Public figures in Britain have been targeted by assassination since time immemorial and none more so than in the 20th century, mainly from those seeking a re-unification of Ireland, and in mid-century for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
One of the most notable was recorded Today in 1922 by The Times on the assassination on his doorstep the previous day, of Field Marshal, Sir Henry Wilson (Bt), by Irish Republicans.
Wilson, born in Ireland, was a particularly political soldier being a passionate believer in retaining the union of Ireland with the rest of Britain.
After World War II terrorism in the form of the Jewish Stern and Irgun gangs fought to end the British Mandate, under the United Nations, in Palestine, having already murdered Lord Moyne, the British Minister in Residence in the Middle East in Cairo 1944.
Previously Jewish terrorism threats in the 20th century had been limited to a few immigrant anarchists, in London, resulting in ‘The Tottenham Outrage’, in January 1909, ending in two deaths and many injured.
As a result of the outstanding bravery of the police the King’s Police Medal was instituted. (1)
Post-war in August 1946 Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director-General of MI5 was briefing Prime Minister Attlee regarding a new threat of a terror campaign by Jews who were agitating for a Jewish State.
Full facts were later gleaned from Government Files revealed by The Guardian in March 2006 which reported that a telegram warned of a plot to kill Attlee’s Ministers and that MI5 was warned of a plot to assassinate the Labour Government.
The Files included a telegram (dated February 12th 1946), from Palestine saying that reliable sources claimed the Stern Gang were training members to go to England to kill members of HM Government especially Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary.
Then a memo from the Office administering the Government of Palestine to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the following day, warned that the Stern Gang have decided to assassinate the High Commissioner and General-Officer-Commanding, the CID and Government Officials ‘who are anti Semitic’. Israel came into existence in 1948.
Later most of the outrages would be targeted, at both civilian population and officials, from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its desire for a unified Ireland.
On the mainland in November 1974, seventeen were killed in two Birmingham pubs and ten years later the ‘Brighton Bombing’ killed four when the IRA attempted to eliminate Thatcher’s Tory Cabinet at their Annual Conference in October.(2)
One of the more audacious attacks came in February 1991 when the IRA launched mortar-bomb rockets from Whitehall onto John Major’s Cabinet in No 10 Downing Street. Once Prime Minister, Ted Heath’s house was attacked the next day. (3)
(1) On 3rd January 1909.
(2a) 12th October 1984.
(2b) Lord Mountbatten was killed in Ireland whilst on holiday in 1979 whilst Airey Neave, a survivor of Colditz was killed in the Commons’ Car Park in the same year.
(2c) On 19th October 1988, Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd denied the air-waves to supporters of Northern Ireland terrorists until 1994, using the 1981 Broadcasting Act.
(3) On 7th February 1991.
The Times. P10. 23rd June 1922.
PRO Files 5.3.2006.
Online Publications.Keith Jeffrey. Pub. 2010. FM. Wilson/Pic.
The Guardian. Monday 6th March. 2006.
St. Alban is listed in the Church of England Calendar for the 22nd June and venerated in the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
In popular culture he is the proto-martyr with the year of his death variously stated as 209, c 251 or 304; the Anglo-Saxon Charter says 283.
The Venerable Bede, in the 8th century, is in no doubt as he ends his account of the Martyrdom of Alban: ‘The blessed Alban suffered on the tenth day before the Kalends of July, 304 [22nd June], near the city of Verulamium which is now called Verlama Caester, when the cruel Emperor first published Edicts against Christians.(1)
In other words after the publication of Edicts by Diocletian in 303 and before the ameliorative Treaty of Milan by co-rulers Emperor Constantine I and Licinius in 313.
Then as now authorities relied on others, with Bede no exception, as he probably followed Gildas the 6th century, British monk’s short account, of the Martyr, De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae c 570.
In Bede’s, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, it is stated that Alban lived in Roman Britain, but nothing is known about his religious affiliations.
The earliest reference to Alban’s martyrdom is believed to be Victricius’s, De Laude Sanctorum (the praise of saints) c 396 CE but there is no supporting evidence,
As with so much in hagiography, myth and legend multiply, none more so than when referring to the canonized Alban. Often much is based on minuscule evidence and verification as with St, Germanius of Auxerre who by promoting the cult of Alban wanted place it firmly in line with continental orthodoxy, as part of his campaign against the Pelagian heresy [which was against original sin] in Britain.
The foundational hagiographical text about the Saint is in fact the anonymous Passio of Alban (Passion of Alban), probably by Germanius which forms the basis of all accounts from Gildas to Bede.
