Published on 28 Apr 2016
The secret agreement between France, Britain and Russia that was signed this week 100 years ago was a turning point in the relations to the Arab world. It negated all future promises made by the British and still has consequences 100 years later. The Middle East was becoming more and more important to the British in 1916 and people like T.E. Lawrence are starting to become major players in the background.
April 29, 2016
April 25, 2016
April 24, 2016
Published on 23 Apr 2016
Easter 1916 was a turning point for Ireland and its situation between Home Rule and Irish soldiers serving on the fronts of Gallipoli and the Western Front. And even though the Easter Rising, the first armed uprising against the British was unsuccessful, the spark for Irish nationalism ultimately led to the establishment of the Irish Republic.
April 22, 2016
Last January, Harry Wallop attempted to match Winston Churchill’s daily intake of whisky, Pol Roger champagne, brandy, and sundry other “refreshers”. He found it a challenge beyond his ready ability:
One thing is certain: his fondness for kickstarting the day with what he called “mouthwash” — a weak whisky and soda, which he would take from about 9.30 onwards and keep continually topped up. But the whisky (simple Johnnie Walker, no fancy malt) would only just cover the bottom of the tumbler; the bulk of the drink was soda.
It’s a rather delightful way to start the day, as I discover. Especially, when consumed in bed. Churchill would frequently spend all morning in his dressing gown, under the covers, surrounded by papers and secretaries. He would also happily have meetings while taking a hot bath — a habit I did not attempt to replicate.
Lunch was when the serious drinking began. A whole bottle of champagne was the norm, invariably Pol Roger, a brand Churchill drank from at least 1908. His attachment was cemented in 1944, after meeting Odette Pol-Roger (the grand dame of the champagne house) at the British ambassador’s home in Paris, where the 1928 vintage was served in celebration of the liberation of France. She ensured he was never afterwards short of supplies.
A bottle, however, was for Churchill nearly always a pint-sized one, a fairly common measure until it was phased out by champagne houses in the 1970s. He would often drink it out of a silver tankard, still served this way in some gentlemen’s clubs.
A modern politico drinking like this would already have the horrified attention of his or her M.D., but Sir Winston’s liver may have been the most superhuman part of him:
I then spent the rest of the afternoon (or what was left of it), drinking more whisky and sodas while attempting to write an article — a task I found increasingly difficult. When I returned to it the following day, I discovered it was barely literate with every other word misspelled.
After dressing for dinner (bombs raining down on London was no reason to let standards slip), Churchill would often have a sherry. A glass of Amontillado failed to sharpen my jaded appetite. Worse, I was rather dreading the second pint of champagne over dinner.
I am aware this sounds churlish, but it became progressively joyless to get through all those bubbles. By 9.30pm I was slumped in front of ‘Death in Paradise’, working out if the plot or yet another glass was going to finish me off.
Churchill, by 10pm, would have been moving onto either port or his favourite 90-year-old brandy and at least four hours of hard work.
April 19, 2016
Published on 27 Jan 2013
THE GREATEST RAID OF ALL “What a story it is, straight out of a Commando comic book.” (The Guardian) Jeremy Clarkson tells the story of one of the most daring operations of World War II — the Commando raid on the German occupied dry dock at St. Nazaire in France on 28th March 1942. It was an operation so successful and so heroic that it resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and 80 other decorations for gallantry.
April 17, 2016
April 16, 2016
H/T to American Digest for the link.
April 14, 2016
Published on 12 Apr 2016
After numerous delays I’m finally able to show you HMS Campbeltown, the premium tier 3 Destroyer that led the raid on Saint Nazaire and sealed the fate of the Tirpitz.
April 3, 2016
I read the first volume of Charles Moore’s authorized biography and I was impressed. I’m halfway through the second volume and I’m not enjoying it quite as much as the first. I think that’s a combination of the first volume covering the era I was most interested in (the 1960s and 70s, and the Falklands War) and the second volume covering a lot more of the domestic intricacies of British politics during the 1980s (an “inside baseball” view which I don’t find all that compelling). Terry Teachout didn’t bog down in the middle of volume two, and reports that he’s very impressed with Moore’s work:
Forgive the cliché, but I couldn’t put either book down. I stayed up far too late two nights in a row in order to finish them both — and I’m by no means addicted to political biographies, regardless of subject.
A quarter-century after she left office, Thatcher remains one of the most polarizing figures in postwar history. Because of this, I don’t doubt that many people will have no interest whatsoever in reading a multi-volume biography of her, least of all one whose tone is fundamentally sympathetic. That, however, would be a mistake. Not only does Moore go out of his way to portray Thatcher objectively, but Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography is by any conceivable standard a major achievement, not least for the straightforward, beautifully self-effacing style in which it is written. It is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. Yes, it’s detailed, at times forbiddingly so, but it is, after all, an “official” life, and the level of detail means that you don’t have to know anything about the specific events discussed in the book to be able to understand at all times what Moore is talking about. I confess to having done some skipping, especially in the second volume, but that’s because I expect to return to Margaret Thatcher at least once more in years to come.
One way that Moore leavens the loaf is by being witty, though never obtrusively so. His “jokes” are all bone-dry, and not a few of them consist of merely telling the truth, the best possible way of being funny. […]
He also conveys Thatcher’s exceedingly strong, often headstrong personality with perfect clarity and perfect honesty (or so, at any rate, it seems from a distance). At the same time, he puts that personality in perspective. It is impossible to read far in Margaret Thatcher without realizing that no small part of what made more than a few of Thatcher’s Tory colleagues refer to her as “TBW,” a universally understood acronym for “That Bloody Woman,” was the mere fact that she was a woman — and a middle-class woman to boot. Sexual chauvinism and social snobbery worked against her from the start, not merely from the right but from the left as well (Moore provides ample corroborating evidence of the well-known fact that there is no snob like an intellectual snob). That she prevailed for so long is a tribute to the sheer force of her character. That she was finally booted from office by her fellow Tories says at least as much about them as it does about her.
