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  • Secret Aberdeen by Lorna Corall Dey

    Secret Aberdeen 1 Suffragette Helen Fraser campaigning in the 1908 Kincardineshire by-election (courtesy of Aberdeenshire Libraries)

    Secret Aberdeen belongs to Amberley Publishing's series on UK towns and cities which tantalises readers with some rare historical delicacies.

    I did not compile the information for this book under any misconception I was revealing actual secrets but with the intention of bringing to the forefront of public attention people and incidents long forgotten which deserve a higher profile in the story of this city.

    The story of Aberdeen could be told in innumerable ways for its history stretches back so far and episodes from its past are so many and varied that interpreting them is surely infinite. It is the oldest corporation in Scotland; its Royal Charter was bestowed by King William the Lion in the twelfth century and it became a thriving trading port with the Continent but what you will find in Secret Aberdeen are snapshots of more recent chapters of the city's life which reflect something of the character of its people and the influence it has had on the wider world since the 18th century.

    There are no intentional links between the sections of the book but more observant readers will detect them for in a small city there are inevitable confluences of occurrences and personalities.

    Secret Aberdeen 3 Jopp, wine and spirit merchants. James Jopp was the Lord Provost who presented Dr Johnson with the freedom of the town in August 1773. (Secret Aberdeen)

    William Cadenhead's The Book of Bon-Accord is a wonderful resource for all sorts of nuggets that are available for anyone interested in history but for today's reader his language can be a barrier and so all the better for translation into a more familiar idiom. What he has to say about something as simple as supplying a city with water became the starting point in our story before it veered into howffs and bars, long gone and faded from public memory, that were once lively and raucous escapes from gruelling work and bleak, pitiful homes for a few short hours – where fortunes were made and lost and drinking tastes changed by century from French wines to whisky, the juice o' the barley. Hard drinking and dry humour; the timberman who drowned while negotiating his dangerous cargo down river from the forests of Deeside to the consternation of the local publican who claimed he'd never known him pass that way without dropping in for a drink.

    We find out that the oil and gas capital of Europe enjoyed an earlier gas boom (not always terribly safe), in the nineteenth century, which began privately in a small way before being bought by the council and finally nationalised as part of British Gas. Then there was Stinky Miller's, notorious in Aberdeen, it was a very successful off-shoot of Aberdeen's town gas.

    There is a chapter which picks out some of the many industries in Aberdeen which contributed specialist machinery and expertise to the British Empire including ones involved in the development of processing chocolate and coffee, which you might think about while you nibble on that chocolate bar and sip on your latte. If Aberdeen does not strike you as having been an industrial town then think again, its influence has been immense. 'Most dams start in Aberdeen' claimed an advertisement for the engineering company J. M. Henderson and that sentiment might have applied to so much more.

    Secret Aberdeen 4 Little-known lithograph of a demostration on the Boradhill in 1832 (courtesy of Aberdeen City Libraries)

    Of all the 100 illustrations in the book, selected for their rarity, that which excited me most was one I had never come across before, a coloured lithograph of a pro-reform demonstration on the eve of the Great Reform Act of 1832, on the Broad Hill at Aberdeen beach. It is not only a fine illustration but an important record of an event little-known and I am glad to have managed to include it in a section on popular agitation which takes in Chartism, the Suffragette movement as well as featuring the first publication of documents relating to the Aberdeen Parliament.

    Dr Mary Esslemont, Professor Dugald Baird and Lord John Boyd Orr lived, worked and contributed enormously to health in Aberdeen, Scotland, Britain and across the world. Aberdeen was at the forefront of women's and children's health provision and in the expansion of family planning services offering free contraception and advice and it was in Aberdeen that life-saving cervical smear tests began. Aberdeen was also where experiments were carried out providing free school milk to young impoverished children before being taken up by the rest of the UK – one of the earliest influences of John Boyd Orr whose input into the wartime diet resulted in a population healthier at the end of the war than at the start. He went on to become the first Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and a major figure in the battle to alleviate world hunger.

    There is no space to write about the heroes who risked their lives to save the ancient Mither Kirk with its largest carillon of bells in Europe when fire broke out in 1874 – but it's all in Secret Aberdeen.


    Lorna Corall Dey's new book Secret Aberdeen is available for purchase now.

  • Forgotten History by Jem Duducu

    If there is an area of history I excel at it has to be “the obscure”. I can find it a little frustrating at times that the same old stories get trotted out again and again. I regularly peruse bookshops and often think, “oh great ANOTHER book on the Tudors” and that’s not the only topic that gets trotted out almost monthly. Yet there are literally thousands of interesting tales of long forgotten warriors, crazy rulers or plans that went tragically (sometimes comically) wrong.

    With the books I‘ve written so far I have tried to slip in some of these obscure gems in at various points.  I would have been remise not to have discussed the crusades in my book Deus Vult a  Concise History of the Crusades but even then I managed to get in the fact that one positive spin off of this bloody chapter of history was the introduction of the wheelbarrow to Europe.

    However with my new book Forgotten History I have really been able to cut loose and share my love of forgotten history. Split between four (rough) eras, I am able to throw out obscure, and I hope fascinating, stories from the dawn of mankind right up to the 1980s. If these titles wet your appetite then you have a similar mind to mine and rest assured, I tell all in the book:-

    How long have ladies been using cosmetics?

    Cavemen were communists.

    The biggest loser in history was Ala ad-Din Muhammed II Shah of the Khwarazmian Empire.

    The Battle of Portland, the decisive victory that both sides won…

    The most dangerous substance ever?

    How Tsar Paul I is a bit like a cheap sandwich…

    How many times has the US Air Force dropped nuclear bombs on Spain?

    All of these are genuine moments in history and proves the point that makes me love history - “truth is stranger than fiction” (Mark Twain).

    I will leave you with one example from the book. You would think that industrial action was perhaps an invention of the industrial revolution? Well not in the case of these plucky Ancient Egyptian artisans:-

    Ancient Egyptian strike action

    Ptolemaic Temple at Deir el-Medina (II) Deir el-Medina: the results of the first recorded strike action. (Courtesy of the Institute of the Ancient World)

    Going on strike, you would presume, is closely linked to the history of industrialisation and the formation of trade unions. Wrong! While it was of course the industrialisation of economies that led to better organised work forces, the idea of putting down tools because of a dispute goes back a very long way indeed.

    The very first strike recorded in history started in 1152 BC, on 14 November. This was during the reign of Rameses III in ancient Egypt.

    It is a common misconception, largely created by Biblical stories that much of the work on ancient Egyptian monuments was carried out by slaves. While the Egyptians did indeed have slaves, they were by no means the main workforce. Craftsmen, builders and haulers were paid men who took pride in their work – this is evidenced by the quality of the structures, many of which have stood for more than 3,000 years.

