Lord Muncaster of Britain is kidnapped in Greece, nearly causing war

Lord Muncaster of Britain is kidnapped in Greece, nearly causing war


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While visiting Marathon, Greece, Lord Muncaster of Britain is kidnapped by brigands, almost resulting in war. The pirates, led by Takos Arvanitakis, were experienced in kidnapping and had used it as a lucrative source of income for many years. However, their capture of Lord Muncaster and a group of English tourists proved to be more difficult to pull off than they anticipated.

Arvanitakis and his gang demanded £50,000 for the release of the captives. King George of Greece refused their ransom demands, offering instead to exchange himself for the hostages in an attempt to appease England. However, before any further negotiations could take place, a confrontation between the brigands and Greek troops resulted in the death of just about everyone involved, including Muncaster. Arvanitakis was one of the few who managed to escape the battle with his life.

The incident caused England to threaten war, but Russia interjected by siding with Greece. The crisis was averted after Greece conducted a major crackdown on the bandits. Although few of the people they arrested had actually played any role in the kidnapping, it eased the international tensions and greatly reduced the number of subsequent kidnappings in the country.

Arvanitakis was shot and killed two years later.


African American Service during the Revolution

“O ur non-emancipated soldiers are almost irresistibly tempted to desert to our foes, who never fail to employ them against us,” wrote an anonymous Patriot in Philadelphia in 1777. He was referring to the small number of enslaved men who had signed on to fight in the Continental Army. Most of them did so because they had no choice: their masters forced them to to take their spot in the army. However, this individual’s concerns focused on the glaring temptation that many enslaved Africans and Black Americans faced as the British Army had promised any slave their freedom in trade for their service in His Majesty’s army. For some Americans, the prospect of armed slaves fighting against the American Cause was terrifying.

Black loyalist in Lord Dunmore's "Ethiopian Regiment" Wikimedia Commons

From the start of American Revolution, many in Great Britain favored arming slaves with British weapons and resources the hope being it would deprive the Southern states of workers, create an insurrection, and bring the American economy to a halt. Lord Dunmore, serving as Royal Governor of Virginia in 1775, issued a proclamation declaring that any slave who escaped and joined the British Army would earn their freedom. Soon, Dunmore had a fighting force of nearly 800 soldiers. After several battles, Dunmore’s Ethiopian Regiment was decimated by smallpox and disbanded.

The British also encouraged slaves to run away because they wanted to remove skilled slaves from American hands. Enslaved people were often trained and very talented in carpentry, masonry, as blacksmiths, shoemakers, seamstresses, bakers, and distillers. Many slaves in Maryland and Virginia used their knowledge of the tidal regions of the Chesapeake Bay to evade capture from their masters. Others, such as a free man named Jerry, were arrested for giving weapons to escaped slaves in support of the British. When South Carolina Royal Governor William Campbell protested his death sentence, an angry mob threatened to hang Jerry on his front doorstep. A man named Tye became a raider for New Jersey Loyalists around Monmouth, employing about 25 men of all nationalities. Tye’s Black Brigade was very successful until being gunned down by Captain Joshua Huddy, who defended his house from being plundered. Huddy single-handedly put down the raiders and kept his house.

Not all enslaved people took the British at their word. While it was generally believed within circles of enslaved people that the British offered the better opportunity of freedom from bondage, others refused to leave their plantations. Some stayed behind even after their masters had left, and refused to leave when British forces descended upon the vacant properties. Many recognized that Loyalist citizens owned slaves too. British officers were also known to acquire captured slaves for themselves. Even still, tens of thousands of enslaved people escaped their masters and crossed the British lines. Seldom few would actually see action in the British army.

The majority of African slaves who fled to the British were given non-military jobs with the army. These were usually manual labor positions that saw breastworks built and trenches dug. Indeed, the work experience that enslaved individuals brought with them proved formidable for British commanders who found useful methods of employing them. While a majority of the men were put to manual labor, others were given military training and armed with muskets. In 1779, the southern British army armed 200 slaves to defend Savannah, Georgia. Other former slaves in British uniforms fought in Virginia in 1781. A slave named Billy was convicted of treason by a Virginia court for attacking civilians from a British ship. His master, a lawyer, successfully overturned his death sentence by arguing that, as a slave, he could not be legally tried because he was not recognized as a citizen with rights. Despite this rare case, the effect of arming former slaves was immediate. American slave-owning communities “ran their slaves” by moving them regularly out of reach of British scouting parties. Many escaped slaves who were captured by their masters were punished by being sold at auction. In some cases, this actually proved to be a blessing. These very few were immediately freed by their purchaser.

As the British army became trapped at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781, many enslaved people with the British had come down with smallpox. In one of his last decisions as commander, British Gen. Charles, Lord Cornwallis ordered all infected persons to return to their plantations. He hoped the disease would spread among the healthy population and devastate the countryside. His plan failed, and the British fell at Yorktown in October, essentially ending the British Army’s war against American Independence. As the peace treaty was being hammered out overseas in 1782, British commander Guy Carleton was being hounded by American farmers and masters who demanded the British hand over their property. Several state assemblies conveyed the help of Gen. Washington to persuade Carleton to comply. Washington and Carleton held a meeting, but the British refused to recognize any escaped person who had crossed over prior to a ceasefire agreement in 1782 as property. The problem was tens of thousands of former slaves, thousands of whom were women and children, had escaped to the British lines, and more than enough had lied and assumed the identities of free people instead of slaves. In the end, the Americans did not get their escaped slaves back and over 50,000 former slaves left North America with the British army in 1783. For decades, the unresolved situation lead to fierce anti-British resentment in the South, who lost a disproportionate amount of their enslaved population. Of the 50,000, many settled in Nova Scotia and the Caribbean while others sailed back to West Africa and Great Britain.

Fighting for American Independence

“I served in the Revolution, in General Washington’s army. I have stood in battle, where balls, like hail, were flying all around me. The man standing next to me was shot by my side - his blood spouted upon my clothes, which I wore for weeks. My nearest blood, except that which runs in my veins, was shed for liberty. My only brother was shot dead instantly in the Revolution. Liberty is dear to my heart - I cannot endure the thought, that my countrymen should be slaves.” - Dr. Harris, a veteran of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, in an address to an anti-slavery society meeting in Francestown, New Hampshire, 1842.

1781 Watercolor illustrating Continental soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown which includes a member of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment Wikimedia Commons

The 1st Rhode Island Regiment was an assembled unit in the Continental Army that has been documented as having a large and visible body of African-American soldiers within its ranks. Best remembered for their efforts to repel Hessian advancements during the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778, they were led by Maj. Gen. James Mitchell Varnum. Estimates indicate that between 120-140 soldiers out of 250 were Black. Though integrated like nearly all other Continental regiments, the 1st Rhode Island is remembered for employing slaves and freedmen before it was approved by Congress and Gen. Washington. Up until 1778, the Continental Army did not allow African-Americans to serve. Exceptions were made, however, to those who had served since the early days in Boston in 1775. These men were allowed. New recruits were not. Seeing this, Lord Dunmore issued his proclamation in 1775, enticing African-Americans, enslaved and free, to join the British. Washington did an about-face, but the states were still reluctant to arm African-Americans. This changed at the state level as 1778 saw huge shortages in enlistments from local townships. To fill their quotas, they began allowing enslaved people and free African-Americans to enlist. In return, slaves were promised their freedom for their service. By 1781, the Continental army was noted as being nearly one-forth African-American at Yorktown. Regiments were not segregated, and a German officer marveled at the professionalism and dress attire of America’s first Black soldiers.

