Diplomatic and Military Background

The Historical Background

This genre of literature rose to prominence at a time when attitudes regarding Britain's friends and potential enemies were changing. While France had traditionally been seen as Britain's enemy there was a new potential threat from the newly formed German nation. Technology changes - both at sea and in the air - were also threatening to upset the balance of power. There is a good introduction to the historical context by Dan Cruickshank on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwone/invasion_ww1_01.shtml Prussia's shattering defeat of France in 1870 did not mean the end of invasion fear in Britain. As the traditional enemy ...
Read More

Channel Tunnel Plans and Fears

Channel tunnel: centuries of planning These plans are for a channel tunnel railway link between Calais and Dover. They were created more than 100 years before the channel tunnel was actually built. [Source: The National Archive - Treasures from The National Archives http://apps.nationalarchives.gov.uk/museum/item.asp?item_id=40&sequence=1] The idea for a tunnel linking Britain to France has a long history. The first scheme was considered by Napoleon as early as 1802. The first serious plans came from British and French companies during the 1860s. Business people were keen. Politicians worried about the cost and about how to defend the tunnel during a war. In ...
Read More

The Dogger Bank Incident, 1904

In October 1904 the Russian Navy attacked a fleet of British trawlers. The Dogger Bank incident (also known as the North Sea Incident, the Russian Outrage or the Incident of Hull) occurred on the night of 21/22 October 1904, when the Russian Baltic Fleet mistook some British trawlers in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea for an Imperial Japanese Navy force and fired on them. Russian warships also fired on each other in the chaos of the melée. Three British fishermen died and a number were wounded. One sailor and a priest aboard a Russian cruiser caught in ...
Read More

The Airship Scare of 1909

There was a rash of scares reported in the press during 1909. This has been documented by: Alfred M. Gollin, 'England Is No Longer an Island: The Phantom Airship Scare of 1909', Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 43-57 [Jstor] David Clarke in an article 'Scareships over Britain - The Airship Wave of 1909', Fortean Studies 6 (1999), pp.39-63 and by Brett Holman (2009) in his blog on Airminded ...
Read More

Burnaby, F. (1877) On Horseback through Asia Minor

Frederick Burnaby (1877) On Horseback through Asia Minor, London; Sampson Low and Co A follow-up to A Ride to Khiva. “On Horseback Through Asia Minor” details how the brave Burnaby set off in the winter of 1876, convinced he could once again outwit the Czar’s secret police. This time Burnaby determined to ride 2,000 miles across Asia Minor undetected. Ostensibly he was going to observe the Turks away from European influences. However Burnaby needed only the barest of excuses in order to undertake one of the nineteenth century's most courageous equestrian journeys. This book, which was published upon his return ...
Read More

Burnaby, F. (1876) A Ride to Khiva

Fred Burnaby (1876) A Ride to Khiva It is 1875, the time of the 'Great Game', when the British and Russian Empires are vying for power in central Asia. A British officer rides for Khiva, a Russian city closed to European travellers. He is on a dangerous mission, to learn if Russia plans to invade India, the 'jewel in the crown' of the British Empire. It might be the plot of a Rudyard Kipling novel; instead it is the true story of Captain Frederick Burnaby (1842–85). Burnaby joined the British army in 1859, but in periods without active duty he ...
Read More

Conan Doyle, A. (1913) Great Britain and the Next War

Arthur Conan Doyle (1913) Great Britain and the Next War - published in Fortnightly Review, February 1913. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the few major authors of the time who clearly foresaw the impending dangers. Now known mainly for his Sherlock Holmes stories, he was also an expert in military affairs, bluff, and outspoken in his criticism of the government. Ever since the Boer War he had been warning his countrymen about the inadequacies of the armed services. In 1912, he wrote an article called "Great Britain and the Next War," a response to General Friedrich von Bernhardi's ...
Read More

Freeman, R. (2009) The Great Edwardian Naval Feud

ichard Freeman (2009) The Great Edwardian Naval Feud: Beresford's Vendetta Against 'Jackie' Fisher Interesting background to the period when Britain was building up its naval capabilities. This is the story of the clash between two gigantic personalities in the early years of the twentieth century.On one side was Admiral Lord Charles Beresford. Physically strong, courageous and hot-headed, he was the most popular admiral in the navy. Addicted to the sound of his own voice, he drew crowds of thousands whenever he spoke in public. On the other side was the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher. Of humble origin, ...
Read More

Libya 1911 – The first air raid?

The first use of aeroplanes for reconnaissance and bombing occurred in the Italian-Turkish war in 1911. On October 23, 1911, an Italian pilot, Captain Carlo Piazza, flew over Turkish lines on the world's first aerial reconnaissance mission, and on November 1, the first ever aerial bomb was dropped by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, on Turkish troops in Libya, from an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. The Turks, lacking anti-aircraft weapons, were the first to shoot down an aeroplane by rifle fire.[Wikipedia] This scene is the background to Gustaf Janson's (1912) ‘A Vision of the Future’ in Pride of War Further ...
Read More

Parliamentary Debates & Reports (1871-1914)

The following extracts of parliamentary business are taken from Hansard and other public records. [Extracts contain Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.] House Commons Debate, 14th May 1901. ARMY ORGANISATION Sir John Colomb: I hope the House will appreciate the difficulty in which this ruling of the Chair has placed me. This resolution is one with which I disagree for reasons which I am not allowed to give. I would point out that this Army reform, being a development of the new departure of policy in 1871, is to continue a policy that expends vast sums upon ...
Read More