Archive for October, 2013

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Marshal Tito united the Balkan nations despite their ethnic differences

Posted in Communism, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution, World War 2 on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about President Tito originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Marshal Tito, picture, image, illustration

Young Tito escaped from the train taking him to prison in Siberia by C L Doughty

When the Nazi terror swept down on Yugoslavia in 1941 the Partisans went into action. They began with small detachments which blew up railways and bridges and attacked convoys of vehicles. They graduated from using axes and hunting rifles to captured enemy arms and ammunition.

The detachments turned into larger forces as more and more freedom fighters joined them. Until 1943, when the Allies started to give them help and encouragement, the poorly armed, underfed, exhausted Partisans had somehow survived the onslaughts of the greatest army in Europe and its Italian and Hungarian allies. But, apart from their desperate courage, they had one supreme asset, a guerrilla leader named Josip Broz, better known by the assumed name he has made world famous – Tito!

Now a youthful 78-year-old, Marshal Tito is the one revolutionary Communist leader who is universally admired, not only by his fellow-countrymen, but also by millions whose politics are worlds away from his own. His story is the story of modern Yugoslavia.

Tito was born in 1892 before there was a Yugoslavia! His homeland was then Crotia, part of the vast, ramshackle, inefficient Austro-Hungarian Empire. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and part of Macedonia! Tito did not “make” it, but it owes its existence as an independent country today to him.

Tito’s parents were peasants. The future guerrilla leader was renowned as a boy for reading widely and for leading successful raids on orchards! He loved horses and learnt to ride soon after he walked.

At 14, he started work in a machine shop in a nearby town where everyone seemed to be talking politics, unity of all the Slav peoples being the dream of his new friends. Josip Broz rapidly became a skilled worker and a keen Trade Unionist.

In the 1914-18 War, Josip rose to be a sergeant-major at 23, though, like most young socialists, he regarded the war as a struggle between rival capitalist groups. He was wounded and captured by the Russians and soon found himself mixed up with the Russian Revolution of 1917, so much so that he had to flee to Finland. On his return he was arrested and sent to Siberia. He escaped from a prison train and joined a revolutionary unit, but it was defeated and he found himself on the run again.

He lived with Mongol nomads, riding with them across the Steppes, arguing with them about politics and being hidden by them when soldiers came looking for him. Then at last the war was over and he returned home.

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Dawsonii Eoanthropus – the most famous fraudulent fossil in the world

Posted in Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Prehistory, Science on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about Piltdown Man originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Piltdown man discovered, picture, image, illustration

Dr Arthur Woodward examining Piltdown Man

God created man in His own image on the sixth day of the Creation.

This statement from the Book of Genesis was believed to be the plain, literal truth by men of the civilised world for many centuries. Then as learning and science became more advanced, it became harder for scholars to accept the bald Biblical statement as a scientific fact.

The final blow to the Biblical tradition, in the eyes of the scientific men, came when Charles Darwin published his famous book The Origin of Species. This explained how the animals, birds and fish that we see in the world today evolved from earlier types into the present species. In other words life began in the ooze of a primaeval world as single-cell, jelly-like creatures, then developed into various plants and swimming creatures, which in turn evolved into other species that crawled from the waters on to land and so on. Each stage of development took millions of years, of course.

It was seen that Man was an animal, not a creature of Divine Inspiration made in a single day. Man had obviously evolved as had all other living things. Man it seemed had descended from the apes (the animal most resembling man) or from an ancestor shared with the apes.

Now before the turn of this century many prehistoric fossils of apes and man had been found. Yet no trace of a species had been revealed to form the final missing link between man and the apes.

The scientific world was therefore keenly on the look-out for “The Missing Link,” a creature half-ape and half-man.

In spite of intensive searches in some of the most likely places, The Missing Link, or so it seemed, was found quite by accident in Sussex, England.

One day, in the year 1908, some workmen were loading a little handcart with gravel from a roadside pit. It was good gravel, very suitable for their purpose of filling in holes in the road. As the men shovelled the gravel they discovered a skull. It was something like a human skull, but strangely misshapen. It was very brown, which made them think that it must be very old. It was so brown that at first one of them thought it was an old coconut shell. So he hit it and broke it.

Only then did one of the men remember that Mr. Dawson, a local solicitor who was in charge of the estate of land upon which they stood, had told them that he would like to see any old bones that they might find in the course of their work. They gathered up the fragments as best they could and handed over the bits and pieces to Mr. Dawson.

