Saturday, 30 April 2011

Hero (Chinese film with Jet Li)

I watched this film and was mesmerised by the story, the characters, the glorious and vibrant colours, the music. This story had everything - the fighting scenes were unashamedly over the top and lavish. It was fabulously far fetched to a degree that made the film all the more compelling. The music enhanced the viewers mood, making me feel sad and sometimes fierce. The photography or film work - I don't know what is the proper terminology, but it was breath taking. There was a scene in a wood were two ladies fight a duel amid cascading autumn leaves that swirl in mini whirlwinds as both compete with super fast sword play, leaping amid the tree tops of gold leaf confetti. Honestly, it is lavish and surreal - pure escapism inside China's long and spell binding history. 

I'm not your usual martial arts buff. By this I mean I'm not one of those people who liked the Bruce Lee movies or others from the 1970s. They honestly did not do it for me. But just recently, I have been enjoying some of the real quality films that have come out of China - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, House of the Flying Daggers, Red Cliff and my favorite; Hero.

I was spellbound by the characters and the wonderful music of Hero. I loved the secret plot to try and assassinate the Emperor to be; King Ying Zheng of the Qin - but the ending!

Oh man, what an absolute peach of an ending. It was pure heroics as our nameless assassin descends the vast court stairs with powerful  music - full of strutting tempo following the bold warrior towards the huge doors.

Descending the great steps from
 King Ying Zheng's Palace
All of the Emperor's advisers calling upon him in unison. Hundreds of guards and archers preparing for King Ying Zheng to give the command. Hundreds of servants calling in unison over and over again.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Giving You Boadicea (Boudicca - British Warrior Queen of Iceni)


Picture from a primary school project.
I think Queen Boadicea would have
looked more like this. We have great mythical
statues and wonderful evoking paintings of
her. But I think this school project picture is
very good.
Queen Boadicea is sometimes known as Boudicca or Budduca. She has a lot of different pronunciations and her name is spelt in many ways. For this blog, she is Boadicea because I like that spelling best. 


Queen Boadicea conjures up sorts of imaginations to British people. We are very proud of the myth that is Boadicea and are fascinated that she led a revolt against the might of the Roman Empire. She almost drove the Romans off of the island too, but for one final rallying stand of a Roman general in the Midlands of the country. The harsh reality of her rebellion was that many people would brutally die before her forces were put down and the retribution would also be colossal.

It is thought that Boadicea was born in the A.D. 20s decade - what exact year is not known, though some Roman historians think it was A.D. 25. This is most likely wrong but close. This would have made Queen Boadicea around late 30s or touching 40 at the time of A.D. 61 when she led the Icenian and other British tribes against Roman occupation of Britain.


This was at the time of Emperor Nero and south Britain had been under Roman occupation for around 20 years. There had been a pact between the Iceni lands (today's Norfolk and Suffolk in South East England) and the Roman occupying forces. The Icenian King Prasutagus had agreed on some sort of pact that he could rule over his Iceni people without Roman interference.

It is believed that Prasutagus would have paid some sort of levy to the Roman governors and would have been forced to allow direct Roman rule upon his death. This was usual Roman law when occupying new territory. Some historians even go as far as to suggest he would have used Iceni slaves as a form of payment to maintain control within his kingdom. Also, it is believed that he enjoyed borrowing money from the neighbouring Romans in the occupied Trinovantian kingdom (today's county of Essex in South East England.)

When he died, he left half of the kingdom to Rome and the other half to his wife Boadicea. He had two daughters by his wife and he was believed to have been some years her senior. The debt he left behind was due payment and the Romans decreed that the Iceni were liable.

The Romans decided to enforce their own law and annexed all of the Icenian lands, confiscating property from prominent chieftains. Boadicea tried to protest but the Romans had her publicly flogged and her two daughters raped before her. This was to show Icenians that Rome, well and truly ruled over them.

At the same time the Roman Governor of Britain named Gaius Suetonius Paulinus led an expedition of soldiers to the island of Mona (today's Anglesey in North Wales.) There was a sacred Druid gathering on the island. The Romans attacked the gathering and massacred many of the Druids in a wooded area of the island.

Back in the Iceni lands Boadicea and her subjects were furious at what had been done to them by the Romans. It is not known if the Massacre of Druids on Mona further fuelled the Rebellion about to take place, but Boadicea and the Iceni took advantage of Paulinus' absence. Boadicea seemed to take on powers almost akin to divinity among her Iceni and neighbouring British tribes.


