Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Nightmare Joanna Lillis During the Cold War, nearly a quarter of all the world’s nuclear testing took place in Kazakhstan, in secret. In 1986, a high-profile disaster in Ukraine changed that.
Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Nightmare Joanna Lillis During the Cold War, nearly a quarter of all the world’s nuclear testing took place in Kazakhstan, in secret. In 1986, a high-profile disaster in Ukraine changed that.
How Your Sexual Past Could Explain A Lot About Who You Are
'What Your Sex and Dating History Says About You Each individual human is a special snowflake of a person, different from every other, and there is something beautiful about that. But as we go through life, the choices we make — which mattress to buy, when to show up to the party, whether to apply for that job or not — accumulate into personalities. You may feel unique, but to an outsider, you might register as a “type.” Meaning, you’re someone who can be lumped in with a whole group of similarly minded people who speak and act in certain ways. You might be someone who shops at a specific grocery store, listens to a certain type of music, or someone whose love life follows a certain pattern. Yes, our love lives can be very informative about who we are as people can’t help but categorize each other based on how they date, who they date, how long their relationships last, and so on. And really, there’s both a positive and negative spin to most dating identities out there. Depending on your viewpoint, a woman who primarily dates rich men could be derided as a shallow gold digger, or praised as someone who knows her worth. An older guy who dates younger women could be seen as a lecherous creep, or as a man capable of attracting the most beautiful women around. But what about the rest of us? What do our dating patterns look like, and what do they say about us? Here’s a look at five different types of guys and the meaning behind their love lives. So read on — you might recognize some guys you know .. or even yourself. 1. The Serial Monogamist The serial monogamist is a guy who is almost never single. If you fall out of touch for a few months, there’s a decent chance he’ll have a new partner the next time you run into him. He’s not necessarily blowing through sexual partners at an alarming rate, but there is something seemingly unhealthy about the fact that the one constant in his life is a serious partner, regardless of who it is. He’s managed to channel being attractive (whether physically, personality-wise or both) into never having to be lonely, and while that’s the dream for lots of other guys, the fact that none of his relationships last more than a year or two can mean he’s not exactly an ideal boyfriend. Pro: Relative Attractiveness Con: Afraid of Being Alone 2. The Player The player is a guy who’s constantly getting lucky. His life is a whirlwind of first dates , hookups, flings, trysts, affairs, ghostings and angry texts from scorned former lovers. His sexual partners feel like they hit the jackpot the moment they enter into his orbit … until things go downhill from there. To sleep with him is a roller coaster of sexual passion and emotional drama. He’s not interested in (or able to) stay with anyone for more than a month or two, and he might be sleeping with two or three other people all the while. Sure, being his friend can be exciting — he’ll regale you with eyebrow-raising tales of his kinky threesomes , along with the time he slept with seven different people in the same week — but it can also feel pretty exhausting since he tends to bail on boys’ night for yet another Tinder date a lot of the time. Pro: Sexually Dynamic Con: Unable to Settle Down 3. The Incel The incel (short for involuntarily celibate) is a guy who cannot seem to get laid, no matter what he does. Typically straight, he’ll often have a weird love/hate relationship with women, lusting after their attention while spurning them as an overall group. None of that might affect the relationships he has with male friends, but he’ll struggle as they settle into long-term romantic relationships, which he feels are keeping them apart. On the other hand, you can re-frame his stubbornness and inability to land a partner as a rough-around-the-edges form of self love. Rather than re-fashion himself completely in an attempt to find a relationship or a sexual partner, he’s going it alone as the truest version of himself. Pro: Unwilling to Compromise Con: Still Working Things Out in His Life 4. The Settle-Downer The settle-downer is a guy with dating behaviors probably seen as incredibly normal in the 20th century, but are now just weird. He met someone in his teens, dated them into his 20s, got married, and has thus far (to the best of your knowledge) only ever had sex with his spouse. In a culture where dating apps and hookup sex are the norm, a guy settling down young can be a nice throwback to a simpler time. On the other hand, it could be a sign that he’s deeply afraid of the unknown and change. Sure, the settle-downer might have met his soulmate at 15 years old … or he might be staying in a relationship that’s past its sell-by date because he can’t imagine striking out. The familiarity of being with this one person will seem great for a while, but if things eventually turn ugly, you’ll wish he’d casually dated a bit before going all-in on the relationship. Pro: Consistent Con: Afraid of Change 5. The Late Bloomer At first glance, the late bloomer might seem like an incel … that is, until things really turn around for him at some point in his mid-20s or later. Whether it’s because of a random hookup or first relationship, he’ll transition from that guy who was always lonely to a guy who isn’t. Watching a late bloomer come into his own can be a wild experience — on the one hand, you’re happy as hell that he’s finally thriving, and on the other hand, seeing someone go through stuff most guys experience much earlier in their lives can be embarrassing and/or frustrating. Of course, there’s a possibility that he’ll then immediately morph into a serial monogamist, a player or a settle-downer (or if things end up being a one-off, calcifying into an angry incel). Regardless of where things go, as the famous saying goes: It’s better to have loved and lost, even late in the game, than never to have loved at all. Pro: Goes at His Own Pace Con: Usually Late to the Game Of course, as identifiable as these types are, that doesn’t mean they’re all-consuming, nor are they carved in stone. You can be a lot more than your dating history, and with the right attitude, you can change your fate — if you so choose. You Might Also Dig: \t Are You Having Too Much Sex? \t The Incel Breakdown: Explaining What Incels Are \t How to Avoid Rebound Relationship Mistakes'
If Daniel Dubois or Nathan Gorman could step into the ring with one past fighter from any era, it’d be Muhammad Ali. Ahead of their upcoming clash for the vacant British title, the two top prospects gave an identical answer when asked by
'If Daniel Dubois or Nathan Gorman could step into the ring with one past fighter from any era, it’d be Muhammad Ali. Ahead of their upcoming clash for the vacant British title , the two top prospects gave an identical answer when asked by talkSPORT.com for their ‘History Fight.’ Dubois and Gorman will fight for the British heavyweight title on July 13 Getty Gorman – 16-0, 23 years old – had no hesitation in declaring: “It would be Muhammad Ali because in my personal opinion he’s the greatest of all time. “Obviously a lot of people know him as the greatest of all time, don’t they? “I’m a massive, massive fan of his and to share a ring with your hero would be something exceptional.” Muhammad Ali is the only man to have won Ring Magazine’s ‘Fighter of the Year’ award six times Ali is thought of by many as the greatest fighter to have ever lived, not just in the ring, but outside of it too. The American achieved legendary victories over Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, among many others, during his career, which spanned 21 years between 1960 and 1981. However, even impressive triumphs such as these were topped by his historic civil rights triumphs away from the sport. Ali’s unmatched talent saw his claim to being the ‘Greatest Of All Time’ accepted, with very few others having ever been classed as even remotely close to his level of ability. Both Gorman and Dubois look up to Ali Getty This is even more remarkable, given that he spent three and a half of his prime years out of the ring – between the ages of 25 and almost 29 – as he was exiled for refusing to join armed forces for the Vietnam War. Dubois – 11-0, 21 years old – echoed his rival’s answer: “Ali, Muhammad Ali.” However, he preferred to focus more on the present than the past and continued: “But they’ve done their thing and it’s time for me to just get on with doing what I have to do. “I’ve got a lot of hard challenges ahead and I’m just bracing ready for it.” Muhammad Ali ‘shook up the world’ by beating Sonny Liston to first win the title in 1964 Getty Ali won Olympic Gold in 1960 and then turned professional, becoming the first man ever to win the heavyweight championship three times – an unprecedented feat given the lack of proliferated world titles we see today. Of course there is an enormous disparity between the level of Ali at his peak and that of developing youngsters Dubois and Gorman today, and this is something Nathan recognises. When asked how a fight between them would’ve played out, Gorman concluded: “He’d probably beat me up! No-one beats Ali, do they? “In my personal opinion, no-one at all beats Ali, so he’d win hands down. “He was too good, he was the best ever.”'