He carefully examined the remains.

Now Charles Dawson was something of a local expert on fossils, prehistoric remains and even ancient ruins. He cautiously wrote to his friend Dr. Arthur Woodward of the British Museum. They examined the gravel pit more closely and other remains were found, including the jaw of the skull and teeth and bones of deer, beaver, hippopotamus and elephant. All these indicated to the learned men that the skull must be half a million years old.

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Werewolves are creatures of legend immortalised in horror fiction and films

Posted in Animals, Historical articles, Legend, Magic, Myth on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about werewolves originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Priest and werewolf, picture, image, illustration

In C12 Ireland a priest has to pass the night in a wood, and while sitting by a fire he has built is approached by a talking wolf, who says that he and his wife have been cursed and transformed into werewolves and need the priest’s help

If you find the skin of a wolf hidden in the hollow of a tree, you must sprinkle the skin with pepper. That will make it too itchy for the Werewolf to wear.

But what is a werewolf and how has it come to lose its skin?

The explanation was simple to the early Europeans who believed in magic and the strange creatures that bewitchment could produce.

“Werewolf” comes from two Old English words which mean “man-wolf.” And that tells you what these creatures were thought to be.

They were men who had been changed by some magic power into wolves which hunted by night for human flesh.

At daybreak, they returned to their human form. They did this by taking off their wolf skin and hiding it. If the skin were hidden in a cold place, the owner would shiver all day. And if the skin were found and destroyed, the owner would die.

The kindest act was to pepper it so that the owner could not put it on again. Perhaps he would thus remain a human forever and put aside his vicious hunting ways.

In French-Canada, a werewolf was called a loup-garou. Here it was believed that a man became a loup-garou because of a curse or as a punishment from heaven. One man, so the story goes, became a loup-garou because he had not been to church for ten years.

For many centuries, werewolves were seen and feared in Eastern and Western Europe and Asia. It was thought that the only way to kill one was to shoot it with a silver bullet.

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Frederick William I of Prussia used secret agents to kidnap tall foreign conscripts

Posted in Espionage, Historical articles, History, Oddities, Royalty on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about Prussia originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

King Frederick and his giants, picture, image, illustration

Frederick William I, the eccentric King who collected a private army of Giants

The tavern was crowded and noisy. The harvest was in and the peasants were celebrating. In a corner two men sat drinking together. Though they appeared to be sharing in the general merriment, their mugs were never replenished and their eyes were watchful. They cast surreptitious glances towards a hulking fellow in a peasant smock. He was the tallest man in the room, well over six feet; his head almost brushed the ceiling beams.

As the night wore on, the big man, now very drunk, took his leave and reeled through the door. At once the two watchers slipped out after him. A short way from the tavern, they crept up behind him, tripped him and knocked him unconscious. A carriage drew alongside, the unconscious peasant was hauled aboard and his assailants vanished into the night.

Was the big man a spy in disguise? An assassin? The innocent victim in a foul plot? Nothing so dreadful; he had simply been recruited into the royal guards. For this was Prussia in the early eighteenth century, under the rule of King Frederick William I. And the Prussian king had a strange obsession. He collected giants for his grenadier guards. Not one was under five feet ten; most were well over six feet.

Frederick William had an uncomplicated approach to kingship. “We are, by the grace of God, master and king”, he said, “and we do as we please”. He was an unpleasant man, cruel, boorish and miserly. He was also devoted to military life and it was from his fondness for parades and martial splendour that his craze for collecting giants developed.

Occasionally the king would receive a prize specimen as a gift. More often, however, his hobby proved an expensive one. He exchanged valuable collections of stones and porcelain for giant soldiers and paid large sums for them without complaint.

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Churchill’s ancestral home and birthplace was built for another national hero

Posted in Architecture, Country House, Famous battles, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about Blenheim Palace originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Blenheim Palace, picture, image, illustration

Blenheim Palace

“Here littleness is absorbed in grandeur, and prettiness in magnificence . . .” So, in 1806, wrote Dr. Mayor of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

Here at Blenheim, Winston Churchill was born, and here in the garden he proposed marriage.

