Author Archive

The book I read to research this post was Strangeways: Strange Days My Life Sentence by Malcolm Taylor which is a very good book that I read on kindle unlimited. This book is a very moving account of the Strangeway Prison Riots in 1990 from the perspective of a prison officer who was one of the poor souls stuck in the middle of it. Strangeways was a very overcrowded prison and there were warnings if something wasn’t done about it there would probably be a riot. As it was the prison officers, police and firemen were very poorly equipped to deal with it with there not being enough riot gear to go round. There was an elite group of prison specially for the purpose of dealing with riots they nicknamed the ninjas. It is a miracle there wasn’t a mass escape from the prison but luckily the security doors held firm. Many prisoners didn’t want anything to do with the riots and came out of their own accord and that isn’t to mean they didn’t do any of the ransacking of the prison because in most cases they did. At one point remembering these prisoners were quite volatile having been involved in the riots, 3 prison officers were left to look after them which could have been very volatile. At the security doors of the prison they would have maybe 2 prison officers guarding it which isn’t appropriate if there was a mass escape. Malcolm is quite bitter about the fear they instilled in the people trying to control the situation but did believe he should treat them like human beings regardless what they had done. Apparently with a lot of the prisoners they are doing such long sentences they have nothing to lose if they get the chance to beat up a police officer or prison officer. A few weeks after the riots he had his head rammed against a car window and was held up by a home made knife as some prisoners objected to being transferred to Doncaster Prison. In the case of Malcolm he died of cancer in 1999 and had to take early retirement from the prison service due to having Parkinson’s Disease. If he had stayed in the prison service he could have taken early retirement at age 55. I really enjoyed reading this book which is around 100 pages and has made me think I ought to do more posts on things like prison riots.

The book I read to research this post was The Flying Scotsman Tour Of Australia 1988 by Andrew Young et al which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. In 1988 to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial celebrations the Flying Scotsman did a tour of Australia. New South Wales has always been standard gauge the same as Britain so was chosen for the longest continous run by a steam locomotive and the world record was broken. Some 16,000 gallons of water were used in the process. The Flying Scotsman the most famous locomotive of all time proceeded to tour every state and thousands of people were at many stations to see it. The man who organized the tour had a model of the train some 40 years previous as a child and had become a big fan. It is probably the best train ever designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and held the previous record for the longest non stop run by a steam locomotive and the first authenticated 100 mph by a steam train. It had to be regularly upgraded and repaired as part of the tour. It was part of the A4 Pacific class. This book has lots of wonderful photos taken of the train at different parts of the tour and they braved all sorts of extremes of weather including floods to get this photographic record. I did quite enjoy this book  which is only around 80 pages and mostly photographs. The photos are wonderful but it’s probably a shame it doesn’t have more text. Of course nowadays the Flying Scotsman has got too expensive to run so I think there was talk of putting it in a museum. I think I would recommend this book but it’s probably well out of print.

The book I read to research this post was Bannockburn: The Triumph Of Robert The Bruce by David Cornell which is a very good book that I bought from kindle. If you have seen the film Braveheart although it doesn’t cover the Battle Of Bannockburn you will glean alot of information about the fight for Scottish independence at this time. Bannockburn was the battle that finally resolved their independence at this time. Robert the Bruce wisely tried to harry and wear down the British army in a series of skirmishes. The Scots at this time were good at this and the British got particularly concerned when the Scottish army seemed quite happy to fight them in a straight forward battle as it was obvious they had underestimated their numbers. The Scots still had the bitter taste of being defeated at Falkirk where many were simply massacred. William Wallace had defeated the English in battle and then lost a subsequent battle where the Engish under Edward Longshanks sent foreign mercenaries to engage the Scots and then slaughtered them with long bows. At that battle Robert had fought on the English side and after another uprising he applied for amnesty from the British for himself after Britain made peace with France who had often been an ally of Scotland. Britain at that time was desperate for peace so although normally they would prosecute someone like him, they accepted. Many Scottish felt betrayed and were a bit unsure where they stood although it is to Robert The Bruce’s credit he could raise a huge army to fight them. William Wallace was captured and hanged drawn and quartered so the way was left open for Robert to be made King of Scotland. Of course the 2 heads of state would unite under James the 1st when he first became king of Scotland then England. I really enjoyed this book which must be at least 400 pages so is a decent length. I do recommend it.


