Saturday, 16 August 2014


 Granite pavement embellishment on the Stone Jetty, Morecambe.  
There are number these whimsical bird plaques with beautiful lettering created by Gordon Young and Russell Coleman.  

One of my favourite birds.  A lapwing flying high with its cry of 'pee-wit' carrying on the breeze down to those of us earthbound.  Look up in springtime and there may be something even better, a pair of lapwings dancing and tumbling  through the air.  In winter they might be spotted near to this Stone Jetty and the mudflats of Morecambe Bay. A bird whose numbers have sadly declined in recent times.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Eee its Tea time

Here I am at the York's medieval city walls and the signs directing those in need of refreshment to Evie's Tea Room, envelopes can be posted on the way past in the double post box.  Nearby is Exhibitions Square the home of the City Art Gallery which is currently closed for a major upgrade until 2015.  This is Bootham Bar
the north west entrance and  one of four gatehouses into York.  In medieval times it restricted traffic into the city, sometimes collecting tolls and in times of war was closed and defended.  Although York's historic centre is its famous attribute it is also a key railway junction halfway between London and Edinburgh on the east coast line so where better to house the national railway collection which includes this  
beast, the enormous steam locomotive KF7, its scale can be judged by the family reading the information board.  It is one of originally 24 designed specifically for the conditions on the Guangzhou-Hankou Railway line in China. Built by the Vulcan Forge of Newton-le-Willows in Lancashire, a company that even had its own railway station (Vulcan Halt).  Completed in the 1930s these engines remained mostly unscathed through the turbulent period of China's history in the 1930s and 40s until they were retired in the 1970s.  There are two known survivors of this class, one in the Beijing Railway Museum and this one in York which was offered back to the UK by the Chinese Government for preservation and arrived in 1981.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at E here


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Here Be Dragons

One of the Dragon boundary marker of the City of London looking both cute and fierce;  not an easy look to pull off.  It holds the City of London's Coat of Arms. The building in the background is a Wetherspoons pub 'The Liberty Bounds'.  Its name refers to the area around and including the Tower of London (which is nearby) that was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London).  It stands close to the site of the 16th and 17th Century scaffold in Trinity Square Gardens where many met an untimely end.  This Portland Stone building was constructed in the early 20th Century for the General Steam Navigation Company, one of whose symbols was the globe seen on the upper story and I'm presuming the eagle above it must have appeared on their crest too .  The company was founded originally for the passenger business and was operating a fleet of 15 steamers in 1825 which were all built down at Deptford Creek
Today the Deptford Creek outlet into the Thames will look very different as there are a lot of new building going up on the waterfront. Some parts of the Thames footpath had  been temporarily diverted when I visited but even winding inland past building sites London never disappoints with a photo opportunity
The perfectly placed poster barricade.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at D here

Sunday, 3 August 2014

At the Seaside

3rd August 1914 - "Germany declares war against France.  German cruiser bombards Libau..."
SMS Augsberg (photo from Europeana)
The cruiser conserned was the SMS Augsberg and the photo shows it after its return to the German Baltic
Swinemünde a
Swinemünde a
port of  Swinemude on 4th August 1914.  The picture is from "War Memories" by Lieutenant Max Kranz.  The port of Swinemude became the Polish city of Świnoujście after World War 2 and the Augsberg's target of Libau is now in Latvia and called Liepāja.  The boundaries of Europe for ever shifting throughout history and no doubt will continue to do so into our unknown future.  Liepāja is known in Latvia as "the city where the wind is born" because of the continuous sea breezes and as an ice free port on the Baltic has been a been a prized possession for military empires. Happily there are only sea festivals and walks on wide sandy beaches today.  The tourist site says it is best enjoyed slowly.

But let me return to the winds of war of this day in 1914

"In reply to a 12 hours ultimatum from Germany (expiring at 7 am), Belgium refuses to allow passage of German troops through her territory and King Albert sends "supreme appeal" to Kind George.  German troops envelope Visé (which was afterwards burnt).  General Joffre, French Commander-in-Chief, leaves Paris for the French frontier.  Grand Duke Nicholas appointed Generalissimo of Russian Army.  Australia offers 20,000 men.  Sir Edward Grey's speech in the House of Commons.  British naval mobilisation complete.  Moratorium Bill passed.  Bank holiday extended to August 7th". 'Our Diary of the War' War Illustrated.

On the actual Bank Holiday Monday of August of 3rd August people were enjoying the sunshine while reading newspaper headlines such as "Europe Drifting to Disaster" and nobody was sure whether Britain was yet definitely engaged in the war. That evening a boat from the Hook of Holland arrived at Harwich carrying 780 passengers instead of the expected 100. Among them were tourists who had been turned back at the French-German frontiers and told to get back home as quickly as possible.

The author WJ Makin wrote
"At Scarborough and Whitby crowds idled beside the sunlit waters of the North Sea, little dreaming that German battle cruisers were already contemplating bombardment of that particular coast-line.  And on the other side of the North Sea the same scenes were to be witnessed.  At Ostend, gay Continental crowds lounged along the plage. The Casinos were full, dance halls were crowded, orchestral concerts were drawing their huge crowds.  Europe, generally, was prosperous and happy. It had been a good year for the crops, and everyone from Calais to Constantinople was looking forward to a bumper harvest....Life at that time for the common people of the Continent was simple and pleasant.  Never again while they lived would they ever feel as secure"

Saturday, 2 August 2014

From Kiel to Kerry

2nd August 1914 "British ships seized at Kiel. German troops invade Luxembourg and enter Ciréy. Russian forces cross German frontier at Schwidden.  Romania declares neutrality". War Illustrated 'Our Diary of the War'

I idly wondered when reading this entry what the ships were seized at Kiel and found it was a liner called 'Castro' and a collier  The coal carrier was unnamed but when I went looking for the 'Castro' what a story I found. Built by Earls Shipbuilding in Hull (1911) it was the second of three ships named 'Castro' which would be owned by Wilson and Son (later to be taken over by the more famous Ellerman Lines).  On capture the Castro was used by the German Navy and renamed the Libau  in 1915 only to take on another identity in 1916 being disguised as the Norwegian steamer Aud. Loaded with weapons it set sail for the Kerry coast in Ireland and the Irish Republicans planning the Easter Rising in Dublin.  Despite wonderful attention to detail such as even having buttons on the crews uniforms imprinted with a Norwegian company name it failed to rendezvous with the U.19 which was carrying Sir Roger Casement returning from Germany (where he had been trying to form an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners of war for the uprising against the British).  The 'Aud' failed to land the arms and in April 1916 was intercepted and ordered to Queenstown Harbour (now called Cobh) for examination. If it had landed they would have found  20,000 rifles, machine guns, giant "clockwork" bombs and one million rounds of ammunition but it was scuttled by its captain, Karl Spindler while under the Royal Navy escort of the ships Bluebell and Zinnia (its crew surrender when they were in the lifeboats).  A description of the Aud operation is found in an article about Karl Spindler here Casement eventually landed in a collapsible boat on Irish soil but was soon captured by the British.

The anchors of the Aud were recovered in 2012 from the seabed and it is anticipated that they will be displayed in the centenary commemoration of the 1916 Irish uprising.
A model of the Aud at the Cork Museum with a photo of it in the background of when it was sailing as the Castro (photo taken by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen on Wikimedia Commons)

'Aud' Anchor recovery (photo from Sea Hunter)

Friday, 1 August 2014

War Ilustrated

I inherited a box of bound volumes of The War Illustrated which once belonged to my paternal grandparents. This was a collection of the weekly magazine issued throughout World War One being mostly photographs and drawings with the occasional articles and news items, notably the first issue (published for the week ending 22nd August 1914) had an article by the author HG Wells.  As a child that latter fact went over my head as it was the drawings and photographs that fascinated me. As you would expect the journals took on a patriotic tone with sensationalist headlines but this would alter from 1916 onwards as the weariness of a interminable war dragged on.

The binding of the volume calls it "the conflict of nations" and of course we all know that it was also called the war to end all wars but the mentality of mankind made that statement wildly untrue and the same publishers produced a record of the Second World War in a similar format.  I thought I would revisit the Great War volumes and perhaps pick out some of the pictures I find historically or socially interesting as time goes on.

At the end of Volume One of War Illustrated they produced a list - "Our Diary of the War" starting from the date of June 28 "Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo".  The intrigues and machinations of countries vying for power all added to the inevitability of the disaster to come but this is how it appears in the volume with chilling simplicity:

July 23 - Austro-Hungarian 48 hour ultimatum to Serbia 
July 24 - The Russian Cabinet considers Austrian action a challenge to Russia
July 27 - Sir Edward Grey proposes conference, to which France and Italy agree
July 28 - Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia
July 29 - Austrians bombard Belgrade. Tsar appeals to Kaiser to restrain Austria.
July 30 - Russia mobilises sixteen army corps. Bombardment of Belgrade
July 31 - State of war declared in Germany.  General mobilisation ordered in Russia. London Stock Exchange closed. Jean Jaurès assassinated.

A quote by Jaurès who was assassinated in the Parisian café, Le Croissant, and who wished to prevent war, the voice of reason...
"What will the future be like, when the billions now thrown away in preparation for war are spent on useful things to increase the well-being of people, on the construction of decent houses for workers, on improving transportation, on reclaiming the land? The fever of imperialism has become a sickness. It is the disease of a badly run society which does not know how to use its energies at home."-- Jean Jaurès
Which brings us to today 100 years ago and the War Illustrated note of the day

August 1 - Germany sends 12 hours' ultimatum to Russia to stop mobilising and declares war.  Mobilisation in Austria, France, Belgium and Holland.  Italy declares neutrality.  Sir John French appointed Inspector-General of the Forces. British Naval Reserves called up.  Bank Rate 10 per cent. Theophile Delcasse French War Minister. Montenegro identifies herself with Serbia. 

An extract from the Liberal Prime Minster Herbert Asquith's diary for the 1st August shows how things unravelled
"A long message from Berlin to the effect that the German Ambassador's efforts for peace have been suddenly arrested and frustrated by teh Czar's decree for complete Russian mobilisation. We all set to work to draft a personal appeal from the King to the Czar. When we had settled it, I called a taxi and, in company with Tyrrell,  (I presume this refers to Sir William Tyrrell, Sir Edward Grey's private secretary) drove to Buckingham Palace by about 1.30 am. The king was hauled out of his bed and one of my strangest experiences was sitting with him, clad in a dressing gown while I read the message from Berlin and the proposed answer The text was as follows: 'I cannot help thinking that some great misunderstanding has produced this deadlock.  I am most anxious not to miss any possibility of avoiding the terrible calamity which at present threatens the whole world. I therefore make a personal appeal to you'

The czar promptly replied:

"I would have gladly accepted your proposal had not the German Ambassador this afternoon presented a note to my Government declaring war". 
 Forces had been set in motion which nobody could stop.