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  • Crowds #1: And so it begins… Images from 1914 March 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Crowds #1: And so it begins... Images from 1914

      [students in Berlin, off to enlist] Beachcombing has recently become interested in crowd photography: large groups of people, preferably in rather strange or extreme situations. And as part of this ‘project’ he started collecting photographs from perhaps the dizziest month in western history: August 1914. The war is just beginning and young and not […]

    Swallowing or Choking on (Operation) Mincemeat February 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Swallowing or Choking on (Operation) Mincemeat

    ***Dedicated to Glyndwr Michael*** Operation Mincemeat is often celebrated as the single greatest act of trickery of the Second World War. In 1943 a Welsh suicide victim was dressed up in the uniform of a British royal marine, put on dry ice in a submarine, thrown into the sea off the coast of Spain with […]

    Dragon Rats in Oxford February 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dragon Rats in Oxford

    Beach has demonstrated an interest in dragons in this place on several occasions. He just recently came across an account though that trumped most of the shilly-shally he has put up here in the past.  ‘Jacob Bobart botany professor of Oxford, did about forty years ago (in 1704) find a dead rat in the Physic […]

    Somehow Still Walking February 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Somehow Still Walking

    Beachcombing used to live on a farm next to an SS veteran who had escaped from a Soviet prisoner of war camp with four ‘through and throughs’, a lot of random shrapnel and with one of his eye balls conspicuously absent: he was a bit of a ‘card’ and refused to wear a glass eye. […]

    August 1914: Surprise or Countdown? February 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    August 1914: Surprise or Countdown?

    In western memory, particularly in European memory the guns of August 1914 were a long awaited horror: and while the First World War was so much worse than anyone could have possibly imagined – Beach thinks of an earlier Churchill post on the nineteenth century comparing itself with the twentieth – everyone knew it was […]

    I was afraid to move: I was gasping for breath February 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    I was afraid to move: I was gasping for breath

    As those who favour the death penalty have found, killing a human being is surprisingly difficult. How much more difficult if you have a hundred, or a thousand or a hundred thousand human beings to kill and little time to do it. Bullets will only do so much, men and women can be filled with […]

    Owen’s Untimely Death January 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Owen's Untimely Death

      There are occasional micro moments in history that are so extraordinary painful to read about that they strangely dwarf greater tragedies such as the liquidation of a ghetto, the dropping of an atom bomb or the sinking of a cruise-liner. One of these micro tragedies that has been bobbing in and out of Beachcombing’s […]

    The Decline of the Public Domain January 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Decline of the Public Domain

    Beachcombing, like many aging ideologues, can no longer bring himself to care about things that used to give his teenage self heartburn. But, there are a few exceptions – identity cards, Brussels delenda est, reptile road-crossing tunnels… – that buzz him into life. Not least among these and particularly associated in his mind with this […]

    Stalingrad’s Madonna December 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stalingrad's Madonna

    In late 1942 Kurt Reuber (obit 1944) found himself in the Stalingrad Kessel where 300,000 Axis troops awaited almost certain death, surrounded by an understandably vengeful Soviet enemy: only 6000 would survive the war. As the festivities drew near Reuber – curiously, given his subject a Protestant pastor – sketched this beautiful madonna that became […]

    Review: Five Days in London December 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Five Days in London

    John Lukacs, Five Days in London, May 1940 (1999) has a simple thesis. The United Kingdom could not have defeated Hitler alone, but she could have lost the war before the Soviet Union and the USA entered as Allies. And she never came nearer to this, according to Lukacs, than 24-28 May 1940 – the […]

    The Bearded Princess December 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Bearded Princess

    A day of freedom: 77 exams graded, course readers prepared, translations refined, goodbyes given… It is all over, at least, until, in January, the whole merry dance begins again. In the meantime, Beachcombing thought that he would go back to an old love of his, some of the more unusual saints in the Christian pantheon. […]

    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages December 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Christian Cannibalism in the Middle Ages

    Beachcombing sometimes begins his posts with naff excuses about why he can’t write much on this or that occasion, but today the pressure is really on: exams to be marked, the ill to be visited, books to be sent, syllabi to be written, course packs to be checked, the trauma of saying goodbye to much […]

    Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dunkirk and Golden Bridges

    Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    Hitler’s Italian Fantasy Life November 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary