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  • 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 […]

    Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians? September 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Generals, Entrepreneurs or Politicians?

    Paul Johnson is a journalist and historian who Beachcombing considers the single most irritating Englishman alive. However, and this is perhaps part of why Beachcombing finds PJ so irritating, he can be extraordinarily perceptive: though anyone with their finger hovering over an amazon buy button should know that this is far from an inevitable outcome. […]

    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 […]

    Revelation: Music, History and the Incredible Public Service Broadcasting July 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Revelation: Music, History and the Incredible Public Service Broadcasting

    It very rarely happens that Beach gets excited about something new on the web. But it happened tonight. And as the two individuals responsible have immense talent and as too few people know about them here’s a post dedicated to Public Service Broadcasting, a British outfit that has (apparently) been around for the last three […]

    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 […]

    Admiral Byrd and Nazi Cobblers June 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Admiral Byrd and Nazi Cobblers

    ***Dedicated to KMH who, not for the first time, inspired the hunt*** The following is the record of an interview with American admiral Richard Byrd which appeared in El Mercurio, a Chilean paper, 5 March 1947: it was written by a US journalist, Lee Van Atta, but seems never to have been published in English. […]

    Dare-Nots May 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dare-Nots

    Beach fluttered around the edges of an Italian project a few years ago that affected him profoundly. A series of interviews were collected from families who had suffered violence at the hands of the partisans at the end of the Second World War. The vast majority of these partisans, particularly in Emiglia-Romagna and Tuscany, had been […]

    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan May 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan

    ***With thanks to Larry*** A wish-i’d-been-there moment from 1941. Cornelia Fort was a twenty-three-year-old pilot and instructor flying a Cadet out of Honolulu in that year. Incredibly though CF had only been flying for a matter of months she was already deemed good enough to work as an instructor, putting a young Hawaiian through his […]

    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye April 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye

    Wars have the habit of shaking up the social order in a way that a hoary old conservative like Beachcombing finds rather disturbing. Children join militias: think the moving photographs of fourteen and fifteen year German ‘soldiers’ guarding the Atlantic wall or ‘that scene’ in Doctor Zhivago. Gender relations are bent in knots: women are […]

    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, […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder': cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War April 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War

    John Lukacs’s The Legacy of the Second World War is, like most books by that brilliant and maverick historian, a bit of a mess. The chapter headings say it all. Chapter One, ‘Seventy Years Later’ and Chapter Two ‘the Place of the Second World War’ can pass muster. However, then everything is thrown off kilter. […]

    Britain’s Obsession with the Second World War March 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Britain's Obsession with the Second World War

    Anyone who knows Britain will be aware of the constant references to the Second World War in the island’s political culture, particularly when  national sovereignty is at stake. Harold Wilson decried appeals to ‘the Dunkirk Spirit': and then shamelessly used the same trick himself. And the recent spats over Britain’s use of its ‘veto’ within […]

    Churchill, De Gaulle and Waterloo March 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill, De Gaulle and Waterloo

    Today a bit of modern British history/myth. Beach will write it out as it was told to him. He would be interested to see whether there is any basis to the tale: it sounds very Churchillian, but it also has the exquisite stench of cobblers. Towards the end of his life Churchill was visited by […]

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