Remotely Controlled Killing Machines Made In The UK .. From 10-13 September, London’s ExCeL Centre hosted…
The British Realised How Useful The Gurkhas Could Be ..
The Gurkhas are citizens of a neutral country, Nepal, whose last war, in 1816, was against the British East India Company, the result of border tensions.
Since then, Nepal as a country has not fought a single war.
However, the Gurkhas played a major role both in extending and defending the British Empire.
This came about because the British followed a policy in Nepal that was the reverse of the one it had applied in the rest of the subcontinent.
The 1816 war came when the British were securing their Indian Empire, and although they emerged superior, they realised how useful the Gurkhas could be as fighters.
The result was an extraordinary deal.
Nepal was allowed to carry on much as it liked, spared the ‘civilising mission’ that was the creed in the rest of the subcontinent.
What the British were interested in was getting the Gurkhas to fight for them, so it was arranged that every year the British could come and recruit Gurkhas.
Now, such is the demand that 11,000 Gurkhas apply for some 170 places in the British Army each year.
There is little doubt that the British had the better of the deal.
Nepal was allowed to vegetate for a century and a half under the corrupt rule of the Rana Dynasty, the consequences of whose mismanagement are all too visible even now.
The British, on the other hand, got fighters who were paid much less than their white comrades.
It was not until 1911 that Gurkhas were even eligible for the Victoria Cross.
In the rest of Nepal there is not much regard for the Gurkhas, who come from a small Hindu sub-caste in one region of the country.
The Most Decisive Battle In All History ..
One date in history most of us know is 1066.
During the previous few centuries, England had suffered a series of Viking invasions but there had never been an invader quite as ruthless as Duke William of Normandy.
William claimed he had been promised the English throne by Edward the Confessor.
But when Edward died at the beginning of 1066, the Anglo-Saxon nobility offered the crown to the most powerful man in the kingdom, Harold, Earl of Wessex.
William was furious, and nor was he alone.
Harold had fallen out with his brother Tostig, who forged an alliance with the Norwegian king, Harald Hardrada.
Harald, a famous warrior, landed in the north and smashed the local levies at the largely forgotten battle of Fulford, outside York.
England’s Harold arrived in the north a few days later after making a forced march from London and annihilated the Norwegians at Stamford Bridge.
Harald and Tostig were killed, but the triumph was to be short-lived.
Duke William had crossed the channel in Harold’s absence and was ravaging the English countryside.
Harold’s weary men marched south again but they were overwhelmed at Hasting’s, one of the most decisive battles in all history.
For William, it was an all-or-nothing gamble.
But Harold had only to survive and he would have been able to summon reinforcements to fight again.
Why didn’t he bide his time?
His death deprived the English of a figurehead, and William bullied surviving nobles into submission.
They soon had cause to regret their surrender, as William set about ringing the country with castles and imposing the ‘Norman Yoke’.
Rebellions were crushed without mercy and whole populations slaughtered.
The Norman Conquest began the process of modernisation that was to lead to the birth of modern Britain.
William’s achievements are admirable, but it’s hard to like him as a man and impossible not to feel sympathy for Harold, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
The Siege Of Venice, 1849 ..
On or around July 15, 1849, Austrian forces besieging Venice launched the first aerial attack using balloons carrying 30lb bombs.
The idea was pioneered by Austrian Artillery Lieutenant Franz Von Uchatius.
He developed small balloons made of paper that could stay aloft for half an hour carrying a bomb.
The balloons would be released upwind and, when it was hoped they would be over the enemy, a timed fuse would free the bomb.
Uchatius released the balloons from a warship, but the wind proved too strong and many of the balloons drifted right across the city and fell on the Austrian army encamped on the mainland.
A Strange Coincidence Of Fate ..
On December 5, 1660, a ship sank in the Strait of Dover.
The only survivor was noted to be Hugh Williams.
On December 5, 1767, another ship sank in the same waters.
127 lost their lives, and the only survivor was Hugh Williams.
On August 8, 1820, a picnic boat capsized on the River Thames.
There was one survivor, Hugh Williams.
And on July 10, 1940, a British trawler was destroyed by a German mine.
Only two men survived, one man and his nephew – both were called Hugh Williams.