John Howard the penal reformer was the first civilian to be honoured with a statue in S. Paul’s, London.
Today in 1845 the Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (nee Gurney of the banking family), died.
The Norwich born Quaker was one of a breed of prison reformers who had an affect on public opinion regarding punishments. In 1800 there were about 200 capital offences and the first of the 18thc offences to be repealed as a result of the Romilly campaign came with the 1808 Larceny Act, whilst the Stealing from Bleaching Grounds Act 1811 and the Stealing of Linen Act 1811 repealed two obsolete capital statutes.
Much of our attitude towards punishment, as with most negative mind-sets, was taken from a literal interpretation of the Biblical Old Testament which relates how an Israelite in the wilderness was found gathering sticks on the sabbath was stoned to death after Moses had consulted the Lord and constituted one of 12 ’religious’ capital crimes along with consulting a medium and sacrificing to other gods.
Alternatively there were ‘social’ crimes with fourteen capital offences such as cursing one’s parents or selling a person into slavery. Anyone objecting that capital punishment is wrong, as ‘man is made in the image of God’ should consult Genesis :9:6 where the perpetrator of a heinous, capital crime, has done violence against a victim also made in the ‘Image of God‘.
Most criminals of felonies (misdemeanours in Britain), were either executed or transported, though in 1839 New South Wales refused to accept them and they were sent to Van Dieman’s land. Bermuda took many for the building of the docks and in 1824 the first convicts who worked in chain-gangs were debtors, sheep stealers, poachers, Irish nationalists and unemployed mill-hand rioters
In 1853 this was ended and they were sent to Western Australia. Transportation to America and Australia and execution for the dozens of capital offences which included many young children, were the alternatives to prison and this was how we managed to avoid a large prison population until the early 19th century.
Records were meticulously kept of trades necessary for the new continent. ‘Transportation’ was finally abolished in 1867. Figures from 1815 to 1853 show maximum numbers of 6.871(1833) to a minimum of 1093 (1815) transported.
Prison reform centred on the cellular system as opposed to the silent picking of oakum (old rope) and the treadmill. Early penal reformers such as John Howard (1726-1790) and Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) wanted to reduce capital punishment for minor offences and make long-term imprisonment an opportunity for moral reformation. The major reduction of capital statutes was carried out under Sir Robert Peel’s Home Secretaryship after 1822.
In 1823 the Gaols’ Act promoted under Elizabeth Fry and her brother Joseph Gurney saw five Acts abolish the death penalty for over 100 offences. The Act appointed chaplains, paid jailers hitherto paid by fees from prisoners, prohibited irons and manacles and appointed female warders, but it took the Prisons’ Act of 1835 to appoint inspectors to oversee the changes. As time went on punishment became more relaxed and thieves, arsonists, which included hay-rick burning, and highwaymen who could all expect mercy.
In 1922 the Broad Arrow on prison dress was abolished having been introduced by Sir Edmund Du Cane 1870 when he was Chairman of the Convicts Directors and Surveyor-General of Prisons. Even the hob-nails on the bottom of their boots were patterned in the Broad Arrow shape.
Many artefacts on the submerged flagship, Mary Rose of the 16thc had the ‘Arrow’ device and a document in the Public Record Office (PRO) relating to Richard de la Pole 1330 butler to the Monarch had the device. This would seem to undermine the idea that it was the ‘pheon’ which formed part of the armorial bearings of the earl of Romney, once Master of Ordnance, as the source of the Broad Arrow.(1)
(1) The Broad Arrow once the mark of the military, Board of Ordnance was later used by the Ordnance (Mapping) Department and by the War Office and Government generally.
Pics from wikipedia.org.
Samuel Pepys the diarist recalls a visit he made to Audley End House in Essex, Today in 1667. Not especially enamoured of the building his main enjoyment seems to have been sampling the products of the cellerage!
The extract below was transcribed from Pepys’ Diary which was originally largely written in code so retains the syntax of the times, though most of spelling and punctuation is modern.
