapons of the officers and other ranks and included swords not privately purchased, all firearms, bayonets, scabbards, and included the drums and bugles or trumpets. Included among these items were the haversacks, knapsacks and water bottles and any tentage or other camp equipment. These were supplied free of charge from the Board of Ordnance but if lost before their time, the losses were charged to the regiment. Presentation Part One illustrates those items of uniform common to the cavalry, and are more properly presented in this part rather than constant repetition in each illustration. In Part Two the text and illustrations show the generic change in uniform, the colour of the facings and the shape and nature of the lace for the officers and enlisted men of the cavalry. This includes the Household Cavalry and the Royal Horse Guards (Blue), the heavy cavalry represented by the dragoon guards and dragoons, the light cavalry represented by the light dragoons and hussar regiments. Part Three addresses those items of uniform that were common to the infantry. It also addresses the tartans of the highland regiments and the dress of the infantry drummers. Part Four considers the details of the infantry; it includes the three regiments of foot guards and all the numbered regiments of foot. The text and illustrations show the generic change in uniform, the colour of the facings and the shape and nature of the lace for the officers and enlisted men.

    C.E. Franklin was born in London in 1934. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1951, spending much of his later appointments as an engineer specialising in guided weapons. On leaving the service in 1984 he joined British Aerospace. He retired in 1990 and now spends most of his time in research and writing. He is the author of British Napoleonic Field Artillery, British Rockets of the Napoleonic and Colonial Wars 1805–1901 and British Napoleonic Uniforms: A Complete Illustrated Guide to Uniforms, Facings and Lace. He lives in Lea, Lincolnshire. 

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  • 04/01/15--03:30: The Lost Band of Brothers
  • MTB 344 at speed off Beach Head, Sussex. Also known as The Little Pisser because of her small size and turn of speed, MTB 344 was the carrier of choice for the men of SSRF on their raids across the Channel. (Chris Rooney)Dory training for the men of SSRF on the Dorset coast. Graham Hayes is at far left. (Chris Rooney)

    It is a story that had almost faded into the shadows of history: a wartime tale of courage, friendship and desperate improvisation that began as Britain found herself on the back foot awaiting German invasion in that long, hot summer of 1940.

    Two young officers – Gus March-Philipps and Geoffrey Appleyard – found themselves with three things in common: a slit-trench on the beaches of Dunkirk, a deep-seated love of their country and a burning desire to hit back at the enemy who had pushed the BEF back to the sea. Evacuated home to England, both volunteered for one of the early Commando units. They trained in Scotland, transferred to the Special Operations Executive and then moved south to Poole, Dorset. There they formed their own unit and commandeered a Brixham fishing trawler named Maid Honor. Fitted out with hidden weapons, they planned to use her for clandestine missions to the enemy-occupied shore across the Channel. Thwarted by their rivals, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) what had now became Maid Honor Force sailed to West Africa to hunt down secret German U-boat bases. Instead - and in direct contravention of international law - they seized German shipping from a neutral Spanish harbour and returned home to England in triumph, their success a timely fillip for SOE at a time of constant sniping from Whitehall. Feted by Churchill himself, Maid Honor Force was now expanded into the Small Scale Raiding Force, a group of fifty hand-picked commandos led by March-Phillipps. Based in a stately home in the village of Anderson in Dorset, he and Geoffrey Appleyard – both now freshly-decorated after their adventures in Africa – set about forming No 62 Commando, a top-secret unit dedicated to raiding the enemy shore.

    In 1942-1943 after a period of intense training in German and allied weapons, small boats and silent killing, they mounted a series of successful pin-prick raids across the Channel. There they would snatch sentries, seize documents, code books and weapons, gather vital intelligence about German dispositions along Hitler’s much-vaunted Atlantic wall. But, in war, very little goes to plan. After one disastrous raid to what would later become D-Day’s Omaha beach, the unit suffered crippling losses. Reformed and transferred to North Africa after further adventures, it was absorbed into 2 SAS.


    Tom Keene is the author of The Lost Band Of Brothers, which  tells in full and meticulous detail for the first time the extraordinary story of a top secret Commando unit that had almost slipped unnoticed into history. Tom is winner of the Royal Marines Historical Society award and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is former investigative journalist and television producer. His PhD explored the back-corridor Whitehall rivalries surrounding the early days of SOE in the Second World War, now uncovered in his book Cloak of Enemies

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    The first phase of the Napoleonic War began when France declared war on Britain, Spain and Holland in February 1793 and continued until the peace of Amiens in March 1802. The peace was not destined to last and in May 1803, Britain declared war on France and the second phase of the war continued until after June 1815 when Napoleon abdicated. The history of any famous regiment invariably considers the men, the theatres of operation and usually in a much smaller way, the equipment. In the case of the Royal Artillery this is due to the apparent absence of any surviving gun carriages and limbers and most of the previous studies have limited themselves to the comparisons with the anachronistic material of earlier and later periods. This compendium draws together new and existing contemporary information that provides new insights into the field equipment and uniforms of the period. While some of the material has been published before much is placed into the public domain for the first time.

    The ordnance considered by this book is limited to the field artillery and the supporting equipments. The role of field artillery was to support the army in the field and in this context the Royal Regiment of Artillery had two fighting arms, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery. The Royal Artillery supported the infantry and was formed into ‘Brigades’, the gunners marching with the guns. The Royal Horse Artillery supported the cavalry and was formed in ‘Troops’, with all the gunners mounted or riding on the equipment. The field pieces of this period were bronze, smooth-bore weapons and the inventory of the field artillery was made up from the light and heavy 3-pr, the light, heavy and long 6-pr, and the medium 12-pr. Later, after 1808, came the 9-pr; also included in the field inventory were the light and heavy 5.5-inch howitzers and the iron 24-pr howitzer. There were trials with other ordnance but none was taken into full service, so these are not considered nor is the ordnance associated with the garrison and siege artillery. In addition to field equipments, this book also addresses the different gun carriages, limbers, ammunition wagons, other supporting equipment, the drills and exercises, and the uniforms of the period.

