A 1926 London Underground painting foresaw the city’s skyscrapers


Most artistic visions of London’s future have been darkly pessimistic. But this Underground poster painted by Montague B Black in 1926 offered an uncanny – and much more optimistic – view of the modern city.

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In 1926, London Underground published a poster painted by Montague B Black, a publicity artist who also created images for Liverpool’s White Star Line, which imagines London in 2026. A golden sky enfolds a cityscape of skyscrapers over which various types of flying machine hover.

Drawings of major British historical events from first illustrated newspaper


The Illustrated London News published intricate artwork on its front covers for more than 160 years, this included historic moments in British history such as royal ceremonies and the Great War – boasting as many as 300,000 readers. The works were by famous artists such as Terence Cuneo, Fortunino Matania and Bryan de Grineau.

World War One Centenary Commemorated across the Commonwealth & Europe

World War One Banner

Royals and world leaders have gathered for ceremonies marking 100 years since Britain joined World War One. The Prince of Wales and David Cameron attended a service in Glasgow, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in Belgium with many heads of state.

At a ceremony in Liege, Prince William paid tribute to the soldiers who “died to give us our freedom”. The day concludes with a candle-lit vigil at Westminster Abbey and a “lights out” event around the UK. The public can join the switch-off ending at 23:00 – the time Britain declared war on Germany in 1914. About 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed between 1914 and 1918.

I myself visited the Tower of London where hundreds of thousands of poppies have been laid.

    1.  Monday marks the 100th anniversary of the start of Britain’s involvement in World War One
    2.  About 17 million soldiers and civilians worldwide were killed between 1914 and 1918
    3.  Royal family members and world leaders have been attending commemorative events in the UK and elsewhere
    4.  Preparations are under way for an international ceremony of reconciliation, outside the Belgian city of Mons, beginning at 19:30
    5.  The day concludes with a candle-lit vigil at Westminster Abbey and a “lights out” event around the UK







Britain Has Invaded Nine Out Of Ten Countries, From France To United States


Having done a bit of reading the other day i came across the rather fascinating revelation that Britain has invaded nearly 90% of the world’s countries during its history, with only 22 out of 193 not on the receiving end of a bit of Great British aggression. The findings are detailed in a book, “All the countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To” (should have guessed) by historian Stuart Laycock who found the time to research into the matter.

Some of the 22 countries that have escaped British ambition include Andorra, Luxembourg and the Vatican City. The issue with this research, however informative it may be is that it stirs the endless debate in Britain of “was empire bad? If so how do we rid ourselves of such foul play?” The fact remains that the very same British Army / Navy that built an Empire also helped oust the Nazi’s from Europe and the Japanese from Asia, if you want to date further back we also saved Europe from the ever growing hands of Napoleon. Conquest and colonisation have been around a long time, Romans, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians etc.

Hitler was responsible for a war where approximately 30 million lives were lost, Stalin supposedly 60 million, many of which were his own people – does russia continuously go on about its bad past, or Germany? Yet here in Britain we will kick ourselves over the fact that we have brought nations across the world democracy, the rule of law, infrastructure, education and masses of knowledge.

How does comparing what happened hundreds of years ago, in a world that none of us can actually imagine existing in grant us the arrogance to denounce what occurred? What Britain did was beat everyone else doing exactly the same thing but in a nicer way (where possible). Britain survived better than most because its people well understood the society in which the world existed at the time. This is yet another “in hindsight” that keeps the British in their place, but at least we stopped one of the most hateful fascist armies the world has ever known in the 20th century, so all those places previously invaded ensured that we could do so. Stop berating British history because its nonsense to do so in a world that is now nothing like it!

Trooping the Colour, a history of the spectacle for the Monarch’s Official Birthday Parade!


Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th Century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment’s colours or flags were used as a rallying point. Consequently, regiments would have their ensigns slowly march with their colours between the soldiers’ ranks to enable soldiers to recognise their regiments’ colours. Since 1748 Trooping the Colour has also marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign. It is held in London annually on a Saturday in June on Horse Guards Parade by St. James’s Park and coincides with the publication of the Birthday Honours List. Among the audience are the Royal Family, invited guests, ticketholders and the general public. The colourful ceremony, also known as “The Queen’s Birthday Parade”, is broadcast live by the BBC.

The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace in a royal procession with a sovereign’s escort of Household Cavalry (mounted troops or horse guards). After receiving a royal salute, she inspects her troops of the Household Division, both foot guards and horse guards, and the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Each year, one of the foot-guards regiments is selected to troop its colour through the ranks of guards. Then the entire Household Division assembly conducts a march past the Queen, who receives a salute from the saluting base. Parading with its guns, the King’s Troop takes precedence as the mounted troops perform a walk-march and trot-past.

The music is provided by the massed bands of the foot guards and the mounted bands of the Household Cavalry, together with a Corps of Drums, and occasionally pipers, totalling approximately 400 musicians. Returning to Buckingham Palace, the Queen watches a further march-past from outside the gates. Following a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop in Green Park, she leads the Royal Family on to the palace balcony for a Royal Air Force flypast.

Below I have attached two videos which I think show the best of the Trooping. The first is from the British Pathé of a Trooping the Colour parade from 1964, the second is from 1934 and the third from 1986.

The City of London, in a World of it’s own?


