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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 […]

    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy September 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy

    As all Americans and many non-Americans know, 7 Dec 1941, the day of infamy, was the date of a brilliantly planned and brilliantly executed Japanese attack on America’s most important Pacific base, Pearl Harbor. The attack was, for the Americans, a bolt from the blue. Yes, America’s leaders were aware that a Japanese assault was […]

    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 […]

    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind July 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind

    In the 1960s, date unspecified, a southern English paper the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter, a memoir from one Mr S.C. Thomas, who had lived in the area in the First World War. His memories had taken him back to October 1916 when he and Hilda Cavanagh had gone out for a […]

    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

    Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

    McConnel’s Passing: An At Death Encounter? March 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    McConnel's Passing: An At Death Encounter?

    11 December 1918 was a sad day in the McConnel family. Eighteen-year-old David McConnel (aka M’Connel in some publications) had perished four days before in a plane crash: just three months after the end of the worst war in history, at a time when his family might reasonably have hoped that he would be safe. Flying from […]

    Britain’s First Glider: Charles Spencer February 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Britain's First Glider: Charles Spencer

    ***an important correction to this article from Nathaniel below*** In 1868 the Aeronautical Society put up a stand at the Crystal Palace exhibition and prepared to show the nation their wares. There were many of the usual suspects: a miniature version of Stringfellow’s aerial steam carriage, for example, and prizes for anyone who get a […]

    Miraculous Survival with Parachute January 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Miraculous Survival with Parachute

    ***in his long tradition of blogging incompetence Beach accidentally put up two posts yesterday including, briefly, an incomplete post on folklore and the Nessie legend. That will come in the next month! Apologies!*** A late supplement to the post on those who survived jumps from planes without a parachute. This is the most remarkable instance […]

    Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

    This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

    Crashing into yourself in the air?! November 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Crashing into yourself in the air?!

    In the recent dropping things from WW1 planes Beach ran across this bizarre little story. It appeared in a letter to the father of a British flying Corps officer and was later published in a newspaper. What the hell happened here? I had often wondered what it would be like to see a machine coming […]

    Dropping Things from Planes in WW1 November 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dropping Things from Planes in WW1

    With insouciance and innocence man took to the air and then in the First World War began to fight in the air. The pilots were suicidally brave and also almost childlike in their duels. Along with the machine guns there were jokes and jests with friends and enemies alike. In this short post Beach wanted […]

    Flying Drums in Tibet July 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Flying Drums in Tibet

    A lot of interest recently in the objects used by witches to fly: broomsticks, trees etc: Other weird flying objects, drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. This brought Beach to parallel traditions, among which is the extraordinary flying drum of Tibet. An earliest, perhaps the earliest example on record follows here.  The description is of a […]

    Strange Air Battle in the Caucasus June 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Strange Air Battle in the Caucasus

    In volume 7 of the Seyahatname the Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi describes his travels in Austria, the Crimea and the Caucasus in 1664. 28 April of that year he had a remarkable experience in Circassia. As there is no English translation of EC we have to rely here on Carlo Ginzburg’s paraphrase of a translation […]

    Witches Walking Upside Down April 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witches Walking Upside Down

    ***By an act of all too characteristic incompetence this post was pre-published yesterday, some of you may then have missed the post before on four suicides (PS some great emails on that, just need some time to put up)*** How do witches fly? By broomstick, of course. Only consider this story, which appears  in 1825 […]

    Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints? March 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Who Needs Anti-Aircraft Guns When You Have Saints?

    In Norman Lewis’ brilliant, astounding Naples ’44, the British writer has many curious and memorable passages from his diary of that year. However, this is one of Beach’s favourites. At Pomigliano [north-east of Naples] we have a flying monk who also demonstrates the stigmata. The monk claims that on an occasion last year when an […]

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