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  • Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea March 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea

    In 1914, a month into the First World War, a British ship the Fisgard II was lost in a gale (not through enemy action) in the English Channel. Sixteen of the sixty four abroad were drowned. There followed an inquest and inquiries and, as sometimes happens, the crew began to make sense of things in […]

    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War March 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Tears and Bows: WW1 Ambassadors and Declarations of War

    A recent post looked at the tensions created by ambassadors declaring war in WW2. Today, instead, some descriptions of declarations of war from World War 1. The initial impression is that there was more formality and more old world charm. Some of the ambassadors may have believed they would be back in their host capitals by […]

    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred February 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Meals #20: The Breakfast That Killed Seven Hundred

    Let us, first, introduce Fort Douaumont. The mightiest of the Verdun forts, Douaumont was captured by the Germans early in the battle for Verdun, 25 February 1915, just four days after fighting had begun. The fort was taken (with hardly a shot being fired) because of unbelievable French carelessness in garrisoning the jewel in their Verdun […]

    The Eugenics of History? February 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Eugenics of History?

    Eugenics refers of course to the depressing strand of thinking that says that societies (for which read boffins with bow ties employed by the state) should be allowed to decide which of us can and cannot reproduce our genes. Eugenics was briefly fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s then the Nazis came along and, perhaps […]

    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War January 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Seven German Mistakes that Lost the Great War

    Germany went to war in August 1914 to bloody Russia, put Britain back in its place and break France’s back. Looking at their war record, after a century, what is striking is just how close Germany came to achieving at least a relative victory. Yet Germany’s leadership was not up to the job: this is clearer […]

    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War? December 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Man Who Lost Germany the Great War?

    A couple of indisputable, non-negotiable Great War facts. In early September 1914 the German army came smashing down on the French army at the Marne. In the decisive battle of the first part of the war, the French, with some assistance from the brave but plodding Brits, managed to hold the Germans. However, everyone on […]

    Great War Organ Gun November 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Great War Organ Gun

    The organ gun, also known as the ribadulequin, was one of those crude innovations in military technology that shifted humanity towards the ‘elegant’ killing of the machine gun arc. Organs were basically guns with many barrels and one trigger and were as liable to explode in the gunner’s face as to blast away the opposition. Beach recently […]

    Sunk Three Times in an Hour November 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sunk Three Times in an Hour

    Beachcombing’s grandfather was sunk three times in the last World War. But the three times in question were spread out over seven years… Imagine, instead, being sunk three times in just under an hour, not only that, we are not talking about lonely frigates or minesweepers, these were three British battleships: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and […]

    The Dominions and WW2 November 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dominions and WW2

    The Dominions were a precise administrative category within the British Empire. They referred to the territories that had reached, according to omniscient London, the ability to govern themselves with minimum interference from the motherland. With many of the racist assumptions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was believed that only white populations […]

    Zwanze in Wartime Brussels August 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Zwanze in Wartime Brussels

    Regular readers will remember previous posts in the jokes and practical jokes series: world war jokes, treasure hunting jokes, Derren Brown and spiders, the poor wife hunter and the classic of all classics, Brunelleschi’s cruelest scherzo, which sent a Florentine scurrying to the backwoods of Hungary. Today, we offer up a modest WW1 story from occupied […]

    Prophetic German Poster, 1918 August 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prophetic German Poster, 1918

    Great War posters are often, say it quietly, not very good. Nations had just not had enough experience at propagandizing young men when war broke in 1914 and even the best poster makers – the Americans? – still put out plenty of numbers that would make advertising execs pale today. However, the combatant states learnt and […]

    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments August 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Great War Begins: The 10 Most Resonant Moments

    Historical anniversaries are not normally to Beach’s taste. They vulgarise, they trivialise, they misstate…. Like an ardent monarchist who can’t stand royal weddings he would be anywhere but there when the minister appears with the scissors for a ribbon and a vapid speech. But this blogger has been filled with a sense of awe as […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind July 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind

    In the 1960s, date unspecified, a southern English paper the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter, a memoir from one Mr S.C. Thomas, who had lived in the area in the First World War. His memories had taken him back to October 1916 when he and Hilda Cavanagh had gone out for a […]

    First World War Began in Restaurant in France? July 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    First World War Began in Restaurant in France?

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo who sent the photos and the story*** The Bibent is a plush restaurant in central Toulouse: on Trip Advisor it had got (at least as of this evening) a very respectable 178 Excellents out of 537. Of course, no place could go 150 years without picking up some history, in the same […]

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