Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Christmas Truce

Private M. L. Walkinton, a 17 year old Rifleman in the Queens Westminster Rifles took part in the famous Christmas Truce in 1914. Reflecting back years later, this is what he has to say about that famous event in his book 'Twice in a Lifetime':-

“On a quiet night, when the trenches were near enough, we used to sing to each other, sometimes alternate verses of the same tune like Hail though one despised Jesus and Deutschland, Deutschland liber alles. They often sang their own words to the tune of God Save the King. Then an officer of one side or the other would come and stop it by ordering a few rounds of fire. We used to be sporting and fire high with the first round – and so did Brother Boche. We used to shout remarks to each other, sometimes rude ones, but generally with less venom in them than a couple of London cabbies after a mild collision……

Well, goodwill and good fellowship at Christmas-time were bred in the bone, so to speak and in spite of orders and warnings one kept thinking about it. The way this Christmas feeling persisted is interesting as one of the few victories of the teaching of the Church over the teaching of the State during the whole war. It persisted with us until the word ‘Truce’ crept into conversation. It grew so strong that not a shot was fired on our bit of front after midnight of December 24th/25th until midnight of December 25th/26th.

It was weird and unearthly for everything to be suddenly still. For some time we were suspicious and careful. We were afraid that some low-down trick might be played upon us by those ‘dirty swine’ (a phrase learned from newspapers printed in the far-off security of England – not our own coining). But after half an hour nothing had happened and both sides started singing carols. We wandered about a bit, rather nervously, on the parapet and shouted across to the Germans, who were doing the same. After a time a German who spoke English came half-way across and offered to meet one of our men to arrange a twenty-four hour truce. One or two bold spirits went out to meet him and they shouted an arrangement for no firing for twenty-four hours. Dawn came and with it a return to nervousness. But no one fired. We exposed ourselves a bit and so did the ‘enemy’ and nothing happened, so everybody got up out of both lots of trenches and walked about and shouted and waved.

Then the men of the opposing sides began to drift towards each other, first as far as the barbed wire and then a few of each side scrambled through. Timidly they approached each other – unarmed, of course - until finally a German and an Englishmen met and shook hands to the sound of a happy little burst of cheering. Within a few seconds hundreds of people were shaking hands, laughing, exchanging drinks of rum and cognac, cigars and cigarettes, chocolate, sausages and so on.

I talked to a German-American who seemed a very pleasant sort of lad. He had never been to England actually, though his ship had anchored off Plymouth. We tried talking war, but I found he was full of newspaper propaganda, as I suppose I was, and we couldn't make any sense of it. He thought that the Germans had made a successful landing in England and were marching on London. I told him that we were expected to beat Germany by Easter and he roared.

After that I think we talked about food and our respective family histories. He introduced me to his battalion sniper who had just received an Iron Cross from the Kaiser. The sniper showed it to me and seemed very proud of it. I tried to beg it, but he gave me a button of his tunic instead! Several people exchanged addresses and promised to write to each other after the war, but I don’t know if any of them did.

Christmas cards from the King and Queen were handed to every man in the battalion; a greatly appreciated gesture.

At some time during the day I went back to our lines and cooked myself some sausage which I had brought back from a local butchers the night before when on fatigue duty in Chapelle D’Armentieres. There was about eighteen inches of it – they didn't divide it into ‘links’ like they do in England – and it was rather a disappointment owing to my poor cooking. Just before dusk we all returned to our lines and during the night we were relived by the 1st Royal Fusiliers. My platoon spent the next night or two in comfort in some newly-built and unfurnished workmen’s house in Chapelle. We were dry, we were warm and we had uninterrupted sleep. Bliss again!"

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Motor Car and Putting on Weight

The invention of the Motor Car brought with it many difficulties for the Edwardian’s, as Sir Henry Thompson, noted in his 1902 publication ‘Motors and Motor Driving’ one was the danger of ‘putting on weight’

Now let me give a few words of caution. The vigorous man who has been used to take exercise on horseback, on his bicycle, or on his legs, must beware less the fascination of motoring lead him to give up his physical exercise. Unless he systematically maintains habits of muscular exertion he may find that he is putting on flesh, becoming flabby, and generally losing condition. Whether he possess a motor or not, he must use his muscles regularly and sufficiently if he desires to preserve his health.  The eyes also should be carefully protected by glasses with silk attached to them partially covering the cheeks, whereby the small flies and dust which accompany road travel in the summer-time, and the cold winds of winter be excluded,

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo

Charles Wells was a very dubious inventor. 

Wells born sometime around 1860 duped people into investing in far-fetched inventions, among them a musical skipping rope. He was successful enough to buy a yacht equipped with a ballroom and church organ. In 1892, he sailed in it to Monte Carlo, where he had a spectacular win of 16,000 pounds at the casino and was later dubbed ‘the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.’ The attendant notoriety alerted disgruntled former investors to his whereabouts and he was sentenced to 8 years hard labour. On his release, he invented a lifebelt, which was demonstrated by a defrocked clergyman,

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Waggonette

Mr Hamblin was born in Chedzoy, Somerset in 1891, he recalls life growing up: -

Most people had to rely on the carrier’s van to take them to Bridgewater to shop. This was a horse-drawn covered wooden waggonette with facing side seats and was not very comfy with hard benches and the dust from untarred roads. The driver used to pick up passengers at Cross Tree Corner.

Mother and Father went to Bridgewater to shop most Saturday’s. They would tour the shops ordering  goods which were delivered by errand boys to the Admiral Blake Hotel. The carrier’s van left for the return from here to Chedzoy and it was often a pretty tight fit for the passengers and their purchases.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

Mrs Hillman of Lyng in Somerset remembered celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 when she was nine years old.

She went to tea in the schoolroom at Lyng where the children were presented with celebration mugs and then went on a ride in a horse-drawn farm wagon to Burrowbridge. Everyone climbed to the top of Burrow Pump where a bonfire was lit.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Morning Cloud III

On 28 August 1974, ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath helped to publicize a novel by John Dyson called The Prime Minister's Boat is Missing. Five days later, Heath's yacht, Morning Cloud III, was lost.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Armistice Day - November by Irene Snatt

In Preston Park there is a tank.
Relic of the Battle of Cambrai.
Its rusty treads loom over,

I play with Army buttons,
Unwind some tattered puttees.

On corners of the shopping streets
The blind and maimed
Are selling matches.