    The Duke of Richmond, the Master General of Ordnance, had proposed a new design for the gun and limber when it was decided to introduce horse artillery into the British service. Generally attributed to General Congreve (1st Bart) it probably owed more to General Desaguliers. He had designed a block trail carriage and a double draught limber for experimental service of a heavy 3-pr gun in 1779. This was based upon a French gun carriage captured at Martinique in 1761 and followed the principles of Prussian horse artillery. As a result, new equipment was introduced which included many of the latest ideas. The wheels of the gun and limber were the same size, 60 inches in diameter and interchangeable; iron axles of the same length were fitted to both the gun and limber so the wheels of the gun could follow in the tracks of the limber. A new design of gun carriage, the block trail, was adopted and the limber was fitted to carry the first-line ammunition. The advantages of this new equipment were so apparent, it was issued to the rest of the field artillery as soon as it became available. In Spain, where there was a constant re-supply of new wheels and carriages as the war progressed, the changeover took some time and there were several different styles of gun carriage and limber in use by the foot brigades, some going back to the 1760s, but the horse artillery was fully equipped with the new designs from the start.

    Thus, it can be seen, at the beginning of the Napoleonic War that British field artillery was in transition. The short-comings of the earlier field systems had become self evident and with the introduction of the new equipments for the horse artillery, the ordnance had taken the opportunity to sweep up all the desired changes into the new designs and there was an immediate and progressive replacement of the older equipments in the foot artillery brigades. The programme of replacement began with the introduction of the larger wheels and iron axles and there is some evidence to suggest that the bracket trail carriages were used in conjunction with the new style of limber but with an extended rear bolster to carry the pintle for the trail transom. This evolution progressed throughout the war.

    By 1814 all of the bracket trail carriages, and the old limbers of the field artillery engaged in the European conflict had been replaced, although Woolwich placed less emphasis on upgrading equipment in the Colonies. One thing has become clear, the introduction of the block trail carriages to the foot artillery was much sooner and on a more comprehensive scale than generally considered.

    Information is given on the different guns, howitzers and carriages used by the British field artillery during the Napoleonic Wars and, where the information is available, details of their performance is included. It is clear, during the war the field artillery used other types of ordnance not covered by this book; this omission is due to the lack of contemporary information or that their use was more a trial or on a temporary basis rather than an adoption into service. In every case, where the information has been available, the ordnance is represented and fully illustrated.

    No research, however intensive, is ever the final word on any subject and it may well be further information has yet to be placed into the public domain. Added to this must be an understanding that troop and brigade commanders were very much their own men and individual practices and modifications were not at all uncommon. These factors need to be considered when referring to the drawings with no specific attribution. 


    British Napoleonic Field Artillery The First Complete Illustrated Guide to Equipment and Uniforms

    C.E. Franklin was born in London in 1934. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1951, spending much of his later appointments as an engineer specialising in guided weapons. On leaving the service in 1984 he joined British Aerospace. He retired in 1990 and now spends most of his time in research and writing. He is the author of British Napoleonic Field Artillery, British Rockets of the Napoleonic and Colonial Wars 1805–1901 and British Napoleonic Uniforms: A Complete Illustrated Guide to Uniforms, Facings and Lace. He lives in Lea, Lincolnshire. 

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    Sister Kate Luard RRC and Bar in QAIMNSR uniform

    Nurses cared for the casualties of the First World War in Europe (on the Western and Eastern Fronts and in the Eastern Mediterranean), in the Middle East (Egypt and Palestine) and in Mesopotamia, India and Africa. The British Military Nursing Service was aided by Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) and the numbers swelled by the arrival of trained military nurses from Canada, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa; nurses from the USA worked alongside QAIMNS nurses in France and Flanders.

    Katherine Evelyn Luard was born in 1872, the tenth of thirteen children of an Essex clergyman. After training as a nurse at the prestigious nurse-training school of King’s College Hospital, London, she offered her skills to the Army Nursing Service and served for two years in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. There she would have met many of the officers who were later to command in WW1.

    On August 6, 1914, two days after the British Government declared war against Germany, Kate enlisted in the QAIMNSR (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service Reserve). She served in France and Belgium until 1918, first on the ambulance trains and then in casualty clearing stations. She was awarded the RRC (Royal Red Cross) and Bar (a rare distinction) and was mentioned twice in despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

    During this time she exchanged numerous letters with her family at home. Many of those she wrote were published in two books: Diary of Nursing Sister on the Western Front 19141915 published anonymously in 1915; and Unknown Warriors first published in 1930 and now available in a new edition published by The History Press.

    Both books offer a very personal glimpse into the hidden world of the military hospitals, casualty clearing stations and ambulance trains where patients struggled with pain and trauma and nurses fought to save lives and preserve emotional integrity. Her writing shows her as always outwardly cool and calm, willing to adapt to anything anywhere, and carrying out her duties with unfaltering composure and dedication to the men she nursed. Through her letters home she conveyed a vivid and honest portrait of war and they are also a portrait of close family affection and trust in a world of conflict.

     Advanced Dressing Station in a field The wounded were brought here from the regimental aid posts which were situated only a few metres behind the front line (Wellcome Library, London)

    Tented Nurses’ Quarters at a Casualty Clearing Station (Sue Light)

    Friday, December 3rd 1915

    Captain D. is a scrap better to-day, able to emerge from bromides, and talk a little. He told me that when they were holding the Hohenzollern trenches in that worst weather, when they stood waist-high in liquid mud, two of his men slipped under it when asleep and their bodies were dug out next day.

    Sunday, January 16th 1916

    The boy with the head wound, has been peacefully dying all day; his hand closes less tightly over mine to-day, but his beautiful brown eyes look less inscrutable as he gets further from this crooked world. His total silence and absolute stillness and unconsciousness have already given him the marble statue look.