Washington, US President Donald Trump has abandoned his bid to have a question about citizenship added to the 2020 Census, instead deciding to obtain the information via other means. “The Department of Commerce sensibly decided to include a
More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for the return of an historic banner to Brighton. The Brighton and Hove Women’s History Group want the return of the banner which dates from when women were campaigning for the vote in the early
Until the rise of nationalism brought it down, the Hanseatic League was one of the most successful trading blocs in history – a union of towns and merchants’ guilds that dominated northern European trade in the medieval period. The League’s
'The early 15th century was a bad time to be a Russian squirrel. As many as half a million animal skins – mainly belonging to the bushy-tailed rodent – were transported every year from Russian towns like Novgorod. They were packed into special barrels and loaded onto ships in huge consignments – as many as a hundred thousand at a time – before being ferried across the Baltic’s pirate-infested waters to German port cities. The poor animals would then be turned into fashionable garments and trims for western Europe’s increasingly affluent consumers. They were even used as an alternative currency. It was a lucrative business for the merchants at its centre, families like the Wittenborgs of Lübeck, whose trading tentacles stretched from England to Russia. The Wittenborgs would take cloth from, say, Flanders and luxury goods from the Mediterranean, then transport them to eastern markets. In return, they would pick up furs, timber, corn, wax for candles, and fish – especially cod and herring – which they salted and sold on, or devoured themselves. “The Germans are enormous eaters,” one Venetian traveller was said to have commented – and their feasts were famously lavish. This painting by Hans Holbein the Younger is thought to depict Hanseatic merchant Hermann von Wedigh III, London, 1532. The English capital was home to a major Hanseatic base, the ‘Steelyard’. (Photo by AKG) But this money-spinning operation was not just about enterprising individuals. Lübeck, and families like the Wittenborgs, lay at the centre of an extraordinary medieval trading network. The Hansa, as that network was known, sought to dominate east-west trade in and around the Baltic from the 12th to the 17th centuries. And it largely succeeded: at the height of its power, up to 200 towns and cities were part of this extended network. The scramble for trade The Hansa’s ways of doing business – including innovative payments mechanisms such as offering borrowers lines of credit – seem in many ways remarkably modern. And although its influence waned from the 15th century, its memory is still cherished in northern Europe today – not only in the proudly ‘Hanseatic’ towns of Germany but as far afield as London and King’s Lynn. The cause of the Hansa’s emergence in the mid-12th century was the rise of the Baltic as a powerful trading hub, one that provided new goods for Europe’s expanding, urbanising and ever more demanding population. Such demand created opportunities, but it also sparked tensions, as rival merchants jostled to secure a stake of these lucrative new markets. In 1161, as rivalries grew and occasionally escalated into violence, merchants in the Gotland city of Visby decided to collaborate in a trading network designed to further and protect their interests. The great Baltic trading island of Gotland off today’s Swedish coast had built on older Viking networks to grow wealthy on trade with the east, as can be seen in Visby’s beautifully preserved medieval centre today. Others now wanted a piece of the action. It was usual to see helmet, armour and sword hanging up above stores of codfish, bales of herrings and casks of beer Soon the Visby merchants had been joined by trading towns and cities across Europe (see map overleaf) – from Gotland in the north to cities like Cologne and Krakow in the south, and from the Netherlands in the west to the territory of the modern Baltic States in the east (where Germanic economic influence was already strong, courtesy of the crusading campaigns of the Teutonic knights in the 13th century, which paved the way for aristocratic Germanic settlers.) By 1259, this network had evolved into a powerful transnational group, the Hanseatic League. So what explains the Hansa’s rapid growth? The answer lies, in part, in the benefits it conferred on its members. It created a network of trusted associates in far-flung parts of the European market, a network that any individual Hanseatic trader could turn to for advice and protection. Because they often lived together in trading bases, or convened at Hanseatic gatherings, members could tap into information about the availability of goods for trade – from Russian wax to Baltic grain – and their changing market value. Convoys were formed to defend shipping against piracy. The Hansa also oversaw the manufacture of new ships ideally suited to Baltic trade. The gates to Lübeck, the Hanseatic League’s pre-eminent city. It was here that the league’s court of appeal was based. It was also ere that Johann Wittenborg was executed for failing to defeat the Danes. (Photo by Dreamstime) Key to the Hansa offering was quality control – whether that be in the standard of the goods being traded, the avoidance of counterfeiting, or the standardisation of weights and measures. And, by the mid-14th century, regular meetings of the Hansa were being held to regulate their affairs. Although it had a sometimes fluid membership, and no formal constitution or central government, the Hanseatic organisation did develop a set of customary practices and laws, and from 1373 a kind of court of appeal was based in Lübeck to settle disputes. Resorting to force For all the benefits that Hansa membership offered European traders, it’s important to remember that these benefits weren’t designed for everyone. The Hansa was not aiming to create a free trade utopia but rather to protect its privileges. Members used their collective power to try to negotiate the most favourable terms possible for trade in foreign markets – terms designed to give them an advantage over their rivals. The Hansa as a group could try to enforce its will by boycotting its enemies commercially, notably against Flanders in the 14th century. And if that didn’t work, they sometimes resorted to force. So merchants became not only traders but sometimes soldiers. A 19th-century historian of the Hansa, Helen Zimmern, wrote that in a typical Lübeck merchant’s house “it was usual to see helmet, armour and sword hanging up above stores of codfish, bales of herrings, casks of beer, bales of cloth, or what not besides”. And it wasn’t just rival trading blocs or Baltic pirates that felt the force of such weapons. Often, the Hansa found itself at loggerheads with governments. There’s little doubt that the Hansa’s rise to power was facilitated by the weakness of many medieval governments, a weakness exacerbated by the desire of cities to free themselves of the restrictions medieval rulers placed upon them, ranging from taxes to bans on what kinds of weapons they could carry. In fact by the mid-14th century, with its laws and courts of appeal, the Hanseatic League had itself started in some ways to resemble a government. So, when it found itself at war with the Danes in the 1360s – following the Danish sacking of the strategically vital Baltic port of Visby in 1361 – the stakes were incredibly high. The Hansa did not take any kind of defeat lightly. When one member of that great fur-trading Wittenborg family, Johann, failed in his attempt to defeat Danish forces, he was executed in Lübeck’s market place. In the end however the Hansa prevailed, imposing the 1370 Treaty of Stralsund in which the Danes were compelled to concede Hanseatic privileges. For some historians, this marks the height of Hanseatic power. That power gave the Hansa the scope and the ambition to develop an early version of the logistics chains so prominent in international commerce today. Warehousing was a key to this, providing secure places to store, weigh and assess goods in locations linked to transport networks. One such warehouse can still be seen in King’s Lynn on the Norfolk coast. This is England’s best-preserved part of the Hanseatic network, an impressive beamed building constructed in the late 15th century by merchants mainly from the Hanseatic town of Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland). It was, as one historian has observed, a “little piece of Germany in England”, creating