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Archive for August, 2012

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Father Bartholomeu de Gusmao’s flying gondola

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, Inventions on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about Gusmao’s pioneering flight originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 761 published on 14th August 1976.

Freedom of the Skies, picture, image, illustration

Gusmao’s flying machine (frame no 12)

An historic moment occurred on 8th August, 1709 when Father Bartholomeu de Gusmao made his first, and only, flight in the airship he had invented.

The twenty-four-year-old monk had obtained backing from the King of Portugal to finance the building of the apparatus, which consisted of a basket-work gondola suspended from fourteen small balloons. There were small furnaces in the gondola producing hot air which was conducted to the balloons by tubes.

On the 8th August, before a huge crowd, the airship rose from the grounds of the royal castle in Lisbon and sailed out of sight.

Unfortunately, the ship was blown against a roof by a sudden gust of wind, two of the balloons were torn off and the ship sank to earth and was wrecked – and so were Gusmao’s hopes of royal preferment! Nevertheless, man had flown through the air for the first time.

It was not until seventy-four years later that the Montgolfier brothers made their successful ascent in a hot-air balloon.

Martin Frobisher thought the Eskimos he found were the Chinese he sought

Posted in Discoveries, Exploration, Historical articles on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about Martin Frobisher originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 761 published on 14th August 1976.

Frobisher, picture, image, illustration

Martin Frobisher by Graham Coton

When Martin Frobisher, the English explorer, dropped anchor in a bay on the coast of Baffin Island on 11th August, 1576, he thought that he had at last found the North-West Passage.

But the almond-eyed natives he met on the island were not Chinese, as he believed, but Eskimos. Frobisher was still a long way from the elusive North-West Passage.

In spite of his mistake, Frobisher’s voyage was not in vain. It encouraged an increasing number of navigators to take up the search for this new trade route.

World War One was triggered by the assassin’s gun in Sarajevo

Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, World War 1 on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 761 published on 14th August 1976.

Sarajevo 1914, picture, image, illustration

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Clive Uptton

As the four-car motorcade turned into Franz Josef Street in Sarajevo, in the Balkan state of Bosnia, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip gripped the six-chamber Browning pistol in his pocket.

Princip’s lips were tight as he stepped forward and shot twice, from a range of five feet, at one of the cars. In it sat the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, who was struck in the neck, and his wife, the Archduchess Sophie, who received a bullet in her abdomen. Both victims died shortly afterwards.

Princip, and his fellow conspirators in the assassination, were Serbians, people of a country which is now part of Yugoslavia. They believed that, by killing the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, their cause for a greater Serbian nation would be advanced.

Nearly a month after the assassination, the Austrian government, suspecting that the Serbian government was behind the crime, but having no evidence to support this view, issued an ultimatum to Serbia. It gave the Serbian government 48 hours in which to stop Serbian propaganda and subversive activities on Austro-Hungarian territory. It ordered the arrest of all the people who plotted the assassination, and it demanded that Austro-Hungarian officials should be allowed into Serbia to investigate the background to the killing.

The Serbian government, uncertain what to do, sent back a vague, evasive reply. This was not good enough for Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and on the 18th July, 1914, his country declared war on Serbia. Rapidly, the nations of Europe took sides and marshalled their armies . . . and the First World War exploded on Europe.

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The Bird’s Nest fortress built by Jodha of Mandore at Jodhpur

Posted in Architecture, Historical articles, History on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about Jodhpur originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

“Here you shall found a city,” the yogi told the Rajah. “But first you must build a fortress on that peak above us.”

Today, the true yogi is hard to find, because so many are no more than beggars, hoping to live comfortably on the charity of good-natured passers-by. But in the year 1459, a yogi commanded universal respect, even from such a prince as Jodha, ruler of what was then the state of Marwar. Jodha was one of the legendary Rajput warriors of India, men with traditions that combined the chivalry of King Arthur’s knights with the single-mindedness of the Japanese samurai. As a race, they claimed divine descent from the god Rama, and their trade was war.

Jodha listened to the yogi, a hermit who had made himself a cell out of a crack in the sheer rock of a peak known as ‘The Bird’s Nest’, and finally agreed to build the fort. The Rajah was 31 at the time, and, in spite of his chain mail, might well have been taken for a girl at first glance, for like most Rajputs of royal blood, he had very large, dark eyes and surprisingly small hands and feet. But his slight appearance was deceptive, for Jodha had spent his life fighting in the savage feuds that split the Rajput clans. It is possible that he was not all that influenced by the hermit’s advice and it was simply that his trained soldier’s eye had already registered the fact that ‘The Bird’s Nest’ would prove an excellent position for a fort. Whatever the reason, he gave orders that one should be built without delay.