Some veterans march.
A brass band plays
Sussex by the sea,
And Mother sighs and says
Before the Marne,
Before the Somme,
She watched the boys in khaki
March away.

By Irene Snatt.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Beware of The Goodies

Alexander Mitchell, 50, a bricklayer from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, died laughing in March 1975, while watching the TV comedy, ‘The Goodies’. He had recently eaten, and after 25 minutes of laughing on a full stomach his heart failed while he was watching a fight between a set of bagpipes and a black pudding.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Francis Waring the Vicar in a Hurry.

In the early 18th century Francis Waring was vicar of Heybridge in Essex. He liked to get through a service as quickly as possible. Having set up a small clock on a ledge, he sped through the lessons, delivered a quick fire sermon consisting of two aphorisms and a proverb, ran down the aisle, jumped onto his horse and galloped off to repeat the performance at two neighboring churches.

He was noted, too, for an idiosyncratic dress sense, appearing in church in hats of his own devising, and on one occasion being loudly rebuked by his bishop for wearing purple at important ecclesiastical functions. The bishop was handed a card – kept in readiness for just such a purpose- on which was written, “How very good of you to notice. Do let me recommend my tailor.”

Monday, 5 November 2012

An Extraordinary Cricket Challenge

On 21st May 1827 at Harefield Common, near Rickmansworth, farmer Francis Trumper and his sheepdog, ‘Cooper’, challenged ‘two gentlemen of Middlesex’ to a game of cricket, and defeated them. Cooper, the sheepdog, was a poor batsman, as was to be expected, but the day was won by his agility in the field.

Trumper and Cooper batted first and made 31, with the dog scoring only 3. The two county cricketers expected to improve on this total without difficulty, but were confounded by Cooper’s speed in the covers and elsewhere. According to the next day’s Times:

The dog always stood near the master when he was going to bowl, and the moment the ball was hit he started off after it, and, on his masters running up to the wicket, the dog would carry the ball in his mouth and get it into the master’s hand with such wonderful quickness that the gentlemen found it very difficult to get a run even from a very long hit.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Fishing As A Tree

In the 18th century, Thomas Birch a keeper of books at the British Museum, was a keen fisherman who devised an unusual way of disguising his intentions. Dressed as a tree, he stood by the side of a stream in an outfit designed to make his arms seem like branches and the rod and line a spray of blossom. Any movement, he argued, would be taken by a fish to be the consequence of a mild breeze.

Sir Humphrey Davy. The distinguished chemist, improved on the idea half a century later. His preferred costume consisted of a green coat, green breeches and an old green hat.

“In this attire,” wrote Cordy Jefferson, “Davy flattered himself he resembled vegetable life as closely as it was possible for mortal man to do.”

On shooting expeditions, Davy made himself as conspicuous as possible in order not to be shot by mistake. Usually, he wore a large scarlet hat. One of his friends amusingly pointed out that the hat put him in danger of being shot by an anti-cleric, who mistook him for a cardinal.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Dennis Collins and Pension Rights.

In 1832, Dennis Collins an able seaman who had lose a leg at the battle of Trafalgar, limped 21 miles from London to Ascot, where he attended the races and threw a stone at King William IV as a protest against the removal of his pension rights. The stone dented the King’s top hat and Collins was sentenced to be hanged.

This was later commuted to deportation, but Collins died before he could be shipped out to the Caribbean.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cheetah Racing

In 1937, Gandar Dower introduced cheetah racing into England as an exciting alternative to greyhounds.

He imported 8 cats and staged highly publicized events at Romford and Haringey. He had not discovered the cheetahs are remarkably uncompetitive, and too intelligent to mistake a length of rag on a stick for a Thompson gazelle or other prey.

The cheetahs wandered round in a state of indifference and the experiment was abandoned.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Windscreen Wiper

The 1908 FA Cup Final was played at Crystal Palace between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United.

The omens looked bad when before the match the ground was lashed with rain, sleet and heavy snow showers. But just before the kick off the skies cleared and a crowd of 75,000 watched Wolves win 3-1 in bright sunshine.

Something good came of the snow showers, however. One Wolves supporter, Captain Gladstone Adams, drove to the match in his motor-car, something of a novelty in those days. But as he drove through the snowstorm he struggled to see where he was going as the snow stuck to his windscreen, and he was forced to fold down his windscreen. That gave him the idea for inventing the windscreen wiper, which he patented in 1911.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Thomas Burgess Swims the Channel.

At Dover on 6th September 1911, under a warm blue sky, Yorkshireman Thomas Burgess, aged 37, started his 16th attempt to swim the English Channel.

He was stark naked except for a pair of motorist’s goggles and a rubber bathing cap,  and was smothered with lard. Badly seasick and stung by jellyfish, his spirits were lifted by an accompanying boat crew singing to him whilst he was fortified by hot chocolate, grapes and 20 drops of champagne each hour.

He land near Sangatte, almost an entire day later. Remarkably he had only done 18 hours training for the swim that year.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Raining Small Fish

On 15th July 1841, a heavy thunderstorm over Derby brought a shower of things very strange, as described in the Sheffield Patriot newspaper:

Hundreds of small fishes and frogs in great abundance descended with the torrents of rain. Some of the fish had very hard pointed spikes on their backs and are commonly called sticklebacks. The frogs were from the size of a horse bean to that of a garden bean; numbers of them came down alive, and jumped away as fast as they could, but the bulk were killed by the fall on the hard pavement. We have seen some alive today, which appear to enjoy themselves, in a glass of water.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Strange Coincidence of Erskine Ebbin

Moped rider Erskine Lawrence Ebbin was knocked of his moped by a taxi and killed in Hamilton on 20th July 1975.

It was the same taxi, with the same driver, carrying the same passenger, that killed his brother Neville, on the same day of the previous year. Both brothers were 17 at the time, and had been riding the same moped in the same street.

Only one thing prevented history repeating itself precisely: the time of day was 50 minutes different.

Monday, 15 October 2012

To Live For 200 Years

John Butterick, a researcher at West Virginia University, was obsessed with long life.  While studying in Canada, he spent six months ingesting BTH, a chemical used in food packaging to retard spoiling, but later he believed he had found the substance that would allow him to live for 200 years. The substance was warfarin, sometimes used in small quantities as an anti-congulant, but best known for its use as rat poison.

In January 1980, he was found lying on his bed in his apartment, having bled to death, with blood covering his clothes, the mattress, a glass, the kitchen floor and the bathroom. Butterick’s quest for immortality had been cut short at the age of 33.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Town Clocks

The end of the Middle Ages saw town clocks being introduced all over Europe. The concept of arriving for and leaving work at certain times was just one example of the effect clocks had, particularly in towns and cities, where increasingly efficiency was the underlying motive for introducing clocks.

By the middle of the 15th century the steel spring had been introduced for powering clock mechanisms, instead of the weight drive. Smaller clocks could now be made, but springs lose their energy gradually as they unwind, so a device called a fusee had to be incorporated. It was tapered or conical drive wheel that compensated for the loss of energy. In 1581, Galileo Galilei noticed the phenomenon of the pendulum. A hundred years later the pendulum would set a new bench-mark in time-keeping accuracy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Blast Furance

In the 1100’s Europeans had mastered a technique for producing cast iron, some 1,500 after the Chinese. This was by means of a blast furnace, so called because of the blasts of air required to achieve a high enough temperature to melt iron. Water and sometimes wind power were used to operate the bellows and for crushing up the iron ore to increase its surface area. Blast furnaces gradually grew in capacity to meet the demand for the new cast iron, which had wider applications than wrought iron, but two distinct problems arose as a result.

Charcoal began to run short as Europe’s trees were increasingly felled, and slag impurities prevented as much as 50 percent of the iron from being run off for casting. The introduction of coke and lime into the process, solved both of these problems, but not for several centuries to come.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Bombardment of Constantinople

The bombardment of Constantinople

In 1452, when Urban, a Hungarian engineer was turned away by Constantine, the Byzantine Emperor, he was employed by Mehmet II to construct a cannon 27ft long and with a range of a mile. The Ottomans had already realized the importance of cannons and by 1364 had begun production, they used field artillery at Kosovo in 1389.

Mehmet arrived at Constantinople with his 100,000 men, a huge train and kept up a ceaseless bombardment of the city for six weeks. Within a week, the outer wall had been breached in several places, and when the Ottoman placed more cannon on a pontoon across the Golden Horn of the city was safe from their bombardment. On two occasions, Mehmet thought that the bombardment had done enough, but was repulsed each time. On the third attempt, the city fell.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Desperte Fighting at the Battle of Inkermann

This account of the Battle of Inkermann comes from Private Bancroft of the Grenadiers. He describes the desperate fighting around the Sandbag Battery,

“I bayoneted the first Russian in the chest: he fell dead. I was then stabbed in the mouth with great force, which caused me to stagger back, where I shot this second Russian and ran a third through. A fourth and fifth came at me and ran me through the right side. I fell but managed to run one through and bought him down. I stunned him by kicking him, whilst I was engaging my bayonet with another, Sergeant-Major Algar called out to me not to kick the man that was down, but being dead he was very troublesome to my legs; I was fighting over his body. I returned to the battery and spat out my teeth: I found only two.”

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Storming of Badajoz

At the storming of Badajoz in 1812, George Hennell was attached to the 94th Foot as a volunteer.

Here he describes his baptism of fire:

“The dead and wounded lay so thick that we were continually treading on them (I must tell the facts). The men were not so eager to go up the ladders as I expected they would be. They were as thick as possible in the ditch and, the officers desiring them to go up. I stopped about two minutes likewise.  The men were asking ‘Where’s is the 74th?’ ‘Where is the 95th?’ I perceived they were looking for their regiments rather than the ladders. I went up to the ladder, and when about half way up I called out, ‘Here is the 94th!’ and was glad to see the men begin to mount.”

Monday, 13 August 2012

At The Battle of Hessy Moor

During the English Civil War, Sir Phillip Monckton gives a good description of what it was like:

“At the battle of Hessy Moor I had my horse shot under me as I caracoled at the head of the body I commanded, and so near the enemy that I could not mount again, but charged on foot, and bear Sir Hugh Bethell’s regiment of horse, who was wounded and dismounted, and my servant bought up his horse. When I was mounted upon him the wind driving the smoke so I could not see what was become of the body I commanded, which went in pursuit of the enemy. I retired over the glen, where I saw a body of of some two thousand horse that were broken, which as I endeavoured to rally, I saw Sir John Hurrey,  major general to the prince, come galloping through the glen. I rid to him, and told him, that there were none in that great body, but they knew either himself or me, and if he would help me to put them in order, we might regain the field. He told me, broken horse would not fight; and galloped from me towards York.”

(Sir Philip Monckton, Knight, of Cavil and Hodroyd, co. York, who commanded the Cavalier force on this occasion, was the eldest son of Sir Francis Monckton, who married Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Savile, of Yorkshire. Sir Philip was knighted at Newcastle in 1644, and was a loyal supporter of both King Charles I. and King Charles II. He was several times imprisoned, twice banished, and also fined during the Civil War. He married, in i658, Anne, daughter of Robert Eyre, Esq., of Highlow, Derbyshire, and repre­sented Scarborough in Parliament at one period. His opponent at Willoughby carried him off and held him prisoner at Belvoir Castle after that encounter, but on the 9th October following, Colonel Rossiter wrote to Lord General Fairfax, and advocated his release on parole, “being assured he is so much a gentleman that he will not infringe his friends engagement or falsifie his own worde.”)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Charles II Close Shave at Edgehill

During the first battle of the English Civil war, at Edgehill, the parliamentarians came very close to capturing and taking prisoner, the Prince of Wales, the future Charles II. Prince James who was with his older brother gives this account of the heir to the throne’s close shave with destiny:

“Sir Will Howard went of with the prince and myself and we had not gone above musket-shot off from the place when we saw a body of horse advancing directly towards us from the left hand of the King’s foot; upon which sending to see what they were, and finding them to be the enemy, we drew behind a little barn not far distant from them, which was encompassed by a hedge.

In this barn several of the King’s wounded men were there dressing, but the enemy observing the King’ men, to be within the enclosure, drew back immediately without engaging them, by which means the Prince and Duke escaped the evident danger of being taken; for had they charged our small party they could not have failed of beating them.”

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Nurse on the SS Sussex

The British Nursing Journal on 1st April 1916 published this story of an unnamed British nurse and her actions on the SS Sussex.

The risks run in the Channel crossing to France have always been great, but the torpedoing of the Sussex has at last taken toll of innocent women and children, as well as men, about 50 lives having been lost, amongst them several American citizens.

As usual, there were some wonderful escapes. Mr. W. 0. Snelling, a member of the Norwich Town Council, who was one of the passengers on board the Sussex, pays tribute to a plucky English nurse. He begged her to go with the other women in one of the boats.