a rich trade connection between the English port and merchants from Danzig. Intermarriage between the populations of the two towns helped reinforce the relationship. Grateful English kings London was not a member of the Hansa but it was home to a major Hanseatic base, the ‘Steelyard’, situated on the site of what is now Cannon Street station. The Steelyard was a self-contained community and compound, including storage space for goods, a weighbridge, accommodation, a wine cellar and a garden. Security was tight. Only Hansa merchants were permitted to enter by means of a password (“bread and cheese”), a curfew was enforced, all women excluded. Its traders enjoyed privileges given to them by grateful English monarchs in return for financial favours. Edward III pawned his crown jewels in the Hanseatic city of Cologne between 1339 and 1344 to fund the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War. In return the king granted the Hansa privileges including concessions in many of the Cornish tin mines. The German traders – also known as ‘Easterlings’ – had a reputation for sound money and may have given us the name ‘sterling’ for our modern British currency. The Prussians and Nazis attempted to exploit Hanseatic history as an example of Germanic racial expansion Given such a strong position and extensive facilities, it’s hardly surprising that many Hansa fortunes were made in England, and that Hansa merchants went on to dominate the country’s cloth export trade. Hans Holbein famously painted the portraits of Hanseatic merchants operating out of 16th-century London (see image on page 59). These men exude status, wealth and, above all, great confidence in their future as well as their illustrious past. However, the privileges that these merchants enjoyed – including freedom from arrest and exemption from many customs duties – caused resentment. The Hanseatic League was accused of “crocodile-like behaviour”, showing only its head and teeth, while the rest of the body remained concealed beneath the water. In England, rival trading groups, such as the Merchant Adventurers, began to flex their lobbying muscles. Worse still, so did the government itself. Fears that Hanseatic dominance of shipping was threatening England’s emerging maritime prowess provoked a backlash from some of the most powerful figures in the land. In 1597 Queen Elizabeth I forced the Hansa to leave the Steelyard – albeit temporarily – and the site never regained its significance before being destroyed in the Great Fire of London. By then, the Hansa’s fortunes were also under pressure in continental Europe. The Reformation led to disputes among its members. And there was the rise of new regional powers, such as the Swedish monarchy: a war between King Gustavus I and Lübeck in the 1530s led to the end of the Hanseatic trading monopoly in the Baltic Sea. New Dutch, Italian and southern German traders – and commercial operators like the Fugger banking family – also challenged the Hansa families’ commercial position. The Prussians and Nazis attempted to exploit Hanseatic history as an example of Germanic racial expansion Added to all that was a reorientation of European trade towards new opportunities opening up in southern Europe, Asia and across the Atlantic. And a shift in the natural world had an impact. Due to changes in sea temperature, huge shoals of herring, a staple of Hanseatic trade and diet (and once said to be so thick in places that they could be caught by hand) moved in the 15th century out of the Baltic and into the North Sea. States fight back But it was the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century that perhaps marked the final straw for the era of Hanseatic prosperity, as trade was disrupted by conflict, and newly emerging nation states – no longer cowed by Hanseatic power – asserted their rights ever more strongly. In 1669 the final formal gathering of the Hanseatic League took place in its pre-eminent city, Lübeck. That might have been the end of the story. But, during the Napoleonic invasions of German territory, the memory of the Hansa was revived as an ideal of robust Germanic independence. The Prussians and Nazis also attempted to exploit Hanseatic history as an example of Germanic racial expansion. It is the purely economic achievements of the Hansa that are the focus today, as northern German towns and cities such as Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg proudly proclaim their Hanseatic roots. The name lives on too in the German airline Lufthansa and the football team Hansa Rostock. And along the eastern Baltic coast the memory is still potent. In the Estonian capital, Tallinn, the Hanseatic past is celebrated through architecture and cuisine in a way shrewdly designed to appeal to German tourists. Champions of the European Union have tried to celebrate the Hanseatic League as a kind of prototype version of continental unification. However, historians point out that the Hansa never had the kind of political or economic integration associated with the EU. And it is striking that a group of northern EU members, collaborating today informally under the name the ‘New Hanseatic League’, support ideas of liberal and thrifty economics and freer trade rather than EU centralisation. Meanwhile, memories of a simpler but evocative kind can be found in the remains of Hanseatic architecture, such as elegant old salt warehouses in Lübeck or formidable churches built by prosperous Hanseatic merchants in Baltic towns like Stralsund, decorated with images such as bearded Russians arriving at trading posts with mounds of furs. The squirrel trade, like so much Hanseatic activity, faded over time, due partly to overhunting. The trading network had – in that particular field – been too successful for its own good. But it had shown the enormous potential of linking businesses, families, ports and urban centres, which others went on to exploit. And it reminds us why trade is so significant in global history. Chris Bowlby is a journalist who produces documentaries for the BBC. His BBC Radio 4 documentary on the Hanseatic League, The Hansa Inheritance , presented by Chris Morris, is available on BBC Sounds: bbc.co.uk/sounds. The Hanseatic Trading Empire Feeding Europe’s consumer boom: 7 products that greased the wheels of the Hanseatic trade network Pepper was often sourced from southern Europe or markets like Bruges and then supplied by Hanseatic merchants across its northern network. The Danzig merchants based at King’s Lynn in England were known locally as pepper sacks’. Grain was collected from farmland around Baltic river systems and supplied to great cities of northern Europe. The Baltic grain trade remained significant for Europe until the opening of the American prairie markets in the 19th century. Hansa merchants dominated trade routes, from Russia to England, as our map shows. (Illustration by Paul Hewitt/Battlefield Design) Hanseatic traders brought together fish from the Baltic Sea and salt from cities such as Kiel on the Baltic coast. This enabled the preservation of fish and its distribution to those observing the religious rules of eating fish on Fridays. The image, left, shows a fishmonger gutting herring in the 15th century. Hanseatic networks distributed hops from central and eastern Europe, spreading ideas too about how brewing methods could be improved. This helped reinforce, it’s been argued, the dividing line between beer-drinking northern Europe and the wine-drinking south. Timber and wood products were a highly significant Hanseatic product, brought from areas around the Baltic to western European trading markets like Antwerp and Bruges. Wax was transported to the west from Russia and Poland, which may have given us the word ‘polishing’. Sweet-smelling beeswax candles (shown, right, being sold in the 14th century) were in high demand for lighting, and for ecclesiastical use. This article was first published in the August 2019 edition of BBC History Magazine'
The sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr (1512–48) has gone down in history as the wife who 'survived'. But despite the common misconception that she was a middle-aged, pious 'frump', Katherine Parr was in fact the cleverest and most
