Tanks of War: Part I

Once a week I want to cover a few tanks from a variety of nations, both old and new. Looking at their built, specifications, use, how good they were to serve their purpose and more.

This week I’ll be covering three tanks.

We’ll be looking at the German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, the American M4 Sherman and the British Medium Mark II tank built between the first and second World War.

The Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E

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It was in the May of 1941, after the renowned lack of success of German armament to infiltrate the armour of the French medium tank Char B and the British heavy armoured tank, the Matilda 2. Adolf Hitler instructed for the manufacture of a superior heavy tank, and that tank was the Tiger I. Even though it was a new design, it was still in-keep with the same boxy frame and physical arrangement as former German tanks, however the Tiger I was over twice the density of the Panzer IV.

The Tiger I was a substantial platform, armed with an 8.8cm KwK 36 gun, which held 92 rounds. Its engine was enhanced, from 650HP to 700HP yet due to its weight both the engine and transmission struggled as it weighed 63.8 tons (8.8 tons over the original plan for the tank).

Even though the intended purpose for the Tiger I was to break through enemy lines, it suffered from many teething problems due to it being rushed, thus it ended up more as a defensive machine. The teething problems were not the only thing to have an impact on this heavy tank and its use. The lack of skilled crewmen was one, and the other was the manufacturing cost. With all the above issues mentioned, the Tiger I still had an effect on the enemy forces, psychological effects due to its sheer size, armour and armament. A lot of noise was made in Germany. It was a machine used greatly in their propaganda during the second world war, which helped instil fear in the allied forces, only to push them further to develop better tanks.

The Tiger I’s weight required to be spread-out, thus its road wheels were copied from previous German half-track designs, creating an interleaved system. The outer road wheels for the Tiger I were discarded and had slender transport tracks put in place due to its size. Furthermore, to provide suspension for this heavy tank, it required 16 torsion bars with eight arms on each side, holding three wheels in total. Again, it did come with a slight problem… If just one of the inner wheels required a replacement, 9 had to be removed.

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The M4 Sherman

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This medium tank was designed in 1940. It was the heir to the M3 Lee tank, a brisk tank armed with an exceptional dual-purpose gun for its time. Its maintenance was painless, known for its ruggedness and dependability.  This design was manufactured in 11 different plants across the US and 1 in Canada. The majority of these plants had no preceding tank manufacturing experience. The M4 Sherman was well suited to the needs of the second world war, and was constructed in a mass measure of sub-variants with the ability to be adapted for different roles. There were about 63,181 produced to arm themselves, the British, Russians, Commonwealth and other allied forces. 

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The Sherman was supplied with a cast hull and additional armour was welded over the hull sides to guard the ammunition stowage. Even though there were crew stories and reports showing that the ammunition caused more fires in the Sherman tanks than the engine itself did, therefore protecting the ammunition with additional armour was crucial, even more so when “wet” ammunition was there.

Any changes that were required to be applied to the M4 Sherman tank were simple to make, and as the war advanced modifications became a necessity. The Sherman had thicker armour enforced, wider tracks and a new 75mm gun. Nevertheless, the design was the same the inside could be different in each tank due to having four different main engine types used in the Sherman’s that were manufactured. The Continental R975 C1/C4 was the main engine used to power the tank, and it was the engine that the Sherman was designed around, however, it is said that The Ford GAA V8 was the best for this medium tank. The other engines were the GM 6046 ‘Twin’ diesel and the Chrysler A57 multibank engine. 

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The Vickers Medium Mark II Tank

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The Mark II tank was produced in 1923, between the first and second world war. It acquired its velocity from its air-cooled Armstrong Siddeley engine, which was anchored in the front of the tank. With this engine the Mark II tank was able to reach speeds up to 30mph (48km/h). Overall, this tank had more than one variant. The first of the variants was the Mark I tank, which had a 3-pounder main gun in the turret with a Vickers machine-gun attached on each side of the hull, and Hotchkiss light machine-guns in the turrets.MarkIIVariants.jpg

Its predominant gun was competent against contemporary tanks, however, when it came to facing field reinforcements and anti-tank artillery, it was incompetent. To solve that issue, a close support adaptation of the Mark I was manufactured. This is were the Mark II came into play. Allocated with the Hotchkiss machine-guns, and alternatively was provided with a co-axial Vickers machine-gun. In addition to the gun tanks, control-post and bridge- laying adaptations were also manufactured. 

