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Desperate Men: 490 BC June 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Desperate Men: 490 BC

The Battle of Marathon is one of those events that has been so polished by historians and lyricists that it has become a mirror held up to every age which has cared to look into it. But behind the bumph and the pumph there remains a very real mystery. How did a (then) obscure Greek […]

The Last Invasion of Britain? May 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Last Invasion of Britain?

It is sometimes said that the last invasion of Britain took place 22 April 1778 at Whitehaven in Cumbria. On that date, John Paul Jones, a Scot and an American patriot led his ship, the USS Ranger, against the small Lakeland Port (another post, another day) in an unlikely annex to the War of Independence. […]

Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen April 13, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Singing Enemy Songs: Lili Marleen

One of the most moving moments in cinema is the extraordinary ending of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. A young German girl is pulled in front of a crowd of French soldiers and forced to sing. The poilu mock her but as she nervously begins  the mood changes. The soldiers join in and drown her anxious, […]

The Irish Invade Canada April 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Irish Invade Canada

Beachcombing used to run a series of tags on weird wars and he thought that he would resurrect these with references to one of strangest invasions in world history. 11 June 1866 between 600 and 800 Irish Fenians based in the United States declared war on the British Empire with its population running to hundreds […]

Owen’s Untimely Death January 31, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Owen's Untimely Death

  There are occasional micro moments in history that are so extraordinary painful to read about that they strangely dwarf greater tragedies such as the liquidation of a ghetto, the dropping of an atom bomb or the sinking of a cruise-liner. One of these micro tragedies that has been bobbing in and out of Beachcombing’s […]

De Gaulle and Ike at Gettysburg January 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
De Gaulle and Ike at Gettysburg

One of Beachcombing’s many files in the rusty filing cabinet in the downstairs bathroom is a surprisingly bulky: ‘battlefields after the fact’. Here there are a series of great men and women visiting the places of carnage past and reflecting on ‘the father of all things’. There are many precious references in said file including […]

Ecdicius and the Eighteen January 25, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Ecdicius and the Eighteen

Beachcombing’s recent description of the Roman end times – the grinding to dust of Roman civilisation in the fifth century – got him musing on one of his favourite decline and fall scenes. The following is a letter from Sidonius Apollinaris (obit 489) to his brother-in-law Ecdicius.  He is remembering the moment some months or […]

Highland Gladiators December 24, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Highland Gladiators

If Beachcombing had another ten years to add to his natural lifespan he would study duels: there is enough bizarre material there for at least a decade of honest work. As it is the years pass and there is little time. So he will offer up here, in passing, just one of those many collected […]

Eating Flags December 22, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Eating Flags

In Beachcombing compendious filing cabinets there is a surprisingly thin folder on flags. ‘Surprising’ as flags, as highly charged symbols, encourage moving and peculiar behaviour. One of the most notable films of the last years is, after all, the Flags of Our Fathers (2006) telling the story of that photograph and Old Glory on Iwo […]

Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dunkirk and Golden Bridges

Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

Gunfire in Notre Dame November 9, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary