This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Archive for June, 2012

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

The Flying Whale was a terrifying German fighter late in World War One

Posted in Aviation, Bravery, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 1 on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about the Roland C-11 originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 741 published on 27 March 1976.

Roland C-11, picture, image, illustration

The Roland C-ll by Wilf Hardy

Monsters appeared in the skies in ever growing numbers towards the end of the First World War. Fire power and an appearance to instil fear into the hearts of opposing pilots seemed to be the aim of designers.

They certainly succeeded in their endeavours with the German Roland C-11, a plump killer that British airmen nicknamed the Flying Whale. But one man they could not frighten was Major L. W. B. Rees of No. 32 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. He was droning his lonely way over Belgium one bright sunny morning in July, 1916. As he scanned the sky for signs of the enemy, he noticed a formation of ten planes below him, about two miles (over 3 km.) away.

Major Rees’s course was taking him nearer to the formation which he thought were Allied planes returning from a raid on the German lines. As he drew closer, however, he realised with a shock that they were Flying Whales with a top speed of between 103 and 105 mph.

Within seconds, Major Rees was almost on top of the formidable enemy machines, each of which had a swivelling Parabellum air-cooled machine gun mounted on the rear cockpit and a forward firing gun. He had two choices – either to dive quickly away, knowing they would simply continue on their mission, or attack!

Then, suddenly, one of the German gunners opened fire, and Major Rees’s decision was made. He attacked. He aimed his De Havilland with its fixed Lewis gun, and put a short burst into the plane which had fired at him. It fell away and dived for home.

Wheeling round, Major Rees lined up his sights on a second bomber and put thirty rounds into its thick fuselage. Smoking and burning, it went straight down and landed behind the German lines. The British pilot’s determined attacks caused the bomber formation to break up, but the remaining planes continued to head for their targets.

Major Rees went in pursuit, and kept up his harrying fire in spite of a bullet wound in the thigh and damage to the plane’s rudder. For a few minutes longer, the Germans tried to fight him off, but as Major Rees’s accurate fire continued to hit them, their flight leader signalled for a return to base, and they abandoned the raid.

For his single-handed exploit, Major Rees was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

Gold fever placed a great strain on the clippers bound for Australia

Posted in Australia, Historical articles, History, Ships on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about gold and wool clippers originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 741 published on 27 March 1976.

Marco Polo clipper, picture, image, illustration

Clipper captains spared no-one to get to Australia fast before the gold ran out, as on the Marco Polo whose captain refused to take in any canvas during severe storms. Picture by Graham Coton

There was great excitement in Plymouth one day in 1851 when the smart little Aberdeen White Star clipper Phoenician arrived there, 83 days out from Sydney. Any vessel from Australia aroused interest in those days, but there was something special about this one, or about what she had aboard her.

The Phoenician was carrying 74 packages of gold dust, the first Australian gold ever to reach Britain. The dust was worth £81,000, which a century or so ago was a considerable sum of money.

The Australian bonanza had been sparked off by the discovery of gold in California in the late 1840s. This had not only brought a rush of men to the Californian goldfields but had inspired many others to search for the precious metal in other parts of the world.

The next place that gold was found in quantity was Australia. When that happened, another gold rush was on.

Gold! It was there for the taking – or so it seemed. But the problem was to get there. In the case of California you could go overland, or by sea round the southern tip of South America, but to get to Australia, you had to go by sea.

And of course everyone wanted to get there as fast as possible. You could miss out on a fortune if you didn’t!

Read the rest of this article »

Courage, adventure and disaster on the great Oregon Trail

Posted in Adventure, America, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about the American West originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 741 published on 27 March 1976.

Oregon Trail, picture, image, illustration

The Oregon Trail by Ron Embleton

Night and day, the uproar never ceased. Shouts and raucous laughter split the air, waggons creaked and whips cracked, but above all the din was the never-ending sound of hammers beating down on anvils in a score of blacksmiths’ shops, where the covered waggons were being repaired and got ready for their 2,000 mile (approx. 3,200 km.) journey to Oregon.

The streets were crowded with horses, mules and oxen, and with every kind of men: fashionably dressed, hard-eyed gamblers, prosperous-looking storekeepers, Spanish traders, Indians and rugged-looking fur trappers in buckskins who were known all over the West as Mountain Men. But the largest group were the emigrants, men, women and children who were getting ready to head north-west for the promised land of Oregon, for this was Independence, Missouri in the 1840s and America – or part of it – was on the move.

Independence, with 30 stores, two hotels, numerous boarding houses, and around 1,600 inhabitants, was the most important of several starting points. It marked the start of three great trails, the Santa Fe, the California and the Oregon.