The Vickers medium tanks established the foundation of the British military’s preliminary mechanised capability of 1928. It was its truly innovative engagement structure that executed out manoeuvres on Salisbury plain that demonstrated the capability of mechanized structures.  It was for this reason that the mechanisation of the British military progressed through the 1930s. Only 100 of the Mark IIs were made, however, due to its potential this medium tank was exported. Fifteen tanks in total were sold to the Russian military, and one to Japan, which led to Japans own Type 89 tank model.

The Mark II tank was constructed with a riveted armour plate 6.25mm (0.25″). It was thick on the front which shielded it against bullets well, but was ineffective against stronger and bigger artillery. 

In 1923 the Royal Tank Regiment was forged. This Regiment grew exceptionally adept at discharging the 3-pounder gun on the move, and with that ability it gave the medium tank and its crew an advantage as it became a more difficult target for adversary gunners to strike.  

In the 1940s the Mark II was featured on British propaganda posters to display the magnitude at which the British military had developed since the first world war. 

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A brief history of St. Patrick

Today around the world, there’s a lot of eating and drinking going on, as today is St.Patrick’s day. The patron saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick was born during the Roman rule in Britain, in the late 4th century. At the age of about 14 – 16 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and was taken to Ireland as a slave to take care of the sheep and herd them. During this period in time, Ireland was a land of pagans and Druids. In the end he managed to escape when he was about 20 years of age, as he fled and made his way to the coast where he came across sailors who took him back to Britain and was reunited with his family.

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Slane Castle.

After his ordeal in Ireland, St.Patrick had a vision, a vision that led him to study for priesthood. Once his studies were complete he was ordained by the Bishop of Auxerre, St.Germanus whom was St.Patrick’s teacher for many, many years. After he completed all his studies, he decided to return to Ireland. He arrived in Slane in March of 433 to convert the Irish population to Christianity.

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St.Patrick’s Day Procession in Downpatrick where St.Patrick lays buried.

About 28 years later St. Patrick passed away at Saul in Downpatrick, but by then he had already established monasteries, schools and churches around the country. Like with many other patrons, war heroes and historical figures, many legends flourished around Saint Patrick. Like the legend that he drove the snakes out of Ireland, and that he used the Irish symbol, the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. Although the most prominent legend of St.Patrick, is how he met one of the Druid chieftains who tried to kill him, but God intervened and through that St. Patrick managed to convert the chieftain and preach in Ireland.

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Celebrations taking place on the date of St.Patrick’s death.

Throughout the years word spread around, people moved from nation to nation. Ireland began the celebrations on this day with religious service and feasts, but due to immigration, one being the Irish to the United States of America (as Ireland was still struggling from the effects caused by the famine.) These traditions and celebrations began to take place over in America.

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Fort of St.Angelo in Malta. Lit up green for St.Patrick’s Day

It is a holiday that in time began being celebrated by various nations; America, Malta, Russia, Britain, Argentina, Norway, Australia, Croatia, New Zealand, India, Canada and so many others!  I think it is a wonderful holiday, to feast, to drink, to celebrate together. In a way it brings us all closer together, during turbulent times.

 

Vegan and nut free apple pie

The humble apple pie… The first ever written recipe for this delicious dessert was about 1381 in Britain, printed by Geoffrey Chaucer. Even his recipe didn’t just have apple, it also included figs, raisins, pears and of course the pastry shell, but without any sugar. Other apple pies like the Dutch apple pies goes back to the 1600s.

Even though Apple pie’s place of origin was in England, when it comes to America apple pie is known to be as an unofficial symbol of the United states, and it is one of the most well-known comfort foods.

Today I decided to make one for the first time, adding my own little twist. The reason for this apple pie being dairy free, egg free and nut free is due to my brother as he is allergic to literally all of those.

20190316_183507.jpgI also decided to add some pastry braids, leaf designs and the Valknut which is associated with Odin. I wanted to incorporate my beliefs with my baking. It is up to you what you place as your designs, just keep in mind the thickness of the pastry and cooking time.

So, lets get right to it!

Ingredients

Crust

304g Plain flour/All purpose flour
255g Vegan butter (On this occasion I used Vegan Vitalite)
1 1/2 tbs Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
6 – 10 1/2 Ice cold water

Filling

5 cups apples sliced ( I used Bramley apples)
1 tbs Lemon juice
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
3 tbs of cornstarch/cornflour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt

If you’re a fan of vanilla like me just add a couple of teaspoons (to taste) in as well just for that hint of vanilla but nothing too major, be it in the crust or the filling mix.