    In November 1152 BC, trouble was brewing during the construction of a royal necropolis – a group of tombs/crypts – at Deir el-Medina. The workers felt they were being underpaid and that their wages were in arrears, so they organised a mass walkout, halting construction.

    The response was very interesting: you might assume that pharaohs would bring out the whips or cut the heads off the ring leaders of the strike, but after discussion the artisans’ wages were paid – in fact, their wages were actually increased – and the workers returned to finish the job.

    The necropolis still stands to this day.


    Jem Duducu's new book Forgotten History is available for purchase now.

  • Ghostbusters Collectables - 'How I got Started' by Matt MacNabb

    My first memories of Ghostbusters were that of sheer terror. I was four years old and my parents had taken us to the movie theater to see the original 1984 film. It was like nothing I'd seen before, and while most don't consider it a scary movie, I certainly did. I was stricken with fear by everything from Slimer, the green ghost, to the twin terror dogs. The film left me with nightmares and awful feelings, at least for a time.

    Ghostbusters Collectables pic 1 Matt MacNabb - Age 8 -

    By the time that The Real Ghostbusters cartoon debuted on television I was far more receptive to the adventures of the ghost-hunting quartet. I was seven years old when the show debuted and quickly became a rabid Ghostbusters fan. I began collecting the toys and started dressing up like a Ghostbuster on an almost daily basis.

    I can still remember buying my first Ghostbusters toy. My mother took me to our local Target store (they weren't Super yet back then) and I headed to the back of the store, in search of new toys. I had gotten birthday money from my grandma and it was burning a hole in my pocket, as usual. That day I purchased the first wave Kenner The Real Ghostbusters Peter Venkman action figure... and I was hooked. The other Ghostbusters, ghosts and the Ecto-1 vehicle would soon follow at Christmas time and for the next four years my obsession didn't wane.

    Ghostbusters Collectables pic 4 The Real Ghostbusters Kid's Uniform (Ghostbusters Collectables)

    If it was Halloween I was a Ghostbuster. If I was going anywhere, I had my trusty plastic PKE meter with me, just in case. I started my own Jr. Ghostbusters business, complete with business cards, so that I could offer my services to the local neighborhood. My grandmother sewed me a very authentic looking Ghostbusters costume (and another when Ghostbusters II was released!), and I would don that daily, complete with full proton pack and other gear, to do patrols of the local streets, assuring that no ghost would go unnoticed. You can imagine that I was wildly unpopular...and you'd be correct. I am what you would qualify as an obsessive weirdo.

    You will see fans enjoying cosplay nowadays at comic book conventions, where they're adored, revered and fawned over. If you see people dressing up like Ghostbusters you may even want to take a picture with them. That was certainly not the case when I was growing up. The other kids were far past the fad and into crushes and sports, but I stood strong, against ridicule and mockery. It wasn’t trendy and it wasn't cool, but that never deterred me one bit.

    Ghostbusters Collectables pic 3 The Real Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Vehicle (Ghostbusters Collectables)

    When my wife and I began collecting toys on a full-time basis in 1997 it also wasn't cool. In fact, when someone would see our house and our collections they would leave wide-eyed and confused. It just wasn't something your average person understood or participated in. There were certainly Hot Wheels and Barbie collectors in those days, but what we did was a rarity. Now if I show pictures of our extensive toy collections we get praise, adoration and expressions of envy.

    Oh, how the world has changed. One thing that hasn't changed over the years is my love and passion not just for the Ghostbusters franchise, but for the toys and merchandise, as well. I wrote Ghostbusters Collectables as an expression of that passion and I hope above all that comes through in the pages. Dan Aykroyd, who needs no introduction, was generous and kind enough to provide a foreword and even answer a few collections about the Ghostbusters toys that he himself owns, which I have incorporated into the book, as well.


    Matt MacNabb's new book Ghostbusters Collectables is available for purchase now.

  • The Victorian Parson by Barry Turner

    On the south side of Waterloo Bridge, not far from the National Theatre, stands the church of St. John. Built early in the reign of Queen Victoria, when this part of London was slum territory, the barn like interior was designed to accommodate up to two thousand worshippers. Though hard to imagine now, the church was often full to over flowing.

    Victorian parson 3 The village choir, in a painting by Robert Webster. (Courtesy of Robert Cutts)

    It may come as another surprise to know that St. John’s was built with taxpayer’s money. It was one of 214 government sponsored churches that went up in areas of burgeoning population and extreme poverty.

    The more cynically minded will immediately spot a class inspired attempt to stifle social unrest in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. And, of course, there is some truth in this. But the religious revival that started with the new churches and a new generation of active and dedicated clergy had more to it than political calculation.

    Traditionally at the heart of the nation’s affairs, the Church was galvanized by Victorian idealism to embark on a mission to civilize a people caught up in the throes of unprecedented technological and social change. It was the Church that led the way in promoting education, decent housing, proper sanitation, personal hygiene and what came to be known as family values.

    I anticipate the howls from those who protest against hypocrisy and double standards by readily conceding that, like all great reforming movements, the Victorian Church had its share of humbugs and villains who hid their nefarious activities under a shawl of piety. I could outstay my welcome by retailing stories of dirty doings at the vicarage. Suffice to say that the worst offenders, like the rector who took lead from the church roof to sell as scrap and the curate who was found guilty of visiting a brothel and being drunk in the pulpit, gained notoriety but were by no means typical.

    Victorian parson 1 Church of St Mary the Virgin, Buty. This church was completely rebuilt during the Victorian era, though a church has existed on the site since AD 971.

    More mainstream was the Rev. William Leigh who opened his home to cholera victims, and William Butler, who renovated slum properties to make them fit to live in.

    And so we come back to family values. The family was central to Church teaching. However imperfect, the family gave life its structure and meaning. Central to this concept was the role of wives and mothers as the conscience of the nation. Seen today, it is all so excruciatingly patronising, but it made sense at the time.

    Prudish and often myopic they may have been, but the clergy had few illusions as to the male capacity for piggish behaviour. They were well aware of commercial sharp practice, of the casualties of industrial expansion and the evils of alcoholism and prostitution which thrived on mass poverty. Limited in the material remedies they could offer, they promoted standards to which all classes might aspire. Feminine virtues were fundamental to their aims.

    I need hardly add that the Victorian ideal is no match for today’s standards. But if it had not been for the Victorian ideal, there might not be any modern standards to live up to.


    Barry Turner's new paperback edition of his book The Victorian Parson is available for purchase now.

