World War Zero: The Russo-Japanese War

A declaration of war was made on the 8th of February, 1904, a war that occurred between the Russian Empire and the nation of Japan. It has been suggested that this was between these two powerful nations may have paved way for the first world war, and conclusively led to the second world war. The reason for this speculation is because some of the main points were at the root of the conflict during the wars that occurred later on.

At the start of the 20th century, Russia was under the rule of the autocratic Czar Nicholas II, and Japan was under the rule of the Japanese prime minister Katsura Tarō.

So what led to the birth of this conflict? Well, it all started when the Siberian shipping center of Vladivostok was forced to close down for most of the winter. When that happened, Russia was in need of a port where the water did not freeze during the winter months in the Pacific Ocean. The reasons for this were for trade and also so Russia was able to further grow its Navy.

The Russian Czar at the time had already selected his target, and said target was the Korean and Liaodong peninsulas. At the time the Russian empire had already chartered a port on the Liaodong Peninsula from China. Even though Russia had port Arthur available to use, it still wanted to have a site of operations under its full control.

Illustration of Chinese Generals from Pyongyang Captured Alive.jpg
“Illustration of Chinese Generals from Pyongyang Captured Alive”                 by Migita Toshihide

It was at this point that Japan started to grow with concern. This all goes back to 1895, the first Sino-Japanese War that took place. During this war Russia had provided the Qing Empire of China with military aid. Doing so also had placed Japan and China against one another.

At first the nation of Japan tried to come to an agreement, a deal of sorts with Russia, due to Russia’s well known military offence throughout history. Japan had proposed to relinquish rule over Manchuria in Northeastern China, although like with anything there are terms and conditions. There was really only one request… and that was for Japan to be able to still hold power over Korea.

Nevertheless, Russia rejected Japan’s proposal and stipulated for Korea to serve as an impartial area. Of course, not long after that, neither nation could come to an agreement in a peaceful manner and as negotiations crumbled, Japan chose to go and fight. The Japanese orchestrated a sneak attack on the Russian navy that was based at Port Arthur on the 8th of February and that was the formal declaration of war, however, due to the time and also lack of technology, we have at the tips of our fingers nowadays, the leaders of the Russian Empire didn’t know about Japan’s objective  and the attack on their navy at Port Arthur until a considerable amount of hours later.

To Czar Nicholas II knowledge, due to his advisor’s underestimation… he didn’t think that the Japanese would dare to confront Russia, even after the negotiations between the two nations had crumbled.

At the time, the law worldwide had nothing in place that stated the need for an official declaration of war before initiating an attack, that didn’t come into effect till the year 1907 when the second Hague Peace Conference took place, two years after the war between Russia and Japan had ceased.

The battlefields during the Russo-Japanese war

This attack turned into a major naval war, between these two great powers. It was the Japanese Imperial Navy against the Russian Far East Fleet, the purpose for this attack? It was to simply subdue the Russians.

At the head of the Japanese Imperial Navy was Admiral Togo Heihachiro and over 100,000 Japanese soldiers that followed him into battle, surrounding the port where the Russians were stationed. Togo ordered his torpedo boats to strike the Russian vessels, and by doing so the Japanese caused severe damage to three of the largest Russian vessels; Tsesarevich, Pallada and Retvizan and thus this was the start of the war.

Furthermore, the Japanese proceeded to perform attacks both by sea and land. Digging Trenches going on for miles on land, surrounding the area, putting pressure on the Russians via launches of various attacks, ranging from gunfire, mortars, tunnels, mines, everything they could throw at them they did. They also blocked them inside the port, leaving no way for the Russian navy to get out due to Japanese ships surrounding them.  They left very little room for any Russian ships to leave the port, any ships that managed to flee… did not do so untouched. 2 ships tried to escape… the Pobeda and the Petropavlovsk battleships… however, it didn’t have a very fruitful end. Pobeda ended up getting heavily damaged due to the mines in place in the sea by the Japanese and had to return back into port Arthur and Petropavlovsk ended up sinking.

A Japanese painting of the battle of Port Arthur

Japan had studied their enemy, and they did not underestimate them in anyway, and that showed in their preparation, battle formation and of course, the achievement of victory.

After copious weeks went by, Russia deployed its Baltic Fleet to the Asian waters, to defeat the Japanese and reclaim Port Arthur. During the process of this plan, the Russian fleet saw some fishing boats in the North Sea… these boats were British, but the Russians thought that it was a disguise and that in fact they were actually Japanese… waiting for the opportune moment to attack them.  Come to think of it, it could have been a plausible reason since the United Kingdom was an ally of Japan, however it was stated that even so, the United Kingdom was neutral… unless provoked.

However, this was not the case… they were in fact British fishing boats, the Russians launched an attack and unfortunately killed 3 fishermen. Due to this mistake England was almost drawn into this war as well.. but I mean the whole journey was just plagued by errors, they even fired upon one of their own ships by accident while they were doing fire drills just off the coast of Africa. This all happens due to the lack of technology back then and also underestimating your opponent doesn’t help, as it leads to lack of preparation.

This war, even though it was short compared to many wars that we have had in the past… it was formed of various battles; The battle and later siege of port Arthur, Battle of Yalu River, Battle of the Yellow sea. Once the Russians had redeployed the Battle of Sandepu followed, with the Battle of Mukden of which the Japanese had won, but had come out with many casualties, and finally the Battle of Tsushima of which brought an end to the war with a full Japanese victory thanks to their naval fleet, leaving only three Russian battleships able to escape back to their home port of Vladivostok. This critical victory forced the Russians to seek some form of a peace treaty.