In the summer of 2013 Stephen Frey (undoubtedly a bloody genius) did a small series on the City of London, revealing that essentially it is in a world of it’s own. So bear with me whilst I try to explain just how the City of London functions as its own small entity.

Firstly the City of London and London are two different places – though both are known for their historical landmarks, modern skyscrapers, ancient markets and famous bridges. London however has a population of seven million and also houses the government and royal family, whereas the City of London has a far smaller population of seven thousand people. But, if you look map of London it will have a one-square mile hole near the middle — it’s here where the City of London lives inside of the city named London. Despite these confusingly close names the two London’s have separate city halls and elect separate mayors, who collect separate taxes to fund separate police who enforce separate laws.

The Mayor of the City of London has a fancy title ‘The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor of London’ to match his regal outfit.  He also gets to ride in a golden carriage and work in a Guildhall while the mayor of London has to wear a suit, ride a bike and work in an office building – none of which London Mayor Boris Johnson minds. The City of London also has its own flag and its own crest which is bloody cool, London however lacks both. To top it off the City of London gets to act more like one of the countries in the UK than just an oddly located city — for uniquely the corporation that runs the city of London is older than the United Kingdom by several hundred years.

So how did the UK end up with two London’s, one inside of the other? Because: Romans (bloody romans!) 2,000 years ago they came to Great Britain, killed a bunch of druids, and founded a trading post on the River Thames and named it Londonimium.  Being Romans they got to work doing what Romans do: enforcing laws, increasing trade, building temples, public baths, roads, bridges and a wall to defend their work. And it’s this wall which is why the current City of London exists — for though the Romans came and the Romans went and kingdoms rose and kingdoms fell, the wall endured protecting the city within.  And The City, governing itself and trading with the world, grew rich.

A thousand years after the Romans (yet still a thousand years ago) when William the Conqueror came to Great Britain to conquer everything and begin modern British history he found the City of London, with its sturdy walls more challenging to defeat. So he agreed to recognize the rights and privileges that the City of Londoners were used to in return for the them recognizing him as the new King. Though after the negotiation, William quickly built towers around the City of London (namely the Tower of London) which were just as much about protecting William from the locals within as defending against the Vikings from without. This started a thousand-year long tradition whereby Monarchs always reconfirmed that ‘yes’ the City of London is a special, unique place best left to its own business, while simultaneously distrusting it.

Many a monarch thought the City of London was too powerful and rich. And one even built a new Capital city nearby, named Westminster, to compete with the City of London and hopefully, suck power and wealth away from it. As the centuries passed, Westminster grew and merged with nearby towns eventually surrounding the walled-in, and still separate City of London. But, people began to call the whole urban collection ‘London’ and the name became official when Parliament joined towns together under a single municipal government with a mayor. But, the mayor of London still doesn’t have power over the tiny City of London which has rules and traditions like nowhere else in the country and possibly the world.

For example, the ruling monarch doesn’t just enter the City of London whenever he/she wants, but instead asks for permission from the Lord Mayor at a ceremony however it isn’t required by law. The City of London also has a representative in Parliament, The Remembrancer, whose job it is to protects the City’s special rights. Because of this, laws passed by Parliament sometimes don’t apply to the City of London: most notably voting reforms, and unlike anywhere else in the UK elections in the City of London involve Medieval Guilds (yes they still exist here in London) and modern companies.

Finally, the City of London also owns and operates land and buildings far outside its border, making it quite wealthy. Once you start looking for The City’s Crest you’ll find it in lots of places, but most notably on Tower Bridge which, while being in London is operated by City of London. Regardless The City of London is not an independent nation like the Vatican is, rather it’s a unique place in the United Kingdom with a long and complicated history. so the border between London and its secret inner city isn’t so obvious. So essentially its a city in a city in a country in a country..

The Two Craziest, Most Courageous Chaps Ever? Tales of Two British Heroes.. Part II


Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5th May 1880 – 5th June 1963)

A British Army Officer of Belgian and Irish descent who served in the Boer War, First World War and Second World War. During his service of the armed forces he was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a POW Camp; and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Describing his experiences in World War I, he wrote, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”

After returning from service in the Second World War, he was sent to China as Winston Churchill’s personal representative, while en route he attended the Cairo Conference. In his memoirs he wrote, “Governments many think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography described him thus: “With his black eyepatch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and become a figure of legend.”

Carton de Wiart was born into an aristocratic family in Brussels, on 5th May 1880. eldest son of Leon Constant Ghislain Carton de Wiart (1854–1915). By his contemporaries, he was widely believed to be an illegitimate son of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II. The death of his Irish mother when he was six prompted his father to move the family to Cairo so that he could practice international law. His father was a court magistrate, well connected in Egyptian governmental circles, and was a director of the Cairo Electric Railways. In 1891 he was moved back to England by his English stepmother who sent him to the Roman Catholic boarding school the Oratory School. From there he went to Balliol College, Oxford, but left to join the British Army at the time of the Boer War around 1899, where he entered under the false name of “Trooper Carton”, and claimed to be 25 years old.

Carton de Wiart was wounded in the stomach and groin in South Africa early on in the War and invalided home. After another brief period at Oxford, where Aubrey Herbert was among his friends, he was given a commission in the Second Imperial Light Horse. He saw action in South Africa again and on 14th September 1901 was given a regular commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Dragoon Guards, in 1902 he was transferred to India where he continued in this position. His serious wounds in the Boer War had instilled in him a strong desire for physical fitness, he played sports on a regular basis and by friends was considered ‘a delightful character and must hold the world record for bad language.’