  • Glasgow in 50 Buildings – Michael Meighan addresses the image of Glasgow as a city of slums

    Glasgow has a reputation as a city of slums. The reality was far from this popular image. While there were substantial areas of poor housing the creation of fit housing was always to the fore in Glasgow. These are some of the measures taken to alleviate the problem.

    Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe, visited Glasgow in 1707 and had declared it ‘The cleanest and beautifullest, and best built city in Britain, London excepted’, by 1807 all this had changed. While there continued to be fine new developments, building in the City was generally uncontrolled, oblivious to sanitary engineering and was outstripping the ability of the fast growing population to be fed and watered.

    Glasgow in 50 Buildings 2 1896 photo by Thomas Annan of Glasgow city centre housing

    The huge industrial expansion in Glasgow aided and abetted by harsh conditions in rural communities attracted Irish immigrants as well as those from the West Highlands. In 1750 the population was 32,000 but had risen to half million by 1870.

    This growing population was housed in poorly designed and hastily constructed buildings that became squalid and overcrowded. This put pressure on the supply of drinking water and foodstuffs. Watercourses and wells became polluted. The city was choking in the thick smog from the vast factories, mills, workshops and foundries.

    In these circumstances disease was rampant and infant mortality high. The period also saw rises in crime, drunkenness and juvenile delinquency. It was a situation if, left to continue, would probably see the city in economic decline and social disaster. This was a time for radical action. One of those who saw the problems and the likely outcomes was John Blackie Jnr. A publisher by trade, he went on to enable huge changes in the city, becoming a respected Lord Provost and churchman.

    It was as a politician that John Blackie made his largest and most long lasting contribution to life in Glasgow. He was elected onto Glasgow Town Council in 1857 becoming Lord Provost in 1863. His major work in this time was the 1866 City Improvement Act which was a major programme of improving life in the squalid poorer areas of the City.

    Glasgow in 50 Buildings 1 City Improvement Trust Buildings, Saltmarket.

    The 1866 Act gave Glasgow Town Council powers to set up a City Improvement Trust. This was to purchase slum property, demolish it and to widen and re-align narrow city centre streets. The areas targeted for slum clearance were mainly round about Glasgow Cross. The idea was to demolish the outdated buildings of the time and encourage private builders to build on the cleared areas.

    However, building on the cleared land was very slow partly caused by the Collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank as well as a recession at the time. At one time the Improvement trust had to cease demolishing properties and found itself Glasgow’s biggest slum landlord.  It wasn’t till the 1890s that building got going again and soon the trust had built 34 tenements containing 1200 homes. By 1913, the Corporation, which took over responsibility for housing from the Trust, had built 2,199 tenement houses in the city.

    Naturally there was no house building during the First World War. Following the War, rather than returning to a 'Land fit for heroes', the soldiers instead returned to unemployment 'the dole' and houses in a declining state.

    In 1919 Government legislation made it compulsory for local authorities to plan housing schemes based on the 'garden city' principles and gave funding to do it. With this funding, Glasgow took this movement to heart and in Mosspark created the first garden suburb with two-thirds of the population housed in cottage type buildings.

    Glasgow in 50 Buildings 3 Houses in the Knightswood estate (Baldric Avenue)

    In Knightswood was created one of Britain's largest such garden areas. From 1923, the City's Direct Labour squad built 6714 houses. At the same time, they catered for almost all denominations and eight churches were built along with shopping centres, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and football pitches. Even a cricket pitch was provided. It was also a 'dry' area, that is, with no public houses. It is still generally the case.

    There was a general move away from stone to brick built and harled construction. The longevity of these buildings is proof of their quality. As part of Glasgow City housing stock they have been brought up to current modern standards on at least two occasions. Ironically, many of those bought under 'Right to buy' show signs of wear and the differences are testimonial to how well councils actually looked after housing stock.

    Even as these garden suburbs were being created, they were becoming too expensive and by 1926 the standard had to be lowered. The differences in density and quality of build can be seen clearly between Knightswood and Upper Knightswood. Again, it was external influences which were preventing the building of the houses 'for heroes'. The depression of the time, not relieved until the Second World War stopped most social housing being built.

    Of course, this was exactly the time houses were needed. Those 'slum' areas that were left had to be dealt with. But with the lack of funds to build, deprivation and the dole brought misery and violence which erupted in the streets, again not to be relieved until stopped by Percy Sillitoe's police and the Second World War.

    It is this inter-war period which created the myth of Glasgow slums. However, in the totality of what was and is Glasgow, the Gorbals and these other areas could not be said to sum up the city. When you take into account the ever-expanding city areas including Kelvingrove, Hillhead and Queen's Park, there were plenty of fine and adequate buildings. When you then include the expanded burghs, taking into account Anniesland, Cathcart, Langside and so on, you would find that in fact, there were very few areas which would be called slums. Even the 85,000 people in the Gorbals and Hutchesontown areas could not be called to account for being slum dwellers. They were living in desperate conditions, but often making the best of it as the city prepared for rebuilding. Knightswood gives an idea of the very real attempts which were made to correct this.


    Michael Meighan's new book Glasgow in 50 Buildings is available now.

  • William Shakespeare and Henry V by Teresa Cole

    One of Shakespeare’s most enduringly popular plays is Henry V. Indeed Henry appears as a main character in three plays, although in the first two his star is undoubtedly eclipsed by the fat knight, Falstaff. Despite the fact that Shakespeare was writing some 180 years after the death of his subject, Henry’s story had never been allowed to fade from the public consciousness, championed first by those who survived him, and later by Tudor kings such as Henry VIII, who saw himself as a similarly heroic figure.

    There were, therefore, many sources available to Shakespeare on which to base his works. Notable among them was the Chronicle of Edward Hall and the collaborative work known as Holinshed’s Chronicles, while the play, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, being performed in the late 1580s, has so many points in common with Shakespeare’s own acknowledged work that some have suggested it might have been an early attempt by the bard himself. Given this wealth of material to draw on, it is interesting to consider how much of the story is told in the plays matches what we know as historical fact about this ‘star of England’.

    Henry V 1 The battlefield at Shrewsbury

    Certainly Shakespeare telescoped the timescale within his three plays. We see Henry first as a grown man, Prince Henry, king-in-waiting, consorting with thieves and scoundrels at the time of the Percys’ revolt and the battle of Shrewsbury. In fact at that time Henry was a boy of sixteen, while Hotspur, shown as his contemporary, was a generation older and recently the Prince’s mentor and governor. In spite of this the boy did fight in the battle, not rescuing his father as depicted in the play, but still contributing substantially to the king’s victory, and in the process receiving a severe wound to the face that might easily have ended his career there and then.