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The Somme offensive sacrificed over one million human lives

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, History, World War 1 on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about the Battle of the Somme originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

The Somme, picture, image, illustration

Slaughter on the Somme by James E McConnell

The Somme offensive of 1916 was opened earlier than had been intended. Its purpose was to relieve the pressure on Verdun, where the French had held out with incredible bravery for more than five months against an enemy who had mercilessly pounded their lines with the biggest concentration of artillery fire yet known. The start of the offensive had succeeded in forcing Falkenhayn, the German commander, on to the defensive at Verdun.

But what of the battle that was to be fought on the Somme? There had been no attempt at surprise, nor had this been possible, as immense precautions had had to be made behind the lines. Worse still, out of the fourteen front line British divisions, the ranks of eleven of them were filled with untried troops, leavened with professional, peacetime-trained soldiers. How would they fare against seasoned German soldiers who were, moreover, holding heavily fortified positions which overlooked the Allied lines, so that they could see practically everything that was going on in them, as well as being able to range their guns on the four roads leading to the front? Time was to prove, and very quickly, that their courage and fortitude could match those of the French who had suffered so much at Verdun.

The bombardment of the German lines began on 24th June, and continued with only a few interruptions until the early morning of 1st July, when the French and British infantry attacked. Almost immediately, they were met with heavy machine gun fire and a hailstorm of rifle bullets. 60,000 men, in closely packed waves, stumbled on almost blindly towards the enemy front line, senselessly laden with about 30 kilos of equipment on their backs. As their ranks were thinned, others followed them over the parapet, and so it went on, until thirteen British divisions had flung themselves at the enemy.

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A Welsh governess planted the seeds of democracy in distant Siam

Posted in Education, Historical articles, History, Politics on Friday, 10 August 2012

This edited article about Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

Anna and the King, picture, image, illustration

Anna and the King of Siam by Robert Brook

On the evening of March 15th, 1862, the steamship Chow Phya docked in the crowded harbour at Bangkok, the capital of Siam. The ship’s cargo was unloaded, and the passengers, most of whom were performers in a travelling circus, went ashore. The last to leave the vessel were an anxious-faced young Welsh woman called Anna Leonowens, and her six-year-old son, Louis.

As Mrs. Leonowens waited on the quay, she clutched her bag containing a letter of safe-conduct from the King of Siam, Maha Mongkut. The letter confirmed her new appointment as governess to the monarch’s “beloved royal children.” King Mongkut was a firm admirer of the British way of life, and had written:

“. . . we hope that in doing your education on us and on our children (whom English call inhabitants of benighted land) you will do your best endeavour for knowledge of English language, science and literature . . .”

Although she had lived in the East since she was fifteen, Mrs. Leonowens had not previously visited Siam (or Thailand as it is called today). She knew that in many ways it was a “benighted” country in which women were not treated as equals, and where torture and slavery were commonplace.

Despite this, she had gambled both her own and Louis’s future on the goodwill of a King who was noted for his quick temper, lack of tolerance, and contempt for those weaker than himself.

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The race to reach 100 mph in motor-cycling’s Tourist Trophy

Posted in Historical articles, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Thursday, 9 August 2012

This edited article about the Isle of Man’s Tourist Trophy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

Motorcycle racing, picture, image, illustration

Motorcycle racing by Graham Coton

Motor-cycling fans who go to the Isle of Man for the Tourist Trophy races can be sure of a visit packed with thrills.

As they watch the machines roaring around the 37-mile-long track, with its many corners and hills, they marvel at the expertise of the riders.

In fact, great skill and dexterity have always been required for the races run over the island’s public roads since 1907; and these have never been lacking in riders who have reached high speeds on this circuit.

In the days following the Second World War, the target many were aiming at was 100 mph, difficult because of the nature of the island’s roads.

This was very nearly reached in 1955 by Geoff Duke who clocked up 99.97 mph. At first, the time keepers announced his speed as 100 mph. But then they changed their minds after consulting their hand-held watches, a far cry from the accurate electronic timing methods of today.

The honour of being the first rider to pass the 100 mph mark went to Robert McIntyre in 1957 when he reached 101.03 mph on his Gilera. From the drop of the starter’s flag he was off like a bullet.

Towards the end of his eight lap race, he reeled off four laps in succession each at over 100 mph.

The lap record was put up to 104.08 mph in 1960 by John Surtees. He lapped at over 100 mph eight times between 1958 and 1960.

