Christmas 1914: Chandos Hoskyns in the Trenches


My maternal grandfather, Chandos Hoskyns was commissioned into The Rifle Brigade [Greenjackets] in 1914. During The Great War, he fought in Thessaloniki, Greece, and in the trenches of France from where he sent the following letter in which he tells his family about something surprising and unusual.

2nd Bn Rifle Bde.
25th Inf Bde.
8th Divn.
Brit. Exp. Force

[Xmas 1914]

Darling all!

I hope you got my Xmas letter all right only I hear Grannie sent it on, the one thing I did not want done as I particularly wanted you all to get it together on Xmas day.

I am sending you the IVth Corps Xmas Card – rather a crude drawing I’m afraid but you’ll find it rather interesting as it has on it all the signatures of the other company officers. It will be rather nice to keep won’t it. E P Watts 53rd Sikhs (FF) is attached to us as second in command of the company. He is a topper. He is in the Indian Army (FF = Frontier Force) & as hard as nails.

I got a topping letter from Mr Gilbert at the same time as your last one. Just after I got it a frantic [?] note came from HQRS “Stand to arms at once!! this was in the trenches. Apparently an aeroplane of ours had been reconnoitring & had seen masses of G’s troops concentrating behind the village in front of us. Great excitement. That night patrols went out to find out what they could. One came back saying the Germans were cutting their own barbed wire entanglements to get through preparatory to making an attack. However nothing happened. On our right some miles away the line was heavily attacked. Later on a funny thing happened. A patrol went, (trembling in every limb) got quite close to the enemy and actually heard — (another thrilling instalment in our next issue) a man playing a penny whistle & man singing!

Well there is no more news to tell. We are resting now after 6 days running in trenches. By Jove the dirt – One almost walks about without meaning to.

Much love to all

Your loving


I am indebted to Tony Allen of World War I Postcards for the use of both images.

Chandos Hoskyns was the son of Benedict and Dora Hoskyns of the Sicilian Earthquake feature.


Sarah Vernon © 20 June 2014

The Death of Rome’s Greatest Orator

December 7th, 43 BC

Marcus Jullis Cicero was the greatest orator of the late Roman Republic. In his capacity, as a statesman, lawyer, scholar and writer, he tried desperately to champion Republican principles and justice in the final civil wars of the Republican period. He exposed much corruption, earning him the scorn of Sulla, which caused him to flee Rome for the safety of Athens. He eventually returned to Rome, after Sulla’s death, and a decade or so later in the year 66 B.C, he would viciously denounce the decadent Catiline, who aimed to overthrow the government. With his own self-importance growing, he alienated important figures in the Senate, which resulted in charges raised against him for ordering the killing of Roman citizens during these turbulent years. He was exiled and eventually invited back by…

Source: What happened this month in history?

Tommy Flowers | The East End

The young German sat in the communication hut in Athens at the end of October 1941, and took out a complicated machine of wheels and cogs. Plugging in his coding machine, he began to transmit a message of around 4000 characters to a secret Army location in Vienna. Annoyingly, after a few minutes, he received an uncoded message back from the recipient asking for retransmission as his message had not been received correctly. He shook his head in frustration and with a degree of irritation began to transmit the entire message again forgetting, in doing so, to alter the key settings for the machine. It was the break the staff at the code breaking HQ at Bletchley Park in the UK had been waiting for. The details that needed to be broken were fed into Colossus, the huge electronic computer, designed and built by Tommy Flowers – one of the East End’s – and the world’s unsung heroes.

Tommy Flowers was born a few days before Christmas on…

Source: Tommy Flowers | The East End

5 of August 1824 Greek War of Independence #Onthisday | GroovyHistorian

Originally posted on GroovyHistorian.

5 of August , 1824 : Greek War of independence : Constantine Kanaris leads a Greek fleet to victory against Ottoman and Egyptian Ships in the battle of Samos. via 5 of August 1824 Greek War of Independence #Onthisday | GroovyHistorian.

“They came out of a clear sky…”

Kolimbari, Crete © Francis Drake

Kolimbari, Crete © Francis Drake

British photographer Francis Drake has written a book — Arriving Unexpectedly: Meandering Through Crete — about his experiences on the Greek island during the 1980s and ’90s and has kindly allowed me to post this extract about a memorable conversation he had with a local fisherman in Kolimbari about the German invasion of his beautiful homeland.

Kostas smiled and went on in his heavily accented, but perfectly understandable English. “But you try to speak Greek that is good. Mostly it is the English who try to speak Greek.” He blew out a lungful of pungent tobacco smoke. “You know the history of you English in our land?”

“A little,” I replied. My father had been in the Royal Navy and although he wasn’t in the Battle of Crete, I had grown up hearing many stories of the sea, including those of HMS York and HMS Kelly together with something of the allied land forces.

