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Great Old One
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PostPosted: 05-01-2014 00:49    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mythopoeika wrote:
I seem to recall posting about that base on the 'underground' thread fairly recently.

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What a Cad!
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PostPosted: 05-01-2014 10:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

Plaque plan for old Falmouth Royal Navy sailors' home
1:00pm Saturday 4th January 2014 in Falmouth/Penryn .

The site of a former Royal Navy sailors’ home and hospital in Falmouth could soon be recognised with the introduction of a plaque detailing the building’s history.
For 104 years, between 1852 and 1956, the home and hospital was based at 3 Bank Place and took in sailors of all nationalities.

The town’s mayor, Geoffrey Evans, has been asked to consider whether it would be ‘appropriate and acceptable’ to place a plaque on the wall of the building.
He told councillors, inquiries would be made to determine who owns the building now and he would report back at a future meeting.

I've lived here over 20 years and had not heard of this institution, although the building's in a well-known part of town. But checking a local file on my computer I find this:
"1852 Royal Cornwall Sailors' Home founded."

Royal Navy or Royal Cornwall? There was a RN connection, with Mylor Dockyard, just across the harbour, and the training ship HMS Ganges was based there at Mylor, 1866 - 1899.

Maybe the Sailors Home got renamed at some stage?
The year before it closed, The Seafarers Centre was opened in Armyn House, Bar Road (nearly opposite the docks).
(Sadly, that too closed in about 2009, and the Mission to Seafarers now operates out of the docks.)

It's surprising how much we forget...

Last edited by rynner2 on 09-01-2014 07:22; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 05-01-2014 14:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

The three-month flight along the Nile
By Matthew Teller
Travel writer

S.80 hydro-aeroplane on the Nile in Cairo, January 1914

The mechanic on the left, working on this S.80 in Cairo in 1914, is thought to be Gus Smith

When an early British sea plane, the S.80, made a three-month expedition south down the Nile in 1914, the mechanic was unnamed in the newspaper reports. But the adventure's success depended on his expertise.

It started with a tweet.

Diplomacy and Twitter might seem like chalk and cheese, but one of my more interesting follows is Tom Fletcher, Britain's ambassador to Lebanon.

Recently Tom tweeted that his great-grandfather Gus Smith had been the mechanic on the first flight along the River Nile, exactly one hundred years ago.

I wondered if he had any more detail. Thanks to family records supplied by Tom's father Mark, which have never before been made public, details of a remarkable adventure emerge.

In the early years of aviation, it was the pilots' skill which caught the public imagination.

The Wright brothers came first in 1903 - a few seconds aloft, at barely more than head height above the ground. Then Louis Bleriot successfully flew the English Channel.

Wedding photo showing Gus Smith and Lily Powell
Gus Smith and Lily Powell married on 6 March 1915
When Frank McClean, a wealthy Irish aviator, steered a biplane he'd developed with the engineering firm Short Brothers between the towers of Tower Bridge in London, the Times newspaper noted: "The engine ran smoothly and the machine was always under complete control."

But the Times made no mention of the reason for such smoothness - McClean's mechanic, a young man named Augustus Leonard Smith - Tom Fletcher's great-grandfather Gus.

Gus had joined Short Brothers just as they were transitioning their aviation manufacturing business from balloons to powered aircraft, backed by lucrative deals with McClean and other pioneers.

Gus quickly rose to the peak of his trade, working at Short Brothers' Eastchurch factory in Kent on some of the era's most technologically advanced flying machines.

By 1913 the Short brothers, under commission from Frank McClean, had developed a "hydro-aeroplane" that could not only take off and land on water, but also carry three passengers.

The French National Air League had just issued a challenge to test the viability of long-distance air travel by flying from Paris to Cairo. French aviators were racing each other that autumn across Europe. No doubt the Brits wanted to go one better.

Amid the Edwardian craze for pharaonic discovery, McClean decided to follow the Nile south.

The S80 on the Nile
The S.80 making history on the Nile
The last week of December 1913 saw McClean, another pioneer aviator Alec Ogilvie, businessman Horace Short and flight mechanic Gus Smith at the Naval Dockyard in Alexandria, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, receiving a consignment of crates newly arrived from Liverpool containing the disassembled "hydro-aeroplane".

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As flight mechanic, Gus would probably have rebuilt the aircraft himself, from its 20-metre wings to the French-designed 14-cylinder engine. Lives depended on him.