Lemuel Haynes was born to a Black father and a white mother he was indentured at five months of age to a white farmer who was also a Deacon. Haynes was raised as his son and was given an education. He eventually joined the Granville, Massachusetts militia in 1774 when he was 21 years old. He learned military tactics and was trained in Native American stealth-maneuvering. Haynes would write poems about his experiences during the war. He would later become the first Black ordained Congregational minister in the United States, and was a strong voice in the abolitionist movement. Some of his poetry consisted of the lines, “For Liberty, each Freeman strives As it’s a Gift of God And for it, willing yield their Lives,” (from The Battle of Lexington, 1775), and “I think it not [an exaggeration] to affirm, that even an African, has Equally as good a right to his Liberty in common with Englishmen. consequently, the practice of slave-keeping, which so much abounds in this land is illicit.” (from Liberty Further Extended, 1776).

Barzillai Lew served in the French and Indian War with his father. He married Dinah Bowman in 1768, a freedwoman from Lexington, Massachusetts who was a pianist. They would have several children who would all grow up to be musicians. Lew enlisted as a fifer/drummer in May 1775 in the 27th Massachusetts Regiment. He participated in the successful raid at Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 that brought the cannons back to Boston that drove the British out in 1776. He also fought at Bunker Hill in June 1775, playing the tune, “There’s Nothing Makes the British Run Like Yankee Doodle Dandy.” He was also witness to British Gen. John Burgoyne’s surrender to American forces at Saratoga, NY in 1777. The powder horn he carried throughout the war now sits in an African-American History museum in Chicago.

John Trumbull

Peter Salem, a former slave, is credited with shooting and killing British Maj. John Pitcairn during the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775. Artist and soldier John Trumball painted the famous depiction of Bunker Hill, which he also participated in. Salem’s head can be seen in the top left corner beneath the three waving flags. Pitcairn can be seen to the right-of-center beneath the raised British flag, dying in his son’s arms. Salem had been in Concord, Massachusetts when the British marched to take the stockpiles of munitions there. Along with other American militia, Salem drove the British back to Boston. He would reenlist several times during the war, serving nearly five years before retiring to Massachusetts where he married and settled in Leicester. A monument stands there in his honor to this day.

Cropped image of "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill" which highlights Peter Salem John Trumbull

Another brave American soldier, Salem Poor, was noted for his bravery during the events around Boston in 1775. Poor is credited with killing British Lt. Col. James Abercrombie, who is shown in Trumball’s painting, centered, laying flat on his back. Poor may or may not be the African-American depicted standing behind the white soldier with a drawn sword in the far right corner. For his efforts, Col. William Prescott petitioned to have him recognized for his services, “. we declare that a Negro man called Salem Poor of Col. Frye’s Regiment, Capt. Ames Company in the late Battle of Charleston, behaved like an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier, to set forth particulars of his conduct would be tedious. We would only beg leave to say in the person of this Negro centers a brave & gallant Soldier.” Poor would be with Washington at Valley Forge in 1778.

James Armistead Lafayette was a slave in Virginia owned by William Armistead. After gaining permission to join the war effort from his master, he came upon the British Army in Virginia in 1781 to gather intelligence for the turncoat, Benedict Arnold. In realty, Armistead was a double agent gathering intelligence for the Continental army under Maj. Gen. Lafayette. Armistead was very successful his reports were vital to the planning of the Siege at Yorktown. He was so good at fooling the British that Gen. Charles, Lord Cornwallis is said to have been stunned at seeing Armistead standing next to Lafayette after the British surrender. Unable to secure his freedom because he had not technically served in the American army, William Armistead, along with the help of Lafayette, petitioned the Virginia assembly to free him. He was granted his freedom, and took Lafayette’s name as a thank you. In 1824, when Lafayette returned to the United States and toured Virginia, James Armistead Lafayette approached the tavern where the celebrated French general was receiving the cheers of the locals. Upon entering the tavern, Lafayette recognized him, embraced him and offered his thanks for his service. Armistead saluted the general one last time, and departed. Gen. Lafayette, a former slave owner turned abolitionist, once said, “I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America if I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery.”

A drawing of a Black Continental soldier. National Parks Service

James Forten is perhaps the most successful African-American in the early decades of the United States. Born free in Philadelphia, he was inspired as a boy when he heard the new Declaration of Independence read aloud in July 1776. Raised with a healthy work ethic and educated by abolitionist Quakers, Forten enlisted on an American privateer at age 14. Captured by the British, he evaded being sold into slavery by impressing the British captain with his skills and knowledge. He was instead treated as a prisoner of war and sent to the infamous prison ship HMS Jersey. 11,000 Americans died aboard the disease infested prison ships anchored in the New York Harbor during the war. Forten was paroled after seven months and joined a merchant ship where he spent years at sea. When he returned to Philadelphia, he took a job working for a shipping company owned by a family friend. Forten quickly learned how to make sails and riggings for tall ships. When the chance came to buy the company in 1798, Forten did so and revolutionized the industry. Soon, he became one of the wealthiest individuals in Philadelphia. Forten employed both Black and white workers and sought to improve the conditions of American society. He used his talents and influence to promote the abolitionist movement in the United States. Originally, he considered paying for free African-Americans to resettle in other countries, but he was convinced to change his position by Black Americans who considered the United States their home. He was a staunch opponent of the American Colonization Society, which sought ways to transport freed slaves and born-free African-Americans to colonize the new countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia. He befriended a young William Lloyd Garrison, a future firebrand in the abolitionist movement, and the two started the influential newspaper, The Liberator, which he contributed editorials to before his death in 1842.

Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa, and was kidnapped into slavery as a young girl. Purchased by John Wheatley of Boston in 1761 as a servant girl for his wife Susanna, Phillis showed her quick learning capabilities and was given an education by the Wheatley family. Phillis soon mastered Latin and Greek and was writing poetry by 1770. In 1773, she published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Morale. It was the first publication of poetry by an African-American in the United States, and was recognized by the likes of John Hancock. Phillis wrote poems about George Washington taking command of the Continental Army in 1775. In return, Washington wrote her a letter thanking her, and invited the young woman to visit him at the army encampment in March 1776. It is unknown if she did. Having been freed following the deaths of John and Susanna Wheatley in the 1770s, Phillis married and struggled to earn a living for her family. Her writing work fell out of favor with the public during the war, and battling frail health, she passed away in 1784.


Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light

ATHENS — Not long before the new Acropolis Museum opened last weekend, the writer Christopher Hitchens hailed in this newspaper what he called the death of an argument.

Britain used to say that Athens had no adequate place to put the Elgin Marbles, the more than half of the Parthenon frieze, metopes and pediments that Lord Elgin spirited off when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire two centuries ago. Since 1816 they have been prizes of the British Museum. Meanwhile, Greeks had to make do with the leftovers, housed in a ramshackle museum built in 1874.

