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  • Bombing Roulette October 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bombing Roulette

    In the early part of the Second World War the bombing of cities was deadly but piecemeal. The result was a ghastly kind of lottery as a split second of difference in letting the bombs away would decide the difference between the destruction of this street or that street: Roald Dahl has some fine short […]

    Anne Boleyn Loses It October 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Anne Boleyn Loses It

    Anne Boleyn was, of course, the second wife of Henry VIII, who ended her short life with French steel interposing between her chin and her shoulders, 19 May 1536. Her execution came after a travesty of a trial in which she was found guilty of high treason against the king (a man of unusual psychology): she […]

    The Poison Duel 6#: The Poisoned Draught October 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Poison Duel 6#: The Poisoned Draught

    There follows a story that appeared during research into poison duels. As with many duel stories it is thrilling: ref Hartlepool Mail, 18 Dec 1888, 4. Herr Karl von Krulhanser— the Professor, he was called— was an eccentric man of science. With the exception of a few students, to whom he gave private lessons, he […]

    Late Witch Attack, 1924 September 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Late Witch Attack, 1924

    ***This post is dedicated to Jill*** This blog has long had an interest in witchcraft from western Europe and particularly bizarre late examples of witchcraft including alleged human sacrifice in Britain during World War II and even some witch killings in the nineteenth century. Here is a case of late witchcraft scratching: it was sincerely […]

    Earliest Written Reference to Britannia? September 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Earliest Written Reference to Britannia?

    Female personifications of nations…. There is frigid Italia (with towers growing out of her head), France has psychotic Marianne drinking aristocratic blood, Uncle Sam sometimes flirted with French Liberty and Eriu (Ireland to Sassenach neighbours) was a hag who bedded warriors, but best of all there is sweet Britannia with a shield, trident and snooty outlook […]

    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon) September 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon)

    Beach so liked the fireball stories from last month that he has been looking for some more and came across this incredible encounter from southern Devon, 1836. He was hoping for mad papists and great balls of flame, instead he got sincere yokels at midnight and omens. Still a great story. The author is a middle […]

    Killer Sheep September 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killer Sheep

    Sheep are some of the most benign, unthreatening animals that you can hope to meet. Think of a ewe bleating ineffectually over her young as the farmer comes for his prey, or one of the most pathetic images in the whole of creation, a grown sheep running to suckle when it perceives a threat, almost knocking […]

    The Ashanti Ewer August 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Ashanti Ewer

    ***Thanks to RG for the tip*** A brilliant wrong place story that has just come strangehistory’s way. Imagine that in the late nineteenth century you stumble upon a medieval ewer (a kind of jug), the heaviest of its kind, in fact, weighing an incredible 18.6 kilos (just for the record that’s almost exactly how many […]

    Jane Stanley Paints Castle-An-Dinas August 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Jane Stanley Paints Castle-An-Dinas

    Jane Stanley is an extremely talented archaeological reconstruction artist, based out of Cornwall. Castle-an-Dinas is an Iron Age fort in the middle of that county, a six-acre site second only, in terms of its natural charisma, to South Cadbury in Somerset. Put Jane and Castle-an-Dinas together and you get some of the best historical fiction around, […]

    Searching for the Author of ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave’ August 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Searching for the Author of 'Do Not Stand at My Grave'

    ‘Do not stand at my grave and weep’ is one of the most quoted twentieth-century poems in English. It is not Auden or Elliot or Ted Hughes or Geoffrey Hill. It is what Orwell called ‘good bad poety’: and Beach says this without any sense of judgement having listened obsessively to Abba all week. What […]

    Catholics, Dead Sheep and Fire Balls in Early Modern England August 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Catholics, Dead Sheep and Fire Balls in Early Modern England

    In 1531 Henry VIII began divorce proceedings with Roman Catholic Church and Latin Europe, the so-called English Reformation: all of modern English history pivots on that date, much as medieval English history pivots on 1066. The betrayal of English Catholicism was a brutal process in which some of the best Britons suffered intoleraby. But if […]

    Prophetic German Poster, 1918 August 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prophetic German Poster, 1918

    Great War posters are often, say it quietly, not very good. Nations had just not had enough experience at propagandizing young men when war broke in 1914 and even the best poster makers – the Americans? – still put out plenty of numbers that would make advertising execs pale today. However, the combatant states learnt and […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments August 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments

    Historical anniversaries are not normally to Beach’s taste. They vulgarise, they trivialise, they misstate…. Like an ardent monarchist who can’t stand royal weddings he would be anywhere but there when the minister appears with the scissors for a ribbon and a vapid speech. But this blogger has been filled with a sense of awe as […]

    Spying Commandments, 1918 July 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Spying Commandments, 1918

    Britain’s foreign intelligence body MI6 (aka SIS) was one of the reasons that the Allies won WW2. In its early days MI6 though had practically to invent the spying rule book: founded in 1909 it was put through its paces in WW1 where it had only mixed achievements. The boiled down and often painfully acquired […]

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