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16th June 1955. Are You a Peroxide Blonde?

Hydrogen peroxide, amongst its many uses powers rocketry and due to its strong oxidising properties is considered the most highly reactive of the oxygen species.

This Peroxide is essentially water and oxygen, an acid used in bleaching paper and hair and as a rocket fuel propellant was ominously to power submarines. (1)

It was Today in 1955 that HMS Sidon (P259) was moored alongside the depot ship HMS Maidstone in Portland Harbour when two 21 inch (Mk 12. High Test) peroxide powered torpedoes (code-named Fancy) were being loaded on board. There was an explosion and thirteen sailors were killed.

Molecular structure of Hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide H2O2 or 2(HO) or dihydrogen, is the simplest peroxide compound with an o-o single bond.

A clear liquid it is used as a bleach or cleaning agent- whitening clothes, a toe-nail fungus killer, tooth whitener, pesticide, skin acne and ear-wax remover.

When used for bleaching hair it is diluted to 3-8% when mixed with ammonium hydroxide, thus ‘peroxide blonde’ was deemed to be the ideal. Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’, speaks of, ‘Noble innocent Adam and Eve have golden tresses ‘… ‘Her unadorned golden tresses wore’ (Bk IV 1674).

Hydrogen peroxide when exposed to other compounds breaks down when an extra oxygen atom is released leaving H2O. (2)

Vitamin C fights infection by producing hydrogen peroxide and stimulates production of the vital hormone Prostaglandin.

Like most chemicals Hydrogen Peroxide used domestically should be used with care by following instructions and if used to cure medical problems a doctor’s advice is essential.

(1) Pure HP is a mild acid c6-7pH.

(2) In nature O2 though a single atom of oxygen, is reactive as a free radical.


Top 10 home remedies.


15th June 1381. The First Poll Tax.

Wat Tyler was executed Today in 1381 at Smithfield, London after involvement in revolt against the Poll Tax which after breaking out in the countryside went on to threaten the Royal Court. 

Death of Wat Tyler – Froissart, Chroniques de France et d’Angleterre, Book II (c.1475-1483), f.175 – BL Royal MS 18 E I

It was the third such tax levied since 1377 but had tripled in size and significantly not graded by rank as in 1379, with the levying Parliament expecting trouble meeting not in London, as was customary, but in Northampton.

The throne in 1377 had passed to the Black Prince’s son Richard, born in Bordeaux, but not yet eleven and so a minor, the government was in the hands of his uncle, John of Gaunt, the dominant figure in the final years of Edward III.

It was when only 15 that Richard II now had to deal with uprisings in Essex, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk and Hertfordshire and the marshland villages near Brentwood in Essex, with its Kentish leader Wat Tyler in the eyes of authority, ‘a king of the ruffians and idol of rustics’, who was to  march on London in a revolt to peak in three days. (1)

Richard had been badly advised by Archbishop Tybald who had excommunicated the radical priest John Ball who had campaigned on behalf of the poor, for Tybald had exhorted the king to deal ruthlessly with the ‘barefoot rebels’ and Tybald as Chancellor introduced the tax on the labourers, measures which sparked the revolt and which would cost the Archbishop his head.(2)

The Peasant’s Revolt resulted from pent-up grievances of those who thought their lot would improve after the plagues and famines, especially as many had been released from bondage, but even though labour became scarce they were forced to abide by feudal practices.

It only needed the spark of the regressive Poll Tax of 1380 which bore hardest on the poorest, levied as it was at three groats per head, coinage at this time being divided into penny, ½ groat (2d) and groat (4d).

Early 14thc legal theory assumed that villeins were described as less than free, but under Richard the theory hardened with increased oppression. In 1381 the Statute of Labourers attempted to re-assert lords’ legal claims, by now increasingly obsolescent.(3)

The revolt collapsed at The Battle of North Walsham in 1381, but not before great loss of life and property among the landed and governing class, both in London and the surrounding counties. (4)

Unrest was becoming easier with the growth of towns and movement into them, also the freedom of money payments in place of tied agricultural labour meant by the 15th Century most of the demands of the peasants had been met. Serfdom died in a society, where the Common Law was being developed and where slavery was not built into the law as with the Roman Law of continental countries. 

It wasn’t until the reign of Elizabeth in 1574 that the notion of serfdom finally died.

(1)  The first day was on Corpus Christ Day the 13th of June.

(2) Simon Tybald of Sudbury combined the office with that of Chancellor of England, and even though he resigned the Great Seal on the 12th June 1381 was beheaded by a mob in 1381, after being the instigator of the Poll Tax in the reign of Richard II. His skull can still be seen in St. Gregory’s at Sudbury in Suffolk.

John Ball: ‘When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the gentleman’.

(3) A later petition to Richard’s first wife from 1382 Anne of Bohemia (daughter of the Emperor Charles IV), called on her to ‘soften royal severity that the king may be forbearing to his people’, fell on deaf ears.

Anne’s household extravagance was a cause of dissension between Richard and Parliament.

(4) There is now a park at Basildon, Essex in memory of Tyler.

14th June 1911. Revolution in the Air!