So the new museum that Bernard Tschumi, the Swiss-born architect, has devised near the base of the Acropolis is a $200 million, 226,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art rebuttal to Britain’s argument.

From certain angles it has all the charm and discretion of the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. Neighbors have been complaining all the way to the bank, housing values having shot up because of it.

Inside, however, it is light and airy, and the collection is a miracle. Weathered originals from the Parthenon frieze, the ones Elgin left behind, are combined with plaster casts of what’s in London to fill the sun-drenched top floor of the museum, angled to mirror the Parthenon, which gleams through wraparound windows. The clash between originals and copies makes a not-subtle pitch for the return of the marbles. Greece’s culture minister, Antonis Samaras, on the occasion of the opening last week, said what Greek officials have been saying for decades: that the Parthenon sculptures, broken up, are like a family portrait with “loved ones missing.” Mr. Samaras’s boss, Greece’s president, Karolos Papoulias, spoke less metaphorically: “It’s time to heal the wounds of the monument with the return of the marbles which belong to it.”

Don’t bet the British will agree.

Inside the museum visitors ascend as if up the slope of the Acropolis via a glass ramp that reveals, underfoot, ancient remains excavated during the building’s construction. (They will eventually be opened to the public.) It’s a nice touch. On the second floor archaic and early classical statues mill about a big gallery like a crowd in an agora, a curatorial and architectural whimsy that risks visitors missing works like the “Kritios Boy,” which nearly hides to one side.

As for the caryatids from the Erechtheion and the sculptural remains of the Temple of Athena Nike, including the sexy “Sandal Binder,” works of textbook import, they look a bit stranded on a balcony and in a passageway because the museum, save for the Parthenon floor, doesn’t have regular spaces. Free circulation puts everything on equal footing (this is the birthplace of democracy, after all), but the flip side of this layout is the failure to make priorities clear, which art museums exist to do.

That said, Athens needs new modern landmarks. The city is choked by slapdash buildings thrown up after the junta fell during the early 1970s. Public monuments ape ancient palaces, badly. Nikos Dimou, a prominent writer here, recalled that when a show of the British modern sculptor Henry Moore arrived years ago: “People complained about bringing monstrous forms to the land of beauty. Ninety percent of cultured Greeks even today live with this classical sensibility.”

A generation or two of well-traveled, environmentally conscious, globally wired Greeks has since come of age, and the Elgin Marbles debate now represents a kind of luxury that Greece has earned. It began with the actress Melina Mercouri during the 1980s, her publicity campaign coinciding with the rise of a populist leader, Andreas Papandreou, whose slogan was “Greece for the Greeks.” It has evolved into a less glamorous tangle of diplomatic and legal maneuverings, with Greece lately recovering some 25 antiquities from various countries, including some additional stray fragments from the Parthenon.

“This issue unifies us,” Dimitris Pandermalis, the Acropolis Museum’s director, said the other day, never mind that surveys show how few of them actually bother to visit the Acropolis past grade school.

As to whether Elgin had legal authority to remove the marbles, the Ottomans being the ruling power, as the British maintain, Mr. Pandermalis paused. “The problem is not legal,” he decided. “It’s ethical and cultural.” George Voulgarakis, a former culture minister, wasn’t so circumspect when asked the same question. He said, “It’s like saying the Nazis were justified in plundering priceless works of art during the Second World War.”

“I understand what museums fear,” Mr. Voulgarakis added. “They think everything will have to go back if the marbles do. But the Acropolis is special.”

That’s what the Greeks have insisted for years when arguing why the marbles belong to Greece, but they also say the marbles belong to the world when pointing out why they don’t belong to the British. The marbles in fact belonged to the Parthenon, a building here and nowhere else, the best argument for repatriation, except the idea now is not to reattach them where they came from but to move them from one museum to another, from the British Museum to the new Acropolis Museum, albeit next door — a different matter, if not to the Greeks.

“It’s the fault of a German,” Mr. Dimou said about Greek pride in this cause. He was referring to Johann Winckelmann, the 18th-century German art historian whose vision of an ancient Greece “populated by beautiful, tall, blond, wise people, representing perfection,” as Mr. Dimou put it, was in a sense imposed on the country to shape modern Greek identity.

“We used to speak Albanian and call ourselves Romans, but then Winckelmann, Goethe, Victor Hugo, Delacroix, they all told us, ‘No, you are Hellenes, direct descendants of Plato and Socrates,’ and that did it. If a small, poor nation has such a burden put on its shoulders, it will never recover.”

This myth required excavators on the Acropolis during the 19th century to erase Ottoman traces and purify the site as the crucible of classicism. The Erechtheion had been a harem, the Parthenon a mosque. “But Greek archaeology has always been a kind of fantasy,” Antonis Liakos, a leading Greek historian, noted the other day. The repatriation argument, relying on claims of historical integrity, itself distorts history.

For their part, the British also point out that the marbles’ presence in London across two centuries now has its own perch on history, having influenced neo-Classicism and Philhellenism around the globe. That’s true, and it’s not incidental that the best editions of ancient Greek texts are published by British, French, Americans and Germans, not Greeks. But imperialism isn’t an endearing argument.

So both sides, in different ways, stand on shaky ground. Ownership remains the main stumbling block. When Britain offered a three-month loan of the marbles to the Acropolis Museum last week on condition that Greece recognizes Britain’s ownership, Mr. Samaras swiftly countered that Britain could borrow any masterpiece it wished from Greece if it relinquished ownership of the Parthenon sculptures. But a loan was out.

Pity. Asked whether the two sides might ever negotiate a way to share the marbles, Mr. Samaras shook his head. “No Greek can sign up for that,” he said.

Elsewhere, museums have begun collaborating, pooling resources, bending old rules. The British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and other great public collectors of antiquity have good reason to fear a slippery slope if the marbles ever do go back, never mind what the Greeks say.

At the same time the Acropolis Museum plays straight to the heart, sailing past ownership issues into the foggy ether of a different kind of truth. It’s the nobler, easier route.

Looting antiquities obviously can’t be tolerated. Elgin operated centuries ago in a different climate. The whole conversation needs to be reframed. As Mr. Dimou asked, “If they were returned, would Greeks be wiser, better? Other objects of incredible importance are scattered around Greece and no one visits them.” Mr. Liakos put it another way: “It’s very Greek to ask the question. Who owns history? It’s part of our nationalist argument. The Acropolis is our trademark. But the energy spent on antiquity drains from modern creativity.”


Silencing Ehrenfels

Making spies disappear was clearly not enough. Something had to be done about the source of the problem–Ehrenfels herself–and it had to be done quickly. There were several options: In the best Nelson tradition, she could be cut out by a Royal Navy boarding party and sailed out of the harbor, the ideal solution or her radio system could be entirely destroyed or she could simply be sunk in the harbor. One way or another, she had to be silenced. Allied merchant shipping–stretched thin all over the world–could not stand U-boat losses at the present rate.