April 2, 2016
In retrospect the fight against Napoleon seems to have engendered a new strategic method, later employed against Germany in two world wars and against the Soviet Union thereafter. The French might call it the Anglo-Saxon encirclement strategy. Its essential aim was to avoid direct combat with a formidable enemy, or at least to limit engagement to a minimum. Instead of confronting one vast army with another – at Waterloo there were only 25,000 British troops – the Anglo-Saxon approach was to take on the big beast by assembling as many neighbourhood dogs and cats as possible, with a few squirrels and mice thrown in. With the obvious exception of the Western Front in the First World War, that is how the two world wars were fought, with an ever longer list of allies large, small and trivial (e.g. Guatemala, whose rulers could thereby expropriate the coffee plantations of German settlers), and that is how the Soviet Union was resisted after 1945, with what eventually became the North Atlantic Alliance. Like the anti-Napoleon coalition, Nato was – and remains – a ragbag of member states large and small, of vastly different capacity for war or deterrence, not all of them loyal all the time, though loyal and strong enough. Like the challenge to British diplomacy in the struggle against Napoleon, the great challenge to which American diplomacy successfully rose was to keep the alliance going by tending to the various political needs of its member governments, even those of countries as small as Luxembourg, whose rulers sat on all committees as equals, even though they could never field more than a single battalion of troops.
Now it is the turn of the Chinese, whose strength is still modest yet growing too rapidly for comfort, and who are inevitably provoking the emergence of a coalition against them; the members range in magnitude from India and Japan down to the Sultanate of Brunei, in addition of course to the US. Should they become powerful enough, the Chinese will force even the Russian Federation into the coalition regardless of the innate preferences of its rulers, for strategy is always stronger than politics, as it was for the anti-communist Nixon and the anti-American Mao in 1972. China cannot therefore overcome its inferiority to the American-led coalition by converting its economic strength into aircraft carriers and such, any more than Napoleon could have overcome strategic encirclement by winning one more battle. The exact repetition of Napoleon’s fatal error by imperial and Nazi Germany is easily explained: history teaches no lesson except that there is a persistent failure to learn its lessons. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese will do any better.
Edward Luttwak, “A Damned Nice Thing”, London Review of Books, 2014-12-18.
March 30, 2016
It was apparently quite a surprise when Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the BBC TV show Top Gear, came out in favour of Britain staying within the European Union. Patrick West explains why it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all:
While Top Gear was a vehicle in which to issue mischievous slights about Indians and Mexicans, not a series seemed to pass without a snide remark from Clarkson about people from Birmingham. Or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or the north of England. Or the West Country. In fact, anywhere outside London. His Sunday Times column over the years has been the same.
As he once observed: ‘Provincial Britain is probably one of the most depressing places on earth… the towns, with their pedestrian precincts and the endless parade of charity shops and estate agents… There is nothing you want to see. Nothing you want to do. You wade knee-deep through a sea of discarded styrofoam trays smeared with bits of last night’s horseburger… for the most part urban Britain is utterly devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever.’ Here, Clarkson displays all the prejudices of a sneering, metropolitan, right-on BBC comedian. As a paid-up member of the snide establishment, Clarkson is ideal pro-EU material.
Among those who urge us to remain in the EU, a certain type of patrician class has been emerging. Its members may hail from different political traditions, but among them we find rich, privately educated, well-mannered, conspicuously cosmopolitan, paternal and patronising types, people who work in entertainment or big business, and many of whom have a material interest for wanting to remain in the EU: dirt-cheap, servile foreign labour; pliant Czech nannies; and second homes in Tuscany and the south of France.
Ever since Clarkson dropped his Yorkshire accent, he has sought to become part of that elite. And now that he is a member of an executive club, why else wouldn’t he want to remain part of another: the EU?
March 29, 2016
March 28, 2016
Published on 8 Dec 2015
One of a pair of new aircraft carriers that are being assembled in Rosyth, near Edinburgh, is just one year from being completed.
The Queen Elizabeth will be the largest ship that the Royal Navy has ever built, when it is finished in December 2016. The BBC’s Andrew Anderson was given special access to look around the inside of the huge vessel.
March 27, 2016
Published on 23 May 2014
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww1 Dan puts to the test two of the most iconic weapons of the war. The Mauser Gewehr ’98 and the Lee Enfield Short Magazine MkIII were the standard issue rifles for the German and British armies respectively.
March 25, 2016
As with all “top x” lists, there will be some contention over whether they’ve snubbed this or that film or overrated some other film, but overall it’s a pretty good selection:
We could argue all day about the definition of a British War Film and what the best means but for this entirely unscientific list, the definition of a British War Film is one that is largely British in character. They may have been directed by non-British directors, have non-British actors and may even have been made in Hollywood or elsewhere, but they retain that element of Britishness that we all understand. So no Das Boot, Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now or other such great films.
The judging criteria does not include historical accuracy, whether the correct buttons and rank insignia were worn, or whether the film is a ‘visceral and worthy portrayal of the realities of war’ or some other such artsy bollocks, instead, it is simply enjoyability for a wet Sunday afternoon in.
Most of these have a back story that is as good as, if not better, that the film.
Spoiler alert: Zulu came in first. As it bloody well should.