After his regiment was transferred to South Africa he was promoted to Supernumerary Lieutenant in July 1904 and appointed an aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Hildyard the following July. He described this period lasting up to 1914 as his “heyday.” By 1907, although Carton de Wiart had now served in the British Army for eight years, he had remained a Belgian subject. On 13 September, he took the oath of allegiance to Edward VII and was formally naturalised as a British subject. Carton de Wiart was well connected in European circles, his two closest cousins being Count Henri Carton de Wiart, Prime Minister of Belgium from 1920 to 1921, and Baron Edmond Carton de Wiart, political secretary to the King of Belgium and director of La Société Générale de Belgique. While on leave, he travelled extensively throughout central Europe, using his Catholic aristocratic connections to shoot at country estates in Bohemia, Austria, Hungary and Bavaria.

Following his return to England, he rode with the famous Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt where he met, among others, the future field marshal, Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, and the future air marshal, Sir Edward Leonard Ellington. He was promoted to captain in February 1910. In 1908 he married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen (1887 Klagenfurt – 1949 Vienna), eldest daughter of Karl Ludwig, 4th Fürst (Prince) Fugger-Babenhausen and Princess Eleonora Fugger von Babenhausen of Klagenfurt, Austria. They had two daughters, the elder of whom Anita (born 1909, deceased) was the maternal grandmother of the war correspondent Anthony Loyd (born 1966).

The First World War
Somaliland Campaign

When the First World War broke out, Carton de Wiart was en route to British Somaliland where a low level war was underway against the followers of Mohammed bin Abdullah, nicknamed the “Mad Mullah” by the British. Carton de Wiart has been seconded to the Somaliland Camel Corps, a staff officer with the corps was Hastings Ismay, later Lord Ismay, Churchill’s military advisor. In an attack upon an enemy fort at Shimber Berris, Carton de Wiart was shot twice in the face, losing his eye and also a portion of his ear. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in May 1915.

The Western Front

In February 1915, he embarked on a steamer for France. Carton de Wiart took part in the fighting on the Western Front, commanding successively three infantry battalions and a brigade. He was wounded seven more times in the war, losing his left hand in 1915 and pulling off his fingers when a doctor declined to remove them. He was shot through the skull and ankle at the Battle of the Somme, through the hip at the Battle of Passchendaele, through the leg at Cambrai, and through the ear at Arras. He went to the Sir Douglas Shield’s Nursing Home to recover from his injuries. Carton de Wiart was promoted to Temporary Major in March 1916, from 15th February to 25th March. He subsequently attained the rank of temporary lieutenant-colonel, and was promoted to brevet major in January 1917. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in early 1917. In June, now a temporary Brigadier-General, Carton de Wiart was promoted to brevet Lieutenant-Colonel. In July, he was promoted to the permanent rank of Major in the Dragoon Guards.

He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre in March 1918, and was appointed a CMG (Order of St Michael and St George) in the King’s Birthday Honours List in June. Just before the end of the war, on 8 November, Carton de Wiart was given command of a brigade with the rank of temporary brigadier-general.

Victoria Cross

Carton de Wiart received the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in combat that can be awarded to British Empire forces, in 1916. He was 36 years old, and a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel in the 4th Dragoon Guards (Royal Irish), British Army, attached to the Gloucestershire Regiment, commanding the 8th Battalion, when the following events took place on 2/3 July 1916 at La Boiselle, France:

For most conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination during severe operations of a prolonged nature. It was owing in a great measure to his dauntless courage and inspiring example that a serious reverse was averted. He displayed the utmost energy and courage in forcing our attack home. After three other battalion Commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands, and ensured that the ground won was maintained at all costs. He frequently exposed himself in the organisation of positions and of supplies, passing unflinchingly through fire barrage of the most intense nature. His gallantry was inspiring to all.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the National Army Museum, Chelsea. In his autobiography, Happy Odyssey, there is no mention of his VC and it fell to the publishers to add a special section covering the award. This section does not appear in the Fifth Impression (London: Jonathan Cape 1951.) Despite all his wounds in the war, Carton de Wiart said at the end: “Frankly, I had enjoyed the war….”

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After the war, Carton was sent to Poland in a new position of Second in Command of the British-Poland Military Mission under General Louis Botha and in 1919 he was appointed a CB (Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath on the King’s Honours List. After a brief period, he replaced General Botha in the mission to Poland.

Poland desperately needed support, as it was engaged with the Bolshevik Russia (Polish-Soviet War), the Ukrainians (Polish-Ukrainian War), the Lithuanians (Polish-Lithuanian War) and the Czechs (Czech-Polish border conflicts). There he met Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the pianist and premier, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, the Chief of State and military commander, and General Maxime Weygand, head of the French military mission in mid-1920. Charles de Gaulle was attached to the French military mission. One of his tasks soon after his arrival was to attempt to make peace between the Poles and the Ukrainian nationalists under Simon Petlyura. The Ukrainians were besieging the city of Lwów (Lvov; Lemberg). He was unsuccessful and formed a negative view of Petlyura, especially after Ukrainian forces machine gunned his train, killing two Polish officers aboard.