‘At last rose and up, and broke our fast [breakfast], and then took coach, and away, and at Newport [Essex] did call on Mr. Lowther and he and his friend , and the master of the house, their friend where they were, a gentleman , did presently get a horseback and overtook us and did go along with us all over the house and gardens : and mighty merry we were. The house indeed do appear very fine but not so fine as it hath heretofore to me, particularly the ceilings are not so good as I always took them to be, being nothing so well wrought as my Lord Chancellor’s are…yet the stayre-case (sic) is exceeding poor ; and a great many pictures and not a good one in the house but one of Harry the Eighth done by Holben (sic); and not one good piece of hangings. Only the gallery is good and above all things the cellars where we went down and drank of much liquor’. (1)
Audley End House, near Saffron Walden, is largely 17th century, once a palace in all but name and is now recognised as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England.
The House was built on the site of the old Walden, Benedictine Abbey, confiscated by Henry VIII and granted to Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538.
It was demolished by Thomas 1st earl Suffolk (Lord Howard de Walden). to become a greater building for entertaining James 1st. However Suffolk and his wife were convicted of embezzlement and sent to the Tower, but after a large fine was released and died in disgrace at Audley in 1620.
The building was known as a Prodigy House, those built on monumental and grandiose scale to impress, particularly Queen Elizabeth and her large retinue as she journeyed round the country.
The House was purchased by Charles II in 1668 for £50,000, a colossal amount then for use when he attended the races at nearby Newmarket.
Later Sir John Vanburgh reduced the size of Audley End and was later acquired by Sir Thomas Griffin, 4th baron Howard de Walden (1st baron Braybrooke) who made many changes pre 1797.
However its glory days were over and like most great houses it was given over to military use in the 1940s and is now in the hands of English Heritage.
(1) The Lord Chancellor (1658-67) being Sir Edward Hyde, earl Clarendon.
History of Audley End. Nov 2017. English Heritage.
On Monday 28th September 1992 at the junction of Bench Street and Townwall Street, Dover workers involved on a new A20 road link between Folkestone and Dover, and later working alongside English Heritage funded Canterbury Archaeological Trust, uncovered what remained of a large prehistoric boat thought to be over 3000 years old which would place it c 1500 years BCE., in the Middle Bronze Age in England.
The burial site, 6m. (18ft) down, also ran under nearby buildings making it too dangerous to uncover the whole boat. Previous attempts to recover such remains had been difficult so it was decided to cut the vessel into numbered pieces. In fact 9.5m.(30ft) were recovered leaving about a third in situ. Preservation was helped by the anaerobic, waterlogged conditions and the silt protecting it from bacteria.
The Dover boat is one of only 20 Bronze Age vessels found in Britain and was made of oak plants sewn together with yew lashings and are comparable to the narrower east Ferriby boats of Yorkshire found in the Humber in 1939. The River Dour runs into the English Channel so there is speculation as to whether it ever went to sea.
The Dover Boat was reassembled after preservative treatment by the English Mary Rose Trust at Portsmouth in 1998. A replica was built with modern materials of silicone and rope, but to the disappointment of the media, on being placed in the water promptly sank in 2012. They should have used the moss and animal fat caulking of the original, though I gather later attempts at making a replica were to prove successful.
archaeology.co.uk.Dover Bronze Age Boat.
The first detailed recipe for soap appears in 12thc Mappae Clavicula a collection of tips for painters and craftsmen traditionally attributed to Adelard of Bath.
Soap is known from early times with ancient Babylon inscriptions saying that fats were boiled with ashes. The Ebers Papyrus a medical document from 1500 BCE describes combining vegetable oils with alkaline salts (soluble) for treating skin disease as well as washing.
Today in 1851, the soap manufacturer William Hesketh Lever, later Viscount Leverhulme, was born in Bolton, Lancashire. A monument to Lever stands outside the art gallery, dedicated to his wife, at the first garden village of Port Sunlight.
Port Sunlight near Liverpool was created in 1888 by Lever to house workers, supplying individual capital to be followed by municipal and governmental aid. Lever had conceived the idea of manufacturing sweet-smelling soap at the end of the 19th century after selling odious examples in his Dad’s store in Bolton.
