Category Archives: History

Letchworth (a footnote to John Buchan)

In John Buchan’s  Mr Standfast (1919), Richard Hannay is sent on an undercover mission to ‘the Garden City of Biggleswick’, to live among the   high-minded pacifists who set the place’s tone. One of the residents describes the city: ‘It is one great laboratory of thought,’ said Mrs Jimson. ‘It is glorious to feel that […]

‘The Tribunal’

Councillor Hopwood (to a conscientious objector at Shaw Tribunal, asking for exemption): I think you are exploiting God to save your own skin. It is nothing but deliberate and rank blasphemy. A man who would not help to defend his country and womankind is a coward and a cad. You are nothing but a shivering […]

The Women Police, and Warwick Deeping

It’s a hundred years since the introduction of women police in Britain, and there will be a documentary about their history on BBC4 next Monday. I wonder whether the programme will explain how very unpopular they were at first, especially with women. An interesting essay by Clare Langley-Hawthorne fills in the history. The first female […]

‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on tour

It’s over fifty years since I first saw Oh What a Lovely War at Wyndham’s Theatre in London. The anniversary revival at Stratford East gained some good reviews last year, so I took the opportunity yesterday to catch up with the touring version of the production at  Manchester Opera House. I went with mixed feelings. […]

Logistics and Support

Almost all writing about the War is about the sharp end – the fighting. The only novel I’ve read that is set in a labour battalion is Robert Keable’s Simon called Peter (and the subject of that is the chaplain’s sexual awakening, rather than the essential forestry work carried out by the soldiers who are […]

Murderous Tommies

The Manual of Military Law published by the War Office in 1914 explicitly stated: The object of military law is to maintain discipline among the troops and other persons forming part of or following an army. Inevitably there were occasions when this objective clashed with what today we think of as the human rights of […]

Churchill on the Kaiser

‘At every crisis he crumpled. In defeat he fled; in revolution he abdicated; in exile he remarried.’

Gertrude Harris

A remarkable lady died on Tuesday, at the age of 101. Gertrude Harris campaigned for many years to clear the name of her father, Harry Farr, who had been executed by firing squad in 1916. Eventually her efforts, and those of others, persuaded Des Browne, then Minister of Defence, to issue a blanket pardon for […]

Adventures of War: With Cross and Crescent

It was early in September of 1912 that Europe became alarmed by the menace of war [….] Macedonia, that vague and troublesome territory which for centuries has been the theatre of guerrilla warfare, of vendettas, of massacres and murders between Christians and Turks, was to be the cause of quarrel… Adventures of War: With Cross […]

War correspondents in the First Balkan War

There has been much discussion here recently about the (sometimes good, sometimes awful) paintings of C. R. W. Nevinson. By chance, the book I’m currently reading has a photograph of his father, Henry Nevinson, the distinguished war correspondent. Here he is with Horace Grant and Philip Gibbs and two unknown Serbians, getting ready to report […]

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