From there he went on to Paris to report on Polish conditions to the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George and to General Sir Henry Hughes Wilson. Lloyd George was not sympathetic to Poland and, much to Carton de Wiart’s annoyance, Britain sent next to no military supplies. Then he went back to Poland and many more front line adventures, this time in the Bolshevik zone, where the situation was grave with Warsaw threatened. During this time he had significant interaction with the nuntius (dean of the diplomatic corps) Cardinal Achille Ratti, later Pius XI, who wanted Carton de Wiart’s advice as to whether to evacuate the diplomatic corps from Warsaw. The diplomats moved to Poznań, but the Italians remained in Warsaw along with Ratti.

From all these affairs, Carton de Wiart developed a sympathy with the Poles and supported their claims to the eastern Galicia. This caused disagreement with Lloyd George at their next meeting, but was appreciated by the Poles. At one time during his Warsaw stay he was a second in a duel between Polish members of the Mysliwski Club, the other second being Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, later commander-in-chief of Finnish armies in World War II and President of Finland. Norman Davies reports that he was “…compromised in a gun-running operation from Budapest using stolen wagon-lits”. He became rather close to the Polish leader, Marshal Piłsudski. After an aircraft crash occasioning a brief period in Lithuanian captivity, he went back to England to report, this time to the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill. He passed on to Churchill Piłsudski’s prediction that the White Russian offensive under General Anton Denikin directed at Moscow would fail. It did shortly thereafter. Churchill was more sympathetic to Polish needs than Lloyd George and succeeded, over Lloyd George’s objections, in sending some materiel to Poland.

In July 1920, Carton de Wiart was appointed an Aide-de-camp (ADC) to the King, and promoted to brevet colonel. He was active in August 1920, when the Red Army were at the gates of Warsaw. While out on his observation train, he was attacked by a group of Red cavalry, and fought them off with his revolver from the footplate of his train, at one point falling on the track and re-boarding quickly. When the Poles had won the war during 1921, the British Military Mission was wound up. Carton de Wiart was appointed to the local rank of major-general in January of that year. He was promoted to the permanent rank of colonel in June 1922, with seniority from July 1920 and resigned his commission in April 1923. He formally retired from the army in December, with the honorary rank of major-general.

His last Polish aide de camp was Prince Karol Mikołaj Radziwiłł, who inherited a large 500,000 acre (2,000 km²) estate in eastern Poland when the Communists killed his uncle. They became friends and Carton de Wiart was given the use of a large estate called Prostyń, in the Pripet Marshes, a large wetland area larger than Ireland and well known for waterfowl. Since borders have changed, it is now at the border between Belarus and Ukraine. Carton de Wiart’s home was a converted hunting lodge on an island, only a few miles from the Soviet border. In this location Carton de Wiart spent the rest of the interwar years. In his memoirs he said “I think I shot every day of those 15 years I spent in the marshes and the pleasure never palled”. He returned to England for three months each year during the winter, returning in time for the breaking up of the ice on the frozen lakes and rivers.

After 15 years, Carton de Wiart’s Polish peaceful life was interrupted by the oncoming war in July 1939 when he was recalled and appointed to his old job, as head of the British Military Mission to Poland. Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany on 1 September and on 17 September the Soviets allied with Germany attacked Poland from the east. Soon Soviet forces overran Prostyń and Carton de Wiart lost all his guns, rods, clothes, and furniture. They were packed up by the Soviets and stored in the Minsk Museum, but destroyed by the Germans in later fighting. He never saw the area again, but as he said “…they could not take my memories”.

The Second World War
Polish Campaign (1939)

Carton de Wiart met with the Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły in late August 1939 and formed a rather low opinion of his capabilities. He strongly urged Rydz-Śmigły to pull Polish forces back beyond the Vistula River, but was unsuccessful. The other advice he offered, to have the seagoing units of the Polish fleet leave the Baltic Sea, was, after much argument, finally adopted. This fleet made a significant contribution to the Allied cause, especially the several modern destroyers and submarines. As Polish resistance weakened, Carton de Wiart evacuated his mission from Warsaw along with the Polish government. Together with the Polish commander Rydz-Śmigły, Carton de Wiart made his way with the rest of the British Mission to the Romanian border with both the Germans and the Soviets in pursuit. His car convoy was attacked by the Luftwaffe on the road, and the wife of one of his aides was killed. He was in danger of arrest in Romania and got out by aircraft on 21 September with a false passport, just in time as the pro Allied Romanian prime minister, Armand Calinescu, was assassinated that day.

Norwegian Campaign (1940)

Recalled to a special appointment in the army in the autumn of 1939, Carton de Wiart reverted to his permanent army rank of Colonel. He was promoted to acting major-general in November. After a brief stint in command of the 61st Division in the Midlands of England, Carton was summoned in April 1940 to take charge of a hastily drawn together Anglo-French force to occupy Namsos, a small town in middle Norway. His orders were to take the city of Trondheim, 125 miles (200 km) to the south, in conjunction with a naval attack and an advance from the south by troops landed at Åndalsnes. He flew to Namsos to review the location before the troops arrived. When his Short Sunderland flying boat came in for a landing, it was attacked by a German fighter and his aide was wounded and had to be evacuated. After the French Alpine troops landed (without their transport mules and missing straps for their skis), the Luftwaffe bombed and destroyed the town of Namsos. The British landed without transport, skis, artillery, or air cover. The French stayed put in Namsos for the remainder of the short campaign.

