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  • 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 […]

    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?! May 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?!

    In the Middle Ages the Irish were for ever finding Gaels in surprising parts of the world. The soldier who pierced Christ’s side on the cross was Irish, Simon Magus was an Irish druid, etc etc.  It is a shock to find, though, that this endearing habit lasted into the nineteenth century. In June 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: […]

    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 […]

    Saved by Birds and a Gypsy December 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Saved by Birds and a Gypsy

    Archduke Joseph Karl (obit 1905) was one of the minor scions of the Austro-Hungarian royal family. He was famous though for a particular interest: in a country where gypsies were despised he was a Roma-phile, writing books on gypsy culture and even learning their language. In his attempts to advance the claims of the gypsy […]

    A Monkey in the Late Roman Army December 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    A Monkey in the Late Roman Army

    Do you remember the ape buried in Iron Age Ireland? Well, here is a cousin, who also travelled far from home. In 2001 a monkey, a macaque, in fact, was dug up at Iulia Libica (Llívia), a late Roman settlement in the Pyrenees. He was, at death, 78 cms tall: a young male. It goes without […]

    The King and Country Debate: Oxford 1933 December 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The King and Country Debate: Oxford 1933

    It is remembered as ‘the King and Country Debate’, the most famous student debate in history. 9 February 1933 Oxford Union (the students of Oxford University in contentious mode) undertook to discuss the proposal ‘that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. The expectations were that the proposal would be brushed […]

    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 […]

    Sunk Three Times in an Hour November 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sunk Three Times in an Hour

    Beachcombing’s grandfather was sunk three times in the last World War. But the three times in question were spread out over seven years… Imagine, instead, being sunk three times in just under an hour, not only that, we are not talking about lonely frigates or minesweepers, these were three British battleships: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and […]

    Who Was the First Victim of a Machine Gun? October 30, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Who Was the First Victim of a Machine Gun?

    The machine gun was one of the most vicious military innovations of the late nineteenth century; and in the twentieth century, it slaughtered more individuals than the motor car, Ebola and ISIS put together. However, who had the honour of being first penetrated and killed by a machine gun bullet? The answer depends, of course, on […]

    Churchill Urinating in Germany October 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill Urinating in Germany

    An unseemly story as the title suggests. 24 March 1945, Churchill visited the first occupied areas in Germany and more particularly the famous Siegfried Line. He was travelling with several British dignitaries including Montgomery and Brooke. An American, Lieutenant General William Hood Simpson asked Churchill, some miles prior to Germany’s last line of defence, whether […]

    Speaking to Tens of Thousands Before Battle: Is it Possible? October 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Speaking to Tens of Thousands Before Battle: Is it Possible?

    Beach worried to day about speeches before battle in ancient and medieval times. If you have read any Roman or Greek historian then you know the drill. General stands up before his army, makes a few choice reflections on why his men are fighting,  and then the army goes out, inspired, and trashes or is […]

    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 […]

    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence October 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Multi-Dimensional Civil War in Fourteenth-Century Florence

    Civil Wars are generally – the American Civil War is a fascinating exception – confusing with there almost inevitably being more than two factions. However, it is arguable whether, with apologies to Syria and Bosnia, the world has ever experienced civil wars quite as confusing as those reported in Florence, Italy in the fourteenth century. […]

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