Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Eton opposes a railway line 1835

Meanwhile, the Windsor council had given support to the newly formed London and Windsor Railway Company. This company aimed to build a line from the capital to Windsor by way of Osterley as the first stage of a much grander route down to the southwest of England. A key problem was that the route envisaged crossing Royal lands. King William IV was consulted and gave his permission for a line to be built over the Home Park so that it entered the town by way of Datchet Lane.

Eton, as ever, opposed the construction of a railway anywhere near the College. The influence exercised by the college on peers of the realm, together with growing worries over the financial stability of the project, ensured that the London and Windsor Railway Bill was defeated in the House of Lords.

The GWR promptly put forward a new Bill to Parliament seeking permission for its own branch line to be constructed along roughly the same lines as previously envisaged. Eton objected again, though a newly elected council at Windsor did not. The Bill was passed by Parliament, but only after Thomas Carter, Provost of Eton, had managed to get so many restrictions and conditions imposed that the GWR judged the project to be commercially unviable. Once again the branch line idea was dropped.

from "Lost Railways of Berkshire" by Rupert Matthews

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Book Description

4 Oct 2006 Lost Railways
This illustrated book covers the history of the county's railways from construction in the 1840s to, in many cases, closure in the 1960s. It includes Brunel's GWR mainline and branch lines to Windsor, Wokingham and Bracknell, Cookham and Steventon.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Leicestershire Local Food

My wife was living in Bottesford in the Vale of Belvoir when we met. We were married there in the magnificent church that goes by the name of The Lady of the Vale of Belvoir, and our daughter was christened in the same place.

My wife introduced me to the delights of a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie on an early date while we were courting, and later showed me that there are two sorts of cheese known as Stilton - I had previously thought that there was only one. She has collected a number of recipes over the years and some of these are included in this book. I must also thank many other people who have helped with this book. It would be an impossible task to list them all, though you will find many of them listed as makers of fine foods and drinks at the back of this book. I must single out Angela Geary who has kindly allowed me access to her collection of old Leicestershire lore, including recipes and information on fruit varieties.

I have enjoyed researching this book, and must confess that my trousers are a touch tighter now than when I started.

Read, Eat, Drink, Enjoy.

from "Food and Drink of Leicestershire" by Rupert Matthews.

Book Description

1 Jun 2009 0752448633 978-0752448633
Leicestershire holds an important place in the history of Britain's food. This exploration of the county's fare sets food and drink against the character of Leicestershire to discover how history, landscape and culture have shaped the county's diet. Combining tales of the creation of Leicestershire's most famous dishes with recipes that show off the quality of the local produce, the story of the Leicestershire's historic market towns and celebrated livestock farming is discussed in detail, giving a clear explanation of how world-renowned delicacies such as the Melton Mowbray pork pie, and both Stilton and Red Leicester cheese, have made their name. Illustrated with detailed images of their creation, and of course mouth-watering photographs of the final product, this book will inspire chefs far and wide. Whether a resident of Leicestershire or merely a fan of its food and drink, this book is a must-have for all those who appreciate the fine traditions of the county's cuisine.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Hitler's first strategic mistake

As early as 1914, when a rumour swept his regiment that they were to land in England, Hitler had turned his mind to considering invading Britain. The rumour turned out to be false and Hitler spent the next four years in the trenches in France. But in 1940 he was faced with the prospect of fighting a war against Britain and was forced to try to find a way to defeat that country.

The main problem he confronted was that neither he nor anyone in the German military had expected to face a war against a Britain determined to resist. Hitler had never had any intention of attacking Britain nor any part of her empire, it simply was not part of his plan for conquest in the East. Although he had expected Britain to object to his aggresion and, perhaps, even to declare war, Hitler had believed that Britain’s essential interests were not threatened by his actions. He had reasoned, therefore, that Britain would make peace once his conquests were an established fact.

