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  • The Army That Was Defeated by a River December 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Army That Was Defeated by a River

    There are good historical records of armies fighting animals, armies fighting frost bite (the Wehrmacht from 1941 onwards) and one doubtful case of an army accidentally fighting itself. But Beach has recently been reading about a remarkable instance of an army that fought a river, and lost. The year is 1221, the army in question […]

    A Fourteen-Year Second World War?! November 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Fourteen-Year Second World War?!

    Strangehistory recently featured the longest European war of the twentieth century, that between Greece and Albania (1940-1987). While looking at this Beach was intrigued, nay amazed by the true duration of the Second World War. In fact, this morning his room has taken on a strange orange sheen. For example, how long was Britain at […]

    Clearing Minefields with Human Beings November 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Clearing Minefields with Human Beings

    So a hundred infantry have to get across a field to their objective and safety, only they know that the field has been planted with mines. How do you clear the field? The simplest (and most horrible) thing to do would be to send your troops forward down a plotted route with gaps of ten […]

    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987 November 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987

    The longest war between states in modern history? Well, Wikipedia has a page and there are several freelance attempts to elevate this or that conflict to the most protracted, but what about the Greek-Albanian war of 1940-1987? Albania, in 1940, was an Italian satrapy and in October of that year when the Italians decided to […]

    Gentlemanly Soldiers October 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gentlemanly Soldiers

    There are lots of different types of soldiers but today Beach wants to put aside the cowards, the sadists, the pragmatists, the survivors and concentrate on perhaps one of the few attractive categories: the gentleman soldier. The cult of the gentleman soldier began amongst the European aristocracy in the middle ages, its values were embodied […]

    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle? September 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Last Magic Spell Cast in Battle?

    For many years this blog has run a weird wars tag, some of the most bizarre story from humanities adventures on the battlefield. Beach has recently got a sniff of one story that has greatly excited him, but he can’t track down the details. He throws open the problem to readers hoping that someone will […]

    Sentries and Ghosts August 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sentries and Ghosts

    While recently writing on the Tower of London ghosts Beach learnt something. Sentries see ghosts: there was the case from 1817 and the second case from the 1850s. The following list is limited to the British newspapers from 1875-1900 and represent a very quick survey: 1877 Aldershot: a ghost was repeatedly seen by sentries at […]

    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 […]

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