On 3 January 1914, with passengers and crew aboard, McClean steered the extraordinarily flimsy machine of wood and wire into the skies over Alexandria. The Times was there, again noting the pilot but leaving his mechanic unnamed.

With the plane's limited range, the journey south formed a series of short hops. Petrol supplies had been left at points all along the route, but even so the team was plagued by engine trouble.

The flight crew on Christmas Eve 1913 riding camels
The crew relaxed pre-flight with a camel ride at the Pyramids on 24 Dec 1913
Thirteen breakdowns, with extended delays waiting for delivery of spare parts, meant that the flight to Khartoum - perhaps 1,500 miles, at an altitude of around 60 metres above the Nile - took almost three months.

Adding insult to injury, they were overtaken by French airman Marc Pourpe.

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If seaplanes could land on the Thames, McClean reasoned, then why not on the Nile and other rivers in Africa? The enthusiastic aviator spent much of 1913 preparing for an Egyptian adventure.

Frank McClean: Pioneer of the sky
By flying a wheeled monoplane Pourpe didn't have to rely on the meandering river for takeoffs and landings. He made Khartoum in around 10 days.

That said, there doesn't seem to have been any question of a race, and the Brits persevered, reaching Khartoum on 22 March 1914 - though the prospect of a three-month return no doubt prompted the decision to dismantle the plane and ship it back to England.

Both McClean and Gus Smith flew with the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War.

Smith (left) and aviator Alec Ogilvie mid-flight
Smith (left) and aviator Alec Ogilvie mid-flight
McClean was knighted in 1926. And Gus's love of aircraft persisted - he worked as a flight instructor between the wars, and died in 1942, at the age of only 58.

A few days later, his sister received a letter on the stationery of London's Royal Aero Club.

It read: "Though it is a long time since my days at Eastchurch and on the Nile, Gus was so much a part of those days and of the struggle to make machines fly that no recollection is complete without him, and it was in great part due to him that failure was avoided."

The letter was signed FK McClean.

This year, Gus Smith's great-grandson Ambassador Tom Fletcher tells me, plans are afoot to commemorate the centenary of the Nile flight with an event in Cairo, where a model of the 1914 plane is on museum display.

I hope they're realised.

For all the headline-making skill of those at the controls, we now, as then, only stay up thanks to the likes of Gus Smith.

There is more information on the 1914 Nile flight at the Royal Aero Club Collection

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PostPosted: 09-01-2014 07:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most of history is forgotten by most of us, because there's so darn much of it, and we keep making more all the time! So even when official records exist, there are bound to be stories that most of us have missed. Like this one, perhaps:

Battle of Jutland VC letter is auctioned

A letter informing the mother of a 16-year-old sailor killed during World War One that her son was to be awarded the Victoria Cross has been sold.
John Cornwell was posthumously awarded the medal for his actions during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, 1916.
The letter from the Admiralty tells his mother, Lily Cornwell, of the honour and asks whether she would like to receive it on his behalf from the King.
It fetched £2,500 in an auction run by Kent-based C&T Auctions.
Matthew Tredwen, of C&T Auctions, originally expected the letter to fetch between £800 and £1,000.

Cornwell, who was born in Leyton, then part of Essex, tried to enlist in Royal Navy at the outbreak of WWI in 1914, but was rejected because of his age.
He joined up in 1915 without his father's permission and following basic training at Plymouth was assigned to the light cruiser, HMS Chester.

The vessel came under intense fire during the Battle of Jutland, which saw the British and German fleets of dreadnought class battleships come to blows for the only time during the conflict.

After the action, Cornwell who was the sole survivor at his gun, was found with shards of steel penetrating his chest, still looking at the weapon's sights and awaiting orders.
He was transferred to Grimsby General Hospital but died two days later.

Mrs Cornwell received her son's Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace in November 1916.
The medal is the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

The letter is accompanied by an official document sent to Admiral Beresford about a fund to be established in his memory.
A painting depicting Cornwell at his gun post on HMS Chester hangs in St Paul's Church at HMS Raleigh, the Royal Navy's training base in Cornwall.

The scouts created the Cornwell Scout Badge for "courage and endurance" in light of his legacy
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PostPosted: 09-01-2014 11:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating documentary about Russian volunteers searching the forests and swamps around St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), for the remains of Russian troops, now on BBC Radio4.


