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  • Count Teleki: The Politics of Suicide February 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Count Teleki: The Politics of Suicide

    The Hungarian Count Pál Teleki is a tragic Second World War figure, obit 1941 (that says it all). In the last year of his life tensions between Hungary and her neighbours were growing. Teleki was emotionally an Ally, an old fashioned conservative democrat, who would have been far more at home in Britain or France’s […]

    Scoundrels and Pisspants: WW2 Ambassadors and Declarations of War February 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Scoundrels and Pisspants: WW2 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    Diplomats and ambassadors find themselves in a rather unusual situation. They are to represent their country, first and foremost, of course, but they are also to fraternize with their adopted country. This strange and strained sets of loyalties makes declarations of war particularly painful. The ambassador meets the foreign secretary with whom he has often […]

    You Can’t Go Home Again: Aunt Janey and Other Stories February 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    You Can’t Go Home Again: Aunt Janey and Other Stories

    Qua campis cervos agitabat sacra juventus/ Incumbit fessus nunc baculo senior./ Nos miseri, cur te fugitivum, mundus, amamus? (‘Here the holy young man who chased deer in the fields, now, stands a broken old man with a stick/ O what wretches! Why, world we love, do you flee from us?’) Alcuin O Mea Cella Beach’s […]

    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred February 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred

    Let us, first, introduce Fort Douaumont. The mightiest of the Verdun forts, Douaumont was captured by the Germans early in the battle for Verdun, 25 February 1915, just four days after fighting had begun. The fort was taken (with hardly a shot being fired) because of unbelievable French carelessness in garrisoning the jewel in their Verdun […]

    Totalitarian Jiang and The Sound of Music February 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Totalitarian Jiang and The Sound of Music

    There are few things as entertaining as a power struggle in the upper echelons of a totalitarian state. What could be better than glimpses of profoundly unpleasant people, with an endearing lack of boundaries, doing profoundly unpleasant things, to slightly or momentarily less powerful unpleasant people? Perhaps it is the closest we get to an […]

    The Peshev Insurgency February 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Peshev Insurgency

    Dimitar Peshev was a middle ranking interwar Bulgarian politician of conservative persuasion. He served briefly as Bulgarian minister of Justice in the mid 1930s, then returned to the back benches with an honorific position in parliament. He survived the Second World War and, miraculously, the communist purges that followed, though he spent a year in […]

    The Eugenics of History? February 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Eugenics of History?

    Eugenics refers of course to the depressing strand of thinking that says that societies (for which read boffins with bow ties employed by the state) should be allowed to decide which of us can and cannot reproduce our genes. Eugenics was briefly fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s then the Nazis came along and, perhaps […]

    Ghost at Lynton January 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ghost at Lynton

    Beach is a sucker for these ghost stories from the Victorian, the Edwardian and immediate post Edwardian period. This particular series of horrors relates to the Ewings who lived as tenants at St Vincent’s Cottage, Lynton, 1937, ‘where a large number of bones have been found’. Here is Mrs Ewing: From the very start of our […]

    The Eighteen Year Old Problem: Murder in WW2 France January 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Eighteen Year Old Problem: Murder in WW2 France

    Beach had, as a historically-inclined teenager, a recurrent dream, where he was on an island in a lake and a Viking boat full of blond psychos was coming toward him (and there was nowhere to go and nowhere to hide). The extract below has something of the same terrible inevitability. Certainly, having read this a […]

    The Mystery of Ghost Riots January 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystery of Ghost Riots

    This blog has reported many historical ghost stories over the year. Now it is time for a bit of reflection. Let’s pretend that your neighbour John Smith on Treacle Row in London, has reported that he has seen a ghost in a flowing gown running up and down the stairs. Now think carefully about this […]

    Churchill in Antwerp Mystery: Hunt the Photograph January 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill in Antwerp Mystery: Hunt the Photograph

    Invisible an old and dear friend of this blog has sent the following story in from an American newspaper, Evening Ledger, 20 Oct 1914. The problem is the story was not published with the photograph in question: why publish a story if you have to describe rather than print the snap? The one above is […]

    Forgot the Damn Suicide Pills! January 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Forgot the Damn Suicide Pills!

    Perhaps you need a British sense of humour, but this scene had Beach smiling more than potential death scenes normally do. It is D-Day and General Donovan (pictured) and Colonel David Bruce the narrator have to undertake a special mission in the French interior just off the D-Day beaches (they have been landed at Utah), […]

    Forgotten Kingdoms: The Republic of Montefiorino January 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Forgotten Kingdoms: The Republic of Montefiorino

    Another for the forgotten kingdom files, this time a particularly short lived example from Italy: the rulers of the Republic of Montefiorino managed about six weeks in 1944 before history and German flame-throwers intervened. First, some background. In the summer of 1943 Mussolini’s fascist government crumbled and Italy found itself occupied by angry Allies in […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    Naked Fertility Rituals from Missouri January 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Naked Fertility Rituals from Missouri

    Imagine these three scenes all from Ozark country in Missouri: A man and a woman walk into a flax field naked chanting, while throwing seeds, ‘Up to my ass, an’ higher too!’ The man throws the seed against the woman’s buttocks. ‘Then they just laid down on the ground and had a good time.’ Date: […]

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