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  • The Sausage War August 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

      Beachcombing has been paying perhaps too much attention to Finland in the last two months: the result of a long infatuation with Mannerheim, the aristocratic military commander who twice saved his young country from the Soviets. He kicked off with the tale of Mannerheim’s cigar. He moved  onto a WIBT moment in the court […]

    D’Annunzio Over Vienna August 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    D'Annunzio Over Vienna

    Gabrielle D’Annunzio – poet, fighter and proto-fascist – is one of the few individuals in Beachcombing’s reference cabinet to have a file all to himself: he started his life in ‘Italian Eccentrics’ but there was just so much material that he was shunted out into a manila folder of his own. In the many foolscap […]

    Battle of Maldon and Overheart August 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Battle of Maldon and Overheart

    Beachcombing has a long tradition of screwing up anniversaries – wrong days, wrong months, wrong years… But just for once he thought that he would get things right and offer his readers a story on the right day – 10 August– and hopefully in the right tone. What we have here is a Weird War, […]

    Last European Headhunters July 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Last European Headhunters

    Beachcombing has been trying to keep up with decapitation this summer by looking at late examples of head-hunting. Go back to the Celts, the Germanic tribes and even the Romans and there are several striking examples of head-hunting in Europe well into historic times. Then, of course, if you cross the Atlantic there is scalping: […]

    Women Warriors of Benin July 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Women Warriors of Benin

    Having tested the limits of masculinity yesterday Beach feels obliged to pay tribute, today, to the fairer sex. He will pass through time to the late nineteenth century and through space to Dahomey (today part of Benin) in Africa where several thousand women formed an important part of the royal army there. Now, of course, […]

    The Emu War of 1932 July 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Emu War of 1932

    In the aftermath of the First World War different countries wrestled with the problem of how to reintegrate their veterans into society. In Britain houses were built ‘fit for heroes’, in Italy soldiers coming home were invited to beat up socialists and in Australia veterans from that country  were given land to farm. These Australian […]

    Impossible Escape from Calais July 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Impossible Escape from Calais

    In May 1940 the British army achieved many feats of arms and endurance despite the Wehrmacht‘s overwhelming superiority in northern France. And perhaps none of these feats was equal in pathos, drama and sheer futility to the battle for Calais. Here, while the British Expedition Force was being hurriedly evacuated across the Channel to England, […]

    Jousting with Medieval Tanks June 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Jousting with Medieval Tanks

      Leonardo da Vinci: what isn’t there to like? Beachcombing certainly has always found LdV much more entertaining company than the obnoxious and pitch-perfect Michelangelo. And as a tribute of sorts  Beachcombing thought that today he would share Leonardo’s attempt to build a tank four hundred years before the Cambrai front was swarming with them […]

    Against All Odds May 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

    Air Mines on the Salonika Front May 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Air Mines on the Salonika Front

    It has been a while since Beachcombing has added anything to his weird wars tag – though past ww posts including Bats Fight Japan, the Last Scalping in History and the Soccer War of 1969 have been among his most popular. Today, in any case, he thought he would pay tribute to the balloonatics, the […]

    The Football Charge of the Somme April 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Football Charge of the Somme

    Beachcombing found himself thinking about sport and war last night. Polo teams racing at machine guns came flitting into his mind. Then there were the cinematic surfing scenes from Apocalypse Now, Empire thugs walking around ‘taming’ the natives with cricket bats (there was a post-war comic strip), the Central American Soccer War, British bill boards […]

    Image: Holy Adowa! January 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Image: Holy Adowa!

    Memo to any budding generals: never invade Russia in the winter, never start a land war in Asia and, most relevant for today, never presume to colonise Ethiopia…Italy unfortunately never learnt this lesson. In 1935 the Italian invasion would mark the beginning of the end for Mussolini’s regime. While in 1896 an Italian attack ended in […]

    Bats Fight Japan November 28, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bats Fight Japan

    Beachcombing recently described  the possible Byzantine use of weaponised crows soaked in pitch and wondered aloud whether other birds or flying creatures had been employed by ancient or medieval armies. And, almost immediately, like an answer from heaven, he got three emails pointing him to a wonderful story that he’d never heard before:  kudos to Ostrich (a bizarrist of […]

    Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World November 9, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World

    Beachcombing has spent the last few hours enjoying a medieval work named the Book of Fires (Liber Ignium). The author’s alleged name, Mark the Greek is not certain and the text survives in Latin that means we cannot be certain either that it was originally written in Greek: though the structure of the Latin sentences would suggest […]

    Mystery Chinese Weapon from 1277 November 7, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Mystery Chinese Weapon from 1277

    Beachcombing recently came across this extraordinary passage from the Chinese Sung Shih. In 1277 Lou Ch’ien-Hsia was besieging a fortification held by two hundred and fifty defenders. Frustrated, Lou Ch’ien-Hsia ordered his men to bring up a huo p’ao – a word Beachcombing will come back to. ‘He lit the huo p’ao and a clap of thunder was heard, […]

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