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  • Living in Interesting Times: Britain’s Next Five Years August 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Living in Interesting Times: Britain's Next Five Years

    This blogger has followed British politics for the best part of thirty years and things have never been so ‘interesting’: there is a storm building up around the UK, which Britain’s neighbours and allies have been slow to recognise. What has created this storm? Put simply two big things have happened at once: important existential […]

    The Imitation Game August 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Imitation Game

    The earliest and greatest British victory in the Second World War (building on crucial Polish breakthroughs) was the breaking of the new German code machine Enigma, 22 May 1940, just as the British Expeditionary Force was being surrounded by the Wehrmacht in France. For those of an academic persuasion the achievement is particularly sweet because […]

    Gort’s Longest Hour August 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gort's Longest Hour

    Long before Tolstoy ruined War and Peace with his reflections on the role of great men in history humans sat down and debated the ability of individuals to influence events. Beach is a bit of a heretic in this. He believes passionately that men and women not ‘impersonal forces’ (whatever the hell they are) make […]

    Witching Spiders from Suffolk August 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witching Spiders from Suffolk

    This witching story from the late seventeenth-century is interesting for two reasons: first because it is inherently weird and creepy; second because it may be the source for one of the greatest twentieth-century horror stories. Frightened of spiders? Then go click away. At St. Edmund’s Bury, in Suffolk, Sept. 6, 1660, in the middle of […]

    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War August 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nine Moments When the Axis Lost the War

    The sequel to Beach’s seven reasons why Germany lost the Great War. 1) When Germany didn’t destroy the British Expeditionary Force: at the end of May 1940 about a third of a million British servicemen, the Empire’s entire European army was trapped in a small pocket on the northern French coast. Demoralised, with their equipment […]

    British and Irish Wild Men August 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British and Irish Wild Men

    There follow nineteenth-century reports of wild men from Britain and Ireland: can anyone add to the list, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com (fiction is good too) 1851: Co Limerick (Ireland), a rumour was doing the rounds that a wild man with no clothes lived in the wood there. He had been carrying off and killing […]

    Foundling Names August 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Foundling Names

    We recently offered a post on the names given to bastard children. Here is a related and far nicer post on the names given to foundlings, who seem to have been treated, perhaps strangely, with rather more respect by society. Today, if an anonymous individual turns up, he is, in the US, referred to as […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: the Pickpocket’s Diamond Ring August 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: the Pickpocket's Diamond Ring

    Beach has offered a series of Victorian and Edwardian urban legends in the last weeks, some of which he has his doubts about. This one though is a slam dunk of the best kind. First, it is the clear ancestor of the stories where an honest person accidentally steals something from a stranger: though in Beach’s […]

    Return to Trenches at Death August 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Return to Trenches at Death

    There follows a very fine ghost story from the British press. It would be fascinating to track down the sources here: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com At the beginning of the war a famous regiment left England for France. The colonel that regiment was a man beloved of all his men, idolised by his young […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Snuff Poisoning? July 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Snuff Poisoning?

    No not the cinematic kind of snuff! This story appeared in 1870 and enjoyed wide circulation in all British newspapers. A Wolverhampton contemporary records what seems to be a new trick upon railway travellers. The other day, a passenger from Wolverhampton to Bilston, after having been drawn into conversation by couple of respectable looking fellow-travellers, […]

    Ghost Cars July 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Ghost Cars

    There is lots of interesting burbling about technology and ghosts. How long does it need for a new technology to become hauntable? When will the first call centres or internet hubs get their poltergeists? To us today that wonderful Dickens story ‘The Signal Man’ is a straightforward ghost tale. But part of its daring back in […]

    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall! June 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall!

    In 1595 a Spanish raid on Cornwall in South-western England took place under Captain Carlos de Amezola. Amezola landed his men at Mount’s Bay and burnt several ships, churches and hundreds of houses in Penzance, Newlyn, Paul and Mousehole, some of the most westerly English settlements. This small act of warfare was, of course, absolutely […]

    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking June 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking

    There are very occasional instances of enemy officials reporting on the gallantry and heroism of opposite numbers. The Irish Captain Roope of the HMS Glowworm was, for example, given his Victoria cross in part because of the testimony of a German captain, Heye, whose ship had been rammed by Roope in 1940. However, there is […]

    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940? June 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940?

    The greatest month in German history (militarily speaking) began 10 May 1940 with the attack in the west and ended 14 June when the Wehrmacht entered Paris. Yet that month was clouded by Britain’s survival. Hitler had two ways to pacify Britain: first, he could break Britain militarily (invasion); second, he could convince Britain to withdraw […]

    The Poisoned Bowl and the 5000 Letters May 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    The Poisoned Bowl and the 5000 Letters

    Beach has not offered up a rogue researcher for some time: the last was mummy maker, Bob Brier, a year ago. Rogue researchers, for the uninitiated are those men and women, with doctorates, who do things that others in their discipline might consider eccentric. To call someone a ‘rogue researchers’ is a sign of the […]

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