One of the Roman historians (Tacticus) suggests that she pulled a hare from her clothing and performed a ritual in front of an audience of chieftains. This involved watching where the hare ran and from this they were said to have read favourable omens. Of course, this is almost certainly not true, but it would not hurt to assume she had presented herself in some divine form to her audience. Divine people are more easily followed and believed in.  

In the occupied Celtic kingdom of Trinovantian, the capital had been overtaking by Roman veteran soldiers who were treating the local Trinovi with contempt. They had built a temple dedicated to the late Emperor Claudius who had originally conquered them. The Trinovi had been forced to pay for the building of this temple in the settlement of Camuldunum (today's Colchester, Essex.)


Boadicea and her alliance of other tribes including the Trinovi struck with a vast army of Celts, easily breaching Camuldunum's defences. They ran throughout the streets of the settlement - allowing no quarter to any of the Roman veterans who lived there - many had families, but this was to no avail; women and children were horrifically put to the sword - no Roman or anyone loyal to them was spared. A few barricaded themselves in the huge temple dedicated to the late Claudius. They tried to hold out - the last remnant of Roman veterans, and the surviving women and children. Their fate was to be the same as those who had fallen before them in the burning bloodstained streets, where Roman settlers had been put on gibbets and nailed upon crosses. Roman women were impaled on spikes and had their breasts cut off. The ghastly affair was a frenzied orgy of violence by the Britons towards the Roman occupiers and the few Roman survivors in the temple would have a further two days to dwell upon the fact. Eventually, the Celts piled wood and other combustibles about the temple and set light to the building with the occupants still inside. It was a hideous and diabolical slaughter by any standard, but the flames of rebellion had been ignited by the humiliating whipping and raping of a Queen and her daughters. The Romans would pay dearly for this.

Word had got to a Roman garrison commanded by Quintus Petillius Cerialis. He marched his IX Legion towards Camulodunum with the notion of rescue, but his Legion was ambushed by Iceni and their allies. The Roman soldiers were overwhelmed as they marched through a forest. The Celtic tribesmen were able to rush them at close quarters and slaughtered most of the foot soldiers before they could organise into their tried and trusted formations. Only the commander and a small group of cavalry managed to escape. This battle is believed to have happened in an area of today's Great Wratting, Suffolk. There was no interest in prisoners just total annihilation of any living person that was Roman or allied to them. The slaughter was immense and unyielding.

Next, the vast Celtic alliance under Queen Boadicea marched on Londinium (today's London.) This was a comparatively new settlement that had grown in the past twenty years of Roman occupation. It was full of merchants and other traders - a hive of activity.


The Roman Governor of Britain was marching his men back from North Wales and had tried to gather other armies to his cause. He managed to acquire a force of 10,000 soldiers but he knew this was not enough to combat or defend Londinium (London.) He sent word to evacuate the settlement. Those that were foolish enough to remain felt the anger of Boadicea's forces. Once again there was death and slaughter of all. Again none were spared and the unfortunate Romans and those who served them were put to death in another frenzied ritual of slaughter. Children and women again included in the orgy of killing. The entire settlement was burnt to the ground as the Celt's fury was brought to bare. Even to this day when archaeologists dig up London or Colchester, there is a layer of ash from the time of this terrible upheaval.


Boadicea then went to the next settlement of Verulamium (today's St Albans) Here she exacted further revenge on the people at this settlement - crucifixion, gibbet hangings, impaling and burning. There was no mercy shown at any time to any Roman that crossed the rebellious Briton's path. Traitors who had aided the Romans - servants and friends etc were also dispatched in the same brutal way. 

Those who did abandon London were hurriedly making for the south coast to flee into Gaul (today's France.) By this time Boadicea had a following of around 200,000 people. Not all of these were fighters - large numbers were women and children following the menfolk - a gigantic caravan of Celts, hell bent on the slaughter of anything Roman. Britons across the country were flocking to her cause. Word came of the Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and his 10,000 soldiers. Boadicea decided to confront the Roman Governor of Britain and this is where she and her chieftains made their colossal mistake.

