After more than a hundred years since the Titanic disaster, it is hard to imagine the headline which awaited readers of The World on Monday 15 April 1912. Following its collision with an iceberg, journalists reported, “Titanic Sinking; No Lives Lost’.
More than seventy years after its sinking, a US marine salvage company has discovered a British cargo ship torpedoed by a Kriegsmarine U-boat during World War Two. With a cargo of silver bullion, pig iron and tea, the salvors believe they have recovered virtually all of the silver ingots deposited on the seabed from the wreck of the SS GAIRSOPPA.
Looking to the future and imagining the ‘what ifs’ is a decidedly human compulsion. Envisioning new technologies, foreseeing turn of events and deciding upon societal progress has always been an entertaining and insightful concept. The same is true of American society in 1893. In the run up to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the American Press Association (APA) asked 74 key thinkers and intellectuals to predict and devise American society and the state of the world in 1993. Inevitably, the answers they provided were a mixture of outlandish fantasy and downright prophetic
In light of the recent declassification of confidential, top secret documents from the Second World War by the National Archives in the UK, a number of sensational accounts and key pieces of source material have been made available to historians. Of particular note is the document relating to assassination of key National Socialists and leaders with the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Written by British political officer, Charles Peake, in 1944, the memo entitled “Assassination Priorities for Overlord” lists key figures in the German war machine including field marshals Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt and General Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel and various members of Vichy France.
With almost a hundred years surpassed, wreck hunters believe that they have found the wreck of the SS Henry B. Smith, a freighter lost in Lake Superior during a freak storm. Surprisingly, it appears that despite the long years, the vessel is still intact.
In this author’s previous article, ajjmackenzie.co.uk explored the relationship that natural disasters and environmental change has had on warfare in history. In comparison, there have been a number of wars which have changed the environment in disastrous ways. Purposeful destruction of environmental resources, modifying the environment itself and policies exerting far-reaching, climatic changes have all been a consequence of warfare in history. In the case of the following conflicts, there were irrevocable effects placed upon the environment, to the detriment of those peoples living within them and the ecology as a whole.
Social, economic and cultural influences have all been attributed to the outbreak of many wars in history. To many, the idea of natural catastrophes such as volcanoes, earthquakes and droughts leading to warfare is an absurd notion. Politicians, despots and uprisings are often seen as the main cause of warfare. However, in the case of the following conflicts, one of the main causes of warfare was as a result of a natural disaster.
When tackling the job market, even geniuses are required to draft the standard letter of resume; the curriculum vitae. Even as far back as 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci was found to write a letter of application, offering his services to the Duke of Milan and describing the talents he could offer to him.
“Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on" J. M. W. Turner
From the very beginning, the insurance business has been a crucial element, even a contributor, to the shipping and maritime industries. For more than three hundred years, Lloyd’s, the London and the US Insurance Markets have offered insurance solutions to ship owners, carriers and financial establishments, securing trade and maritime adventures for a wide variety of economic ventures. It is the foundation upon which insurance has developed and has been seen as an essential component in the development of the British economic standing. What is perhaps most unfavourable, however, is the notion that British and US insurers partook in the notorious slave industry, insuring both transportation ships and the human cargoes they carried on a transatlantic basis.
In similar reaction to the growing fears of Communism in the United States of America, a number of extreme publications were written, denouncing the spread of decolonisation and the wake of revolutionary uprisings against the British Empire. Following the ‘Red Terror’ comics of the 1940s/50s, particularly the publication of Is This Tomorrow: America Under Communism, a propagandistic comic strip concerned with Communism in the United States (See blog article, “Is This Tomorrow?”), a number of comics were produced in reaction to the Mau Mau rebellions in Kenya, against the British colonial government.
After much deliberation, scientists and academics have concluded that the remains found in a Leicestershire car park belong to the notorious King Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester have proclaimed that DNA retrieved from the interned bones matches that of the English king’s descendants. At a press conference, lead archaeologist, Richard Buckley, has confirmed that “[b]eyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”
During the Second World War, the Pacific Theatre was characterised by particularly drastic military strategies. The Japanese Airforce, in the last stages of war, deployed the first suicide squadrons against its enemies, inflicting terror and wholescale destruction upon US Navy vessels and personnel. Perhaps what is little known is that there were similar strategies planned in the German Luftwaffe. As the Allies were making greater progress in the Western Theatre, the German High Command devised ever more innovative and ultimately ever more horrific terror tactics. Coined Reichenberg IV, there began the production of manned and more targeted V-1 weapons. The Selbstopfermänner: suicide squadrons.