'Writing for History Extra , Wilson introduces us to the queen who reconnected Henry VIII with his children, managed the king’s final years with dexterity and compassion, and with her Lamentation of a Sinner became a published writer… Of all the wives of Henry VIII, the one most often misunderstood, if not largely ignored, is Katherine Parr. Her story, as usually told – when told at all – lacks the romance of ‘sex-bombs’ Anne Boleyn or Catherine Howard; the heroic fortitude of Catherine of Aragon; the political intrigue surrounding the lives of Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves. Wife number six is famous for ‘surviving’. She was the twice-widowed, matronly bluestocking who patiently, submissively (and boringly?) tended the sick, aged, irascible king through the painful last years of his life and then disappeared from the ‘front page’ of history. The truth, however, is much more complicated. For my money Katherine was the cleverest, most devout and – yes – passionate of Henry VIII’s bedfellows. In 1543 when Henry proposed, Katherine was no middle-aged frump. She was probably 30 years of age, had been born into a courtier family and held a place in Tudor high society. She loved fine clothes, jewels and intelligent company. She was in many ways an excellent choice to be England’s ‘first lady’ – or so the king thought, and he was, by now well experienced in such matters. Katherine also had about her the radiance of a woman in love – more of that anon. For the moment let us try to gain a clear impression of the woman who was coming to terms with a royal offer of marriage. 5 things you (probably) didn’t know about Henry VIII Henry VIII’s six wives in a different light Chosen by the king The first point to note is that Katherine Parr, aka Lady Latimer, was Henry’s choice. Former spouses had been urged upon the king by politicians, diplomats and ambitious aristocratic clans: the Howards, the Boleyns, the Seymours and Thomas Cromwell had dangled their candidates before Henry and each had their own agendas. But there is no evidence of any faction pushing the recently widowed Katherine into the king’s presence. Indeed, the common view in elite circles seems to have been that Henry would not risk a sixth disappointment. Then there is the issue of sex. Everyone knew that marriage number four had been a fiasco because Anne of Cleves failed to please the king in bed. It’s not difficult to imagine the sniggering tales that would have been going around the royal court about the so-called ‘Flanders mare’ who was supposedly ugly and looked like a horse. By contrast, marriage number five suggested a different kind of challenge. Henry had felt rejuvenated by nights spent with the teenage Catherine Howard (whom he married in July 1540). Therefore, to accept the royal proposal Katherine Parr would have to match up to the sexual fantasies of an overweight invalid whose nights were often plagued by anguished insomnia. In this regard Katherine had been well prepared by her two previous marriages, both of which had been with men who enjoyed good health. Documentary evidence is scanty, but what there is suggests a woman who used clothes, milk baths, perfumes, chamber furnishings, food, drink and conversation to provide the right ambience when her husband came to her chamber. 11 facts about Catherine Howard Not such a prude after all: the secrets of Henry VIII’s love life Katherine made a success of her marriage to Henry because she brought to it a combination of intelligence and passion – she spared no effort to make her marriage work. We might well argue that she had no real option: to turn Henry down could have had dire consequences for herself and her family. To say ‘yes’ would mean carefully avoiding all the pitfalls that had been the undoing of her predecessors. Her narrow career path lay before her and all she could do was walk it with cautious steps. But Parr was no mere pragmatist – she enjoyed all the obvious perks of her exalted position and was careful not to jeopardise that position by putting a foot wrong. We can make this bold assertion because, unique among Henry’s wives, Katherine left a volume of letters and extremely personal writings that reveal, in detail, what she thought and believed. A portrait of Katherine Parr by William Scrots. (Photo by De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images Plus) The passions of Katherine Parr These writings reveal, first of all, that Katherine embarked on her marriage to Henry at great emotional cost: she was in love with someone else. Thomas Seymour, the king’s brother-in-law and uncle to Prince Edward, the heir to the throne, was in his mid-30s and one of the most dashing bucks of the Tudor court. Katherine later wrote to Seymour to tell him that as soon as her husband Lord Latimer had died in February 1543: “As truly as God is God, my mind was fully bent… to marry you before any man I knew. Howbeit, God withstood my will therein most vehemently for a time and, through his grace and goodness, made that possible which seemeth to me most unpossible… to renounce utterly mine own will and to follow His will most willingly.” Did Henry VIII love his last wife Katherine Parr? The murderous history of Bible translations Medieval graffiti: the lost voices of England’s churches in the Middle Ages Katherine asked Henry for time to consider his proposal and gave herself to earnest prayer. The modern historian runs into difficulties when explaining 16th-century attitudes to 21st-century readers. A secular age may find it difficult to understand Katherine’s zeal for her faith. In the spiritual autobiography Queen Katherine published for all the world to read, she declared: “Neither life, honour, riches, neither whatsoever I possess here… be it never so dearly beloved of me, but most willingly and gladly I would leave it, to win any man to Christ, of what degree or sort soever he were.” Did this last clause suggest that she hoped to win over the king to her way of thinking? We cannot wholly avoid speculation when we relate Katherine’s conscience-searching in the summer of 1543, but the country’s extremely tense religious situation must surely have played a part in her thinking. With the execution of Thomas Cromwell in July 1540 the Reformation had stalled. The reactionaries had regained the initiative and a major part of their campaign was the removal from office of those they considered to be tainted with heresy. At the very time that Katherine was weighing her options, a witch hunt begun in Windsor had brought to the stake members of the royal household. More importantly, a widespread plot was underway aimed at destroying the leading reformer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The intriguers had to tread carefully because the king was always wary of the purge getting too close to the court and his own personal attendants. Katherine, whose own sympathies lay firmly with the reformers, was well aware that, as queen, she would be entering dangerous territory. Henry VIII’s savage Reformation Tudor timeline: 10 momentous dates Several religious radicals looked to Katherine for patronage and were delighted to learn that she was about to become Henry’s consort. One of them, Francis Goldsmith, compared her to Esther, the Old Testament Jewish heroine who became queen to the Persian King Ahasuerus and used her position to alleviate the sufferings of her people. It is not all that far-fetched to think of Katherine pondering the question put to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther, 4, 14). On 12 July 1543, Katherine Parr and Henry VIII were married quietly at Hampton Court. And Thomas Seymour? He was appointed to a succession of diplomatic and military positions that kept him out of the country for most of the rest of Henry’s reign. The style of the sixth queen The new queen certainly turned out to be a veritable Esther. As David Starkey has pointed out, “Henry’s sixth marriage marks a watershed in religious policy” because Katherine was “a woman with a mission”. During the crucial three-and-a-half years the pair were married the balance swung in favour of the reformers. This was not entirely due to Katherine – for example, the plot against Cranmer collapsed largely because the plotters (led by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester) overplayed their hand. However, without the day-to-day influence of the queen it would have been difficult (perhaps impossible) for the evangelicals of court and council led by Thomas Seymour’s brother – Edward, Earl of Hertford – to have gained the controlling influence which proved decisive when Henry died in 1547. Broadly speaking, Katherine’s contribution rested on two pillars: she proved herself to be an exemplary consort, and she used every means at her disposal to spread that brand of Christianity that, within a few years, would come to be called ‘Protestant’. Katherine the stepmother In her relations with the king Katherine was young enough to interest him sexually and mature enough to perceive and cater to his other needs. Dressing