Thursday, 31 January 2013

Where did jaws come from?

Jaws evolved from gills
The first fish to have jaws were shark-like creatures that lived about 440 million years ago. Climatius (klime-att-ee-uss), sometimes called “spiny shark”, was an early jawed fish. The jaws probably developed from the set of small bones that supported the gills, with which fish breathe oxygen from the water.

from "100 Things you need to know about Prehistoric Life" by Rupert Matthews.

Buy your copy HERE

Book Description

1 Jan 2007 100 Things You Should Know About...
100 Facts on prehistoric life will help you to discover everything you need to know about ancient animals.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

More gladiators fought in southern Italy than in Rome

More gladiators fought in southern Italy than in Rome
The idea of gladiatorial fights came from Campania, the area of Italy around the city of Naples. For hundreds of years, the gladiatorial schools in Campania were known to produce the best-trained gladiators and to have more gladiators than anywhere else. One school had over 5,000 gladiators training at one time.

from "100 Facts about Gladiators" by Rupert Matthews

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Book Description

1 Jan 2007 100 Facts
Discover everything you need to know about gladiators with this brilliant book.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Ancient Greek Hoplites

Hoplites were armoured infantry. From about 700bc the most important soldiers in ancient Greece were infantry equipped with a large round shield, a helmet and armed with a long spear. They were known as “hoplites”, which means “armoured men”. Every citizen of a Greek state was expected to fight in the army during a war. Each man had to provide his own equipment, so men had different types of body and leg armour and often painted different designs on their shields. Some men put the first letter of their name on the shield. In some Greek states if a man did not own any arms and armour he was not allowed to vote in elections.

from "100 Things to Know About Arms and Armour" by Rupert Matthews

Buy your copy HERE

Book Description

1 Feb 2009 100 Facts
Be as brave as a knight and get to grips with an arsenal of weapons! Discover everything you need to know about combat with this brilliant book. One hundred facts, fantastic illustrations and hilarious cartoons give you the inside story on gladiators, barbarians and many other warriors, while fun quizzes test your knowledge. So what are you waiting for? Get reading!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rocket Warfare - World War II

World War II was fought with upgraded and greatly improved versions of weapons that had been on the battlefields during World War I. Submarines, torpedoes, aircraft, bombs, tanks, artillery – they had all been in action in 1918. There was, however, one entirely new weapon that saw extensive service in 1944 and 1945: the unmanned missile.

There had been missiles of a sort for centuries before World War II broke out. The Chinese and later Indians had been using gunpowder-fuelled rockets to launch explosive charges for centuries. The development of such weapons reached its most sophisticated form in the early 19th century when British engineer William Congreve produced a number of rockets designed to supplant conventional artillery. Congreve’s rockets had a range of up to two miles and could deliver an explosive charge of 24lbs that sprayed an area with shrapnel when it went off. However, all these weapons werefor use at the tactical level and were erratically inaccurate.

The idea of a long-range missile to be used against strategic targets was often discussed, but practical problems with finding a suitable propellant meant that such rockets were never produced.

It therefore came as a very nasty surprise to the British population when missiles carrying warheads of close to a ton of high explosive began falling from the skies. The weapon was officially the Vergeltungswaffe (vengeance-weapon) 1, but was more widely known as the V1. It was also dubbed the doodlebug or buzzbomb from its characteristic noise.

The British government, however, had known for some time that a number of top-secret weapons were under construction. The information had come from spies and from intercepted radio signals. Although they had little idea of what the weapons were, they knew that they were being developed at a top-secret base on the Baltic island of Peenemunde.

On 17 August 1943 a bomber raid had been sent to Peenmunde in an effort to halt the work. The aircrew were not told about the secret weapons, but were told that the target was so important that if it were not destroyed the bombers would be sent back every subsequent night until it was destroyed, no matter what the cost. The raid did do extensive damage to the development and construction site. The Germans, however, responded by moving the main factories producing the weapons to other sites. It was later estimated that the raid had delayed the start of the V1 attacks by about three months. 

from "Historical Atlas of Weaponry" by Rupert Matthews

Friday, 25 January 2013

The 1920s - An Unstable World

Most international problems in the 1920s and 1930s were on a small scale, but were nonetheless less violent and significant. In the Middle East the former provinces of the Turkish Empire were transferred to the League of Nations, but administrated by either Britain or France. In 1920 a serious rebellion broke out in Iraq, which led the British to appoint Prince Faisal to be King of Iraq though he had only limited powers until 1932. In 1922 a similar uprising in Egypt caused the British to grant effective self-government though a large British army remained to guard the crucial Suez Canal. The situation in Palaestine was more complicated as the British had earlier agreed to support Jewish settlement in the area, and this was opposed by the native Palestinians. Riots, rebellions and assassinations continued in Palestine throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

In North Africa the French faced rebellions in Morocco and Algeria from inland tribes who resented rule by the coastal peoples almost as much as they did French economic dominance. The French chose not to compromise, but instead opted for a large scale military occupation that was successful, but costly. In Libya the Italians faced similar, but less intense unrest. 

from "The Historical Atlas of the World at War" by Rupert Matthews


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Headcorn Oak, Kent

1) From the Village Tea Rooms (31-33, High St, Headcorn, Ashford, Kent  TN27 9NE      Tel: 01622 890682) walk west along the High Street. Where the main road bends sharp right, continue straight on along a narrow lane to the Church.

Headcorn is mentioned in a legal document of 724, by which time it was already a well established village. It is mentioned again in 785, but then vanishes from the written record until 1222 when a man named Henry of Ospringe was appointed to be the local vicar by no less a personage than King Henry II himself. Quite why the parish merited such royal attention is unclear, but Headcorn was obviously favoured as it was granted the right to a weekly market and annual fair by King Henry III. It was however the weaving industry that made Headcorn rich in the 14th century and which enabled the village to tear down its small 11th century church to erect the large structure to be seen today. Excavations have shown that the chancel of the modern church covers the whole of the old church, so the increase in size was massive. The south aisle and tower were added about a century after the main rebuilding.

Near the south door of the church can be found what remains of the Headcorn Oak. According to local tradition, King John sat in the shade of this oak tree to eat a lunch and watch bull baiting. Given that John reigned from 1199 to 1216, and that the tree must have been a fair size then, this oak must be very old indeed. In 1878 Robert Furley, a great tree expert of his day, took various measurements and concluded that the tree had been planted in about 700 or so. More recent estimates have disputed that the tree is quite that old, but it is undoubtedly ancient. Unfortunately the last signs of life from the ancient trunk came in the summer of 1996 and it is generally now considered to be dead.

From Teashop Walks in Kent by Rupert Matthews