In the Midlands of Britain at a destination not known exactly, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was able to choose his ground. Some people believe it was near to today's city of Leicester, but no exact location can be sure. The Roman Governor General was able to choose a gully entrance to form his army. This offered his flanks natural geographical protection. He then arranged his troops in a line of triangular block formations - a line of arrowhead shapes.

When Boadicea and her followers arrived they formed a vast arc of waggons so that the many thousands of women and children who followed the Celtic army could watch the battle. The British had such superior numbers that they were confident of fighting the Romans in open formation. It was confidence that was very ill deserved.

As the Britons attacked, the Roman formations held firm and the multitude of British warriors were caught - locked by their numbers in the triangular formations of the Roman soldiers. The Romans used their shield walls to contain the squashed Britons who were being pushed by their own forces from behind. The Romans then began their tried and trusted methods of stabbing through and over their large shields - killing Britons with every stab and thrust of their short swords.

In a short time, the Britons broke rank and began to flee. Hordes had been killed during the crush. Once the Britons started to flee, the Roman horsemen were let loose to complete the route. It fell upon the encampment of women and children and the slaughter was brought upon all who were before the horsemen. This time, British women and children felt the same anger and vengeance as the Romans had done in Camulodunum, Londinium, and Verulamium.

Many of the chieftains fell and it is believed that Boadicea, fearing capture, decided to poison herself. The Britons would have known what Romans did to conquered and defeated Celts. Many would have known the fate of Gaul's Vercingetorix during the time of Julius Ceaser.

As the Britons had done to Roman settlers, so too, did Gaius Suetonius allow his Roman soldiers to exact equal revenge. The rebellion was ruthlessly put down. A few years later Rome relieved Suetonius, Governor General of Britain, from his post and put in a more lenient Governor of Roman Britain.


There is the romantic view of Boadicea which often over shadows the desperate and terrible circumstance that brought about the Iceni rebellion of 60-61 AD. It is more likely that the Iceni warrior queen looked as the picture at the beginning depicts, though many of us see her in more desirable and romantic image - perhaps as the fictitious picture below might depict.







Other Roman themes on Retro Brit:

Roman Ninth Legion Gets Mauled by Boadicea's Iceni
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/boudicca-iceni-warrior-queen-massacres.html
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/07/blog-post.html

Read of another British Celtic queen: Cartimandua of Brigantes.
 http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/05/cartimandua-treacherous-queen-of.html

The Roman who defeated Boadicea:
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/07/boadiceas-nemesis-gaius-suetonius.html

Cleopatra
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/09/cleopatra-last-of-pharaoh-of-egypt.html

Hypatia
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/09/hypatia-of-alexandria.html


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex Dies.

Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex

"I Know You're antiseptic - your deodorant smells nice..."

I remember zooming out to buy this record when it first came out about 1977/1978. It was called Germ Free Adolescence. It was during the Punk Rock times, and seeing front singer Poly Styrene do this on Top of the Pops was one of my favorite Retro Brit memories from that era. I was an adolescent then - all spots and pimples and an attitude problem. I thought the world owed me a living.

"I'd like to get to know you - you're deep frozen like the ice..."

It is with great Sadness that Poly Styrene died at the young age of 53. She succumb to cancer. Another chunk of the past will always come back to me when I fondly remember that song (Germ Free Adolescence.)

From the Punk Rock Era
Best Wishes to her family and friends. 
















Sunday, 24 April 2011

Dreadful Manifestation ( Dark violin Instrumental )


From YouTube Jacekdupa

This tune makes me think that some apocolyptical thing is brewing - under the noses of everyone - all of whom are oblivious to the dreadful thing manifesting itself. Whoooooooo!

It all sounds so dreadful yet compelling. There is something diabolical within the tune. Something vulgar and menacing. Yet still we feel compelled to listen to this splended, foreboding music.




Saturday, 23 April 2011

Moyra Melons Ear Ring Quandary

Moyra Melons wanted to wear the most suitable ear rings for going out. She was in a quandary about which ear rings looked best. She asked her husband to help her choose the right pair. He kept saying he liked the pair she had.

"You haven't seen them with my dress," she scolded.

"Don't bother with the dress," he mumbled. "I can use my imagination. Try another pair on."

"Every time I put a new pair of ear rings on, you reply that you like that pair best. You can't like the same pair best every time."

Her husband coughed, "Well every time I look at them, I think they are a nice pair."