“No," she replied, " give my place to a man with a family of children. I am only a single woman." 

With a medical student who was on board she worked with great courage in tending the wounded and dying, although she herself was ill.

Monday, 6 August 2012

SS Sussex

SS Sussex was built by William Denny & Bros Ltd for the LBSCR. She was launched on 30 April 1896. She served on the Newhaven - Dieppe route. In 1913, Sussex was replaced by the Paris and was laid up. She was sold in 1914 to the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de l'État Français, remaining under the management of the LBSCR.

 During the First World War, shipping from Newhaven was diverted to operate from Folkestone in order to free Newhaven for supplying British troops on the Western Front.

On 24 March 1916, Sussex was on a voyage from Folkestone to Dieppe when she was torpedoed by SM UB-29. The ship was severely damaged, with the entire bow forward of the bridge blown off. Some of the lifeboats were launched, but at least two of them capsized and some passengers were drowned. Of the 53 crew and 325 passengers, at least 50 were killed, although a figure of between 80 and 100 is also suggested. Sussex remained afloat and was eventually towed stern-first into Boulogne harbour.

The dead included the celebrated Spanish composer Enrique Granados and his wife Amparo. Several Americans were injured, but none were killed. However, although no US citizens were killed, the incident enraged public opinion in the United States of America, and caused a heated diplomatic exchange between the US and German governments. In May 1916, Germany issued a declaration, the so-called Sussex pledge, which effectively represented the suspension of the "intensified" U-boat campaign.

Between 1 and 3 January 1917, HMS Duchess of Montrose, HMS Myrmidon, HMS Nepaulin, HMS Redcar, HMT Security assisted in the salvage of Sussex, each ship receiving a portion of the salvage money.

Sussex remained in France, and was used by the Marine Nationale at Le Havre. She was repaired post-war, and in 1920 was sold to D Demetriades, Piraeus, being renamed Aghia Sophia. She was scrapped in 1921 following damage sustained in a fire.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

What They Said - August 1914

On the outbreak of the Great War, August 1914.

The lamps are going out over all Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.
Lord Grey (British Statesman) – Remark made on 3rd August 1914, on the eve of war.

We draw the sword with a clear conscience and with clean hands.
Wilhelm II (Emperor of Germany) – Speech, Berlin, 4th August 1914.

You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.
Wilhelm II – Said to troops leaving for the front, August 1914.

When the war broke out she took down the signed photograph of the Kaiser and, with some solemnity, hung it in the maidservants’ lavatory; it was her one combative action.
Evelyn Waugh (British Novelist).

Your Country Needs You.
British recruiting poster.

Good-bye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square; It’s a long, long way to Tipperary, but my hearts right there.
Harry Williams (British Songwriter)

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His Hour, And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping.
Rupert Brooke (British Poet)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The End of A World

On the 98th Anniversary of the outbreak of war between Great Britain and Germany, I thought I would post this amazing account by Esme Wingfield-Stratford from his excellent book “Before the lamps went out.”

In all the accounts of the beginning of the war, this account is one of the best. It captures that free pre-war spirit, everything right in England as the inhabitants of a Kent village, play a cricket match on the eve of war.

There is something naive yet unnerving about this account and the chapter is entitled “The end of a world.”

I love the last few lines as Wingfield-Stratford tells his father of the mobilization orders and the notices put up in shop windows:

"Those fellows," I said, "don't realize what's coming to them.
And in a few days they'll be thinking it's the end of the world."
My Father did not answer for a moment. Then he said in a voice quite different from his ordinary one:
"For many of them it will mean the end of the world;"
A burst of applause; a one-handed catch on the boundary.
Another wicket.
My Father glanced at the score board:
"Time for you," he said, “to put on your pads."

For many all over Great Britain it would time “to put on their pads.” To play the greatest game of their life.

“Appropriately for Kent, we are on the edge of a cricket ground, which was the open pasturage in the eighteen-eighties to which it will revert, alas, in the nineteen-forties. But where we are in 1914, though small, it has been pronounced, by competent judges, to offer as good a pitch as you might get on a county ground. That is the fruit of many seasons' co-operative labour, pushing the heavy farm roller every evening after practice, under the expert advice of Mr. Hickmott, formerly ground man at Mote Park, and, even now, though well past the allotted span, capable of opening the innings with his twin brother, and driving the first three balls, one after the other, smack against the garden. railings, in the forthright Victorian style of 'W. G'. or 'Hammond.'

For sheer, undiluted enjoyment, on which, looking back, one does not grudge a moment of time spent, give me those Saturday afternoons with the Fartherwell Hall cricket team; that band of brothers recruited, in those pre-war days, mainly from about the house and farm, and the neighbouring village of Offham though with the occasional reinforcement of outsiders of county and even of test match standing; for our distinguished neighbour, Ted Humphries of East Malling, was not too grand, on days when Kent had finished with its opponents before lunch, to take a hand in our more light-hearted contests. I can only say, for my own part, that however worried or anxious I might ever have been feeling about anything, I could always reckon with certainty on throwing it off my mind from the first ball bowled until fall of the last wicket. At least, up to this particular afternoon. For though this match was always the most keenly contested of the season, i found myself, for the first time, utterly unable to concentrate my thoughts on the business in hand. For there was one supreme question that kept turning itself over and over in my mind, though I was well aware that the answer would only too soon be forthcoming.

For this Saturday was the first day of the month of August, in the year 1914. The scene was so peaceful and carefree what with the limes and wych elms that cramped the dimensions of our little ground and' made such easy fours when you were lucky enough to hit a branch, the benches and seats, filled by spectators wholly absorbed in the game, and my oId home smiling as serenely in the background as it had for these past thirty years-that it was almost impossible to imagine the boom of guns reverberating far away over the Blue Danube that had lately been linked with such different associations; to think of grey clad armies mobilizing all over the vast spaces of Southern - but as yet, by the Grace of God, no more than Southern Russia; of the 'Grand Fleet that His Majesty had lately. been reviewing, stripped for action, and heading under sealed orders for its unknown battle station- not to speak of a certain other fleet of whose whereabouts and proceedings there was as yet no hint, but which might at any' moment now .... what was it one half expected to hear out there, beyond Chatham and the Nore? Whatever it was, 'was no excuse for letting one's •attention wander at second slip!