The aftermath of this war… was a lot of casualties from both sides, valuable lives lost, over 150,000 of them to be more precise… and that’s not taking into account 20,000 odd civilian lives lost during this war too.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt, around 1904

Due to all of this the U.S president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt created the Treaty of Portsmouth during the Spring and Summer seasons of 1905. This treaties terms were, that the Russians had to acknowledge Japan as the superior power in the country of Korea, and to turn over the leased port Arthur and Liaodong peninsulas to Japan… the Russians also had to give up the southern half of Sakhalin island. With all of that, both nations agreed to return Manchuria to China.  Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the talks.

Even after the talks and the peace treaty, problems started to arise… and you will see how these led to the attacks that took place in the second world war. Czar Nicholas II refused to compensate Japan for any of their losses, and Roosevelt sided with the Russians on this matter, which then this led the Japanese to accuse the Americans of cheating them . This caused anti-American riots to take place in Tokyo… and during the lead up to WW2, this caused Japan to question Americas role in Asian affairs.




HMS Formidable

Painting of the HMS Formidable battleship, 1898

On this day, 104 years ago. A pre-Dreadnought Battleship was built by Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. She was laid down on the 21st of March, 1898 and then had her official launch on the 17th of November in 1898 even though the official completion date was in September, 1901 and then commissioned on the 10th of October, 1901. The HMS Formidable had been in the service for just under 15 years before she was sunk by a German U-boat 24 just under 40 miles off the coast of Devon.

She was the first of the British ships to be sunk in the first world war.

HMS Formidable started her journey as a battleship in the Mediterranean Sea, where she served as part of a fleet till April, 1908, and after that she became part of the English Channel fleet, which was the 5th battle squadron that was based in the Channel to guard against any possible German assault.

The Life-belt that washed up on the Dutch coast during WW1

The commander of the German U-boat 24 was a man called Rudolf Schneider, he had spotted the British squadron, tracked them during their gunnery exercises and commanded the first attack on HMS Formidable.

Even though it was a British squadron that is meant to protect from any possible invasions, the given procedure at the time was that if they were approached/attacked by an enemy submarine, all of the unaffected vehicles were to return to port.

It was at 2:20am on New Year’s day, HMS Formidable with a crew ranging between 730 – 780, was struck by a torpedo launched from the German submarine. The launch of the first torpedo had landed on the number one boiler side of the battleship. Once she was struck, Formidable immediately began taking on water and unfortunately… the terrible weather didn’t help… causing large waves to hit the battleship, and then adding the rain, hail and strong winds off the British coastline, just added more to the chaos and destruction of the ship.

Starboard bow view of HMS Formidable

Even though the rest of the sister ships were making their way back to Portland, two cruise ships stayed behind to try and rescue crewmen from the sinking battleship. The two cruiser ships were known as the ‘Diamond‘ and ‘Topaze‘.

There was still hope in their eyes that the ship may still be saved along with the rest of the surviving crew, however… the German commander with his crew had a different plan in mind.

Just after 3am, a second torpedo was launched from the German submarine… sealing the fate of the HMS Formidable and many crew member lives in the bottom of the ocean, by 4:45am the battleship sank.

Amidst all the darkness of this event, with 547 members lost to the sea or due to exposure from the attack… some of the crewmen managed to survive, reaching the coast or even rescued by the lifeboats and more, even though one lifeboat wasn’t found for about 22hrs. It is said that about 200 – 233 crew members managed to survive the attack, but among the brave crewmen that never made it back home, were the ships Captain Loxley and his brave dog Bruce… both were last seen on the Bridge.

When it comes to the wreck site of the HMS Formidable battleship, she currently lies upside down, around 180ft under water. The area is classed as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, which means that things like diving cannot be done.

Details of the HMS Formidable

Length: 431ft 9″     Draught: 25ft 11″     Beam: 75ft     Speed: 18 knots (33km/h)

Installed Power: 20x Water-tube boilers (11,000 kW)

Propulsion: 2x Triple-Expansion Steam Engines & 2x Shafts


2x vertical triple expansion engines

20x Belleville water tube boilers

dual shafts

2 screws

Armament Details

4x BL 12″ (305mm) MKIX Guns

12x BL 6″ (152mm) MKVII Guns

10x QF 12-pounder Guns

6x QF 3-pounder Guns

4x 8″ (457mm) Torpedo Tubes


Belt: 9″ (229 mm)

Bulkheads: 9–12″ (229–305 mm)

Barbettes: 12″ (305 mm)

Turrets: 10″ (254 mm)

Casemates: 6″ (152 mm)

Conning tower: 14″ (356 mm)

Deck: 1–3″ (25–76 mm)

Heinrich Himmler’s mark on history

Today, marks a dark day in history. It was the beginning of horrifying medical experiments conducted by Himmler and three others on Auschwitz prisoners.

So, how was this man able to commit such heinous acts? The answer to this question is by going back to his earlier years and looking at to how he became one of the most powerful men in Germany.

Before the second world war Heinrich Himmler served as a soldier in the German army in the first world war. Once the first war ended, he had various jobs, Himmler was even a chicken farmer for a time. When the 1920s came, Himmler joined the Nazi party, and after a few years he became in charge of all the Nazi party propaganda from 1926 till around 1930, his position changed just before the end of his propaganda leadership. In 1929, he was appointed as the leader of the SS (Schuzstaffel), and with this appointment, he also became Hitler’s personal bodyguard, and the year after Himmler was elected to the Reichstag.

