Archive for the ‘british history’ Category

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 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 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.

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.