It had all come so suddenly! Only just over a week ago it had been that I had gone down to King's - my Fellowship having expired a year before and the vacant place been filled by Rupert Brooke - to play against the Trinity dons, and I had read in the Common Room the incredible ultimatum that Austria had presented to what was then called Servia. The whole thing had seemed too fantastic to be taken seriously! One could understand the feelings of the poor, bereaved old Emperor; but this was going to 'be very awkward, another of those crises of which one had hoped to have seen the last. No doubt it would be settled somehow like all the others. But would it? During the next few days things had seemed to be taking a more and more ominous turn. Russia had begun to loom up in arms on the Austrian flank, and that meant what, unless Europe had gone mad, was so plainly absurd that. . .
But it had only been on the evening of Thursday - the day before yesterday - that the report of the sudden, unprecedented decision, in Parliament, to sink all differences on the home and even the Irish front, had made it plain that this was no ordinary crisis, but that in all human probability, the European avalanche had acquired too great a momentum to be stopped short of - dared one even say the Channel?

And yet for the last two days life had gone on just as usual, to the accompaniment of wild rumours, started nobody knew how: the British and French Mediterranean fleets had met somewhere off Malta, dipped flags, and joined company, sounds of distant firing having been subsequently reported; one of those who did know such things, knew for a fact that three German Zeppelins had been discovered in the sky over Essex, and that our aviators had been under orders not to fire on them; somebody who had just come from Folkestone professed to have seen the whole French fleet steaming eastward through the Straits-for what purpose one could only guess.

One must keep one's head and try to see things in proportion. There were two anchors of hope; two things that had not happened - and so long as these did not, nothing could! Mobilizing the fleet was an obvious precaution - a firebrand like Churchill, with all his faults, could be trusted for that; but the real test was still to come. No Government, not even this Government, that believed war to be imminent, would neglect to mobilize the army. And there were no signs as yet of that happening. And what was even more important, Germany, without whom no quarrel in the Balkans could become European, had given no sign except - which did give one a certain qualm - to turn down Grey's suggestion of a Four Power Conference.

But Germany had so far given no positive sign. Even the Kaiser, for once in his life, was quiet. And the Kaiser might prefer to handle things in his own way. He was said to be in touch with the Tsar. And no doubt he felt that he could soothe down poor old Francis Joseph more easily without the aid of potential enemies.

No-so long as the army remained unmobilized, and Germany did not move, nothing could happen. The crisis was just a crisis; and the fact that nothing had happened might mean that the worst was already over: every hour now that the collapse was postponed increased the hope of recovery.

But another sort of crisis was beginning to develop. I hope it was not due to my slack handling of the team; but when it got to the stage of my putting myself on to bowl, it meant that the time had come for desperate remedies. Perhaps I may have been a little influenced by the fact that my Father, who had been standing umpire, and had a theory, that he seldom neglected to expound with some candour in case of an appeal, that I was physically incapable of getting anybody leg before, had been forced to go off on one of the many local activities that had absorbed his energies since the expiry, three years ago, of his last command.

The batsman was just taking his guard for left-hand round, and I was marking with my heel the start of my run, when:

"Please, sir, Major G-- says he wants to see you at once."
Major G--! Who on earth was Major G--? The name conveyed nothing to me. Nor was I much enlightened by the sight of a stocky gentleman, with a preoccupied expression, who was standing by the lawn gate. I tossed the ball to another bowler, and hurried in the direction indicated.
I started to say something by way of greeting, but he cut me short:
"Know where I can get into touch with the General?"
I said I didn't know where he had gone, but that I knew he would not stay away from this game longer than he could help.
"Well, can you give him this message from me the moment he arrives? We're mobilizing."
God! One anchor gone already!
"And we want to know if he'll undertake the remounts for Kent."

It may have been owing to the fact that my intended change of bowling had not materialized, that the innings came to an end before my Father had returned. I took care to put myself low enough in the batting order to enable me, with a clear conscience, to dash off on my bicycle into the neighbouring town of Malling.
When I returned I found my Father standing where the Major had been.
"Hullo," he said, "what's the latest?"
"The papers haven't arrived," I said, "but there's a notice just posted up in the window of Oliver's shop, that the Kaiser has declared Germany to be in a state of siege - whatever precisely that may mean."
"It means that the Germans have started to mobilize." "But that needn't imply .... "
"Mobilization means war. Not that, Lloyd George and Winston mayn't try to stop us yet from coming in with the French;"
I then delivered Major G---'s message.
"Not a bit of it!" he said, "once get Stellenbosched into that, and I shan't see a shot fired. I mean to stand out for a command in the field."
A well-dinted trench helmet, an honoured family relic, testifies to the measure of his success in that endeavour.

For some time we both remained silent, he, I think, genuinely absorbed in the game, I trying to convince myself that all this was really happening. Everybody present, except myself, seemed blissfully unconscious of anything taking place outside their own little world. Perhaps they were not quite so ignorant as I thought. Thirty years later, almost to the day, I was standing on - or perhaps I should say proceeding quite briskly across - this same field, with the whole sky bursting into bouquets of smoke to the accompaniment of the most infernal pandemonium from every point of the compass, with the ripping and coughing solo of two successive buzz-bombs in a bee-line overhead. To me it was an interesting speculation which side was going to bag me first, with the betting heavily on the defence. But just by, on a newly ploughed turnip patch, were a couple of Kentish farm hands, placidly plodding away with their hoes, without even condescending to look up.

However in. those days, I had never thought of anything worse than Zeppelins, and I was perhaps more prone to judge by appearances than I have become since.
"Those fellows," I said, "don't realize what's coming to them.
And in a few days they'll be thinking it's the end of the world."
My Father did not answer for a moment. Then he said in a voice quite different from his ordinary one:
"For many of them it will mean the end of the world;"
A burst of applause; a one-handed catch on the boundary.
Another wicket.
My Father glanced at the score board:
"Time for you," he said, “to put on your pads."

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Progressing Backward

In 1925 Gertrude Jekyll remarked about the roads…

The road was a kind of world in itself, full of personnel incident and human story. Now nearly all of this is swept away: much that went by is now carried by rail and the roads are rendered offensive and unsightly by the petrol traffic and its needs.

Our roadsides, formerly beautiful with wild flowers and grasses, are now defiled with heaps of rank-smelling tarred stones and collections of empty tar barrels, the roads themselves are offensive with a half-stiffing tar, and their edges are harshly defined by a pitiless line of cement blocks. So much for modern improvement everything for haste and hurry – nothing for peace and quiet enjoyment and use of life. Surely there was truth in the mouth of the wise man who said we were ‘progressing backward’!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Lord Kitchener's letter to the troops

Every soldier leaving for the front during 1914-15 received a copy of Lord Kitchener's letter to the troops, it was a brief, soldierlike statement of the standard of conduct which England expected of her fighting men.