Despite these handicaps, Carton de Wiart managed to move his forces over the mountains and down to Trondheimsfjord, where they were shelled by German destroyers. They had no artillery to challenge the German ships. It soon became apparent that the whole Norwegian campaign was fast becoming a failure. The naval attack on Trondheim, the reason for the Namsos landing, did not happen and his troops were exposed without guns, transport, air cover or skis in a foot and a half of snow. They were being attacked by German ski troops, machine gunned and bombed from the air, and the German Navy was landing troops to his rear. He recommended withdrawal but was asked to hold his position for political reasons, which he did. After orders and counterorders from London, the decision to evacuate was made. However, on the date set to evacuate the troops, the ships did not show. The next night a naval force finally arrived, led through the fog by Lord Louis Mountbatten. The transports successfully evacuated the entire force amid heavy bombardment by the Germans, resulting in the sinking of two destroyers, the French Bison and British HMS Afridi. Carton de Wiart arrived back at the British naval base of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands on 5 May 1940 – his 60th birthday.


Carton de Wiart was posted back to the command of the 61st Division, which was soon transferred to Northern Ireland as a defence against invasion. Carton de Wiart brought the 61st up to a high standard of efficiency. However, following the arrival of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Royds Pownall as Commander-in-Chief in Northern Ireland, Carton de Wiart was told that he was too old to command a division on active duty.

British Military Mission to Yugoslavia (1941)

Advanced to temporary major-general in November 1940,he remained inactive very briefly, as he was appointed as head of the British-Yugoslavian Military Mission on 5 April 1941. Hitler was preparing to invade the country and the Yugoslavs asked for British help. Carton de Wiart traveled in a Wellington Bomber to Belgrade, Serbia to negotiate with the Yugoslavian government. After refueling in Malta, the aircraft left for Cairo with enemy territory to the north and south. Both engines failed off the coast of Italian-controlled Libya, and the plane crash landed in the sea about a mile from land. Carton de Wiart was knocked unconscious, but the cold water brought him to. When the plane broke up and sank, he and the rest aboard were forced to swim to shore. They were captured by the Italian authorities.

Prisoner of War in Italy (1941-1943)

Carton de Wiart was a high profile prisoner. After four months at the Villa Orsini at Sulmona, he was transferred to a special prison for senior officers at Castello di Vincigliata. There were a number of senior officer prisoners here because of the successes made by Rommel in North Africa early in 1941. Carton de Wiart made friends, especially with General Sir Richard O’Connor, Thomas Daniel Knox, 6th Earl of Ranfurly and Lieutenant-General Philip Neame VC. The four were committed to escaping. He made five attempts including seven months tunnelling. Once Carton de Wiart evaded capture for eight days disguised as an Italian peasant (which is surprising considering that he was in northern Italy, couldn’t speak Italian, and was 61 years old, with an eye patch, one empty sleeve and multiple injuries and scars). Ironically, Carton de Wiart had been approved for repatriation due to his disablement, but notification arrived after his escape. As the repatriation would have required that he promise not to take any further part in the war, it is probable that he would have declined anyway.

In letters to his wife, Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, Ranfurly described Carton de Wiart in captivity as “… a delightful character” and said he “…must hold the record for bad language.” Ranfurly was “…endlessly amused by him. He really is a nice person – superbly outspoken.”

Then, in a surprising development, Carton de Wiart was taken from his prison in August 1943, and driven to Rome, where the Italian government secretly planned to leave the war and wanted Carton de Wiart to send the message to the British Army negotiating about a peace treaty with the UK. Carton de Wiart was to accompany an Italian negotiator, General Giacomo Zanussi, to Lisbon to meet Allied contacts to facilitate the surrender. But to keep the cover, Carton de Wiart was told he needed civilian clothes. Distrusting Italian tailors, he stated that “[he] had no objection provided [he] did not resemble a gigolo.” In Happy Odyssey, he described the resultant suit as being “as good as anything that ever came out of Savile Row.” When they reached Lisbon, Carton de Wiart was released and made his way to England, reaching there on 28 August 1943.

China Mission (1943-1947)

Within a month of his arrival back in England, Carton de Wiart was summoned to spend a night at the Prime Minister’s country home at Chequers. Churchill informed him that he was to be sent to China as his personal representative. He was promoted to acting lieutenant-general on 9 October, and left by air for India on 18 October 1943. As his accommodation in China was not ready, Carton de Wiart spent time in India getting an understanding of the situation in China, especially being briefed by a genuine tai-pan, John Keswick, head of the great China trading empire Jardine Matheson. He met the Viceroy, Field Marshal Viscount Wavell and General Sir Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief in India.

Before arriving in China, Carton de Wiart attended the 1943 Cairo Conference organized by Churchill, U.S President Roosevelt and Chinese General Chiang Kai Shek. There is a famous picture of these leaders gathered in a Cairo garden, with Carton de Wiart standing behind them in company (see below). When in Cairo, he took the opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, the wife of his friend from prisoner of war days, Dan Ranfurly. Carton de Wiart was one of the few to be able to work with the notoriously difficult commander of US forces in the China-Burma-India Theatre, U.S Army General Joseph Stilwell. He arrived in the headquarters of the Nationalist Chinese Government, Chungking (Chongqing), in early December 1943. For the next three years, he was to be involved in a host of reporting, diplomatic and administrative duties in the remote war time capital. He worked with Chiang kai-Shek and when he finally retired he was offered a job by Chiang.