It was the first real strategic failure that Hitler made in his military career. He had expected Britain to make peace. When she did not he had no pre-planned brilliant operation ready to knock her out of the war. The second, and much greater, strategic mistake was to follow the next year. With Britain still unsubdued, Hitler expanded the war by invading Russia. He had said before the conflict started that he would first have to ensure peace in the West before attacking East. He did not do so. Arguably this cost him his victory.

from "Hitler - Military Commander" by Rupert Matthews
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Product Description


Offering an entirely new perspective on one of the world's most notorious dictators, HITLER Military Commander breaks new ground in this pithy and revealing analysis by Rupert Matthews, one of the foremost military history experts on this period. Containing previously unpublished accounts of Hitler's apparent descent into madness, it examines the relationship between Hitler the man and Hitler the leader, and charts the spectacular rise and fall of the Axis fighting force under the control of the non-German former corporal.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Apart from death, the worst punishment pirates gave each other was marooning. A pirate who stole from his comrades was put ashore on a remote island and left. Men marooned on small islands usually died of starvation, but some survived for years. Alexander Selkirk was marooned on Juan Fernandez in 1705 and rescued in 1709. His story is the basis of the famous novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’, by Daniel Defoe.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Cardigan and the cardigan

James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan earned great fame as the man who led the heroic, but futile Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. He was one of the richest men in Britain and spent a fortune equipping his regiment, the 11th Hussars, with the finest equipment and uniforms. He insisted on aristocratic manners and once courtmartialled an officer or ordering beer, instead of wine, at dinner. He challenged another to a duel for turning up for dinner with improperly polished buttons. Undoubtedly brave, his prickly temperament and unpopularity with more senior officers led to his retirement in 1866. The cardigan, a knitted jumper that buttons up the front, was named in his honour.

from "Heroes, Rascals and Rogues" by Rupert Matthews
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Book Description

1 Nov 2008
Written by expert authors Rupert Matthews and John Birdsall, this highly illustrated guide, with photos and memorabilia of people who have made their mark on history, includes key entries on each individual, with boxes and biographies about competitors or co-conspirators. With more than 400 extraordinary people in total it is a fascinating look at some of the most colourful characters in history - from ancient times right up-to the present day. Discover why Caligula was mad, what made Napoleon seek to conquer, and who was really was the most outlawed cowboy in the West.But, on the flip side of 'the coin of fame', meet the people who have made their name by heroic acts or astonishing feats of human endeavour. Find out who first broke the four-minute mile, and what drove him on; which astronaughts have been lucky enough to view the Earth from space; and who is the youngest war hero ever to be decorated. "Heroes, Rascals and Rogues" takes a look at some of the most unconventional people to have lived among us, in an easy-to-read, illustrated format with interesting facts and figures that will make this book hard to put down.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

RAF in Sussex "in the thick of it" - 1940

The fall of France and the entry of Italy into the conflict profoundly altered the entire balance of the war. Italy’s army may not have been of high quality, but its fleet and air force was. Suddenly the entire Mediterranean became a war zone as the Royal Navy struggled with the Italian Navy and air force for control of the vital sea lanes. Closer to home, German warships and U-boats now had the use of France’s Atlantic ports, putting them much closer to the convoy routes across the Atlantic on which Britain relied.

Of rather more concern to the men of RAF Fighter Command in Sussex was the fact that the Luftwaffe was now based just over the Channel instead of hundreds of miles away in Germany. Enemy bombers would no longer be coming from the east with limited flying time over Britain, they would now be coming from the south with hours of fuel to spare. More worryingly, the bombers could now be escorted by the short-range single-engined Messerschmitt Bf109 in large numbers, not only by the less nimble twin-engined Messerschmitt 110 fighter.

Sussex was now right in the front line. Soon the RAF bases there would be in the thick of it.

from "Heroes of Fighter Command: Sussex" by Rupert Matthews
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Book Description

11 Oct 2007 Aviation History
Throughout the second half of the 1930's, war with Germany seemed increasingly likely. The RAF, preparing for the coming struggle, formed Fighter Command in July 1936 under the legendary Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding. In this well researched and excellently written book Rupert Matthews tells the story of courageous individuals whe despite the odds, flew mission after mission during the 2nd World War.

Friday, 19 October 2012

1941 - RAF Fighter Command faces a new threat

In late 1941 some RAF pilots had reported seeing a new type of German fighter that could fly faster, turn tighter and climb steeper than the then standard Messerschmitt Bf109. At first British intelligence officers could make little of the reports, based as they were on fleeting glimpses in combat situations. By the end of the year, however, it was clear that the Germans now possessed a fighter that was superior in every way to the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the RAF – and that it was entering service in increasing numbers. The RAF had a tiger by the tail.

The answer, or at least a partial answer, came in the form of the Spitfire MkIX. This had an uprated Merlin engine developing 1565hp, as opposed to the 1030hp of the engine in the Spitfire MkI. It was faster than the existing Spitfires, with an edge in terms of speed and height over the FW190. However, the Spitfire MkIX was less nimble than its opposition and could not climb as quickly. Each fighter had its advantages, but overall were evenly matched.

