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  • The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France May 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The Stone of Oo: High Weirdness from Southern France

    Oô in southern France has two things going for it. First, that name, I mean what…?! And second the pierre d’Oô one of the weirdest objects to emerge the last three or four thousand years of human endeavour: a sculpture of a lady and her pet. At this point, readers should take a moment and […]

    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850 April 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850

    This story appeared in British newspapers in September of 1850. It was one of several attempts, attempts that had been going on since Napoleon had considered invading England and that would continue until the Channel Tunnel was finally drilled through, to do away with the English Channel. Any dolt can build a tunnel or a […]

    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels March 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The 5 Greatest Historical Graphic Novels

    Graphic novels must be, surely, the most underestimated genre in the modern arts: perhaps about 40% of the adult population have such strong feelings that, with the exception of Charlie Brown, they could not bring themselves to pick up a comic. This is a tragedy. There are great works out there that have been largely ignored and […]

    Not the Shawl, Josephine! March 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Not the Shawl, Josephine!

    This is a chamber pot story, one which Beach stumbled upon during his recent research into chamber pot enemies. We are in France in the theatre at Saint-Cloud and during the first act, Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Josephine ‘was seized with an uncontrollable desire to make water’. This comes from an edition in 1896 and […]

    Death by Joke March 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Joke

    The historical practical joke tag has now reached almost a dozen posts and Beach thought that he would celebrate with a brief survey of a particularly unusual form of practical joke: jokes that ended in the joker or jokee dying. Beach limited himself to British newspapers from 1 Jan 1880 to Dec 31 1899 and […]

    Smelling Germans March 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Smelling Germans

    This is a weird little story that has proved frustratingly difficult to pin down: not even the original reference. 12 June 1944 Churchill, Brook, and Smuts (far right) visited Montgomery’s forward position at Creully to see how the Normandy campaign was unwinding. This much can be attained from several sources not least the photograph above: […]

    Selling Children in the 1800s March 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Children in the 1800s

    An amazing report from Oldham, 1888: On Monday evening a woman about 40 years of age was seen in Curzon Street with two children, one in arms, and the other, about three years old, walking by her side. From what transpired it appeared that the woman wanted to sell her children, and thereupon a large […]

    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War March 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    A recent post looked at the tensions created by ambassadors declaring war in WW2. Today, instead, some descriptions of declarations of war from World War 1. The initial impression is that there was more formality and more old world charm. Some of the ambassadors may have believed they would be back in their host capitals by […]

    Hair Harvests and Hair Theft February 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hair Harvests and Hair Theft

    The hair harvest was the trick of selling your beautiful head of hair, an option open to hirsute young women, to the local barber for a sovereign (or somewhat less). The practice was common enough in Victorian Britain that it appears in a Hardy novel, The Woodlanders, where Marty lops off her hair and sells […]

    In Search of Medieval Pain February 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    In Search of Medieval Pain

    First, a small rider. Beach would prefer to spend ten minutes in the company of medieval artists, than two hours in the company of the Renaissance ‘masters’. However, he has recently been disappointed in a search for pain among his favourite twelfth-, thirteenth- and fourteenth-century painters. In his naivety he thought that crucifixion scenes and […]

    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793 February 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793

    ***Stephen D sent this one in: thanks!*** The following post describes an attempted French invasion across the Rhine at Huningue, just to the north of the Swiss border in September 1793. It goes without saying that amphibious operations are hellishly difficult in modern times. The Huningue operation began with the decimation of the officer ranks. […]

    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred February 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred

    Let us, first, introduce Fort Douaumont. The mightiest of the Verdun forts, Douaumont was captured by the Germans early in the battle for Verdun, 25 February 1915, just four days after fighting had begun. The fort was taken (with hardly a shot being fired) because of unbelievable French carelessness in garrisoning the jewel in their Verdun […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War? December 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War?

    A couple of indisputable, non-negotiable Great War facts. In early September 1914 the German army came smashing down on the French army at the Marne. In the decisive battle of the first part of the war, the French, with some assistance from the brave but plodding Brits, managed to hold the Germans. However, everyone on […]

    Great War Organ Gun November 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Great War Organ Gun

    The organ gun, also known as the ribadulequin, was one of those crude innovations in military technology that shifted humanity towards the ‘elegant’ killing of the machine gun arc. Organs were basically guns with many barrels and one trigger and were as liable to explode in the gunner’s face as to blast away the opposition. Beach recently […]

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