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  • Sunk Three Times in an Hour November 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sunk Three Times in an Hour

    Beachcombing’s grandfather was sunk three times in the last World War. But the three times in question were spread out over seven years… Imagine, instead, being sunk three times in just under an hour, not only that, we are not talking about lonely frigates or minesweepers, these were three British battleships: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and […]

    Written Gibberish and Magic November 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Written Gibberish and Magic

    Keith Thomas includes in his classic Magic and the Decline of Religion a few precious pages on gibberish charms that were sometimes given out by ‘cunning men and women’ (aka witches) to those who wanted protection. These were typically worn about the neck of someone who wished for help against demons or better health. Some […]

    The Joys of Historical Ignorance November 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Joys of Historical Ignorance

    For a student from the west the basic sign of historical literacy is whether or not you can put the following periods in their correct order: antiquity, ‘dark ages’, middle ages, renaissance and modernity. Beach has the privilege of teaching perhaps two hundred American students a year and probably ten percent would be capable of […]

    The Dominions and WW2 November 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dominions and WW2

    The Dominions were a precise administrative category within the British Empire. They referred to the territories that had reached, according to omniscient London, the ability to govern themselves with minimum interference from the motherland. With many of the racist assumptions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was believed that only white populations […]

    Roma Fairies at Blackpool November 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Roma Fairies at Blackpool

    There is not much to comment on here, just a very unusual passage in a classic Roma book, The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy (1970). The edition referred to here is the 1973 Penguin. Now to the fairies. Notice how they jump in rather matter of factly. Our author is remembering an idyllic […]

    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 […]

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