Himmler had an obsession with ‘racial purity’ and it was that same obsession that he used to aid ‘Aryan breeding programmes’. When the second world war ensued, for Himmler it was the perfect event for him to pursue his other racial agendas, which cost the lives of six million Jews, and others that he and Hitler considered to be as ‘sub-human’.

Auschwitz in Poland

It was in Berlin, that Himmler summoned a meeting to debate the possibility of using prisoners at the concentration camps like objects to conduct medical experiments on. The outcome of the meeting concluded with the agreement on a major medical experimentation programme taking place in Auschwitz. This programme ensured that no matter the experiment, it had to be conducted in such a way that gave the prisoner no inkling as to what was being done to them. At first these experiments took place on the female Jewish prisoners… the experiments included forms of sterilisation that took place either by uterine injections and/or substantial doses or radiation.

Later on they began experiments on Jewish male prisoners and this was after a consultation that took place with an X-Ray specialist in relation to potentially using X-Rays to neuter men, and using male Jewish prisoners to conduct these tests.

Hitler himself approved of this program, but he agreed to it as long as it remained highly classified. Throughout the years Himmler coordinated the development of Concentration camps right through Eastern Europe, and the establishment of a vast number of captive workers. In 1944, there was a failed attempted assassination of Hitler by Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg, and after that Himmler’s rank was enhanced even more.

Germany’s defeat was looming, and due to that Himmler decided to try and negotiate with the Allies. Of course, once Adolf Hitler found out about the events that took place he was enraged, and had Himmler stripped of all his posts. After Germany’s surrender, Himmler tried to flee under a fabricated name with no success as he was captured by the Allied forces. While in custody, Himmler committed suicide on the 23rd of May, 1945.

To find out in more detail about this part of history I highly recommend a book written by Peter Longerich, who is a professor of Modern German History, and has shown the light on this character who has remained an elusive figure in history… till now. 

UK Link

US Link

German Link


Queen of the Sky: Amelia Earhart


Today marks the 90 year anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s record breaking flight across the Atlantic. Born July 24, 1897, Amelia was a pioneer in aviation and set many records in aviation throughout her lifetime. An inspirational figure who broke social conventions of her time to become the famous figure she is known as today.

Buying her first plane in 1921, a bright yellow Kinner Airster she named the Canary, which she used to set her first record for women’s altitude flying at a height of 14,000 feet. On May 15, 1923, she became the 16th woman in the United States to be issued a pilot’s licence. After financial difficulty during the early 1920s Earhart was forced to sell the Canary and another Kinner. April, 1928, whilst at work Earhart received a phone call from Capt. Hilton H. Railey asking ‘Would you like to fly the Atlantic’ Earhart was to accompany pilot Wilmer Stultz and copilot Louis Gordon as a passenger but also, took on the responsibility of maintaining the flight log. Taking off from Newfoundland on June 17, 1928 the ‘friendship’ and her crew started their trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Stultz landed the ‘friendship’ near Burry Port, Wales after  twenty hours and 40 minutes in the air. Earhart did not fly on this trip and when asked how much she flew she said ‘Stultz did all the flying-had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes’ she also said ‘Maybe someday I’ll try it alone’ Following her trip across the Atlantic she bought an Avro Avian and published a book about crossing the atlantic called 20 hours 40 minutes.

She was elected as an official for National Aeronautical Association in 1929 and encouraged the federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) to establish separate world altitude, speed and endurance records for women. Between 1930 and 1931 she set the woman’s speed record 100 kilometers with no load and a with a load of 500 kilograms, Set speed record for 181.18mph over a 3k course, Set women’s autogiro altitude record with 18,415 feet.

Then on May 20, 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic five years to the day after American aviator Charles Lindbergh became the first pilot fly solo across the Atlantic. She became the first pilot to repeat the feat and did so in fourteen hours and 56 minutes, flying from Newfoundland and landing in Northern Ireland near Derry. She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Congress(the first ever awarded to a woman) and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society. Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower.” She also published a book about her experience called the fun about it.

Amelia Earhart continued on setting and breaking records, becoming the first woman to fly solo nonstop coast to coast; set women’s nonstop transcontinental speed record and the first person to solo the 2,408-mile distance across the Pacific between Honolulu and Oakland, California. She also was elected president of the Ninety Nines aviation club for women, which she helped to form.
On June 1, 1937 Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan departed Miami, on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe. After numerous stops the pair arrived Lae, New Guinea on June 29, 1937.  She had covered 22,000 miles of the journey and became the first person to fly from the Red sea to India. To complete the final 7,000 miles of her journey Earhart needs to fly over the Pacific ocean. July 2 1937 Amelia Earhart took off from Lae airfield on what would be her last flight. Both Amelia and her navigator disappeared on the flight. Despite numerous theories it is not known what happened to her. In a letter to her husband, she wrote “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards,” she said. “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”

Here I have left links to Amelia Earhart’s book 20 Hours, 40 Minutes: Our Flight in the Friendship. a book about her transatlantic flight.

UK Link

US Link

German Link


The Inception of Roman baths in Britain

The Romans first came to Britain in August of 55 BC, when Julius Caesar was Emperor. The absolute first written accounts of England’s history came with the Roman conquest in 43 AD, and England was under Roman rule till about 410 AD.

statue of julius caesar
Marble statue of Julius Caesar in Rome

During their rule, they brought considerable advancements to the British isles, like drainage, sewers, the roads, however, they did devise underfloor heating, concrete and the calendar that our current calendar is based upon.

So… When did the Roman baths come to England?

Well, the first temple was erected in the town of Bath, but back then the Roman’s had a particular name for it… ‘Aquae Sulis’ which stands for “The waters of Sulis”. The construction of this complex was amidst 60 & 70 AD, and the bathing area was progressively assembled over 300 years.