    Wednesday, May 9th 1917

    A large and festive picnic in the woods, far removed from gas gangrene and amputations. We had an Ambulance and two batmen to bring the tea in urns to my favourite spot – on a slope of the wood, above the babbling brook, literally carpeted with periwinkles, oxlips and anemones.

    Unknown Warriors

    First published in 1930 this long overdue new edition of Unknown Warriors contains an introduction by Christine Hallett, Professor of Nursing History at the University of Manchester, and Tim Luard, great-nephew of Kate Luard; also a postscript and an extensive glossary of military and medical terms. Produced by the family this edition offers a fitting tribute to her remarkable writing in which she bears witness to the suffering of the ordinary soldier, recognising the nobility with which soldiers endured injury and met death.

    Read more of Kate Luards’s diary in Unknown Warriors.

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  • 04/22/15--02:00: Fading ads of Gloucester
  • Talbot’s Bottlers (Gloucester) Ltd, Wholesale Beer Bottlers Ladybellegate Street 


    Just what are ghost signs and fading ads?

    They are the often faded remains of advertising and signage from bygone eras. They are, for the most part, hand-painted directly on to brickwork, although the terms are often extended to include other forms such as metal signage and floor mosaics.


    Where are you likely to find them?

    They can be found in all sorts of places all over the world. In Britain they are most prevalent in towns and cities which enjoyed rich industrial and/or commercial history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and have escaped the destructive forces of World War bombing and late-twentieth-century modernist demolition.


    What is the most unusual one you have seen?

    The sign for Talbots Bottlers in Gloucester is very unusual because it's still an eye-catching colour – as you'd imagine, most of these signs have been drained of most of the vibrancy of their original colours by the elements. Indoor signs keep better, although these are very rare to find.


    Which faded ad is your favourite?

    In Gloucester I love the vibrant Talbots sign, as well as the huge and bafflingly complicated G. & W.E. Downing Maltsters sign. Further afield many of the most spectacular signs are found in London, I particularly love the huge Bovril sign in Brixton Hill.

    Sparkes Bakery, Ryecroft Street


    Why do you like ghost signs and how did you get into looking for and researching them?

    I've been drawn to vintage signage and packaging from a young age – I can recall visiting the fantastic Robert Opie packaging museum in Gloucester as a child, as well as the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, and being fascinated by the old graphics and differing styles of lettering, I started noticing ghost signs in Gloucester and began photographing some of them in my early twenties. Seeing Liverpool Ghost Signs (published by The History Press, 2012) sparked the idea that I could write a similar book on the many fading signs of Gloucester.


    Are any of the companies that made these ads still around?

    Most of these companies are long gone, however there are some that are still around. Classic brands such as Cadbury, Nestle, Hovis and Bovril can often be found advertised on these signs.


    Should they be preserved?

    It is obviously impractical to preserve all of these signs, however, I do believe that the most notable ones should be protected under listed status. What qualifies a sign to be protected is up for debate, but historical and social significance as well as aesthetic appeal should all be taken into account. Hopefully books like mine will help to keep a photographic record of those that aren't afforded such protection.

    Fading Ads of Gloucester

    Chris West is the author of Fading Ads Gloucester. Take a photographic journey into Gloucester'€™s often overlooked advertising history and see how the city'€™s businesses of old made use of hand-made signs to inform, advertise and appeal to consumers. This intriguing book profiles hand-painted advertising from across the city and investigates the companies that commissioned the signs that now appear faded -€“ like ghosts -€“ on the brickwork of buildings. It is a snapshot of a time that is almost forgotten but which lives on through the sometimes haunting presence of ghost signs on the city's streets. Richly illustrated with 150 full colour photographs, this collection reveals the many products advertised, including food and drink; alcohol and tobacco; shoes and clothing, as well as Gloucester's varied industries and businesses.

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  • 04/24/15--02:30: The Friday Digest 24/04/15
  • THP Friday digest

    This week's update features the Gallipoli centenary, Armenian rugs and the best images from the Hubble telescope. 


    Hratch Kozibeyokian and the Kunzler rug


    The Armenian rugs that tell two incredible stories.  

    Troops blinded by gas in World War One.

    Second Battle of Ypres: Did the use of poison gas pave way for the Holocaust?


    c16th-century painting shows Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. (Bridgeman Art Library)

    Christianity’s rocky relationship with sex

    Illustration c1560s showing Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

    * Elizabeth I’s love life has long been the subject of great speculation, but was she really a ‘Virgin Queen’?

    What does this forgotten portrait tell us about Elizabeth I? 


    What happened to the four girls appointed ladies-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots?  

    * Nine weird medieval medicines


    A historic pub in Kilburn which survived being bombed in the second world war has been demolished by developers without permission from the council.


    * Shock as historic pub is demolished without permission


    HMS Hood, photographed near Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in 1924

    * HMS Hood was one of the fastest and most powerful warships in the world when she entered service in 1920, so why did she sink so quickly in 1941? 

    Map of the Dardanelles straits and the Gallipoli peninsula which accompanied the Manchester Guardian’s first articles on the landings, published on 27 April 1915.

    * In remembrance of the Gallipoli landings centenary, The Guardian have released a teaching resource from the GNM Archive.


    George Armstrong’s diary


    * An Australian museum has acquired a rare diary written on board a transport ship lying off Anzac Cove.

    The Gallipoli memorial in memory of ‘the Immortal’ 29 Division and its stay in Warwickshire before it embarked for active service. Photograph: Steven Baker/English Heritage



     British soldiers wearing Edward Harrison’s Small Box Respirators circa. 1917. Photograph: Simon Jones

    The First World War scientists who gave their lives to defeat poison gas




    The officer who refused to lie about being black


    An image from  German Concentration Camps Factual Survey

    Holocaust documentary whose horrors remained unseen reaches cinemas – after seventy years

    WW2 soldier gives his wife a goodbye kiss at Pennsylvania Station (Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty)

    Second World War heroes ‘had most sex appeal’

    Brian Poole and the Tremeloes

    * These are ten of the worst mistakes in history.