Moyra went through her entire ear ring collection trying to find a pair that were suitable. Her husband kept asking her to pose in them and he would come over in his usual hot flush. In the end he went for the first pair she originally put on.

He said, "I wanted to look at as many pairs as possible and I've certainly done that. Let me explain why I like this pair in more detail."

He closed the door and was in the bedroom for a rather long time explaining why he liked the first pair better - strange that don't you agree?
















Friday, 22 April 2011

Gladiator Emperor - Commodus 161 AD to 192 AD

Gladiator Emperor Commodus
Commodus was a Roman Emperor born in the year of 161 AD. Obviously, scholars and students of Roman history would know of this Emperor and today, most everyday people know of him as the Gladiator Emperor from the Ridley Scott movie Gladiator. He was played by actor Joaquin Phoenix. Of course the movie was fictitious and the character of Maximus played by Russell Crowe is fictional too.

However, Commodus existed and his father Marcus Arelius was true. In reality - from 177 AD he co-ruled with his father Emperor Marcus Arelius. Much of Marcus’ reign was marred by continuous conflict with enemies along the Roman Empire’s boundaries. Towards the end of his life he was at war with the Danube tribes in the Germanic parts of Europe. When he died in 180 AD; the title of Emperor passed to his 19 year old son Commodus.

Imagine a 19 year old teenager inheriting the most powerful pinnacle of power in the world. This young Emperor would rule Rome for 12 years until being violently murdered by a gladiator on New Year’s Eve 31st December 192 AD at the age of just 31.

He was not murdered in the gladiatorial arena – although he had fought in the games against gladiators during his time. This was not viewed well by the upper classes of Rome and it was not considered proper when the head strong Emperor insisted upon such things.

At the start of his reign he accused two brothers (friends from his childhood days) of plotting against him. The two brothers were ex-army men who had done Rome good service. They had a fine Villa that Commodus wanted for his own. He had them killed under false allegations and moved into their splendid ground, building an arena and training himself in the art of gladiatorial skills with the help of a retired gladiator called Narcissus.

Commodus had a passion for the games and wanted to go into the arena and stand before the mob – hear them roar and feel the adrenalin rush. He made sure that his opponents were at a disadvantage. They would be inferior, have blunt swords and carry injuries so that he would have all the advantage.

He thrilled the rank and file Roman audience, which was the mob, but in reality the ruling classes were not impressed. He was constantly eliminating senators that voiced disapproval of his rule and even had his sister Lucilla, her daughter and his cousin’s wife killed after being banished to the island of Capri. They had all been involved in a bungled plot to assassinate him.

Commodus had clashed with the ruling senate early in his reign and usurped dictatorial power for himself. He remained popular with his soldiers and the mob that enjoyed his lavish games, but the ruling classes were increasingly concerned as one by one they were being eliminated with no ability to thwart the head strong Emperor. On occasion he played a prank upon visitors to his household by mixing human excrement in the food he gave to them. This, he thought funny and he enjoyed watching them gag and expected them to laugh the matter off as good natured fun. 

Then his mistress was believed to have discovered a list of people to be disposed of. She was horrified to find her name upon it. She, along with all other names of high officials on the list would be eliminated in the new year of 193 AD. The terrified mistress made sure that these people were informed of the forth coming proclamation. The concerned parties quickly arranged an assassination plot to strike first.

On New Year’s Eve of 180 AD, his gladiatorial instructor Narcissus was recruited by the high ranking officials to do the deed. This must have been hurried because a poison attempt seemed to have gone wrong. Commodus was recovering from a bout of vomiting and it is believed the poison his mistress had deviously fed him was coming out of his body. Narcissus improvised and crept into the bathroom where Commodus was soothing his aching body. The old gladiator got into the pool and drowned the Emperor, thus ending a rule of 12 years.

Some historians believe this point was the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire because the Praetorian Guard would auction the Emperor’s seat of power to the highest bidder - an auction that would continue with future Emperors. The rot had set in.

Other Roman themes on Retro Brit:

Queen Boadicea Rebellion AD61
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/04/boadicea-boudicca-british-warrior-queen.html

Livia Drusilla - wife of Augustus first Roman Emperor
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/01/livia-drusilla-58-bc-29-ad-sinister-and.html

British chieftain fights Julius Caesar's attack on Britain
http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.com/2011/09/cassivellanuss-fighting-julius-caesar.html


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Dark Rap Beat (Violin)



I think I'm on a violin trip at the moment - this is a modern Gothic - Dark Rap Beat. Very atmospheric and full of mischief - again from YouTube.  

















