Friday, 30 January 2015

Video - Battle of Bannockburn

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

An Atmospheric Railway for Windsor?

An Atmospheric Railway for Windsor?

In August 1845 the Windsor, Slough and Staines Atmospheric Railway Company was formed. This aimed to build a line from Slough, through Windsor to Staines. It hoped to get around the opposition of Eton by building in a wide curve to the west of the College. The company hoped to overcome objections now emanating from the Crown authorities about noise, nuisance and dirt, for which the early engines of this period were notorious, by adopting the atmospheric system pioneered by Brunel on a short line in Devon.

The atmospheric system was ingenious. It relied on an iron tube laid between the two tracks. A rod from the train projected down and into the tube, where it ended in an airtight piston. At either end of the line, or at intervals along it if it were a long line, were erected massive stationary steam engines inside large buildings. These maintained high air pressure inside the iron tubes which pushed the trains along by way of the piston. Speeds of up to 60mph were reached on the line in Devon.

Unfortunately by the time the Bill came before Parliament in May 1845 two major problems had arisen. The first was that the Devon line had shown the atmospheric system to be almost unuseable in hot, dry weather as the leather seals dried out and cracked. Second, the Crown refused permission for the line to cross royal lands. The opposition of Eton was still vociferous, but was now almost taken for granted. The Bill was voted down in May 1846.

from Lost Railways of Berkshire by Rupert Matthews

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wars of the Roses Tactical Dispositions in the Field

Wars of the Roses Tactical Dispositions in the Field
During the Wars of the Roses it was customary for an army to be divided into three “battles”. Each battle consisted of a mix of soldier types, with archers and men at arms. The commander of the army usually took command of the central battle, with his more experienced subordinate leading the foreward battle and the third commander the rear battle. Any artillery present was usually kept with the central battle, as much for its commercial value as its use in fighting. Hobilars or other mounted troops would usually be formed outside this traditional structure. They would have their own commander answerable to the army commander, but would only rarely be actually with the army itself. More often the bulk of these men were off on detached duties of one kind or another, though rarely more than a day or two’s ride from the army.
It was traditional for the central battle to be the largest, perhaps as strong as the other two put together. Some commanders preferred to vary this arrangement. The most usual variation was to increase the strength of the advance battle to make it capable of independent action. Some army commanders even preferred to put themselves in charge of the advance battle, delegating the central battle to the third in command.
From "The Battle of Losecoat Field" by Rupert Matthews.
Get your copy HERE

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Hampton Court Bridge - Surrey

Hampton Court Bridge - Surrey
Above Kingston Bridge stands Hampton Court Bridge. The first bridge here was erected in 1752 by a local man named James Clark, who believed that he could make a tidy profit on the construction cost by charging a toll. He was correct and in 1778 Clarke’s first flimsy wooden structure was replaced with a more solid timber bridge. The construction of Molesey Lock by the City of London just upstream of the bridge changed the river flow, undercutting the piers and making the bridge dangerous. The then owner persuaded the City to pay him damages, so a new iron bridge was erected in 1864. In 1926 it was decided to link the Portsmouth Road to Hampton Court Bridge by constructing an entirely new, wide straight road across the farmland between the two. The expected increase of traffic over the bridge led to the construction of a fourth bridge by the government that would be toll free. The two-pier concrete and brick structure was opened in 1930 by the Prince of Wales.
from "A Little Book of Surrey" by Rupert Matthews.
Get your copy HERE

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sources for early Roman history