    Auctioneer Nigel Kirk unearths an Aladdin's cave of Victorian ephemera in Wollaton.  Read more:  Follow us: @Nottingham_Post on Twitter | NottinghamPostOnline on Facebook

    Why Victorian ephemera is so collectible


    This image is of a young stellar grouping called R136, only a few million years old and situated in the 30 Doradus Nebula. The nebula itself is a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. Several of those blue, diamond-like stars are over 100 times more massive than our Sun and are destined to become supernovas in a few million years.

    * As the Hubble space telescope gets ready to celebrate twenty-five years since its launch, look back at some of the best images from the space telescope


    Original photos of Einstein's brain


    * Stored in jars and on slides, take a look at the strange afterlife of Einstein's brain.  


    Book found in Jordan


    * The Economist discusses religious archaeology


    Replica of the helmet found at the Sutton Hoo ship burial


    Who was buried at Sutton Hoo? 

    Model boat after unpacking from its storage box. Model Boat, AD 1700s–1900s, probably from Indonesia, L 58 cm, H 30 cm, D 23 cm As1972,Q.1944

    Conservation of a clove boat


    Ross and Demelza Poldark BBC/Mammoth Screen/Mike Hogan)


    Ten things Poldark fans need to know about the American War of Independence.


    London’s lost streets: brothels, taverns, and Dick Whittington.   

    Adventures in Historyland: Waterloo Men

    The Human Journey: Migration routes



    * A woman who sees sound and hears colour depicts famous pop songs in stunning paintings

    * Thirty vintage travel ads from the Mad Men era


    It is nearly 15 years since UK phone numbers were given a shake-up. Some 20,000 numbers were kept unused, except for appearances on television screens. Why

    The 20,000 fake phone numbers used on film and television


    It’s the Beginning of the End for FM Radio - Photo from Everett Collection/Shutterstock


    * Norway is to end FM radio broadcasts in 2017.


    Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

    How dystopia hammers home the reality of climate change


    Killing Giants: Which Movie Classics Can You Not Abide? film still

    * Which movie classics can you not abide?


    Rather than Bonaparte (pictured, in Jacques-Louis David's portrait of 1800), perhaps we’d all do well to bear in mind the towering heroism of the far from lofty Nelson


    Why we shouldn’t let reality rein in our imagination


    Elegant Clock Face


    * An author reveals the eleven things she wished she'd known about full-time writing when she first started, and her advice about writing part-time.  


    Julian Walker on 'Don't get the breeze up'


    * The businesses of books

    * How to make the article you're writing stand out


    * Caitlin Moran's latest column: 'What have they done to my library?


    Nielsen Bookinsights Conference 2015 


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    Luise Urban, pictured almost at the moment when her world began to fall apart.

    Reflecting on my childhood I felt the need to pass on to my children the events that shaped my future life and led me to leave my country and make my home in Great Britain. This move was driven by heartache and sorrow over the loss of not only my home where generations of my family had lived, I had also lost my dearly loved homeland. All this was eclipsed by the loss of almost all of my close relatives, so intensely loved and missed and so longed for, added to this grief was the loss of all my friends and their relatives and the knowledge of the brutality which was employed to end all their lives so prematurely. And like millions of other, children and adults alike, I could not get these relatively recent events out of my mind.

    The almost paralysing terror inflicted upon millions of ordinary people regardless who they were or where they came from was unimaginable. What took root in people’s minds was not a hazy confused vision of what had happened but the memory of the cruel violent reality which could not be wiped out. I am not unique in trying to run away from the most painful memories and like all the others find that the memories keep pace with me. There is no escape. It may sound inconceivable but East of the Oder is about the cruel events that actually took place in the middle of Europe in the middle of the 20th century. The phrase 'hell on earth' does not compare with the violence that was unleashed on millions and millions of totally innocent human beings who had no say over their lives. Control over themselves was totally taken out of their hands. People were trapped by a minority (28%) of fanatics who misused their ill acquired power to mercilessly suppress and murder their fellow countrymen. You did not have to be exclusively Jewish to be persecuted and snuffed out by the Nazis.

    If you displeased the Nazis they would let their hatred out on the families of the person who had the courage to speak up against their evil policies which very quickly silenced the vast majority of their critics. By making a critical remark about 'Hitler and co.' you condemned not just yourself but also your immediate family to death. Fear soon silenced all opposition. 

    Everyone was hoping that something would happen to bring this dictatorship to an end. And something did happen. The apocalypse. Not that biblical one but the real one. And I survived it. The Allied Forces, with hindsight, did not win – I am glad they did – as a result of wise decisions, but because they were overwhelming by sheer numbers.  

    At the Conference in Tehran in 1943, initially attended by Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill, it was agreed that the area east of the Oder should be cleared of all Germans. The area involved was about 600km from the Oder to the eastern border of East Prussia, German territory for more than 1000 years with a population of 15 million. By the time this proposal was approved at the conference in Yalta and Potsdam in 1945, the deed had been done and more than 50% of the civilians lost their lives during the first 5 months of 1945.

    If you want to be cynical you could say that Hitler was a poor second with 'just' 6 million Jewish civilians murdered. He took several years over it. I am a survivor of this planned mass murder – a mere child of 11 in 1945.  I cannot claim that I know much about the war, nothing about the background except that one’s daddy had to go away for a long time, all uncles, most of our aunties and even one’s older school friends with whom one played cops and robbers in the woodland.