What is irrefutable, despite the fog of antiquity and myth, is that cults of early Christian figures have endured to be literally enshrined in monastery and cathedral. (3)
(1) Which we know as St. Albans, Herts.
(2) Paris was a celebrated English chronicler and most famous of the monks at St. Alban’s Abbey. He produced an illustrated Life of Alban in French verse, adapted from the Latin Life of Alban by William of St. Albans c 1178.
(3) George Gilbert Scott was responsible for stopping the nave of St. Alban’s Abbey from collapsing in the 1860.s, which incorporated much Roman material from Verulamium. He also restored the shrine.
A local landowner former MP and lawyer, Lord Grimthorpe, who designed Big Ben, over 14 years spent £140,000 in restoring the Abbey which became a cathedral in 1877.
Ref: History Ecclesia (Ed Plummer) Vol. I. chap 7. Martyrdom Under Diocletian. Iss. 303.
Ref: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
‘Twas in the year 1898 and on 21st June/The launching of battleship Albion caused a great gloom’, as the doggerel poet Mcgonagall described the launching of HMS Albion.
The launch of any ship draws the crowds and so it was Today in 1898 when the battleship HMS Albion of 12,900 tons was launched at Blackwall, London after completion by the Thames Ironworks Company.
Present were the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary, and G.J. Goschen, First Lord of the Admiralty, and other notables.
However the augurs weren’t favourable for it took the Duchess four attempts to break the launching bottle.
Eventually the ship gracefully hit the water to the usual cheers and tumult of hooters, when the ‘quality’ turned to go, along with the workers and wives who were to enjoy the rest of the day off.
As a result many were oblivious to what was happening below for the tidal wave caused by the ship hitting the water completely destroyed an old wooden bridge where thousands were enjoying the spectacle.
200 were cast into the water which sparked valiant rescue attempts, but leaving 34 dead. Many of those drowned were women, especially as they were wearing the heavy clothing of the time, and children. It constituted one of the worst disasters on the Thames in peacetime. The Royal Humane Society were to grant 24 Bronze Medals.
In the resultant Inquest it was revealed, ‘that people had ignored placards and police warnings’ about massing on the bridge and, ‘no blame was apportioned to the Company or the police’, but as it said, ‘the disaster was due to the stupidity of the crowd who didn’t accept danger warnings, refusing orders to move and warning entreaties, disregarding police who were jeered and mocked’.
The Launch of HMS Albion.
This account of ‘the stupidity of the people’ would contrast with modern disasters where an official scapegoat needs to be found, ignoring that people need to take some responsibility for their actions.
However the Company had issued 20,000 tickets to the event, and where large numbers of people are congregating modern Inquiries wouldn’t have been so lenient with the authorities who didn’t foresee the dangers inherent in such a crowd congregating on a rickety structure.
One who didn’t exactly come out with credit was Duncombe Jewell a reporter on the Daily Mail, who after the typical ‘purple prose’ of the time describing the launch had left the scene oblivious of the scoop developing before his eyes.
When berated by his editor for his omission, he said, ‘Well I did see some people bobbing in the water as I came away, but…’
The Toponym of Studley derives from the Anglo-Saxon as ‘pasture for horses’.
Today a Tuesday on the 19th day of June 1877 a notice announced the sale of Studley Manor. Oxfordshire.
The Heading recorded: ’In the High Court of Justice-Chancery Division re Sir Alexander Croke’s Settled Estate. Oxford & Bucks’.
It was described as, ‘Tithe Free and studded with forest timber…with ancient rookery with an area of 1939 Acres said to produce an annual value of £3070 12s and 1d; to be sold at the Auction Mart, Tokenhouse Yard near the Bank of England.
Thus did the Elizabethan house erected in 1587, which replaced the ancient priory, enter on another phase of existence.
The original Benedictine Priory of Nuns in September 1530 had been visited by Dr. Rayne, Vicar-General of the bishop of the diocese, when the House was found to be in poverty and ordered ‘no ‘corrody’ be given to the mother of the prioress until more was known of her manner of life’.
The injunction said, ‘that as the monastery was in great debt and its buildings out of repair a more economical mode of living was to be adopted with fewer servants; also the number of ladies was to be augmented and they were to use veils which came down to their eyelids’.
