Monday, 25 May 2009

SILLY HISTORY LEGENDS 2




Churchill, badass, slightly crazy, drunken wit. Hell of a speech giver. Front runner for best modern War Leader and greatest English PM awards.

In his first run as English PM he saved Britain, the free world and made some horribly tough decisions. He made his deal with the devil, allying with the Soviets, had to make the awful decision to scupper the French fleet to stop the Germans capturing them (an insane and bold decision that paid off) but the most common one brought up, often mentioned in tv shows and the odd book, is the Coventry dilemma.

For those not in "the know", the coventry dillema goes that after we broke the Enigma code (the secret german code that helped us win the war, you know, watch the movie) one of the earliest messages was the news of an imminent bombing raid of Coventry (11/4/1940.) Giving Churchill a problem, arranging a large scale evacuation would save many lives... but it would tip his hand, showing the Germans who would notice the lack of people and industry and whose agents would surely hear of it.. that the code was broken, perhaps losing the one advantage we had.

So Churchill took the dark path and did nothing, Coventry took heavy losses, civilians died. But we kept the code cracking a secret and ultimately that let us win the war and save the world, etc.

Good story, often trotted out in tv shows to illustrate the very textbook definition of making the hard choice, the immoral choice that in the end turns out to be right. The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few and beautifully illustrates what a good, dark leader Winsto was.

All good apart from the fact it isnt true. We did crack the code before the Coventry raid, true, but only generally. We didnt for instance know KORN stood for Coventry at the time, we did infact get some intelligence a heavy bombing raid was coming... but nobody had any idea where and the best guess of the time was that it would be London (somewhere impossible to shut down or large scale evacuate more than was already done during the war) and nothing could have been done to save Coventry, really.

It is even reported Churchill cancelled a trip out of London, not wanting to be "hiding" out in the country when it was bombed and awaited it on the night, scanning the sky for the bombers arriving before news arrived Coventry was attacked.

The origin of this myth isnt clear, but like most conventional wisdom it gets repeated around so much its hard to know who is getting it from where. It certainly got a boost when it was brought up again in "Bodyguard of Lies" by Anthony Cave Brown, published in 1976, who said "It was a tragic decision for Churchil to have to make".

So, cool story, but didnt happen. Look up the French scuppering or pick up a good Churchill bio in general if you want to hear some hardcore stories that did happen. Churchill has enough of a badass drunken, train riding, war winning life that adding stories isnt neccesary.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'


- Churchill Badassery

Monday, 18 May 2009

SILLY HISTORY LEGENDS




Do you know why they used to drink out of glass bottomed tankards in the olden days?

Come on, of course you do, why did they used to do that?

Because of the shilling right, the shilling in the bottom of the glass, that the naval recruiters used to drop in the tankards to trick people into joining the navy/army, right? Because, once you take a shilling you are in, right? So glass tankards, so you dont accidentally get a pint with a slipped in shilling, right?

NO, THAT IS WRONG, WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT, THAT IS SILLY, YOU ARE SILLY TO THINK THAT!

There is some weirdly prevailent myth that this used to happen. The old shilling in the pint trick, you were forced to join the army. This is such a myth that they now make REPLICAS of GENUINE GLASS BOTTOMED TANKARDS that stop this PRACTICE that never actually HAPPENED.

Seriously, check it out (complete with fake historic story.)

No, they didnt press gang people into joining the navy. As a matter of fact, in the time period this story originates (Around napoleonic wars era usually) it was much like now. Even in ye olde days you had a 4 day cooling off period after recruiting (for the very reason of making sure people didnt sign up drunk and regret it, or to impress the ladies and whatever other reasons you join up that arent good and sound like hating the French) and recruiters were actually subject to very strict rules and fines if they were found to mislead or just kidnap people from bars.

Thats not to say coercing wasnt taking place (as it does now) but like now, false pretenses was more the strategy than some obtuse slight of hand trick and like now it was punished if found out by the higher ups.

The origin of this myth is harder to pinpoint. Certainly there was points in British history when people were forced into the navy/military, but it wasnt by trickery but law and it might have root in the press ganging of American colonists, who were forced into the Navy when captured (since any colonist caught was still considered British before treaties were signed between America/UK) but wherever its from... it is stupid.

Stupid like your mother.