    As for the tales of consorting with low-lifes and frequenting the taverns in Eastcheap which make up a large part of the first two plays, there is again some basis for this in the records. Henry, made Prince of Wales immediately after his father’s accession to the throne, spent a large part of his teens actively and dutifully subduing the Glendower rebellion in his principality. There was, however, a period in his early twenties when something of a rift appeared between him and his father, Henry IV, though this seems to have been more of the king’s making than his son’s.

    The Prince had been effectively running the country for some time during the king’s prolonged illness when abruptly he was dismissed and stories began to circulate about his behaviour. Accused of drunken brawling, womanising and even stealing the wages of the Calais garrison while Captain of Calais, Henry himself always flatly denied these stories, claiming that someone was deliberately trying to blacken his name. Certainly he was present in Eastcheap. He had a house there, formerly known as Poulteney Inn, given to him by his father, but the only concrete evidence of brawls names his brothers rather than himself.

    Maybe the strongest evidence for these accusations is the fact that many people commented how much the Prince changed for the better as soon as he became king. Shakespeare’s comment, “The breath no sooner left his father’s body but that his wildness … seemed to die too,” only reflects what people were saying at the time.

    The strangest part of the unruly episodes depicted in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, however, is the naming of the fat knight himself. Though he comes down to us today as Sir John Falstaff, Shakespeare originally called him Sir John Oldcastle, and only changed the name under sustained pressure from the descendants of the real Oldcastle, one of whom was chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth I. Why the playwright originally chose that name is puzzling since there seems nothing whatever in common between the historical character and the drunken head of a thieves’ kitchen.

    Henry V 2 Oldcastle escaped from the Tower of London

    Sir John Oldcastle was indeed a friend of Prince Henry, first becoming acquainted with him during the Welsh wars. On marrying an heiress he became Lord Cobham with a seat in the House of Lords, and his notoriety is based not on thieving and drunkenness but on his membership of what was at the time seen as a heretical sect, the Lollards. These predecessors of the Protestant revolution to come, followed the teaching of John Wycliffe, believing that the Catholic Church was corrupt and in need of reform, and far too involved in meddling in state rather than religious matters. Lollard involvement in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 led to the sect being banned, and from 1401 Lollards in England who refused to recant could be burned as heretics.

    In 1413, soon after Henry became king, Oldcastle was arrested, put on trial for his beliefs which he made no attempt to deny, and condemned as a ‘most pernicious and detestable heretic.’ The king, however, intervened and insisted Oldcastle should have 40 days to consider his situation before the death penalty should be carried out. In that time Sir John escaped from the Tower, led a failed plot against Henry, escaped again and then spent four years at large, probably in his own territory of Herefordshire, before being captured and finally put to death in December 1417. At that time Henry was busy at the siege of Rouen so we don’t know whether he would have tried again to save the life of his old friend.

    Of course by the time Shakespeare was writing the Protestant religion held sway in England and it was dangerous to be a Catholic. Oldcastle’s stand against the old church would, by then, have been seen as heroic. When the bard changed the name of his character, therefore, he added a clear disclaimer in the epilogue to Henry IV Part 2. “For Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man.” Some have suggested that the Shakespeare family held secret sympathies with the outlawed Catholic Church, and it is just possible that the name Sir John Oldcastle was chosen deliberately in an attempt to blacken the name of that martyr. If so it seems the playwright did not allow for the determination of high-placed family members to protect the image of their ancestor.


    Teresa Cole's new paperback editon of her book Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King and the Battle of Agincourt is available now.

  • Chaucer's Malyn Ancestors and the 'Towne of Tavernes' by Susan Gardiner

    Anyone wishing to write a screenplay for a film or TV drama to rival Game of Thrones might do well to look towards the lovely Suffolk county town of Ipswich. Suffolk has a reputation for the tranquil beauty of its rural landscape and unspoilt coastline, and of course, for the most famous end-product of its agriculture: beer. If you live in Suffolk, it's difficult not to be aware of the significance that beer and brewing has had in the county's history and culture. Its most famous breweries also have well-known literary connections, from the many writers in the Cobbold family, of the Tolly Cobbold brewery, such as the poet Elizabeth Cobbold (1765-1824) and her son, Richard (1797-1877), the author of The History of Margaret Catchpole, to the descendant of the Greene King brewing dynasty, the novelist Graham Greene (1904-1991). It was not until I started the research for my last book, Secret Ipswich (Amberley, 2015), however, that I realised how closely another great English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), was associated with the town, and what a fascinating story it is. The further research that I had to do for my latest book, Ipswich Pubs, made me realise the significance that Chaucer's family had in the life of late-medieval Ipswich. It is a story of violence, theft, and even murder, involving, among many complicated plots and sub-plots, the kidnapping of the poet's father.

    3 Great White Horse The Great White Horse Hotel

    Chaucer's grandfather was Robert Malin le Chaucer, and it's thought the name might have been derived from the occupation of shoemaker, or chausseur. He was also known as Robert the Saddler, so it's possible that he was some kind of maker or seller of leather goods. Some scholars believe that hosiery, cloth and leather goods were often sold in taverns, and the term 'chaucer' referred to those vintners and taverners who did so. Chaucer's family was certainly in the tavern trade for many generations. His grandfather was known as Robert le Taverner and he was, as his name suggests, the owner of several taverns in Ipswich. This was not merely any old town, however, or indeed, any old tavern. Ipswich, we discover, was known as the 'Towne of Tavernes,' a deserved sobriquet, probably resulting from the great demand for accommodation from the thousands of travellers who flocked to its shrine, Our Lady of Grace, which was only third in significance in England (after Canterbury and Walsingham) until its destruction during the Reformation. Ipswich was packed with taverns, inns and beerhouses for centuries and the Malyn family owned several inns and wine shops, mostly around what was known as the 'street of taverns,' which is still called Tavern Street today, although there is not a single pub left now. One of the Malyns' hostelries was simply called The Tavern. It probably stood on the site of the huge building that became the Great White Horse Hotel, later of Pickwick Papers fame.

    2 Site of Malyn tavern The corner of Tavern Street and Dial Lane where the Holly Tavern may have stood

    In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Malyns had significant business interests in the town. Those who decry the state of the twenty-first-century Ipswich town centre might do well to remember that, in the Middle Ages, Tavern Street was at the conjunction of the Flesh Market, the Henne Market or Poultry (Tower Street), close to the Cheese and Fish Markets, and Cook's Row (now Dial Lane) was where all the bakers and cookshops were. Given that animals were butchered on the spot, the smell of the place must have been ripe, to put it mildly. It was a rough, violent time and we know a great deal about this family because, as property-owners, the Malyns were often recorded in the town's taxation records, and as a family that was constantly involved with criminal activity, they appeared in the court records just as frequently.