Lever called his first product Sunlight in 1885, advertised with the slogan: ‘Why does a woman look older than a man?, Because she doesn’t use Sunlight’. Lever added Lifebuoy in 1894 and Lux in 1929.
Bathing machines at Blackpool in 1890 advertised ‘Sunlight Soap largest sale in the world’. However the most notable image of those years is of Hudson’s soap established since 1843, emblazoned on London buses. (1)
Toilet soaps were expensive for the ordinary folk; Plantol Soap from Levers entirely derived from vegetable oils and guaranteed free from animal fats (suet) was an attempt to invade the toilet soap market dominated by Pears, Gibbs, Erasmic and Vinolia.
When he died in 1925 Lever employed 85,000 and being a natural salesman transformed his father’s wholesale grocery business, which was one of the first to discover the power of mass advertising, a message carried in the carriages of the London and North-Western Railway.
In order to monitor his own supply of palm oil Lever established new mills in the heart of the Congo setting up schools and hospitals for the workers.
The first blocks of Sunlight soap appeared in 1886 cut into small blocks and packaged in bright cardboard cartons and promised respite from ‘the washday evil’. Lifebuoy (which cashed in on the heroism of Grace Darling with a magazine insert c 1900 which advertised the product by proclaiming ‘For Saving Life’.
Dr. Lovelace’s Soap which ‘Commands Respect’ showed a picture of Lord Roberts on the advertising bookmark of c1900 whilst another says ‘Keep a sharp lookout that you get’ this brand of soap, with a picture of Baden-Powell.
To be associated with public figures of Empire was important in those days, whether they used the products is doubtful.
Lux Flakes were to follow with Lux soap appearing in 1916 as a laundry soap for ‘delicates’, with Lever Brothers claiming it did not turn silk underwear yellow, due to its lack of harsh chemical dyes.
Lux looked like layers of flaky cake that dissolved into a rich lather and in 1925 it was transformed into luxury bath soap and as the advert said for its ‘New Creamy Perfection Soap’: ‘Lux is a film star feeling’ and showed the then post war fashionable international film stars Sophia Loren and Ava Gardener, the soap thus conferring star status.
With the advent of commercial TV, soap was heavily advertised with products such as Palmolive, Pink’ Camay (the colour being a selling point), Knights Castille and Lifebuoy which was said to banish ‘BO’.
Another well known old brand was Wright’s Coal Tar Soap which had been used since 1860 and whose magazine advert of 1917 trumpeted that it had been ‘prescribed by the medical profession for 50 years’. (2)
However Coal Tar was later banned in non-prescription products such as Wright’s Soap and tea-tree oil, which is also anti-bacterial, substituted in an age when carcinogenic chemicals were being found in most products ignoring that it is over-exposure to large doses which can cause problems.
(1) Other cleansing and washing aids were: Calvert’s carbolic soap. Oakey’s knife polish and black lead, Stevenson’s Plate Powder, Jeyes’ and Izal’s disinfectant (1890s) and Robin Starch 1899.
(2) The soap was made by William Valentine Wright as a by-product of the distillation of coal to make coke when he set up business as a wholesale druggist at 11, Old Fish Street, Doctors’ Commons, moving to Southwark Street, London, trading as Wright Layman & Umney Ltd., one of several manufacturing druggists in the capital at the time.
Wrights Soap is now made in Turkey and a Brand owned by Smith and Nephew. In 2000 Lever Brothers were ending production at Port Sunlight, because of the change from to gels. In 2005 Cussons of Nottingham were to relocate to Thailand.
The dauphin Prince Louis of France, later Louis VIII (The Lionheart), gave up his claim to be King of England, (after beng invited here by rebellious barons,) with the Treaty of Lambeth signed Today in 1217. This was after one and a half years of war when most of these barons had renounced French affections following the death of the unpopular King John in October 1216. (1)
Back in 1213 John prepared against invasion at a camp near Canterbury at Barham Down after he had been excommunicated and King Phillippe saw he had a right to invade and place Louis in his stead.