Kostas snorted. “There was not a big sea battle. There was not even a big land battle; not like there was in North Africa and Italy but,” his voice was still for a moment. “But what there was bound us together forever. We Cretans and you English. People of two islands. He turned and shouted over his shoulder through the open doorway. A tiny little woman dressed in clothes so black that she seemed like a hole in space stepped out of what I had at first thought was a ruined house.

“Anna.” He spoke in Greek in his deep steady voice. I caught the words krasi, calamari and mezes. We were in for refreshments. The classic mistake is to confuse the words ‘Kala mera’ and ’Calamari’…

… So we ate and sat with the scents of harbour and land in our nostrils, the sun hot on exposed skin, and listened to a tale, which still echoes in my mind down the years.

Kostas took a drink and settled back. The air was clear and warm with the faint scent mix of smells so characteristic, herbs, sea, cooking and the ‘burnt’ smell of dust.

“They came,” Kostas began abruptly, “out of a clear sky and they could not be stopped in the air. You had no aeroplanes here. Your Generals did not listen to your Winston Churchill. The politicians,” he cleared his throat as if to spit on the floor, thought better of it and drank a little more wine. “The politicians got it wrong as always and our own soldiers were trapped on the mainland. Across there,” he pointed unerringly in spite of his blindness across the corner of the bay in the direction we had come from, “is where it all began. Maleme, the old airfield. Out of the sky in their thousands they fell, those German paratroopers. They descended like the seeds of the flowers, but they fell to sow death, not life; and like the dragons teeth of legend they grew up and no matter how many were killed, they kept on coming. You English and the Australians and New Zealand men fought like the devil and we, men, women and children stood alongside you. We had our father’s fathers’ guns, rifles, muskets, our scythes, our forks and spades. As they fell like the rain, so they died; for they never did understand the Cretan, or the English. The fact that no situation is without hope, where courage grows with each stroke and is present as an army where even one man is left standing!” Sightless eyes gazed at scenes we could not see. His voice thicker, Kostas went on. “For the life of the land is always present in him or her and the God loves them.” He drank deeply of the glass that Anna had topped up for him. I reflected on his story. Heavy as his English was, it couldn’t hide the soul of a Homer. In this old man lived a storyteller worthy of that ancient Greek tradition of oral history and the ‘Praise Singers’ who faithfully related it word-perfect at the fireside down the centuries. Kostas wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “Do you know what happened then?” he asked.

Kolimbari Monastery © Francis Drake

Kolimbari Monastery © Francis Drake

“They occupied the island,” I replied quietly for we were not just getting a history lesson, no, we were in the presence of tragedy.

He cocked his head to one side looking for my meaning.

“Held it,” I added. His time-worn hand reached for mine and gripped it in a clasp of iron.

“Ochi,” he replied vehemently. “They murdered a people; future generations.” He snarled the words and his hands clenched until the knuckles showed white against his nut-brown hands. I thought my bones would crack. “But they paid a price. Many thousands of them lie beneath the earth of Crete and two thousand of your countrymen and from Australia and New Zealand lie beneath the grass at Souda. Thousands of our own people lie in graves as well… and some only the God knows where they rest. For four years they believed they held Crete, but they never held her, not in spirit, no matter how many they starved or murdered. For although it was war, what they did was murder. With our English friends in the mountains we fought on and even as they murdered our children, and our future, they were losing the battle. The God does not miss these things and they were losing. Four years it took! Four years, but they lost!” He said it with immense satisfaction. “You see my house and my neighbour’s? They were damaged then and we still struggle to win back our future. My sons died in those years as did many here. Have you seen the old empty houses in the hillsides? They are left as a memorial. The families they belonged to were murdered. Torn out of their houses, men, women and children. Lined up and shot. My neighbour had two sons, nine and eleven years. They went out to play after the curfew. A Nazi shot them both. Two little boys.”

The food was untouched as the story unfolded in a mixture of Greek and English. Kostas held us in thrall with the horror of that time. He had fought on these beaches and then in the mountains. His sight had failed a few years past but his memory was clear and his passion and that of his fellow islanders obvious. My throat was closed by the sense of pain and misery echoing down the years and from the corner of my eye I saw Jenny wipe away a tear. Ancient, silent Anna spoke not a word but placed her wrinkled hand lovingly on Kostas’s. They entwined with the ease and comfort of young lovers.

Kostas cleared his throat again. “I think that you are young and do not remember, but I think you understand, (my first memory is being snatched out of a warm cot, wrapped in a dressing gown and carried down into a stinking Anderson Shelter). The English will be forever our brothers because we bled together. Our blood stained our clothes, mingled on our hands and joined in the soil of the island. We have stood together and died together. Two island peoples. Two peoples who will never bow to might and what is wrong, but will always look to the horizon for freedom.”

I wished with all my heart that it might be so but thought of the stupid laws and regulations that were imposed on us daily to curb just such freedoms, curbing initiative and creativity by governments who grew more paranoid by the day and feared above all things a truly free people. They would so much rather every person became a cipher carefully documented and regulated every minute of life. One visit was now due. I would go to Souda and Maleme to the War Graves soon.

