Britain is no country for old men: Britain is no country for a very old Second World War spitfire pilot called Flight Lieutenant Edmund James

Edmund, who is 98 years old, is one of the last remaining fighter pilots from the Second World War. While, at the age of 17, he was too young to fight in the Battle of Britain, Edmund enlisted in the RAF and joined 93 Squadron and based at Biggin Hill he saw action over British waters and above the fields of France during and after D-Day in 1944.

He was involved in …

Source: Britain is no country for old men: Britain is no country for a very old Second World War spitfire pilot called Flight Lieutenant Edmund James

When Christmas was cancelled: what 1647’s riots and rebellion can teach us today

Back in 1647, Christmas was banned in the kingdoms of England (which at the time included Wales), Scotland and Ireland and it didn’t work out very well. Following a total ban on everything festive, from decorations to gatherings, rebellions broke out across the country. While some activity took the form of hanging holly in defiance, other action was …

Source: When Christmas was cancelled: what 1647’s riots and rebellion can teach us today

Christmas 1914: ‘A man playing a penny whistle’ Chandos Hoskyns

  • Chandos Hoskyns at Winchester College
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Benedict Arden Hoskyns

Today I’m commemorating my maternal grandfather Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Hoskyns. This is a letter he wrote to his family in December 1914.  I suspect what’s being describing the start famous ‘Christmas Truce’.  

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!

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

Chan

Lieutenant-Colonel Chandos Hoskyns
1885 – 1940
Lest We Forget

Chan [pronounced ‘Shan’] also fought in the Second World War taking part in the Seige of Calais in 1940 where he was badly wounded. He was transferred to a hospital in Dover and was expected to live by the doctors but he was too concerned about the men under his command still fighting, which hindered his recovery. His death had such an enormous impact on his wife, Joyce Austen Taylor who had already lost her only brother in the First now loses her husband and is devastated. It had a particularly bad effect on my mother, his daughter. It never left her and shaped many of her choices in life. There are more forbears in the wider Hoskyns family who dealt with loss in both wars as with families all over the world.

Sarah Vernon © 11th November 2020

Three faces – The Silent Eye

For November, it was a surprisingly pleasant morning. In need of somewhere to go to stretch our lockdown-cramped legs, we wandered to a neighbouring village to explore its history. Whilst personal preference may direct our attention to the ancient face of the land, it was because of more recent memory that we had landed in Whitchurch… this sleepy little backwater …

Source: Three faces – The Silent Eye

October 21, 1797 USS Constitution – Today in History

USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere 19 August 1812 This painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicts the first victory at sea by the fledgeling US Navy over the mighty Royal Navy.

USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere 19 August 1812 This painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicts the first victory at sea by the fledgeling US Navy over the mighty Royal Navy.

‘…British and French vessels harassed American merchant shipping, kidnapping American sailors and forcing them to serve in their own navies, a practice known as impressment…’

Source: October 21, 1797 USS Constitution – Today in History

John Snow and the Soho Cholera Outbreak of 1854

Contagious disease has long been a very significant problem. Outbreaks would rise and fall, killing many thousands of people, often in limited areas. Prior to the mid 19th century, the thinking was often that disease was caused and transmitted by a miasma – a form of “bad air”.

It took the work of a number of Doctors and Scientists to prove this was not correct and to trace the real cause of disease transmission, and one of these was Dr. John Snow, often called the founding father of …

Source: John Snow and the Soho Cholera Outbreak of 1854

Blue plaque to be unveiled for woman who was Churchill’s ‘favourite spy’ | World news | The Guardian

I meant to post this in the middle of September when it was still current news and then promptly forgot about it!

She was a Polish countess and Churchill’s favourite spy whose many dazzling accomplishments included smuggling microfilm across Europe which proved Hitler’s plans to invade…

Source: Blue plaque to be unveiled for woman who was Churchill’s ‘favourite spy’ | World news | The Guardian

See also: The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley

Book Bite: The Royal Governess | An Historian About Town

 

In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring their Royal Highnesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Her one stipulation to their parents the is that she brings some doses of normalcy into the sheltered and privileged …

Source: Book Bite: The Royal Governess | An Historian About Town

Book Bite: The Woman Before Wallis | An Historian About Town

No matter what is happening in the British royal family, Edward VII and Wallis Simpson seem to come up a lot. And usually not in a favourable way, unfortunately. So, I was quite excited to see a younger, pre-Wallis Edward, in fiction! I’ve chatted about the rise of royal-ish fiction, but this is bonafide royal fiction, and how lovely it is. Today I’m chatting about why you need to read The Woman Before Wallis!

In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and…

Source: Book Bite: The Woman Before Wallis | An Historian About Town

The hidden courtyard of one of England’s best preserved castles – Flickering Lamps

It may not be the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of England’s great castles, but in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton, a fine medieval castle dominates the skyline.  Skipton Castle, the earliest parts of which date from the Norman period, is one of the best-preserved…

Source: The hidden courtyard of one of England’s best-preserved castles – Flickering Lamps

The Victorian Tea “Infomercial” | JSTOR Daily

Recently, far-right commentator Laura Towler claimed to be “chuffed” that Yorkshire Tea had not openly expressed support for Black Lives Matter. Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips (another tea giant) fired back on social media. The former told Towler, “Please don’t buy our tea again”; both companies stated that they “stand against racism.”

Ironically, even though…

Source: The Victorian Tea “Infomercial” | JSTOR Daily

Nazi concentration camp guard convicted over 5,232 murders | World news | The Guardian

A 93-year-old former SS guard has been found guilty of accessory to the murder of 5,232 people at a Nazi concentration camp in the final days of the second world war.

Bruno Dey, who was 17 when he joined Stutthof concentration camp as a guard, was handed a two-year suspended sentence by a youth court in Hamburg on Thursday morning…

Source: Nazi concentration camp guard convicted over 5,232 murders | World news | The Guardian

Secret Spitfires – The Book – solentaviatrix

We’ve had the Secret Spitfires documentary and DVD, then the stage play (Shadow Factories). Now the book is published.

Secret Spitfires: Britain’s Hidden Civilian Army by Karl Howman, Etham Cetintas, Gavin Clarke.The History Press. Hardcover. ISBN: 9780750991995. Also available on kindle…

Source: Secret Spitfires – The Book – solentaviatrix

Thousands of ancient artefacts from Roman treasure to shipwreck bounty to be revealed by X-rays

Thousands of artefacts encased in centuries of concrete-like deposits – ranging from Roman antiquities to the contents of a 280-year-old shipwreck – are to have their secrets revealed by a state-of-the-art X-ray system…

Source: Thousands of ancient artefacts from Roman treasure to shipwreck bounty to be revealed by X-rays

Beaufighter Discovered by Couple Walking on the Beach

Graham Holden and his partner were walking their dog on a Cleethorpes beach when they discovered wreckage that left him “amazed.”

Experts believe that what they found is the remains of an RAF Bristol Beaufighter which crashed shortly after it took off from North Coates in Lincolnshire one day in April 1944. RAF North Coates was located six miles southeast of Cleethorpes when it operated from 1914 until its closure in 1990. The airfield is now operated privately…

Source: Beaufighter Discovered by Couple Walking on the Beach