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  • The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs November 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs

    The Misericordia Polyptych is a talismanic work of art by Piero della Francesca, today, and for most of its history, kept at Sanselpolcro in eastern Tuscany near the border with Umbria (Italy). It took PF seventeen years to complete the polyptych, yet it would have only taken a second for an Allied bomb to blow […]

    Italy’s World War Disaster November 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Italy's World War Disaster

    Italians and World Wars don’t really get on. A combination of poor military culture and one of the most macho yet incompetent political classes on the planet made for messy interventions, and amputations rather than extrications. However, even by sorry Italian standards, the six weeks beginning 28 Oct 1940 and ending 7-8 Dec 1940 were […]

    The Joys of Historical Ignorance November 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    The Joys of Historical Ignorance

    For a student from the west the basic sign of historical literacy is whether or not you can put the following periods in their correct order: antiquity, ‘dark ages’, middle ages, renaissance and modernity. Beach has the privilege of teaching perhaps two hundred American students a year and probably ten percent would be capable of […]

    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 […]

    Churchill Urinating in Germany October 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill Urinating in Germany

    An unseemly story as the title suggests. 24 March 1945, Churchill visited the first occupied areas in Germany and more particularly the famous Siegfried Line. He was travelling with several British dignitaries including Montgomery and Brooke. An American, Lieutenant General William Hood Simpson asked Churchill, some miles prior to Germany’s last line of defence, whether […]

    The German Non-Saluter Myth October 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The German Non-Saluter Myth

    This picture has appeared periodically over the last few years. Its popularity is easy to understand. A crowd is slavishly announcing the thousand year reich but one man, can you spot him, refuses to lift his hand. The picture has become associated with August Landmesser, a member of the Nazi party who made the error […]

    Bombing Roulette October 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bombing Roulette

    In the early part of the Second World War the bombing of cities was deadly but piecemeal. The result was a ghastly kind of lottery as a split second of difference in letting the bombs away would decide the difference between the destruction of this street or that street: Roald Dahl has some fine short […]

    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941 October 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941

    This blog has long taken pleasure in noting late cases of witchcraft from Britain and Ireland. From time to time Beach announces, in arrogance, that this case or other was absolutely the latest: just last month it was an assault on a witch from 1924 from Devon. However, the following remarkable case seems to make […]

    Review: The Holocaust in the Soviet Union September 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Holocaust in the Soviet Union

    Books on the holocaust have, broadly speaking, two choices. They can either focus on the big picture and describe the liquidation of an entire people from this or that national territory, or they can focus on an individual, family or a village and concentrate, instead, on the micro-tragedies: an excellent example of the latter is […]

    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy September 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    False Impressions on the Day of Infamy

    As all Americans and many non-Americans know, 7 Dec 1941, the day of infamy, was the date of a brilliantly planned and brilliantly executed Japanese attack on America’s most important Pacific base, Pearl Harbor. The attack was, for the Americans, a bolt from the blue. Yes, America’s leaders were aware that a Japanese assault was […]

    Prince Jean Comes Home August 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prince Jean Comes Home

    One of the great pictures of the liberation of Europe: from one of Europe’s least known states. Luxembourg, the tiny country, caught in a threeway squash between Germany, Belgium and France, straddling the most contested line in modern history, was never going to have an easy twentieth century. It was occupied immediately by the Germans in WW1 and […]

    Fighting Over a Tennis Court June 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Fighting Over a Tennis Court

    Battles have been fought in some odd places: in sewers, on iced lakes, in factories, across impossibly high mountains… But a battle on a tennis court is surely unique? Other strange examples: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The scrap in question took place in April 1944 at the bungalow at Kohima and was one of […]

    Why Did the Axis Fight the US? June 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Did the Axis Fight the US?

    One of the neatest sentences about the Second World War is that the Allies won their victory because of ‘Soviet blood, British time and American resources’. This is an approximation, of course, to truth but a pretty effective one. The Soviets lost perhaps 26 million, enough dead to damn the river of German invasion. The […]

    Rommel in the Shenandoah?! May 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Rommel in the Shenandoah?!

    Every so often a reader writes in with a great story told brilliantly where I just cut and paste. Cue the following tale from Michael Dunn. I’ve put Michael comments/elaboration in italics (tweaking typos etc) and just added a few thoughts of my own in normal text. This story involves a prominent figure in a […]

    Killing After Surrender in WW2: Parachutes and Submarines May 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Killing After Surrender in WW2: Parachutes and Submarines

    The laws of war dictate that if someone puts up their hands then they are prisoners and must be treated as such. However, despite the traditions of ages and now the strictures of various conventions mercy is ignored at times even by civilised armies. Two striking examples from the Second World War where the opposition […]

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