In practice, the nickname or epithet ‘Monty’ was not used when addressing Bernard Law Montgomery, except possibly by the few other soldiers senior to him in rank, and even then, with caution. He was born in 1887, and became a middle-sized, clip-toned, fiery exponent of the philosophy that insists that anything will be achieved by will-power. Montgomery rose so fast after leaving Sandhurst that he was appointed Lt. General, commander of the British Eighth Army in North Africa in August, 1942. He was a greyhound-like fifty-five.
Montgomery found his troops fed up, dispirited, low in morale. He adopted slightly unmilitary dress, favouring light fawn trousers of decidedly military cut, with a grey pullover peeping below a standard battle dress jacket. On his head he wore a distinctly peculiar beret, more like a Basque farmer’s headgear than a British general’s. On it he wore not one cap badge but two or perhaps three. The men loved it. He used to give them what he called ‘pep-talks’ which enthused them. Continue reading →
The name could hardly sound more French, and yet Henri was the grandson of William of Orange ‘The Silent’, which should make him at least a Netherlander. Henri’s grandfather had earned his nickname by keeping his mouth firmly shut about French plans to murder every Protestant in France and the Netherlands. This Hitler-style plot had had success only in Paris in the form of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day (24 August, 1572 q.v.). Henri was born in 1611. Continue reading →
The names in Dutch and English are similar; this was the office of the chief executive of the Dutch Republic when Holland was a republic and not, as it is now, a Monarchy. Once, the Stadholder had been the King’s representative (and military commander) in any one of the many districts.
When the northern part of the Netherlands, also called the Low Countries because most of the land was below sea level, broke formally (and finally violently) with the Spanish king in 1581 the provincial assemblies or stads decided that they would appoint their own Stadholder. Continue reading →
There have been wars that lasted a few days; the Great War lasted a terrible four years, and the Second World War six. There was a thirty year war that nobody needed, except perhaps for giving employment to soldiers, but many died where they stood and were not recorded as thinking it worthwhile. The Punic Wars took forty-three years to complete, and Rome won them all anyway. It is possible to find a war endured by its participants for eighty years (1568 – 1648) and naturally the conflict was over Habsburg domination. Continue reading →
Catalonia (English spelling), Cataluña (Castilian spelling) and Catalunya (Catalán spelling) all refer to the same autonomous region, made up by the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona (the last three in Spanish spelling). Catalonia was united with the Kingdom of Aragón from the year 1337, and developed a huge trading empire in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Catalans have always been known for hard work, and their principal port, Barcelona, is among the best in the world. Continue reading →
It is difficult to find any time since the Byzantine Empire when the North African coast from Morocco to Libya was not infamous for piracy. The worst period was the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. The Berbers, who may or may not have originally populated the Canary Islands, were piratical by nature and good navigators in the treacherous Atlantic and unpredictable Mediterranean.
Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania (Libya) take their name from the infamous pirate Barbarossa. Even the English adjective barbaric has its roots in berber, bereber or Barbarossa. Continue reading →
Thinking people still get hot under the collar when the subject of the trade in slaves looms. But then, more nonsense is spoken about the slave trade by otherwise intelligent and educated people than one would care to admit. For those determined only to be ‘politically correct’, the trade was perfectly simple, evil of course, and typical of the many important countries which indulged in it. It consisted (for them) of wicked whites landing on the coast of West Africa, driving inland with fire and sword, kidnapping young black people from their homelands, chaining them up, and driving them back to the waiting ships with a whip ever ready in case of complaint. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the first place, coastal African tribesmen would have taken very badly to any kind of invasion made by white people, unless they knew exactly what the white intruders were in Africa for. Continue reading →
A Brigade section training; note the extreme youth of many of the volunteers / iwm.org.uk
Volunteers from countries foreign to Spain rushed from around the world to aid the republican cause during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1938). Contrary to popular literature’s view, the Brigades were not packed full of European and American playwrights, intellectuals and novelists. Most volunteers came from the working classes. Ernest Hemingway came, but as a war correspondent. Stephen Spender and George Orwell came, but were kept as far away from the front as possible, because the propaganda value of their possible capture to the Nationalist forces would have been great. Poets W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood watched from a safe distance, as indeed they did again, this time from California, during the Second World War. Continue reading →
The death in battle of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden / lookandlearn.com
The British were involved in this nasty episode, though only on the margins. All wars are horribly wasting, but this one could be taken as the best example. It was about religion, which hardly comes as a surprise. It is amazing that most human conflict since the death of Christ has come about because of differences of opinion and dogma, when Christ taught that all men should love each other. How humans have reacted during the centuries after His death is hardly His fault. Continue reading →
The word itself is Afrikaans or South African Dutch and means ‘separateness’. In the 50s of the last century a morbid joking pun was made in the music halls, calling it ‘apart-hate’, and one can understand why. It was the purely racial policy of a government, stemming from the Population Registration Act of 1950 in South Africa. The Act divided the population into three: Bantu if you were black, White, and Coloured if you were of mixed race. A little later a fourth section was added – Asian. Continue reading →