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18th February 1874. Carolling.

Today William B Sandys died in 1874 without whom many carols we now treasure might never have seen the light of day but for his compilation and improvisation. 

Many carols such as ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and others, were printed on rough penny broadsheets with various wording often lewd and in the 1820.s antiquarians Davies Gilbert and Sandys published  Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, minus the bawdy wordings, which gradually found a place in Victorian hymnology.

The collection of seasonal carols was presented in three parts including ancient carols of the early 15thc to the end of 17thc in Middle and Early Modern English. a selection of carols used in the West Country including The First Noel, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1843), I saw three ships, Hark The Herald and French Provincial Carols.(1)

Before the 18thc the Methodist Charles Wesley made carols theologically respectable with ‘Hark How The Welkin Rings’, later ‘Hark The Heralds…’, we had the earthy Boer’s Head carol first printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1521 which concludes ‘The Boar’s Head with Mustard’ an allusion to the College Boar’s Head ceremony, which probably dates back to the pagan Yule Sun-Boar.

In the latter 19thc in 1880 a new Christmas tradition was instituted at Truro by Bishop Edward White Benson (later Archbishop of Canterbury) with a Nine Lessons and Carols Service, taken up by Kings College in 1918 and first broadcast in 1928. In April 2008 the senior boy Chorister at that broadcast Canon Patrick Magee died at 93.

In the 20th century musicologists such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Percy Dearmer and Cecil Sharpe published the Oxford Book of Carols.

This was before the era of trendy ‘Revs’ as epitomised in 2009 by Rev Nick Baines of Croydon ( they’re all called Nick), who thought hymns such as ‘Away in a Manger’ (1885), embarrassing and ignoring the human nature of Jesus; ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ (1848), a case of Victorian child control and even dear old ‘O Come all ye Faithful’ was suspect!

(1) London, Richard Beckley 1833.



17th February 1924. Giving one the ‘Pips’.

Today in 1924 the Big Ben time signal became a feature on the infant BBC radio, coming twelve days after the Greenwich Time Signal was introduced at 9.30pm when listeners first heard the ‘pips’.(1)

It was the horologist Frank Hope-Jones who suggested the idea for calibrating the exact time, for as well as being an expert on electric clocks he was also chairman of the Wireless Society of London. The idea was taken up by Astronomer Royal, Sir Frederick Watson Dyson and BBC Director- General John Reith.

Hope-Jones in a talk on the BBC about time measurement suggested that by counting down the last five seconds to programme start at say 10.0pm in ‘pips’, the signal could be broadcast at other times regularly to help listeners set their clocks and watches accurately.

Originally the ‘Pips’ ended not on the hour but on the half-hour and the chronometers, which triggered the signal, came from two mechanical clocks at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

By 1925 the pips were being heard by ten million as radio audiences grew and were to be a comforting element of normality in wartime along with the sound of Big-Ben. However in this digital age the utility of the ‘Pips’ is diminishing as there is a time-lag between digital and analogue time.

(1) Pips first heard on 5th February 1924.

References: Howse. 18.2.2015.

16th February 1901. Polyesters.

Today John Rex Whinfield was born in 1901 in Accrington, Lancashire and famed along with James Tennant Dickson for the invention of Terylene (Dacron) which in 1941 was patented as the first polymer fibre equalling or surpassing Nylon in toughness and resilience.(1)

1950.s magazine advert.

The Polyester’s trade name Terylene refers to fibres whilst PET relates to plastic bottles.(2)

Simple esters are easily broken down (Hydrolysed) by reacting with dilute acids or alkalis but thankfully with water alone this process is slow so clothes aren’t destroyed in the rain.

Whinfield initially worked with Charles Frederick Cross and Edward John Bevan both of whom had done work on viscose rayon in 1892.  By 1924 Whinfield was research chemist for the Calico Printers Association in Manchester.

In the 1930.s the hunt was on for new s synthetic fibres to rival nylon and Whinfield with Dickson investigated other types of polymer with textile fibre potential and discovered how to condense Terephthalic Acid and Ethylene Glycol to yield new polymers which could be drawn into fibres.

Symbol Resin Code on bottom of bottle: Pet or Pete.

Whinfield took a patent out in July 1941 but due to wartime security this was not published until 1946.

Magazine advert of 1960.s

ICI with Terylene and Dupont with Dacron went on to produce their own versions and in 1947 Whinfield joined ICI.