This letter was to be considered by each soldier as confidential, and it was to be kept in his Active Service Pay Book :-

“You are ordered abroad as a soldier of the King to help our French comrades against the invasion of a common enemy. You have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your patience. Remember that the honor of the British Army depends upon your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness under fire, but also to maintain the most friendly relations with those whom you are helping in this struggle. The operations in which you are engaged will, for the most part, take place in a friendly country, and you can do your own country no better service than in showing yourself, in France and Belgium, in the true character of a British soldier.

Be invariably courteous, considerate, and kind. Never do anything likely to injure or destroy property, and always look upon looting as a disgraceful act. You are sure to meet with a welcome and to be trusted; and your conduct must justify that welcome and that trust. Your duty cannot be done unless your health is sound. So keep constantly on your guard against any excesses. In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women. You must entirely resist both temptations, and while treating all women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy. “

Do your duty bravely.

Fear God.

Honour the King.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Battle of The Boots

During the war friendly rivalries emerged over different styles and equipment between the allies. Bean in his official ‘Australia in the First World War’ mentions about the ‘Battle of the Boots’ between the Australian and the British Army.

‘There was much controversy among experts as to whether the Australian service boot was inferior to the British boot. An English report confidently stated that the boot supplied to the British regiments was ‘the finest boot in the world.’

An equally confident Australian expert reported that ‘Australian boots are absolutely the most comfortable ever issued, and the men receive comfort and correct fit’ There was a real ‘Battle of the Boots’ between rival experts, whose reports upon the departmental file make amusing reading and testify to the conflicts which can rage even about plain matters of fact and experience among men who are undoubted authorities in their trade. Lieutenant-Colonel Leane was instructed to report upon the reports, especially in view of a complaint that had been made that 3,000 pairs of Australian boots were worn out after two marches.
A non-expert reading these reports with a view of determining what was the probable truth may conclude that the differences of opinion arose from making comparisons between boots that had not endured the same kind of service.

A pair of boots which had been several times saturated, and the wearer of which had to march in them several miles over rough cobble-stone roads, went to pieces. Thus, Colonel Leane found that the 3,000 pairs of which complaint was made were worn by the men of a division which had come out of a sector where their boots had become sodden; and, after they had marched from the Somme to the northern area, there was no repairing material available. Consequently, when a parade was ordered, 3,000 men were ineffective because they were without boots. But the same officer also inspected boots which had covered 250 miles and gave no evidence of undue wear. He compared them with boots which had been clump-soled with English leather over the original soles, and these showed the same conditions of wear.

The best judges were probably the infantry, and among them Australian boots were always at a high premium on account of their comfort. The owner of an English factory, who had repaired more than 60,000 pairs of Australian boots for the A.I.F., and many thousands of British boots, reported that in his opinion the sole leather of the former was more porous than that of the British army boot. But the design of the Australian boot was considered generally to be very good, particularly in respect to the pliability of the upper leather during the campaign in Sinai and Palestine there was never any complaint about the pattern or material. On the contrary, the boot was lighter in weight than the British service boot, and was perfectly adapted for hard wear in a dry climate.

The difference of opinion arose when the wet conditions of winter warfare in France imposed on footwear a strain which was extraordinarily destructive. The boot was probably too light at first, but the thickness of the sole leather was afterwards increased and the watertight tongue made higher. These improvements gave the Australian soldier a boot which satisfied the officers of the A.I.F. and more than satisfied their men.’

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Arrested For Carrying a Camera

This article appeared in the West Wimmera Mail, Australia on August 28, 1914. Early in the war there was a lot of fear and suspicion, spies were found everywhere.

Poor Horace Woolmer arrested for carrying a camera near ‘fortifications’ on holiday. A bit silly, some would say, but it could have been a scene from the ’39 steps’.

“Mr. Horace WOOLMER, who is away on holidays, in a letter to his parents at Natimuk, says that when at Botany Bay, New South Wales, he was nearly being placed under arrest as a spy. He had his camera with him and was in the neighborhood of fortifications, when, being regarded with suspicion, he was accosted by a party of cadets.

Fortunately he was able to satisfy the authorities that he came from the peaceful little village of Natimuk, and that he had not the slightest intention of giving the internal arrangements of his country away. “

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Life Expectancy Of A Junior Officer

There has been a common legend that the life expectation of a junior Officer in a front line battalion was only 3 weeks. While it is true that battalions suffered severe losses, Martin Middlebrook in his book 'The Kaiser Battle' points out that the 3 week life expectation is an exaggeration.

He studied an Infantry bridage in the 17th Northern Division. The 10th West Yorks was the 1st Btn listed it served on the Western Front from Aug 1915 until the Armistice, taking part in all the major battles.

It was found that 174 officers joined the battalion as lieutenants or 2nd lieutenants. After the allowances for temporary absence had been made, it was found that the average subaltern spent not 3 weeks but 6-17 months of front line service with the battalion before becoming a casualty or leaving for some other reason. Only 1 in 5 of these subalterns was actually killed and almost half left the battalion unhurt.

Killed 37 (21.3%)
Wounded 48 (27.6%)
Prisoners 6 (3.4%)
Other Reasons 83 (47.7%)

The 'wounded' total does not include those slightly wounded who returned to the battalion. The 'other reasons' include transfer to other units usually trench-mortar, machine-gun, tank or flying units those officers returned to England for various reasons, and those still with the unit at the Armistice. The shortest stay was 2nd Lieutenant Banks who arrives at the battalion on 23 August 1918 and was killed 4 days later.

Although these figures debunk the '3 week theory' it should not be forgotten that the figure of 174 subalterns serving with the 10th West Yorks during a period of 38 months service on the Western Front shows that the battalion had to replace its original complement of junior offices 6 times.

In contrast no 56 squadron RFC which served on the Western Front April 1917 until the Armistice.A total of 109 pilots were included in the survey; a further small number, who were transferred to other squadrons almost as soon as they arrived or who returned home, presumably as unsuitable for front line duties. The average stay with the squadron worked out at 10 weeks. five days.

Killed 45 (41.3%)
Wounded 17 (15.6%)
Prisoners 31 (28.4%)
To home establishments 16 (14.7%)

It can be seen that comparing the 10th West Yorks to the 56 Squadron, being a pilot was far more hazardous that a front line junior officer.