Crossing Continents - Russia: Digging up the Dead

28 minutes

First broadcast:
Thursday 09 January 2014

Of the estimated 70 million deaths attributed to World War two, 30 million died on the Russian front. Of those, as many as 4 million Soviet soldiers are still "missing in action". These men - more than the entire population of Ireland or New Zealand - are still unaccounted for.

Despite all the official rhetoric on Victory Day, many in power today would rather not contemplate the fate of these men. They lie forgotten and unrecognised by Russia's top brass and the state.

But as Lucy Ash discovers, a growing number of volunteers, armed with spades and metal detectors, are now searching for the soldiers. Seventy years after World War II, they feel compelled to look for their remains.

Olga Ivishina, a journalist with the BBC Russian Service from the city of Kazan, belongs to this Diggers Movement. While many young Russians professionals spend their holidays on beaches in Thailand, Olga gives up her free time to camp in the forest. Many days she has to wade waist-deep through mud, sometimes in pouring rain, to find the bodies of these fallen soldiers.

Ilya Prokofiev, one of the most experienced diggers, is scathing about what he calls the 'cult' of the Unknown Soldier. "Officials pay tribute at the eternal flame monument every 9th May', and I tell them: 'You're the ones who made this soldier nameless, what are you proud of? Have you no conscience? This soldier had a family, he had children, he had a surname, a name and patronymic, he had a life, he had a love of his own. What are you proud of?".

Complete with some spooky first-hand experiences of ghostly manifestations.

Well worth catching on the BBC's radio iPlayer. yeay
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PostPosted: 09-01-2014 11:37    Post subject: Reply with quote

i've just heard that, very moving. Cool

Seems that Putin approves, but is planning to put the volunteers under military supervision in case they find any live ordnance.
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PostPosted: 09-01-2014 17:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

Given the amount of UXB in the Eastern bloc, a very good thing.
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Great Old One
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PostPosted: 10-01-2014 05:03    Post subject: Reply with quote

UXB is a problem everywhere there has been fighting(or bombardment)

At Verdun, cows are still killed by old land mines, and shells wait to do what they were made for. Even ordinance from the American Civil War has been known to blow. Vietnam is a virtual death trap in some places.

There must be an awful lot of bodies on that field, Soviet and German. Lives may be lost in the effort to find corpses. I wonder if it's worth it?

For a soldier to lie where he fell seems honorable to me, perhaps under a plaque that remembers service and sacrifice.

The dead are beyond our power to help or harm.

But we must remember them.

(the French still find war dead from Verdun, and the simple, yet dignified ceremony by which they are interred, is touching. The French Forest Service is in charge of such sites, and they do a very good job of laying these tardy warriors to rest. My God, the horror of it! And for what?)
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PostPosted: 10-01-2014 09:38    Post subject: Reply with quote

Margate girl Olive Higgins's diary put online on 100th anniversary of death

At first, Rob McGibbon did not pay much attention to the burgundy leather-bound diary that was given to him by a friend more than 10 years ago.
But almost a century after the death of its owner, 16-year-old Olive Higgins, he says her story has become "a complete obsession".

The only daughter of hotelier Thomas Higgins, who founded the Hydro Hotel in Margate - one of the first so-called "health hotels" - Olive began the diary shortly before she set off to finishing school in Paris in January 1914.
But a mere eight weeks later she was dead, following a grave illness.

Antique shop owner Ian Burt, who gave Mr McGibbon the diary in 2001, had come across it years earlier, possibly in a house clearance.
Mr McGibbon, a journalist and writer, said he became "completely captivated" when reading the newspaper cutting about her funeral that had been enclosed in the book.
"Because then I learnt she was buried in Brockley Cemetery [in south-east London] and it's the exact cemetery I used to look on when I was a little boy," he said.
"I was about six years old and my grandfather moved into a flat overlooking that cemetery.
"So there was that extraordinary geographical connection that absolutely blew my mind and gave me goose bumps."

He opened a Twitter account for Olive's diary and is publishing a new daily entry on the blog he has created until 25 February, the 100th anniversary of her death.

"I abandoned my journalism career, went to Paris to research, went all over Margate and the South East charting the history of the family and Olive's life," Mr McGibbon said.
"And it did become a complete obsession."

Olive's first diary entry, on New Year's Day in 1914, says: "Feeling fairly rotten after the Cecil Ball + a very gay Christmas! Paris tomorrow!
"I certainly don't relish the fact.
"Been carpet hunting all day, with lunch at the Buckingham Palace Hotel, plenty to eat, else should not have enjoyed it.
"Going home by the Granville, sure to miss it as we are all feeling a bit slack.
"No! We caught the train. Had a good dinner, my bed is yelling for me! After all, it [sic] the best place!!"