Winston Churchill’s mother, when she was taken to Blenheim for the first time by her husband, Lord Randolph Churchill, tells us how she felt, when she wrote: “Randolph said, ‘This is the finest view in England.’ Looking at the lake, the bridge, the miles of magnificent park studded with old oaks, and the huge and stately Palace I confess I felt awed. But my American blood forbade the admission.”

Lady Randolph Churchill was not the first person to be awed by Blenheim Palace and its surroundings. Most visitors were – and still are. In 1724 Daniel Defoe – author of Robinson Crusoe – wrote of Blenheim: “It requires the Royalty of a Sovereign to support an Equipage suitable to the Greatness of this Palace.”

The dream of the great Palace of Blenheim first existed in the mind of Queen Anne. She wished to create a noble Palace as a gift to John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough, victor of many great battles, the most famous being Blenheim in 1704. The dream then became the great architect, John Vanbrugh’s, and finally Sarah Churchill’s, who was the first Duchess of Marlborough.

Queen Anne was a nervous woman, and needed the assurance of others. Her sister, Mary, who married William of Orange, was a very determined woman, and the two sisters had little in common.

Mary became Queen with her husband, William, and we always think of them together as “William and Mary”. They had no children, and when William died, after his Queen, Anne came to the throne of England. She was not beautiful, not haughty, not self-willed. She was happily married to Prince George of Denmark, and she had fifteen children, all of whom died in their early years.

It was Sarah Churchill who helped Queen Anne. She gave the Queen courage and firmness, and made the sad Queen laugh. And Sarah’s husband, John Churchill, brought England glory with his military victories.

So it was natural that Queen Anne dreamed that her hero, and the Nation’s hero, the Duke of Marlborough, and his Sarah, should have a mighty Palace.

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In 1776 Sir William Eden’s finest secret agent was a scholarly American churchman

Posted in America, Espionage, Famous battles, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about espionage in America originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Battle of Bunker Hill, picture, image, illustration

Battle of Bunker Hill by Trumbull (after)

It was 1776. The young clergyman with the cherubic countenance edged his way through the dense throng near St. James’s. The passers-by stared curiously after him, catching the twang of his American accent, and some muttered darkly. For Britain was at war with her 13 colonies in America, and had recently suffered a humiliating defeat at Bunker Hill.

Had they but known it, the British had a firm ally in the young cleric. He was the Reverend John Vardill from New York, and he had given up a brilliant future as a churchman and scholar to serve as a British agent, believing that America’s best interests lay in maintaining her union with Britain.

As he made his way through West-minister a voice – also American – hailed him. He turned and found himself face-to-face with a fellow-student from New York. He greeted his friend warmly and invited him back for supper.

Vardill lived in a small office at No. 17 Downing Street, not far from the Prime Minister and near the rooms of Sir William Eden, the Under-Secretary of State who controlled Britain’s intelligence service.

As they shared a bottle of wine, he pressed his friend for the latest news from his home state. Then he asked what had brought him to England. His friend was at first reluctant to say, but after a few more bottles stood empty on the table, he revealed that he had just come from secret business with the American Commissioners in Paris.

Vardill pricked up his ears. These Commissioners were of great interest to him. They had been sent by the Colonists to negotiate with France for help against England. They were led by a sincere but guileless diplomat – Silas Deane. Vardill saw here an opportunity to infiltrate the commissioners’ councils.

Pulling his chair closer, he asked his friend where his loyalty lay. Indignantly the other replied that he served the Colonies. But as Vardill began to drop hints of the money which British agents could earn, his friend’s eyes glistened. By the end of the evening his friend was pledged to serve the British.

The bribes were to make a large hole in Sir William Eden’s resources, but it was a worthwhile investment. Through his friend, Vardill obtained the first reliable lists of the American agents in France and the covering names and addresses of their sympathisers in England.

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The railways brought a population explosion to Britain’s seaside towns

Posted in British Towns, Historical articles, History, Leisure, Railways, Sea on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about the British seaside originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Margate, picture, image, illustration

Arriving at Margate on the popular Margate hoys

It was the English doctors – many of them cranks – who laid the foundations of the English seaside. The “sea-water cure,” recommended by Dr. Wittie at Scarborough and Dr. Russell at Brighton, was the simple start of it – you swallowed the sea and you floundered about in the sea, and that, roughly, was that!