    I was there when our area was overrun by the Red Army and the 'resettlement of all the Germans east of the Oder' was put in practice. If one was lucky, you were ordered out of one’s home at gunpoint with 2 to 3 minutes to get out.  It was the worst of winters, temperatures lower than -3°C. There was no time to get properly dressed, no food, mothers who were weakened by prolonged hardships gathered up their frail, often dying, children and relatives and then there you were out in the winter’s night.

    Russian peasants mourn for a loved one killed by the Germans

    Large numbers of people did not survive the first 24 hours.  We were driven east, we were in the way of the Red Army at the mercy of soldiers who happily shot, stabbed or clubbed to death any living creature.  Mountains of bodies soon lined the many roads in the east.  The dead were not buried; they froze and became obstacles to be climbed over by the living.  The living no longer cried, they were exhausted by the terror and almost paralysed by fear.  We were not in the way of the Red Army’s tanks, the mighty JSIIs and never ending columns of T34s.  Because tanks can make a space for themselves they drive over people, dead or alive, it makes no difference to a tank – they leave a clearance of red squelch behind.

    The numbers of dead swelled: death by suicide, often hanging, became frequent.  People were no longer able to live with what was done to them and others. When spring came the bodies thawed. Children like me, supervised by Red Army soldiers were forced to bury them. I buried them by the hundred at a time. The Red Cross could not locate millions of Germans from east of the Oder after the war.  I can tell everyone what happened to the missing.  Little people like me dug them in to the soil of their homeland.

    My mother was with her four children on a road near Soldin on the 14 February 1945 when Mongolian soldiers jumped off their tanks and started to club to a pulp women and children indiscriminately, stopping just short of us. I heard my mother’s voice, so disciplined and yet so anguished 'Oh please, let them have the mercy to kill the children before me.'

    To some war is no more than an ego trip.  A time and a place where, in their sick and deluded minds, heroic deeds are done. They are glorified in paintings and statues. Imagine Napoleon depicted high up on a magnificent horse – a hero to some, a villain to others.

    What was done to us in the early months of 1945 I have recorded in my family history East of the Oder.  After the book was printed I read it only once.  I don’t know from where I took the courage to write down what I experienced. It is hard to read, but if you get scared reading it, be brave, continue reading. I could not run away. 

    East of the Oder

    Luise Urban is the author of East of the Oder. She was born in 1933 into a world about to be turned upside down. Her family lived east of the river Oder. Crucially, her family were not Nazi Party members and suffered as a result. As the Third Reich crumbled and the Red Army advanced, she was one of 15 million Germans trapped in a war zone during the terrible winter of 1945. Weakened by starvation and forced to flee their home, it was only the bravery of Luise’s mother that saved the family from total destruction. The Oder–Neisse line (Oder-Neiße-Grenze) is the German-Polish border drawn in the aftermath of the war. The line primarily follows the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Baltic Sea west of the city of Stettin. All pre-war German territory east of the line and within the 1937 German boundaries was discussed at the Potsdam Conference (July-August 1945). Germany was to lose 25% of her territory under the agreement. Crucially, some might say (including most certainly Luise Urban) callously, Stalin, Churchill and Truman also agreed to the expulsion of the German population beyond the new eastern borders. This meant that almost all of the native German population was killed, fled or was driven out by force. In East of the Oder, Luise relives that harrowing time, written in memory of her mother, to whom she owes her life. It is the story of a child, but it is not a story for children. 

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  • 05/01/15--03:00: The Friday Digest 01/05/15
  • THP Friday digest

    This week's update features the forgotten Dambusters hero, a secret Swiss fortress and an Egyptian hangover cure


    Anzac Cove and Gallipoli:  then and now – interactive


    * Interactive images of Anzac Cove and Gallipoli: then and now

    Victoria Cross medals



    John 'Hoppy' Hopgood The forgotten Dambusters hero

    * The forgotten Dambusters hero who sacrificed his life trying to save his crew is honoured in new a book.


    Spitfire Buried On Beach Up For Auction


    * The world's oldest surviving Spitfire, which has spent forty years buried on a beach, is up for auction.  


    VILLA ROSE - this secret Swiss fortress is disguised as a harmless pink house, complete with fake windows

    * Villa Rose, the secret Swiss fortress disguised as a harmless pink house


    A world to survey: The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818.


    * Taking history out into the world: do historians need to make a greater impact on political debates?  


    The Egyptian hangover cure


    * The ancient Egyptian hangover cure


    Teh cross-dressing Georgian nobleman 60461-1292576019


    The cross-dressing nobleman in Georgian England


    Oxford DNB logo

    * How are people chosen to enter the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


    Did one man change modern football worldwide

    * Did one man change modern football worldwide


    Charlemagne has a statue of the Saxon god Krodo torn down, while a church is built in its place. Engraving by Matthäus Merian the Elder, 1630.

    The origins of the early medieval state


    medieval cats


    * Why were cats hated in medieval Europe


    34 Of The Most Brilliant Shakespeare Quotes

     * Thirty-four brilliant Shakespeare quotes


    Nimmy March as Lady Capulet, Marcelle Dupre as Juliet 1996, BBC


    Shakespeare's evolving attitudes towards women


    Pride And Prejudice, Matthew Mcfadyen, Keira Knightley

    Jane Austen's 'real' Mr Darcy unmasked by a historian.  


    Penguin Books Mugs

    * Twenty-three awesome mugs book lovers will appreciate


    Battle of Hogwarts Buzzfeed quiz


    * Quiz: can you survive the Battle of Hogwarts


    Peter Pan

    * The real story of Peter Pan: author J.M. Barrie and Princess Margaret's friendship


    Harper Lee in 2010

    Harper Lee saves Mockingbird play from closure


     * The Bookseller on uncertainty in digital publishing


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    he Houses of Parliament, seen across Westminster Bridge. Adrian Pingstone

    With the upcoming election on Thursday 7 May, all eyes are on Westminster but whilst turnout is expected to increase from 2010, it was not so long ago that a large percentage of the population was ineligible to vote. Before the 1832 Reform Act, only a small number of men (and no women) had the vote and the voting qualifications varied from constituency to constituency. In England and Wales only about 12 per cent of adult men had the vote and the proportion was even less in Scotland and Ireland. Women did not vote at all. At one time corruption was rife.  Until 1872 voting was in public and corruption was common until 1883. A single person controlled a rotten borough that returned two Members of Parliament, and for a number of years one of them was the prime minister.  