    In 1338, following a property dispute, a notorious fellow - who appears twice in Ipswich Pubs, committing acts of violence - Roger Bande, walked into the Holly Tavern and, with his sword, almost severed the hand of the owner, Albreda Malyn. She died from the wound he inflicted, but he went unpunished. Bande would get away with worse including murder. The Malyns - whose name may even be a version of the word 'malign' although I think it's more likely to be derived from Magdalen in some form - were little better. In 1344, Albreda's son, William was pardoned by the King "by fine of 300 marks, for all manner of oppressions, conspiracies, maintaining of quarrels, champerties, detaining of the King's wool and money, and taking of wool to foreign parts uncocketed and uncustomed, and of victuals and merchandise to Scotland contrary to the King's command."

    MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA A plaque to Chaucer’s ancestors on the site of one of their wine shops

    The most interesting story of all, however, involved Geoffrey Chaucer's father, John. In 1324 he was abducted at swordpoint by his aunt, Agnes Westhall and the man who was to be her second husband, Geoffrey Stace. The poet was later named after Stace, so there was clearly no long-term resentment, but the court case resulted in a large fine of £250 being imposed on Agnes and she was sent to the Marshalsea prison in London. The motive behind this strange turn of events was, as usual, connected with a property dispute. Agnes wanted to force her nephew into a marriage with her daughter, Joan, to ensure that through John she would get her hands on some of his substantial inheritance, as his father had died. A court case had found in favour of the child and his guardians in the disputed ownership of the Ipswich Vintry Tavern and several other nearby properties. The boy was rescued by his stepfather and stepbrother, and would be brought up in London, where he followed the family trade and became a vintner of some standing in the City of London. The forced marriage to Joan, who may have been twenty years older than John, did not take place, and everything appeared to end amicably.

    It's not known whether Geoffrey Chaucer ever visited his Suffolk relatives, but in The Canterbury Tales, in the prelude to ‘The Merchant's Tale’, he painted a portrait of a merchant, who might easily have been one of his Malyn ancestors, the river Orwell being the site of the port of Ipswich:


    A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,

    In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;

    Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,

    His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.

    His resons he spak ful solempnely,

    Sownynge alwey th'encrees of his wynnyng.

    He wolde the see were kept for any thyng

    Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.


    The early history of the Towne of Tavernes was one of violence, criminality and intrigue. Having written a brief history of many of Ipswich's pubs, inns and taverns, it doesn't appear that things were very different over the centuries that followed. Behind the picturesque - and Ipswich has more than its fair share of wonderful fifteenth and sixteenth century buildings, most of which were inns at some time - lies a picaresque and fascinating story. How sad then that so few of these great inns still exist and that one of the most famous Malyn-owned hostelries, The Tavern, which became the Great White Horse Hotel, has become just another Starbucks' coffee shop.


    Ipswich Pubs by Susan Gardiner is available for purchase now.

  • Why do I collect bayonets? by Graham Priest

    As a post Second World child my first eight years of existence were spent without a television and largely without regular access to a motor car. Radio and cinema was a big influence, but real-life experience and the printed word were the vehicles for much information or imaginative entertainment. Life in a suburb of the City of Bath revolved around local affairs. Friends lived in the neighbourhood, attended the same schools, were restricted to distances that could be travelled by bicycle or on foot (rarely steam train or omnibus) and had more freedom to roam than children today. Most adults were known by name and knew you. The outside world did intrude greatly into daily life as demolished buildings and blackened walls were dotted all over the locality due to the actions of the war. Luxury goods and many foodstuffs required coupons as rationing was still in place. Exploring old cellars on bomb sites, climbing trees, building dens, cooking simple food on campfires, paddling in streams or swimming in the River Avon (and the wonderful thermal baths) were normal activities.

    Socket Bayonets pic 1 Shrapnel from a German bomb from the rear of ‘Glen Rosa’, St. Saviour’s Road, Larkhall, and Bath dropped April 25th 1942. (Priest)

    My father who was in the design team for HMS Vanguard, an uncle who had served in the RAF in Iraq, India & Afghanistan and another as an infantryman in Burma hinted at military events. German coins of curious zinc with Hitler’s face, brass regimental buttons & badges, playing cards with silhouettes of aircraft, tiny grey wooden recognition models of ships & war planes appeared as keepsakes. A large rusty piece of bomb-casing from an allotment was a treasure as it had formed part of the weapon that took the roof off our rented house, with my parents and sister inside, during the ‘Bath Blitz’ (24th-25th April 1942). Even better was a ‘tin hat’ issued to the Home Guard. A gnarled stick became a rifle and the ‘Axis Powers’ (friends without helmets!) were defeated regularly in the overgrown orchard of the Larkhall suburb! Even in the school playground a trade in artefacts was common. Coins, stamps, marbles, buttons, badges & cigarette cards were standard fare. Where is this leading?

    My point is that circumstances produced a generation of collectors. Without the distractions of the digital age actual interaction between individuals was face-to-face. Limited resources fomented trade. Especially true when many domestic items, pre-1939, were no longer manufactured. The one exception was military surplus. To haggle required stock (‘swaps’ i.e. duplicates), discernment (do I have or want the other item?), knowledge (is the offering genuine and what is it?), relativity (what is the real value compared with the proposed deal?) and desire (how far can I go to secure the piece?). Such characteristics remain essential for the modern collector, whether they focus on bayonets or any other series of objects.

    My first acquisition was a Danish Model 1899 cavalry sabre, negotiated for 5 shillings (25p) in my Secondary School playground in 1957. The spurious story that the seller’s uncle had carried it in the Crimean War (1854-56) had been taken into account (and discarded) as the chap would have been rather long-lived to have done so. With rust on the piece how was it to be treated? ‘Conservation’ began immediately when my father helped out (to ruin the original patina) with the buffing wheel on his lathe. A lesson to be later re-examined. To display them came next. A ‘pegboard’, neatly framed, was set up in my bedroom by the willing parent. Of course a single blade looked rather lost so the search began for a matched pair. Again adult help was gained when another sword was spotted in a Widcombe ‘junk shop’ on the journey to work. This time cost was £1-10s (£1.50) and all pocket-money was needed to gain it. It was ‘Number 21995’, a Pattern 1855 Wilkinson brass ‘Gothic’ hilted British infantry officer’s arm with steel scabbard. The symmetrical cross on the panel it made with the Danish version was (briefly) satisfying.

    Chance then took a hand. George Deverall an ‘Uncle’ (most male neighbours were then) offered a French épée-bayonet that he had kept to defend his wholesale confectionary shop during the war. On fetching it from the Bath Walcot Street store a traditional farthing was requested to secure the gift. Although a variety of edged weapons appeared in the collection from this time onwards, either ethnic types or bayonets appeared to be the most commonly seen. Sword and knife bayonets soon outnumbered the rest. Specialism was still some years away.