The conflict was exacerbated by the first Baron’s War (1215-17) which had begun over John’s failure to honour the Magna Carta and turned into a dynastic war for the throne. In November 1215 Louis had been proclaimed King Louis I at old St. Paul’s at London, despite many of the most powerful nobles including Ranulph, Earl of Chester and William the Marshall having nothing to do with rebellion. (2)
When the campaign began enemies of John flocked to the French banner, but after the King’s death in 1216 and the Regency of William Marshal on behalf of John’s son, Henry, many switched sides.
The subsequent defeat at Lincoln in 1217, Dover and Sandwich in August, forced Louis to negotiate. receiving 10,000 Marks to relinquish England and also agreed he had never been legitimate King of England. He returned to France for the last time on 28th September, but not before he had destroyed Porchester Castle where an Augustinian Priory existed outside the castle bailey. There was an amnesty for the English rebels.
One outcome of the conflict, still in existence, was an acknowledgement that the French had failed to take the Channel Islands so possession was take by the King of England. (Hersch Lauterpacht 1957, v, 20 of International Law reports CUP p128.) History casts long shadows.
(1) The Treaty of 1217 also known as the Treaty of Kingston to distinguish it from that of 1212, was a Treaty signed by Louis in 1217 ending what was the first Barons’ War and Louis’s claim to the English throne.
Information on the Treaties is based on 3 early documents, but none is known to have been based on an original manuscrispt and the negotiations were spread over several locations.
There is no surviving copy of the Treaties. (M. Powicke 13thc 1216-1307 Oxford History of England. Clarendon Press 1962).
Various dates for the Treaties and the sources include that signed by Louis and Henry’s Regent on 11th September at Lambeth Palace. (James H Ramsay. Dawn of the Constitution p13-17.
(2) Even Alexander II of Scotland gave homage.
wikipedia.org/pic and other inline references.
Today in 1939, at the out-break of war, it was announced that motorists would be rationed to between four and ten gallons a month depending on Horse-Power.
Between 1939-48 the Petroleum Board replaced private companies and petrol was pooled amongst the companies (Pool Petrol) at 1s 6d a gallon, to remain there for five years after 1948.
Driving for pleasure was banned when the basic ration was abolished in July 1942 and police would swoop on race meetings and interrogate car owners about how they managed to get the petrol to drive there.
One could drive for miles without seeing another car as the relatively few car-owners had stood their vehicles on bricks for the ‘duration’, as no petrol was available even on the black market. Motorists were compelled to immobilise their vehicles when parked.(1)
On 26th May 1950 petrol rationing ended with the Automobile Association, (who had organised the first petrol stations in the early days of motoring) describing the Whitsun Bank Holiday traffic as an all-time record.
By June 1950 petrol went up to around three shillings a gallon its highest price since 1920. (By the 1960s it had only doubled.) With the Suez emergency (when the Canal was closed), petrol was again rationed to 200 miles of motoring a month. (2)
Another crisis came in 1973 when the Government announced that 16 million petrol ration books were being printed, due to the Middle East crisis and OPEC’s massive quadrupling price increase.
Two-hundred petrol stations closed-down through petrol shortages and by December a speed limit of 50mph was imposed to save fuel. Oil prices were to rise fourfold, so by February 1974, 4-star petrol rose to 50p a gallon (10shillings old money), the 4th rise in a year.
By 1990 petrol was 225.9p a gallon (about 50p a litre), whilst in 2000 there was a half-hearted campaign ‘Dump the Pump’ to bring to public awareness of the high tax level on petrol. This was to culminate in September 2000 in the blockade of refineries by lorry owners and farmers, causing widespread disruption and panic buying. (3)
In September 2021, E-10 petrol (Ethanol) introducton was supposed to make a contribution towards reducing harmful, exhaust emissions and to mitigate ‘global-warming’, despite its many adverse effects: tinkering!.
(1) The author remembers the lack of vehicles and ability to play football and other games in the street. Any car in the street was usually the doctor’s.
