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  • 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, […]

    The Man Who Accidentally Started WW2 Five Days Too Early September 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    "El Tercer Reich". Tomo III. La Guerra antes de la Guerra

    The last days of August 1939 were particularly painful for the leaders of the western democracies and their allies. Though most Poles, Britons and French citizens out in the streets did not realise it, the signing of the pact between the Soviet Union and Germany, 23 August, meant that the war had as good as […]

    Armpitting September 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Armpitting

    Armpitting is something that you would not wish on your worse enemy. Well, no actually that is not quite true. It is something that, in antiquity, you reserved specifically for your worst enemy, but only when he was lying on the floor belching blood. The one extensive reference to armpitting comes in the Suda, a […]

    The USS Charleston Says Hello with Gunpowder August 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The USS Charleston Says Hello with Gunpowder

    Beach has been negligent in his duties in the last three weeks, particularly where comments are concerned. However, he’s going to try and make up for this in the next 48 hours by going through several hundred emails – sorry! – and splashing print everywhere. His excuse for this negligence? Well, he’s written half a […]

    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of ‘I Surrender’ August 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Eating Prisoners of War? Ten Thousand Years of 'I Surrender'

    ***This post is dedicated to A.G. who sent in the following question*** A.G. writes ‘I have often wondered what happened to the wounded left behind during the Napoleonic wars and earlier.  Did the locals come along and kill them for their personal belongings, were they cared for and held for ransom, what? I am speaking […]

    Bomber Command and War Guilt July 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bomber Command and War Guilt

    One of the most terrifying statistics of the Second World War is that more died in planes flying out of British airfields than in British cities. Leaving the US out of this around 60,000 British and Dominion aircrew were killed defending British airspace or attacking enemy territory. About 40,000 British civilians, meanwhile, died in the […]

    Creative Pretexts for War July 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Prehistoric
    Creative Pretexts for War

    In the good old days when we had spears and lived in tribal societies war was, for much of humanity, a seasonal activity like boar hunting and berry picking. You did not have to explain why you wanted to steal the cattle of the clan on the other side of the hill: you just got […]

    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, […]

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