Still, the prickly question of Portuguese neutrality made conventional raiding an unacceptable risk. A strike by commandos or a Navy boarding party was the obvious answer to the Ehrenfels menace, but if the raid went sour there would be hell to pay. Regular forces were out of the question the job had to be done by individuals without official connection to Britain. The raiders had to be people who could be disavowed if the raid failed—people, crudely put, both deniable and expendable.

It was also desirable that whoever struck the Portuguese port have a suitable—and real—civilian cover, and that they come from far away, to lessen the chances of discovery. With these requirements in mind, the British intelligence community cast about for a suitable tool, and in the end its hand fell upon a curious, almost archaic, military unit. At first glance it appeared a somewhat unlikely instrument for a delicate, super secret foray against an enemy on neutral ground.

It was called the Calcutta Light Horse, a reserve cavalry unit of ancient lineage that has its own monument in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. On formal occasions of state it performed with panache as escort to the Viceroy of India. Its battle honors stretched all the way back to 1759, the “year it rained victories” for Britain.

It was a regiment of real soldiers, too, stout-hearted men prepared to risk their lives when Britain was at war anywhere. More than 50 of its men had been killed in action in the two world wars, and over the years six of its members had won the coveted Victoria Cross.

Between wars, it was a warm and pleasant social center for British civilians in Calcutta, a place where a young man might ride and race and meet and become part of the British community. It had elected its own officers since 1857, but new men always started as ordinary troopers, regardless of their civilian office or profession. Promotion was entirely on merit and on the vote of the regiment.

Just now, however, in the middle of World War II, it was a slightly rusty sword. It was again largely a social club, for nearly all of its younger members were already on active duty with British forces across the globe. The average age of its members in 1941 was almost 40 and growing older. The men who were still civilians were either too old for active service or could not be spared from their jobs as company directors and civil servants.


Life and career

Byron was the son of the handsome and profligate Captain John (“Mad Jack”) Byron and his second wife, Catherine Gordon, a Scots heiress. After her husband had squandered most of her fortune, Mrs. Byron took her infant son to Aberdeen, Scotland, where they lived in lodgings on a meagre income the captain died in France in 1791. George Gordon Byron had been born with a clubfoot and early developed an extreme sensitivity to his lameness. In 1798, at age 10, he unexpectedly inherited the title and estates of his great-uncle William, the 5th Baron Byron. His mother proudly took him to England, where the boy fell in love with the ghostly halls and spacious ruins of Newstead Abbey, which had been presented to the Byrons by Henry VIII. After living at Newstead for a while, Byron was sent to school in London, and in 1801 he went to Harrow, one of England’s most prestigious schools. In 1803 he fell in love with his distant cousin, Mary Chaworth, who was older and already engaged, and when she rejected him she became the symbol for Byron of idealized and unattainable love. He probably met Augusta Byron, his half sister from his father’s first marriage, that same year.

In 1805 Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he piled up debts at an alarming rate and indulged in the conventional vices of undergraduates there. The signs of his incipient sexual ambivalence became more pronounced in what he later described as “a violent, though pure, love and passion” for a young chorister, John Edleston. Alongside Byron’s strong attachment to boys, often idealized as in the case of Edleston, his attachment to women throughout his life is an indication of the strength of his heterosexual drive. In 1806 Byron had his early poems privately printed in a volume entitled Fugitive Pieces, and that same year he formed at Trinity what was to be a close, lifelong friendship with John Cam Hobhouse, who stirred his interest in liberal Whiggism.

Byron’s first published volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, appeared in 1807. A sarcastic critique of the book in The Edinburgh Review provoked his retaliation in 1809 with a couplet satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, in which he attacked the contemporary literary scene. This work gained him his first recognition.

On reaching his majority in 1809, Byron took his seat in the House of Lords, and then embarked with Hobhouse on a grand tour. They sailed to Lisbon, crossed Spain, and proceeded by Gibraltar and Malta to Greece, where they ventured inland to Ioánnina and to Tepelene in Albania. In Greece Byron began Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which he continued in Athens. In March 1810 he sailed with Hobhouse for Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), visited the site of Troy, and swam the Hellespont (present-day Dardanelles) in imitation of Leander. Byron’s sojourn in Greece made a lasting impression on him. The Greeks’ free and open frankness contrasted strongly with English reserve and hypocrisy and served to broaden his views of men and manners. He delighted in the sunshine and the moral tolerance of the people.

Byron arrived back in London in July 1811, and his mother died before he could reach her at Newstead. In February 1812 he made his first speech in the House of Lords, a humanitarian plea opposing harsh Tory measures against riotous Nottingham weavers. At the beginning of March, the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage were published by John Murray, and Byron “woke to find himself famous.” The poem describes the travels and reflections of a young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. Besides furnishing a travelogue of Byron’s own wanderings through the Mediterranean, the first two cantos express the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. In the poem Byron reflects upon the vanity of ambition, the transitory nature of pleasure, and the futility of the search for perfection in the course of a “pilgrimage” through Portugal, Spain, Albania, and Greece. In the wake of Childe Harold’s enormous popularity, Byron was lionized in Whig society. The handsome poet was swept into a liaison with the passionate and eccentric Lady Caroline Lamb, and the scandal of an elopement was barely prevented by his friend Hobhouse. She was succeeded as his lover by Lady Oxford, who encouraged Byron’s radicalism.

During the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into intimate relations with his half sister Augusta, now married to Colonel George Leigh. He then carried on a flirtation with Lady Frances Webster as a diversion from this dangerous liaison. The agitations of these two love affairs and the sense of mingled guilt and exultation they aroused in Byron are reflected in the series of gloomy and remorseful Oriental verse tales he wrote at this time: The Giaour (1813) The Bride of Abydos (1813) The Corsair (1814), which sold 10,000 copies on the day of publication and Lara (1814).

Seeking to escape his love affairs in marriage, Byron proposed in September 1814 to Anne Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke. The marriage took place in January 1815, and Lady Byron gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, in December 1815. From the start the marriage was doomed by the gulf between Byron and his unimaginative and humorless wife and in January 1816 Annabella left Byron to live with her parents, amid swirling rumours centring on his relations with Augusta Leigh and his bisexuality. The couple obtained a legal separation. Wounded by the general moral indignation directed at him, Byron went abroad in April 1816, never to return to England.

Byron sailed up the Rhine River into Switzerland and settled at Geneva, near Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin (soon to be Mary Shelley), who had eloped and were living with Claire Clairmont, Godwin’s half sister. (Byron had begun an affair with Clairmont in England.) In Geneva he wrote the third canto of Childe Harold (1816), which follows Harold from Belgium up the Rhine River to Switzerland. It memorably evokes the historical associations of each place Harold visits, giving pictures of the Battle of Waterloo (whose site Byron visited), of Napoleon and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and of the Swiss mountains and lakes, in verse that expresses both the most aspiring and most melancholy moods. A visit to the Bernese Oberland provided the scenery for the Faustian poetic drama Manfred (1817), whose protagonist reflects Byron’s own brooding sense of guilt and the wider frustrations of the Romantic spirit doomed by the reflection that man is “half dust, half deity, alike unfit to sink or soar.”