It also said, ‘that the woods had been diminished by the late prioress and for use at his new college at Oxford by Thomas, Cardinal of York’. Food was complained of as, ‘often tymes served with beffe and no moton upon Thursday at nyght and Sundays at nyght and be served often tymes with new ale and not hulsome’(sic). (1)
In 1445 there were only 9 nuns and by 1520 only 10, and the Priory was said to be in disrepair: it was suppressed in 1539, along with others in the Henrician, Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The first lay appropriator was John Croke in 1539 who was later Master in Chancery in the reign of Edward VI: one of the Croke Family being a judge at the 1649 trial of Charles I.
The Oxford Studley Estate (not to be confused with other Studleys), comprised most of the village of Horton-cum-Studley, with the Crokes in possession until its sale in 1870 to other owners.
After the glory days from now on it was descent into other purposes as in World War II when it became a BBC hostel before the military took possession. In 1947 it was let as a club.
The Studley Estate was broken up in 1954 and thereon had many reincarnations as a country house hotel until 2004, no doubt with the original nuns spinning in their graves! (2)
(1) From Bishop’s records and printed in Archaeologia XiVii 54.
(2) The Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Wed 13th-18th Feb. 2004.
Today in 1901 Lord Kelvin opened the new Neptune Bank Power Station, Newcastle-on-Tyne which was the first in the world to have ‘3-phase’ generation at 5,500 v and to supply electricity for other than domestic and street lighting.
3-phase involves 3 wires where the power is generated, with each phase separated by one third giving more force than ‘1-phase’ (domestic). Nowadays 3-phase is used for running large industrial motors (2-phase is more or less obsolete.
Most domestic supply is ‘1-phase’ where a live and neutral are earthed by the supplier; one reason why the neutral wire is normally safe and earth potential of zero, (the reference-point and relative term for voltage measurement, much as sea-level reference is used for atmospheric measurement. (1)
The principal of electricity generation is the conversion of Kinetic (Moving) Energy into Electromagnetic by inducing a current from the magnet into the wire coil.
The current is then used to do work (energy) and voltage the resulting force after overcoming resistance is energy required to drive flow of current. An analogy is water through a pipe: Voltage is pressure difference between two ends of the pipe, Current is quantity of water (volume) past a specific area with respect to force; Electrical Charge is quantity of water.(2)
(1) It was on October 1st 1947 that the standard 240 volt supply was adopted for all British electrical systems which is still in use today. Earth wire in cable is a safety device should any live wire touch metal and the current shoots to earth rather than through you. Fuses tend to blow owing to overheating as the current short cuts the process it was to power.
(2) Electrical energy is defined as: charge, current or potential.
The bad state of some air-raid shelters in World War II was taken up in the House of Lords by the controversial prelate, Bishop Barnes of Birmingham Today in 1941 when he spoke of the verminous, dangerous and damp shelters in his diocese, with the lack of cement forcing many brick-built shelters to be constructed using lime-mortar thus making them unsafe.
The outcome was that thousands of these street shelters in places like Bristol and Coventry were taken out of action as the government was forced to abandon those using lime mortar.(1)
Previously without parliamentary immunity Ernest Barnes had taken up the cudgels against the cement companies and was taken to court for his comments.
The case was heard in the High Court of Justice, King’s Bench Division in Alpha Cement Co., Ltd., and others v Bishop of Birmingham. The company was awarded £1600 damages and as Barnes later said he did not contest the case owing to the enormity of costs should he lose.(2)
Barnes had remarked that the government hadn’t forced cement makers to increase supplies which he said was in the hands of a ‘ring’[monopoly] which controlled 90% of supplies. (3)
Matters weren’t helped as The Catholic Herald reported at the time that: ‘Waste of time and materials in the building of Militia Camps resulted in the waste of resources with men working at week-ends, with workers [paid] time-and-a-half, and which displayed a deeper problem in the cement trade’. The demands on cement at the time were increased also by the 100.s of airfields, with their concrete runways, being constructed.
It was also revealed that the supply of cement was in the hands of Lord Wolmer, as Director of Cement, who was still being paid by his previous employers the Cement Makers Federation, which to any casual observer suggests a conflict of interests.
The Author remembers these shelters lining council housing streets post-war by which time they had acquired a distasteful odour!
(1) The case was heard in the High Court of Justice, King’s Bench Division in Alpha Cement Co Ltd, and Others v Bishop of Birmingham.
(2) Birmingham Mail on April 25th 1941.
(3) It appears the term ‘Ring’ was used in 1938 by the Director of Army Contracts before a select committee on estimates and indeed was accepted by the Cement Makers Federation.
The Times. Saturday 10th May 1941. p.2. Issue 48922. Col. f.
Air Raid Shelters. Hansard 17th June 1941.