Dark Sad Violin Beat




Some of these musical pieces set the imagination alight. This is one shared from YouTube and is called Dark Sad Violin. Listen and judge for yourself... :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elizabeth Sladen (AKA Sarah Jane Smith) Passed Away.


Actress Elizabeth Sladen
It is with great sadness that I heard of Elizabeth Sladen's death at the age of just 63 from cancer. The news took me completely by surprise. I watched a DVD of her playing Doctor Who's companion (Sarah Jane Smith) in The Brain Of Morbius, a few days ago.
First appearance with Jon Pertwee
On this sight of Retro Brit, I like to touch things of nostalgia, especially British things and Actress, Elizabeth Sladen was part of that Retro British world in the 70s, when she came into Doctor Who alongside Jon Pertwee. She continued the role with Tom Baker and was in some of the fine Gothic Sci/fi stories of that Sci/fi show.

Nicholas Courtney &
Elizabeth Sladen 


Alongside the late Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;) that is two of the show's Retro actors to leave us. They had a unique signature of their own within the show's history.

Later when the Doctor Who TV series was resurrected, she came back as an older Sarah Jane Smith in 2006 and even done spin off shows (The Sarah Jane Adventures) She was extremely popular among Doctor Who fans and will be greatly missed.

Condolences to her family and friends.















Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Alone Wolf




Sad violins again. Doing things to the imagination and letting ones mind travel.

















Thunder Child fires People's Imagination


Great art impression of HMS Thunder Child charging into action


H.G.Well's famous novel (War Of The Worlds) is set in Victorian Britain during the year of 1899. It is the height of the British Empire and all her Britannic might is futile and laid bare by Martian tripods dropping into the country from the sky. During the story, there is a moment when a paddle steamer filled with refugees is trying to flee the country into the sea. As the packed steamer paddles out of Maldon in Essex, England and into the River Blackwater; three Martian tripods come after the boat from the opposite shore. 



What Thunder Child
 might have looked like
The old Victorian ironclad called H.M.S. Thunder Child is stationary in the river but must move to action stations and  defend the fleeing paddle steamer. The brave ship charges the three alien tripods and the fictional legendary battle begins.

The valiant H.M.S. Thunder Child as always stirred my imagination and because British ships of this time never came up against a formidable enemy; Thunder Child gives us a little make belief battle to saviour. Artists have constantly painted and designed artwork depicting their own views of the battle.
  

Monday, 18 April 2011

Spiritual Flute: The Beauty of Nature



Great piece from YouTube. I'm on a little journey at the moment with all these wonderful sounds. I find that some of these sounds help you to make scenes in your head and create moods that you might want to put into narative if you write. You look for all sorts of things as tools when you write and music is often a very good source.


HMVS Cerberus Steam Powered Australian Turret Ship 1868


This ironclad, HMVS (V for Victoria in Australia) was an old Victorian turret ship with muzzle loaders and was built before HMS Devastation. The first sea going turret battleship with no sail rigging - just steam power. Well the ship in the Australian news clip above is older and was powered also by just steam. It was a coastal defense vessel but still went out into the open sea.

It was built in the late 1860s and saw many years of service. It was scuttled off of the Australian coast in 1926, but is still visible today. Now corrosion is beginning to make its mark upon the partially submerged vessel. There is a friends of the Cerberus organisation, which aims to preserve the old ironclad. It is a pity they cannot raise the ship, but I think the aim is to try and preserve it partially submerged.

Maybe, the corrosion will accelerate if the ship is brought out of the water. This is a shame, because it is a wonderful piece of history from a bygone age.




The Spaceship of the future is here



Development of new ideas for future space travel and the use of more economical fuel sources to maintain propulsion. These ideas are being developed with ambitions of travelling to Mars and even a near by star. Some of these ideas are very good - especially the German one using hydrogen magnets to draw energy while cruising in space.
















Autumn Ladies and Sad Violin



Autumn tears and ladies with sad violins. This is another moving work - from the haunting sound to the montage of atmospheric and Gothic pictures taken from YouTube under 'Sad Violin.'

It's enough to make any red blooded bloke jump on his horse and go out looking for dragons to slay - especially if one of these ladies was waiting on the battlements, when you returned. 