The reason for the name ‘Aquae Sulis’ is on account of the Roman temple in Bath being zealous to the main Roman demigods of the temple spa, Sulis Minerva. Sulis is the Celtic Goddess of divine waters and restorative, but when the Romans occupied England they associated Sulis with their Goddess of decisions and Wisdom, Minerva. Travellers from mainland Europe came to bathe in the curative waters, and references to the Goddess Sulis had reached as far as Germany.

roman bath in bath 2
Roman bath site in the city of Bath, UK

How the baths were put together, was a lot like the leisure centres we currently possess. All the rooms were enclosed and many of them had tall ceilings with vibrant walls, and some even had mosaic floors. They were vast buildings with hot and cold rooms, swimming pools, changing rooms and toilets. The roofing wasn’t there just as an architectural inclusion, it was there to keep the sunlight out to prevent algae from growing in the pools.

The baths had two types of hot rooms and one warm room. One of the hot rooms was known as “Caldarium.” These hot rooms were heated by an underfloor heating setup known as hypocaust, and for that reason, whoever visited the baths has to wear wooden shoes. The other hot room was known as “Laconicum”, which was a modest circular room where they sat and sweat even further.

Next up is the warm room, and was known as “Tepidarium”, This room was notable to many as a relic. It was made to purify the body and to deliver the guests an authentic sense of welfare. To diminish stress and with the warmth and parched air in this room, it also aided to strengthen the body’s immune system. When this room was in use, some even chose to apply olive oil to rub into their skin.

Just a little bit of information about the hypocaust structure… It was very cleverly constructed idea that was created about 2000 years ago with both a primary and secondary systems in place. Aqueducts were put in place, and these ducts had an array of tunnels connecting them to the pools and water tanks, and were made of brick and mortar. The airflow system was connected by even more ducts that were constructed by bricks or stone placed beneath the floor, into the vast free gap underneath the raised floor, and into the wall tube.  These tubes were also used as a point of supply of  lining in the room. With the heat soaring, it formed a boundary, which kept the warmth in the interior of the construction.

Hadrians villa in italy
Hadrian’s villa in Trivoli, Italy

Wealthy Romans also had central heating in their villas as well, and these heating systems were kept going by servants, as they kept the flames ablaze in a furnace to heat warm air. This warm air shifted throughout the villa beneath its floors and amid walls. However, these systems were built to keep them warm and snug in their own home, rather than for the Gods or the Goddesses healing powers.

The communal baths weren’t just used for cleaning, but also to play games, relax, hang out with friends, make offerings at the altar of the Gods and more. Covering all of that, one of the biggest reasons why people took long journeys to visit baths in Europe and also this particular bath in England is because of the belief of healing illnesses by bathing in these sacred waters.

Sulis minerva statue
Bronze head statue of Sulis Minerva at Bath’s Roman bath

If you would like to visit a fantastic Roman bath site, head over to Bath in England. You can get a public tour guide, jump into history itself with costumed characters, beautifully torch lit summer evenings, heated rooms and plunge pools. You also get the chance to try the natural spa water at the end of your visit!

For more information follow this link to the Roman Bath website:


The Queen, who became a King

The first female Pharaoh of Egypt, whose reign lasted for 20 years, Hatshepsut, was known to be as an outstanding builder, and under her rule Egypt saw economic prosperity. She is the daughter of Thutmose I and his partner Ahmose, and the half-sister of Thutmose II, whom she eventually married and had a daughter with, called, Neferure.

thutmose II karnak temple2
Thutmose III at Karnak Temple

When their father died, Thutmose II became Egypt’s Pharaoh round 1492 BCE with Hatshepsut as his wife.  Even though Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut, he also had another lover or possible wife known as Iset (she was named after the Goddess Isis), and with whom he had a child, a boy Thutmose III. When Thutmose II died around 1479 BCE after a 15 year reign, the throne went down to his son Thutmose III, but as he was just a baby, Hatshepsut served as regent for the blossoming King.

For the first seven years, Hatshepsut was just a traditional regent, but in that seventh year she was inaugurated as King, and took on royal protocols, therefore Hatshepsut and her step-son Thutmose III ruled Egypt together, but as her stepson was still very young, Hatshepsut was the preeminent ruler.

Hatshepsut statue22
Hatshepsut statue at the  Egyptian museum in Cairo

Instead of finding new lands to conquer  Hatshepsut was focused on finding and making economic alliances. The land of Punt became Egypt’s trading partner, and Egyptians kept trading with the land of Punt through many Dynasties after Hatshepsut for the same produce. Hatshepsut would trade valuable goods for aromatic resins and more, as the land of Punt was known for producing gold, ebony, ivory, blackwood, aromatic resins, wild animals and gold.

Even though Hatshepsut is a woman, her official portraits depicted her with a male figure, wearing the same traditional regalia of kilt as male Pharaohs did, the same crown or head-cloth and the same false beard. I believe part of this was also to do with Thutmose III, as after her passing he came into power and a lot of the art that honoured Hatshepsut and her rule was defaced, vandalized or changed in some form or another… as if her stepson wanted to get rid of any evidence of a female ruler breaking the line of succession. The damage done to any art that had Hatshepsut’s likeness didn’t stop there. Akhenaten, an 18th Dynasty ruler, further desecrated it, and only approved of images that depicted the sun God, Aten… the solar disk emitting rays.

