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  • Gravestones: The Disparate Couple March 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple

    Beachcombing has a thing about Italian cemeteries, which tend to be far more gaudy than their British equivalents, but are often also more moving. There the visitor will find paper or fabric flowers on every tomb, photographs of the resident dead, the graves cared for on an almost weekly basis by relatives, the ‘Christmas lights’ […]

    Selling (Balkan) Europe by the Pound March 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Selling (Balkan) Europe by the Pound

    Beach has pioneered for some time his WIBT (‘wish I’d been there’) series. Those moments in the past where any historically-conscious person would just LOVE to be a half dead bluebottle on the windowsill watching the great men and women conspiring to create history. It is a nice idea, of course. However, as most of […]

    Swallowing or Choking on (Operation) Mincemeat February 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Swallowing or Choking on (Operation) Mincemeat

    ***Dedicated to Glyndwr Michael*** Operation Mincemeat is often celebrated as the single greatest act of trickery of the Second World War. In 1943 a Welsh suicide victim was dressed up in the uniform of a British royal marine, put on dry ice in a submarine, thrown into the sea off the coast of Spain with […]

    Somehow Still Walking February 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Somehow Still Walking

    Beachcombing used to live on a farm next to an SS veteran who had escaped from a Soviet prisoner of war camp with four ‘through and throughs’, a lot of random shrapnel and with one of his eye balls conspicuously absent: he was a bit of a ‘card’ and refused to wear a glass eye. […]

    I was afraid to move: I was gasping for breath February 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    I was afraid to move: I was gasping for breath

    As those who favour the death penalty have found, killing a human being is surprisingly difficult. How much more difficult if you have a hundred, or a thousand or a hundred thousand human beings to kill and little time to do it. Bullets will only do so much, men and women can be filled with […]

    Stalingrad’s Madonna December 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stalingrad's Madonna

    In late 1942 Kurt Reuber (obit 1944) found himself in the Stalingrad Kessel where 300,000 Axis troops awaited almost certain death, surrounded by an understandably vengeful Soviet enemy: only 6000 would survive the war. As the festivities drew near Reuber – curiously, given his subject a Protestant pastor – sketched this beautiful madonna that became […]

    Review: Five Days in London December 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Five Days in London

    John Lukacs, Five Days in London, May 1940 (1999) has a simple thesis. The United Kingdom could not have defeated Hitler alone, but she could have lost the war before the Soviet Union and the USA entered as Allies. And she never came nearer to this, according to Lukacs, than 24-28 May 1940 – the […]

    Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

    Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps December 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps

    Little Miss B in seventh heaven last night and this morning as the family has been gifted a small black rabbit. This black rabbit is not destined to have the happiest of lives as LMB insists on watching Disney cartoons with it. Beachcombing, in any case, fell asleep with rabbits and woke up thinking of […]

    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union November 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union

    Beach has spent the day in bed reading books he once loved and in doing so came across this fabulous picture by Sergei Gerasimov (obit 1964). While not normally a big fan of Soviet art, except, of course, for its kitsch value, Gerasimov’s Mother of a Partisan (1943) is worth making an exception over. For […]

    Hitler’s Italian Fantasy Life November 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Hitler's Italian Fantasy Life

    Beachcombing offers today an other example of a historical dream. However, unlike the nightscapes of Leonardo or Augustine, here, instead, is a fantasy from Adolf Hitler. Now Hitler’s private life is not particularly well known. There are unsubstantiated rumours about his genealogy and his sexual preferences, and his family relations (including a possibly murdered niece). […]

    Spitfires and Radars in 1944 November 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Spitfires and Radars in 1944

    Beachcombing has a terrible record of not respecting anniversaries. But today, in part to subvert all the 11.11.11 nonsense (has the meteor already gone by?) and in part to assuage his own guilt at not having a red poppy in his lapel (the price of living in Italy) he thought he would remember, through an […]

    Gunfire in Notre Dame November 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gunfire in Notre Dame

    A wibt (wish I’d been there) moment in a snatch of about five minutes as Mrs B is still far away from home and Beachcombing has to undertake full babysitting duties for his two terrifying daughters. 26 August 1944, after four long years of Nazi occupation, Paris is liberated by Allied troops and marching into […]

    Finishing Horace and Whittier in WW2 November 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

    Today’s post represents a definite minority interest: poems being started by someone and finished by someone else in the Second World War. (Sorry).  Take the extraordinary exchange between the German general Heinrich Kreipe (obit 1976) and a young British major Patrick Leigh Fermor (obit 2011) [pictured centre and right] late one night in Crete in […]

    Berlin, 30 April 1945 October 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Berlin, 30 April 1945

    Beachcombing had two formative experiences over the last week. One was discovering that peanut, banana and honey sandwiches can be substantially improved through the use of raw ginger. The other was watching Die Untergang (Downfall) the 2004 film describing the final days of Hitler in April 1945. On balance, Beach prefers the liberal use of […]