    But what has changed since then? Here's thirteen fascinating facts about the history of British democracy ...


    1. The constituency of Dunwich returned two MPs long after most of it had slipped into the sea.


    2.  The constituency of Old Sarum returned two MPs (at one time one of them was the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Elder).  There were seven electors, who were all under the control of one man.  So effectively one man chose two MPs.


    3.  Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Sheffield did not have separate representation.


    4.  Philip Francis was elected MP for the borough of Appleby in 1802.  There was only one vote cast and it was in his favour.


    5. At Droitwich votes attached to properties rather than to persons.  The shareholders in a dried up salt pit each had a vote.


    6. 44 per cent of the electors at Cambridge did not reside in the constituency.  They were allowed to vote because they owned property in the constituency.


    7. Gatton in Surrey returned two MPs.  There were only six houses in the borough and they provided seven qualified voters.  In an 1803 by-election only one person voted. 


    8. Seats were openly advertised for sale in newspapers.


    9. At the very least voters expected to receive hospitality from the candidates.


    10. At Andover in 1754 the winning candidate, Francis Delaval, showed his appreciation by arranging for 500 guineas to be fired into the crowd.


    11. At Hertford in 1832 the electors accepted bribes from the Tory then elected the Whig.  This caused outrage, not with the candidate who gave the bribes, but with the perfidious electors who could not be relied upon to do the right thing.


    12. In the Irish borough of Cashel Henry Munster paid £30 to each of 25 of the town’s 26 butchers to secure their vote in the 1868 election.


    13. In 1881 the Chester Bribery Commission reported that the Chester Conservatives had taken 2,281 persons on a picnic.  They had only been charged a nominal amount for the refreshments.

    The Struggle for Democracy Parliamentary Reform, from the Rotten Boroughs to Today

    Roger Mason is the author of The Struggle for Democracy: Parliamentary Reform, from the Rotten Boroughs to TodayWith the use of many fascinating anecdotes, he tells how we got from then to now. All the major reforms are covered: Catholic Emancipation, further Reform Acts, the end of the House of Lords veto and, of course, votes for women. This fascinating history offers a complete insight into the way we have voted from the beginnings of Parliament through to the present day. 

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    Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London; 2001. © Philip Wolmuth

    In June 2014 Sajid Javid, the then newly appointed Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, paid a visit to Hyde Park for a press conference marking the completion of revamped landscaping at Speakers' Corner. It was a Thursday morning, so he should have been safe: no Sunday afternoon crowds, ardent debaters or hectoring preachers to disturb the ministerial pronouncements.

    But he was in for a surprise. As soon as he began speaking, two Hyde Park regulars, angry at a lack of consultation over the changes to their weekly meeting place, started heckling him mercilessly - and he had no idea how to respond. Face-to-face argument, rarely possible between governors and governed, is what Speakers' Corner is about, and this one took place in front of the TV cameras. The Hyde Park speakers are a hard bunch to organise, but Tony Allen and Heiko Khoo, well-practised debaters who have been speaking in the park since 1978 and 1986 respectively, were voicing widely felt resentment at the failure to deal with noise from nearby summer music events and the Marble Arch traffic, the cycle lane that runs through the concrete area on which speakers and crowds currently gather, and the lack of public toilets. Javid didn't stand a chance. He continued doggedly to the end, his prepared speech rendered largely inaudible, without once acknowledging the existence of his boisterous interlocutors.

    The incident was a perfect illustration of the difference between real public debate and the usual, carefully choreographed, appearances of our elected politicians. Lord Donald Soper, Methodist minister, socialist and pacifist, who spoke regularly at Speakers’ Corner from 1926 until his death in 1998, called it ‘the fellowship of controversy’. As he put it, 'You can be compelled to say what you mean, and cannot get away with the fact that it sounds important. The great difference is: you can’t answer back to the television!'

    Despite the visit of the Secretary of State, present day Speakers' Corner has no meaningful connection with mainstream political discourse, but that was not always the case. It played a central role in the nineteenth and early twentieth century campaigns for the widening of the franchise, serving as a venue for many political meetings and protests including, amongst others, two hugely important Reform League demonstrations in 1866 and 1867. These led directly to the passing of the Second Reform Act, which extended the vote to 40% of the male population and, in 1872, to the Parks Regulation Act, which established the legal status of Speakers' Corner as a public speaking and meeting place - a milestone in the fight for freedom of expression and assembly, and the origin of its worldwide reputation as the home of free speech.

    Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park, London © Philip Wolmuth

    None of this rich history is immediately apparent to the first-time visitor. The cacophony of competing preachers, shouting to be heard from ladders and upturned milk-crates, suggests one might have arrived at an outdoor asylum for the religiously insane. But that first impression is misleading. Although the majority of speakers take the Bible or Koran as their set text, and the platforms of even the smallest groups on the political fringe no longer make an appearance, there are others who talk on a range of political and philosophical subjects. And at the edges of the crowd, small knots of people engage in intense discussions, oblivious to the mayhem around them. It is here one can experience the unique buzz generated by the intensity and eccentricity of face-to-face argument. This is what genuine, unmediated public debate looks and sounds like. It's a far cry from Question Time.