This Beautiful Sadness


This beautiful sadness is something to behold. Wonderful arts combined - fabulous violin sounds and glorious pictures make this little YouTube piece very special. I could not resist putting it on the blog. Listen - look and let your mind wonder... :)

I wished I could play like this in an isolated room with a big window over looking woodlands, a field and a river.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

HMS Thunderer - The Victorian Battleship's accidents


HMS Thunderer's starboard boiler
exploded in September 1876

H.M.S. Thunderer was the sister ship of H.M.S. Devastation. She  was an early British Victorian battleship  that suffered two major accidents in her early years. The first being an explosion on the 2nd September 1876.

One of her two boilers was over heating due to pressure valves corroding in the upper section. This was on her starboard boiler. Also this boiler's pressure gauge was out of order so it was simply shut off. Such a thing is inconceivable today and its hard to think it was then, but as the starboard boiler began to over heat, the men in the engine room were unaware of the serious and deadly conditions they were working in. The commanding officer was down in the engine room at the time. (Perhaps he was there because of the fault.)

While the commanding officer was in the vicinity, the top half of the boiler exploded killing 15 men instantly, including the commanding officer. A further 70 men were seriously injured, of which another 30 of these would die later from the wounds they suffered. 

As a result of this accident, new protocols were introduced concerning engine checks and stability - careful monitoring that had to be maintained and procedures concerning engine shutdown.

Then on 2nd of January 1879 a second accident aboard H.M.S. Thunderer, brought about further changes within the Royal Navy. This time with the phasing out of muzzle loading turret guns to breech loaders with longer barrels. On this particular day after the New Year's Day, H.M.S. Thunderer was in the Sea of Mamora on a gunnery exercise.

H.M.S. Thunderer was testing her guns when the left hand cannon of the fore turret had misfired. The right hand gun had gone off but the left had not. The gunners inside the turret may have held their ears as the two guns were fired and so be unaware that only one gun had fired. When the muzzle loaders were wheeled back inside the turret, each gun barrel was lowered to hatches in the floor where ducting led down to the armourers below. They would slide a charge up the ducting into the waiting muzzle followed by a shell.
Fore turret destruction by left hand guns double loading.
The gun crew and the armourers below deck would have been unaware that as the guns were rolled forward out of the turret's gun ports, the left hand cannon had an explosive and shell sitting upon another explosive and shell. It was double loaded.

The order to fire was given and as the guns ignited the left hand one exploded in the turret. The 12" gun of 38 tons of steel in the confines of metal walls was horrendous. The luckless gun crew inside the revolving turret did not stand much chance. As a result 11 men were killed and 34 wounded. At first the crew were not sure what happened and the ship returned to Britain. The remaining right hand gun of the fore turret was dismantled and taken to Woolwich Arsenal in London. The cannon wheeled inside a tunnel of a mounded hill composed of dirt and sand bags - an armoured cell of containment. It was double loaded to create the same condition. When the gun was fired it exploded in the same way and upon checking damage they were able to prove that this was the cause of the accident - double loading the barrel.

As a result the admiralty brought in a directive for all ships to have muzzle loaders withdrawn and replaced with breech loaders. This would prevent an accident of such nature occurring in future.


Testing right hand gun at Woolwich Arsenal




Tuesday, 12 April 2011

HMS Hecate an 1871 Cyclops class coastal defense vessel

Cyclops class ship
There is something about this coastal defence ship that I like. It was not really up to much and did not need to prove itself during its time in service with Queen Victoria's Royal Navy. It was an odd shaped little vessel and was rather ugly - yet it still flicks a little switch for me. HMS Hecate was one of four Cyclops class ships that Parliament wanted to be built because of the Franco - Prussian war in 1870.

Parliament regarded these ships as necessary because they were small and cheap with a shallow draft and offered coastal water defence. The attack-minded, Admiralty thought that because of their shallow draft, they might make good attack vessels in shallow water ports of the enemy. However, the majority of people believed them unfit for the open sea and heavy weather. The low fore and aft decks were often awash with sea even in conditions not regarded as severe.


Admiral George Alexander Ballard thought the armament was fine but stability in open sea questionable. He was known to have referred to the Cyclops class ships as 'full-armoured knights on donkeys.' This was perhaps cruel, but probably right. However, as coastal or river boats, they were fine little ships.


