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30th June 1942. Balloon Command.

Balloon Command used winches by Thompson and Southwick of Tamworth, Staffs., makers of Pit-Head wheels. One anchor for balloons was Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire.

Today in 1942 Admiral Cunningham noted in a minute that: ‘the fact that the enemy are sending up aircraft to shoot these balloons down is practical evidence of the efficacy of the attacks’.

Badge of Balloon Command: Force and Impact.

He went on: ‘It is inconceivable that aircraft should be ordered off the ground for pursuing balloons which must be hard to find unless that are regarded by the enemy as being a real menace’.

Cunningham might have been enthusiastic because it was the Royal Navy Boom Defence Dept, which conducted the campaign. In the Battle of Britain, Messerschmitts would attack the balloons with green and yellow tracers and they would explode in flames and sink gracefully to earth. The silver balloons 66ft long and 30ft high were filled with 20,000 cubic feet of hydrogen and tethered by steel cables.

RAF Balloon Command was founded to control the UK barrage Balloons in the UK on 1st November 1938 with an HQ at Old Church Lane, RAF Stanmore Park. It controlled RAF Cardington and Chessington and in its time had four commanders, three Air-Vice Marshalls and finishing with an Air Commodore in February 1945.

Balloons over London.

At the start of the war WAAFs worked on the balloons repairing seams and doping tears in the fabric, but the need to release men for combat by 1941 prompted the suggestion that women could take charge of the 500lb balloons and hoisting them when a raid was threatened. So by February, a number of WAAF had volunteered for an intensive training course.

WAAF at RAF Cardington.

This was so successful that the ‘young amazons’ were running over a thousand sites by 1942. Picture Post Magazine to maintain the men’s morale said: ‘it did not imply they had been doing a woman’s job as it requires sixteen women to replace ten airmen…it is only the great progress and simplification of manipulation …that has made the substitution possible‘.

Cardington Balloon Shed.

During the war balloons carrying incendiary devices were launched on westerly winds from the Norfolk Coast towards occupied Europe in an attempt to cut pylon cables.

They were associated with Operation Outward which took place from March 1942 to September 1944, involving the release of 100,000 balloons from Landguard Common in Felixstowe, Old Stairs near Ringwold in Kent and from 1943 Waxham north of Great Yarmouth.

There were two types of balloon: 53,543 carried incendiaries and 45,600 trailed a wire. This wire derived from British experiences with errant barrage balloons, was an attempt to disrupt Europe’s electricity supply. There is no record of the incendiary devices causing damage despite Cunningham’s minute, though the wire trailers might have had a greater effect. (1)



(1) A graph showing some correlation between their launch and grid failure in Pomerania and Eastern Prussia can be found in JP Foynes’s book. ‘The Battle of the East Coast 39-45’.


28th June 1801. Francis Wheatley R.A,

Today saw the death of portrait and landscape painter Francis Wheatley RA. A popular artist of the time, born in 1747 he entered the school of the Royal Academy in 1769, first exhibiting in 1778.

One of the joys of these paintings is their ability to show various aspects of 18th century contemporary life.

The Irish House of Commons c 1780.

Each picture tells a tale as this one by Wheatley of the Irish House of Commons which reminds us that Ireland though controlled by Westminster had its own legislature until the 1801 Act of Union.

This picture shows a country woman selling ribbon near a military camp.

There would have been many camp-followers of the military as they move around the country, the background showing tented structures quickly packed and carted according to the demands of military manoeuvres.

A sportsman and his son.

Duke of Newcastle next to his friend Col. Lichfield and Mansell the gamekeeper with 4 clumber spaniels.










Scene from 12th Night by Shakespeare. Act II Sc.iv. It shows Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Viola about to fight a duel.

The Painting above was executed with 18thc actors and is an interesting example of how artists were influenced by  what they saw on stage.

The largely unknown Wheatley contributed 12 paintings to Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery and is one of dozens of talented British artists of the 18th and  19th centuries before photography took its toll.


Manchester City Gallery. Shakespeare Illustrated. Francis Wheatley.


25th June 1950. The Forgotten War.

The Korean War saw for the first time jet fighters in air-to-air combat.

The Korean War, described as a ‘police action’ under United Nations auspices, began Today in 1950 when North Korean troops invaded South Korea across the 38th parallel after years of border skirmishes.(1) 

1st Battalion Black Watch infantrymen before heading on patrol.