At the end of the summer the Shelley party left for England, where Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s daughter Allegra in January 1817. In October Byron and Hobhouse departed for Italy. They stopped in Venice, where Byron enjoyed the relaxed customs and morals of the Italians and carried on a love affair with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife. In May he joined Hobhouse in Rome, gathering impressions that he recorded in a fourth canto of Childe Harold (1818). He also wrote Beppo, a poem in ottava rima that satirically contrasts Italian with English manners in the story of a Venetian menage-à-trois. Back in Venice, Margarita Cogni, a baker’s wife, replaced Segati as his mistress, and his descriptions of the vagaries of this “gentle tigress” are among the most entertaining passages in his letters describing life in Italy. The sale of Newstead Abbey in the autumn of 1818 for £94,500 cleared Byron of his debts, which had risen to £34,000, and left him with a generous income.

In the light, mock-heroic style of Beppo Byron found the form in which he would write his greatest poem, Don Juan, a satire in the form of a picaresque verse tale. The first two cantos of Don Juan were begun in 1818 and published in July 1819. Byron transformed the legendary libertine Don Juan into an unsophisticated, innocent young man who, though he delightedly succumbs to the beautiful women who pursue him, remains a rational norm against which to view the absurdities and irrationalities of the world. Upon being sent abroad by his mother from his native Sevilla (Seville), Juan survives a shipwreck en route and is cast up on a Greek island, whence he is sold into slavery in Constantinople. He escapes to the Russian army, participates gallantly in the Russians’ siege of Ismail, and is sent to St. Petersburg, where he wins the favour of the empress Catherine the Great and is sent by her on a diplomatic mission to England. The poem’s story, however, remains merely a peg on which Byron could hang a witty and satirical social commentary. His most consistent targets are, first, the hypocrisy and cant underlying various social and sexual conventions, and, second, the vain ambitions and pretenses of poets, lovers, generals, rulers, and humanity in general. Don Juan remains unfinished Byron completed 16 cantos and had begun the 17th before his own illness and death. In Don Juan he was able to free himself from the excessive melancholy of Childe Harold and reveal other sides of his character and personality—his satiric wit and his unique view of the comic rather than the tragic discrepancy between reality and appearance.

Shelley and other visitors in 1818 found Byron grown fat, with hair long and turning gray, looking older than his years, and sunk in sexual promiscuity. But a chance meeting with Countess Teresa Gamba Guiccioli, who was only 19 years old and married to a man nearly three times her age, reenergized Byron and changed the course of his life. Byron followed her to Ravenna, and she later accompanied him back to Venice. Byron returned to Ravenna in January 1820 as her cavalier servente (gentleman-in-waiting) and won the friendship of her father and brother, Counts Ruggero and Pietro Gamba, who initiated him into the secret society of the Carbonari and its revolutionary aims to free Italy from Austrian rule. In Ravenna Byron wrote The Prophecy of Dante cantos III, IV, and V of Don Juan the poetic dramas Marino Faliero, Sardanapalus, The Two Foscari, and Cain (all published in 1821) and a satire on the poet Robert Southey, The Vision of Judgment, which contains a devastating parody of that poet laureate’s fulsome eulogy of King George III.

Byron arrived in Pisa in November 1821, having followed Teresa and the Counts Gamba there after the latter had been expelled from Ravenna for taking part in an abortive uprising. He left his daughter Allegra, who had been sent to him by her mother, to be educated in a convent near Ravenna, where she died the following April. In Pisa Byron again became associated with Shelley, and in early summer of 1822 Byron went to Leghorn (Livorno), where he rented a villa not far from the sea. There in July the poet and essayist Leigh Hunt arrived from England to help Shelley and Byron edit a radical journal, The Liberal. Byron returned to Pisa and housed Hunt and his family in his villa. Despite the drowning of Shelley on July 8, the periodical went forward, and its first number contained The Vision of Judgment. At the end of September Byron moved to Genoa, where Teresa’s family had found asylum.

Byron’s interest in the periodical gradually waned, but he continued to support Hunt and to give manuscripts to The Liberal. After a quarrel with his publisher, John Murray, Byron gave all his later work, including cantos VI to XVI of Don Juan (1823–24), to Leigh Hunt’s brother John, publisher of The Liberal.

By this time Byron was in search of new adventure. In April 1823 he agreed to act as agent of the London Committee, which had been formed to aid the Greeks in their struggle for independence from Turkish rule. In July 1823 Byron left Genoa for Cephalonia. He sent £4,000 of his own money to prepare the Greek fleet for sea service and then sailed for Missolonghi on December 29 to join Prince Aléxandros Mavrokordátos, leader of the forces in western Greece.

Byron made efforts to unite the various Greek factions and took personal command of a brigade of Souliot soldiers, reputedly the bravest of the Greeks. But a serious illness in February 1824 weakened him, and in April he contracted the fever from which he died at Missolonghi on April 19. Deeply mourned, he became a symbol of disinterested patriotism and a Greek national hero. His body was brought back to England and, refused burial in Westminster Abbey, was placed in the family vault near Newstead. Ironically, 145 years after his death, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of the Abbey.


"That's when we realized the greater cause we were fighting for," Megellas said. "We were fighting for the values that we believed in as Americans."

After the war, Megellas met his wife, Carole, back in his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wis. They have two sons, one who lives near them in Colleyville and the other who lives in Florida. For many years, Megellas worked for the Agency for International Development in South America and Vietnam. He continued, meanwhile, to serve in the Army Reserve, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

In the 1990s, Megellas started attending reunions, getting reacquainted with his old war buddies, including Edward Sims, a retired Army colonel, who was Megellas’ H Company executive officer. Sims was stunned to learn that his friend “Maggie,” as Megellas was known, had been awarded a Silver Star instead of the Medal of Honor that Sims had recommended after the fighting in Herresbach.

When Sims learned the citation never mentioned how Megellas single-handedly took out a tank, he re-submitted the paperwork, with new, eyewitness accounts he acquired from those involved. But the Army denied the request in 2003.

There have been appeals since then to presidents and Congress, where bills have been introduced over the years to authorize the president to award Megellas the Medal of Honor. An online petition was set up on the website, www.medalformaggie.com, for supporters to sign encouraging Congress to act. But so far, nothing has come of the effort.

“If I get it, it’d be a nice thing, but it really doesn’t change much,” Megellas said. “The eyewitness statements from my buddies who were there with me, that means a lot to me. And so I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction.”

It would mean something to his family, said Carole Megellas. “To your children and your grandchildren,” she said. And to his hometown of Fond du Lac. And to Sims, his commander, who died in 2013 at age 93. And to his brothers in combat, those who survived and those who died.


RELATED ARTICLES

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town told the Sunday Times hereditary peers were 'not something that would be accepted by the British public today'.

Lord Alderdice told the paper hereditary peers should be allowed to 'wither away'.

The pair, along with Lord McFall of Alcluith, are currently in the running to become Speaker of the House of Lords.

Baroness Hayter (pictured left) of Kentish Town told the Sunday Times hereditary peers were 'not something that would be accepted by the British public today'. Lord Alderdice (pictured right) told the paper hereditary peers should be allowed to 'wither away'

The pair, along with Lord McFall of Alcluith, are currently in the running to become Speaker of the House of Lords (pictured)

Of the more than 800 hereditary peers across the UK, a maximum of 92 selected hereditary peers are entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

The House of Lords: What are hereditary peers?