A junior Officer could hope for a stay of 6-17 months, while you were lucky to last beyond 11 weeks as a pilot and if you were not killed, it was more that likely you would be captured.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On the Verge of The First World War

Now Thames is long and winds its changing way
Through wooded reach to dusky ports and gray,
Till, wearily, it strikes the Flats of Leigh,
An old life, tidal with Eternity.

But Fal is short, full, deep, and very wide,
Nor old, nor sleepy, when it meets the tide;
Through hills and groves where birds and branches sing
It runs its course of sunny wandering,
And passes, careless that it soon shall be
Lost in the old, gray mists that hide the sea.

Ah, they were good, those up-stream reaches when
Ourselves were young and dreamed of being men,
But Fal! the tide had touched us even then!
One tribal God, we bow to, thou and we,
And praise Him, Who ordained our lives should be
So early tidal with Eternity.

This poem is from the book Tell
England, by Ernest Raymond written in July 1914 on the verge of the First World War.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Escaping London

In the middle of the 19th century, Arthur Gibbs gives a Victorian view of dream of escaping London.

London is becoming miserably hot and dusty; everybody who can get away is rushing off, north, south, east and west, some to the seaside, others to pleasant country houses. Who will fly with me westwards to the land of golden sunshine and silvery trout streams, the land of breezy uplands and valleys nestling under limestone hills, where the scream of the railway whistle is seldom heard and the smoke of the factory darkens not the long summer days?

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Will Crooks MP in aid of the British Women's Hospital

The British Nursing Journal on 11th March 1916, published this wonderful little story of  a patriotic speech made  in aid of the war effort.


Mr. Will Crooks, M.P., spoke at the concert held at the Alhambra, in aid of the British Women’s Hospital, Star and Garter, Richmond, and showed us our duty to the splendid men fighting and dying for us in this War.

Referring to a conversation he had in France with a wounded soldier, Mr. Crooks said :-

I gathered my feelings up, as it were, and, kneeling down beside the stretcher, I said,   ‘How  do you feel, son ?’

‘All right,’ replied the soldier, ‘I think I’ll be all right, don’t you ?’

‘I am sure you will be all right,’ I said. ‘How long is it since you were hurt ?’

 ‘Four days,’ he replied. ‘But I’ll be better when I get my clothes off, won’t I?’

I turned round. I couldn’t look the man in the face. I said to myself:  ‘What have I done that he should give all that life is worth to fight for me?’

Is bread a little dearer, are taxes a little higher, tea a little dearer, and trade a little worse?

My God, you can never repay these men for what they have done for  us..

Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Gift for Nothing

The Eastbourne Gazette on 19th September 1916 ran this story as this promotion gave away free gifts.

A Gift for Nothing

Readers of “The Visitor” who wish to obtain a gift for nothing should carry a copy of that paper in their hand. Every Saturday morning a representative of “The Visitor” is on look-out for readers of that paper; and those who are found with a copy in their hands will be presented with a ticket entitling them to a gift which may be selected at the shop of Mr. Dover Williams, Terminus Road, or Messers. Metcalfe’s, Grove Road.

“The Visitor” is to be obtained at all local newsagents on Saturday’s price one penny.

The Visitors’ Special Paper

A special paper for visitors at Eastbourne has been provided in “THE VISITOR” which contains a view of all the weeks entertainments and other events, all excursions by steamer, motor-boat, motor-coach and char-a-bang; a description of country walks, railway time-tables (with fares), motor bus; many pictures, programmes of dances and much more interesting matter.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

You can't depend on Automobiles

At the turn of the century many of the London cab-drivers were not convinced by the new motorised ‘horse-less’ new-fangled contraptions:

 In his diary on 15th October 1901, journalist R.D. Blumenfeld recalls a conversation with a cab-driver.

My hansom cab-driver who calls for me every morning at two o’clock after we have sent the paper to press informed me that his brother, who is also a cabman is taking lessons in automobile driving in the hope that some day he will be able to drive a horseless cab. I told him it would be a good idea if he, too, took lessons, but he shouted through the opening at the top that he wasn’t going to waste his money on such foolishness,

“Them automobiles,” he said, “are all right as playthings, but you can’t depend on ‘em. Besides, they are dangerous, and you can’t guarantee getting you’re fare to the place  he wants to reach. You’ll never beat my old ‘orse.”

I wonder if he is right.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Enormous Expenditure on Drink

This report was in the Eastbourne Gazette on 23rd September 1916. During the war there were a large number of people in favour of prohibition, this ‘public meeting’ on the Seafront calls for action to be taken.

300 Millions

Enormous Expenditure on Drink

"In presiding over an outdoor meeting held near the Royal Parade bandstand on Saturday evening Dr. Horatio Matthews spoke as a medical man in favour of total abstinence as conductive to the health of the nation. Mr. Alexander Thomson (United Kingdom Alliance) stated that in the first twenty-one months of the war about 2,200,000 tons of barley, maize and rice, and 3,000,000 tons of sugar were wasted in the manufacture of drink. During the same period the nation had spent on intoxication £300,000,000, a sum which represents £500,000 a day. The only remedy was the prohibition of the liquor traffic during the remainder of the war and for six months after the declaration of peace. A memorial in favour of such a measure had been signed by two millions of people. The Rev. A. Butcher also spoke.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Thomson addressed a large gathering near the Grand Parade bandstand. Mr. Walker presided, and the choir of the Baptist Forward Mission attended to leading the singing."

Sunday, 15 July 2012

ANZAC Biscuit

Over at the excellent Australian War Memorial Blog  this article gives a great insight into the Australian tradition of baking ANZAC biscuit’s and what the soldier’s actually were given.

“The biscuit that most of us know as the ANZAC biscuit is a sweet biscuit made from rolled oats and golden syrup. These must not be confused with that staple of soldiers’ and sailors’ rations for centuries, the hardtack biscuit.

To deal with these rather unpalatable objects first, hardtack biscuits are a nutritional substitute for bread, but unlike bread they do not go mouldy. And also unlike bread, they are very, very hard.

On Gallipoli, where the supply of fresh food and water was often difficult to maintain, hardtack biscuits became notorious. So closely have they been identified with the whole Gallipoli experience that they are sometimes known ANZAC tiles or ANZAC wafer biscuits. Hence the confusion with the sweet biscuit.

There is actually nothing wafer-like about hardtack biscuits. Soldiers often devised ingenious methods to make them easier to eat. A kind of porridge could be made by grating them and adding water. Or biscuits could be soaked in water and, with jam added, baked over a fire into “jam tarts”. Not at all like Mum used to make, but better than nothing.