US Citatation Ceremony to British 29th Brigade for awards to Gloucestershires and 170th Independent Mortar Battalion, Royal Artillery for heroic action against encircling Chinese. 23-25th April 1951.







The UN which never in fact officially declared war, authorised action which involved 21 countries for service in Korea.

By August Britain still under a Labour government and with Prime Minister, Clement Attlee talking about ‘naked aggression’, had committed troops to the conflict half of whom were National Servicemen and reservists.

Heavy Cruiser, HMS Belfast which saw action in Korea.

America flexing its muscles for the first time against the threat of Communism committed 90% of the ground troops and it constituted the first time both Britain and the US had the chance to combine since the formation of NATO in 1948.

The Soviets temporary absence from the UN Security Council facilitated the Council’s condemnation of the aggression and called on Members to aid South Korea which had been occupied by American and Russian troops in 1945 and in 1947, but which by 1948 was one of  two sovereign states in the peninsula.

The Soviets had refused to admit a United Nations Commission and set up a Communist People’s Republic President. Elections were held in the American Zone and the Republic of Korea in the south was established.

Britain committed 22 ships including two carriers the Triumph and Unicorn and the Cruiser Belfast, which were placed under the American General MacArthur, (later to be replaced. (2)

The deciding factor in the war was on 19th October 1950 when the Chinese crossed the Yalu River to enter the war thus forcing an allies retreat back to the 38th Parallel by late December.

The war was to drag on until 27th July 1953 with the loss of more than two million lives, when the truce documents were to be finally signed at Panmunjom.

The Korean War ironically fought under a traditionally pacifist Labour Government saw some 60,000 Britons, out of 78,000 Europeans, serving with over 4,436 killed missing or injured. By the end nearly 75% British soldiers were conscripts.

(1) Words by President Harry S Truman.

(2) The Korean War(1950-53) saw the use of carriers such as the ninth-named Triumph (  launched in 1946 and scrapped in 1981), was a 13,350 ton Colossus Class Light Fleet Carrier, a Class conceived in the mid-1940s.

Triumph in 1952 was the first to be fitted with the British invented angled-flight deck and originally regarded with indifference amounting to derision, said Dennis Campbell later Rear Admiral, its inventor.

Another carrier which served in Korea was the 11th named Unicorn the only ship of her Class was launched on 20th November 1941. Displacing 16,510 tons standard weight, it was a maintenance and occasional light fleet carrier which saw service from 1943 onward, being scrapped in 1960.


IWM [GB] Showing History. R. McDonough. 13.6. 2018.


22nd June 1979. Missing Eleven Days.

The first known Almanac to be printed in England was, ‘Sheapheards (sic) Kalendar printed by Richard Pynson of 1497. The mnemonic rhyme the ‘30 Days hath September’… was first recorded in the ‘1606 Return from Parnassus’, and the ‘Winter Cambridge Almanac’ (1635). 

The summer solstice last fell on this day in 1979 the next one is not due until 2100.

The Summer Solstice can fall in this country on the 20th and the 22nd, the last time it fell on the 20th was more than a century ago before the years 2012 and 2016.

Elsewhere in the world it can even occur on the 19th and the 23rd although in the Southern Hemisphere it is of course the Winter Solstice.

Before the reorganisation of the calendar in Britain in 1752 the summer solstice fell on June 10th because the Julian Calendar (introduced on 1st January 45 BC) had slipped 11 days. In 1582 the disparity between solar and calendar time had slipped by 10 days and Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed his Gregorian or New-Style Calendar to secure uniformity. It was also decided when the New Year should begin thus moving it from March to January. In Scotland New Year’s Day had been January 1st since 1600.

In the 1660s the Samuel Pepys reflected this confusion in his Diaries starting his reckoning on 25th of March but also noting the Roman consular date of January 1 as ‘New Years Day’.

However it took Protestant nations until 1752 to come into line, by which time the gap was 11 days so it was enacted that September 2nd should become the 14th to compensate. The effect was to bringing forward all dates subsequent to Wednesday September 2nd 1752 by 11 days thus Thursday was 14th September.

Confusion exists with Mid-Summer’s Day, but June 24th has always been a Quarter Day, the feast of St John and celebrated by Christians as the birth of St John Baptist.