Instructions

Crust
I. Get a large bowl and combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt and combine.
II. Feel free to use a pastry cutter, forks or even your fingers for this bit. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture, until you have a crumbly flour mixture, similar to breadcrumbs.
III. Add the ice cold water one tablespoon at a time to flour mixture until you get a form-able dough.
IV. Flour up a kitchen surface and gently form the dough into a ball. Once that part is complete, cut the dough ball into 2 separate pieces, since the bottom of the crust will be slightly larger I would maybe cut 2/3 of the dough ball and then wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge to chill for a minimum of 45 mins.

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Filling
I. Grab your apples, slice them up and place in a bowl. Don’t forget to add a tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice to keep them from browning and set aside.
II. In a large saucepan add white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch/cornflour, salt and 2 cups of water. Mix together till combined.
III. Heat up this mixture over a med to high heat, and keep stirring and mixing.
IV. As the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a medium-low and then add the apples and stir them in the mix to coat them.
V. Allow the apple mixture to simmer for around 10-15 mins, keep an eye on it of course and stir it every so often to prevent any possible burning to the apples and the mixture.
VI. Once the apples are slightly tender, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you prep your crusts.

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Assembling the pie
I. Preheat the oven to 205°C/ Gas Mark 6/ 400°F
II. Spray a 9″ apple pie dish with cooking spray and set aside.
III. Grab your two dough balls from the fridge.
IV. The bigger dough ball is for the bottom layer of the pie. Roll it out into a circle on a floured surface.
V. Drape the crust into the pie pan and gently press in the the sides and bottom.
VI. Spoon in the apples into the crust, and reserve any excess of the apple mixture for serving.
VII. Do the same for the small piece of dough, feel free to get creative. The reason for the amount of pastry for the crust is to give you more flexibility as to what you can do.
VIII. Drape it over the top of the filled pie and trim the edges of excess crust and press the top layer of pastry with the bottom crust.
IX. Make a couple of cuts or designs into the top of the pie to let it vent as it’s baking.
X. Brush the top of the pie with some soya milk (Alpro Soya) or other dairy free milk.
XI. Place the pie to back in the pre-heated oven for around 45 – 55 mins.
XII. Once taken out of the oven allow it to set for a few hours before serving.

P.S. It is best to serve it warm with either vegan whipped cream or even some vegan ice cream (like Swedish Glace ice cream.) You can choose whether to reserve the extra sauce you have spare as well, just drizzle it on top.

Hope you enjoy this dish and hope it will help anyone who may be out there hunting for various recipes for someone close that may have a variety of severe allergies.

Ottini: Traditional Maltese Biscuits

Being Maltese, born and bred, when you move away from your home country, there’s many or be it at times few things that you miss. For me personally, mostly it is the food. Oh the food. Imqaret, Qaghaq ta’ l-Ghasel (Maltese honey rings), Pastizzi, Timpana, Fenek moqli (fried rabbit), Qassatat and the Maltese biscuits that I will be covering today, just to name a few.

The older I got, the more I missed the food, and so I started doing something about it, I decided to start making it. To me, it’s all about taste than presentation when it comes to food, and I do like to put in maybe my own little twist in there as well. I used to be a hound for these biscuits when I was a kid, dunking them away in my tea while colouring in some books at home.

Here is what you will need to make these wonderful biscuits.

Ingredients

⦁ 500g plain flour
⦁ 170g caster sugar
⦁ 3 teaspoons of baking powder
⦁ 2 teaspoons of ground aniseed (can also buy it as it is and just crush it using a pestle and mortar)
⦁ 2 teaspoons of ground cloves
⦁ 2 eggs
⦁ 180g of salted butter
⦁ 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
⦁ 4 tablespoons of water
⦁ 2 tablespoons of Orange blossom water (or Orange flower water)
⦁ Grated zest of 2 large oranges
⦁ Sesame seeds

Sometimes if you like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or even 2 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla (not to overpower it but just so there is a hint of it.)