his suppurating sores can’t have been pleasant and diverting his attention from his pain with stimulating conversation must have been mentally taxing. But the queen went further – notably in reconnecting Henry with his children, whom he rarely saw. Mary (who was 28 in 1544), Elizabeth (11) and Edward (7) lived in various royal manors in the home counties. The girls had both been bastardised and were excluded from the court, while Edward, as the sole heir, was kept far away from the plague-ridden capital. Katherine set out to be a means of drawing the royal family together – within a few months she arranged for Henry’s children to pay visits to their father and thus provide him with some semblance of the home life he had never had. Extant letters, written between 1544 and 1547, bear witness to a very warm relationship between the royal children and their stepmother. Whether sending a court musician to perform for Mary or correcting the Latin exercises of Edward and Elizabeth, Katherine took a keen interest in their wellbeing. Mary I: 8 facts about her life, death and legacy Elizabeth I: the unfathomable queen How could the son of Henry VIII become Edward VI? The queen also played a prominent role in state affairs. When Henry was absent on campaign in France between mid-July and late September 1544 he left Katherine to oversee a regency council headed by Cranmer (who was now fully restored to favour). She attended assiduously to her duties, meeting daily with her advisers. And her loyal support for the military adventure was not confined to administrative activities in camera. A remarkable, recently-discovered religious anthem by the leading composer Thomas Tallis was written for a service at St Paul’s aimed at uniting the nation behind the invasion. The words were written by Queen Katherine. None of Henry’s wives played a more prominent and constructive role in the affairs of court and kingdom than wife number six. An illustration of the young Elizabeth I, about 10 years before she became queen of England. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images) The Lamentation of a Sinner Katherine’s contributions to the spread of her faith was well in excess of that of her predecessors. Not only did she study the Bible and listen to favoured preachers with her ladies in the seclusion of her own chambers; and advance the careers of favoured clergy – all that was common enough. Katherine did something quite novel, something that women at the time simply did not do: she ventured into print. Her first forays, published in 1544 and 1545, were devotional books – prayers and reflections on the Psalms. Then, in 1546, she began an intensely personal testimony, The Lamentation of a Sinner , in which she chronicled her journey from the traditional Catholicism of the pope, the “persecuter of all true Christians”, to the justification by the only faith of which Luther spoke. The Lamentation of a Sinner was not published until after Henry’s death in January 1547 and until then Katherine had to be very circumspect about her theology. Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s most successful queen 11 facts about Anne Boleyn There was a time in the summer of 1546 when Katherine came within a whisper of being executed for her faith. Bishop Gardiner and his associates were growing increasingly anxious as the end of Henry’s reign drew nigh. Henry was a semi-invalid in constant pain from the festering sores on his legs and was only able to move with the aid of servants. Everyone knew what no one dared say – that the king’s days were numbered. Leading councillors and courtiers were discreetly making plans for the accession of a minor. If the prince’s uncle, Edward Seymour, grabbed the reins of power, England would be carried farther along the road of religious reform. Gardiner and his conservative associates needed to prevent that at all costs. Thus a campaign was launched against the queen using a formula that had been well tried in the past. They brought to trial a notoriously outspoken heretic with court connections by the name of Anne Askew, subjected her to fierce and unprecedented torture and promised that her sufferings would end if she would but name members of the royal court (including the queen) who shared her heretical beliefs. Murder, conspiracy and execution: six centuries of scandalous royal deaths Henry VIII’s mistresses: who else did the Tudor king sleep with? Had they succeeded, Henry would probably have sanctioned a thorough search of Katherine’s quarters, which might have revealed copies of William Tyndale’s English New Testament and other banned books. But Anne did not break under pressure. Katherine was warned of the plot by her physician, Robert Huick, who ‘found’ a paper revealing the Catholic scheme. Or, perhaps, the discovery was engineered by Henry himself, who never lost his sense of theatre. Either way, the queen hastened to Henry’s chamber and threw herself on his mercy, thus enabling him to make a great show of support and affection. For the traditionalists this was the last throw of the dice. Their failure left the advocates of reform in power when the Tudor tyrant eventually breathed his last. Katherine Parr, therefore, holds an important place in the history of the English Reformation. A tragic death We may hope that Katherine was aware of this fact and took satisfaction from it, particularly because the brief remainder of her life was decidedly tragic. She was, at last, able to marry her true love, Thomas Seymour, but it did not bring her happiness. The wedding was a clandestine ceremony and one that provoked scandal: the Seymour clan tore itself apart in rivalries and competing ambitions. Thomas, having been granted no place on the regency council, tried to ingratiate himself with the young king and to undermine the influence of his brother, Edward, now Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. The duke’s wife bitterly resented Katherine’s presence in the family, seeing it as a challenge to her own pre-eminence. The family feud escalated rapidly. In one letter to her husband Katherine confided about a meeting with her brother-in-law, Protector Somerset: “It was fortunate we were so much distant, for I suppose else I should have bitten him”. But the dowager queen’s anger was soon turned against Thomas himself. She had brought the 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth to live with her but Thomas soon began indulging in intimate horseplay with the teenager and the behaviour became more outrageous after Katherine became pregnant at the end of 1547. He would visit Elizabeth, clad only in his nightshirt, and tumble with her on her bed. For a while Katherine was tolerant, even at times joining in the horseplay, but when on one occasion she came upon her husband and her royal ward embracing, she sent Elizabeth away. On 30 August 1548 Katherine gave birth to a daughter, Mary, but immediately succumbed to puerperal fever. Eight days later Katherine died. In her last moments of consciousness, she accused Thomas of poisoning her. It may well have been the delirium speaking, but Seymour was outrageously ambitious and it is quite possible that he entertained hopes of picking up his relationship with the princess where it had left off… Derek Wilson is author of The Queen and the Heretic – How two women changed the religion of England (Lion Books, 2018). This article was first published by History Extra in September 2018'
In July 1955 Ruth Ellis, a mother of two, was hanged for murder, despite a huge public outcry, after shooting dead her abusive boyfriend. Lizzie Seal explains how the execution swung public opinion against the death penalty in Britain