One thing which has remained constant however is the naming of seven days of the week, which are based on a mixture of Roman, Germanic and Norse mythology an the five visual planets along with the sun and moon. (1)

Thus Saturday (Saturn), Sunday (Sun) and Monday (Moon. Then Tuesday, originally Tiwesdaeg (Day of Tiw); for Wednesday, Wodnesdaeg (Day of Woden); for Thursday, Thursdaeg (Day of Thor); for Friday, Frigesdaeg (Day of Freya), showing how antiquity still exerts influence over today.

(1) The trust in astrology in the ancient world saw the planetary system in Chaldea reflected in the mysterious Number 7 and the sacred hebdomad symbols as reflected in the staged Tower of Babylon and in the soul’s struggle with seven hostile archons to reach pleroma (fullness of faith and tradition), and the ascent via the seven planets to Anu. All very esoteric to most modern thought.

19th June 1809. Carving-up the Land.

Netley Cistercian Abbey, painted by Constable in 1833, is one of the best preserved monasteries in southern England and the inspiration for many artists and writers.

Netley Abbey.

Netley Abbey by Moonlight c.1833 John Constable 1776-1837 Purchased 1969








Today in 1809 Curwen’s Act was passed to prevent the sale of parliamentary seats and to decrease the number of seats which the British Government could manipulate for its regular supporters.

John Christian Curwen. 1756-1828. Social and agricultural  reformer.

Abuse in elections, until the 1832 Reform Act, was common as most seats were appointees of the landed aristocracy with possession going back to the Conqueror and especially with that stemming from Monastic Dissolution.(1)


However the political and social structure was to be controlled by landlords for the rest of the 19thc with  something like 4000 owning about four sevenths of the cultivated land, let to 250,000 tenant farmers who in turn employed in 1851 about 1 ¼ million labourers. By 1885 landowners still formed the absolute majority in Parliament.

Many of the beneficiaries of the Monastic Dissolution were privateers like Sir Francis Drake who bought the Cistercian Monastery, Buckland Abbey in 1581.

The property remained in the Drake family until 1946 when it was bought by a Naval Officer who gave the Abbey and grounds to the National Trust. Malmesbury Benedictine Abbey was sold to wool merchant William Stumpe who converted the part not sold as a parish church for weaving looms.

Henry Clifford 2nd earl of Cumberland and married to a niece of Henry VIII and related to the Hastings and Talbots of Shrewsbury and the Nevilles earls of Salisbury, held Roche Abbey near Maltby in Yorkshire. Families such as the Ports, Wyndhams, Pophams waxed fat on the proceeds of monastic sales.

Sir John Thynne acquired Longleat Priory for fifty three guineas: ‘when the abbots went out they came in’. Others were the Horners of Mells, and the Wemysses who acquired their Stanway estate from Tewkesbury Abbey, but seemed to have inherited a curse from their ancestors the Tracys, for Thomas de Traci’s involvement in Thomas a Becket’s 12thc murder.

Sir William Poulett (Paulet) (d 10.3.1572), Comptroller at the Court, created 1st Marquis of Winchester was granted the Cistercian Netley Abbey (conferred by Henry III on 7th March 1251), which was converted to a mansion, falling into disuse in the early 18thc.

The Earls of Bedford estates surrounded sites of dissolved abbeys: Woburn (which became his main home), Tavistock (the title of his eldest son) and Thorney (Cambridgeshire).

From the Dissolution of Burton Abbey lands the Port Family gained Ilam in the Peak District. The estate had originally been given in 1004 by Wulfric Spot to the Abbey who had rebuilt and enlarged the small Saxon church.

In 1809 the Ports sold the estate to Jesse Russell and his wife Mary the daughter and heiress of David Pike Watts who rebuilt the village in the present alpine style.

Staffordshire in the 19th century saw 36 families held 43% of the useable land, and when Lord Derby’s National Land Survey in 1870 revealed that a few hundred held 25% of the land, there was greater agitation for reform of the land-owning control over the legislature.

Owning land also meant reaping the natural resources to be found. The Willoughby’s and Middleton’s wealth came from wool, ironworks, woad growing, glassworks and coal-mining with in pits at Cossall, Wollaton and Stapleford Colliery Companies.

Many reaped rewards from iron, quarrying and agriculture and coal from the 16thc as forest timber became scarcer. Measham in Leicestershire was dismissed by a William Wyrley in 1596 as, ‘a village belonging to Lord Shefield in which are many coal mines’, but family influence  continued until well into the 20thc.