(2) Back in 1902 petrol was about 1/1d per gallon, though by February 1924, a 4 ½ d rise in petrol price to 2 shillings per gallon caused the AA to say the increase would deter many from buying the new generation of small cars.
In 1920 taxi drivers went on strike against the cost of petrol resulting in the removal of all excise duty but the price was still 3/-5d a gallon.
In 1927 it was about the same price, though just after the First War it had risen to 3/-6d a gallon, but cars of the time required large amounts of fuel to the mile, so only the ‘well heeled’ of the few car owners, could afford to travel far.
(3) In 2004 unleaded was about 80p (litre). By May 2008 pump-price was well over a £1 a litre and oil $135 a barrel and petrol was over £5 a gallon. By November the price had dropped as demand slowed to about $40 a barrel and petrol below 90p a litre.
Select bibliography from many sources in public domain.
Or, ‘The New Woman, sprang fully armed from Ibsen’s brain’, quoting writer, Max Beerbohm.
A Punch Magazine cartoon of 28.4.1894 shows a doughty lady, ‘a New Woman’, (initially a hostile term satirising female independence) waving high a large key. By the early 20th century doctors and schoolmasters were observing, ‘that the excessive devotion to athletics and gymnastics tends to produce what might be called the newer kind of girl’.
Today in 1894 Sydney Grundy’s play ‘The New Woman’ opened at the Comedy Theatre, London, having a plot dealing with ‘progressive’, domineering women who were said to threaten conventional relationships.
W&F Faulkner, Argosy cigarette brand, at the time, shows a ‘new woman’ at the yacht’s helm, as women were casting off the chaperone and their immediate environment of towns into the country with daring adverts showing even ladies cycling! (1)
Ideas going back to Maria Edgeworth’s 1801 ‘Belinda’, and Elizabeth Barrett’s 1856 ‘Aurora Leigh’ inspired feminine independence and later ‘New Women’ plays such as Shaw’s controversial ‘Mrs. Warren’s Profession’ (1893) and Candida 1898 along with the fiction of Well’s ‘Ann Veronica’ 1909 pushed the agenda along.
It culminated with the triviality of ‘Flapper’ (boyish) fashions of the 1920s and the 1929 ‘Flapper general election’, when women’s suffrage was finally secured.
Aspirant women intellectuals were in late 19thc derided as ‘Bluestockings’ a term derived from the natural woad colour and coined when Ben Stillingfleet in 1756 turned up at the Salon of socialite Elizabeth Montagu wearing cheap blue stockings. Mrs Montagu’s intellectual coterie was thus dubbed ‘bluestocking philosophers’.
From the late 18thc women were asserting themselves with Literary Societies including the ’Bluestocking’ Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley (the writer of Frankenstein in 1818), who wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ in 1792.
The 19thc saw gradual acceptance of women’s education; there were a few endowed schools such as the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge which in 1823 provided cheap education and pilloried as Lowood in Charlotte Bronte’s, Jane Eyre.
After 1879 women were increasingly employed as telephonists as the low paid, non-domestic service, white blouse revolution got under way, even though by 1901 there were still twenty-one live-in servants for every hundred families. The most common occupations were domestic service, including governesses, charring, laundry, nursing, including laying out of corpses, (the Mrs. Gamps), and the making and mending of clothes. Working women were traditionally employed in textiles at home as hand-spinners, later in factories. With the increased division of labour in the 19th century men rarely did jobs like weeding or gleaning corn, but ploughed and mined; the latter for women becoming illegal from 1842.
After 1882 the typewriter, which had been patented in 1868, was the great liberator and thought an ideal instrument for women as the skills were similar to piano playing. Though women hadn’t the vote they were making progress aided by the Suffragette Movement; but women served on School Boards in 1870 and in 1875 the first woman was elected to a Poor Law Board.
The First War prompted a huge exodus of half a million women to the assembly line and 1918 saw the move to universal franchise. The War was a great liberator as women proved themselves equal to taking on men’s roles and many including the upper classes went into nursing troops. Up till then ‘polite ladies’ were expected to be chaperoned by someone of the same sex including those up at ‘Oxbridge’.