The first had been going strong, despite raiding Comanches and Kiowas, since the 1820s, but it was a trading, not an emigrant route. The California Trail, which followed the Oregon Trail as far as Fort Hall in what is now Idaho, and then branched west, did not come into its own until the Gold Rush of 1849 after gold was found in California in 1848. As for Oregon, it was the trail.

Read the rest of this article »

The weird tale of the talking Manx mongoose called Gef

Posted in Absurd, Animals, Famous news stories, Mystery on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about a ghostly mongoose originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 741 published on 27 March 1976.

Mongoose, picture, image, illustration

A Manx farmer had purchased several Indian mongooses which he released to help keep the rabbit population down

The new owner of the little Manx farm of Cashen’s Gap was returning from a walk across his fields when he noticed something scurrying across the yard. The farmer’s immediate reaction was that the creature was a large rat, and as he was carrying a shotgun it was only the work of a moment to aim and fire.

The creature rolled over and lay still, but when the man inspected the limp body, he saw that it was no rat that he had killed. In fact, he could not say for certain what it was, although it seemed to be some kind of mongoose. Yet what could a native of India be doing living wild on the Isle of Man?

The news of the shooting caused something of a stir in the neighbourhood, and the farmer soon learned that his new home was widely believed to be haunted. And haunted, of all things, by the ghost of a mongoose who went by the name of Gef. A talking mongoose!

But let us start at the beginning. The scene of this extraordinary haunting had been bought in 1917 by a former business man, James Irving. It was a remote, rather bleak farmhouse that stood high up on the slopes of Dalby Mountain, on the West coast of the Isle of Man. The interior walls had been covered over with boarding in order to keep out the draughts. Irving himself was a well travelled man who spoke several languages and he, his wife and their daughter, Mary, made up for their lack of neighbours with plenty of books and gramophone records.

It was on an evening in September, 1931, that the Irvings first heard the sound of an animal scuttling about their home, first in the attic and later in the space that had been left between the match boarding and the original slate walls.

Read the rest of this article »

A story of mutiny, murder and buried treasure on Salvage Island

Posted in Adventure, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Legend, Ships on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about treasure hunters originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 741 published on 27 March 1976.

Mutineers, picture, image, illustration

The crew had no desire to go to the West Indies and mutinied

She was a Spanish ship, laden with treasure chests, and she was sailing from South America to Cadiz. Apart from the fact that she was carrying a fortune in her holds, the voyage should have been an uneventful one, barring the usual hazards that sailors have to face when they take to the high seas. But her captain was a worried man.

It was the year of 1804, and war had broken out between Britain and Spain, and the British ships, acting swiftly, had moved in and blockaded the Spanish Ports. The captain was therefore in a quandary. Should he try and break through the blockade, or should he make for the West Indies and safety?

He opted to sail for the West Indies, a decision which was to cost him his life.

As it happened, the crew had no desire to go to the West Indies, and they promptly mutinied. Finding themselves off the barren and uninhabited Salvage Island lying 150 miles (about 240 km.) south of Madeira in the mid-Atlantic, they put in at the main island. Taking the captain ashore with them, they killed him in cold blood, and then buried his body together with the boxes of gold in a long and narrow trench in the sands.

The grisly task completed, the crew set off again, heading for the Spanish Main, where they intended to destroy the ship by fire in some secluded bay. Afterwards, with some of the treasure money they had kept, they planned to buy a small vessel, and, sailing under English colours, make their way back to Salvage Island to collect the treasure.

Instead, retribution overtook them in the shape of a fierce storm, and they were shipwrecked off St. Thomas. Only two of the crew managed to reach the shore, where one of them died almost immediately. The other was taken to hospital, where he told the whole grim story to a Finnish sailor, before he also died.

Read the rest of this article »

Wintry mediaeval phantoms of the bleak Norfolk Broads

Posted in British Countryside, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Legend, Religion, Superstition on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about ghosts of the Norfolk Broads originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 740 published on 20 March 1976.

Normans slaughter monks, picture, image, illustration

The Norman soldiers slaughtered the monks of St Benet’s Abbey on the Norfolk Broads

The monks of St Benet’s Abbey at Ludham, Norfolk, were not particularly disturbed when William of Normandy seized the English crown; their Order had survived invading foreigners before.

True, the monks were dedicated to a life of prayer, but each man was skilled in the use of arms, just in case anyone should try to disturb them and the Abbey itself was as strongly fortified as a castle. What was more, the great building was set in the marshlands beside the River Bure, in the area now known as the Broads. Any army that tried to attack across such country stood a good chance of meeting a watery end.

