Penny Black

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It may sound like a 19th century Gothic novel or the name of an Irish folk singer but neither apply, Penny Black is in fact the name of the first adhesive postage stamp.

It was first issued in Great Britain om May 1 ,1840 but was not valid for use until 6 May   it showed the head of the monarch of the time, Queen Victoria. Printed in sheets of 240, each had to be cut from the sheet by hand until the Irishman, Henry Archer, came up with an early perforating machine.

Even though  the stamps were not officially issued for sale until 6 May 1840, a few offices such as those in Bath sold the stamps unofficially before that date. There are covers postmarked 2 May, and a single example is known on cover dated 1 May 1840. All London post offices received official supplies of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept payments for postage in cash for a period.

Posted in Dublin on May 8, 1840, the Fitzpatrick-Thomas letter is the first clear use of the Penny Black on an Irish letter.

The Penny Black lasted less than a year. A red cancellation was hard to see on the black design and the red ink was easy to remove; both made it possible to re-use cancelled stamps.

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Fighting for the enemy

brit ss

Before you read this blog, have a close look at the above picture. It is a picture of an SS soldier, and you have probably seen many pictures like it, but there is something special about this one.On the sleeve on the left arm, at the left bottom, you can see part of a flag, however it is not the German flag but the Union Jack.

The picture is of Roy Courlander, a British born New Zealander. He was one of 54 Brits,Australians and New Zealanders who served in the British Free Corps, a unit of the Waffen SS

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The British Free Corps were recruited from the POW camps, they were given a choice to fight for the SS or remain in the camp. In total 54 of them chose the former. However At no time did it reach more than 27 men in strength.

I could have focused on any of these men but what is so intriguing about Roy Courlander is his background.

He was born in London in 1914, out of wedlock. He was adopted  by Lithuanian Jewish businessman Leonard Henry Courlander  and his wife Edith Cater .

Roy was sent to a boarding school, his parents divorced when he was 19. He was sent to live and work on a coconut plantation owned by his father in the New Hebrides in the South Pacific.

In November 1938, Roy Courlander moved to  New Zealand and found administrative work  with the Land and Income Tax Department in Wellington.

On the outbreak of WWII, Courlander was enlisted into the New Zealand army, he was placed in the Intelligence Corps because his linguistic abilities, and served in the Western Desert and Greece, where he was captured in April 1941. As a prisoner of war, He  acted as a translator at the camp. He joined work parties in Austria and eventually in September 1943 was sent to Genshagen camp or Stalag III-D

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unbeknown to his fellow PoWs, Courlander secretly had fascist sympathies and was convinced of  the inevitability of a Nazi victory.

The Germans recruited Courlander in January 1944 for the British Free Corps.While imprisoned in  Genshagen, Courlander  came into contact with one of the most infamous British traitors of WWII – John Amery.

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The British Free Corps had actually come  from John Amery,  son of the then serving British Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery.John Amery had  travelled to Berlin in October 1942 trying to sell the idea to the Germans for  the formation of a British volunteer force.

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Initially christened the ‘Legion of St George’, the idea was personally approved by the Führer. On December 28, 1942.

In April 1944 Roy Courlander  was promoted to Unterscharführer (sergeant). his aim was to oust John Amery and take control of the Corps.

But eventually Courlander, left the BFC by volunteering for service with the war correspondent unit SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers, which operated at the Western front. As the year wore on, even the most hardened members of the BFC came to the realisation  that the war was going against Germany, and they had no desire to go into action. Their ultimate goal was to make for the Allied lines as soon as they got the chance. During thE summer OF 1944 Roy Courlander made plans to escape.,along with another BFC member, Francis Maton.

The two men boarded a train for Belgium in the company of a Flemish Waffen-SS unit. On 3 September 1944, the two men arrived in Brussels, where they teamed up with the Belgian Resistance. They partook in street fighting against the Germans. Courlander got injured  during the action. The following day, they surrendered themselves  to a British officer, and  became  the first two BFC men to be arrested.

He was Court-martialed by the New Zealand military authorities, on 3 October 1945, in Westgate-on-Sea near Margate in Kent and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a charge of “voluntarily aiding the enemy”

In May 1950 the sentence reduced to 9 years after an appeal by Courander. He died in Australia in 1979.

What amazes me the most that although he was brought up by Jewish adoptive parents, he by all accounts gave him a good life, he joined the SS.

BFC

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Two leaders, 2 speeches,one date-June 18 1940.de Gaulle & Churchill.

de gaulle & churchillOn June 18, 1940,Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill both gave speeches which instilled hope in the darkest hour. Speeches of defiance which some of is still rings true today.