HMS Hecate did make a journey across the North Sea and for this reason, I have a soft spot for her and the rest of these odd little ships. She had a complement of 156 men was 225ft from bow to stern with a beam of 45ft. She had two engines and a fore and aft turret, each with two 10 inch rifled muzzle loaders. The little lady could pack a punch if an enemy vessel was to get in her way.

These four ships (Cyclops, Hecate, Hydra, and Gorgon) were smaller versions of the HMS Devastation class battleship. They had one funnel instead of the two that HMS Devastation had and looked like a miniature version of this first turret Battleship with no sails.

(Incidentally there is an Australian Ship called HMVS Cerberus that was in service three years before HMS Devastation and is still about - part submerged in a bay off the Australian coast. She is very much like the Cyclops class ships but was built earlier. There is a Save the Cerebus movement to protect and look after this unique ship. You can find out more on Friends of the Cerebus Inc. Please click link below.)

http://www.cerberus.com.au/index.html



Not ideal for the open sea


Below is a newspaper report of HMS Hecate from the Glasgow Herald on 26th December 1883:

Some important experiments were made on Saturday off Plymouth on board the Hecate, 4, double-screw iron armour-plated turret-ship. This vessel, together with Gorgon, Cyclops, and Hydra, her sister ships, was built on the same principle as the Devastation, but on a much smaller scale. It was discovered that they could in no way stand the rough weather, and the belief was that powerful as they were, they could only be used for coast defence. About twelve months ago it was proposed to erect a superstructure on one as a test, with a view to secure not only greater stability but better accommodation for officers and crew. The Hecate was selected to experiment upon, and in January last Messrs H. & R. Green, of Blackwall, who were entrusted by the Admiralty with the work took, the ship in hand.


The improvement made included the extension of the breastwork to the ship's side and the lengthening aft about 20 feet. The captain's apartments are now within the superstructure, instead of below the upper deck, and are well supplied with light and natural ventilation. The officers generally have the advantage of a commodious reading room. A sick bay has been fitted up, and provision made for carrying a quantity of patent fuel. Additional mess accommodation has been secured on the lower deck by the removal of the sick bay, and better cabins have been allocated to the warrant officers.

The sea-going qualities of the Hecate under her altered condition were fully tested on her way from the Nore to Devonport. Saturday's experiments were directed to firing the four guns in the turrets, to test the strength of the superstructure, which is composed of ½ inch steel. Another object **** was to discover the best places for fixing the four Nordenfelt guns with which the ship is to be supplied.

The vessel is armed with four 18 ton guns, two in each turret, both of which revolve. The four guns were first discharged with scaling charges. Then the left gun in the fore turret was loaded with a full charge of 44lb of powder and a common shell weighing 400 lb and was discharged bearing on the port beam, at a horizontal elevation. The right gun in the same turret was next fired under similar conditions, but bearing on the starboard beam. Upon examining the superstructure it was found that two rivets had been started on the starboard side. The guns of the same turret were then fired with a battering charge of 70lb. of powder each and 400lb shell, but the concussion did no damage. They were then discharged simultaneously. The final experiment was the firing of an electric broadside of all four guns at once, bearing on the port beam. The concussion was considerable, but beyond the two rivets started, after the smallest charge, not the slightest damage was done — not even a pane of glass.



Monday, 11 April 2011

Moyra Melons' do and don't on ear rings.


Moyra Melons often seems to have a way of drawing attention to her splendid array of ear wear. Notice, if you will, how she uses a minimal effect to make you concentrate on the royal blue of her ear rings, matching her blue clothes.


Everything makes the looker focus on the ear bling. Its all that stands out really. It takes a great deal of expertise to do this kind of thing, but even someone as skilled as Moyra Melons does sometime fail to get her ear rings noticed.



If you observe the second photo, you will realise that even Moyra Melons gets it wrong now and then. See the effect when Moyra Melons got a new hair style that smothered her adorable ear rings, leaving many of her fans bewildered because they could not see a pair. Try to spot her ear rings in this photo and you will quickly realise that there is nothing to look at.

First photo correct but second photo wrong. It's a fine line between good ear rings getting a lady noticed and hiding a pair that fails to attract any attention. It's a delicate science that needs to be done right.

So on this occasion Moyra; nice try but stick to a hair style that allows your admirers to look upon your prized assets - your great taste in divine ear rings. 