In due course William demanded the Abbot’s oath of allegiance, and receiving no reply he promptly despatched a strong force to East Anglia with orders that the monks should be taught a sharp lesson. But skilled though the soldiers were, it soon became clear that the Abbey and its defenders were worthy of their reputation, because after four months of siege the Normans had not even won a foothold, and inside the well-provisioned Abbey the spirit of the monks was high.

They reckoned, not without reason, that King William had more important tasks for his soldiers than laying siege to harmless churchmen, and that sooner or later he would order his troops back to London.

It is highly probable that this is exactly what would have happened, had not the Abbey’s janitor, or door-keeper, turned traitor. It was not altogether his fault, for the Norman general very cunningly suggested to him that if he happened to leave the door open one night a great deal of bloodshed would be avoided. He also promised to make the janitor Abbot as a reward for his co-operation.

After thinking the matter over, the monk eventually opened the great oaken door and the soldiers swept in, swiftly overcoming the sleeping monks. The Norman commander made the janitor, whose name was Brother Veritas, an Abbot on the spot. Then, having kept his word, he hanged him from the Abbey walls as a lesson to all traitors, whatever side they happened to be on!

Read the rest of this article »

The savage Sack of Antwerp led to a united Protestant Dutch Republic

Posted in Famous crimes, Historical articles, History, Religion on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about the Sack of Antwerp originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 740 published on 20 March 1976.

Spaniards in Antwerp, picture, image, illustration

Rapacious Spaniards about to plunder Antwerp and slaughter the citizens by Ron Embleton

Fear stalked the streets of the wealthiest city in Christendom, soon to be delivered into the hands of the fiercest soldiers in the world. The citizens of Antwerp knew only too well what could happen, for the Spanish Netherlands had seen it all before.

For five years or more, the Royal paymasters in Spain had failed to pay their troops, so the veterans of many a bloody campaign, men whose fathers and grandfathers had conquered Mexico and Peru and made the Spanish Empire the mightiest in the world, would periodically “pay” themselves by erupting into a town and picking it clean.

Only a few weeks before, in October 1576, Maastricht had been savagely sacked. Now it was Antwerp’s turn; Antwerp, which boasted the world’s first stock exchange; diamond-rich Antwerp, made more so after many of Portugal’s Jews had been expelled and brought their skills to the city. Even so, the people could not know that the horror about to strike them would be so much worse than anything that had gone before that history would recall the event in one memorable phrase: “The Spanish Fury.”

To set the scene the reasons must be given for the Spanish presence in the Netherlands (which then included what are now Belgium and Luxembourg).

When the great Emperor Charles V abdicated in 1555 because of ill-health, leaving his son Philip II the most powerful prince in Europe, the empire he bequeathed was as rich as it was mighty. It included all Central America, with Mexico biting into what is now the U.S.A., the West Indies, most of western South America, all southern Italy, Sardinia, Milan, Burgundy and the Netherlands. The whole vast edifice was ruled from Spain.

Read the rest of this article »

The Grimms’ ‘Hansel and Gretel’ inspired the fairy-tale opera by Engelbert Humperinck

Posted in Literature, Magic on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about Hansel and Gretel originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 740 published on 20 March 1976.

Hansel and Gretel, picture, image, illustration

Hansel and Gretel with their father, the Woodcutter by James E McConnell

It was night time and Hansel and Gretel were hopelessly lost in the forest.

A disastrous famine had struck the land and the children’s stepmother had suggested to their father that, to save themselves from starving, they should abandon Hansel and Gretel. At length, he reluctantly agreed to do as she said.

The parents and the two children set off into the forest where their father, a woodcutter, lit a fire before going off with his wife pretending to search for wood.

When night came the pair had not returned but Hansel, who had overheard their plan, was not too alarmed. He had left a trail of breadcrumbs behind him as they had walked through the forest that morning and was confident that he could follow it home by moonlight. But alas, every crumb had been eaten by the birds.

The children wandered for three days, penetrating deeper into the forest, until they came across a beautiful house made of food. Immediately they set to work eating the delicious rooftop.

Suddenly an old witch appeared in the doorway and beckoned them in. Once inside she imprisoned Hansel in a cage and set about feeding him up so that she could eat him. Gretel was made to work.

When the witch was ready for her feast, she prepared the huge oven. Then she told Gretel to get inside to test the temperature. Gretel pretended not to understand. The angry witch pushed her aside and climbed in herself.

Quickly Gretel jumped outside and slammed the iron door, leaving the horrid witch to her doom.

