When I first heard about the contents of Stephen Harding's new book 'The Last Battle' I could scarcely believe it: a largely forgotten episode late in World War 2 when US troops, French prisoners, Germans soldiers and local resistance teamed together to defend themselves and a medieval castle from the SS. But I've just read a review of the book by Andrew Roberts here, and he stresses how true it all is. The review basically gives you the summary, which spoils the Hollywood perfect ending, so be warned.
Experts working out of the University of Gothenburg have recently published work on a Stone Age settlement located near Falköping in Sweden. Studies have been done on diet, and on pieces of seed and grain which have survived. Stone Pages have a more detailed look, but what I'm flagging up is the grain analyses, which shows that wheat and barley were farmed, and thanks to high nitrogen levels, strongly suggests they were farmed using fertilizers. The researchers are hoping more work will confirm this.
After a very high profile case of a publisher being fooled into releasing a fake biography of survival in World War Two that involved wolves, I've given a wide birth to anything connecting the war and wolves. I thus nearly missed this article from Deutsche Welle about the 'Wolf Children', who were child migrants who were unofficially adopted to new lives in Lithuania after fleeing East Prussia in the war, nicknamed Wolves because they fled with nothing. I admit to still being a little hesitant about mentioning it here, but it's a subject I want to learn more about and I decided to highlight the article because it's interesting and touching.
This month we extend our First World War content ahead of next year's centenary commemorations with a look at some key battles. As well as a summary page listing these key events, we look at Amiens in 1918, Cambrai in 1917, Caporetto in 1917, Jutland in 1916, Messines in 1917 and Mons and the First Battle of the Marne in 1914.
Irish soldiers who left their army to join the fight against Hitler and Nazism and suffered a lifetime of ostracism are being pardoned, as the Irish parliament has passed an amnesty on the thousands of troops. Defence Minister Alan Shatter is quoted by the Belfast Telegraph as explaining "These individuals contributed in no small part to the allied victory against tyranny and totalitarianism... Their efforts, in an indirect way, also contributed to the safety of their home country... If the United Kingdom had fallen to the forces of Nazi Germany, the same fate would almost certainly have been visited on this island, with all of the consequences that would have gone with it." The article gives some telling figures: 60,000 Irish citizens fought for the anti-Nazi allies, five thousand were found guilty of desertion to do so (Ireland was officially neutral), and laws persecuted them.
Former British Royal Navy ship HMS Caroline is the only surviving vessel from the Battle of Jutland, a clash of the British and German fleets in 1916. Before World War One a great, conflict changing naval battle was expected, but the closest they came was the ultimately fruitless Battle of Jutland. The Heritage Lottery Fund have promised £12 million to transform the Caroline into a floating museum about the conflict.
This story combines my love of history with my fascination for abandoned structures. During the Second World War a number of sea defences were built on stilt like legs, and they're now in various states of decay, with a charity fighting to preserve them. If this sounds interesting to you, best go to this Londonist article and see the pictures, and then read on from there. I found the images evocative, others may just see an industrial mess!
In this Atlantic article Professor Michael Vlahos muses on whether a programme supplying body armour would have cut the number of deaths in World War One. It focuses heavily on American troops, but would apply to other nations, although there's no consideration of the style of 'trenches' that many soldiers found themselves in: muddy holes in the ground where heavy armour would increase your risk of getting stuck. Still, interesting thinking.
A collection of forgotten documents have revealed that Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, creator of a famously pacifist essay, worked during the WW1 for a military intelligence branch. Named MI7b, the group created propaganda for the British war effort. Milne fans, and those interested in the secret war of WW1, should start with this Guardian article.
Europa Nostra, a group the Huffington Post described as 'dedicated to the preservation of European landmarks', has published a list of the fourteen historical sites in Europe they believe to be most in danger of disappearing. The aim of the list is to launch a "call to action" over the locations, and soon they'll produce a shortlist of seven which will receive the supports of heritage experts. The Huffington post has pictures and descriptions.