Monday, 6 January 2020

The Brusilov Offensive 1916

Byy early 1916, Russian Tsar Nicholas II was permanently at army headquarters to act as Commander in Chief and boost his soldiers’ morale. This left the Russian government in the hands of Tsarina Alexandra.

The Tsarina was greatly influenced by a debauched Siberian mystic named Grigori Rasputin. They promoted their friends instead of efficient and capable men. The Russian government began to decline in effectiveness.

Tsar Nicholas ordered Marshal Alexei Brusilov to attack the Austrians to distract attention from a main attack on the Germans.

Brusilov developed new tactics and ideas for his attack. On 4 June Brusilov’s Offensive smashed through the Austrian lines at three places. On 8 June Austrian Archduke Josef Ferdinand had to abandon his birthday party when a Russian shell landed in the garden of the house where the party was being held.

The main Russian offensive started on 18 June, but almost at once halted when the men ran out of supplies and reserves were sent in the wrong direction.

For eight weeks Brusilov’s Russians advanced, but the attack came to a halt when Ludendorff moved German troops to support the Austrians.

The Duties of a Roman Governor

Much of the administration and government of a province was in the hands of local government, not of the governor. The main job of the governor was to ensure that the province provided to Rome what it was supposed to do.

The most important task of a governor was to raise the taxes due to the Roman empire and make sure that they reached Rome safely. The governor might also have to raise auxiliary troops and send them on campaign.

Taxes were usually collected by private men. These men agreed an annual contract with the governor. They might be paid a percentage of the taxes collected, or be allowed to keep anything over a set amount that was paid to the governor.

Iron in Greece

Iron was introduced to Greece during the Dark Age. At first the metal was very expensive, so it was used only by kings and nobles.

The Boston Tea Party

The British colonies in North America had grown up around commercial and religious colonies and had become accustomed to running their own affairs. When the British government attempted to impose stricter control from home it lead to trouble.

Over the years since they were founded, the British colonies of North America prospered and grew out of all expectation. Rivalry with France had been ended in 1756 when General Wolfe captured Quebec and conquered the French colonies. However, the increasingly large and prosperous colonies were proving expensive to protect and police.

In order to recoup the costs of running these territories, the British government imposed a number of taxes on the American colonies. Because most of these were imposed on trade, they directly affected the wealth of the residents and were deeply resented. After a number of protests and a few outbreaks of violence, the British lifted the new taxes.

However, one much hated measure remained. The East India Company was given a monopoly over trade in tea and the government took a cut of three pennies a pound. The American colonists were angry that they could not buy tea from whom they wished, and doubly annoyed that this was to enforce a tax  paid to London. Newspapers and politicians called for a boycott of tea which, although not terribly effective, did raise the issue.

On 16th December 1773 a group of young colonists in Boston dressed themselves as Mohawk Indians and stormed aboard the ships of the East India Company that were in harbour. The ‘Sons of Liberty’ as they called themselves, pushed aside the protesting sailors, smashed open 342 chests of tea and dumped the contents in the harbour.

When news of the raid reached London, the Prime Minister, Lord North, ordered that the entire port of Boston be closed to all ships. He then went on to revoke the power of Massachusetts to rule itself and imposed a governor from London. Not content with that, the British government also required government officials accused of serious crimes to be sent to London for trial, instead of trusting them to local juries, and gave the new governor the right to station his troops wherever he liked, even in people’s houses. The colonists dubbed these Acts of Parliament the ‘Intolerable Acts’ and were determined to overthrow them.

Is Whitehall full of civil servants?

To the British ‘Whitehall’ is not just an area of London, it is also synonymous with the bureaucracy of Government. Whether one wishes to describe the efficiency and unbiased nature of the government machine or its inefficiency and bias, one refers to ‘Whitehall’.

The reason why Whitehall has become so identified with civil servants and bureaucracy dates back to the reign of King Henry VIII in the 16th century. King Henry had tired of living in Westminster Palace as that building was increasingly being taken over for offices relating to Parliament and the Exchequer. He therefore acquired land on the banks of the river to the north of Westminster and from 1512 carried out extensive building works. Named Whitehall Palace because it was built of a stone lighter in colour than Westminster, the new edifice was designed for pleasure. In addition to comfortable living rooms and grand state rooms, the Whitehall Palace included gardens, orchards and a cockpit as well as a tiltyard.