Francis Drake © 2014

Among the Quick and the Dead

Patrick Leigh Fermor

If you are coming to the end of a celebrated life, chances are that someone has already suggested writing your biography – a thought, as Oscar Wilde pointed out, that lends a new terror to death. The print run will be measured in thousands, and modern readers feel shortchanged unless all is revealed: sex, money, secrets, skeletons and dirty linen. The prospect is appalling but once you are dead, you probably won’t mind so much.

By Artemis Cooper

First published in The London Library Magazine, Spring 2013

I was commissioned to write the life of Elizabeth David by her literary executor, Jill Norman, in 1995 – by which time Mrs David had been in her grave for three years, and her papers had been expertly catalogued by Jill’s partner, the writer and book-dealer Paul Breman. Housed in two long rows of matching box-files, the archive marched the entire length…

View original post 1,948 more words

The Greek War of Independence and an awesome military parade

Effrosyni's blog

The_sortie_of_Messologhi_by_Theodore_Vryzakis Theodoros Vryzakis (The Sortie of Messologhi, National Gallery of Athens)

Last week, I visited Athens center on a very special occasion. It was March 25th, the national holiday that commemorates the Greek War of Independence.

In 1821, Greece was enslaved to the Ottoman Empire for a period of four centuries. Thanks to the Ypsilantis brothers, both princes and officers of the Russian Army, the Greek Revolution that had been a precious dream of the enslaved Greeks for generations, finally came to be. In the monastery of Agia Lavra in Kalavryta, Bishop Paleon Patron Germanos raised the banner of the Revolution on March 25th, 1821.

260px-Epanastasi Theodoros Vryzakis (oil painting, 1852, Benaki Museum, Athens)

The rest, as they say, is history. Associated with the Greek Revolution is a series of army and naval leaders that have come to be celebrated as heroes in the hearts of the Greeks. Names such as…

View original post 542 more words

Why is Lord Elgin an abomination to the Greeks?

Effrosyni's blog


To the Greeks, the name Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, is an abomination, the likes perhaps, of only Lucifer himself. Lord Elgin, as he is more famously known, is notorious in my country for his enormous blundering appetite that was coupled by an equally enormous lack of regard for the Parthenon treasures.

Having acquired a paper of questionable validity (i.e. a mere letter signed by a pasha as opposed to a firman signed by a sultan – the only document that could have authorized him properly within the Othoman Empire), he didn’t hesitate to remove from the Parthenon far more than anyone could have ever imagined possible. Furthermore, he caused irreversible damage to the sculptures that were taken off the friezes. By instructing the workers to remove the posterior side from these treasures (obviously, he thought only the frontal side was of any value!), he thus managed to…

View original post 974 more words

Alexander the Great virtual museum to be completed end of 2015, archaeologist says |

The virtual museum for Alexander the Great, which through the internet will present the personality and the legacy of the Macedonian king to the whole world, is expected to be completed at the end of 2015, archaeologist, head of the Imathia Antiquities Ephorate and initiator of the project Angeliki Kottaridou said on Monday at an event held at Ianos bookstore.

A five hour documentary, seven thematic units, 304 objects which will serve as a starting point to unfold aspects of the Hellenistic world and 3,500 texts make up the virtual museum that will run through the centuries, from the beginning of Macedonia until the modern time references to Alexander the Great.

Apart from the virtual museum, Kottaridou also referred to the Polycentric Museum of Aigai, the building of which will be completed this year.

“The idea was to create an open museum that is in discourse with the visitors and embraces the whole region. We are creating units scattered around, a vast archaeological park of 50 hectares including the tomb cemetery,” she explained.

She also commented on the excavation at the ancient Amphipolis site. Kottaridi estimated that the tomb includes more than one phase and that the findings date back to the 2nd century BC.

She also criticized the excavation team for “taking the hypothesis as a given fact”, as she said.

“The case of Amphipolis showed us some sociological boundaries and what happens when…

via Alexander the Great virtual museum to be completed end of 2015, archaeologist says |

Mediterranean Diet an Ancient Greek Invention, University of Exeter Study Says |

Ancient Greek doctors were the ones who invented the infamous Mediterranean diet, as Hippocratic physicians used rich flavors in food in order to treat their patients, a new study from the British University of Exeter revealed, according to the Daily Mail.

The experts at the University of Exeter studied texts of ancient Greek doctors and found that they believed rich flavors could improve the food’s nutritional potency, while one of them, Galen of Pergamon, prescribed food recipes containing garlic and onions to patients. According to the same study, their work laid the principals of modern Mediterranean cooking, considered among the world’s healthiest. At the same time, ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the importance of food in health, while Hippocrates said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

As Professor John Wilkins, an expert on Greek Culture at the University of Exeter, explained to Daily Mail, ancient Greek physicians “take flavor as a measure of nutritional potency because that property of astringency in unripe apples or pungency in onions…

via Mediterranean Diet an Ancient Greek Invention, University of Exeter Study Says |