Hatshepsut’s buildings are phenomenal. Aside from restoring monuments all over Egypt, she also had a fair few built herself. At Karnak temple, for example; she had two pink granite obelisks built. They are almost 30 meters high, and each one requiring around seven months worths of work and brought over from distant quarries at Aswan. Another one of her building triumphs was Djeser – Djeseru (“holiest of holy places”) at Deir El-Bahri, and this temple was built as a tribute to her father, by that I mean Amun-Ra the King of the Gods. In it, there’s also the red chapel of Hatshepsut, which I believe in her eyes it was there so once she passed people could still go there to pay their respects to her and the Gods. The red chapel housed a sacred barque, or boat where the statue of the God was placed. Hatshepsut’s temple is home to other chapels and shrines as well that are dedicated to other Egyptian Gods… Anubis, Osiris and Hathor, but also to the royal ancestors.

Hatshepsut Temple
Djeser – Djeseru in Deir El-Bahri

In the end Hatshepsut passed away in her 50s. It is said that she may have died through skin cancer, but there’s other analogies out there. Some say that the cause of her death could have been of bone cancer, and that she also suffered from diabetes and arthritis. Hatshepsut was to be entombed in the Valley of the Kings, where she had her father’s burial tomb enlarged, so that the two could lie in peace together.

Even after the many attempts of desecration to Hatshepsut’s imagery to remove any evidence showing a female ruler by Thutmose III and Akhenaten, luckily through excavations and archaeological findings, her legacy lives on. Through her buildings or even more so her temple, and Hatshepsut’s imagery, her wish was realized… the wish to be eternal just like an undying star, and that’s exactly what she has become.

If you would like to see the statue of Hatshepsut, I would highly recommend to visit the Egyptian museum in Cairo that holds that statue among many other findings dating back to about 6,000 years back into Egyptian history.

Here is the Facebook page for the museum:

For more in depth information on Hatshepsut, her life, achievements and rule and the life of Egyptians under it.  Here’s the link to a very well written and reviewed book by Kara Cooney.

UK Link

US Link

German Link


Tintagel Castle & The Legend of king Arthur

Castles have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, but Castles only ended up in Britain when William the Conqueror went for the English throne in 1066. He took over what I would say as the flat packed castle, which was what made a Motte and bailey castle. This type of castle was a fortification made with wood or stone and placed on a raised area which is known as a motte. The motte has also got a confined bailey that is then encircled by a defensive rampart and stakewall. These types of castles were fast and easy to build, even though they were small compared to the size of other castles and not as strong, they were rather formidable when it came to warfare. This type of castle played a vital part in the conquest of the British throne by the Norman king, William the Conqueror, however… We will go back to that story another day as today is about the Tintagel castle and the legendary King Arthur!

tintangle church
Church in the distance close to Tintagel castle

Tintagel castle was built round the 1230s. The man behind the Tintagel castle, had been made Earl of Cornwall by his brother, King Henry III, and the man was Richard. The younger son of King John and Isabella Angouleme, who was named after his uncle King Richard the Lionheart. Henry III and Richard were from the same Anglo-Norman nobles, but, Henry especially needed to be accepted by the Cornish to make it easier for him to affirm his jurisdiction, but more predominantly to accumulate his taxes.

The name ‘Tintagel’ is said to mean ‘The fort of the construction’. It is home to a small harbour that was used to connect Tintagel to the Mediterranean. Still to this day Tintagel has got more Mediterranean treasure from the 5th and 6th century than anywhere else on the British isles.

Looking at Tintagel, there hasn’t been any fortifications in the area since the Iron age if there really was any, even though the area would have had some similarities to the forts that have been discovered on southwestern headlands… saying that, the strong association with King Arthur was what brought a change to Tintagel.


Gallos (Cornish word for Power) sculpture by Rubin Eynon

It was indeed the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth that made fact out of fiction as he identified Tintagel as the birthplace of King Arthur in the 1100s. Later on a scholar further added the story of the round table and other writers then added the story of the Holy Grail. As centuries went by, many artists and writers kept going back to the story of King Arthur and adding even more of their beliefs to it.  Many representations of Camelot have fed awareness all over the world, to an unimaginable magnitude that this fictitious character in his abstract castle by some means evolved into a breathing tale from the British past.


The Earl of Cornwall was so keen to create a connection between his fortunes with those of King Arthur that in the end, Richard made the decision to build his very own Camelot. For some unknown reason Richard came to the conclusion that Tintagel castle was the precise location where King Arthur’s conception occurred, thus the castle had to be constructed just by the cliff edge.

When it comes to the construction of the Tintagels castle, the outer walls were the first to be built and once completed the central area was put in place to make it level. Although Richard had one little problem with this build… the walls began to fall in the direction of the sea. He had to come up with a quick solution and so, to keep the wall from falling into the sea buttresses were added later on this was to give some form of fortitude and support. These walls were built in a very clever way. They had holes put in place of the walls that are known as ‘putlogs’. Logs would be placed inside them, then a plank would be put across on top of the logs and that’s how they created a platform and were able to build up the walls.

Remains of the courtyard

There was most definitely no military value to this castle, unlike the traditional castles that have been built over the British isles. The walls of the Tintagel castle were thin and made of slate. It was more of a representative structure. Although, stating all of the above, Tintagel still served its function. Richard became very wealthy due to the tin in Cornwall. He used this money to boost his status at every chance he got. At one point, he even managed to bribe some of the German barons to appoint him as King of the Romans. This was the first and last time that an Englishman has held that crown.

However, for his brother, King Henry III. He ended up having to deal with a baronial revolt. For Henry castles were there for a very distinctive deployment and one of which would jeopardise his reign.

