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A Letter Between Enemies, 1915 March 11, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Letter Between Enemies, 1915

This letter came in the spring of 1915 to the Michon family house in France. It arrived from a Naples address, but it had come ultimately from Berlin: direct letters from Berlin to France where, of course, out of the question by this date. The writer was one Charlotte von Dassel. Very dear Madame, In […]

The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora February 26, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Myth of Unbloody Zagonora

One of the least bloody periods in the history of warfare came in early fifteenth-century Italy. The Italian city states had become a good deal less violent than a century before, and warfare was farmed out to mercenary captains, who proved themselves both greedy and all too often endearingly effete. These mercenary captains were in […]

The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919 February 19, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919

School trips are often fairly maudlin affairs: go to a local zoo, don’t pet the lions; walk through a city park, buddy up as you pass the homeless people; polish the sun-washed floors of the local museum with fifty infant feet… But one school trip that any of us would have wanted to be on […]

Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire February 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Submarine Weapons Before Torpedoes: Gloves, Javelins and Greek Fire

Even the first submarine pioneers recognised that there would be a military applications for crafts glidingly silently unnoticed under the water. But the question was how on earth do you get to blow up the enemy flagship? On land there was everything from machetes to canons, and rocks to catapults. But under the waves human […]

Starting the First World War Early: The Three Virgins February 8, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Starting the First World War Early: The Three Virgins

Two years ago Strange History ran a post on the German who accidentally started WW2 five days too early by invading Poland with something resembling a Third Reich version of the A-Team. However, I’ve recently come across a story about the German who accidentally started WW1 a day early. The German in question was one […]

The Royal Navy and Dogs of War January 29, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Royal Navy and Dogs of War

Military services are closed societies with their own rules, sensible, silly and bizarre by turn. Few of these military cliques have, however, the traditions to rival the UK’s senior service, the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy, indeed, had everything from the banal (piping officers aboard), to the curious (the different toasts on different nights of […]

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 […]

The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2 December 14, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2

Jumping out of a plane without a parachute is never a good idea. But it is striking that some individuals walk away, or more likely are carried away, with a few token broken bones and a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives. Most modern examples are of parachutists who have […]

Deadly Sweets and Biological Warfare in WW1 November 10, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Deadly Sweets and Biological Warfare in WW1

 ***dedicated to Marge and Filip*** This is a very small post following up with comments from two readers on ‘dropped from the air’. Regulars of this blog will remember that Beach included the reference printed here below from the Great War about germ-infected sweets thrown into Italy by Austro-Hungarian pilots. Austrian aviators dropped packets of […]

Blunt Swords and the American Civil War July 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Blunt Swords and the American Civil War

An old and dear friend of this blog Stephen D., to whom many thanks, sends in this bizarre extract from Battles lost and won: essays from [American] Civil War history .ed. John T Hubbell and an essay there by Stephen Z. Starr, ‘Cold Steel’. What were the Union cavalry thinking? A most curious situation involving the […]

Fastest Marchers July 8, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Fastest Marchers

How far can the average person walk in a day? Most of us walk about three miles an hour, which should mean that, if we didn’t develop blisters or stitch and if a man with jack boots had a pistol at our head, we could probably manage between thirty and forty miles a day. But […]

The Greatest Marine of WWII? June 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Greatest Marine of WWII?

Guy Gabaldon was perhaps the most remarkable American Marine of the ‘greatest generation’, a man who went to the grave, in 2006, with the knowledge that he had saved hundreds of lives, most of them Japanese soldiers and civilians, toying with or in some cases literally running towards suicide (cliffs). If this introduction suggests a […]

Fewest Casualties… June 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Fewest Casualties...

In what modern war did the fewest people die? Beach has been wasting a couple of joyful hours this morning looking through the annals of battles past and some dodgy Wikipedia pages. He has built in several limits to the survey. First, he has restricted himself to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, where it is […]

Transvestite Protestors: Why, When and Where? June 23, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Transvestite Protestors: Why, When and Where?

***Dedicated to Chris*** Modern and early modern social movements are not normally Beach’s thing. He’ll let the likes of Eric Hobsbawm salivate over those. But just yesterday an email brought a peculiar Irish American phenomenon to his attention: the Molly Maguires, previously known to this author only from Conan Doyle’s Valley of Fear.  The Mollys […]

Swiss Zulus June 14, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Swiss Zulus

‘Never invade Russia in November’, ‘never start a land war in Asia’ and ‘don’t ever but ever bring a sword to a gun fight’. That last point might be self evident. However, because of the technological gap between different cultures in the post medieval period, all too often courageous men with spears and blades found […]

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