    A typed list was begun. Marks noted on the pieces stimulated enquiries. My French schoolmaster translated a rubbing from the back of the Épée-baïonnette modèle 1874. The inscription of Mre d’Armes de Ste Etienne Janvier 1878 became ‘Saint Etienne Arms Manufactory January 1878.’ This was my first research result. A few years later J.A. Clayton of Wilkinson Sword Ltd. confirmed that blade number 21995 had been sold at Pall Mall on 21st September 1877 as part of a batch of twenty-five examples.

    ‘O’ & ‘A’ Levels, higher education, job, marriage and family did not dim the search for extra edged weapons. A cedar wood panel was created in the hall of the new house. Street markets, antique shops, army surplus stores and similar emporia displayed numerous desirable blades so choice was only limited to a ready budget. The initial rule that no purchase would be made on credit was maintained.

    Socket Bayonets pic 2 A recreation of the Quinney’s socket bayonet shell case. All the pieces were bought there. (Priest)

    Focus appeared when passing Quinney’s antique shop in Park Row when studying at Bristol University. In the corner of the window was a brass shell case full of socket bayonets. [Fig.2] Although cheaper than most of the serried ranks of weapons inside, the container never seemed to empty. Closer study showed the objects to be subtly different and possibly well over 150 years old. A steady purchase began. Soon swords, Malayan kris, sword-bayonets etc. previously bought began to be sold off to raise funds.  This was the time when a wider search for socket bayonets started. Exchange & Mart listed mail-order bayonet sellers and through this medium contact with the established gurus of the bayonet world was at last fulfilled.

    An awareness now dawned that many more discerning individuals had been influenced by the increased availability of bayonets in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of this was the result of the business acumen of international arms dealers such as Sam Cummings who had seen the potential of the civilian market to boost sales. (Brogan, P., & Zarca: 1984)  He realised that North American shooters & huntsmen would buy up cheap military rifles for ‘sporterisation’ and the bayonets were therefore extra sources of revenue if sold separately. Those in the loop began general collections, others sought a particular country (Germany, Britain & USA especially) and a few became ‘middle men’ to supply the rest. Notable among the latter in England was John Anthony Carter (1943-2002) who had worked for Christie’s auction houses in London and Montreal. (Daily Telegraph: 6-7-2002)  His cyclostyled list of bayonets from August 1971 onwards created a regular clientele. Other pioneers included Gordon Hughes from Brighton, George Seymour from Southend and Bernard Marsh from Manchester. Elsewhere in the world John Denner of Lancaster, Ontario Canada also set up in business. Interest was encouraged through advertising in journals such a Guns Review or the above trade paper I had discovered. They integrated with established groups (focused on armour, firearms & swords) that created opportunities for meetings at venues such as Arms Fair ‘68 held at the Cumberland Hotel in London. Less emphasis on the bayonet field ensured that demand was in its infancy and therefore availability greater.

    A desire for knowledge at the time stimulated writers to publish data specifically about bayonets. In Britain Robert Wilkinson-Latham’s British Military Bayonets: From 1700-1945 (1967), Bert Walsh’s Bayonets Illustrated and Identified, Vol.1 (1968), Fred Stephen’s Bayonets: An Illustrated History and Reference Guide (1968) and John Walter & Gordon Hughes’ A Primer of World Bayonets: Common Knife & Sabre Bayonets, Part 1 (1969) set the scene. Al Hardin’s The American Bayonet 1776-1964 (1964) had already surpassed these academically with its amazing original research. Anthony Carter, Peter White, John Watts, Roger Evans, Ian Skennerton, Jerry Janzen, Robert Reilly and Paul Kiesling were soon to follow. Each more sophisticated study provided accurate background or explored a particular blade style.

    Anthony Carter became an authority on German bayonets through his meticulous studies, and even opened up another branch of acquisition with his three-volume series entitled Bayonet Belt Frogs. More comprehensive general surveys supported those collecting principles that had interested me from an early age.

    The arrival of the internet, global auction sites and better communications has risen collecting to a new level. Although shops, arms fairs and gun shows provide numerous chances for collecting, specialist sellers with lists e.g. The Bayonet Connection and other computer links e.g. Otto’s Militaria Web Site, not to mention online auctions such as eBay, have revolutionised retail methods. Enthusiasts in numerous countries now avidly explore and collect weapons from their native lands. Particularly strong is an interest in Australian bayonets as well as Second World War issues from Central Europe. Soviet blades have a big following. North America remains the leading continent, with most aficionados.

    Information exchanges are also enhanced by organisations such as The Society of American Bayonet Collectors (1/1988), L’Association Française des Collectionneurs de Baïonnettes (1/1997), Bayonet Collectors’ Network (11/1996) and International Bayonet Association (1/2008). Publications with sections on bayonets, like Classic Arms & Militaria and The Armourer, also have a role to play. Fortunately the mercenary side of collecting, just to make a good investment, can be enhanced by the social interaction that a mutual hobby generates.

    As the years pass the incentive to share my knowledge with others strengthen, which resulted in publishing The Socket Bayonet, A History & Collector's Guide (Amberley Publications 2016). I am glad that I focused on bayonets. The principles gained in that tarmac playground still give as much pleasure now as they did then.

    They are:-

    1) Choose a range of objects with plenty of variation and price difference.

    2) Discover as much information about them as you can prior to purchase through literature, internet research, visits to museums, shows & collections, personal advice & plenty of ‘hands-on’.

    3) Buy from a reputable source (with a guarantee of authenticity) unless willing to risk disappointment.

    4) Record your acquisition (information & insurance purposes) and tag in some way.

    5) Only conserve if necessary. Better quality items need little attention.

    6) Display to enhance enjoyment.

    7) Share with others, either as individuals or through a suitable organisation.

    8) Enjoy!


    Graham Priest's new book Socket Bayonets: A History and Collector's Guide is available now.


    Useful References

    Brogan, P., & Zarca, A., Deadly Business, Michael Joseph Ltd., London, 1984.

    Carter, A., World Bayonets 1800 to the Present: An Illustrated Guide to Collectors, 4 editions, Arms & Armour Press, London, 1984 with ‘price guide’ for 1984-85, 1987-88, 1990-91 & 1996-97.

    Evans, R.D.C., A Bibliography of the Bayonet, Bayonet Studies, Series No.1, Baildon, 2000 (with updates since)

    Janzen, J. Bayonets from Janzen’s Notebook, USA, 1987.

    Kiesling, P., Bayonets of the World, 4 Vols. Military Collectors Service, Holland, from 1974.