'As 9am approached on 13 July 1955, crowds of people began to line the streets outside Holloway prison. Some stared solemnly at the prison walls. Others prayed. Most fell silent. Inside the prison gates, Ruth Ellis received communion and drank a glass of brandy. Then, as the clock ticked round to the appointed hour, she was led to the execution chamber. According to the News Chronicle , Ellis “looked on a crucifix for a few seconds before she died”. She was, stated the Daily Mirror , “the calmest woman who ever went to the gallows”. That equanimity wasn’t shared by thousands of people in the country at large. On that grim July morning, Ellis became the last woman to be executed in Britain – and the furore surrounding her fate would resonate for years. A brief history of capital punishment in Britain Murder, conspiracy and execution: six centuries of scandalous royal deaths By the time Ellis died, her case had already become a cause celebre. It dominated newspaper front pages, inspired hundreds of Britons to pen letters begging for clemency, and led to a dramatic 11th‑hour appeal for a reprieve. The Ellis case gave the nation a considerable emotional jolt – and that’s because a huge number of Britons could personally identify with the 28-year-old wife and mother. Labour MP Sydney Silverman, a campaigner for the abolition of the death sentence, encapsulated this sentiment when he wrote in The Star : “She seems to most people a normal human – all too human – being, weak, foolish, hyper-sensitive.” Under great emotional distress, Ellis “found relief in one passionate, compulsive act of desperation”, which, Silverman added, exemplified “essential human pathos”. The “compulsive act of desperation” to which Silverman referred was the murder of her boyfriend, David Blakely. Ellis and Blakely were locked in a dysfunctional relationship and by April 1955, Ellis had reached breaking point. On Easter Sunday – distraught at Blakely’s refusal to speak to her – she walked into the Magdala pub in Hampstead, where Blakely was drinking. She was accompanied by Desmond Cussen, a man with whom she had had a brief relationship – and who, fatefully, had given her a gun. Ellis proceeded to use that gun to shoot Blakely twice as he left the pub, before standing over him and shooting him twice more as he lay on the ground. She asked for the police to be called and was arrested by an off-duty policeman who had also been drinking in the Magdala. Multiple bruises Police investigations into the killing soon established that Ellis and Blakely’s relationship had been violent. A report in the Home Office file on the case explains that “Blakely sometimes struck Mrs Ellis” and that she had been to hospital after receiving “multiple bruises” from him. Ellis had a miscarriage shortly before the murder, which she believed was caused by Blakely punching her in the stomach. The prosecution did not dispute that Blakely had treated Ellis “disgracefully”, or that this had left her emotionally disturbed. But, crucially, during Ellis’s trial, neither of these facts was deemed sufficient to reduce the verdict from murder to manslaughter – and the mandatory sentence for murder was death. Famously, in response to prosecution counsel Christmas Humphreys’ question about what she intended to do when she fired at Blakely, Ellis replied: “It is obvious that when I shot him I intended to kill him.” Yet even without such a bald admission, it would have been extremely difficult for Ellis to secure a verdict other than murder. The law did not recognise Ellis’s experiences of physical and emotional abuse as relevant to her defence – a stark example of how far the legal system failed to accommodate women’s experiences of gendered inequality. David Blakely physically abused Ellis and may have induced a miscarriage shortly before she shot him – abuse that wasn’t considered in her defence. (Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo) That Ellis would receive a guilty verdict was, then, seemingly inevitable. What turned this case into a cause célèbre was the fact that she went to the gallows. Women were rarely executed in Britain: 90 per cent of those sentenced to death in the 20th century were reprieved. Blakely’s mistreatment of Ellis and her emotional distress seemed to offer good grounds for commuting her sentence, and many people assumed that this would happen. When it didn’t, thousands of Britons were appalled. Among them would have been readers of the Daily Herald which rated her chance of reprieve as “good – much better than evens in cold betting terms”. Such optimism was, no doubt, inspired by the case of Sarah Lloyd, who had murdered her 87-year-old neighbour by hitting her with a spade and pouring boiling water over her. Lloyd was sentenced to death but she did not hang. Her sentence was commuted on 7 July 1955, and there hadn’t even been a petition to save her. The same leniency would not be extended to Ellis. Savage contradiction The Daily Herald reported how it was “a moment of tense emotion” when the governor of Holloway, Dr Charity Taylor, had to inform Ellis in her death cell that no reprieve had been granted. The Herald argued that Ellis would not have been executed in the United States or Germany, and lamented the “savage contradiction to all that is reasonable and gentle in the British character” that the retention of hanging entailed. The press was not uniformly opposed to Ellis’s execution, but even stories written in support of the home secretary’s decision not to reprieve her highlighted problems with the death penalty. The News Chronicle agreed that Ellis could not receive “special leniency” simply because she was “a woman and an alcoholic”. However, it recommended suspending capital punishment for an experimental period to gauge whether hanging needed to be retained. Surviving the gallows: the Georgian hangings that didn’t go to plan How many executions was Henry VIII responsible for? So why did Ellis fail to earn a reprieve? Research into the archival case files suggests that the premeditated nature of the murder and the fact that it was committed with a gun counted against her. Ellis’s perceived sexual immorality was also a strong factor in the decision not to commute her sentence. She was not married to David Blakely and a “lenient view” could not be taken when “she was associating with, and receiving money from, another man” (a reference to Desmond Cussen). Failure to meet standards of conventional morality in relation to marriage and monogamy proved fatal for Ruth Ellis. But, as the press would soon make abundantly clear, the justice system’s unforgiving interpretation of Blakely’s murder was hugely out of step with public opinion. No sooner had the sentence been announced than petitions were being gathered “all over Britain”, according to the Daily Express . The Manchester Guardian explained that these contained “several thousand signatures” and that batches of letters calling for a reprieve were being delivered to the home secretary. Petition papers and flowers are delivered to the prison. People from across Britain wrote letters to the home secretary pleading for Ellis’s reprieve. (Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo) Many of these letters survive in the Home Office files on Ruth Ellis in the National Archives and are an invaluable source of information on the public sentiment about the case. There are more than 600 letters, postcards and telegrams from the public in the Home Office files. Ninety per cent of them call for a reprieve. Ruth Ellis was the mother of two young children, which was a concern for many letter writers, one of whom highlighted the “lifetime of tragic memory and death” in store for the children if she hanged. Motherhood was an extremely important social identity for women in the 1950s and was the basis from which they could make claims about their citizenship. Several correspondents identified themselves as “a wife and mother myself”. This personal identification with Ellis was key to the empathy that her case provoked. For many, the circumstances of her crime resonated with contemporary cultural understandings of motherhood and romantic love. Blakely’s murder was widely described as a ‘crime of passion’, and there was a perception that the emotional intensity of Ellis’s love for her boyfriend should be understood as mitigation for her crime. Writing to the home secretary, many members of the public referred to their own unhappy relationships and disappointments in love, with one woman explaining that she “found herself in the same boat as Mrs Ellis”. Public beatings Much of the public sympathy for Ellis was fuelled by the violence to which she was subjected at Blakely’s hands. The Woman’s Sunday Mirror ran a ghost-written, serialised life story of Ellis over four weeks. In the instalment published the Sunday before her execution, Ruth explained how she gave Blakely money for cigarettes, food and drink and how he would attack her when he was drunk. She detailed how “he would smack my face and punch me”. On one occasion he “lost all control. His fist struck me between the eyes and I fell to the floor. Savagely he beat me as I lay there.” Letters from the public argued that Blakely’s brutality had not sufficiently been taken into account at her sentencing. One female correspondent stated: “Only a woman understands that has been in the same position like myself and millions of others beaten by our husbands.” As for Blakely, he was dubbed a “cad”, “vampire” and “parasite”. His behaviour was judged to have violated mid-20th-century ideals of romantic love which demanded that, as