Gretel then freed her brother. As they were preparing to leave, they saw a chest of jewels so they filled their pockets with the treasure.

They then ran through the forest until they found a familiar path home. Their father rejoiced at their return. Their stepmother had died and he was filled with sadness that he had left his children to die.

The Brothers Grimm were librarians before becoming folklorists

Posted in Historical articles, History, Literature on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about the Brothers Grimm originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 740 published on 20 March 1976.

Brothers Grimm, picture, image, illustration

The Brothers Grimm listening to the second-hand clothes dealer who told them many folk tales

Relatives and friends of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were surprised indeed when the brothers called on them asking: “Please, have you any old trousers you don’t want?”

It is true that the Grimm brothers were poorly paid as librarians in the German city of Kassel. But they were not so poor that they had to beg for cast-off clothing.

Jacob, the more talkative of the pair, explained: “We don’t want the trousers to wear. They are to help us with our collection of folk tales.”

For Jacob had found living in a cellar in a back street an old and retired sergeant of dragoons, who knew a lot of folk tales. Unfortunately, the ex-sergeant was inclined to keep the stories to himself.

When the brothers noticed that he was in the old clothes’ business they offered a pair of cast-off trousers for every story he told them.

The Grimms had become interested in the folk tales of Germany when they were law students at Marburg University. Their professor had spoken to them of this wonderful legacy of the Middle Ages which soon would be forgotten and lost forever.

Wilhelm then remembered many of the tales they had heard in Hanau, where he was born in 1786. Jacob, who was a year older than his brother, thought that the stories would be worth collecting.

When the brothers moved to Kassel, they met, in the nearby village of Niederzwehren, Katherina Viehmann, wife of the local tailor.

Katherina knew a lot more fairy tales – ‘Snow White’, ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘Tom Thumb’, ‘The Goosegirl’, and a dozen others famous today in Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

The brothers called her the Fairy Tale Wife of Niederzwehren. She told the stories exactly as they had been told for generations. And the brothers wrote them down.

When word got around that the Grimms were collecting folk tales, offers of help arrived.

One was from a girl called Dortchen Wild, who remembered folk tales that had been told to her as a child. It was Dortchen who told to Wilhelm the story of Hansel and Gretel. Soon afterwards Dortchen and Wilhelm were married.

In 1812 the Grimm brothers published their first collection of stories which they called ‘Nursery and Household Tales’.

The reviewers hardly noticed the book. But the public bought it. Three years later came the second volume.

The Grimms collected still more stories – from peasants, tramps, old women in almshouses.

In 1857, two years before the death of Wilhelm and six years before the death of Jacob, the final version of the stories was published under the title ‘Folk Tales for Children and the Home’.

Alfred the Great revived learning and delivered Wessex from the Danes

Posted in Historical articles, History, Invasions, Legend, Royalty, Ships on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This edited article about Alfred the Great originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 740 published on 20 March 1976.

Alfred's ship design, picture, image, illustration

One of the ships built to King Alfred’s design by F Stocks May

On the statue of Alfred the Great at Wantage in Berkshire is this inscription:

Alfred found learning dead and he restored it. Education neglected and he revived it. The laws powerless and he gave them force. The Church debased and he raised it. The land ravaged by a fearful enemy from which he delivered it. Alfred’s name will live as long as mankind shall respect the past.

This great King of Wessex, an area which comprised a large portion of southern England, is known to most people today as a man who built the British navy and, perhaps, burnt cakes. The inscription tells us rightly that Alfred in his lifetime did a great deal more than that.

When we want to find out something about a man who lived as long ago as the ninth century – Alfred was born in the year A.D. 849 – we cannot always rely on the written authorities. They are frequently biased, sometimes misinterpreted by later writers, and often subsequently rewritten. Such was the case with Alfred’s biographer, a monk named Asser, who taught the King and wrote a Life of King Alfred. Asser’s book was certainly added to after his death, so that it can no longer be relied upon as wholly accurate. Accepting this, it is nonetheless interesting to read what the book says.

Alfred, says Asser, loved reading, but he was never fluent at it because “in those days there were no men really skilled in reading in the whole realm of the West Saxons.” Nevertheless, when he was a boy his mother showed a Saxon poetry book to him and his brothers saying, “I will give this book to whoever of you learns it most quickly.”

“Forthwith,” we are told, “Alfred took the book from her hand and read it, and when he had read it he brought it back to his mother and repeated it to her.”

Later in his life it was Alfred’s habit to carry a little book around with him, in which he would record anything of interest he heard.

Read the rest of this article »