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  • 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 […]

    The Loss of the Douglas C-54-D in 1950 January 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Loss of the Douglas C-54-D in 1950

    Scores of planes have permanently gone missing since the beginnings of aviation a century ago, but almost all of these have one thing in common. They were flying over deep water or they were close to deep water when they disappeared from the radar. It makes sense: it is very difficult for a large plane […]

    A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920 December 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920

    This early aeronautics story comes from central Italy in the 1940s. A mysterious aged man lives up in a secluded valley, a man who is spoken about in hushed terms. It seems this man is almost a wizard in terms of mechanical objects. When he was young he made a bicycle entirely out of wood, […]

    The Last of 2973 October 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Last of 2973

    From June to September 1940 2937 pilots flew in RAF fighters to retain British air superiority over the Home Counties in a scrap that has been remembered by history as ‘the Battle of Britain’. Immortalized by Churchill as ‘the few’ these men have come, even more than the Dunkirk-bound BEF, to symbolise the British achievement […]

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