The North Country had the Lambtons, Montagues, Lowthers (who developed Whitehaven Port), Lonsdales, the Durham Russells of Brancepeth Castle and the 5th Duke of Portland who owned eleven mines around Welbeck Abbey in the Nottinghamshire ‘Dukeries’ where he had three miles of tunnels so he could move unseen, along with estates in London.

The Devonshires owned the large copper mine at Ecton, Derbyshire and Lord Bute and Lord Londonderry (northern coal owners) (Churchill’s cousin), whilst The Curwen Family were later to develop Workington and the Lonsdale Dock in 1865.

One family is remembered in ‘Little Jack Horner’: traditional Nursery Rhyme said to be associated with the Horners of Mells, Somerset. They aquired land from Commissioners of Henry VIII in 1543. ‘ Jack pulls out the plum (the estate) for being a faithful retainer; ‘What a good boy am I’.

(1) One effect of the great reform Act was that it made MPs more accountable for on 6th February in 1837 the Sherborne Mercury recorded a public meeting which had been held at the Guildhall of Lyme Regis on Thursday, 26th January.

The purpose of the meeting was to enable their representative, William Pinney Esq ‘to state his opinions upon the leading political questions of the day and to take the sense of his constituents on his parliamentary conduct’.


Somerset History Environment Record. S.C.C.

18th June 2009. Trial By Jury.

The Grand Jury abolished in England in 1933 was a committal process in English courts but is still a feature of the American Judicial System.

The Jury by John Morgan, 1861. Bucks. County Library.

It was Today in June 2009 that Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge sitting in the Court of Appeal made legal history by ruling that a Crown Court trial could take place without a jury. A year later a trial of four defendants in a raid at Heathrow, which had been stopped three times owing to intimidation of the Jury, was set to proceed without one. The four on trial eventually were sentenced.

The notion of justice is lost in the mists of time with the concept of Law going back to antiquity and formalised in the Mosaic Ten Commandments, the Torah. (1) 

There is controversy whether Juries originated in Saxon times; King Ethelred Unready set up The Wantage Code which included that twelve leading thegns of each wapentake swear that they would investigate crime without bias, though each person would have to do his own investigation an imposition which only died out in the 17thc.

In Anglo-Saxon times the rich paid for their transgressions by the Wergild, the amount depending on the seriousness of the crime and whom it was committed against. Compurgation also enabled any accused to call witnesses to join their oaths to his by Letters of Compurgation, in attempting to prove innocence.

The notion of juries was seen in the medieval Benedictine Monastery at Furness: ‘If any tenant should find himself grieved at any time, he should abide by the judgement of the said Abbot and Steward, and Xii men indifferently chosen within the said lordship; so that if the said tenant was not content he should have another jury, paying 6/8d, if the latter jury found him guilty, as the other jury had done; and if he would not thus do, he should be discharged and voided’.

Henry II with his Justices in Eyre (Justitiarii Itinerantes) had a trial by peers in the Grand Jury through the Assize of Clarendon and criminals were given Trial by Ordeal, though by 1215 clergy became exempt and banned by the Roman Church. (1)

The Normans carried the penchant for ‘battling’ into the legal system by formalising combat into a means of deciding guilt or innocence and like Trial by Ordeal it was seen as a religious rite and the accused swore on the Bible that he was not guilty of the offence before submitting the decision to the Will of God. As the alternative of being found guilty was mutilation, many were prepared to take the chance.

In 1730 Parliament passed a bill for the better regulation of Juries which meant all were liable for service to be selected by lot or ‘Sortition’, as too many had bribed the under-sheriff to avoid duty at the Assizes.

The Law of Desuetude is not favoured in English Common Law as in 1818 the King’s Bench held in the case of Ashford v Thornton that Trial by Combat remained available as a defendant’s option was available under Common Law. The Law however has more currency in Civil Law which is more regulated by a Legislative Code. (2)

Magna Carta 1215 had enshrined that : ‘No freeman… captured, imprisoned…but by lawful judgment of his peers’ at a time when ‘Trial by Combat’ had given way to lawyers who served the King as judges and serjeants-at law (barristers).

The right to ‘Trial by Battel’ was abolished in 1819 as a ’mode of trial unfit to be used’, when Lord Chancellor Eldon moved in the Lords that it be abolished, and passed without opposition.

By this time justices were accustomed to asking ‘jurors of presentiment’ about points of fact; the next step was to ask whether they were ‘guilty as charged’.