He regularly flew out to India to liaise with British officials. His old friend, Richard O’Connor, had escaped from the Italian prisoner of war camp and was now in command of British troops in eastern India. The Governor of Bengal, the Australian Richard Casey, became a good friend, his wife having nursed Carton de Wiart on one of his many hospital visits in World War I. On 9 October 1944, Carton de Wiart was promoted to temporary Lieutenant-General and to the war substantive rank of major-general. Carton de Wiart returned home in December 1944 to report to the War Cabinet on the Chinese situation. He was knighted with the Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE), an Order of the British Empire in the 1945 New Year Honours List. Clement Attlee, when he became head of the Labour Government in June 1945, asked Carton de Wiart to stay on in China.

South East Asia

Carton de Wiart was assigned to a tour of the Burma Front, and after meeting Admiral Sir James Somerville, Commander-in-Chief of the British Eastern Fleet, he was given a front seat on the bridge of the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth for the bombardment of Sabang in the Netherlands East Indies in 1945, including air battles between Japanese fighters and British carrier aircraft. It was the first time HMS Queen Elizabeth had fired her guns in anger since the Dardanelles in 1915. A good part of Carton de Wiart’s reporting had to do with the increasing power of the Chinese Communists. The historian Max Hastings writes: “De Wiart despised all Communists on principle, denounced Mao Zedong as ‘a fanatic’, and added: ‘I cannot believe he means business’. He told the British cabinet that there was no conceivable alternative to Chiang as ruler of China.” He met Mao Zedong at dinner and had a memorable exchange with him, interrupting his propaganda speech to criticise him for holding back from fighting the Japanese for domestic political reasons. Mao was briefly stunned, and then laughed.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Carton de Wiart flew to Singapore to participate in the formal surrender. After a visit to Peking, he moved to Nanking, the now liberated Nationalist capital, accompanied by Julian Amery, the British Prime Minister’s Personal Representative to Chiang. A visit to Tokyo to meet General Douglas MacArthur came at the end of his tenure. He was now 66 and ready to retire, despite the offer of a job by Chiang. Carton de Wiart retired in October 1947, with the honorary rank of lieutenant-general.


En route home via French Indochina, Carton de Wiart stopped in Rangoon as a guest of the army commander. Coming down stairs, he slipped on coconut matting, fell down, broke his back and several vertebrae, and knocked himself unconscious. He eventually made it to England and into a hospital where he slowly recovered. The doctors succeeded in extracting an incredible amount of shrapnel from his old wounds. He recovered and then went to Belgium to visit relatives. His wife died in 1949 and in 1951, at the age of 71, he married Ruth Myrtle Muriel Joan McKechnie, a divorcee known as Joan Sutherland, a woman 23 years his junior (born in late 1903, she died 13 January 2006 at the age of 102), and settled at Aghinagh House, Killinardish, County Cork, Ireland, taking up a life pursuing salmon and snipe.

Carton de Wiart died at the age of 83 on 5 June 1963. He left no writings. He and his wife, Joan, are buried in Caum Churchyard just off the main Macroom road. The grave site is just outside the actual graveyard wall on the grounds of his own home Aghinagh House. Carton de Wiart’s will was probated in Ireland at 4,158 pounds sterling and in England at 3,496 pounds sterling.


The Two Craziest, Most Courageous Chaps Ever? Tales of Two British Heroes.. Part I


Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming “Jack” Churchill (Mad Jack) DSO, MC (16th September 1906 – 8th March 1996)

Nicknamed Fighting Jack Churchill or Mad Jack, was a British soldier who fought throughout the Second World War armed with a Longbow, and a Scottish Sword. He is well known for the motto “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” He was born in Surrey, England and graduated from Sandhurst in 1926 after which he served in Burma with the Manchester Regiment. He used his archery and bagpipe talents to play a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Bagdad. He left the army in 1936 and went on to work as a newspaper editor.

Churchill resumed his commission after Poland was invaded in 1939. In May 1940 Churchill and his unit, the Manchester Regiment, ambushed a German patrol near L’Epinette, France, Churchill gave the signal to attack by cutting down the enemy Sergeant with a barbed arrow becoming the only British soldier known to have felled an enemy with a longbow in World War II. After fighting at Dunkirk, he volunteered for the Commandos.

Churchill was second in command of No. 3 Commando in Operation Archery, a raid on the German garrison at Vågsøy, Norway on 27th December 1941. As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, Churchill leapt forward from his position playing ‘March of the Cameron Men’ on his bagpipes, before throwing a grenade and running into battle in the bay. For his actions at Dunkirk and Vågsøy, he received the Military Cross (MC).

In July 1943, as commanding officer, he led 2 Commando from their landing site at Catania in Sicily with his trademark Scottish broadsword slung around his waist, longbow and arrows around his neck and his bagpipes under his arm, he did the same at another landing in Salerno. Leading 2 Commando, Churchill was ordered to capture a German observation post outside of the town of Molina, controlling a pass leading down to the Salerno beach-head. He led the attack by 2 and 41 Commandos, infiltrated the town and captured the post, taking 42 prisoners. He received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for leading this action at Salerno.

Mad Jack can be seen charging at the front with Sword in hand.
Mad Jack can be seen at the front with his Sword.