Instructions

I. Pre-heat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180°C/ 356°F.)

II. To start, we will be mixing all the dry ingredients together. The flour, sugar, aniseed, cloves and baking powder. Mix all these ingredients well.Bread-crumby mixture

III. Now add the butter with your dry mix (sometimes if the butter is too solid I heat it up for about 10 – 30 seconds just so it’s a bit easier to work with.) Blend the butter well with the dry ingredients until it has been fully integrated into the flour. It is messy, but I do find it easier to do it by hand using my fingertips, but you can also use a food processor. The mixture by the end should simulate bread crumbs.

IV. In a separate bowl, grab the eggs and beat them, then mix in the orange zest, water, orange blossom water and the vegetable oil. Once they are fully incorporated, add to the dry ingredients and mix well until you get a soft dough.

V. This amount will get you roughly around 20 Ottini’s, depending on how accurate you want to be. Roughly they should be around the size of golf balls, maybe a touch bigger. After you roll the ball into a thin long sausage shape, you’re looking for about 25 – 30 cms.

VI. Shape them into the number 8 and gently lift them up and place them onto a plate that is covered with sesame seeds. Make sure to cover both sides.

VII. Grab yourself a tray and line it with grease-proof paper. Place the Ottini into the oven for about 20 – 25 mins depending on the thickness of your Ottini. Once out the oven, let them cool down and then serve for yourself and guests to have with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

P.S. If you too find it to be a bit of a challenge to roll the Ottini into sesame seeds without them breaking, what I suggest is to place the Ottini onto the tray ready for the oven. Before you put the Ottini in the oven, place your hand on the sesame seeds and gently tap them onto the Ottini as they are lying on the tray.

Experiment with them, find new things you may enjoy, but you still get some of that homey feel to it.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

Anne Frank, Beyond her diary.

 

A little on the major events in and around Anne Frank’s life, leading up to the writing of her diary and after.

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany to Otto and Edith on 12th June 1929 where she lived with her mother, father and older sister Margot. Four years later Hitler and his party, the NSDAP, come to power. On 23rd March 1933 the majority of the German parliament voted in favour of the ‘Enabling Act’ allowing Hitler to pass new laws with out the say of the German parliament (Reichstag). The law allowed Adolf Hitler to become a Dictator.

The growing tension and increased persecution of Jews following these events led the Franks to move to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where her father Otto started a business. Life for the Jewish Germans grew increasingly worse. 15th September 1935 introduced the Nuremberg Race Laws, stripping German Jews of their citizenship and denying them access to certain civil rights. Jews could no longer vote or work for the government, Marriages between Jews and Germans were forbidden.  On the 1st September 1939 Germany invades Poland marking the start of the Second World War. Germany continues to expand invading Austria, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. 10th May 1940, Germany invades the Netherlands, after 5 days of fighting and the bombing of Rotterdam, the Netherlands surrender and the German occupation begins. The Dutch Jews were immediately met with discriminatory measures.

The 22nd and 23rd February 1941 see the first mass deportation of Dutch Jews, 427 men were violently arrested and forcibly deported from Amsterdam, the strikes resulting from these actions were also brutally put down, protesters were shot at and many arrested or killed. Weeks after these events Austrian Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart says this in his speech to the Dutch section of the NSDAP (German Nazi party) ‘I would like to take this opportunity to say something about the Jewish question. We do not consider the Jews to be members of the Dutch nation. To us, the Jews are not Dutch. The Jews are the enemy with whom no armistice or peace can be made. Do not expect me to lay this down in a regulation except in police measures. We will smite the Jews where we meet them and whoever goes along with them must take the consequences.’ The words a clear warning to the Dutch Jewish and those supporting them.

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The Dutch Jews were increasingly restricted in there day to day lives, identification cards were introduced to track down resistance fighters, a large ‘J’ was later added to easily identify Jews. The Nazi party began to strip Dutch Jews of possessions and money using the Liro Bank in Amsterdam. The Nazi’s introduced the Star of David to the Netherlands from 3rd May 1942 Jewish people would have to start wearing a Star of David badge with the word Jew in the middle, further isolating and widening the gap between Jews and non-Jews.

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The Frank family amid the deteriorating situation seek to escape the Netherlands. Otto applied for entry to the United States in 1938, the mass application for entry to the US by Jews fleeing Germany meant that applications took a long time to be processed. The bombing of Rotterdam destroyed the consulate and all records were lost. Otto also started an application to Cuba but this was cancelled 11th December 1941. With no options to flee to a safe country The Franks planned to go into hiding. The family planned to go into hiding in an annex set up inside Otto’s business, the move was planned for 16 July 1942 but was moved forwards to 5th when Margot, Ann’s sister received a call-up to report to a labour camp in Germany. Ann wrote about the event in her diary.