    Speakers' Corner

    Philip Wolmuth is the author of Speakers Corner: Debate, Democracy and Disturbing the Peace, a unique look at the people who come to argue, discuss and preach at Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park, regarded worldwide as the home of free speech. Many of the photographs, taken on Sunday afternoons stretching back almost four decades and published here for the first time, are accompanied by excerpts of speeches, heckles, arguments and debates which are, by turns, intriguing, shocking, politically incorrect – and often very funny. In an age in which broadcasters and newspaper editors largely set the parameters of public discussion, such unmediated face-to-face public debate is rare and offers a very different perspective on ‘public opinion’. The speakers and hecklers recorded here, whether serious or light-hearted, religious or profane, are the vibrant heirs of the nineteenth-century campaigners who fought for, and won, the rights to freedom of expression and assembly – vital elements of our democratic tradition. 

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    King Arthur: Pocket Giant


    King Arthur is today an iconic figure of the Western World, a giant of literature, art, theatre, film and history. Debate continues, though, as to whether or not the Arthur familiar to us today derives from a ‘real’ figure of the past.  If so, can we recover anything about that individual? Is Arthur historical, therefore, or is he really a figure of fiction?

    The medieval Arthur could derive from one or more figures of the ancient world, reaching us via Greek literature from the centuries before Christ, but the parallels are not impressive and it is difficult to see how such writings could have had much influence on early medieval Wales, where the ‘Arthur’ legend developed.  The popular view that the ‘original’ Arthur was Lucius Artorius Castus, known from his tomb in Croatia, who served in the Roman army in Britain in the late second century.  That he could have led Sarmatian cavalry in Rome’s cause in northern Britain has encouraged some to suggest that there was a borrowing of ‘Arthurian’stories from the Sarmatian homelands north of the Danube, and links with the so-called Nart sagas, recorded in the Caucasus. But Artorius seems to have served only briefly in Britain, and is unlikely to have seen active service; there is nothing directly linking him with the Sarmatian troops we know to have been quartered there. And parallels between Arthurian stories and the Nart sagas are patchy, at best, and superficial.

    If the ‘Greek’ and ‘Roman’ Arthurs are set aside as unproven, we are left with the emergence of Arthur as a figure of British (Welsh) literature, between AD 550-1000, and the brief appearances of figures with this name in various early sources.  The reader is led through these several Arthurs, but it is far from clear whether the origin lies in one or more ‘real’ figures or a mythical culture-hero. Arthurian stories were circulating in Wales by the end of the first millennium, in both poetry and prose works, but Arthur really takes off in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when he appears in a series of southern Welsh and Breton saints’ lives but more particularly when Geoffrey of Monmouth adopted Arthur as a major figure in his ‘History of the Kings of Britain’.  It was the enormous popularity of this highly-fictional work amongst the Norman, Breton and Frankish aristocracies that propelled Arthur and Arthurian story-telling to the centre of Continental culture, and into virtually every European language. Arthur became a focus of court culture and story-telling, loaded with ideas about elite behaviour, chivalry and the role of women.

    Following Geoffrey, Arthur and his world were widely thought of as historical in Britain across the Middle Ages, but Renaissance scholars applied more stringent tests and Arthur was dumped out of history. His popularity held up, though, in other areas, particularly in literature and painting, with such devotees as Lord Tennyson and Mark Twain.  That popularity has continued to the present, and the last hundred years have seen repeated revivals in attempts to paint an historical picture of Arthur as a Dark-Age British leader, and fresh arguments as to whether or not there ever was a King Arthur in the flesh.

    Today King Arthur is undoubtedly a giant; this book shows how he grew to such a stature.


    King Arthur: Pocket Giant

    To read more on the origins of King Arthur, and why his considered to be so influential throughout history, check out the King Arthur addition to our Pocket Giants series, by Nick Higham. 

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    The great crime of the First World War?


    ‘MURDER BY SAVAGES DRUNK WITH BLOOD’ -A British newspaper headline




    Saturday, 1 May 1915. Scheduled to sail at 10 a.m., Lusitania’s departure from New York was delayed because of the requisitioning that morning of the Anchor Line steamer Cameronia and the subsequent transfer of passengers to Lusitania. Finally sailing over two hours late, Lusitania slowly backed out of Pier 54, turned her bow downstream, and began her 202nd crossing. The morning of 7 May dawned foggy, but around 11 a.m., the weather cleared into a lovely spring afternoon. What no one on board knew was that, in the six days since Lusitania sailed from New York, twenty-two ships had been sunk by German submarines.

    At 1.20 p.m. Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger, commander of the U-20, sighted the fast-approaching Lusitania about 13 miles away. As the liner drew nearer, Schwieger attempted in vain to get his submerged U-boat into position for a clean shot but soon realised that it was impossible because of the direction Lusitania was sailing. At 1.40 p.m., just as he was about to give up hope, Lusitania made a turn to starboard and would steam almost directly in front of the bow of the U-20. Schwieger couldn’t believe his luck. Just before 2.10 p.m., Schwieger fired a single torpedo and watched as the deadly missile found its mark.

    Mortally wounded, Lusitania had less than eighteen minutes to live.

    No author can recount the terrifying experiences of the nearly 2,000 people on board Lusitania the day she sank better than those who were fortunate to live through the tragedy. With that in mind, the following account from a survivor of the disaster should give the reader an idea of the horrors of that terrible May afternoon which changed the lives of so many innocent people forever.

    Chrissie Aitken (front right) was travelling with her father James (back row, centre), brother James Jarvie Sr (back row, second right), and nephew James Jarvie Jr (back row, far right). They were booked on the Anchor Line’s Cameronia, but her requisitioning by the Admiralty on the morning of 1 May 1915 forced the transfer of her passengers to Lusitania. Chrissie was the only member of her family to survive. (Photo courtesy Chrissie Aitken Barnett, original from the author’s collection)


    A letter to relatives by Chrissie Aitken (Originally published in The Nicola Valley News)

    I have just got sat down to write so as long as I’m in the mood I will write a few lines. This is about all I am able to do, as my left hand is out of action. I got it hurt on some wreckage and as it wasn’t attended to for three days, dirt has got in and I fear it was poisoned. My knee is the same. But I have got off a lot better than some my life being spared.