Today a Wednesday in June 1911 the entire crew of the Olympic moored at Southampton docks went on strike, followed by the men of five shipping lines and the National Sailors’ and Firemens’ Unions. By the end of Ascot week, dockers in Glasgow, Newcastle, Hull and Goole had come out in sympathy.

Liverpool General Transport Strike. 1911.

In the last week before the Coronation of George V uncertainty and tumult suddenly filled the political air.

Churchill after a series of urgent talks with the owners and union leaders eventually sent troops to try and break the wave of strikes that had brought the docks and railways to a virtual standstill.

Three warships were anchored in the Mersey  where a queue of merchant ships and passenger liners were waiting to be unloaded. Naval detachments prepared to join troops and police in the City where an estimated 200,000 took to the streets. Much of Liverpool was without electricity because coal was not reaching the power stations.

Baton charge, transport strike, Liverpool,1911.

A violent attempt was made to rescue prisoners on their way to Walton Gaol and men of the escort were unhorsed, one man was shot dead. Misery was added by a nation-wide strike of stevedores, railwaymen, carters and other transport workers who supported the dockers, seeking more pay and better conditions. Manchester and other major cities feared widespread famine.

Troops marching on Tunnel Road Station, Liverpool. Posted by Jenny Porter.

The Great Western Railway strike came in the wake of disputes by other groups including the dockers and Welsh mine-workers whose owners wouldn’t yield and the Glamorgan Chief Constable sent police to protect pits which were being flooded.

Churchill’s response as Home Secretary was to send five-hundred London policemen resulting on November 8th in a serious riot, a miner was killed and sixty shops looted. Nine were killed in rioting in Llanelli, south Wales which came as a climax to the rail strike, and troops of the Worcestershire Regiment opened fire killing three as strikers boarded a train.

Soldiers escorting a Pickford’s horse-drawn van on London’s Waterloo Bridge in the railway strike. 1911.

The Riot Act was read, with Labour MP Keir Hardie telling a meeting, ‘the masters show you no mercy, pay them back in their own coin’.

Next year a national miners’ strike for a minimum wage, began on 1st March until April and this further affected the rail companies particularly the Great Western’s south Wales trade, and not until the 22nd of May could the Railway state that its ordinary services, as detailed in its Penny Timetable, was back in operation.


In the run-up to war in 1914 there was widespread industrial unrest with miners, builders and electricians on strike, even cricket ball makers in Kent struck for better conditions.

The widespread nature of union action was not to be seen again until the 1920.s, when it was to culminate in the 1926 General Strike. If Britain didn’t experience a revolution in those years it would never materialise.

References and Pictures: Porter. Jade Wright.11.6.2011.

Alamy Pictures.


13th June 1831. May the Force be with You.

Today in 1831 saw the birth in Edinburgh of  one of the all-time greats in physics, James Clerk Maxwell, later to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetism, the second great unification force in physics, following that of Newton’s 17thc theory of gravity.

Maxwell demonstrated electromagnetic force as comprising the two complementary forces of electricity and magnetism, without which electrodynamics, optics, electrical circuits, radio, television, telephones and IT, would be closed books.

Magnetic Field.

There are four fundamental interactions, in our present understanding of physics, whereby the simplest particles in the universe interact with one another: electro-magnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces and gravity, defined by not appearing to be reducible to more basic reactions.

Gravitation is familiar in the dropping; electromagnetism powers the house, producing as they do significant mysterious, long range forces of everyday life.

The other two are a mystery best left to nuclear physicists, constituting as they do strong and weak interactions which produce minuscule sub-atomic distances, governing nuclear interactions.

As in most walks of life geniuses, even Clerk Maxwell, stand on the shoulders of those going before, in this case Michael Faraday who was the first to coin the term ‘Field’ (lines of force), in 1849, and to realize the importance of a Field as a quantity during investigation into Magnetism; ideas leading to the creation by Maxwell of the first unified Field Theory. (1)

(1) Gravitational Fields were similarly described as lines of force.



12th June 1923. Facade.

In the early 20th century writer Edith Sitwell of the literary Sitwell family was to write some nonsense, avante garde, poetry, described as following in the tradition of Edward Lear. (1) 

Then her brothers suggested the verses be put to music and might benefit from a private performance.

So on a cold January night in 1922, 16 poems were recited at the Sitwell’s house in Chelsea with the composer William Walton, their lodger, reluctantly conducting the 6 musicians.

Edith pretentiously, described the piece, ‘as the start of an enquiry into the effect on rhythm and on speed and use of rhyme, assonance, dissonance, placed outwardly… in the most elaborate patterns’.

Outrageously musicians and reciter were behind a painted curtain with Edith proclaiming through a megaphone.

The public didn’t know what a ‘treat’ they had in store for Today the following year, at the Aeolian Hall, London, Facade went public.

However the London literati wasn’t ready for such an experimental work and the  performance was greeted with hisses and threats from the audience; ‘though there was considerable applause the house as a whole was infuriated… and so hostile that the performers were warned not to leave the hall until the audience had dispersed’.

Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry. 1912.