The Franks were joined in the secret annex by Hermann and Auguste van Pels, and their son Peter. Hermann and Otto had worked on creating the secret annex together. latter they would be joined by Fritz Pfeffer on 16 November 1942, Fritz was dentist to Miep Gies (one of Otto’s employees and a close friend of the family). Outside of the annex thing were further deteriorating for Dutch Jews. Rauter, head of the German SS and the police stated that no Jew could stay in Amsterdam without permission. Only 750 Jew reported to the military police on 20th May 1943 and were sent to Westerbork. In reaction to the low number of Jewish people reporting in the Germans held a raid in Amsterdam a arrested 3,000, who were also sent on to Westerbork. Major raids were carried out on 20 June, 29 September 1943 approximately 17,000 Jews were arrested and taken to Westerbork.

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On the morning of 4 August 1944 Police search the offices where the secret annex is hidden and discover the hiding place, the two families are arrested as well as two of the people helping to hide them Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler. They are all imprisoned and questioned at an SD prison on Euterpestraat. They were then separated and sent to different detention centres the helpers were sent to Amstelveenseweg and the 8 from the annex to Weteringschans. Miep Gies finds Anne’s diary within the annex keeping it safe until she handed it over to Otto Frank after the war.

3 September 1944 the 8 from the annex are transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they are separated, men and women. This is the last time Otto sees his wife and daughters. Out of 1,011 other Jews they arrived with 371 are deemed unfit for work and sent to the gas chambers. The people from the secret annex were deemed fit. Edith, Margot, Anne, and Auguste stayed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Otto, Hermann, Peter and Fritz were sent to camp Auschwitz I were they were forced to do heavy labour.

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On 30 October 1944 Anne, Margot, and Auguste, were taken to Bergen-Belsen, among 1,000 other women. Edith was left in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Little is know about what the 3 went through at Bergen-Belsen, the camp was over crowded, filthy and poor conditions led to the spread of disease. February 1945 both Anne and Margot Frank contracted typhus and died within days of each other. Out of the 8 people from the secret annex only Otto survived.

 

The Darker Side Of Winston Churchill

A man rich of aristocratic ancestry, known for leading Britain through the second world war, and known just as well for his rousing speeches and refusal to surrender… Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on the 30th of November 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. He was an orator, British statesman, author, soldier and Britain’s Prime Minister for a total of 9 years in, thus served two terms. First term was during the second world war, from 1940 to 1945 (Clement Attlee came into power from 1945 -1951) and the second term was from 1951 to 1955.

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The Roaring Lion, an iconic portrait by Yousuf Karsh, taken at the Canadian Parliament, December 1941

Churchill’s pedigree was a prosperous one at that. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a Tory politician who was a direct descendent of John Churchill, who was the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Jennie Jerome, his mother… was the daughter of Leonard W. Jerome, a horse racing enthusiast, but was well-known for being a New York financier.

With a poor academic record, Winston’s father came to the conclusion of pushing him into a military career. It took Churchill three attempts before he was able to pass the entrance exam to join the Royal Military College to become a cadet in the cavalry. Even after all his struggles, Churchill applied himself to his studies wholeheartedly and came out successful. Winston Churchill graduated at the 20th position out of a class of 130 students.

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Portrait photograph of Lord Randolph Churchill the Chancellor of Exchequer, taken in 1883.

 

When Churchill was 21 years old, his father died… it is not fully clear as to what his father passed away of. He had travelled all over the world to try to find a cure for his worsening illness which was believed to actually be syphilis. He was then rushed back to England from Cairo just before Christmas that year and passed away in West Minister. With such an event this led Churchill to the belief that members of his family died young, obviously back then there was no way of being able to know what had caused the death of his father.

Winston Churchill was initiated as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queens Hussars Regiment of the British Army, based in Aldershot in the county of Hampshire. He was a man built for battle, and he had a thirst to quench, to be able to witness military action! That same year Churchill was sent to Cuba to study the Cuban War of Independence. Himself and another cavalry officer known as Reginald Barnes, a Devon man, joined forces with the Spanish military on their pursuit to crush independence fighters, thus got entangled with quite a few altercations. After that he also saw action in India, Sudan, South Africa and of course Gallipoli. Gallipoli was not something that should have happened. WWI was at a deadlock right from the get go, Churchill rushed in head first without thinking properly just to try to get things moving. A military campaign that was an absolute disaster costing many British lives, and the Ottoman Empire claimed its victory anyway.

