Archive for the ‘british history’ Category

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.

The book I read to research this post was BR in the Eighties by Patrick Whitehouse et al which is a very good book that I bought at a local secondhand bookstore. At the beginning of the eighties Britain was heavily in debt and many thought the railways which they subsequently privatized and split off in separate companies like Virgin Trains and Arriva was going to be cut back much further in terms of railways closed. Actually very few railways were closed and for example they became quite profitable and even the viaduct at Barmouth which collapsed was rebuilt. By the end of the 80’s Britain had the only freight train service in Europe that was actually profitable. A reduction in the type of goods they delivered had to done though. The old British Rail made huge losses and with freight it could take a long time to deliver something. This was remedied by imposing penalties if something wasn’t delivered in a certain period. There was also a problem with trains in general running late which now is much better than it used to be. Also there are campaigns to get people to use train and bus and certain unprofitable routes are still subsidized. A lot of the rail stock in this decade was upgraded and many of the private railways were able to buy coaches which they could use for as little as £1,000 each. On the freight routes many of the locomotives were 30 years old or more and they did buy class 59 trains from General Motors which were better on fuel and faster. A little later they also purchased a lot of class 60 locomotives. By the end of the 80’s more people were using the train than in the Pre-Beeching era and don’t forget this was over less routes. Express trains often called Pullmans which only stop at limited stops became very popular. Stations that were more junctions than anything like Crewe were downgraded and many trains now don’t stop there. I really enjoyed this book and although it is probably well out of print would recommend. It is probably available as a book on Amazon.

The book I read to research this post was The US Army At Camp Bewdley 1943-1945 by Adrian & Neil Turley which is a very good book which I bought at a local bookstore. Bewdley is a small market in Worcestershire about 20 miles south west of Birmingham in Britain. In 1943 the US Army along with the Allies was preparing for D-Day when they would land in France. This meant sending troops to various sites in Britain and Camp Bewdley or Burlish Camp as it was known to the locals was one of the sites they were sent to. 4,000 troops were put in the army base with a further 10,000 being put up in tents a little to the North of Bewdley. Camp Bewdley was situated part way between Stourport and Bewdley. It was quite close to the Stourport suburb Burlish. A hospital was built here for casualies from the D-Day action and in total 12,000 casualties mostly needing some kind of surgery. The troops were brought over from America in the Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth among other ships. Lt General Patton the very famous hero of World War 2 made one of his classic speaches here. He ridiculed the Nazi’s for saying America didn’t have the stomach for war and told the they will have something great to say about the part they played in the war. There was a landing field nearby for liaison aircraft of which they had 2. There was also a base and hospital built at Wolverley near Kidderminster and not far from Bewdley. The land for all this was taken by compulsory purchase order. An act of parliament had been passed to give them this power shortly before the war. The troops of course were sent back to America in 1945. A friend of mine told when she used to play near the site in I think the 60’s they used to find spent bullets left behind. There is also a nearby suburb of Kidderminster called the Rifle Range which gets its name because it used to be a firing range for the US army and they still have roads built at that time to accommodate tanks and other military vehicles. I really enjoyed this book and sadly these kind of books are probably hard to find even on sites like Amazon. I think it is a self published book but does deserve a wider audience.

The book I read to research this post was British Steam Since 1900 by WA Tuplin which is a very good book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. This is a book about the development of steam trains since 1900 and the many contradictions among engineers about how to make them more efficient. It was a time of little communication between the manufacturers and railway companies. This resulted in for example a train might perform well on one railway and be thought good but might perform badly on other railways. It also meant much development research was often duplicated by several manufacturers often unsuccessful. One of the bosses at GWR called Churchward had the foresight to realise that everything to do with steam engines by 1900 had been tried at least once and it was just a matter of doing research. Another thing he discovered was that the regulator should be left slightly open in doing this research otherwise they risked damaging the train and only GWR drivers for a long time did this. By collaborating on research they found out if a train had more cylinders than the one or two often used it could be made more stable with the driving strokes of the other cylinders driving it through the strokes of any given cylinder. This of course was later done with diesel and petrol engines. In Britain trains were often built with a 0-6-0 arrangement which was quite efficient but in America where at that time they didn’t build them to the same quality they often had a 0-6-2/2 or 0-6-4 configuration because they were less stable and the engineers in America thought the lead wheels  were essential for stability. Of course on high performance trains like the Coronation Class lead wheels were essential. This book is only around 180 pages so is quite short and was published in 1971 so is probably well out of print. It’s interesting nonetheless and I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it definitely.