If you would like to find out more about the history of the Tintagel castle you can check out the website:

I would wholeheartedly suggest visiting the site of the castle itself. See the beautiful view of the sea from the cliffs, to check out the collections that have been uncovered from excavations, discoveries made by archaeologists and much more!

To find out more about the legend of King Arthur in Cornwall, here’s the link to a wonderful book that covers it. 

UK Link

US Link

German Link


Harald Sigurdsson

Harald Hardrada – Stained glass window in Lerwick Town Hall, Shetland Scotland

Sigurdsson was born in Ringerike, Norway in 1015, in a time when the Vikings had come to the peak years of their raiding days. During this period the Danes had invaded England relentlessly and managed to claim a lot of English land, this was achieved under the command of the Danish king Cnut the Great, and it was through his leadership and his men that Cnut became the ruler of Denmark , England and Norway which is also known as the North Sea Empire… even though it was only for a brief time.

Harald is actually also known as Harald Hardrada, the reason behind the given surname ‘Hardrada’ is due to historical stories and myths on account of his hard ruling. Norway gave him a number to his name as well as he was the third ruler in Norway to be called Harald, thus he became known as Harald III. He was a man who was and is very well known for his great ambitions of claiming and ruling land, and it was this same ambition that unfortunately brought him to his demise in September of 1066 during an attempt to gain the English throne.

Sigurdsson was born to Asta Gudbrandsdatter and Sigurd Syr. He also had two older brothers as well, but they didn’t share or at least show the same unruly and strong ambitious characteristics as their younger brother.

Yaroslav the Wise

Going further ahead, one of Haralds brothers, Olaf was exiled, but around two years later Olaf made his return, and was greeted by his younger brother Harald, who was accompanied by a force of around 600 men. After the meeting, they assembled a battalion and in the July of 1030, and then the battle of Stiklestad took place. Unfortunately, Harald’s brother, Olaf fell during the battle against the Danish king, Cnut and his loyalists… however Harald survived but had to flee due to his injuries. Harald fled to Sweden in the end, and stayed with the prince of Kiev, who’s known as Yaroslav the Wise. Yaroslav was the man who took in Olaf when he was exiled two years before the battle of Stiklestad.

After Harald recovered from his injuries, he didn’t waste anytime, and in the same year he fought in many different regions and countries. In Europe, todays Istanbul, which back then was known as Constantinople and also Jerusalem. He had spent many years in the service of the Byzantine Empire, and during that time he became very notable for his military prowess and command, which made him held in high regard and also made him wealthy.

Now, do you remember the prince I previously mentioned that helped the brothers in their time of need? Well… Yaroslav later on attacked the Byzantine Empire, and luckily for him Harald made his return to Kiev due to his relationship with the Byzantines crumbling. Harald was bound to pass on his knowledge of the Byzantines defenses to Yaroslav to be able to take advantage of their weaknesses.

Yaroslav also had a daughter, Ellisiv (Elizabeth). Harald was struck by her when he had first gone to Kievan Rus, but wasn’t able to court or marry her as he was not wealthy enough back then, but now it’s a different story, he is both rich and also esteemed, therefore he was able to take her hand in marriage.

It wasn’t till around 1045, that Harald made his appearance back in his motherland. It was the perfect time as well as the Danish king Cnut the Great, had deserted his throne in Norway as his focus has shifted to the English throne. So… who ended up being the ruler of Norway then? Well… luckily Olaf has a son, yes, he was his illegitimate child, but he was the one next in line with Harald gone. Technically, he wasn’t next in line, as Norway was under Cnut and Cnut wanted to pass the Norwegian throne to his son Svein but the people of Norway refused to be under the rule of Cnut’s son and thus elected Magnus as their king.

At this point Harald assembled a force in Sweden, and went on to raid the coast of Denmark before actually making his way to Norway. When it came to it, there was no bloodshed luckily as Harald and Magnus decided to work together… to rule Norway together as uncle and nephew, although saying that… this did come at a costly price for Harald as Magnus was bankrupt, therefore Harald had to share half of his riches that he gained working with the Byzantine Empire and in Kiev.

Not long after there events Magnus passed away in 1047, and he didn’t have any children, thus the throne passed completely to Harald and became king of all of Norway. Even though Harald wasn’t king of Denmark only Norway, he still declared himself as ruler of both Nations… even though Cnut’s son, Svein was the king of Denmark at the time. A 20 year long battle raged between Harald and Svein… spending many resources and losing men’s lives. Luckily, all this came to an end in 1064 when both kings signed a peace treaty.

Once again Harald still couldn’t get enough… his urge to take control of more land showed up again… his eyes this time were set on the English throne. Yet again he had the right opportunity to make his advance on England, as the English king, Edward the Confessor’s health was deteriorating and not long after he passed away. Once the news of Edwards death reached Harald, he began to make arrangements for an attack. King Edward wasn’t very clear about the possible agreement between himself and King Harald for the gain of the English throne. The only reason this was really brought up was because King Edward wanted to prevent any possible Viking invasions of England.

Saying that, the man to take the English throne was Harold Godwinson, the son of Earl Godwin of Wessex, who was one of King Cnut’s most credible men and not to mention that fact that Godwinson had married into the Danish royal family. As you can image… King Harald wasn’t best pleased about what happened, since in his eyes the throne was promised to him… even though that wasn’t very clear. He still had more royal blood running through his veins than Godwinson did, thus in Harald’s eyes, he was more deserving of the English throne.