The Whitehall Palace remained the principal residence of the Royal Family in London until 1688 when William III and Mary II came to the throne. William found the damp river air bad for his breathing so the Court moved to Kensington Palace. Ten years later a blundering Dutch washerwoman knocked over a lantern and set fire to Whitehall Palace. With all the men and equipment of the Court removed to Kensington, the fire raged unchecked through the 2,000 rooms of Whitehall and in a few hours the palace was a heap of smouldering ruins. Only the grand Banqueting House remained.

The destruction wrougt by the fire meant that there was suddenly a large amount of open ground belonging to the Crown available for redevelopment. At first a series of residential houses were erected and rented out, but before long the growing need for government offices near Westminster Palace began to be felt. Among those Whitehall houses was Wallingford House, owned by the Duke of Buckingham. This had been taken over by the navy as premises for central planning, the commissioning of ships and other necessary adminsitrative work. It was replaced in 1722  by the present Admiralty building, though there have been several alterations carried out since.

The next oldest of the government office buildings in Whitehall is the Paymaster General’s Office, built as a private house by John Lane in 1732, but much altered to accommodate offices. Dover House was built in 1754 and much altered in 1792. It was a private house until 1885 when the Government took it over and it is now the home of the Scottish Office. Built rather later, but entering government service earlier, was Gwydyr House which was erected in 1772. It was taken over by the government in 1842 and now houses the Welsh Office.

The first of the truly great purpose-built government offices in Whitehall is the Foreign Office, erected in 1868. Erected in grand Italian Renaissance style by the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, the Foreign Office is generally held to have one of the most imposing entrance halls and staircases in all London. It was not meant to be that way. Scott wanted to build a Gothic masterpiece to rival the new Palace of Westminster then being completed in that style, but parliament refused after an extremely acrimonious series of debates dubbed by the Press ‘The Battle of the Styles’. Scott’s second suggestion of a Byzantine edifice was also rejected and in the end he had to accept the views of Prime Minister Palmerston who wanted an Italian style.

Next to be erected was the Ministry of Housing which was erected in 1898 in conscious imitation of Scott’s edifice. This was followed in 1957 by the Ministry of Defence, a massive complex which has the unusual distinction among government offices of having a pair of gigantic nude statues flanking its official entrance. Finally, in the later 20th century the pseudo-Tudor building for the Department of the Environment was added beside the Ministry of Defence. Among the other government offices along Whitehall are the old War Office, Horse Guards, Admiralty House and Arch and other, smaller buildings.

Exactly how many civil servants work in these various buildings along Whitehall is shrouded in secrecy. However, the size of the buildings would indicate they have a capacity for something over 50,000 office staff.

The earliest cats had elongated bodies

The earliest cats had elongated bodies
The earliest known cat was Dinictis (dye-nik-tiss) which lived in North America about 30 million years ago. It had a long, muscular body with powerful legs. Dinictis would have hunted by creeping up close to prey, then leaping at them.

Murmillos and Retiarius - A Gladiator Game to play at home

Murmillos and Retiarius

A game for two players.
You will need:
A chess board
A set of chess pieces

1) Use only the pawns, each of which represents a murmillo gladiator, and one knight which represents a retiarius gladiator. Each player places his murmillos on the row of squares closest to him. The retiarius can be placed anywhere on the second row of squares.

2) Each murmillo can move two spaces forward, backward or sideways, but not diagonally. Each retiarius can move up to four spaces forward, backward or sideways, but not diagonally. No gladiator can jump over another.

3) Players take it in turns to move one gladiator each. If a gladiator lands on a space occupied by an opponent, the opponent’s gladiator is defeated and removed from the board.

4) The winner is the player who manages to defeat all the opposing gladiators.

5) If the players are left with one murmillo or one retiarius each, the game is a draw.