The book I read to research this post was Churchill by Ashley Jackson which is an excellent biography that I bought from kindle. This is a biography of Winston Churchill’s life that gives quite a balanced account and I think is well researched. Winston fought in the Boer War & World War 1 and had quite a distinguished military career. In the Boer War he was a news correspondent who also wrote books about his experiences and was taken prisoner but escaped. Much has been said about him being the only one to escape from the POW and how there should have been others also escape but didn’t. It looks like he seized the chance and the other prisoners were indecisive. He escaped in Portugese held Africa which was neutral. He became a bit of a celebrity as a result. He had a cabinet career which started around this time and would last on and off for over 50 years. In World War 1 he resigned from government and joined the army but soon afterwards rejoined the government as Minister of Munitions. He did such a good job he would later become prime minister during World War 2 with the hope he would bring some of the magic he had during World War 1 to the government and they wouldn’t be disappointed. He carried the same cigar around in a cigar case that would become an important symbol of his speaches. He believed passionately in free trade without tariffs which would lead to him changing party which did happen several times. He also very much believed in self government for Ireland but with in the Commonwealth and many people in Ireland were so fed up with British rule they did indeed leave the Commonwealth. He made many rousing and inspiring speaches during World War 2. After the war Labour under Atlee won the election by a huge majority but Winston remained leader of the Conservative Party despite that and by that time was an institution to many people in Britain. He won the election in 1951 and in his time in the cabinet served under 6 kings and queens. I really enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It is quite a long book and does a lot to dispel the idea he was set in his ways and old fashioned. It’s interesting that one of his ancestors was the Duke of Wellington and both men saved their country in its hour of need.


The book I read to research this post was Close Quarter Battle by Mike Curtis which is an excellent book that I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Mike was a coal miner in a Welsh mining village prior to joining the Parachute Regiment & the SAS. He fought in the Falklands War, The First Gulf War & the Yugoslavian Civil War. As a miner he had to hack in a seam that was maybe 18 inches with a pick axe. A cutting machine would go through the seam and for a little while he wouldn’t be able to move for thick coal dust. They couldn’t drop too far behind either because part of the seam would collapse and they would also have to put in supports to prevent this. In the Falklands he fought at Goose Green without adequate air support and the Argentines bombed them with what they later found out was napalm. Luckily they could pick off the pucara’s as they were quite slow. He also fought at Mount Longdon as they marched to Port Stanley. In the First Gulf War he was in the SAS by then and had to help find where they were launching SCUD missiles. In the Yugoslavian Civil War they did covert missions and he does the Hoss the kind elite army that the Yugoslavs sent into villages to rape and pillage was considered too barbaric by the SS in World War 2 which will give you an idea how bad they were. Many of his fellow soldiers were reduced to tears by the carnage in former Yugoslavia.  I really enjoyed this book and I do in particular like these kind of war memoirs.



The book I read to research this post was The Nemesis File by Paul Bruce which is the best military memoir I have ever read and I bought it from kindle. This is the perfect history book for me to be blogging about. As many of you may know I like controversial history books especially military operations. This book is about someone who joined the SAS after doing time in the Engineers or REME and the book looks at the SAS selection procedure in a lot of detail. Especially the interrogation tests where they aren’t it is a part of the selection process and are accused of having been mouthing off about being in the SAS. The author at first thought he was being interrogated for real and it was only when they accused his partner of having numerous affairs which he knew was rubbish that it was part of the test. Later when he got badged into the SAS he was in an execution squad with the codename nemesis and told if they were picked up by the army they were to quote the name and tell them to get in touch with their regiment. They were told to execute IRA members and dispose of the bodies where they couldn’t be found. Often they were weighed down under undergrowth and dumped in lakes where gas would escape from the bodies and the fish would gradually nibble them and what was left would sink to the bottom of the lake never to be found. I think as with almost all wars it was a very dirty one with atrocities on both sides. Apparently this book has caused quite a stir especially in Northern Ireland where many people want closure on what happened to these people and often know they are probably not going to get justice but just want to get them a decent burial. There were many catholic people from Northern Ireland who joined the British Army and faced retribution either to themselves or their families. I think this book looks at the problems in Northern Ireland quite realistically and from both sides. I did thoroughly enjoy this book and think especially if you are interested in the army this book is essential reading.