But by the mid-1800s an even more dedicated gentleman appeared on the scene – an Italian named Augustus Bozzi who, to be on the safe side, changed it to Augustus Granville. Granville was a kind of refined Sanitary Inspector with a nose for bad drains and an eye ever open for invalids of “the superior classes.” He prowled from resort to resort, condemning some for the merry noise which they made and the unhealthy smell in which they made it, while praising others for their peace and quiet “so desirable for those of weakly constitution.”

On Bournemouth Dr. Granville went great guns. In his book The Spas of England the Doctor raved: “No situation that I have had occasion to examine along the whole southern coast possesses so many capabilities of being made the first invalid sea-watering place in England. I hold it superior to either Bonchurch or Ventnor. It is an inland sheltered haven for the most tender invalids.”

And so it was that the quiet resort among its health-giving pine-trees began to grow. But there was little else to do in Bournemouth but be delicate, coddle yourself and, in very many cases, to die. A depressing atmosphere existed, but we must look practically at the multitude of almost “professional invalids” which the 19th century seemed to produce. The answer was that while some of them – the wealthy ones – suffered from ills more imaginary than real, and enjoyed being fussed over, others were genuine cases of tuberculosis, “the consumption,” for which there was no cure in those days. Life might be prolonged for a little while by taking it easy in the fresh air of Bournemouth, but that was all. In Torquay it was much the same.

We have tales of healthy visitors to one of Torquay’s two hotels being appalled to find “spitting bowls” as part of their bedroom furniture, and of being kept awake night-long by the coughing and wheezing of other guests. Bournemouth’s and Torquay’s churchyards began to fill with graves of people lamentably young. One visitor, prowling around there, felt that the tombstone of a man aged 80 marked a scene almost of trespass!

Bournemouth’s inaccessibility kept it quiet, refined and full of gentle melancholy. But then, in 1871 came that greatest of all boons and blessings to the English seaside – the railway. A boon and a blessing, that was, to those residents who saw prosperity in taking money off the visitors.

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Germany’s chemical weapons killed thousands at Ypres in 1915

Posted in Famous battles, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 1 on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.

Battle of Ypres, picture, image, illustration

The Canadians stood their ground with only wet handkerchiefs to protect them from poison gas; (top) Ypres was reduced to ruin in the notorious battle, by Frank Bellamy

Fifty-six years have gone past. There are not many men alive today who marched with the first hundred thousand of the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914. To have been a boy-soldier – a bugler or a drummer, perhaps – and to have survived the holocausts of the first six months of that war, and to have lived to this day, a man would be in his mid-seventies.

But they are still around: a handful of ex-regular soldiers of the pre-World War I British army. They are to be found in cities, towns and villages all over these islands or as pensioners in the Royal Military Hospital at Chelsea – brave in their scarlet tunics, and wearing the Mons Star medal that shows them to be proud members of that gallant company of “Old Contemptibles”.

Ask one of these old campaigners to tell of the days in 1915, when the Western Front had become frozen in two lines of opposing trenches that were to scar the face of Europe for four nightmare years. One of the first words that will spring to his lips will be – “Wipers”.

Wipers – or Ypres, to give it its correct spelling – was an undistinguished Belgian town which, but for the ill-fortune of war, might have stayed as peaceful, unmarked and unsung as Scunthorpe and Basingstoke.

In the Spring of 1915, it was rapidly on its way to being no more than a place on a map: a place of jagged ruins rising among torn tree stumps, in a quagmire of shell-pitted mud that was soon to be drenched in the blood of thousands.

Ypres was destined for a dark and sombre immortality!

By April, the chestnuts were in blossom, and Europe lay under a Spring heatwave. After the carnage of the previous month, the Western Front was quiet.

On the morning of the 22nd, the Germans opened up heavy artillery fire on Ypres and its surrounding areas, which all lay behind the British lines. The fire slackened towards the afternoon, but shortly after 5 p.m., greenish-yellow clouds were seen creeping towards the French sector, north of Ypres.

The Canadian Division, newly arrived at the front, were adjacent to the French, but were not in telephonic communication with them. Farther downwind, men began to complain of curious sensations in the nose, eyes, throat and chest. As time passed, it was noticed that the French artillery has stopped firing. Clearly, something was badly amiss.

It was not till French infantrymen came pouring out of the lines towards the rear areas – choking for breath, with their faces blue – that the truth was apparent in all its horror.

The Germans were employing poison gas!