Of the more than 800 hereditary peers across the UK, a maximum of 92 selected hereditary peers are entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

The number was slashed to 92 under sweeping reforms introduced by Labour in 1999 to significantly cut the number of hereditary peers allowed to sit in Parliament's upper house.

Hereditary peers, who carry the titles of Duke, Marquess, Marchioness, Earl, Viscount, Baron and their female equivalents, are those who have their titles passed down by family their family.

They would previously automatically inherit their seat in the House of Lords upon the death of their relatives.

But the House of Lords system was replaced in 1999 with one of 'life peerages' - where people are appointed to the House of Lords and given a peerage which lasts until the lord dies.

As a compromise in the new system, which saw the total number of lords slashed from 1,330 to 669, Labour allowed 92 hereditary peers to remain.

When one hereditary peer dies or retires, a new lord is elected from the pool of hereditary peers by a system of by-election.

There are currently four available seats among the hereditary peers. However by-elections have been suspended since March last year due to Covid.

Despite Labour's sweeping changes in 1999, clamour for reform in the House of Lords has continued.

There are currently 800 seats - including hereditary and life peers - in the House of Lords - making it the second biggest legislature in the world after the National People's Congress in China.

The life peerage system has its critics, due to the lords being appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Labour and Conservative governments have in the past been accused of attempting to 'flood' the house with Labour or Conservative lords.

But hereditary peers remain the most controversial element - with claims they are unrepresentative of the UK population.

They have an average age of 72, all of them are white, all of them are men and almost half went to Eton College.

Opponents are also wary of the influence of their potential to influence Government policy.

Though the House of Lords cannot directly block bills from the House of Commons, they can an amend and delay bills.

In reality, the Lords' main role is to review and give insight into new laws - with appointed lords often being highly experienced experts in their fields.

But the ability to delay bills can become a powerful tool in the run-up to elections, particularly when a Government wants to push through policy in the run-up to a vote.

The number was slashed to 92 under sweeping reforms introduced by Labour in 1999 to significantly cut the number of hereditary peers allowed to sit in Parliament's upper house.

Hereditary peers, who carry the titles of Duke, Marquess, Marchioness, Earl, Viscount, Baron and their female equivalents, are those who have their titles passed down by family their family.

They would previously automatically inherit their seat in the House of Lords upon the death of their relatives.

But the House of Lords system was replaced in 1999 with one of 'life peerages' - where people are appointed to the House of Lords and given a peerage which lasts until the lord dies.

As a compromise in the new system, which saw the total number of lords slashed from 1,330 to 669, Labour allowed 92 hereditary peers to remain.

When one hereditary peer dies or retires, a new lord is elected from the pool of hereditary peers by a system of by-election.

There are currently four available seats among the hereditary peers. However by-elections have been suspended since March last year due to Covid.

Despite Labour's sweeping changes in 1999, clamour for reform in the House of Lords has continued.

There are currently 800 seats - including hereditary and life peers - in the House of Lords - making it the second biggest legislature in the world after the National People's Congress in China.

The life peerage system has its critics, due to the lords being appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Labour and Conservative governments have in the past been accused of attempting to 'flood' the house with Labour or Conservative lords.

But hereditary peers remain the most controversial element - with claims they are unrepresentative of the UK population.

They have an average age of 72, all of them are white, all of them are men and almost half went to Eton College.

Opponents are also wary of the influence of their potential to influence Government policy.

Though the House of Lords cannot directly block bills from the House of Commons, they can an amend and delay bills.

In reality, the Lords' main role is to review and give insight into new laws - with appointed lords often being highly experienced experts in their fields.

But the ability to delay bills can become a powerful tool in the run-up to elections, particularly when a Government wants to push through policy in the run-up to a vote.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, a life peer who was formerly a member of Labour's National Executive Committee and ex-party chairman, is one of those calling for an end to hereditary peers in the lords.

Baroness Hayter, 71, told the Sunday Times she felt the by-election system for hereditary lords was 'wrong' and has called on a vote on whether they should be resumed after Covid.

Meanwhile, Lord Alderdice, who sits for the Liberal Democrats, has also backed their permanent suspension.

The third candidate, Baron McFall of Alcluith, a former Labour lord who currently serves as the Senior Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, told the Sunday Times he 'admired' the work of those advocating reform.

He added that by-elections had become 'absurd'.

All three candidates for the role of speaker of the House of Lords have urged Boris Johnson to accelerate reform of the upper house.

Baron McFall of Alcluith (pictured), a former Labour lord who currently serves as the Senior Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, told the Sunday Times he 'admired' the work of those advocating reform

All three candidates for the role of speaker of the House of Lords have urged Boris Johnson to accelerate reform of the upper house

It comes as an investigation by the Sunday Times, published last week, found that hereditary peers have cost the taxpayer almost £50million in expenses in the last 20 years.

Peers can claim £323 a day in tax-free expenses, as well as travel costs.

What did the Sunday Times investigation find?

An investigation by the Sunday Times, published last week, found that hereditary peers have cost the taxpayer almost £50million in expenses in the last 20 years.

Peers can claim £323 a day in tax-free expenses, as well as travel costs.

However, the investigation by the Sunday times found that the average hereditary peer has spoken in the House of Lords 50 times in the past five years.

This is compared to the 82 times that a life peer has spoken on average over the same period.

There are also 60 per cent more likely to mention their own business or personal interests when they do speak, the paper adds.

However, the investigation by the Sunday times found that the average hereditary peer has spoken in the House of Lords 50 times in the past five years.

This is compared to the 82 times that a life peer has spoken on average over the same period.

There are also 60 per cent more likely to mention their own business or personal interests when they do speak, the paper adds.

A House of Lords spokesperson told the Sunday Times that the upper house was 'busy and effective' in its role of holding the Government to account and that all of those in the house took their role 'very seriously'.

The upper house took huge criticism from Tory MPs following the Brexit referendum.

In 2018 Conservative politicians, including former Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith accused the House of Lords of attempting to thwart Brexit.

He warned there had to be a ‘reckoning’ and a ‘complete and total overhaul’ of the Lords.

The backlash was sparked by peers voting to keep Britain in the Single Market and to remove the fixed date for leaving the EU, as well as repeatedly amending the Withdrawal Bill.

It also caused a negative response from the British public, according to a poll carried out in 2018.

Confidence in the Upper House plummeted as 76 per cent of voters said they felt peers were ‘out of tune with the will of the British people’. Even more said the Lords was ‘outdated throwback’.

The data came from a Daily Mail poll, carried out by ComRes, which revealed some 58 per cent of voters believe peers would be wrong to try to thwart Brexit, with 24 per cent thinking they should do so.

In February last year it was revealed peers paid themselves almost a third more in 2019 than in the previous 12 months as 31 claimed more in expenses than the standard take-home wage of an MP.

The cost of expenses and the payment of daily parliamentary attendance allowances in the House of Lords rose by some 29 per cent in the 12 months to March 2019, reaching £23 million.

The average tax-free payment received by peers was £30,827 - more than the median salary of UK workers.

Parliamentary authorities defended the payments as they insisted they had risen because peers had been asked to work more days than the previous year.