Viking long ship

A stroke of luck came to King Harald when Tostig, Godwinson’s brother went to visit King Harald in Norway around 1065/1066. Tostig did this because he was not given his earldom of Northumbria by King Edward before he passed. This led Tostig to telling King Harald that he would have support from Northumbria, and by summer time in 1066 King Harald’s fleet was ready to make way. Once they reached the English shores, Tostig and King Harald made their way and began their assault from the River Tees in September of 1066.

The final battle for the English throne between these men occurred in Yorkshire. This battle was the battle of Stamford Bridge. In the end Harald and Tostig lost… they encountered Harold Godwinsons vast and densely armored English troops. The outcome… Harald’s army fell in battle and the King himself was killed in battle as he was hit in the neck by an arrow.

King Harald was known for many things. His brutality when it came to battles, his hard ruling, ambition, military capability and more. In addition to all of this, it is also believed that due to his time in Europe, Harald brought Christianity over to some of Norway.

If you would like to find out more information regarding Vikings and Harald Hardrada then here’s a link to a wonderful book called ‘Harald Hardrada: The Warrior’s Way’.

Covering over three and a half decades of King Harald’s military life, including sea-battles, land-battles, raids, invasions and sieges! 

UK Link

US Link

German Link


American Firearms – Part 1

American Flag

The history of firearms is a lengthy one at that. The first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364, but the beginning of firearms goes even further back…to the 10th century in China to a weapon that is known as the pear-flower spear (Li hua ch’iang) and was the early form of the fire-lance weapon. The pear-flower spear is a spear-like weapon as the name states it’s a combination of a spear with a firework that would shoot out a small projectile or even poison along with the flame but of course it only has a range of a few feet so its main use was for close combat purposes, but this was a fundamental stage in the development of what we have now.

 I will be covering various firearms, swords, daggers and many more in due time, but today I want to look at some firearms through American history.

Pennsylvania flintlock rifle
Pennsylvania Flintlock Rifle

Staring off with the Pennsylvania rifle. This rifle dates back to around 1760 in Colonial America with a 45-inch barrel and with a calibre of 11.4mm with the accurate range of around 365m when handled correctly. It is also the ancestor of the Kentucky long rifle that was created around 1840. The Pennsylvania rifle is a hybrid of two European based weapons. One being the English fowling piece and the other is the German Jaeger rifle both of which were created for hunting purposes. The German Jaeger rifle was a heavy-looking rifle which consisted of an extensive calibre of over .60 inches and was made for killing bigger game on the other hand the English fowling piece has a smooth bore, fairly lightweight and had a lengthy barrel and was designed to deliver minimal damage for killing small game. What this has created is the Pennsylvania rifle…with the lightness, delicacy and small smooth bore of the English fowling piece and the accuracy and rifling of the German Jaeger rifle.

 Up next is the American Musket, although that can be a rather difficult one because there is quite a selection of them. I however will be covering the beginning of them in the late 1700s. First up is the first American Musket dating back to 1770s. It is a smooth-bore musket, and many of which resembled the ones used by the British forces in the American war of independence that is also known as the American Revolutionary war. This musket had a 45-inch barrel and with a calibre of 20.3mm.

 The second musket was also created in the 1770s. It is still titled as the ‘American Musket’ as well but the difference with this musket is that it has a British lock that was made around 1750, with a 46-inch barrel and a calibre of 20.3mm. This musket was created because the United States required a reliable military firearm as they had a limited supply and therefore many of these muskets were created by using parts from other origins.

 springfield armoury 1795 musket

Now we’re coming up to the type one and type two American flintlock-based single-shot musket models that were made in 1795 by Springfield Armoury that has first opened up around 1777. First up is the type 1 musket model that was created after the end of the American war of independence. The Type 1 model is closely based on the French model of 1763… The Charleville musket. This was America finding its own brand when it comes to muskets and even throughout its service life the musket model type 1 has had various internal modifications, the original was always equipped with a 49-inch barrel with the calibre of 17.5mm and had a range of around 180m.
War of 1812

The type two American musket model is just a modified version of the type one musket. Both muskets were used for the Lewis and Clark expedition, and they were also issued by the United States government to its troops during the War of 1812 between the Americans and the British Empire, the Mexican war and the civil war. Even though this musket was originally produced by the Springfield Armoury, later on it was also produced at Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia.

 Next up is the Rappahannock flintlock pistol was made by the Scottish Immigrant James Hunter who was known to be a rather successful iron maker and his creation was based on the 1760s British light Dragoon Pistol that were produced and then used in the Continental army. The Rappahannock pistol was the first of its kind in the US with a 9-inch barrel and a 17.5mm calibre. The first ever American manufactured military pistol, and it had a great impact during the American war of independence due to the American colonies being ill prepared to produce a high level of standard sized weapons for war.

 Last but not least for today is one of the first pistols that was manufactured by a national armoury…the Harper’s Ferry pistol model of 1805. Technically there were two models of this pistol. First one was the smoothbore pistol and the second was the rifled pistol model. They were equipped with a 10-inch barrel and had a calibre of 17.5mm. They were made by wood, steel and brass, due to its durability it could also have been used as a club so if it doesn’t work or run out of ammunition you could always hit the enemy with it, as long as you were close to said enemy of course…or could try to launch it at them like a weighty frisbee. Nowadays the Harpers ferry flintlock pistol is in use as an insignia on the United States Army military police corps.

 All of these firearms have got an interesting history behind them, their reasons for their use. You also see their development and how they came to be during hard times with a variety of designs, range, calibres and barrels.


Boudicca…she was a queen, a mother and a wife…known not only for her fury and stiking looks but also for dealing one of the biggest blows to the Roman empire. She was married to the king of the Iceni tribe called Prasutagus. Together they had two children, but unfortunately when he passed away at the age of 60 he had no male heir as both of this children were females, and therefore he passed his wealth down to them, but also to the Roman Emperor Nero who was the fifth Roman Emperor, the step-son and heir of the emperor Claudius.