Giving You Hong Xiuquan and the Taiping Rebellion (1850 - 1864)


Hong Xiuquan
After the first opium war, Britain and France, plus other western nations, tried to make inroads into China. Protestant missionaries from Britain tried to Christianize many of the Chinese race, but this was largely unsuccessful because of Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion.

However, one Chinese convert did corrupt and take on a form of heterodox Christianity that would shake China and the western traders to the core. It brought about the Taiping Rebellion - a civil war that would last for 14 years with a mopping up campaign that would last further years. The death toll from this horrendous venture is estimated at 25 million people.

It all started when a young scholar, named Hong Xiuquin, had to quit his education because his parents could not afford to pay for his continued schooling. He took up teaching in his local town to pay for his continued studies. Then in 1836 at age 22 he passed an exam that offered an opportunity for him to go to Guangzhou and take the Civil Service Examination. This was a highly prized award among China's elite, which was a gateway into the higher echelons of Qing dynastic power. However, this vexing examination had a pass rate of less than 5%.

Hong Xiuquan failed the examination and then several more attempts afterwards. Demoralised by the constant failure, Hong became embittered. He fell ill for some time and when he finally recovered he had changed. In his room, was a pamphlet of the local Protestant missionary church and he had been influenced by its teachings - misreading the doctrines and fashioning them to his way of thinking. 

He told friends, that during his illness, he had seen a vision and in this, he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He was able to instil this belief in many followers and managed to assemble an army of converts. At first, they were small in numbers fighting insurgents. They attacked small villages and found the minority population receptive to the idea of the new religion that promised them equality and salvation from the doctrines of the old imperial China. Hong had a blacksmith forge two huge swords that he welded as he rode into the villages. He became a symbol among the downtrodden peasants who were eager to destroy statues of Buddha and Confucius. 

The government Qing authorities tried to hunt these pirates and bandits as they called them. In an open battle, Hong's Taiping forces defeated the Qing government soldiers and from this moment in 1850, the fighting became a full blown war known as the Taiping Rebellion.

Hong's growing army drove back the government Qing forces all over Southern China and he used his generals to recruit more men and women from the surrounding farms and towns that fell to his forces. This was easy to do among many southern Chinese who were resentful of the unpopular Qing rulers of Manchu heritage.


The heterodox Christian rebels and their self-styled brother of Christ, Hong Xiuquan, formed an inner nation called the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Peace. They took Nanking as their major city and continued to expand deeper into China.

The fighting became horrendous as the heterodox Christians of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom took control of more territory. Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk law were abolished. Any who tried to resist or would not conform were put to death. Some of the new religion's doctrines were very harsh, including the separation of men and women, even among married couples.

As the war progressed over the years, Hong Xiuquan tried to court the Chinese middle classes and the European powers to his cause but was unsuccessful. He retired from fighting and ruled from Nanking as a prophet and spiritual leader. He charged his Generals to the Heavenly Kingdom's cause and endeavours. He did have one important associate (Yang Xiuqing) killed. This man had been with him from the beginning and Hong was worried that he was slowly trying to take control.


Eventually, the Qing government had to go to the European powers for help. Great Britain along with France responded positively to the request. The Heavenly Kingdom tried to take the city of Shanghai in 1860 but were stopped by Chinese soldiers commanded by European officers. Among them was a British soldier nicknamed Chinese Gordan. He would also be known as Gordan of Khartoum in later years.
  

The European-led Qing government forces were named the Ever Victorious Army in future. Gradually, they pushed the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom forces back over the next four years. Eventually, the remnants of the defeated Heavenly Kingdom army fortified Nanking, where Hong Xiuquan proclaimed that God would protect all within Nanking's walls. He died from food poisoning just days before the city fell to Qing government forces in 1864.

His buried body was exhumed and burnt. Then his ashes and remains were put into a cannon and blasted from the city walls, scattering his remains far and wide - denying him a final resting place.

Some defeated remnants of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom went into remote areas to try and continue the strange Christian cult's campaign, but they were mopped up or fizzled out over a period of years.

It was one of the 19th century's most costly civil wars in terms of life and it was the start of China beginning to look in at itself. It was a nation ruled by archaic dynasties and it was crying out for change. The Heavenly Kingdom of heterodox Christians was one rebellion that failed. There would follow others in the near future.




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