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war

Whenever I go to London by train I see the civil engineering works outside Paddington Station for the new Crossrail link. There is a big hole ready to take the giant German-made tunnelling machines which will soon start work boring the Crossrail  tunnels under London. These amazing pieces of engineering are often scrapped after their job is done. They are far too large to fit in any museum, so we have a model of the similar machines used to bore the Channel Tunnel in the 1990s.  However, at our Large Object store at […]

My post on January 21st marked the anniversary of the execution of King Louis XVI. Clearly, January was a bad month for European monarchs historically, as the 30th marks the anniversary (the 362nd!) of the be-heading of another flamboyant ruler – Charles I of England – in 1649. The battered little heart-shaped jet pendant amulet above commemorates this particular royal execution. It would have been worn as a piece of mourning jewellery and, like other memento mori, a reminder of death […]

Many of us will start the new year pledging to eat (and drink?) a bit less after the indulgences of Christmas. We should spare a thought for Britons in January 1940 when, after the first Christmas of the Second World War, food rationing was introduced on January 8th.  Originally restricted to favourites such as bacon, butter and sugar, other products were added to the list as the war dragged on. Issued nationally in October 1939, ration books became an indispensable – if […]

Today is Armistice Day, more recently known as Remembrance Day. An event that always brings focus to the simple and terrible reality of the First World War – and of all subsequent wars – the overwhelming loss of human life.  I recently posted about the remains of a frontline medical unit I saw on a trip to Belgium. While such wartime remnants can be found, the most prominent features across that scarred landscape today are the numerous memorials and cemeteries. In the First World War, soldiers were […]

Seventy years ago, the bombing Blitz on Britain was into its second week. London remained the main target and amongst landmarks damaged on the night of September 18th 1940 were the world famous Lambeth Walk and the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street. While across the city, around 200 civilians were killed and 550 injured. Such daily figures were typical in a month that left nearly 6,000 Londoners dead. But although the numbers were horrific, they were a fraction of those […]

The Farnborough Air Show is a biennial jamboree that’s actually more market place than show. It’s where you come to buy aircraft or satellites or spare parts or just about anything you might need if your business is about flying high.  But this year I abandoned the trade halls to watch the Avro Vulcan XH558 bomber take off – its Olympus engines howling like no other jet, and then land, having thrilled the crowds with a beautiful, graceful and yes – […]

I’ve recently returned from a fortnight’s holiday in Belgium (….a terribly underrated destination – no, really). While there, I persuaded my family to spend time exploring the World War One battlefields around Ypres.  I was particularly interested in surviving evidence of frontline medical services. This was once an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), at a site known as Essex Farm. One of the largest surviving groups of military buildings in the area, these damp, claustrophobic structures were comparatively comfortable. Built in 1916, […]