Ian Dickie, chairman of the Friends of Margate Museum, said that Olive's mother had died in 1911 at the age of 41.
Her father remarried a woman called Elizabeth, who the children called Pegs, he said.
Olive, who went to Lynton House private school in Margate, also had a brother called Frank.

"We know that she was a very studious girl," Mr Dickie said.
"We know that she wasn't that advanced in languages, but otherwise she was obviously fairly advanced in other forms.
"She was very well educated."

When Olive fell ill, a leading doctor to the British Royal family was sent to attend to her, to no avail.
"Olive was dearly beloved to her father and after she died, he went to Paris and spent about a month there, researching what had gone on," Mr Dickie said.
"After he died in 1946 at the age of 81, his body was taken to London and buried next to Olive's."

Mr McGibbon said: "I've spent all these years researching her story and obviously, the overriding question is 'why did the diary come into my life, what does it mean?'
"And also, what did Olive want to be known about her life?
"It's almost impossible to say what she would want.
"But all I can say is that it has been haunting in my life, she's been like a ghost.
"But it's been a benevolent ghost because it's brought me so many good things, from the stuff I've learnt about her life, and about my life."
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PostPosted: 10-01-2014 15:14    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before and after photos from the, Massacre at Wounded Knee (1890 & 1973).
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PostPosted: 14-01-2014 10:47    Post subject: Reply with quote

Melting glaciers in northern Italy reveal corpses of WW1 soldiers
The glaciers of the Italian Alps are slowly melting to reveal horrors from the Great War, preserved for nearly a century
By Laura Spinney
12:00PM GMT 13 Jan 2014

At first glance Peio is a small alpine ski resort like many others in northern Italy. In winter it is popular with middle-class Italians as well as, increasingly, Russian tourists. In summer there’s good hiking in the Stelvio National Park. It has a spa, shops that sell a dozen different kinds of grappa, and, perhaps, aspirations to be the next Cortina. A cable car was inaugurated three years ago, and a multi-storey car park is under construction.

But in Peio, reminders of the region’s past are never far away. Stroll up through the village and, passing the tiny First World War museum on your left, you come to the 15th-century San Rocco church with its Austro-Hungarian cemetery and sign requesting massimo rispetto. Here, one sunny day last September, 500 people attended the funeral of two soldiers who fell in battle in May 1918.

In Peio, you feel, the First World War never quite ended. And in one very real sense, it lives on, thanks to the preserving properties of ice. For Peio was once the highest village in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and had a ringside seat to a little-known but spectacular episode of that conflict called the White War.

In 1914 both Trentino – the province in which Peio lies – and the neighbouring South Tyrol were Hapsburg domains. Italy, recently unified and eager to settle her frontiers permanently, looked on the two provinces, along with Trieste, as ‘unredeemed lands’. In May 1915, with the aim of reclaiming them, she entered the war on the side of the Allies. Conflict was already raging on the western and eastern fronts; now a third front opened up. It stretched from the Julian Alps, which Italy now shares with Slovenia in the east, to the Ortler massif near the Swiss border further west – some 250 miles.

As much of the front was at altitudes of over 6,500ft, a new kind of war had to be developed. The Italians already had specialist mountain troops – the Alpini with their famous feathered caps – but the Austrians had to create the equivalent: the Kaiserschützen. They were supported by artillery and engineers who constructed an entire infrastructure of war at altitude, including trenches carved out of the ice and rudimentary cableways for transporting men and munitions to the peaks.

In the decades that followed the armistice, the world warmed up and the glaciers began to retreat, revealing the debris of the White War. The material that, beginning in the 1990s, began to flood out of the mountains was remarkably well preserved. It included a love letter, addressed to Maria and never sent, and an ode to a louse, ‘friend of my long days’, scribbled on a page of an Austrian soldier’s diary.

The bodies, when they came, were often mummified. The two soldiers interred last September were blond, blue-eyed Austrians aged 17 and 18 years old, who died on the Presena glacier and were buried by their comrades, top-to-toe, in a crevasse. Both had bulletholes in their skulls. One still had a spoon tucked into his puttees — common practice among soldiers who travelled from trench to trench and ate out of communal pots. When Franco Nicolis of the Archaeological Heritage Office in the provincial capital, Trento, saw them, he says, his first thought was for their mothers. ‘They feel contemporary. They come out of the ice just as they went in,’ he says. In all likelihood the soldiers’ mothers never discovered their sons’ fate.