The Appeal of 18 June-Charles de Gaulle(Translated)

The appeal is often seen as  the origin of the French Resistance to the German occupation during World War II. De Gaulle addressed the French people from London after the fall of France

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“The leaders who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies have formed a government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true, we were, we are, overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. It was the tanks, the airplanes, the tactics of the Germans that surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.

“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!

“Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.

“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.

“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons, I invite the engineers and the specialised workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.

“Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.”

This was their finest hour-Winston Churchill(end of the speech)

The speech was delivered to the Commons at 3:49 pm,and lasted 36 minutes. Churchill – as was his habit – made revisions to his 23-page typescript right up to and during the speech

 

finest hour

“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. 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”

 

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Winstonchurxhill.org

 

Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? Well apparently Hitler was.

Virginia_Woolf_in_1902

As part of the preparation of ‘Operation Sealion’ the planned invasion of Great Britain. A  secret list of prominent British residents to be arrested, was produced in 1940 by the SS.

The original name in German was ‘Sonderfahndungsliste GB’ (Special Search List Great Britain) it was a 144 page document with 2,820 selected targets to be arrested after the German invasion of Britain.

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The list was made up of hundreds of prominent politicians, authors, poets, journalists, actors, scientists, musicians, heads of industry and religious leaders.

The ‘Black book’ was drawn up by SS General Walter Schellenbergs office. Schellenberg was to become the Gestapo chief responsible for GB after an invasion, the main Gestapo offices were to be based in Birmingham.

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After the German invasion of Britain Hitler wanted the  SS and Gestapo to have rounded up every person on the list, arrested them and, in many cases, executed them.

The invasion that was,  never to be, largely as a result of the ‘Battle of Britain’ culminating in September that year with air supremacy retained by the British RAF

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The list had several notable mistakes, such as people who had already died like Lytton Strachey or moved away like Paul Robeson.

The writer and feminist Virginia Woolf as well as  the ‘War of the Worlds’ author HG Wells were on the list as potential threats to the Nazi Government, if there had been a Nazi controlled government in the UK.

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The assassination of a British Prime Minister.

John Bellingham assassinating the Rt Hon Spencer Perceval in the Lobby of the House of Commons, 11 May 1812

British politics is probably the most intriguing politics in the world. With all its traditions and even the sometimes humorous debates in the house of commons are often fascinating.

However what many people don’t know that in 1812 on the 11th of May the only ever assassination of a British Prime minister took place.

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Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland, was shot and killed in the lobby of the House of Commons in London, around  17:15 pm  Hisassassint was John Bellingham, a  merchant from Liverpool who had a bone to pick  with the government. Bellingham was arrested and, four days after the murder, was put on , convicted and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Newgate Prison one week later on 18 May.

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As the Prime Minsiterl entered the lobby of the House of Commons a number of people were gathered around in conversation as was common practice. Many turned to look at him as he came through the doorway. No-one noticed as the quiet man stood up from beside the fire place, removing a pistol from his inner pocket . Nor did anyone notice as the man walked calmly towards the Prime Minister. When he was close enough, without saying a word, the man shot his gun directly at the Prime Minister’s chest. The Prime Minister staggered forward before falling to the ground, calling out as he did so words that witnesses later recalled in different ways as: “I am murdered!” or ‘Murder, Murder’ or ‘Oh God!’ or ‘Oh my God!”

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John Bellingham was a businessman in his forties, who in 1804 had been falsely imprisoned for debt in Russia. The British embassy would not help him and when he was released in 1809 he returned to England seeking compensation from the British government, which kept turning him down.

On Friday 15 May 1812  John Bellingham  got his day in court, but only to answer a charge of murder. The trial took place in a crowded court room at the Old Bailey, presided over by Sir James Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.

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Bellingham was denied to plead insanity and was found guilty of murder, executed by public hanging at Newgate .

The execution was fixed for the morning of Monday 18 May , his body was then  handed over to the anatomists to be dissected.Bellingham’s skull was preserved at Barts Pathology Museum

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Perceval, meanwhile, was brought in an impressive funeral procession from Downing Street to Charlton, to be buried in a family vault at St Luke’s.

Spencer_Perceval_(1762-1812)_Prime_Minister_lived_here

 

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Sources

History Today

The Guardian

The Princess mechanic

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Love her or loath her, there is no denying Queen Elizabeth II is an iconic figure and is well able to stand her ground and she is not afraid to get her hands dirty.