The right to Trial by Jury has been enshrined over centuries, but until the 1855 Administration of Justice Act, Petty Larcenies were denied this right.

On 19 May 1967 twelve women found a defendant guilty of theft in 38 minutes and the judge commended them as equal to men, showing that juries were not now, ‘just 12 ‘men’ good and true’.

(1) As described in II Kings 22: 8 identical in phrase in Joshua I:8 and 8:34 to describe the sacred writings Joshua received from Moses. The High Priest Hilkiah was said to have discovered the Book of Law, the Book of Jehovah from the hand of Moses the great law giver.

(2) In 1817 Abraham Thornton pursued by the victim’s brother over rape and murder, claimed the right to ‘Trial by Battel’ before the Court of King’s Bench but as he was a Londoner he was exempt along with under 14s, over 60s, priests, women and peers.

14th June 1856. Physician Heal Thyself.

Today in 1856 the Rugeley, Staffordshire, doctor, William Palmer was hanged by George Smith before a crowd of 30,000 outside Stafford prison.

Palmer had a chequered history whilst training to be a doctor being accused of theft and whilst working at Stafford Hospital was accused of poisoning a friend with strychnine.

Indeed Palmer was only tried for the murder of this friend which constituted a first for murder by strychnine.  Palmer’s diary records the death: ’Cook died at 10 o’clock this morning’. It appears that he had accompanied Palmer to Shrewsbury Races after the doctor had mysteriously purchased strychnine.

However though a botched autopsy found no evidence of strychnine in Cook’s body,  Palmer did go on to poison his mother-in-law and various members of his family, even a house guest.

Article about Palmer in Illustrated London News 27th May 1856.

His wife died at 27 and he realised the money in insurance at the same time as he was having an affair with a maid by whom he had illegitimate child. It was assumed that his wife whom he had married at the ‘Horn-Dance’ at the nearby village of Abbots Bromley, had died in the third great cholera pandemic 1853-4 throughout the country.

One outcome of the trial of Palmer was that the Central Criminal Court Act 1856 popularly known as ‘Palmer’s Act’, removed trials to the Old Bailey, London from local courts when it is thought public outrage would affect the outcome.(1)

When doctors are allegedly charged with murder it gets large-scale publicity as was the case  with John Bodkin Adams in 1950s Eastbourne who was only charged with two murders, both of which failed, the later case on nolle prosequi (Not to pursue) which was inexplicable even to the trial judge (Devlin) who in his report criticised prosecuting counsel Manningham-Buller, later Lord Chancellor (1962-4). (2)

Questions were asked in Parliament, not surprising when it appears he could have been responsible for over a hundred deaths. However the problem is always elucidating how far the deaths were attributable to attempts to relieve pain by the over-use of morphine.

The fact that he was charged with various offences for forgery and other irregularities in his chaotic career, and had been rather cavalier with his patients valuables whilst forcing them to change their wills in his favour, make a serious case for suspicion not murder.

It was noted by a local that ‘Adams started his career on a bike and rose through the prestige grades of car until acquiring a chauffeur-driven Rolls. However ‘he was loved by his many rich clients as recounted by Jane Robins whose rich ancestor was a patient. (3)

Adams was ‘struck-off’ only to be reinstated in 1961 and died after a peaceful old age in his own bed with questions still raging about his guilt.









Which brings us to Dr Shipman credited with a tally of over 200 deaths of the elderly, which makes him the serial-killer par-excellence. He was convicted and sentenced, but never completed as he hanged himself in his cell.

It appears like Bodkin Adams he was a one doctor practice and indeed his wife used to accompany him on his rounds, no doubt with a hot flask of tea, and stayed in the car whilst he was up to his dastardly deeds. Here again he was not averse to relieving patients of their valuables and benefiting from changed wills in his favour.

The only people it appears who had any doubts about the good doctor were the undertakers who not surprisingly observed a larger than normal trade resulting from Shipman’s medical ministrations. But they kept quiet after all trade was good and there was no proof at the time of anything untoward.


(1) (19 & 20 Victoria c 16, originally the Trial of Offences Act 1856.

(2) Manningham Buller (KC) later Viscount Dilhorne served as Macmillan’s Attorney-General until taking the Woolsack as Lord Chancellor. One daughter became head of MI-5.

(3) Daily Mail 18.5.2013. Jane Robins. A Glutton for Murder: ‘The Curious Habits of Bodkin Adams like Agatha Christie Gone Mad.