One of the oddities of the White War was that both the Alpini and the Kaiserschützen recruited local men who knew the mountains, which meant that they often knew each other too. Sometimes family loyalties were split. ‘There are many stories of people hearing the voice of a brother or a cousin in the thick of battle,’ Nicolis says.

For both sides the worst enemy was the weather, which killed more men than the fighting. At those altitudes, the temperature could fall to -30C, and the ‘white death’ — death by avalanche — claimed thousands of lives.

The people of Peio lived these stories because unlike the inhabitants of other frontline villages, they stayed put. ‘The Emperor decreed that this village should not be evacuated,’ Angelo Dalpez, Peio’s mayor, says. ‘As the highest village in the empire, it was symbolic — a message to the rest.’ They worked as porters and suppliers of food. They tended the injured, buried the dead, and witnessed the remodelling of their ancestral landscape (shelling lowered the summit of one mountain, San Matteo, by 20ft).

In 1919 the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye awarded Trentino to Italy. ‘There was never any clash,’ Nicolis says. ‘No revolution. It was an entirely smooth transition.’ People here had always felt autonomous, in their mountainous border region, and under the new arrangement the Italian government granted them a degree of autonomy. They carried on drinking grappa, eating knödel and speaking Italian (which had been one of the 12 official languages of the empire), but they never forgot their history. Many of their relations had fought on the Hapsburg side, and when the soldiers started melting out of the ice, they looked on them as their grand-fathers or great-grandfathers.

This became clear in 2004, when Maurizio Vicenzi, a local mountain guide and the director of Peio’s war museum, whose own family fought for the Austrians, stumbled on the mummified remains of three Hapsburg soldiers hanging upside down out of an ice wall near San Matteo — at 12,000ft, scene of some of the highest battles in history. The three were unarmed and had bandages in their pockets, suggesting they may have been stretcher-bearers who died in the last battle for the mountain, on September 3 1918. When a pathologist was granted permission to study one of the bodies, to try to understand the mummification process, there was an outcry among local people who felt that the dead were being profaned.

The three now lie in the cemetery at San Rocco next to the two from the Presena glacier, in five unmarked graves. All have passed through the lab of the forensic anthropologist Daniel Gaudio and his team, in Vicenza. His priority is to name the mummified soldiers if he can. It is rare that he succeeds for although he can almost always extract DNA, contextual information about the circumstances of their deaths tends to be lacking, meaning that he can’t locate potential living relations to find a match.

In 2005 Vicenzi started exploring a site called Punta Linke, almost 6,500ft above Peio. He found a natural cave in the ice and material scattered over the surface — steel helmets, straw overshoes, boxes of ammunition — and realised there was a structure beneath. With friends from Peio, Great War enthusiasts all, he investigated. Nicolis’s team arrived on the scene two summers later, and together they excavated a wooden cabin — a station on one of the cableways that provided vital supplies to the troops.

etc - Very long article, with photos.
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PostPosted: 14-01-2014 16:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sure that I've mentioned this elsewhere. I used to work beside a guy who was in the territorial contingent of the Naval version of the SAS, the SBS, down in Cornwall. He used to spend his summers digging out the bodies of WWII German soldiers from the glaciers of Norway. Great guy.
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PostPosted: 15-01-2014 10:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

If not 'Forgotten', then 'Little known' History:

Business tips from UK's oldest family firms
By Lucy Wallis, BBC News

Some of the UK's oldest family businesses have survived for almost 500 years. What have they been doing right to make them so enduring?

According to the Institute for Family Business (IFB), there are around three million family firms in the UK.
It says the 10 companies below are thought to be among the oldest. Each offers an example to other family firms hoping to keep going for generations.

RJ Balson & Son - Butcher - 1515
If Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had visited Bridport in Dorset, they could have eaten meat sold by Balson's the butcher.


R Durtnell & Sons - Construction - 1591
Since the financial crash of 2008 over 7,000 UK building firms have gone out of business, but Durtnell and Sons, based in Brasted, Kent, has remained afloat since the reign of Elizabeth I.


C Hoare & Co - Bank - 1672
With two branches in London, this independent bank can trace its origins back to the reign of Charles II when founder Sir Richard Hoare began trading as a goldsmith and banker.