Sources for early Roman history

The early history of Rome is shrouded in mystery. No written sources survive from this early period and historians have long been forced to rely on documents written many centuries later. The tale these later sources tell is obviously not very reliable, but there have been long and detailed debates about how much of them we can believe.
Even if the Roman histories written in about 200bc or 100bc are taken at face value there are great chunks of the story of early Rome missing. Long years go by when nothing is recorded as having happened at all, which is obviously not what really happened. The later historians also include a lot of information about gods and monsters that is better read as being legend rather than history. This has caused some modern historians to doubt everything that these historians wrote and they declare that the early history of Rome is entirely invented and should be ignored. But such a sweeping statement cannot be true.
Ancient Roman writers such as Livy or Polybius had access to all sorts of historical sources that have since been lost. They could consult the official archives of Rome, which included such things as treaties with other states, the lists of men who had held official positions and financial accounts of the army, road building and other state departments. In addition to this the Pontifex Maximus, or Chief Priest, had the duty at the end of each year of writing down what he considered to have been the most important events. Those writings were then stored in the temples.
There were also numerous private documents, such as family archives, temple records and business contracts that could be consulted. None of these sources would have given a complete history, and many of them would have been biased - a family archive for instance would probably present ancestors in a flattering light. It is a matter of guesswork how reliable these documents were and how accurately the historians whose work has survived took information from them.
So with all those facts in mind we must turn to the history of Rome as we have it. According to the ancient historians, Rome was founded on 21st April 753BC by twin brothers named Romulus and Remus. 

From "A Little Book of Ancient Rome" by Rupert Matthews.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Alexander's Macedonians

My very good friend Len James has a new ebook out
NEW EBOOK - Alexander's Macedonians: Weapons, Tactics and Strategy (Warriors of the World Book 3)

Alexander the Great conquered the known world in a whirlwind of military campaigning that lasted just 13 years. Alexander’s genius helped, but he would have got nowhere if it had not been for his formidable army with its immaculate training, revolutionary tactics and novel weapons.
This book takes an exciting new look at warfare during the time of Alexander the Great and his successors. It explains tactics and strategy, looks at weapons and training. The illustrations show the equipment, the text explains how it was used. This book explains the background to the battles and victories of Alexander, showing how those victories were won.
The “Warriors of the Word” series is a continuing series of ebooks looking at fighting men from across the centuries, from the ancient world to the present day.

About the Author
Leonard James is an author of military books. He comes from a military family that has fought in every major war since at least the Crimean War, and probably before that. His forebears were mostly cavalrymen, though his father served in the RAF. Leonard has made a particular study of battlefields in Britain, walking over dozens of them to get an eye for ground. He has also handled genuine and replica weapons to better understand the use of pre-modern weapons and the men who wielded them.

Get your copy HERE

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Earl of Norfolk marches to Lincoln - 1141

The Earl of Norfolk marches to Lincoln - 1141

Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, was also in Lincoln on that fateful day in 1141. He had been very useful to Stephen. Hugh had been at the bedside of King Henry I when he died. Hugh later claimed that as he lay dying, Henry had declared that he wanted Stephen to become the next King of England. The claim, whether it was true or not, proved to be key to persuading many nobles to accept Stephen as king. However, Hugh wanted more than just thanks. He began acting as an almost independent ruler in Norfolk ignoring orders from Stephen and flouting the law of the land. In 1136 Stephen marched an army to Norfolk in a demonstration of power that quickly brought Hugh to heel without the need for fighting. We do not know what arrangement Stephen and Hugh reached, but Hugh seems to have been content for he marched to aid Stephen as soon as Matilda landed in England and remained loyal, bringing his men to fight in the Battle of Lincoln. 

from "The Battle of Lincoln" by Rupert Matthews. 

Get your copy HERE

Saturday, 10 January 2015

NEW BOOK - The Battle of Crug Mawr (Cardigan) 1136

The sweeping victory of the Welsh at Cardigan (Crug Mawr) was historic. It not only put the victor, Owain Gwynedd in a position to rule Wales free of English domination, it also marked the arrival on the battlefields of Europe of a new, deadly and uniquely Welsh weapon. The longbow had arrived.

A Welsh revolt against Norman rule had begun in south Wales, where on 1 January 1136 the Welsh won a victory over the local Norman forces at the Battle of Llwchwr between Loughor and Swansea. This led to an invasion by the forces of Gwynedd, led by Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd, sons of the king of Gwynedd, Gruffydd ap Cynan. They captured a number of castles in northern Ceredigion and made an alliance with Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth. The combined forces headed for Cardigan. There they met the combined forces of all the Normans in South Wales.

Fought just east of the town of Ceredigion (Cardigan) on the slopes of the Crug Mawr hill this battle was hard fought and decisive.

This book explains the background to the battle, looks at the forces involved and follows the course of the fighting.

Get your copy HERE