well as providing fulfilment, partners should be co-operative and companionate. Crowds gather at HM Prison Holloway on the morning of 13 July 1955, where the expected 11th-hour reprieve never arrived. (Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo) Hanging the wrong man What made Ellis’s execution more controversial still was that it occurred at a time when the very morality of putting people to death was increasingly being questioned – and when the justice system stood accused of overseeing two high-profile miscarriages of justice. Nineteen-year-old Derek Bentley was hanged in 1953, despite concerns that he bore little responsibility for the murder of a police officer committed by his younger friend. That same year, John Christie also went to the gallows, following the discovery of multiple bodies at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill. Christie was guilty. But what made his case so controversial was that, three years earlier, Timothy Evans, a resident of 10 Rillington Place, had been executed for the murder of his wife and baby. Throughout his trial, Evans maintained that John Christie was responsible. It seemed clear that an innocent man had hanged. The rise of the Great British ‘bobby’: a brief history of Britain’s police service Britain’s secret wartime prison (podcast) These cases propelled the issue of capital punishment firmly into the national consciousness. This was no dry, technical subject debated behind closed doors by men in suits, but one that grabbed the public’s imagination, impacting upon people on an emotional level. The death of Ruth Ellis supercharged that impact. In the wake of Ellis’s execution, the publisher Victor Gollancz and writer Arthur Koestler launched the National Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. This sought to both highlight injustice and engage public emotions. In their 1961 book, Hanged by the Neck , Koestler and Cecil Rolph contended that “emotions or inherent feelings can sometimes be a sure guide to what is right”. In doing so, they countered the argument, advanced by Hugh Klare, secretary of penal reform and abolitionist group the Howard League, that “rational penal policy ought not to be affected by sentiment”. Within two years of Ellis’s death, this heightened public sentiment was reflected in law. The Homicide Act 1957 limited the death penalty by restricting it to certain types of murder. It was a rather compromised piece of legislation but it set the tone for what was to follow in 1965, when Harold Wilson’s Labour government passed the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act. The last hangings in Great Britain had taken place a year earlier. Such changes are not brought about by one person’s case. But, for all that, Ruth Ellis remains a highly significant figure – both in shining a light on the long road to abolition and reflecting capital punishment’s impact on Britons’ emotional lives in the 1950s. Timeline: the death of capital punishment 1868 The Capital Punishment (Amendment) Act ends public hanging 1923 Edith Thompson and Freddy Bywaters are executed for the murder of Edith’s husband amid doubts about her culpability and rumours that her hanging was botched 1930 A report from the Select Committee on Capital Punishment recommends an experimental five-year period of abolition, but this is not debated in parliament 1948 Capital punishment is suspended between February and November during debates on a Criminal Justice Bill. But a Criminal Justice Act passes without an abolition clause 1949 A Royal Commission on Capital Punishment examines whether eligibility for the death penalty should be limited or modified. It doesn’t report until 1953 1953 Derek Bentley is hanged in January amid public concerns about justice in his case. John Christie is executed in July that same year, raising doubts about the guilt of Timothy Evans, who was hanged in 1950 1957 The Homicide Act is passed, limiting capital punishment to certain types of murder, widening the provocation defence and introducing the diminished responsibility defence 1964 On 13 August, Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans are hanged – the last judicial execution to take place in Britain 1965 The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act ends capital punishment for murder, initially for five years, and is made permanent in 1969 1998 Capital punishment is abolished for treason and piracy with violence Lizzie Seal is a reader in criminology at the University of Sussex. Her books include Capital Punishment in 20th-Century Britain: Audience, Justice, Memory (Routledge, 2014). This article was first published in the February 2018 issue of BBC History Magazine'
The Battle of Britain, which took place between July and October 1940, was a major air campaign in which Britain’s Royal Air Force defended the British Isles against Nazi Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe
'Described by prime minister Winston Churchill as the RAF’s finest hour, the Battle of Britain was the first major military campaign in history to be fought entirely in the air. It was one of Britain’s most important victories of the Second World War and prevented Germany from invading Britain. Here, Swedish historian Christer Bergström dispels six myths that still surround the epic World War Two battle – from the role of Bomber Command and the competence of the Luftwaffe’s commander Hermann Göring, to the flying skills of the German and British fighter pilots who fought the battle for the skie s. Writing for History Extra , the author of The Battle of Britain – an Epic Conflict Revisited separates facts from fiction… 1 Myth: The Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring was incompetent According to popular perception, the commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring (aka Goering), was a totally incompetent commander, whose unfortunate decisions placed the Luftwaffe in an unnecessarily difficult position. Certainly, he was a ruthless Nazi who eventually amassed a huge list of crimes against humanity. However, the widespread image of him as a thoroughly incompetent air force commander needs to be corrected. At the beginning of the Second World War, the Luftwaffe, the most effective air force in the world, was, after all, Göring’s very personal creation. Admittedly, not everything about the Luftwaffe was a result to Göring’s accomplishments, but he had the ability to put the right man in the right place, and he was more open to new, revolutionary ideas than many of his younger subordinates. The Battle of Britain: a brilliant triumph that involved far more than just the chosen few 10 key Second World War dates you need to know Göring realised early the benefits of new types of combat aviation, such as dive-bombers and long-range fighter escort. As one of the first air force commanders in the world he also took the initiative to create a specialised night-fighter force: early in the war, he ordered a couple of fighter units to begin night-fighter experiments. The twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 proved to be the aircraft best suited for this task, and in June 1940 Göring decided to redesign the fighter wing I./ZG 1 under Hauptmann Wolfgang Falck to become the first regular night-fighter unit, NJG 1. Hermann Göring also had an inspiring effect on his subordinates. Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, who commanded Luftflotte 5 during the Battle of Britain, described Göring as a man “with a tremendous strength; he was full of bright ideas. After each meeting with him you felt strongly inspired and filled with energy”. 2 Myth: Hermann Göring ruined the German possibilities to win the battle by turning the attention against London It is a fact that just when RAF fighter command was on the brink of destruction as a result of German air raids against its ground organisation, the Germans shifted focus and started to bomb London instead. This took place on 7 September 1940, and it gave the RAF a ‘breather’, which was used to repair the destroyed installations. When fighter command met the Luftwaffe in force again, on 15 September, the result was the decisive victory that compelled Hitler to cancel the planned invasion of Great Britain. 17 March 1938: German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, left, and Hermann Göring watch a parade honouring Hitler while standing on a balcony at the Chancellory, Berlin, Germany. Hitler had just annexed Austria in the Anschluss. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images) Hermann Göring has often received the blame for this change in tactic. But a study of first-hand sources show that no one was more staunchly opposed than him to shifting the air offensive towards London. 