Following his motor-cycling career, in which he won six T.T. races, Surtees switched to motor racing and crowned his Isle of Man successes with the world motor racing championship, proof that, on the island, true champions are made.

Was mediaeval London a den of quacks, magicians, thieves and beggars?

Posted in Architecture, British Cities, Historical articles, History, London, Politics, Royalty on Thursday, 9 August 2012

This edited article about London originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

The White Tower, picture, image, illustration

The White Tower was started by a monk under instructions from William the Conqueror by Harry Green

Ansgar the Staller had to be carried in a litter around London’s wall because of the wounds he got at Hastings. He stared at the invaders as they burned Southwark. It must have been a depressing sight for a man they charged with defending England’s greatest city. London seemed about to go the same way. The city’s leaders had backed Harold Godwinson against Duke William of Normandy, but Harold had died on the battle-field of Hastings. Now the victor of 1066 was at Westminster, uttering gruesome threats against London.

Though his ancestors were Vikings, William was not like previous invaders, and he certainly did not intend to burn down the richest city in his new-won realm if he could avoid it. After his victory at Hastings, William sent advance troops hurrying up to the Thames. Their first attack on London Bridge was beaten back, but when the bulk of the Norman army arrived, the suburb of Southwark was put to the torch. Then William and his disciplined knights turned west and marched around London, destroying everything in sight.

London now sent emissaries to the new master of England, who replied: “I decree that all those who enjoyed the law’s protection in King Edward’s day shall continue to do so, and that every child shall be his father’s heir, for I will not tolerate any wrong being done to you. God keep you.”

London was powerful, but William, crowned King in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, was now ruler. The city and king had come to terms.

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Greater and Lesser Antarctica and the lost continent of Gondwanaland

Posted in Exploration, Geography, Nature, Wildlife on Thursday, 9 August 2012

This edited article about Antarctica originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

Surveying Antarctica, picture, image, illustration

Surveying Antarctica by Graham Coton

Hundreds of millions of years ago, it is believed that two great continents existed, one in the north and one covering a vast area in the Southern Hemisphere. Then, during a period of great volcanic activity, these land masses broke up and drifted apart, leaving the continents as they appear now.

Parts of the southern continent, according to this theory, are now incorporated in Australia, Africa and South America. Another fragment forms the main part of the ice-bound continent of Antarctica. Evidence of the latter having originated in this way is found in the rocks of which it is composed, including coal-seams. These show a striking resemblance to strata existing in the other southern continents.

The North and South Polar regions receive far less of the sun’s heat than the other zones of the earth’s surface. During part of the Polar winter the sun does not rise at all, because of the angle at which the earth’s axis is tilted. Even during the summer period of continuous daylight, the sun remains low in the sky.

Understandably, the Polar regions are extremely cold, and are permanently capped with ice. But there are important differences between the two. The North Pole is covered by sea, on which the ice floats as a great “raft”. But, of the area within the Antarctic Circle, some three-quarters is covered by land and forms the continent of Antarctica.

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1854 was a year of miners’ riots in Australia’s gold fields

Posted in Australia, Geology, Historical articles, History on Thursday, 9 August 2012

This edited article about the Australian gold rush originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 762 published on 21st August 1976.

Australian riots, picture, image, illustration

Anti-Chinese riots in the Victorian gold fields were eventually put down by the colonial army, by Clive Uptton

They were 6,000 strong and were armed with pick handles, bowie knives, revolvers and other weapons. Anything that came to hand was clearly carried by the diggers who were bent on giving the Chinese what they had been asking for.

And what was the crime that the yellow-skinned gold-seekers had committed? They alleged that they had ruined the local water; they were dirty in their habits and they took up more ground than they were entitled to. That was the white man’s version, but it was by no means as simple as that. Leaving the armed diggers on the march for a moment, a march headed by a brass band and men carrying banners, let us look at the background of the affair.

After the tragic end of the Eureka Stockade battle many of the miners’ grievances were put right. But having had their scrap with authority, they now found a new and almost defenceless enemy, the Chinese.

These would-be gold-miners started entering Australia in large numbers from 1855 onwards and within six years there were 24,000 of them in Victoria alone as compared to 204,000 European diggers. Gold was becoming harder to find – the real reason, apart from actual racialism, for the hostility towards the Chinese.

In Victoria and New South Wales the old-fashioned pan and rocker were having to give way to modern machinery burrowing deeply into the ground in the search for gold. The Chinese worked for far less than the Europeans, and this was hardly guaranteed to make them popular.

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