Roman Empire – Historical Reconstruction

 The reason why Prasutagus gave a share of his personal wealth to Nero was a form of hope really…to try and win some form of imperial protection for his family, but as history teaches us that was not the case. In fact the Romans instead took over Prasutagus’s kingdom, and committed many atrocities from that day on. Some of them were that they robbed the rest of his tribesmen and not to mention the fact that they stripped and whipped his wife repeatedly and to add further insult to injury they violated their daughters. The Romans didn’t know a womans fury till they crossed Boudicca…in her eyes hurting her was one thing, but then raping her daughters….

 She was furious, hurt and upset…trying to comfort her daughters, but that wasn’t the last time the Romans were going to see Boudicca. It was around 61 AD the Roman Governor of Britain at the time Paulinius was distracted as he was leading an armada to North Wales for conquest. When this happened Boudicca saw this as an opportunity to fight, and so she did. She gathered her tribe to start a rebellion and in the process compelled members of other tribes to join them.

Boudicca with her warriors and other tribesmen during their rebellion an estimate of 70,000 – 80,000 Romans and Britons perished in thee different cities.With that Boudicca and her fellow warriors dealt a devastating blow as the Romans were distracted again…focusing on the Druids in Anglesey which left the Iceni (Boudiccas tribe) to be able to massacre the Roman major city of Camulodunum and with that went on to killing Romans of the 9th legion just on the outskirts.

However,even though with Boudiccas courage and fury…..riding around in her chariot with her two daughters to encourage all her tribes to fight to their last breath like she was going to do and in fact did….the Roman Governor Paulinus returned and led an army against Boudicca and her rebellion, and with that both sides suffered losses, but nowhere near as much as the Britons…especially when Boudiccas tribe was cornered and surrounded by the Roman Empire so they couldn’t use their long swords to their full potential unlike the Romans with their organization, spears and swords.

Statue of Boudicca designed by Thomas Thorneycroft

It’s not very clear as to how Boudicca died, but it is thought that she poisoned herself in order to avoid capture by the Romans. Due to her actions, she will always have a place in British history and she will always be remembered if not through people learning from each other about her courageous act, then by the statue of her riding her chariot with her daughters on the Thames Embankment next to the house of Parliament in London that was put up in 1902.

Here is a wonderful book that covers this heroic Queen. You will meet Boudicca through Marguerite Johnson and also accounts written by Tacitus and Dio! 

UK Link

US Link

German Link


The Carter Family

The Carter family was known as the ‘Carters of Prussia Cove’.

They were a smuggling family from Mount’s Bay, Cornwall and operated out of Prussia Cove in the late 18th century.

Cornish Costal Cove

Their mother; Agnes was born in 1714 had 10 children in total, 8 sons and 2 daughters. Unfortunately, only 8  out of the 10 children lived up to reach maturity, and so far only 4 of them can be traced… one of them was Thomas Carter, who was actually the oldest brother out of all the boys, being born in 1737 but died in 1818, Charles Carter born in 1757 and the other is Francis Carter who was born in 1745. The father of the family; Francis was born in 1712. His working profession was that of a miner and he rented a little farm for them.  The family was brought up in what was known at the time as ‘Decent Poverty’ but even so, they were a religious family like the rest of the neighbouring area. They were taught to say prayers before bed and of course to go to church on certain days and occasions.

While the rest of the siblings were brought up to good country scholars, there were a couple of brothers working together as smugglers in Penzance, Cornwall. These brothers were; John Carter the older brother who was born in 1738, and was nicknamed as the ‘King of Prussia’ due to his smuggling operations, and also it was also said that John had a clear resemblance to the renowned ‘Frederick the Great’ of which this had reached these lads around the time of the Seven years war. The second brother was Harry Carter, and he was born in 1749 in Pengerick, in the Parish of Breage in Cornwall County.


The boys were known to have great skill at sea, and they had two large vessels on hand. One of them was a 19-gun cutter, and the other was a 20-gun lugger. Both ships could hold around 30 men each and also came equipped with a minimum of one small boat per ship. The reason for this was for close inshore work. Combine their skills, love of the sea and their ships…with their knowledge of the Cornish coast and the French coast, along with their beliefs on the immoral grounds that were being put forward by putting tax on anything that was being traded. There was only one way that the Cove boys were going to go, and for that they were highly respected by their fellow Cornishmen.

Harry and John Carter used to take care of different sides of the business. Harry more into dealing with the transport side of things… whereas John was focused more on the sales and distribution of things, and both sides came with a side dish of violence.


Even though Harry Carter had his own adventures ranging as far as the states, the two brothers used to smuggle together at the coves. John Carter was well known for being a good and honest man, even though he was a smuggler and there are stories about his honesty and only taking what had belonged to him out of cargo. Most of what is known about the family and the Carter boys is through Harry Carters own autobiography titled ‘The Autobiography Of a Cornish Smuggler‘, storytelling and legends passed down through generations.

During such tough times, there were wars happening in both the States and also France. Any trade that was being done via the sea was open for criminal movement. Plenty of ships from various countries holding precious cargo, would be stopped and have their cargo taken. Even though the Navy tried to put a stop to this, they weren’t very successful at doing so due to the strain that was happening during that period. It was a lawless time, and everyone was doing anything they could do to survive.

Here are the links to ‘The Autobiography of a Cornish smuggler’ books: 

UK Link

US Link

German Link


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