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On April 25 1942, at age 16, the then Princss  Elizabeth registered with the Labour Exchange ,the British employment agency at the time, and was extremely keen to join a division of the women’s armed forces. Her father was reluctant to let her do so, but eventually relented.PROD-The-Princess-Signs-Up

She enlisted in the Army age 18 .Once in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, Elizabeth learned how to change a wheel, deconstruct and rebuild engines, and drive ambulances and other vehicles.

She  joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service as an honorary Second Subaltern, Princess Elizabeth achieved the rank of honorary Junior Commander within five months. Unlike the other members of the ATS, Elizabeth returned each night to sleep in the royal residence of Windsor Castle.elizaebeth 2

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Sources

Military.com

Mashable

 

WWII Internment camps in Britain

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“Collar the lot,” is what Churchill said about the citizens of enemy nations living in the UK, it didn’t matter if they were friend or foe,.

During the Second World War (1939 – 1945) a number of internment camps for civilians from enemy countries were established on the Isle of Man. These were based at Peveril Camp, Peel (on the west coast of the island) and Mooragh Camp, Ramsey (on the NE coast of the island). Some civilians lived in the pre-war guest houses at Douglas and other Manx towns. Prisoner of War camps were established at Base Camp, Douglas and one nearby at Onchan.

During the war, thousands of people were held in internment camps on the Isle of Man.

Some were political detainees or suspected spies, but many were innocent refugees who had nowhere else to go.

Throughout the UK citizens from Germany,Italy and Austria,including Jews who had escaped these countries from Nazi perscuion, were rounded up and transferred to the Isle of Man.

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At the outbreak of World War Two there were around 80,000 people in Britain who were considered potential “enemy aliens”.

It was feared there might be people acting as spies, or people willing to assist Britain’s enemies in the event of an invasion.The UK government asked the Isle of Man to accommodate people at camps in Douglas, Ramsey and Peel.

Political prisoners were detained in high security camps, but most internees – including many Jewish refugees – were free to go shopping, swim in the sea and attend classes.

onchan

One of the internees was Rabbi Werner van der ZylRabbi_Werner_van_der_Zyl. a rabbi in Berlin and in London.He was a founder and President of Leo Baeck College, London; President of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (now known as the Movement for Reform Judaism); and Life Vice President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.Van der Zyl came to Britain in 1939. During World War II the British Government interned him at Kitchener Camp in Sandwich, Kent and then at Mooragh Internment Camp  on the Isle of Manas an “enemy alien”. He was released from internment in 1943.

Fred Uhlman was born in Stuttgart, Germany, into a prosperous middle-class Jewish family. He studied at the Universities of Freiburg, Munich and Tübingen from where, in 1923, he graduated with a degree in Law followed by a Doctorate in Canon and Civil Law.uhlman

On 4 November 1936, he married Diana Croft, daughter of Henry Page Croft (later Lord Croft), against her parents’ strongest wishes, and they remained close and happy for nearly fifty years.

They set up home on Downshire Hill, in London’s Hampstead and it became a favourite cultural and artistic meeting place for the large group of refugees and exiles who, like Uhlman, had been forced to flee their homeland. He founded the Free German League of Culture, whose members included Oskar Kokoschka and Stefan Zweig, though he parted company with it when he felt it coming under communist domination.

Nine months after the outbreak of the Second World War, Uhlman, with thousands of other enemy aliens, was, in June 1940, interned by the British Government, in Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man.  He was released six months later and reunited with his wife and with his daughter, born while he was interned.

Photograph of internees in a yard at Hutchinson Internment Camp [c.1940-1] by Major H. O. Daniels

 

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Sources

BBC

The Telegraph

Harold Shipman-Dr Death

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Born in England in 1946, serial killer Harold Shipman attended Leeds School of Medicine and began working as a physician in 1970. Between then and his arrest in 1998, he killed at least 100 and possibly as many as 260 of his patients, injecting them with lethal doses of painkillers.
He was  jailed for life, on January 31 2000. for murdering 15 of his patients, making him Britain’s biggest convicted serial killer.
Shipman, from Hyde in Greater Manchester, is also suspected of killing more than 100 other patients.

From the dock at Preston Crown Court, Shipman showed no emotion as the verdict was read out: guilty to 15 murders and forging the will of one of his patients.

In sentencing Shipman to life imprisonment the judge, Mr Justice Thayne Forbes, said:

“Each victim was your patient. You murdered each and every one by a calculated and cold-blooded perversion of his medical skills.”

SirThayn_Forbes

“You brought them death, disguised by the attentiveness of a good doctor.”

All Shipman’s victims were women and none was suffering from a serious illness when she died. Each one died suddenly after a visit from Shipman.