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Mao Tse-tung began the Communist struggle for power on the Long March

Posted in Communism, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Politics, Revolution on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about China originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 443 published on 11 July 1970.

Long March, picture, image, illustration

The Long March by Andrew Howat

The year was 1911. Western Europe was at peace, but in the faraway East, one of the biggest nations on earth was awakening from the sleep of centuries. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the father of modern Chinese nationalism had returned from exile in Japan to head the Government of the Republic of China. The Imperial Manchu dynasty had been overthrown in revolution and China now looked forward to a new era.

Sun Yat-Sen’s Government established itself at Nanking which became the capital over Imperial Peking, city of the North and of Emperors. Although well intentioned, the Nanking Government was incapable of controlling China’s far-flung provinces long under the domination of the warlords who were political bandits who had always sold their support to the highest bidder. Therefore there was still no real peace in China. The country quickly slipped back into the chaos and intrigue of ancient times.

For the majority of Chinese, life continued much as before. Just to stay alive was uppermost in the average peasant’s mind, dependant as he was on the rice crop and his landlord. Mao Tse-tung was such a peasant. Born in 1893 in South China, Mao like most Chinese had a passion for education which eventually took him to high school, from where he graduated in 1918, when he was 25.

Naturally gravitating towards Peking, still the centre of Chinese culture today, Mao found work in the university library and immersed himself in the political life of the city. The Russian Revolution had succeeded the previous year in setting up the world’s first Communist state and Mao found himself in sympathy with Lenin’s ideals, so much so that when the Chinese Communist Party was formed and held its congress in 1921, he was elected as a party official.

Mao rose rapidly in the ranks of the Communist Party, which was increasing in strength and influence, so much so that it was finally allowed to participate in the Government. Things looked good for them, until the sudden death of Sun Yat-Sen in 1925. China was now in the hands of Chiang Kai-Shek, the right-wing leader of the Government. Relations between Chiang and the Communists deteriorated until in 1927 Chiang mounted an anti-Communist purge. Communism became a crime punishable by death.

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The Rosetta Stone held the key to understanding Egyptian hyeroglyphs

Posted in Ancient History, Archaeology, Historical articles, History, Language on Wednesday, 30 October 2013

This edited article about Ancient Egypt originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 443 published on 11 July 1970.

The Rosetta Stone, picture, image, illustration

Napoleon brought in scholars to solve the secrets of the ancient languages of the Rosetta Stone by C L Doughty

A soldier’s spade found a black slab of stone 3 ft. 9 in. long, 2 ft. 4 ½ in. wide and 11 in. thick. This was the vital clue to a mystery that the best brains in Europe had failed to solve during centuries of brow-furrowing thought.

For hundreds of years the Ancient Egyptians had been regarded as a mysterious people. Fanciful stories and legends abounded about them. Mediaeval scholars, magicians and alchemists believed that the ancients of Egypt had solved all the mysteries of the Universe, understood all the secrets of life and death, had made contact with the life beyond, and could summon up the Powers of Darkness and strange gods of good and evil.

Certainly the Egyptians were master-builders, or, in the modern term, “civil engineers.” The Pyramids have remained for 28 centuries as undeniable proof of this.

Carvings of fabulous animals of gigantic size slept for eons half-buried in the sands of the North African desert. There were statues and pillars all with lengthy inscriptions painstakingly chiselled by long-dead scribes on the plinths of these great mysterious memories from the past.

The inscriptions would explain all . . . if only they could be read.

The strange fact was, that for all the might of Egypt that had endured for 30 centuries or more, the language had died. The reading and writing of that ancient empire was a forgotten art. All knowledge of it had been lost, and until it was found again, the myriad of careful carvings would remain as meaningless as Chinese to a South American Indian.

The death of the ancient Egyptian language had been a gradual process. It began when the Greek, Alexander the Great, invaded the land and founded the flourishing city of Alexandria. Greek traders introduced their own simple alphabet for business transactions, as did the Hebrew traders who also set up in the new city.

Eventually Egypt became a province of Rome, and Latin was used as well as Greek, but the picturesque Egyptian writing did survive for formal purposes until the end of the 4th century A.D. The spoken word vanished with the sweeping advance of the Moslems in the 7th century, and since then Arabic has been the language of Egypt.

Thus, ancient Egyptian became a dead and baffling tongue, and remained so until the early years of the 19th century, when the key to the riddle was found by a combination of accident and genius.

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