Labour warns election candidates to avoid talking about Boris Johnson's handling of Covid pandemic - because it has been too popular with voters

By Glen Owen for the Mail on Sunday

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer faced embarrassment last night after a leaked strategy document advised the party’s election candidates to avoid talking about Boris Johnson’s handling of the corona-virus pandemic – because it has been too popular with voters.

The ‘framing and messaging’ briefing, for candidates in May’s local elections, instead recommends they ‘connect to Labour’s brand strengths’ by talking about alleged Tory underfunding of the NHS and the award of public service contracts to ‘cronies’.

Sir Keir’s leadership has come under strain as the Tories have opened up a double digit poll lead over Labour on the back of the successful vaccine roll-out, causing concern among his MPs over the party’s prospects in the local elections.

The leaked strategy paper divides target voters into ‘settlers’, who are described as ‘older, more socially conservative voters’ who are attracted by the need to ‘protect core services’ ‘prospectors’, who are ‘younger, aspirational voters’ who want affordable housing and ‘pioneers’, who are ‘socially-liberal, socially-conscious voters’ opposed to property developers and threats to the environment

Sir Keir’s leadership has come under strain as the Tories have opened up a double digit poll lead over Labour

As an example of the sort of claims the candidates should place on leaflets, the document says: ‘The Conservative approach has run its course.

'They will increase council tax which will hit the poorest the hardest’.

It goes on to provide a suggested template: ‘XXX Conservatives are making the same mistakes – they’ve done XXX bad thing, YYY bad thing, and if they win power they will do BAD THING’.

The leaked strategy paper divides target voters into ‘settlers’, who are described as ‘older, more socially conservative voters’ who are attracted by the need to ‘protect core services’ ‘prospectors’, who are ‘younger, aspirational voters’ who want affordable housing and ‘pioneers’, who are ‘socially-liberal, socially-conscious voters’ opposed to property developers and threats to the environment.


The Battle of Britain

With France conquered, Hitler could now turn his forces on Germany’s sole remaining enemy: Great Britain, which was protected from the formidable German Army by the waters of the English Channel. On July 16, 1940, Hitler issued a directive ordering the preparation and, if necessary, the execution of a plan for the invasion of Great Britain. But an amphibious invasion of Britain would only be possible, given Britain’s large navy, if Germany could establish control of the air in the battle zone. To this end, the Luftwaffe chief, Göring, on August 2 issued the “ Eagle Day” directive, laying down a plan of attack in which a few massive blows from the air were to destroy British air power and so open the way for the amphibious invasion, termed Operation “ Sea Lion.” Victory in the air battle for the Luftwaffe would indeed have exposed Great Britain to invasion and occupation. The victory by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fighter Command blocked this possibility and, in fact, created the conditions for Great Britain’s survival, for the extension of the war, and for the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.

The forces engaged in the battle were relatively small. The British disposed some 600 frontline fighters to defend the country. The Germans made available about 1,300 bombers and dive bombers, and about 900 single-engined and 300 twin-engined fighters. These were based in an arc around England from Norway to the Cherbourg Peninsula in northern coastal France. The preliminaries of the Battle of Britain occupied June and July 1940, the climax August and September, and the aftermath—the so-called Blitz—the winter of 1940–41. In the campaign, the Luftwaffe had no systematic or consistent plan of action: sometimes it tried to establish a blockade by the destruction of British shipping and ports sometimes, to destroy Britain’s Fighter Command by combat and by the bombing of ground installations and sometimes, to seek direct strategic results by attacks on London and other populous centres of industrial or political significance. The British, on the other hand, had prepared themselves for the kind of battle that in fact took place. Their radar early warning, the most advanced and the most operationally adapted system in the world, gave Fighter Command adequate notice of where and when to direct their fighter forces to repel German bombing raids. The Spitfire, moreover, though still in short supply, was unsurpassed as an interceptor by any fighter in any other air force.

The British fought not only with the advantage—unusual for them—of superior equipment and undivided aim but also against an enemy divided in object and condemned by circumstance and by lack of forethought to fight at a tactical disadvantage. The German bombers lacked the bomb-load capacity to strike permanently devastating blows and also proved, in daylight, to be easily vulnerable to the Spitfires and Hurricanes. Britain’s radar, moreover, largely prevented them from exploiting the element of surprise. The German dive bombers were even more vulnerable to being shot down by British fighters, and long-range fighter cover was only partially available from German fighter aircraft, since the latter were operating at the limit of their flying range.

The German air attacks began on ports and airfields along the English Channel, where convoys were bombed and the air battle was joined. In June and July 1940, as the Germans gradually redeployed their forces, the air battle moved inland over the interior of Britain. On August 8 the intensive phase began, when the Germans launched bombing raids involving up to nearly 1,500 aircraft a day and directed them against the British fighter airfields and radar stations. In four actions, on August 8, 11, 12, and 13, the Germans lost 145 aircraft as against the British loss of 88. By late August the Germans had lost more than 600 aircraft, the RAF only 260, but the RAF was losing badly needed fighters and experienced pilots at too great a rate, and its effectiveness was further hampered by bombing damage done to the radar stations. At the beginning of September the British retaliated by unexpectedly launching a bombing raid on Berlin, which so infuriated Hitler that he ordered the Luftwaffe to shift its attacks from Fighter Command installations to London and other cities. These assaults on London, Coventry, Liverpool, and other cities went on unabated for several months. But already, by September 15, on which day the British believed, albeit incorrectly, that they had scored their greatest success by destroying 185 German aircraft, Fighter Command had demonstrated to the Luftwaffe that it could not gain air ascendancy over Britain. This was because British fighters were simply shooting down German bombers faster than German industry could produce them. The Battle of Britain was thus won, and the invasion of England was postponed indefinitely by Hitler. The British had lost more than 900 fighters but had shot down about 1,700 German aircraft.

During the following winter, the Luftwaffe maintained a bombing offensive, carrying out night-bombing attacks on Britain’s larger cities. By February 1941 the offensive had declined, but in March and April there was a revival, and nearly 10,000 sorties were flown, with heavy attacks made on London. Thereafter German strategic air operations over England withered.


Economic policy and development

Economically, it was an era of increased commercial agricultural production, rapidly expanding trade, early industrial development, and severe famine. The total cost of the mutiny of 1857–59, which was equivalent to a normal year’s revenue, was charged to India and paid off from increased revenue resources in four years. The major source of government income throughout that period remained the land revenue, which, as a percentage of the agricultural yield of India’s soil, continued to be “an annual gamble in monsoon rains.” Usually, however, it provided about half of British India’s gross annual revenue, or roughly the money needed to support the army. The second most lucrative source of revenue at that time was the government’s continued monopoly over the flourishing opium trade to China the third was the tax on salt, also jealously guarded by the crown as its official monopoly preserve. An individual income tax was introduced for five years to pay off the war deficit, but urban personal income was not added as a regular source of Indian revenue until 1886.

