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  • 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 […]

    Blood at El-Halia June 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Blood at El-Halia

    Civil war is always terrible. But the Anglo-Saxon world has experienced, at least in modern times, relatively mild versions. The English Civil War was admittedly the most traumatic event on British soil in the last seven hundred years, but, with shameful exceptions from Scotland and Ireland, civilians were not usually put to the sword. Likewise […]

    Juliana Jumps April 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Juliana Jumps

    In 1119, a woman jumped off a castle wall, in Normandy, and, against the odds, escaped from her father who intended to kill her. However, before we get to this noble’s life-saving acrobatics some background and be warned as most things to do with the Normans it is complicated and bloody. Juliana of Fontevrault was […]

    Reds and Blues in the Persian Gulf February 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Reds and Blues in the Persian Gulf

    Paul K. Van Riper was one of the most notable American warleaders of his generation. A marine commander who earned a reputation for fighting from the front in Vietnam, he finally retired as lieutenant general, 1 October 1997. Then, 24 July 2002, Rip (as he is know to his friends) went rogue and killed 20,000 […]

    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War November 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War

    Nations are often personified: Lady Liberty for France, Uncle Sam for the States, Britannia for the UK. Nor is this new. There is a memorable fifth-century Latin poem that goes through the Roman Empire doling out identities to the different provinces: Gaul, for example, appears as a warrior with two spears. But Beach has recently […]

    Fairy Jousting? October 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Fairy Jousting?

    This tale comes from an early thirteenth-century Latin collection of mirabilia. It has not, to the best of Beach’s knowledge been associated with fairies, but reading it eight hundred years after its composition, there seem to be some fey hints worth flagging up. Note that the Latin below comes from an early edition where there […]

    Holy Gunpowder October 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Holy Gunpowder

    ***Thanks to Chris*** Beach was recently sent a link to Io9 and a remarkable couple of late renaissance images of devils and angels using gunpowder. As the Io9 writer notes – a writer who deserves most of the credit for what follows – the devil ‘packing heat’ is particularly delicious. We include below the wood cut and […]

    Earliest Flying messengers September 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    Earliest Flying messengers

    Beachcombing has a few bizarre carrier pigeon stories in a mauve file under the staircase: I mean are pigeon stories ever going to be normal? He thought though that he’d start his pigeon campaign with a simple even tedious question. When were pigeons first used as messengers? Their role carrying messages in the two world […]

    Prison Breaks with Planes September 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prison Breaks with Planes

    You are in prison and you have a friend with a plane. How can that plane get you out of prison? Well, at Colditz they built a glider in the castle attic; a glider that perhaps fortunately was never used. Then there are the various helicopter escapes, for which Beachcombing recommends an excellent wikipedia page. […]

    The Strange Siege of Nagy Ida September 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Strange Siege of Nagy Ida

    This is a cute little Weird War story. Beach doesn’t expect it is true as it conforms rather well to several Roma stereotypes. Though knowing humanity’s potential for stupidity… Well, let’s say that anything is possible. In the year 1557, during the troubles in Zapoly, the castle of Nagy Ida, in the county of Abaujvar, […]

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