DH.89 Dragon Rapide (G-AEML) at Kemble Airport Open Day, Gloucestershire, England, 9th September 2007. Built in 1936. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone and placed in the public domain.
Just after 7am on 11 July 1936, Captain Cecil Bebb prepared his plane for take-off. At quarter past seven, Captain Bebb, along with his navigator Major Hugh Pollard and two female friends, launched into the air from London’s Croydon Airport. Bebb’s de Havilland Dragon Rapide biplane headed south by southwest. His flight would […]

The Englishman who started the Spanish Civil War  


British Airship R101
Scores of people died when the airship burst into flames. It crashed into the ground just over 50 miles away from one of the world’s most important cities. Its demise marked the end of a national programme of airship construction and the death of an imperial dream. But this is […]

A dream that burst into flames – the British Hindenburg disaster  


Raining cats and dogs and buckets and barrels and knives and forks and frogs and old women and trolls and pipes and rope
How close are we to the universal translators that pepper science fiction? Will Google Translate be the technological equivalent of Douglas Adams’s babel fish? For simple sentences, the service works well. Google Translate can even master complicated documents or, at least, provide enough to make sense of the text. One […]

Whipping the cat and lining your eyes with ham – idioms lost ...  



Trebuchet in Castelnaud, France by Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be
Stirling Castle is a striking, man made addition to an already formidable natural fortress. Sheer cliffs thrust up from the rolling Scottish Lowlands. The thick castle walls extend these solid quartz-dolerite foundations towards the sky. It is imposing and seems impregnable. It probably was, at least until Warwolf came to […]

Warwolf – King Edward’s secret weapon to hammer the Scots  


Ballot used for Austrian referendum, 1938 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On Sunday, Greeks will go to the polls to vote in a crucial referendum. The politics are fraught, the media is frenzied and accusations and recriminations are already flying. The ballot paper has attracted plenty of attention, both inside and outside of Greece. The question is detailed and, to eyes […]

Framing the question – history’s lessons for winning and losing referenda  


The Euro monument outside the ECB in Frankfurt, Germany By This photo (C) Lars Aronsson (Own work) [CC SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/sa/1.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Sovereign debt default was a lot more common when it was literally sovereigns defaulting. Kings liked money. They didn’t like paying it back. So, quite often, they didn’t. In the richest economies, default has become rare. One of the reasons the Greek financial crisis is dominating headlines and moving markets […]

Which European country tops the sovereign default league table?  



Coronation portrait of Edward VIII (Illustrated London News)
On 12 May 1937, Westminster Abbey rang with shouts acclaiming the new King-Emperor. In 1936, Britain had prepared for the coronation. Much of this effort was wasted when Edward VIII abdicated on 10 December 1936. Everyone had been getting ready for the coronation that never was.  The Coronation of a new King-Emperor […]

The coronation that never was


Adolf Hitler Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13774 / Unknown Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
By 1935, the Nazi Party had consolidated its grip on the Third Reich. The Enabling Act and November 1933’s election made Hitler the supreme power in Germany. The Night of the Long Knives saw the party bear its murderous teeth to opposition but the regime’s brutality had been established from […]

Fuck off, mein Führer!


The Cenotaph on Whitehall in London is designated as the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial. It commemorates the end of World War One.
In 1919, London hosted a Victory Parade that marked a unique moment of national rejoicing, mourning and catharsis. The Parade, also known as the London Peace Parade, saw returning troops march through packed streets in the capital. The city’s iconic monuments were momentarily joined by a series of temporary structures […]

How shall we remember them?