Despite continued British adherence to the doctrine of laissez-faire during that period, a 10 percent customs duty was levied in 1860 to help clear the war debt, though it was reduced to 7 percent in 1864 and to 5 percent in 1875. The above-mentioned cotton import duty, abolished in 1879 by Viceroy Lytton, was not reimposed on British imports of piece goods and yarn until 1894, when the value of silver fell so precipitously on the world market that the government of India was forced to take action, even against the economic interests of the home country (i.e., textiles in Lancashire), by adding enough rupees to its revenue to make ends meet. Bombay’s textile industry had by then developed more than 80 power mills, and the huge Empress Mill owned by Indian industrialist Jamsetji (Jamshedji) N. Tata (1839–1904) was in full operation at Nagpur, competing directly with Lancashire mills for the vast Indian market. Britain’s mill owners again demonstrated their power in Calcutta by forcing the government of India to impose an “equalizing” 5 percent excise tax on all cloth manufactured in India, thereby convincing many Indian mill owners and capitalists that their best interests would be served by contributing financial support to the Indian National Congress.

Britain’s major contribution to India’s economic development throughout the era of crown rule was the railroad network that spread so swiftly across the subcontinent after 1858, when there were barely 200 miles (320 km) of track in all of India. By 1869 more than 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of steel track had been completed by British railroad companies, and by 1900 there were some 25,000 miles (40,000 km) of rail laid. By the start of World War I (1914–18) the total had reached 35,000 miles (56,000 km), almost the full growth of British India’s rail net. Initially, the railroads proved a mixed blessing for most Indians, since, by linking India’s agricultural, village-based heartland to the British imperial port cities of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, they served both to accelerate the pace of raw-material extraction from India and to speed up the transition from subsistence food to commercial agricultural production. Middlemen hired by port-city agency houses rode the trains inland and induced village headmen to convert large tracts of grain-yielding land to commercial crops.

Large sums of silver were offered in payment for raw materials when the British demand was high, as was the case throughout the American Civil War (1861–65), but, after the Civil War ended, restoring raw cotton from the southern United States to Lancashire mills, the Indian market collapsed. Millions of peasants weaned from grain production now found themselves riding the boom-and-bust tiger of a world-market economy. They were unable to convert their commercial agricultural surplus back into food during depression years, and from 1865 through 1900 India experienced a series of protracted famines, which in 1896 was complicated by the introduction of bubonic plague (spread from Bombay, where infected rats were brought from China). As a result, though the population of the subcontinent increased dramatically from about 200 million in 1872 (the year of the first almost universal census) to more than 319 million in 1921, the population may have declined slightly between 1895 and 1905.

The spread of railroads also accelerated the destruction of India’s indigenous handicraft industries, for trains filled with cheap competitive manufactured goods shipped from England now rushed to inland towns for distribution to villages, underselling the rougher products of Indian craftsmen. Entire handicraft villages thus lost their traditional markets of neighbouring agricultural villagers, and craftsmen were forced to abandon their looms and spinning wheels and return to the soil for their livelihood. By the end of the 19th century a larger proportion of India’s population (perhaps more than three-fourths) depended directly on agriculture for support than at the century’s start, and the pressure of population on arable land increased throughout that period. Railroads also provided the military with swift and relatively assured access to all parts of the country in the event of emergency and were eventually used to transport grain for famine relief as well.

The rich coalfields of Bihar began to be mined during that period to help power the imported British locomotives, and coal production jumped from roughly 500,000 tons in 1868 to some 6,000,000 tons in 1900 and more than 20,000,000 tons by 1920. Coal was used for iron smelting in India as early as 1875, but the Tata Iron and Steel Company (now part of the Tata Group), which received no government aid, did not start production until 1911, when, in Bihar, it launched India’s modern steel industry. Tata grew rapidly after World War I, and by World War II it had become the largest single steel complex in the British Commonwealth. The jute textile industry, Bengal’s counterpart to Bombay’s cotton industry, developed in the wake of the Crimean War (1853–56), which, by cutting off Russia’s supply of raw hemp to the jute mills of Scotland, stimulated the export of raw jute from Calcutta to Dundee. In 1863 there were only two jute mills in Bengal, but by 1882 there were 20, employing more than 20,000 workers.

The most important plantation industries of the era were tea, indigo, and coffee. British tea plantations were started in northern India’s Assam Hills in the 1850s and in southern India’s Nilgiri Hills some 20 years later. By 1871 there were more than 300 tea plantations, covering in excess of 30,000 cultivated acres (12,000 hectares) and producing some 3,000 tons of tea. By 1900 India’s tea crop was large enough to export 68,500 tons to Britain, displacing the tea of China in London. The flourishing indigo industry of Bengal and Bihar was threatened with extinction during the “Blue Mutiny” (violent riots by cultivators in 1859–60), but India continued to export indigo to European markets until the end of the 19th century, when synthetic dyes made that natural product obsolete. Coffee plantations flourished in southern India from 1860 to 1879, after which disease blighted the crop and sent Indian coffee into a decade of decline.


2 Chemical Warfare


The First World War will forever be associated with the horrors of chemical warfare. Chlorine gas was used first, followed by mustard gas. Both caused enormously protracted and painful deaths. Many think that chemical gas was invented to break the stalemate on the Western Front. It was used as one tactic to get the offensive war rolling once more, but it was not invented for World War I. Since humans are so wonderful, we have a long and rich history of chemical warfare.

Chemical warfare, specifically gas warfare, dates back to ancient times. The Persians burned bitumen and sulfur to asphyxiate a group of Roman soldiers trying to tunnel into their garrison. The ancient Chinese employed their own version of &ldquomustard gas&rdquo against an enemy&mdashthey burned mustard to produce arsenic trioxide smoke and billowed it onto their rivals.

Early modern times saw the invention of projectiles filled with poisonous gasses. Incendiary shells would be filled with sulfur, tallow, and resin so that the resulting fires would create deadly smoke. By 1675, chemical-laced projectiles had become such a problem that the warring nations of the time signed their own Geneva Convention of sorts, a treaty called the Strasbourg Agreement.


When Did WW2 End?

World War II was one of the most devastating wars in the history of mankind and took place between 1939 and 1945. During this time, two opposing millitary alliances were formed: the Axis and the Allies and over 100 million people from more than 30 countries were involved in this global war. Although the end of the war was celebrated earlier already with people dancing in the streets, it was only officially over on September 2, 1945.

Unconditional Surrender

WW2 ended with the unconditional surrender of the Axis forces. The Germans first surrendered on 29 April 1945 in Italy after Hitler’s death and total, unconditional surrender was signed on the 7th of May. By the 8th of May, Winston Churchill announced that the War had come to an end in Europe by announcing Victory in Europe, a date that is still celebrated today.

While people were celebrating in Europe, however, Japan still kept fighting. The atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively on the 6th and the 9th of August, however forced the Japanese Emperor to also surrender. This surrender happened on the 15th of August, but the surrender documents were only signed on 2 September 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri, officially marking the end of the war.

A larger and more complex answer to the question of the end of World War Two is determining when the world order that governed global affairs came to a close. One issue that stands out is colonialism. Prior to the Second World War, European powers controlled most of the surface of planet earth. World War Two triggered independence movements throughout the third world, but much of Africa and southeast Asia did not gain formal independence until the 1960s. This legacy of the pre-World War Two era, along with many others, did not formally end until decades after VE Day.


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