Mornflake - Miller - 1675
William Lea started milling oats at Swettenham Mill in 1675 in Cheshire and 15 generations later the company is still trading.


James Lock & Co - Hatters - 1676
Following the great plague of 1665 and the great fire of 1666, wealthy residents from the City of London moved to the west of the city in search of clean air. Entrepreneurial shopkeepers spotted the exodus and opened up businesses in the emerging West End.

Choosing the right location was crucial to establishing James Lock & Co. With a shop close to St James Palace, the firm became milliners to the gentry and the military.


Toye, Kenning & Spencer - Medals and regalia - thought to be 1685
"It is an immense responsibility to take on a family firm like this. I think it's very kin to a stately home, stately factory even," says chief executive Fiona Toye.

Using traditional techniques, the company makes insignia and regalia, such as the ribbons and medals presented to awardees of OBEs and CBEs, and have even helped renovate state chairs for the Kremlin.


Folkes Group - Property and manufacture - 1697
Specialising in commercial property development and investment, this West Midlands-based company is now run by Constantine Folkes, the ninth generation to run the business.


Berry Bros & Rudd - Wine merchants - 1698
Established by widow Bourne as a grocer's in the neighbourhood of St James's, London, the business supplied the new and popular coffee houses in the area.


Salts Healthcare - Healthcare products - 1701
Former locksmiths John and William Salt started the business in the early 1700s manufacturing surgical instruments, but the company seems to have been adept over the years at responding to gaps in the market and social change.


Aspall Cyder - Cider makers - 1728
Tracing their history back to the Crusades as associates of the Knights Templar, Aspall Cyder is now run by Barry and Henry, the eighth generation of Chevalliers. According to their family tree, King Henry I can be counted as their great grandfather, 26 times removed.


Hidden Histories: Britain's Oldest Family Businesses
starts on Wednesday 15 January at 21:00 GMT on BBC Four
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PostPosted: 17-01-2014 09:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fascinating tale!

Mystery of the Nazi and the portrait of a Welsh lady
By Stephen Evans, BBC News, Berlin

A portrait of a 16th Century Welsh noblewoman was discovered in the art collection of leading Nazi Hermann Goering. What was it doing there?

She seems the gentlest of gentlewomen as she stands reflectively. Her skin is pale against the blackness of her dress. She holds a prayer book, indicating devout learning. Her other hand rests easily on a skull - the reminder of death. She exudes nobility.

So how did this grand Welsh lady get to mix with bad Nazi company? The painting is now owned by the National Museum of Wales but during World War Two it was in the collection gathered by Hermann Goering, Hitler's deputy and the man who founded the Gestapo.

The subject of the painting is Catrin of Berain - or Katheryn to her English friends. For centuries the portrait hung in family homes near Denbigh in North Wales but somehow it was acquired by the Nazis.

The story of how the painting went from Wales to Berlin and then back to the National Museum of Wales has been pieced together by experts keen to establish that there are no legitimate counter-claims to its ownership. Controversy invariably surrounds works of art accrued by the Nazis so the curators in Cardiff have made doubly sure that the portrait of a Welsh gentlewoman has a clean past.

After all, there are currently fierce legal disputes over a collection of paintings discovered hidden in Munich, and over priceless artefacts from the medieval church - bought by the German state from Jewish art dealers in the 30s when the Nazis were in power - and now on display in a museum in Berlin.

Looking at Catrin's life story, it's difficult to see why exactly a top Nazi might take an interest in her.
According to Helen Williams-Ellis, who is writing a biography of Catrin, the noblewoman was born in 1540 in Berain near Denbigh in north-east Wales.
Catrin's father was a land-owner, Tudur ap Robert, with a substantial 3,000 acres. At the age of 22, Catrin married one John Salusbury, the son of a neighbouring land owner. Money married money to keep money in the family.

After nine years of marriage and two children, Catrin's first husband died. Williams-Ellis told the BBC that afterwards Catrin married another rich man, Sir Richard Clough, again, according to Helen Williams-Ellis, to keep money in the family.

Clough, known by the Welsh as Rhisiart Clwch, was a merchant who divided his time between north Wales, London - where he was one of the founders of the Stock Exchange - and Antwerp. In what seems like a Welsh cliche, Clough had not been born to immense wealth but was noticed for his fine singing voice in the choir of Chester Cathedral and despatched to court in London. That opened the way to riches.