(1) Whinfield died in 1966.

(2) PET is a shortened form of  Polyethylene Terephthelate and is one of the most common plastics in use.

The problem is it is semi-porous and absorbs food molecules so making re-cycling difficult.




15th February 1942. Fall of Singapore. The Great Humiliation.

Singapore in 1942: ‘Our preparations have been made and tested: our defences are strong and our weapons efficient’ said the order of the day of Sir Robert Brooke-Popham (old Pop-Off as he dozed-off in meetings), C- in- C of Allied Forces in the area.

White Flag of Truce led by Japanese officer. (1)

Singapore was invaded Today on February 15th.

Churchill described it as, ‘a heavy and far reaching military defeat… the worst disaster and the largest capitulation in British History’. He also said that, ‘Commanders should die with their troops with honour of the Empire and Army at stake’.

The great naval base hitherto considered impregnable as ‘the Gibraltar of the Far East’, led to the humiliation of Lieutenant-General Percival who surrendered under a ‘white flag of truce’, in the local Ford works. Expecting an invasion from the sea the Japanese had invaded inland.

Japanese inspect British defences aimed at the sea. Tumbir.

There was never an official inquiry into the fall of Singapore, but four days before the Japanese attack, Churchill had authorised the gift of 300 aircraft and 300 tanks to our then ally Russia instead of to Singapore. Eyewitness reports said that much of the ‘materiel’ in crates, marked for Singapore, was still lying months later at Murmansk quayside.

There had been treachery including the part played by one Captain Heenan recruited by the Japanese and who despite doubts about his loyalty was sent to Malaya and became an intelligence staff officer. Later convicted and sentenced to death he was shot by his own side beforehand.

Vernon Kell Head of Security Services advised against prosecution in case the Japanese knew we were intercepting Japanese Embassy mail and Heenan had been allowed to join the Royal Naval Air service in 1939.

Experts with hindsight say it should never have happened, as we had more motor vehicles and artillery though the Japanese had more tanks. The defence force which contained many Indians supported by Australians were driven back by a force of only two Divisions riding stolen bikes and without artillery support, travelling 550 miles in 55 days.

It was a bad time for the British and the US, for back in December after Pearl Harbour, the Japanese had landed in Malaya. Their possession of air bases in French Indo-China now gave then complete air mastery. Torpedo bombers had already sunk the Repulse and Prince of Wales.

Churchill warned the King: ‘Burma, Ceylon, Calcutta and Madras in India and part of Australia may fall into enemy hands’, and the King’s sang-froid deserted him. ’Can we stick together in the face of all this adversity?’

By the end of May the British had been driven from Burma and the King-Emperor no longer ruled the ‘Golden Land’, 57 years after Victoria had informed King Thibaw that Burma during her majesties pleasure was part of Her Majesty’s Dominions.

Invasion of Ceylon was averted by the Canadian, Leonard Birchall, (later Air Commodore), part of no 413 RCAF Squadron who had arrived in Ceylon from the UK only 48 hours before being pressed into action. It was he in a Catalina flying boat, which took off 4th April 1942 who sighted a Japanese force which included five aircraft carriers, 350 miles south-east of Ceylon.

Admiral Sir James Somerville had taken up command as C-in-C East Indies Fleet two days before had been alerted by intelligence to the probability of a Japanese attack on Ceylon on April 1st and fearful of another Pearl Harbour he ordered a dispersal and air patrols.

Birchall’s signal though garbled on its receipt in Ceylon gave the implication an invasion was imminent and defences were alerted and forty-eight ships, including the Carrier Hermes, sailed and suffered severe losses, but the Japanese retreated, though living to fight on until their eventual surrender on August 8th 1945.

At a dinner in Washington in 1947 Churchill, now in opposition declared Birchall’s courage was ‘one of the most important single contributions to Allied victory’ in the far east.

(1) Tacitus mentions the White Flag in 109 CE; before this Roman soldiers held shields over their heads. The Flag was also used in the middle-ages.




14th February 1661. The Coldstreams.

It was back on 14th February in 1661, that the Coldstream Guards, supporters of Charles II  first paraded, however the Grenadiers were not to take their title until defeating the French Grenadiers at Waterloo, whilst the Scots Guards were not given the title until 1870.s.