    Well, the cables you would get all right and would relieve your mind so far. Poor father there is no fear about him, as I identified his body before I left Queenstown but Jarvie and Jarrie I don’t know. I fear they have had a similar fate, for as far as I know none of them had life belts. It happened about lunchtime. The girl who slept above me was waiting outside on me so I hurried my lunch, leaving the three sitting at theirs. We (the girl and I) went to our cabins and were just going to pack our grips to put them on deck as they were expecting to get in that night. We were standing laughing at something when the crash came. Instinct seems to tell us what it was. The boat gave a decided list to the right, and as best we could we made for the deck. Being in the first class, (this happened as the 2nd was all filled) we had to pass some boilers, smoke, steam, and so it were gushing here, and we had to run through them.

    When we got on the deck, everybody was making for the stairs for the next deck, four, by this time, the first deck was enveloped in the water. The crash was awful. I must say I kept very calm. This girl friend who was with me got very excited, and in trying to calm her I forgot my own excitement. We managed to get on deck and made for the lifeboats. I’ve been remembered I had no life-belt, and turning back I went to the saloon to get one for my girl friend and one for myself. On reaching the saloon a steward turned me back and told me to go to my own cabin if I wanted a life belt. When I returned from the saloon my girl friend had disappeared. I could not see her in any of the boats so I don’t know where she could have gone.

    I was standing wondering, when a little fellow, one of the crew came up to me and took off his own belt and fix it around me. How I wish now I have got his name and address, but thank God I noticed him in the crowd at Queenstown, so I know he was saved. His self-sacrificing bravery, I am sure, saved me from a watery grave.

    At the saddest times you can’t help laughing; I did this and a steward turned round and said: ‘Thank God there’s one smiling face.’

    Something has gone wrong with a lifeboat and men were pulling a rope to bring it nearer the ship. It was hard work, and I grabbed the rope to help. I was doing this when someone pulled me by the shoulder and told me to get into a life boat. There was about 4 feet to jump. When the boat was full it was lowered. By this time the Lusitania was nearly under water. The little boat I was in having been lowered the men were doing there [sic] best to push away, but it seemed the fast sinking Lusitania was drawing us under. Hearing the remark of a steward that our boat was being swamped, I immediately jumped out. As I left the life boat the big boat sank; and I was carried down and down. It seemed ages before I came up. My bills brought me up, but I was severely knocked about among the wreckage.

    When I got my head above the water the Lusitania was nowhere to be seen. Seagulls in hundreds were hovering around, but nothing but a few life boats and wreckage was to be seen. I heard someone close by say ‘there’s a woman,’ and I saw three men on and upturned boat. They tried to get me, and I tried to get to them. Eventually they managed to pull me on to the boat, and we sat huddled together to keep each other warm, till another boat came along. After eight while another came along we got in and a half-dozen of us sailed around, picking people up till we had forty in our boat. I was next afraid maybe we would capsize with so many but we didn’t. It was a sight I’ll never forget, passing people who are crying for help, and not able to help or save them. We were in this boat for a long time while till we were picked up by a minesweeper.

    The Marconi operator had sent out the ‘S.O.S.’ and I think about nine vessels came to our rescue, but it seemed ages before they came. When I got on board it was about half-past five, being after two when the Lusitania was struck. Standing on this mine sweeper were a big bunch of fellows – eight men – I went up and stood beside them. They  were all smoking cigarettes and I had too. Half in the hopes to warm me and half-expecting them to make me sick, as I imagined I had swallowed an awful lot of sea water.

    There is an idea that the Germans used those poisonous gases, as next morning when I awoke and I felt as though I were going to be choked and through the day I have always an inclination to cough, and I have got an awful cold. I have only got a slight touch of it, but something makes me think that lots died from the supposed gases.

    The greatest crime of the First World War?

    When looking over the dead bodies nearly all had froth oozing out of their nose, ears, and mouth. Many had as large as your fist at their mouth just like a peice [sic] of white cotton wool, I think they had been choked. Father, I think has died of shock more than anything his heart being weak.

    When we got to Queenstown the whole population had turned out. We were taken to a hotel. We had to get a change of clothes. I got a change of clothes but that was all. Next day we left for Kingston near Dublin. We sailed from there to Holyhead, and from there we went to Crewe. From Crewe we changed to the Glasgow train and then again I changed at Carstairs to the Edinburgh train and had to wait an hour and a quarter there for the Davidsons Mains train. I was tickled to death to get in the train on Sunday.

    Of course I am the talk of Davidsons Mains. About a dozen reporters have been out. I told my experiences to the first (The Scotsman) but the rest I didn’t see.

    If you like you can let the ‘News’ and ‘Herald’ see this letter so that all my friends can see that I have got here safely and save me writing it over again. I am about all in writing this letter and feel as though I could not be bothered lifting a pen again. I had written four letters on the Lusitania, big letters too, of all my journey right to Friday and when we were in sight of land I had closed them, and I don’t feel like writing them again.

    I feel so tired and sick today, and I had such a rotten night. The night I was landed I slept a good sleep. I knew nothing till I awakened. All my money and Father’s and Jarvie’s went down, all my lovely clothes too. I hadn’t a cent to blow my fingers on.

    Little did I think when I read Mr. Langley’s personal experience of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland that I, myself, would have a similar one to tell.

    The Unseen Lusitania


    Eric Sauder is the author of The Unseen Lusitania: The Ship in Rare Illustrations. Lost to a German torpedo on 7 May 1915, Cunard’s RMS Lusitania captured the world’s imagination when she entered service in 1907. Not only was she was the largest ship in the world, but she was also revolutionary in design as well as being a record breaker. Lusitania is now sadly remembered for her tragic destruction, sinking in eighteen minutes with the loss of around 1,200 souls.

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