However the 1919 Restoration of pre-War Practices Act ordered women to vacate wartime jobs and the 1920 Unemployment Insurance Act specifically excluded domestics. So afterwards domestic chores still kept women at home and by 1921 still only constituted 29% of the workforce (the same as ten years earlier), the year which saw the opening of Marie Stopes first birth control clinic in London.
In 1931 only 16% of working women were married, by 1943, in war-time Britain, it had risen to 43%. In 1947 about 22% of married women were in work, with a quarter of working women part-time, most of whom were married. There were few moves to establish equal pay and by 1951, the proportion of all adult women in the paid labour force had dropped to pre-war levels.
The first lady professor came in 1910. Bishop Gore, latterly of Oxford, was the first to license women on 28th September 1917, known as the Diocesan Band of Women Messengers. However few male bastions have taken so long to conqueror having admitted women priests 125 years after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson qualified as a doctor; 96 years after the first female stockbroker; 80 years after the first woman in the police. The first judge came in 1956 and Ambassador in 1976. However Anna Maria Smart beat all women aspirants by becoming editor of Reading Mercury in 1767.
(1) The writer, Kingsley Martin recorded that if a female visited him in his room she had to be accompanied by a chaperone and this after1918. Crime writer, Dorothy L Sayers in her biography also remembers the necessity of chaperones.
Punch Magazine. P 483. 31.3.1965. Book Review. The Deluge. Arthur Marwick. Bodley Head.
Biography of D.L.Sayers.
St Pancras faced the demolition ball in the 1960s, but today is celebrated as the finest example of Victorian architecture and engineering in its new guise. It was saved for posterity by Poet Laureate, John Betjeman co-founder of the Victorian Society, who was born Today in 1906.
The decade saw some of the worst excesses in Britain of concrete inspired buildings which saw the construction of the Barbican voted as London’s ugliest building in 2003. It also saw the razing of the Doric Propylaeum (gateway) at Euston Station. Victorian architecture in a word was unfashionable.
However the demolition of the 70ft ‘Arch’ ‘in the name of progress’, caused an outcry especially as the next on the list was St Pancras, with its 1868 towering neo-Gothic facade by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
The building was originally opened as the Midland Grand Hotel but as a ‘triumph of style over functionality’, later became unprofitable and set to close in 1935.
In choosing the design for St. Pancras the original Midland Railway wanted something spectacular to outshine their rivals Kings Cross, Euston and Paddington stations and so it proved, as when completed William Barlow’s 100ft. high, single-span train-shed was the largest enclosed space in the world.
By the fateful 1960s the building was renamed St. Pancras Chambers home to British Railways; the floor plan re-arranged with little regard for its original features.
St. Pancras might have gone the way of Euston had it not been for a member of the Railways staff who shared Betjeman’s passion and thanks to a leak, the plan to demolish the station would have gone ahead according to Candida Lycet Green, Betjeman’s daughter. (1)
The ever romantic Betjeman had a different vision and imagination of what the Londoner sees in the mind’s eye, ‘is that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill and outlined against a foggy sunset and glare of the Barlow train shed gaping to devour incoming engines and a sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from a gloomy Judd Street’.
In 1967 the station was granted Grade 1 status, the same as Canterbury Cathedral and Windsor Castle. However Betjeman’s victory did little to reverse a process of decline with the sky-blue iron framework, brickwork and mosaics fading under a grimy cover of soot. Station
The life-line came from hard commercial decision when the Station was chosen in 1996 to be re-developed as the home of Eurostar. Now all the undercroft once used to store barrels of beer from Burton-on-Trent were to be revealed and set to become home to bars and restaurents.(2)
No-one suggests that all buildings are worth of retention, the best of the past has a right to sit alongside what follows, but idle talk of ‘progress’ and ‘fashion’ is best left to other areas of life not used as an excuse to wreck something as fundamental as architecture. Do we really want to live in a concrete high-rise jungle?
(1) According to Candida the Royal Fine Art Commission the predecessor to the Commission for Architecture and Building Enterprise, thought St Pancras was awful.