The Coldstreams, now part of the Guards Division, is the oldest British Army Regiment in continuous service with origins going back to 1650 when Oliver Cromwell gave Colonel George Monck permission to form his own Regiment of Foot in the New Model Army taking 5 Companies of men from each of the Regiments of George Fenwick and Sir Arthur Haselrig. (1) 

Two weeks after being founded Monck’s Regiment was in the Battle of Dunbar where the Roundheads defeated Charles Stuart.

After Oliver’s son Richard abdicated Monck supported the Stuarts and on 1st January 1660 crossed the Tweed into England at the village of Coldstream and marched to London in 5 weeks helping in the Restoration of the monarchy.

When Charles II became king in 1660 he disbanded nearly the whole of the army including Monck’s Regiment. However on January 6th 1661 the 5th Monarchist under Thomas Venner of which the executed Major-General Harrison had been a member, made an abortive attempt to seize London only to be defeated by Monck’s Regiment.

They now laid down their arms but took them up again as the Lord-General’s Regiment of Foot-Guards, part of the Royal Household, later designated the Coldstream Guards.(2)

Monck died in 1670 when the Earl of Craven adopted the Coldstream Regiment of Footguards.

(1) Monck’s Regiment was one of two Regiments of the Household Division traced back to the New Model Army, the other is the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards), 1st Dragoons.

(2) Venner was Hanged Drawn and Quartered for High Treason.


13th February 1788.

One of the turning points in British-Indian rule resulted from the trial of Warren Hastings, India’s first Governor-General who was impeached for high-handedness and corruption.

The trial opened in Westminster Hall Today in 1788 and was set to last seven years after which he was acquitted and retired to private life.

Now no longer would the chief power in India be held by the obscure but by personages in their own right: the Marquis Cornwallis, Marquis Wellesley, Lord Minto, the Marquis of Hastings, Lord William Bentinck and Lord Dalhousie, people intimate with the ruling class, in effect they were Viceroys, not yet in name, but not tempted by financial gain.

‘John Company’ effectively became a form of government in pre-Raj India, as traders transformed themselves from merchants into judges, administrators and revenue collectors. Many adopted the lifestyle of the Mughal predecessors known as ‘going native’.(1)

At the time when India was to become the Jewel in the Crown of Empire and our contacts with the Mughal Empire it saw the importation in Georgian England of native Indian architecture as seen at Daylesford, Gloucestershire remodelled to the design of Samuel Pepys Cockerell for Hastings in a revival of Islamic architecture of north India, a fusion in Persian and Indian style.(2)

Daylesford House.

Cockerell employed in 1806 by the East India Company also designed Sezincote House a 19thc interpretation of the 16/17thc Mughal Empire. (3)

Sezincote House.

In the church of St Peter’s Daylesford there is a memorial to Rev.T.B. Woodman ‘Rector of this parish and vicar of Brackley in the county of Northants’. His remains are interred in the same vault of those of his uncle the Rt. Hon. Warren Hastings, the ex Governor-General. 

(1) Emperor Akbar 1556-1605 mixed Islam and Hindu architecture to integrate his empire.

(2) Hastings died 22nd August 1818. The present owner of Daylesford is the Bamford Family.

(3)  Sezincote was the inspiration for the later Brighton Pavilion of George IV.


12th February 1808. The Manby Mortar.

One of the unsung British heroes is George William Manby, FRS and inventor who Today in 1808 first successfully used his mortar-fired lifeline to rescue sailors from the foundering Plymouth Brig Elizabeth off the coast at Gorleston only a mile from Great Yarmouth.

Manby was prompted to do something when he watched helplessly at Great Yarmouth in 1807 when HMS Snipe foundered just offshore with the loss of many lives.

As a captain in the Cambridgeshire Militia he borrowed a military mortar from the Board of Ordnance which he adapted for his invention which involved firing a light rope over the rigging of the stranded vessel which joined onto a heavier rope could be used to steady the vessel and haul it ashore.

It was method later adopted in many coastal areas by the Coastguard and was to save the lives of at least a thousand sailors by the time of his death.

Manby lived in the Norfolk village of Denver where his father was Lord of the Manor and his mortar is depicted on his tombstone in the churchyard. He was obsessed with Horatio Nelson often saying he went to school with the later hero, but the dates don’t match up. 

The Mortar shot a rope over the rigging.