    Reilly, R.M., American Socket Bayonets and Scabbards, Mowbray, USA, 1990.

    Skennerton, I., & Richardson, R., British & Commonwealth Bayonets, Margate, Australia, 1986.

    Watts, J. & White, P., The Bayonet Book, Birmingham, 1975.

  • Dragon’s Blood - A Mystical Medieval Treatment or Natural Remedy?

    Dragon’s Blood and Willow Bark (Amberley Publishing April 2015) was the title of my original medieval medicine book. I chose the title to illustrate and contrast the use of both mystical and natural treatments in the middle ages and to consider the efficacy of these remedies.

    Willow bark had been used since ancient times to relieve inflammation and reduce fevers. We now know that this plant-based remedy contains salicylic acid, an active constituent of aspirin, so modern science understands how and why this would have benefitted the patient.

    As well as medicines derived from plants, medieval doctors also included animal-based remedies in their pharmacopeia. Some of these would horrify us today, such as a treatment for gout that required boiling newborn puppies! But others are far less grim, such as snail slime, used in medieval times to treat minor burns and scalds and currently making a comeback. Marketed as ‘snail gel’, this natural remedy aids the healing of cuts, insect bites and even acne spots. If you think how vulnerable the underside of a snail must be as it travels over spiky plant material and gritty soil, an antiseptic lubricant that promotes the healing of minor nicks and abrasions is an evolutionary asset. Modern medical research is now also looking at the possibilities of substances like snake venom and leech saliva as possible sources of new treatments.

    But what of the dragon’s blood mentioned in my book title? An ingredient mentioned in many medieval remedies, as the name suggests, was this some mysterious magical potion obtained from mythical creatures? Of course not. Dragon’s blood is neither mystical nor even animal-related.

    Microsoft Word - An article for Amberley Dragons Blood A Dracaena draco tree in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Courtesy: Esculapio

    It is a red resin originally from the tree Dracaena draco, a native of the Canary Islands and Morocco. When the bark of the tree is damaged, it oozes a blood-red sap which hardens to form a resinous protective layer over the site of injury. Historically, it was sold by medieval merchants as either lumps of dark red resin or a bright red powder, its price hugely inflated by the incredible story told of its origins. According to these tales, trees were not involved at all; the resin was said to be the solidified blood of dragons.

    According to a thirteenth-century Bestiary[1] – the medieval equivalent of a zoology guide with Christian overtones – dragons and elephants were mortal enemies and any chance encounter between these creatures resulted in combat to the death. Apparently, the dragons weren’t as invincible as most legends suggested and the elephants were always victorious. This may explain why they are so much more common than dragons today.

    Dragon’s blood was used as a dye and a paint pigment as well as having medicinal properties. The first century Greek botanist-physician, Dioscorides, described its uses in his herbal, De Materia Medica, prescribing it as a treatment for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, particularly for diarrhoea. Trotula of Salerno – who may have been a female lecturer in medicine at the University of Salerno in the twelfth century – recommended it in a long list of ingredients to make a remedy for treating women who suffer menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during their periods):

    After eating or during meals, let there be given to them to drink... a powder of coral and gum arabic, pomegranate, myrtleberry seed and purslane... great plantain, knotgrass, dragon’s blood, burnt elephant bones and quince seed[2].

    Dragon 1 An elephant meets a dragon: British Library, an English bestiary, dated to between 1236 and c.1250, MS Harley 3244, f. 39v.

    By 1402, the myth about the elephants and dragons was no longer widely believed and dragon’s blood was now understood to come from a plant, but it was still used in medicine as a cure-all. It was applied to wounds as a coagulant to stop the bleeding; it was taken by mouth for reducing fevers, curing diarrhoea and dysentery, mouth ulcers, sore throat, intestinal and stomach disorders, as well as for chest problems and it was applied to the skin as an eczema treatment.

    But did this exotic substance have any beneficial effects? The answer is yes, it probably did. Today, alternative medicine uses dragon’s blood as an antiseptic wash for wounds and internally for chest pains, menstrual problems and post-partum bleeding after childbirth. More orthodox medical research has found that dragon’s blood has not only antibiotic properties, but one of its components, taspine, has antiviral and wound-healing effects[3]. Animal and laboratory tests have shown some promise for the use of dragon’s blood in modern medicine but, to date, there are no human clinical studies verifying these effects.

    Dragon 2 Dragon’s blood (Daemonorops draco). Courtesy: Andy Dingley

    These days, dragon’s blood resin is still imported – at one time it was used to varnish Stradivarius violins – but Dracaena draco is just one source. The resin can also be obtained from Dracaena cinnabari which is native to the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean and this may well have been another source available to Islamic medicine and to Europe via the Incense Road. Most supplies now come from various species of Daemonorops, native to Malaysia and Indonesia.

    For the most serious diseases, prevention was always better than cure, but some concoctions were reckoned to do both. The following was written by an anonymous chronicler, describing how the lives of the people of Winchester in England were saved when plague came to the city in 1471:

    The most sovereign medicine for the pestilence concluded by doctors of physic both beyond the sea and in England, also about the king in late days in the reign of King Edward the IV the tenth year [1471]. Take four spoonful of water and five spoonful of vinegar and treacle the size of a bean and mix all this together and drink it, fasting once a week or twice in a month and if you are not infected it will preserve you and if you are infected it will save your life with regular habits. This is proved and has saved 300 or 400 lives of men, women and children in the city of Winchester in the year of the king above said.

    Microsoft Word - An article for Amberley Dragons Blood Concocting Theriac, The Arcadian Library, Jacob Meydenbach's Hortus Sanitatis 1491 Nicolas of Poland

    This recipe sounds so cheap and easy. If “with regular habits” it prevented and cured plague why should anyone die of that dreaded disease? Water, vinegar and treacle sound simple enough. The trouble was this ‘treacle’ wasn’t just any old treacle. It was ‘theriac’. According to legend, theriac was invented by King Mithridates VI, King of Pantus (now in Turkey) in the second century BCE. The king had a great fear of being assassinated by poison[4]. To be certain of having the correct antidote, if anyone ever did succeed in poisoning him, he experimented on his prisoners with every known poison and all possible antidotes. His numerous toxicity experiments eventually led him to declare that he had discovered an antidote for every venomous reptile and poisonous substance. He then mixed all the effective antidotes into a single one, which he called ‘mithridate’, naming this incredible cure-all after himself. Mithridate contained opium, myrrh, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, castor oil and dragon’s blood, along with some forty other ingredients.