The court was told how the doctor would visit the victims in their homes and administer a lethal dose of morphine.

The alarm was raised by solicitor Angela Woodruff, the daughter of Kathleen Grundy, Shipman’s last victim. Shipman arrived at Mrs Grundy’s home on the pretext of giving her a blood test and had, in fact, given her a massive dose of morphine.

He then crudely forged her will so he would benefit from her substantial estate.

 

Much of Britain’s legal structure concerning health care and medicine was reviewed and modified as a result of Shipman’s crimes. He is the only British doctor to have been found guilty of murdering his patients, although other doctors have been acquitted of similar crimes or convicted on lesser charges.

Shipman died on 13 January 2004, one day prior to his 58th birthday, by hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison.

Wakefield-Prison-PA.jpg

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Dads Army- The British home guard

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“Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler” is the first line of the theme of the British sitcom Dad’s Army. A truly hilarious show. I remember one episode where Capt Mainwaring is telling a story how he met an Australian soldier. He had asked him “Did you come here to die?” whereupon the Australian soldier replied”No I came here Yesterday”

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Dad’s Army was based on the British Homeguard.

The Home Guard (initially “Local Defence Volunteers” or LDV) was a defence organisation of the British Army during the Second World War. Operational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the services, or those in reserved occupations–hence the nickname “Dad’s Army”. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies.They were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours in order to give the regular troops time to regroup. The Home Guard continued to guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded on 31st December 1945, eight months after Germany’s surrender. Men aged 17 to 65 could join. it was unpaid but gave a chance for older or inexperienced soldiers to support the war effort.

Below are some pictures of the real ‘Dad’s Army’

Lt_Gen_Lashner_G_Whistler_(General_Officer_Commanding-in-Chief_of_the_Western_Command)_with_local_Home_Guard_commanders_at_Oswestry_(5470501779)

Home Guard training during the War would occasionally descend into farce, according to the recently discovered diary
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Home Guard post at Admiralty Arch in central London, 21 June 1940.

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Post-Office-Home-Guard

Post-Office-Home-Guard

Merthyr Tydfil Home Guard

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Bunwell Home Guard

Bunwell Home Guard

The cast of Dad’s Army

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The bombing of Buckingham Palace

BP-17

Buckingham Palace was hit by bombs seven times during the Second World War. It was just a matter of sheer luck that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth weren’t killed or very badly injured when the third raid took place on September 13th, 1940.

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The king and queen were in one of the rooms near where the bomb went off. But crucially, the window to that room was open at the time. Hence no glass was blown into the room and the royal couple escaped unscathed. One man did die in the attack though, due to the shards and several others were injured.

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The bombing attack took place at about eleven in the morning – a time when it was likely to be fully occupied with members of the royal family, staff and workmen. The king and queen were quietly sitting enjoying a cup of tea when the bombs exploded just outside their window.

The royal chapel at the palace was also damaged at the same time by a third bomb. The bomb plummeted through the roof destroying the altar, causing a great deal of structural damage and hurling tons of debris into the basement.

The young princesses, Margaret and Elizabeth, were living at Windsor Castle – twenty miles away from the palace – at the time and indeed for the duration of the war. The government had tried to persuade the royal family to live somewhere safer than London, with its constant attacks from the Luftwaffe.

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Queen Elizabeth detailed the events of the daylight raid that occurred on Friday, September 13, 1940 in a letter to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary.

September 13th 1940

My Darling Mama

I hardly know how to begin to tell you of the horrible attack on Buckingham Palace this morning…

…At this moment we heard the unmistakable whirr-whirr of a German plane – We said “ah a German”, and before anything else could be said, there was the noise of aircraft diving at great speed, and then the scream of a bomb – It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle –

I saw a great column of smoke & earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightning into the corridor – There was another tremendous explosion, and we & our 2 pages who were outside the door, remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass. It is curious how one’s instinct works at those moments of great danger, as quite without thinking, the urge was to get away from the windows. Everybody remained wonderfully calm, and we went down to the shelter – I went along to see if the housemaids were alright, and found them busy in their various shelters – Then came a cry for “bandages”, and the first aid party, who had been training for over a year, rose magnificently to the occasion, and treated the 3 poor casualties calmly and correctly –

Darling mama, I do hope that you will let me come & stay a day or two later – It is so sad being parted, as this War has parted famillies.

With my love, and prayers for your safety, ever darling Mama your loving daughter in law

Elizabeth

P.S. Dear old B.P is still standing, and that is the main thing.

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