The book I read to research this post was The Paras by John Parker which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This book is around 380 pages so is a decent length and was published in 2000 so probably misses some of their exploits. They were formed in 1942 and incorporated the SAS who were under Captain David Stirling leaving that title vacant. It was at the orders of Winston Churchill in the wake of the Blitzkreigs in Europe when Britain had been driven out of France. The Germans were to nickname them the Red Devils partly due to their red berets. The Germans had a lot of success with their parachute regiments especially in the invasion of Norway where they secured many key installations like the airports. Germany having parachute regiments was in direct contravention of the Versailles Treaty signed at the end of World War 1. Russia also had extensive parachute regiments. 95 % of these kind of troops would probably be mown down before reaching the ground at least according to British preliminary estimates. They helped secure Sicily during the invasion of Italy. They were key in the Arnhem and D-Day landings. The former depicted in the film A Bridge Too Far. They were also important in Palestine just after World War 2 and the Falklands War. There is a post on this site on Goose Green which must go down as one of their greatest victories. There were also key battles at Mount Longdon and Wireless Ridge. They were also to see action in Northern Ireland & Kosovo and also Iraq although the latter one isn’t in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which of course I recommend.  John is a former journalist who has written many books on the military including the Foreign Legion and the SBS among others. The Paras earned 2 posthumous Victoria Crosses during the Falklands Campaign. They are the highest accolade given to British soldiers. One was there commanding officer Colonel H Jones who led a 1 man charge on a machine gun implacement and died as a result at Goose Green. Initially his regiment wasn’t to be used in the war and he did everything he could to get them included.

The book I read to research this post was Black Indians Of The Appalachia by Rufus Jimerson which is an excellent book that I read on kindle unlimited. This book is very expensive so I would suggest reading it on kindle unlimited which works out much cheaper. This book is around 170 pages so is a reasonable length. Prior to reading this book I knew next to nothing about this topic and it was very interesting. Black Indians refers to the children and ancestors of mixed marriages between black slaves and native americans. Many tribes depleted by the numbers dying from disease and war broke slaves out of captivity to replenish their numbers. This was a win win situation because an escaped slave on his own risked being hunted down and severely punished. Currently the biggest black indian tribe east of the Mississippi is the lumbaloo. They have now got there own reservation and that has been hard fought for because gold was discovered there and the prospectors and mining companies weren’t interested in looking after their rights. In 1723 the government forbade marriages between black africans and native americans because they were concerned they would unite against the white americans. Despite that there may currently be as many as 18 million black indians in America. At one stage the Spaniards in Florida decided if any slaves escaped there they would be declared free men. The British who were then still in charge decided to pay one of the nearby tribes to hunt down these slaves and even enter Florida and hunt them down. Using this tribe effectively cut off the slaves passage to Florida. The Spaniards were almost helpless in stopping the raids which were also done by British soldiers. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was Worcester 1651 by Malcolm Atkin which is a very good book that I bought from Amazon. This is a book about the Battle of Worcester which effectively ended the Civil War although the loser Charles the 2nd did eventually become king by peaceful. Oliver Cromwell was very charismatic although he had strong ideas about religion and politics including not having a king. His son who took over the Lord Protector role from him lacked this charisma and proved unpopular. This part of the war is often called the 3rd Civil War and the 2nd Civil War ended with Charles the 1st being beheaded. At the time of this battle the son was still very young and inexperienced in battle but had to take over to unite his quarreling generals. He first landed in Scotland and proclaimed king of Scotland. This was mostly a war between Scotland and England. In the previous Civil Wars his father gained a lot of support from the Midlands. Oliver’s men were called roundheads and sometimes puritans and the opposing army cavaliers. To survive the 2 armies plundered nearby houses so local support was lacking. Richard Baxter in nearby Kidderminster refused to ask his congregation to pray for either side because many men had been conscripted and forced to fight. He also said after the battle that if God sided with Charles why were so many men slaughtered often in cold blood after the battle. Charles claimed it was God’s will he was king. At least an outcome of the Civil War in general was England did get full time soldiers. Soldiers were just drafted prior to battle previously. Charles the 2nd did escape from the battle and there is a famous story of him hiding up a tree almost under the roundhead’s nose. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was The Aldeburgh Branch by Peter Paye which is an excellent book that I bought from a local bookstore. The Aldeburgh branch refers to a railway line from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh via Leiston and is in Suffolk in England. With the building of the railways Aldeburgh became a minor seaside resort although the main reason behind building it was the agricultural machinery blades factory at Leiston which sent their goods by rail. Later the railway serviced the nuclear power stations Sizewell A + B and the soon to be built Sizewell C. The blade factory at Leiston started out as a blacksmiths with the owner expanding into something else when he noticed a niche market. On most railways in Suffolk the main goods is farmer’s produce so the goods this railway transports mainly are quite unusual. There also used to be a weekly excursion train from London, Liverpool Street with one train going both ways giving visitors a few hours in Aldeburgh. For a while this service was called the East Coast Pulman. There was also trains from Ipswich &  Colchester. This line also serviced a USAF airbase which was closed after World War 2. Passenger traffic has ceased on this line but it is still used for goods. At one stage there was a scare when one of the containers being sent to Sellafield of nuclear waste being sent from Sizewell for re-processing appeared to be leaking but it turned out to be rain water. Aldeburgh which never gained the popularity of resorts like Clacton had a shingle beach which also made it difficult to keep the harbor deep enough for boats to get in and out. I really enjoyed this book which is a decent length at around 300 pages and would definitely recommend it.