In 1944 he led the Commandos in Yugoslavia where they supported the Partisans. In May he was ordered to raid the German island of Brač. He organised a ‘motley army’ of 1500 Partisans, 43 Commando and one troop from 40 Commando for the raid. The landing was unopposed but they later encountered German fire, the Partisans however decided to defer the attack until the following day. Churchill’s bagpipes signalled the remaining Commandos to battle. Churchill decided to withdraw for the night and to re-launch the attack the following morning, where he instructed 43 Commando to begin a flanking manoeuvre with himself leading elements from 40 Commando. The Partisans remained at the landing area; only Churchill and six others managed to reach the objective. A mortar shell killed or wounded everyone but Churchill, who was playing ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again?’ on his pipes in a crater on the battlefield as the Germans advanced. He was knocked unconscious by grenades and captured. He was first flown to Berlin for interrogation and then later transferred to a Concentration Camp,

In September 1944 Churchill and a Royal Air Force officer crawled under the wire fencing surrounded the camp, went through an abandoned drain and then attempted to walk to the Baltic coast. They were both captured near the coastal city of Rostock, a few kilometres from the sea. In late April 1945 Churchill and about 140 other prominent concentration camp inmates were transferred to Tyrol, guarded by SS troops. A delegation of prisoners told senior German army officers they feared they would be executed. An army unit commanded by Captain Wichard Von Alvensleben moved in to protect the prisoners. Outnumbered, the SS guards moved out, leaving the prisoners behind. The prisoners were released and after the Germans departure, Churchill walked 150 kilometres (93 miles) to Verona, Italy where he met an American armoured force.

As the Pacific War was still on, Churchill was sent to Burma, where the largest land battles against Japan were being fought. However by the time he had reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been bringing the war in the Pacific to abrupt end. Churchill was said to be unhappy with the sudden end of the war, saying:“If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years.” 


Later life following the Second World War.. In 1946 Twentieth Century Fox began producing Ivanhoe with Churchill’s old rowing companion Robert Taylor. The studio hired Churchill to appear as an archer, shooting from the walls of Warwick Castle, After World War II, Churchill qualified as a parachutist, transferred to the Seaforth Highlands and later ended up in Palestine as second-in-command of 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry. In the spring of 1948, just before the end of the British mandate in the region, Churchill became involved in another conflict. Along with twelve of his soldiers, he attempted to assist the Hadassah medical convoy that came under attack by hundreds of Arabs. Following the massacre, he coordinated the evacuation of 700 Jewish doctors, students and patients from the Hadassah Hospital on the Hebrew University campus in Jerusalem.

In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate fan of surfboarding. Back in England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five foot tidal bore and even designed his own board. In retirement his eccentricity continued still. He startled train conductors and passengers continuously by throwing his briefcase out of the train window each day on the ride home from work. He later explained that he was tossing his case into his own back garden so he wouldn’t have to carry it from the station. Churchill finally retired from the army in 1959, with two awards of the Distinguished Service Order and died in Surrey 1996.

World War One Centenary: who was to blame?

World War One Banner 01

In the space of exactly a month – from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, to the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia on July 28th – Europe had gone from peaceful prosperity to a conflict zone that would bring down four empires and cost more than 15 million lives.

It would also lead to sow the seeds for a Second World War and in turn give rise to the Cold War. But what caused this war, who was to blame? Let us go through the significant figures of the time and ascertain there position.

Franz_Joseph,_circa_1915Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary

When Franz Ferdinand, his nephew and heir was murdered, Emperor Franz Joseph I decided that military action was required. It was not until July 23rd that Serbia was presented with a harsh ultimatum, the Emperor demanded the denunciation of separatist activities, the banning of publications and organisations hostile to Austria-Hungary and co-operation with Habsburg officials in suppressing subversion and a judicial inquiry.

Serbia agreed to almost all the demands. The only key issue was that the joint Austro-Serbian judicial inquiry would have to be subject to Serbia’s laws. The Austrians rejected the ultimatum and on July 28th began mobilising their troops in the Balkans.

Emperor Franz Joseph and his Vienna Government had reason to believe that Serbia was being complicit, and this in part was a justified belief.

More than two-fifths of Bosnia’s population was ethnic Serb, many of whom yearned for independence and union with a Greater Serbia. Some of the secret organisations dedicated to achieving that were based in Serbia proper, including the Black Hand, a group led by Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the Serbian military intelligence chief who had trained Gavrilo Princip and his fellow assassins.

An even more powerful reason was because many in the Austrian government and military felt the time was opportune. Unless Serbia’s intrigues were stopped, they felt their polyglot Empire – made up of 11 ethnic groups – was in danger of disintegration.

They feared a pan-Slav movement spearheaded by Serbia (and backed by Russia), and were determined, in the words of Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold, to “tear away with a strong hand the net in which its enemy seeks to entangle it”. Yet Franz Joseph was only prepared to risk a war with Serbia   and Russia because he knew he had the full support of his fellow monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

KAISER_WILHELMKaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

Just a week after the assassinations, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II responded to Emperor Franz Joseph’s assertion that Serbia needed to be eliminated “as a political factor”.

Wilhelm II assured the Austrian envoy, Count von Hoyos, that his country had Germany’s backing to “march into Serbia”, even if war with Russia resulted. A day later, the German Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, repeated this guarantee.

In many ways, Germany had the most to lose from a general war. “In the previous round of wars,” noted a leading historian of the period, “it had humbled Austria and France and expanded its territory: its economy was one of the fastest growing in Europe.”