3 Myth: Bomber command played a minor role in the Battle of Britain Winston Churchill’s speech in the British parliament on 20 August 1940 is well known: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day.” However, precisely what Churchill immediately afterwards asked us not to forget has been largely omitted in historiography on the Battle of Britain: “But we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power.” In fact, had it not been for the British bombings of Berlin from late August 1940 and onward, the Battle of Britain might have ended quite differently. The small-scale Berlin raids in 1940, carried out by a handful of bombers with totally inadequate navigational equipment, have been regarded as more or less meaningless pinpricks. But this disregards the main object of warfare: to destroy the enemy’s fighting spirit. Winston Churchill inspects bomb damage caused by Luftwaffe night raids in Ramsgate, Kent, on 28 August 1940. Eight days previously he had delivered his famous speech in parliament. (Photo by Capt. Horton/ IWM via Getty Images) On 1 September 1940, American correspondent William Shirer (the US was, at that time, still a neutral country) wrote in his diary in Berlin: “The main effect of a week of constant British night bombings has been to spread great disillusionment among the people here and sow doubt in their minds. One said to me today: ‘I’ll never believe another thing they say. If they’ve lied about the raids in the rest of Germany as they have about the ones on Berlin, then it must have been pretty bad there.’” The direct effect of these ‘pinprick’ raids was that Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to stop attacking RAF fighter command’s ground organisation and instead start bombing London. It is commonly accepted that this was what saved fighter command from annihilation. But RAF bomber command contributed to the victory in several other ways too. Through incessant nocturnal harassment raids, the RAF bombers disturbed the sleep of the German airmen, which – according to German reports – had serious consequences. The RAF bombers also wrought a great deal of havoc among the barges that made up the German invasion fleet, and, not least, helped to raise spirits among the hard-pressed British population. Days of destiny: 5 key moments of the Battle of Britain 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Second World War 4 Myth: The twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 was worthless as a fighter Beginning in early September 1940, some German air units equipped with the twin-engined fighter plane Messerschmitt Bf 110 were withdrawn from the English Channel to be used as night fighters. Sometimes this has been regarded as a ‘degradation’ of the Bf 110. In fact, under heavy pressure from Hitler and the German population to put an end to the night raids against Berlin and other German cities, Göring chose to use his very best fighter plane, the Bf 110. This should come as a surprise to many, because a fairly common notion is that the Bf 110 didn’t suffice as a day fighter; that it performed poorly in combat; and because of this had to be assigned with fighter escorts of single-engined Bf 109s. However, none of this stands up to closer scrutiny. The twin-engined, long-range fighter Bf 110 was the result of the war games conducted under Göring’s supervision in the winter of 1933/34. These showed that the prevailing view by then that “the bombers will always get through” – the notion that regardless of intercepting fighters and air defence a sufficient number of bombers always would get through to their assigned targets, where they were expected to cause enormous damage – was incorrect. c1940: Four German Messerschmitts BF 110 in flight. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) In the summer of 1934, the leadership of the still secret Luftwaffe presented a study that suggested what at that time was quite revolutionary: a twin-engined fighter, heavily armed with automatic cannons as well as machine guns, to protect the bombers against enemy fighter interception. The idea was to dispatch these twin-engined fighter aircraft in advance, at a high altitude over the intended bombing target area, to clear the air of enemy fighters before the bombers arrived. In fact, when used in that way, the Messerschmitt Bf 110 was quite successful. Actually, the Bf 110 appears to have had a better ratio of shot down enemy aircraft to own combat losses than any other fighter type during the Battle of Britain. Yet in most accounts of the Battle of Britain, the accomplishments of the Bf 110 have been nearly totally neglected (although admittedly this is largely a result of the inaccessibility of sources on this aircraft). Investigations of the available material have enabled a completely different picture to be drawn of the Bf 110 during the Battle of Britain. Bf 110 fighter units sustained some very heavy losses on various occasions. In most cases, however, this was when the Bf 110 fighters were ordered to fly slow, close-escort missions to German bombers. In those cases, there was no difference between what the Bf 110 suffered and what the Bf 109 suffered. There are numerous cases where Bf 109 units were absolutely thrashed by RAF fighters because they had to fly on foolishly slow close-escort missions. In this way, Bf 110-equipped I./ZG 26 lost six aircraft over the North Sea on 15 August 1940, just as Bf 109-equipped I./JG 77 lost five aircraft on 31 August 1940, to pick just two examples. 5 Myth: Göring despised the German fighters Göring has been accused of advocating these slow-flying, close escort missions. In reality, as protocols from Luftwaffe conferences show, things were exactly the opposite. No one advocated the German fighters to be unleashed on free hunting – where they were most effective – more strongly than Hermann Göring. The people who ordered the fighters to fly these close-escort missions were the commanders at the English Channel. Göring, in fact, favoured the fighter pilots, quite contrary to what many of them have stated after the war, and he heaped medals and awards on them as with no other pilots. The battle for Norway, 1940: the forgotten Battle of Britain The top 10 military blunders in history 6 Myth: The German Bf 109 pilots were absolutely superior to the RAF’s fighter pilots In recent years, it has been popular to revise the Battle of Britain in a way that gives the impression that the German Bf 109 pilots were absolutely superior to the RAF’s fighter pilots. Of course, some of the most experienced Luftwaffe pilots – such as Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders – had accumulated a far greater experience than most RAF pilots. But a comparison between British and German pilot training shows that they were of about equal standard. What, however, is fairly clear when one compares RAF fighter pilots with German airmen during the Battle of Britain is that the RAF pilots generally fought with a greater stamina than many of their opponents. While it was not uncommon to see a dozen RAF pilots climb to intercept a many times larger German formation in their relatively obsolete Hurricanes, whole German bomber formations could jettison their bombs when RAF fighters appeared, or German fighter pilots would be satisfied with one gunnery run at a British formation. There also were several cases when RAF pilots deliberately rammed an enemy aircraft. By comparing RAF fighter losses with the number of lost Bf 109s, some writers have in recent times drawn the erroneous conclusion that the Bf 109 units on average shot down two RAF planes for each own loss. By revealing the number of RAF aircraft that were shot down by Bf 110s, this conclusion proves to be utterly false. The ‘revisionist’ version of the Battle of Britain, according to which the courage and efforts made by the RAF airmen is ‘exaggerated’, also does not stand up to scrutiny. It is beyond any doubt that without the unparalleled courage and efforts by ‘The Few’, and the contribution made by the RAF bomber crews, the Battle of Britain would not have been won. Christer Bergström is the author of several highly acclaimed Second World War and aviation books, such as The Battle of Britain – an Epic Conflict Revisited (Casemate UK, 2015) and Black Cross/Red Star: Operation Barbarossa 1941 v. 1: The Air War Over the Eastern Front (Pacific Military History, 2000). To find out more about the author, visit www.begrstrombooks.se This article was first published by History Extra in October 2015'