A second new fighter joining the RAF in 1942 was the Hawker Typhoon. This was a larger, heavier aircraft but mounted a massively powerful engine. The RAF had high hopes for this machine, but it soon proved to be less effective at high altitude than had been hoped. Its performance at low altitude was, however, superlative.

from Heroes of RAF Fighter Command in Kent by Rupert Matthews

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The RAF in Lincolnshire in the 1930s

When war came to Lincolnshire in September 1939, it was already a bomber county so far as the RAF was concerned. And a bomber county it was to remain throughout the six long years of conflict. But it was never intended that the county would serve as the base for a massive bombing campaign, as in fact happened. The RAF had very different ideas about what should happen. To understand what happened in Lincolnshire and why, it is necessary to understand what was expected of the men who would fly from the county.

In 1934 the British government had decided to end its policy of defence cut backs that had seen the RAF shrink from 188 operational and 194 training squadrons in 1919 to just 16 front line squadrons. Prompted by the rapid growth of the German Luftwaffe, and the equally impressive Japanese and Italian air forces, the government began to build up the air force, with the aim of reaching 75 squadrons by March 1939, a target later uprated to 112 squadrons, of which 53 were to be bomber squadrons.

It was unfortunate for the crews of Bomber Command based in Lincolnshire, and elsewhere, that the rapid expansion of the force was based on a number of assumptions that turned out to be completely mistaken.


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At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, such was the build-up of men and materials in the R A F that Lincolnshire was already known as 'Bomber Country'. Its four main airfields - Hemswell, Scampton, Waddington and Cottesmore - were home to eight squadrons of Bomber Command under the legendary Arthur 'Bomber' Harris. Night after night the skies of Lincolnshire reverberated with the sound of aircraft taking off and landing. For the aircrews the missions were very dangerous and physically exhausting. The chances of surviving a full tour of 30 operations were only 50/50, less in the first five sorties while aircrews gained valuable experience. Their targets were roads, railways, bridges, harbours, dams, factories and oil installations. Many medals were won - some of them posthumously. On the Dambusters Raid alone, 36 were awarded; a VC for the leader Guy Gibson, five DSOs, 14 DFCs, 12 DFMs and three Conspicuous Gallantry Medals. In this well researched and excellently written book, Rupert Matthews - himself the son of a Bomber Command sergeant who fought in the Second World War - describes many of the operations in detail and tells the story of courageous individuals who, despite the odds, flew mission after mission - heroes every one of them.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Noew Orders for Bomber Harris 1943


The summer of 1943 saw some major changes for Bomber Command that would have a particular impact on Norfolk. The key event was the issuing of a new strategic directive by the Air Ministry to Sir Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, on 10 June. This directive was codenamed Pointblank and was the result of months of sometimes tortuous negotiation between the US and British governments over war aims and how to achieve them.

Bomber Command’s main objectives, Harris was told, was “The progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened”. The more detailed instructions told Harris to concentrate on German aircraft and U-boat manufacturing centres as the top priority with oil, ball bearings, synthetic rubber and military vehicle factories being given secondary importance.

Harris was also told that he had to co-operate with the US 8th Air Force – ‘the Mighty 8th’ as the Americans called it. In theory the Americans would fly at daylight to bomb specified factories with deadly accuracy, after which the RAF would bomb the same area at night to destroy surrounding transport links and homes. In practice the Americans soon found that the German fighters were highly effective, and the German pilots equally skilled, at shooting down bombers operating in daylight. This aspect of Harris’s new instructions would remain an objective only for some months to come.

Finally, Harris was told, preparations were underway to invade France at some unspecified place and time in the future. To prepare for this the government believed that the light and medium bombers of 2 Group should be moved from Bomber Command to form a new 2 Tactical Air Force. This would put the aircraft under the command of those planning the invasion and allow for a greater and more careful emphasis on targets that would prove useful to the invasion. Harris would be left with the strategic task of grinding down Germany.

Harris asked that he be allowed to keep 105 and 139 Squadrons from 2 Group, both flying out of Marham, within Bomber Command. He argued that these two Mosquito squadrons were in practice undertaking missions more akin to those of the main bomber force than were the other squadrons of 2 Group, equipped as they were with Bostons, Mitchells and Venturas. Harris, as so often, got what he asked for.

from "Heroes of RAF Bomber Command - Norfolk" by Rupert Matthews
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This illustrated book pays tribute to the pilots and crews who flew from Norfolk airfields during the last war and whose actions displayed some of the finest examples of courage, professionalism and devotion to duty.