But after the forced retirement in 1890 of the Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, the young Kaiser Wilhelm II became the dominant force in German politics, exerting great influence over diplomacy and in military and naval matters. It had been he who authorised the world policy in the 1890’s of conducting an naval arms race against Britain, something that Germany could not win, this only pushed a resentful Britain into the arms of its former enemies France and Russia.

But Austria was its only “dependable” great-power ally. And Germany feared that a huge increase in Russian military expenditure would jeopardise its secret strategy of avoiding a war on two fronts by first defeating the French army before dealing with the less sophisticated Russians. As a result, Germany’s political and military leaders became convinced that the sooner a European war began the better.

tsar-nicholas-iiTsar Nicholas II of Russia

There was no treaty stating that Russia had to come to Serbia’s aid and it didn’t have any economical stake in the region, however it did have a strategic interest there – notably the passage of its trade through the straits of Constantinople.

Responding to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s belated attempt to mediate, the Tsar replied on July 29: “An ignoble war has been declared on a weak country. The indignation in Russia, fully shared by me, is enormous. I   foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the pressure brought upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead to war.” The Tsar was referring to troop mobilisation: the calling up of reservists to increase the size of the European standing army by three to four times.

Germany’s plan to defeat France before turning on Russia depended upon the latter not getting too much of a head start. If they allowed that, they risked defeat in the east before they had victory in the west.

The Kaiser’s warnings simply convinced the Tsar, his third cousin, that German and Austrian policy was one and the same. He believed that Austria had secretly mobilised against Russia (it had not) and that full mobilisation against Austria and Germany was now necessary. The relevant telegrams were dispatched from St Petersburg at 6pm on July 30. The German’s reaction on July 31 was predictable. Having ordered an intensification of its own military preparations, it sent the Russian government an ultimatum to cancel its mobilisation within 12 hours or face   the consequences. Russia refused and on August 1, the same day it and Austria-Hungary began their own mobilisations, Germany declared war.

Poincare_largerRaymond Ponicaré, President of France

Poincare had made it clear to the Tsar that France would back Russia’s support of Serbia even at the risk of war with Germany. Following a summit meeting in Russia between the two nations a statement was made confirming that the two governments were “in entire agreement in their views on the various problems which concern for peace and the balance of power in Europe has laid before the powers, especially in the Balkans”.

This crucial backing by Poincaré was what gave the Russians the confidence to stand firm behind Serbia. When this, in turn, resulted in a Russo-German war, there was no possibility that France would stand aloof (as Germany had requested on July 31).

Poincaré was convinced that if France wanted to remain a great power, the preservation of the Triple Entente (with Russia and Britain) “was a more important objective in French foreign policy than the avoidance of war”. Not least because he feared that the loss of Russia as an ally would make France extremely vulnerable to German aggression.

France duly rejected Germany’s ultimatum and began its own mobilisation – though the army was ordered to keep 10km back from the Franco-Belgian border. Germany declared war on France on August 3.

Ed_GreySir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary

Traditionally Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary has been portrayed as a peacemaker. On July 29th he told the German Ambassador Prince Lichnowsky that “mediation was an urgent necessity if those concerned did   not wish to have things become a European catastrophe”.

Yet the message was mixed. On the one hand, he warned Lichnowsky that Britain might be forced to take precipitate action if Germany and France were drawn into the war; on the other, he said Britain had no legal obligations to its French & Russian partners. The Kaiser, encouraged by this mixed message made a clumsy attempt to ensure Britain’s neutrality by offering to guarantee both France’s and Belgium’s territorial integrity in Europe – but not the former’s colonies nor the latter’s neutrality.

This Grey would not agree with. His counter offer, made without any authorisation from the Cabinet, was not just for Britain to stay neutral if Germany refrained from attacking France, but to vouch for French neutrality as well. The French would not have agreed with this however because of their agreement with the Russians.

Grey withdrew the offer, and from this point on Germany’s leaders must have known that Britain would not stand by from a European war. On August 3rd Grey told the House of Commons that the Belgian government had just been given an ultimatum by Germany to “facilitate the passage of German troops” through its territory or face the consequences.

The only option left for Grey and HM’s Government was to resist German aggression and at 11pm on August 4th Britain declared war on Germany. Another far more pressing reason for joining the fight was to prevent Germany from dominating the continent. HM’s Government also feared for the security of the British Empire and trade within it, if it failed to support France and Germany then its only option would have been an alliance with Germany.

So, who was to blame?

Blame tends to be mainly on the Kaiser and his chief military advisers and towards the Austo-Hungarians. In fact none of the major powers worked as hard as it could have done to prevent war, but the decision taken by Austria-Hungary, backed by Germany, to declare war and attack Serbia was the moment a general conflict became probable.

It was believed that if the Entente powers chose to fight, they would be defeated, and if they did not, their alliance would collapse. It was believed to be a win-win situation..

Live like a failed Republican: Oliver Cromwell’s old Manor House for sale £1.8 Million


A Grade I listed manor which Oliver Cromwell visited regularly is currently up for sale for £1.8million. Located in Peterborough it comprises of two properties, the Manor and separate Gatehouse which were built between 1333 and 1336by William De Eyton – the Master Mason and Architect of Litchfield Cathedral.

The property comes with private 1.5-acre garden, library, stables and 16th Century Dovecote. The property was restored by architect Roy Genders in the seventies.