(2) The re-development cost £800m in 1990s prices. It took 7 years, requiring 60m bricks, 18,000 panes of glass and 300,000 Welsh slate tiles.
news.bbc.co.uk. 6.11.2007 When St. Pancras Faced the Demolition Ball.
Back in November 1943, the Allied political chiefs at Tehran ‘took note’ that the invasion of Europe would be in May 1944: Today in August 1944 the Allies entered Paris ten days after landing in the south. By 3rd September Brussels was liberated with hopes now of victory in Europe. (1)
Things had turned for the better, after major set-backs, after Montgomery had taken command of the 8th Army on the 13th August 1942 and by 3rd November had broken through Rommel’s front line at Alamein after the Germans were only 70 miles from Alexandria. Later Allied forces under ‘Operation Torch’ invaded Tunisia against Vichy controlled North Africa and recaptured Tobruk. (2)
German expansion was now in retreat, from the east with the Russian victory at Stalingrad in February 1943, and their, and the Italian retreat, to The Mareth Lines built by the French pre-war to defend against Italian expansion in Libya.
As Churchill later remarked, ‘before Alamein we never had a victory; after Alamein we never had a defeat’, but it was at a cost of 13.500 troops.
All leaders need an element of luck, along with intelligence reports, and Monty was no exception, relying as he did on the Bletchley ‘code-crackers’ and upon intelligence originally devised by Napoleon, where the GHQ Liaison supplied Commanders-in-Chief with Intelligence direct from the battlefield thus not having to rely on slower more conventional communication. These Signals Officers were the mysterious ‘private army’ known as the Phantoms.
The Germans later revealed that they were suspicious that their ciphers were compromised and Monty was rebuked for not making more effort to disguise the intelligence source of Bletchley. Also reports have suggested that Rommel had contracted amoebic dysentery, thus cynics have suggested that Alamein was won more by hygiene considerations than tactics. (3)
Final Allied success came in May 1943 when the Afrika Corps surrendered with its Italian Allies in Tunisia leaving the way open for the invasion of Italy and the eventual Second Front which opened with D-Day in June 1944.
(1) In fact it was on June 6th: D-Day.
(2) The fall of Tobruk caused Churchill much heart-ache.
(3) Rommel was missing at vital points in the desert war.
Refs: Much work in the public domain.
‘When in evening ye say it will be fair weather; for the sky is red’ (Matthew: XVI 2-3): weather observation was vital in an agrarian society going back to ancient times and the quotation must be one of the first references to weather lore down the centuries.
Weather records became increasingly scientific in the 19th century at institutions such as the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory in 1815, with attempts to forecast the weather. Then on 31st August 1848 saw a reasonably accurate and scientific state of the weather included in Dickens’s Daily News: the first to publish a daily chart was the Times on April 1st 1875.
However despite over a century of weather forecasting, The ‘Met-Office’ was caught-out when it failed to accurately warn of portending weather conditions at sea Today in 1979. The outcome was the major disaster which befell British yachtsmen participating in the Fastnet Race that August.
Fifteen sailors died from crews which included previous Prime Minister, Ted Heath, skippering Morning Cloud and captain of the British team.
It was during the early hours of Tuesday that the full force of the storm struck between Scilly and the Fastnet Rock, the wind rising to Beaufort Force 10, gusting to 70-80mph, such conditions to soon build waves of 20 to 30 feet. A small depression off Novia Scotia was deemed innocuous and it was not until Monday afternoon that the depression, now approaching southwest Ireland, deepened dangerously.
Of the 303 starters 85 finished, 195 retired and 23 were abandoned with 136 being rescued. It emerged later that the Meteorological Office computer on August 13th had failed, but it was suggested as unlikely that a more accurate forecast would have deterred the sailors.
The Royal Yacht Association blamed lack of radios on many boats and emergency equipment rather than forecasters, a shortfall one assumes has been improved. Regarding forecasts the ‘Met-Office’ now fall over themselves to avoid criticism by adopting a ‘traffic-light’ system of potential weather conditions(1).
(1) Back in the race of 1931 one sailor had died, the only previous fatality.