Thursday 11 August 2011

Take the Puzzle Challenge!

provided by
Have a go at the puzzle above and tell where this iconic picture comes from and any other tid bits you may know about this event!

Monday 25 April 2011

A Boer War Treat...

I am sure I have mentioned before that I teach the Experience of Warfare in Britain, 1854-1929 to Year 12 students at my school, Great Wyrley High School.  A few weeks ago one of my year 12 students surprised me with a genuine Boer War medal that his great-grandfather had received for service in the war.  James (the student in question) was under strict guidance to have the medal back in his Dad's possession within the hour, so I had it long enough to get a few snaps of it. Above is a picture of the aforementioned medal-adorned with the image of Queen Victoria. Above the medal are 6 bars, each stamped with different battles of the war that James' great-grandfather took part in, including the relief of Ladysmith.
But the thing that excited me more than the medal was the accompanying letter that James brought along, written by his great-grandfather Patrick Traynor. Although the original letter was not sent due to its delicacy, James' Dad did type the letter up so that I could read what Patrick had written to his wife Florence and, I must say, it makes for insightful reading.
The letter is dated March 4 1900 and was written at Ladysmith:

Dear Florrie,
Just a few lines to let you know that Ned and I are quite safe after 7 weeks hard fighting and that Ladysmith is relieved.  We have been having it very hard, what with marching and fighting in the sun and lying on the grass and on rock at night without any cover over us, and the nights are fearful cold and dewey [sic].  I have not had my pants off since we left the ship and my boots and socks are growing to my feet. There is not a man here that is not swarming with vermin and no matter what we do we can not keep them away. We have been in 4 different engagements and the regiment came out very lucky out of them. In the final one on 27th Feb last we had Colonel McCarthy O'Leary, Sgt Wheatley and 3 ptes killed and I don't know how (bottom of page missing)....Ladysmith yesterday.  The troops that occupied it are very clean but have been on very short rations and have eaten very near all their horses. It is no use moaning about anything done out here but our Regt fairly went into it at the last fight, fixed bayonets and charged the trenches, our Coy [Company?] was the first and I believe (bottom of page missing)...60 of them.  Sniping was kept up during the night but when morning came there was not a Boer to be seen nor a shot to be heard, they had all skedaddled [left]. I do not know where we will pick up with them again. It is reported that we [will] remain here for some time but I do not know for certain.  Will have plenty news for you when I get home, can tell you better than writing.
I had a letter from Mr Snowdon on Friday.
No more at present, from your loving husband P Traynor.
Kisses for Dollie, Nellie and yourself, best love to all at home.
Good night and God Bless you xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Let me know what you thought when you read the letter

Monday 14 March 2011

Edward Jenner and Smallpox....

During the 1700s smallpox killed more children than any other disease and survivors were often left severely disfigured by scars from scabs that formed on the skin. The method of inoculation was used in China and other parts of Asia and Africa to stop people catching the deadly disease. This involved spreading pus from a smallpox pustule into a cut on the skin of a healthy person. If the person was lucky they got a mild dose of smallpox and did not catch it again as their body had developed antibodies against smallpox-although they would not have known this in the 1700s. If the person was unlucky they would develop a bad case of smallpox and die.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu watched inoculation carried out in Turkey where her husband was the British Ambassador. During a smallpox epidemic in England she had her daughter inoculated in front of important doctors and the method rapidly became popular. Inoculation became big business-Robert and Daniel Sutton became very wealthy by carrying out many thousands of inoculations, charging up to £20 per patient (clearly only a procedure the very wealthy could afford). However, there were dangers with inoculation:
The person inoculated could get a strong dose of smallpox and die.
The person inoculated could pass smallpox onto someone else.
Most people could not afford inoculation so were not protected.
Some people thought that the milder disease of cowpox seemed to give protection against smallpox so deliberately infected themselves with cowpox. However, no doctors had written about or tested this idea scientifically.