    When the Romans defeated Mithridates, his medical notes fell into their hands and Roman medici began to use them. The Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, improved upon mithridate and brought the total number of ingredients to sixty-four, including viper’s flesh, a mashed decoction of which, first roasted then well aged, has since proved the most constant ingredient. Crushed amber and pearls added to its cost and exotic appeal. Apparently, the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, took it on regular basis on the advice of his physician, Galen. After all, he was wealthy and could afford all those expensive ingredients.

    In the medieval period, the traditional name became corrupted and shortened to ‘theriac’ and this, the most elaborate of all medicaments, now with more than a hundred ingredients, was called Venice or Genoa treacle by the English, depending on which Italian city state the merchants imported it from. But even if you could afford this ‘sovereign medicine’ or ‘magic bullet’ the secret of success lay in those two words ‘regular habits’. What were one man’s perfect regular habits could be another man’s destruction, depending on his humoral complexion, so the outcome was still in doubt, even for the rich.

    As for the common folk, there was no chance of them getting hold of that ‘bean-sized’ amount of treacle, even enough for a single dose and, when it came to their ‘regular habits’, of course they were deplorably ‘irregular’ in every way. Especially irregular were the habits of women – ever unpredictable, according to medieval belief, but that’s another story.


    Toni Mount's new paperback edition of Dragon's Blood called Medieval Medicine: Its Mysteries and Science is available now.



    [1] British Library, English bestiary, MS Harley 3244, dated between 1236 and 1250

    [2] Green, M. H., The Trotula – An English Translation of the Medieval Compendium of Women’s Medicine (Philadelphia, USA: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), p.70.

    [3] (accessed 27 September 2014)

    [4] Pickover, C. A., The Medical Book – from Witch Doctors to Robot Surgeons, 250 Milestones in the History of Medicine (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2012), p.44.

    © Toni Mount April 2016

  • Jutland – the most Decisive Battle of the First World War by Phil Carradice

    The Battle of Jutland, fought on 31 May 1916, has long been regarded as an indecisive stalemate with neither side willing to risk the safety of its capital ships. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Jutland 1 The Grand Fleet at sea, led by Admiral Jellicoe in the battleship Iron Duke - in Churchill's words, Jellicoe was 'the only man who could have lost the war in a single afternoon'. It was a responsibility that weighed heavily on the admiral's mind.

    Jutland was actually the most significant action fought during the four long years of war, either on land or on the ocean. It was a battle where both sides claimed victory. The British lost more ships and men but the German vessels suffered more crippling and long-lasting damage. The German High Seas Fleet managed to escape total destruction at the hands of Jellicoe’s battleships, leaving the scene of the action in the gloom of evening. However, the only question needing to be asked is: ‘Who retained control of the field at the end of the battle?’

    Jutland 3 Admiral Reinhard Scheer, mastermind of the German plan and commander-in-chief of the High Seas.

    The answer is simple – the British. After the battle Admiral Scheer retired to port and, with the exception of one tentative venture that ended without action or contact between the fleets, the next time the High Seas Fleet left port was to surrender in 1918.

    After 31 May 1916 the Royal Navy retained control of the North Sea, effectively bottling up the German capital ships and allowing them to play no further part in the war. It meant that the naval blockade of Germany became increasingly effective, so much so that by the spring and summer of 1918 there was starvation and destitution in many German cities.

    If the British blockade of Germany was a major factor in the Allied victory, Germany also nearly pulled off a similar coup. Following the failure of its surface fleet to destroy the Royal Navy, Germany turned in ever greater desperation to its submarine fleet. Not only did the sinking of Allied and Neutral cargo ships almost bring Britain to her knees in 1917 and 1918, the indiscriminate use of U-boats effectively brought the USA into the war.

    Once America entered the conflict it became essential to cripple Britain before supplies, weapons and troops from the New World began to arrive in huge numbers. This, of course, meant more submarine sinkings and a degree of terror on the Atlantic that was only really ended by the adoption of the convoy system. Arguably, the success of the U-boats in 1917 and 1918 spawned the creation of Dönitz’s U-boat fleet in the Second World War.

    Jutland 4 Admiral Beatty - hero or villain of Jutland, depending on your source.

    None of this would have come about had Admirals Scheer and Hipper managed to destroy the Grand Fleet at Jutland. They certainly had a good go at it, aided by the criminal laxity of Admiral Beatty, commander of the British battlecruiser squadron.

    Beatty and his commanders were obsessed with the concept of rapid fire. The battlecruisers were notoriously inaccurate with their gunnery – only a few weeks before Jutland the captain of the Tiger had been reprimanded for poor returns during gunnery practise. Consequently Beatty felt that the weight and quantity of shells fired in action would be a good alternative to accuracy.

    Jutland 5 At dawn on 1 June Admiral Jellicoe found his fleet spread out across the North Sea. But of the German High Seas Fleet, there was no sign. He had won the day and, with the threat of submarine attack growing more likely by the hour, he ordered a return to Scapa Flow and Rosyth.

    In order to facilitate this quick firing, cordite was removed from its protective casings before action began and unprotected charges were stacked on mess decks and in gun turrets all across the ships. In addition, the doors to the magazines were left permanently open so that charges and shells could be moved more quickly. What that meant was that the British battlecruisers were little more than floating bombs, waiting to go off once accurate German fire hit home.

    Two battlecruisers exploded and sank in the early stages of the battle, one more just before the end, causing Beatty to make his famous remark, ‘There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.’ There was – it was Admiral David Beatty and his captains. Interestingly, the commander of the battlecruiser Princess Royal refused to have anything to do with the shoddy practise of the other ships. The Princess Royal was hit by dozens of German shells but the closed magazine doors saved lives and his ship.

    Jutland 6 The High Seas Fleet had lost fewer ships (eleven German compared to fourteen British) and with 2,545 men killed, compared to 6,097 British, they claimed a victory. However, their ships had sustained considerably more damage and several of them never sailed again. This shows the damage to Hipper's flagship Seydlitz.

    In the wake of the battle an enquiry, headed by Admiral Tudor, was held to determine the cause of the British losses. Tudor’s report was condemnatory of the ‘open doors’ policy employed on the battlecruisers but the Navy chose to suppress the report and blame, instead, the poor deck armour of the ships. Admiral Tudor was even forced to write a letter of apology to Beatty and was subsequently posted to the backwater of the China Fleet.

    Despite the higher British losses (6,097 men compared to just 2,545 German sailors) Jutland was a hugely decisive and effective battle, particularly for the Royal Navy. At the end of the day, as the High Seas Fleet retreated to its base, the war had been effectively won by the British. The conflict might drag on for another two years but naval commanders, planners and politicians on both sides were supremely aware that the outcome of the war was decided on 31 May 1916.

    031589 1916 at Sea CVR.indd

    Phil Carradice's book 1916 The First World War at Sea in Photographs, along with the rest in the series, is available now.

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