In Antwerp, Catrin had her portrait painted and the picture was hung for more than two centuries in family homes in north Wales.
In 1938, the owners decided, for reasons that haven't been established, to sell the picture and contacted a dealer in London. It was offered to the National Museum of Wales but, somehow, the sale failed to happen.

The London dealer had connections with the art market in Amsterdam and in November, 1940 the painting was bought by Walter Andreas Hofer, the adviser on art to Hermann Goering.
It seems incongruous that the founder of the Gestapo should be an art collector but he was building up a collection to aggrandise the Reich.

In 1945, with the Reich in ruins a mere twelve years into its existence, the portrait was rediscovered by the victorious Allies and documented. Special units, soon to be depicted in the movie The Monuments Men, rescued works and then traced their route to the Nazi collection - the circumstances in which they were acquired, who originally owned them.

In the case of the portrait of Catrin, they tracked down the Dutch dealer who originally had sold it and returned the painting to him. It is for this reason that the National Museum of Wales is confident there can be no dispute over ownership. The man who sold it got his work back.

Why did the Nazis want the painting of a Welsh noblewoman? Oliver Fairclough, the Keeper of Art at the National Museum of Wales, said the Nazis accrued works to aggrandise themselves and their regime.
"A lot of it was 'art as power and status'," Fairclough says. They wanted to display the best of traditional art.
It seems the regime wanted the picture because it was a Flemish masterwork rather than for its subject. It was probably painted by Adriaen van Cronenburgh who produced portraits of merchants in the commercial hub that was 16th Century Antwerp.

Nonetheless, Fairclough is intrigued by what he calls a "fascinating" picture.
"She is very well dressed," he says. "She's wearing black which was a very expensive cloth because it had to be dyed. There's a gold chain around her neck and pearls in her head dress".

Despite the seriousness of the portrait, there is a scintilla of a hint of a smile if you want to see one. It is nice to imagine that she was not straight-laced. In all, she married four times and had six children by three husbands.
Williams-Ellis wonders if she is pregnant in the picture because rich women of the era occasionally had their portraits painted before childbirth, which increased the family's consciousness of mortality.

Catrin divided her life between the deep countryside of north Wales and the hubs of the new commercial world, Antwerp and London. It must have been a whirlwind of change as she moved between Denbighshire and these two bustling centres.

Six years into their marriage, Sir Richard Clough died in Hamburg at the age of 40 - the second husband Catrin had lost. There is a theory that he was poisoned as a suspected spy for Queen Elizabeth I - Catrin's world was not boring and ordinary.

She then looked back to Wales and to property for her third husband, Maurice Wynn of Gwydir, the High Sheriff for Caernarfonshire. The cynical view - and also the view of Catrin's present-day fan, Williams-Ellis - is that marriage was, at least partly, about financial considerations. Catrin had another two children with her third husband. And then, he, too, died.

So she married a fourth husband, who, finally, survived her.
Catrin of Berain died on 27 August 1591. She is buried at the parish church in the village of Llanefydd near the farm where she was born and grew up.
After her death, fourteen elegies were written in praise of her - eight in Welsh, two in Latin and three in English.

What about the man who had bought the portrait for Goering? Walter Andreas Hofer was "Director of the Reichsmarschall's Art Collection" from 1939 to 1944. After the war, a French military tribunal sentenced him in absentia to ten years in prison.
Somehow, though, he never served that sentence and continued to work undisturbed as an art dealer in Munich, dying in an obscurity he no doubt welcomed in the early 70s.

And what about the mysterious Catrin? It would be nice to think that she shudders from beyond the grave at the very thought of monstrous Goering once gazing on her kindly image.
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PostPosted: 17-01-2014 23:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the Lone Coastguard, I joked:
The Portland SAR copter is out, a few miles SW of Portland Bill.


1233: After a detour towards Bridport, continues back towards base...

I wonder if they were picking up some sausages from Balsons?

Hidden histories is fascinating, not unlike Who do You Think You Are?

The Balson family started their business in the Bridport Shambles, which was an area for butchery. Live animals came in, fresh meat went out! A messy business, hence the later association of the name Shambles with something chaotic.

One way or another, the Shambles also became the name of a treacherous shoal to the east of Portland Bill, where strong tides created dangerous overfalls.

An interesting connection between England's oldest butcher's shop (in Dorset), and a nautical hazard in Dorset, just the other side of the Isle of Portland!
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