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  • 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. […]

    Did a Minnesota Bear Almost Cause World War III? September 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Did a Minnesota Bear Almost Cause World War III?

    The story is often told because it is a thrilling and terrifying one. In the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 a bear triggered an alarm at a US base leading personnel to believe that their airfield was under attack by Soviet saboteurs. US nuclear bombers on the airfield were scrambled and were […]

    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy September 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy

    As all Americans and many non-Americans know, 7 Dec 1941, the day of infamy, was the date of a brilliantly planned and brilliantly executed Japanese attack on America’s most important Pacific base, Pearl Harbor. The attack was, for the Americans, a bolt from the blue. Yes, America’s leaders were aware that a Japanese assault was […]

    The Last Shot at Waterloo August 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Shot at Waterloo

    Tomorrow Beach has an appointment to go through a Welsh text for six long hours, translating and puzzling. Today he thought he would post, then, this cute story from the early nineteenth century with a Welsh connection in partial celebration. It will be remembered that the Welsh had a long history of doing good service […]

    The Singing War July 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Singing War

    Revolutions are normally violent affairs. Popular anger leads to stupid and brutal acts. The French Revolution might stand as the archetype here with nice ideas thrashing out of control: liberty, fraternity and equality turning all too quickly into horror, fratricide and indiscriminate killing. But there are a select group of revolutions where a determined population […]

    Meteorite Weapons July 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Meteorite Weapons

    ***Thanks to Radko for inspiring this post*** Imagine a blade made from a star. Now this is not actually as far fetched as it might first seem. After all, ‘stars’ (aka meteorites) sometimes fall to earth and some of them have enough iron content to make a blade practical. These blades are not necessarily exceptional: […]

    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind July 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind

    In the 1960s, date unspecified, a southern English paper the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter, a memoir from one Mr S.C. Thomas, who had lived in the area in the First World War. His memories had taken him back to October 1916 when he and Hilda Cavanagh had gone out for a […]

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