Churchill will always be viewed in many ways as a hero for the British people and in some respects he was, in others he caused unnecessary pain, death and suffering and not just of the British men in Gallipoli and their families at home, but also of other people from other nations. It’s like a yo-yo really between good and bad.

During the Boer War in South Africa, he was captured as a prisoner of war, but he managed to escape. Furthermore, after the news of his escape travelled far and wide, back home to England, in the year of 1900 he was appointed as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse Regiment. During the campaign to free Pretoria, he used write, take notes on how he felt, what was occurring. It is said that in his writing, Churchill berated the British animosity towards the Boer, and stated that they should in fact be treated with “generosity and tolerance“. Even with that statement, it got completely abolished since concentration camps were built in South Africa, his statement then on the concentration camps? They composed “the minimum of suffering.” The death toll during this campaign caused was well over 25,000 deaths. It wasn’t till about 115,000 black Africans were also put into these British camps, where the death toll was around 14,000, the only thing he wrote was of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”. Subsequently, Churchill bragged of his participation there: “That was before war degenerated. It was great fun galloping about.”

This was only one of his questionable statements, let alone his previous actions on his ventures. It carries on with more of his racism, his views on colonisation using military force, and sheer bigotry. When it came to Palestinians he simply refereed to them as “Barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung”. Furthermore, during a campaign that required the crushing of rebels in Sudan during the earlier days in his military career, Churchill bragged about the fact he killed three “savages”, as he put it. While deliberating agitated people in the Northwest of Asia, he notably bemoaned the “squeamishness” of his fellow men, who had an issue with his idea and were not in “favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.”

Hitler… a man with strong views about the Aryan race, and we all know those views. Churchill’s views shockingly enough weren’t that different. When he became an MP, Churchill strongly requested an undulating agenda for more invasions. What belief of his was this statement based on? As he so elegantly put it “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” Yet, even then it doesn’t make him like Hitler or Stalin for that matter, he still opposed Hitler without reservation, and it’s a great thing that he did.

The way he viewed/treated people from certain other nations and even his own (As of course his campaign to Gallipoli proved) wasn’t in the best of ways! Sure he did well for the British people and the rest of the nations against the Axis of Darkness… Hitler and his Nazis, but there’s no way you can overlook the horrifying things he stated, acted upon or would have acted upon if he had the backup he wanted.

Even as he started to tangle with politics, Churchill chose to go with the Tory party first,

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Women’s Suffrage

and then changed to the Liberal party, and later on again he made the decision to go back to the Conservative party. He gave his first speech for the Conservatives Primrose League in Bath, in this speech he expressed strong feelings towards Women’s Suffrage… a movement that was created to fight for the women’s right to fight. He referred to the Suffragettes as a ”ridiculous movement”.

Now, for the past few years there has been some noise about Churchill being the man behind the famine that was caused in Bengal, India. Yes, that is very true and his statement about the Indian people did little to help to show that he didn’t do intentionally. His statement was as such “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” During that time, Britain’s food supplies started to dwindle due to the second world war, after all, many nations including Britain were still recovering from the damage they took during the first world war, and Churchill needed to prevent from famine occurring to the British people, by making sure that Britain was getting enough wheat in so the people were able to be able to survive, and fight on.

Does this excuse what he caused in India? No, not in the slightest.  Other British officials at the time begged him to send supplies to the region so it would help them, and he outright refused! Apparently it was “Their fault for breeding like rabbits” and that the famine was just “merrily” plucking the populace. Now, one way of looking into this again. Was this said out of stubbornness, rage, and fear of causing death to his own people or not? Not to mention with the pressure of the war mounting up more and more on his shoulders.