One review headline said it was, ‘drivel!, they paid to hear’. (1) Sitwell recalled, ‘Never was a larger and more imposing shower of brickbats hurled at any new work’.

The Daily Express loathed the work, but saw it as ‘niggingly memorable’. (2)

The Manchester Guardian said it was, ‘relentless cacophony’.(3)

The Observer condemned the verses and dismissed ‘the music as harmless’.(4)

Not the best collection of reviews!

The clarinet player, one of the 6 musicians, asked Walton, ‘Has a clarinet player ever done you an injury?

In the audience was Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolfe, and Noel Coward who walked out of the performance. Afterwards Coward wrote a review lampooning the Sitwells which caused a feud to last decades.

To put matters in context, the years 1921-2 were a time of literary experiment and revolt: James Joyce’s, Ulysses, and T. S. Eliot’s, Waste Land, come to mind. Within a decade Facade had become acceptable and Walton’s music was used for Frederick Ashton’s ballet of the same name.

(1) Palmer, Christopher, 1990.

(2) Daily Express. Poetry through the Megaphone. 13th June 1923. P.7/

(3) Manchester Guardian. Futuristic Music and Poetry. 13th June 1923. P3.

(4) Observer. Music of the Week. 17.6.1923. P10.


Ref: Succes de scandale. Michael Kennedy. 1989. Portrait of Walton. OUP.

Ref: music and


Ref: Punch Books. 5.6.1968, Review. Kenneth Alsop. Re staging of Facade.

Ref: Michael Kennedy. 1989. Portrait of Walton. OUP.



11th June. ‘Barnaby Bright’.

It was Geminus an astronomer in ancient Rhodes who divided the year into seasons separated by equinoxes and solstices.

Today was the ‘Longest Day’(Old Style) before the calendar change of September 1752 and known as ‘Barnaby Bright’ (St. Barnabas’ Day), ‘the longest day and the shortest night’. However the summer solstice can occasionally fall either side of the longest day owing to the intervention of leap years.(1)

The Julian Calendar had become out of synchronisation with the solar year due to the earth moving round the sun in not quite 365 ¼ days. So 11 days were lopped from the year-the Epact the difference between the lunar and the solar year is approximately 11 days.

Back in the 16th century England had refused to change her calendar in line with others, but eventually agreed to bring us into line with Europe, using the Gregorian Calendar, largely due to the efforts of Lord Chesterfield who wrote: ‘It is not very honourable for England to remain in a gross and avowed error’.

Parliament also moved New Year’s Day from March 25th to January 1st. However in Exchequer and Inland Revenue Accounts the New Year still starts on the old dating now April 6th allowing for the eleven days correction-the Tax Year. 

When the first day of the year was changed from March to January in 1752 people began writing years between January 1st and March 25th both ways in the Old and New Styles, a feature to be found in documents of the time and church records. Historians beware!

(1)There is a case therefore for treating with care weather temperatures for periods in the old system, compared with today. June 11th in the Old Calendar though earlier in the Calendar was 11 days further on in the solar year. It wasn’t warmer necessarily earlier than now.

10th June 2005. The Barry Railway.

The Barry Railway was founded as an alternative to the existing service to Cardiff’s Tiger Bay; by 1913 one third of the coal and steel in south Wales was carried by the Railway.

Company Crest. Locos of the Barry Railway were painted in red oxide and built by Sharp Stewart & Company.

It was Today in 2005 that the Barry-Bridgend Railway Passenger Service restarted after authorisation by the Welsh Assembly, thus constituting a phoenix-like revival after being axed by Dr. Beeching on 13th June 1964.  

Map showing Barry Railway in its glory days.

It was local coal owner David Davies who developed a second alternative route to Barry when the Barry Docks and Railway Bill was introduced to Parliament in the 1883 Session, but was defeated by opposition from the Taff-Vale and Cardiff Railways.

Boundary Marker.

The Bill was re-introduced and passed on 14th August 1884 as the Dock and Barry Island Railway, with a name change to Barry Railway Company by Act on 5th August 1891.

The Vale of Glamorgan Railway incorporated by the Act of 26 August 1889 became effectively a subsidiary of Barry Railway.

On January 1st 1922 all the railways in the area became part of the Great Western in the great unification of the system.

However like so much of the rail network in the area it declined after the 1926 General Strike, when the miners were the last to submit and it never recovered after World War II.


Police tunic belt buckle of Barry Docks and Rail Company. 1884-c1891.

Ironically Barry Island became in the 1960.s the final resting place of British Railways steam engines in Woodham Bros., scrapyard, whilst Associated British Ports took over the docks.(1)


One of the great painters of the last steam trains was David Shepherd who restored many engines after buying spare parts from the yard.

Carriage of Barry Railway. Coach 163 rests at Hampton Loade on The Seven Valley Railway.

Invoice dated 1909.






(1) Of the total 98 were ex Great Western (though the ‘Grange’ and ‘County’ Classes weren’t saved); 41 ex Southern Railway, including 28 Bulleid Pacifics; 35 ex LMS, and 38 ex British Railways Standards. Only one came from Eastern Region.

References and Pictures.


Barry Railway carriage Trust.