Edward Jenner was born in 1749 and was a surgeon's apprentice at the age of 13. When Jenner was 21 he studied with John Hunter in London, the greatest surgeon of the time. In 1772 Jenner began working in Berkeley, Gloucestershire as a country doctor but kept in touch with Hunter about medical developments.
Jenner learned a lot from Hunter, who told his students to observe patients carefully and experiment to test their ideas. Jenner's discovery of vaccination followed Hunter's advice exactly. Jenner had long known the story that milkmaids who caught cowpox never seemed to get smallpox and he kept this idea in his mind, thinking about how to test it.
In the 1790s Jenner carried out experiments to test the theory, observing and recording all the details carefully. Then in 1798 he published his book describing vaccination and presenting his evidence, describing 23 different cases. He called this method vaccination because the Latin word for cow is vacca.
One of Jenner's famous experiments involved a dairy maid by the name of Sarah Nelmes and an 8 year old boy called James Phipps. Sarah Nelmes was infected with cowpox and was suffering from the usual symptoms that included a large sore. Jenner chose to infect James Phipps with matter from the cowpox sore on the hand of Sarah Nelmes. Jenner made two cuts on the boy and inserted the matter. Seven days later the boy complained of uneasiness, 2 days after that he became chilly, lost his appetite, had a slight headache and spent the night with some degree of restlessness but on the following day he was fine.  To make sure that his idea had worked, Jenner inoculated James Phipps with smallpox matter but no disease followed. Jenner repeated this several months later and still no disease followed.
Jenner's work went down very well in America-by 1803 vaccination was being used in the USA-and, in 1805 Napoleon had the whole of the French army vaccinated. However, vaccination was not made compulsory in Britain until 1852, which Jenner didn't even live to see as he died in 1823. The problem was that in Britain there was a lot of opposition to vaccination and for many reasons. A lot of people were very religious and thought vaccination was against God's laws as it was unnatural to give people animal diseases. Coupled with this religious people thought smallpox was a punishment from God for sin, therefore the only cure was to pray to God for forgiveness. The men who had been making a mint inoculating people did not support vaccination as they feared it would cost them their jobs. The Royal Society didn't support vaccination as they saw it as too revolutionary, so they refused to publish Jenner's book. The general attitudes of the time also hindered the progress of widespread support for vaccination too-most people were unwilling to believe Jenner as firstly, they had no idea who he was and secondly, Jenner couldn't explain exactly why vaccination worked (as germs had not yet been discovered). Many people just didn't have the time or inclination to get vaccinated or have their children vaccinated-they either didn't trust the method; they saw it as too rushed and clumsy or, they had more important things to worry about, like finding work and food. The government's laissez faire attitude also meant that people were not forced to get vaccinated as the government felt that it didn't have the right to interfere in people's lives.
An Anti-Vaccine league was formed in 1866, the result of people's fears about vaccination. It didn't help that some people still caught smallpox even after they'd been vaccinated. Nor did it help that doctors performing vaccinations were not always as meticulous as Jenner had been-one doctor vaccinated patients in the same room as he inoculated others with smallpox. It was easy to get the diseases mixed up, and as a result patients often died.
In the long term, Jenner's work on vaccination led to smallpox being declared eradicated from the world in 1980. And, once germs were discovered in 1861, led to other vaccinations being discovered.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Winston Churchill Reports on the Boer War!

My students have come up trumps again! My sixth formers have been studying the Boer war and were asked to write a report about the state of the British Army, reflecting on the Cardwell Reforms, as if they were Winston Churchill. They were told to think about the tone of the piece and what they think Churchill would have thought about the war. One example is so good that I have decided to showcase it on the blog-do allow for a little exaggeration here as they were told to make it a biased report.

'We haven't got quite the whole world yet-but we're getting it by degrees.'

We must continue to fight in South Africa. The future of our great nation and our Empire depends upon it! To quote Lord Salisbury, Undersecretary for the Colonies; "We must be prepared to make it clear to the Boers that we are the paramount power in South Africa. The real point to be made good to South Africa is that we, not the Dutch, are Boss."

In doing so we must prevent Kruger's Boer Government in the Transvaal from becoming both independent and too powerful. We can not allow a people who are already hostile towards us to become too powerful, as it would put the security of our entire Empire at risk; if the Transvaal was left to 'blossom' in Kruger's hands then we could face losing the Cape and South Africa, then our links up to India, the jewel in our Empire's crown.  If we present ourselves as pushovers then we shall be treated so and we would be left helpless as our great and noble Empire crumbles before our very eyes.

These cowardly Boers; they want their independence but as soon as they face an enemy that they can not defeat alone, from whom do they seek protection? As soon as the threat is removed and they have got what they need they see fit to call on us and expect us to cater to their every whim! We have wiped the Zulu from the face of South Africa, and stamped out their mark on our territory.  This should be proof enough for the Boers that we are a nation, nay an Empire that will not tolerate such treatment!

There have been many improvements since the Crimean War that will undoubtedly strengthen our army. The new organisation of our troops, thanks to the Cardwell Reforms, has improved their ability to cope with the tasks presented to them, which will prove effective in our fight for South Africa. One such reform is the division of regiments; half serve abroad whilst the other remains in Britain to train. This will ensure that our forces, while small in comparison to other continental powers, will be fit and ready to make their mark on South Africa. Also, the new, experienced generals (a result of the abolition of buying commissions) are proving their worth; Colonel Baden-Powell is said to be holding out against the Boer Commandos in Mafeking with a small, outnumbered force. Does this not illustrate my point? Ours is one of, if not the finest force in the civilised world.

What's more, British society has been bolstered as the urban unemployed have found jobs as soldiers and are able to support their families once more. Too often our beloved Tommie's fall foul of misplaced disapproval. They may be comprised of vagabonds and louts from the poorest elements of society, but, if we are truly intent on defending our claim to South Africa, then we must, all of us, rally together for the common good and preservation of our Empire. For this, they and all of our men in South Africa command the utmost respect.

For the sake of our national pride and our Empire, we must fight on! God save the Queen and long live our glorious Empire!

Winston Churchill.

Monday 24 January 2011

The Nazi Nurse

Something interesting I have just discovered on YouTube. OCR is the name of an examination board in England and Wales-I can not be sure whether this is something official that has been made by OCR, but it is informative nonetheless. Take a look and let me know what you think!