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Little Willie – 1st Prototype tank

I would also like to state that personally, It is so difficult to try to keep a balanced view on such a subject. Yes even though this is to cover his darker side, there was also good deeds… even if they were few he still accomplished them either way. Pushing Britain through the second world war, push to liberate France, unite together with the rest of the allies to win the war, he helped drive the development of the first tank when he was the First Lord of Admiralty by creating the Landships Committee in 1915, reformed the British fleet and his foresight was to thank. He saw what Germany was doing… more specifically Kaiser Wilhelm’s own perseverance to assemble a robust navy, hence the reformation of the British navy. The deal with Ireland was a bit of a dodgy one too. When Winston Churchill assumed the role of Secretary of State for War and Air in January 1919, not long after the Irish War of Independence began. His role in this war was associated with his willingness to use the questionable Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve (Known as the Black and Tans, due to their uniform.)  to fight the IRA. He simply refused, hands down to stand down the Black and Tans. Churchill even backed up the idea to use air power on Ireland. Even after that, and his opposition to Irish home rule, he was a quick backer of dissolution. He presented a vital part in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which brought an end to the war. More often than not, Churchill did come across as rather impulsive, saying things without thinking… processing them before speaking…  The possible consequences his ideas might cause. As a man, a soldier, a politician… Churchill caused many horrific things, but It wouldn’t have felt right if I simply left out the good things that he also accomplished.

Studying Churchill has led me to one question, a question that we will never know the answer to. If Adolf Hitler came to the conclusion, to instead invade and take over the Middle East and Africa (This going by Winston’s own views.)

Would Winston Churchill have batted an eyelid? Or would he have left him to his own devices unless he went to territories under the rule of the British Empire? Or maybe he would have acted later on… but it would have been too late by then. Once the Middle East and Africa were taken over, Hitlers gaze would have shifted upon Europe, and then what?

 

 

What actually happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?

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Sir Walter Raleigh

The colony was first established on the island of Roanoke, in the Summer of 1585, in today’s Dare County in the state of Carolina. This was the first attempt by the British to lay the foundations for a permanent settlement in the new world, being North America. This expedition was sponsored by a Devon born man, that went by the name of Sir Walter Raleigh. He himself never set foot in the colony at all, and he was many things, a writer, politician, soldier, spy, explorer among other titles, however he is very well known for popularizing tobacco in England.

It was about 115 British settlers based on the Roanoke island and their Mayor being John White. Later on in the year, John White left and returned back to the British Isles to request for more supplies. Safe to say that his return to the colony took a lot longer than expected… he in fact returned 3 years later. The reason for the delay was that a naval war erupted between England and Spain, Queen Elizabeth I summoned each and every available ship to fight off the Spanish. The Mayor of the colony didn’t make his imminent return to Roanoke till August 1590. Upon his return, he found that there was no sign of his people… not even his wife, daughter and grandchild. His grandchild was the first English born over in the states, and her name was Virginia Dare. Every single person from this expedition vanished, leaving not a trace behind. To this day, the Lost Colony of Roanoke is still one of the most infamous enigmas in American history, and the only thing that was left behind was a word, carved on a wooden post – ‘Croatoan’. Other letters, specifically ‘CRO’ were carved on trees within the borders of the settlement.

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“CRO” written on a tree, part of the Lost Colony performance at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

These were the only clues left as to the disappearance of the British settlers, and they were unable to carry on searching for more clues about what might have happened to them as there was a storm thus they were forced to turn round and go back to England.

Many people have speculated over the centuries as to what may have happened to the colony back then, and there is one explanation that makes sense as to what could have happened. Farther south of the Roanoke settlement, there was an island known as Hatteras Island, but was and is also known as Croatoan Island. There was the same word carved on a tree close to the southern island that was occupied by the Hatteras Indians. It would have made sense due to how long it took the Mayor to make his return if at least some of the British settlers made their way to try to join or maybe seek help from the Native Indians to be able to survive.

There are also other theories about what may have happened. One, being that the British settlers tried to sail back the England themselves, but met their end at the hands of the Spanish Armada as they were making their way up from Florida. Second, could be that maybe they became friendly with another settlement and joined in with them, be it the Hatteras Indians or others, although due to closeness the Hatteras would have made more sense, but of course that all depends on communication from both parties as well and what they could or couldn’t bring to the table.

Either way, unfortunately, we will never know the truth; all we can do is speculate on this matter. However, one good thing did come out of this settlement, even though it crumbled. It helped to pave the way for the British to set another colony in the Americas 17 years later, at Jamestown.

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Painting of the HMS Formidable battleship, 1898

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

Engine 

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

Armour

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’.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:  http://www.romanbaths.co.uk

 

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.

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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.

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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: www.facebook.com/EgyptianMuseum09

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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle

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. 

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Harald Sigurdsson

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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.

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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.

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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! 

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