On 2 January 1946, as punishment for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Second World War, National Socialist Kreisleiter Franz Strasser was hanged at Landsberg Prison. Condemned for the shooting of five downed airmen of the US Airforce in Kaplitz, a city in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia during December 1944, Strasser contended that he had shot them to prevent their escape from German custody.
A recent influx in GPS mapping and digital archival app technology has allowed for the dissemination of rich and highly informative platforms for the use of institutions, organisations and social/leisure groups. Indeed, tools have been devised to suit the rather specialised and rather niche pursuit of wreck discovery, tracking and diving etc. Wreckfinder® is a new initiative designed to locate shipwrecks located around the coastal waters of the UK and off of Ireland. With over 10,000 wrecks accounted for, naval enthusiasts are able to determine a particular vessel’s approximate GPS location (in longitude and latitude), size, depth and often the circumstances pertaining to the loss. Whilst using the app, this particular author located the wreck of HMS Natal, and with it, an astonishing and tragic tale of sinking.
An exciting new initiative headed by a joint collaboration between The National Archives, JISC and the University of Portsmouth has been announced, a compilation of the location and dates of all German aerial bombs deployed over London during the Blitz between 7 October 1940 and 6 June 1941 in an incredibly detailed interactive online map. Bomb Sight, the project overseeing the bomb census mapping, has uploaded data only accessible from the Reading Room of the UK National Archives into the public domain proper, including the introduction of a smart phone app with augmented reality technology.
Declared unbreakable almost a month ago by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the encrypted code found on the remains of a World War Two carrier pigeon may have been cracked at last. An Ontario based group dedicated to the pursuit of local and amateur history, Mr. Gord Young from Peterborough, Ontario, claims that it took only 17 minutes to crack the supposedly impossible code. Through the use of a World War One Royal Flying Corp aerial observers code book from his late great-uncle of the 92 Canadian Squadron, Young of the Lakefield Heritage Research group might indeed have solved the perplexing riddle.
Combatants fight for something. Freedom, conquest, political and social transformation. Each is different and each is unique in scope. On a more micro level, soldiers will fight for one another, for personal creeds and moralities and, indeed, even for their own personal gain. The victors are often depicted with the spoils of war, the systematic accumulation of enemy materials, munitions and iconography. Historically, since the Greco-Romano period, military victories and occupations have been marked with war trophies. War in the modern era is no exception. The acquittal of SAS Sgt. Danny Nightingale highlights the continued fascination with acquiring and collecting battlefield souvenirs.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, dozens of Mark XIV Spitfires commissioned for the Pacific Theatre were summarily decommissioned and destined for burial under the orders of Lord Mountbatten to ensure they could not be used by Burmese independence fighters. Almost 70 years later, the possible discovery of nearly 36 aircraft buried in Burma has electrified the aerial and archaeological community.
It was this author’s great pleasure to have the honour of being quoted in the latest issue of RCC Perspectives entitled “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: Encounters and Legacies” 2012/07 published by the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Study (RCC), a joint initiative of Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Deutsches Museum, with the generous support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
During the Second World War, security was of the utmost importance. Ensuring secure communications to and from high command was of particularly high importance and various methods were employed in so doing. Specialist codes, ciphers, encryption techniques and imaginative deployments were utilised to safeguard these sensitive messages. Code books were printed in which groups of four or five letters, representing a particular code, were arranged and referred to specific operational details. Where there was a need for added, tougher security, a one-time pad could be used in which the actual codebook was also encrypted. In 1982, the remains of a carrier pigeon were discovered only to reveal a coded message which has proved, thus far, to be unbreakable. The wartime efforts made in counterespionage and military security are still effective it seems, even after 70 years of continually advancing technology and coding expertise.