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  • 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, […]

    The Made-Up Battle of Karánsebes October 28, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Made-Up Battle of Karánsebes

    Wishing to distract himself from various home traumas Beachcombing thought that he would write today on one of his favourite ‘cobbler’ (tosh, nonsense) reports of all time: the Battle of Karansebes (Karánsebes for the minority who like accents on their conflicts). Here’s the game-plan. Beachcombing will start with the facts, move on to the legend […]

    The Last Scalping in History? October 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Last Scalping in History?

    Beachcombing cannot deny it. He has a bit of a thing about the removal of heads this week. First, there was the question of the last western beheadings, second an exploration by photograph of Japanese decapitations in the Second World War and today he is going to move on to a close cousin of beheading, […]

    Those Nice Austro-Hungarian Machine Gunners October 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Those Nice Austro-Hungarian Machine Gunners

    Beachcombing recently found himself marveling over a passage in Mark Thompson’s The White War on Italy’s dreadful First World War campaigns. Italy it must be remembered was fighting, for the most part, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Peacock Imperial Throne of central Europe. Another kind of collusion was so rare that very few instances were recorded […]

    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge August 28, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last ‘Battle’ of the Revenge

                              Beachcombing is not a great one for anniversaries but for Flores, 31 August 1591, a naval ‘battle’ – if a fire-fight between a solitary ship, the Revenge, and three dozen enemy can be so called – he will make an exception. (Actually […]

    The Soccer War of 1969 August 15, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Soccer War of 1969

    Beachcombing, po-faced, has to note that most modern historians do not like to refer to the Soccer War of 1969 (La guerra del fútbol) as, well, ‘the Soccer War’. ‘The Hundred Hours War’ or better still ‘the Salvador–Honduras War’ is preferred with a lot of attendant Marxist bilge about poor Salvadoran peasants engaged in class conflict in Honduras. […]

    Dowsing for Machine Guns August 6, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dowsing for Machine Guns

              The desperate straits to which Britain was reduced in the first year of the Second World War and Churchill’s maverick character thereafter, meant that many ideas were considered in the British military establishment, c. 1940-43, that would not normally have been whispered at an old women’s séance. Beachcombing recalls the […]

    The Battle of the Somme in London August 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Battle of the Somme in London

                      Britain historically – before that dread day in 1973 when the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Rome – prided itself on its splendid isolation. But simple geography meant that Britain was far closer to Continental Europe than Japan, say, was to Asia. And no amount of […]

    Elephants and Burning Pigs July 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Elephants and Burning Pigs

                    A challenge. Your army is spread across the plain when rumbling into sight come not only two hundred enemy cavalry and a thousand hoplites but, unexpectedly, thirty mounted elephants that seem very, very angry – they have been made drunk before battle according to custom. As your horse […]

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