Strange as it seems, the Australian War Memorial holds in its collection a range of hardtack biscuits from the First World War. So durable are they that soldiers used them not just for food, but for creative, non-culinary purposes. The texture and hardness of the biscuits enabled soldiers to write messages on them and send them long distances to family, friends, and loved ones.

Soldiers also used the biscuits as paint canvases and even as photo frames. One such biscuit features the use of wool and bullets to create a picture frame. Another was used as a “Christmas card” and had a tropical scene painted on it.”

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Soldier's Jam, Cheese and Tea

This is an article from the Times dated 15th October 1917 about supplying the Army with the essentials of Jam, Cheese and Tea.

The amounts that are quoted are gigantic but these reports did keep the public informed what was required whilst they felt the ‘tight belt’ of rationing.



Although at present housekeepers at home are finding some difficulty in getting supplies of such articles of food as bacon. Butter, margarine, sugar and tea, they will have no other feeling but one of pleasure that our soldiers at the front have never fared better that they are doing to-day.

From an authoritative source we learn that the soldier’s rations made up of about two dozen articles of food. Meat and bread are the chief items but the are supplemented by cheese, bacon, jam and many other things not leaving out rum, the value of which as an antidote to damp and cold, first learned by our experience in the Crimea, has been confirmed by three winters in France and Flanders.

In supplying the Armies with food whole industries have had to reorganized, business methods drastically revised, and the resources of the Empire mobilized in a remarkable manner. In the case of jam the manufactures, who are working in cooperation, are supplied by sugar by the Government and the Government also pays the actual cost of packing and delivery to and from the works and of the fruit. The fruit id bought by the manufactures jointly after mutual agreement as to the prices offered. The manufacturer realizes his profit on a fixed rate paid per 100lb.


Packing has been a difficulty. At first tins were used, but tin is scare and the jam is now packed in ‘papier mache’ containers. Nearly two million ponds of jam are sent to France every week and in April this year the contacts department of the War Office had ordered 260,000,000 lb. Twelve kinds are issued, among which strawberry now preponderates.

A daily cheese ration of 3 oz. had meant, up to the beginning of this year, the purchase of 167,000,000 and between one and two million pounds of chesses are being sent every week to the Army in France alone. With the exception of Dutch cheese, this is chiefly obtained from the Board of Trade’s purchases in Canada and New Zealand.

The supply of the soldier’s tea, of which the daily ration is just over half an ounce, is remarkable for the extent to which the army has been called on to take the business of the tea merchant into its own hands. Originally the Contracts branch bought tea blended and packed ready for issue to the troops. At a later stage the tea was brought where it lay, collected by Army transport and blended under a centralized system. This arrangement prevailed until recently, when a further rise in freights induced the War Office to import their own tea, placing orders directly with the growers in India and Ceylon and arranging for transport with the Admiralty. In this way the War Office has assumed the whole of the function of the tea-merchant. More than half a million pounds of tea are sent weekly to the Army in France. Before the War Office became its own tea merchant, single orders for a million pounds were no uncommon thing. The demand has grown with the growth of the Armies and the War Office has modified or changed its methods as developments required.”

Friday, 13 July 2012

That Ration Fatigue

This excellent little article comes from the great book “Bullets & Billets" By Bruce Bairnsfather.

Here he describes the trenches in Belgium and at the undesirable job of being on a ‘Ration Party’.


They seemed to me long, dark, dismal days, those days spent in the Douve trenches; longer, darker and more dismal than the Plugstreet ones. Night after night I crossed the dreary mud flat, passed the same old wretched farms, and went on with the same old trench routine. We all considered the trenches a pretty rotten outfit; but every one was fully prepared to accept far rottener things than that. There was never the least sign of flagging determination in any man there, and I am sure you could say the same of the whole front.

And, really, some jobs on some nights wanted a lot of beating for undesirability. Take the ration party's job, for instance. Think of the rottenest, wettest, windiest winter's night you can remember, and add to it this bleak, muddy, war-worn plain with its ruined farms and shell-torn lonely road. Then think of men, leaving the trenches at dusk, going back about a mile and a half, and bringing sundry large and heavy boxes up to the trenches, pausing now and again for a rest, and ignoring the intermittent crackling of rifle fire in the darkness, and the sharp "phit" of bullets hitting the mud all around. Think of that as your portion each night and every night. When you have finished this job, the rest you get consists of coiling yourself up in a damp dug-out. Night after night, week after week, month after month, this job is done by thousands.

As one sits in a brilliantly illuminated, comfortable, warm theatre, having just come from a cosy and luxurious restaurant, just think of some poor devil half-way along those corduroy boards struggling with a crate of biscuits; the ration "dump" behind, the trenches on in front. When he has finished he will step down into the muddy slush of a trench, and take his place with the rest, who, if need be, will go on doing that job for another ten years, without thinking of an alternative. The Germans made a vast mistake when they thought they had gauged the English temperament.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Ryan Adams and Music is like making a Pizza

Singer songwriter Ryan Adams in an interview with the New Zealand’s Volume Anthonie Tonnon lets us into his the secret of his dong writing genius. It turns out like everything in life it can be explained with food.

"What I love about Adams is that while most people will be drawn first to his mainstream façade, there are further worlds to delve into. The PAX-AM website is an arcade game-themed site where messages are signed off by Bongo the Snowman. On Twitter, Adams more often than not talks about obscure metal bands, and recently recorded a cover 'Round and Round' by '80s hair metal band RATT for NPR. What I wanted to know was how these diverse versions of Ryan Adams fed into each other. To make a strong traditional album like Ashes and Fire, did it take letting you record a metal album? But Adams wasn't impressed.

"The best way I can explain this is this - wouldn't it be odd if you were interviewing a new interesting chef making French food, but if you talked to the guy and said, 'Have you ever cut up a potato and made French fries or have you ever made a pizza?'"

Well, at least I prompted him to turn a metaphor.

"Part of the joy of music is listening to lots of different kinds of music and learning from it. Specifically for me, I like writing songs that move me, and what moves me are beautiful songs on the piano or the guitar and really, really heavy music."

In a good interview, like a good conversation, you usually have to abandon the script and let things go where they will. Perhaps if we'd kept talking about The Strokes I wouldn't be hanging up the phone in a cold sweat. But would that be a real Ryan Adams interview? I'm not sure it would."
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