Oldest English cannonball linked to War of Roses clash

war of the roses

Researchers believe they have discovered the oldest surviving cannonball used in English warfare.

The damaged lead projectile, about three inches in diameter, was found at site of the Battle of Northampton, a War of the Roses clash fought nearly 555 years ago, in 1460.

The cannonball was actually discovered several years ago by Northampton resident Stuart Allwork and was only found in his house last year following his death.

Its significance was not realized until protests over plans to put sports fields on the battlefield site sparked demands for an archaeological survey, according to the BBC.

A study of the missile has led experts to the belief that artillery was used for the first time in conflict in England at the Northampton battle, fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, according to the media outlet.

The ball has been analyzed by medieval artillery expert Glenn Foard, who said the object suffered massive impact damage from at least two bounces and may have struck a tree.

It is not clear which side fired the cannonball, but some contemporary accounts suggest the Lancastrian guns failed to fire because of the rain – which means it most likely came from a Yorkist cannon.

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Aston Martin to pay homage to god of fire with new model

aston martin vulvan

Outside of an occasional James Bond movie, about the only experience I’ve had with an Aston Martin is the time years ago my son and I were traveling and decided to stop at an exotic car dealership outside Greensboro, NC.

Amid the Ferraris, Maseratis and, by comparison, rather plebeian Porsches, were a handful of eye-catching Aston Martins.

Having never seen an Aston Martin in person, we were both taken aback by the make’s elegance and glamour. (Well, maybe me more so than my son, who at 12 was definitely more fascinated by the nearby Ferraris.)

Also not surprising: There was no clamour among the dealership’s salespeople to see if they could help us. I suppose a 40-year-old in jeans and sweatshirt with 12-year old dressed the same doesn’t inspire dreams of a big sale when one is peddling very big-ticket items.

As I glanced at the Astons, some of which topped out at more than $200K, I began to understand why I had come across so few of them on Southern US roads.

It appears Aston Martin is about to launch another sharp-looking ride that I will likely never see outside the big screen.

Called the Vulcan, it features a 7-liter V12 engine, a carbon fibre monocoque structure, a pushrod-actuated suspension with adjustable dampers and carbon ceramic racing brakes, according to the BBC.

The motor generates in excess of 800 horsepower, delivered to the rear wheels through a race-specification six-speed sequential shift gearbox, the media outlet added.

Additional details are scarce at present, but it appears production will be limited to just 24 vehicles. The price tag for the track-only car, with a top speed of 225 mph, is approximately $2.3 million.

Those able to snap up the Vulcan – named for the Roman god of fire – will be put through “a series of intensive driver-training programs on a roster of famous circuits,” led by Darren Turner, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Vulcan owners will work their way up from the V12 Vantage S and One-77 road cars and the Vantage GT4 racer before slipping behind the wheel of their new Vulcan, the BBC added.

Sounds like a car-driving fantasy camp.

The company has said it will reveal more details about the Vulcan at its debut at the Geneva International Motor Show on March 3.

Mysterious stone carving shows up at British yard sale

stone-garden-ornament

A British archaeologist and television producer, perusing a yard sale in Leicester, England, came across an item being sold as garden ornament that was unlike other objects being proffered.

Instead of a garden-variety garden ornament, the stone carving had a complex pattern that “may be some form of writing,” according to James Balme, who purchased the article.

Weighing approximately 60 pounds, the stone is about 18 inches long and 5-1/2 inches wide at its base.

The stone appears to have been used as “a keystone from an archway or indeed a vaulted ceiling,” according to Balme.

While its exact date is uncertain, Balme believes it’s from the Anglo-Saxon period, which began when the Romans abandoned Britain around 410 AD and ended with William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066, according to the online publication RedOrbit.

The sandstone carving has been used as a garden ornament for several years, Balme told the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten.

In an effort to identify the use and exact date of the stone carving, Balme is turning to social media such as Twitter to try to learn more about the stone.

(Top: Stone found by James Balme on sale as a garden ornament in Leicester, England.)

Canadian remains believed to be those of Irish Famine victims

coffin ship 1

More than a million Irish died as a result of the Great Famine that struck the island in the 1840s. Another 2 million emigrated in a desperate bid for a better life, with many setting sail for North America. What’s less well known is that among those who departed amid the tragedy of the Great Hunger, an estimated 100,000 died in transit.

Bones discovered on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in 2011 have recently been identified as those of children, aged seven to 12, believed to have been Irish who died fleeing the famine.

Vertebra and jaw bones are among remains confirmed by Parks Canada following three years of research to be those of malnourished children. It seems likely they died while fleeing the Great Hunger almost 170 years ago, according to IrishCentral.

Many of those two million who left Ireland traveled to America on ‘coffin ships,’ which were themselves deadly.

Coffin ships were crowded and disease-ridden, with poor access to food and water. They usually transported the poorest of the poor, and suffered mortality rates as great as 30 percent.

Owners of coffin ships provided as little food, water, and living space as was legally possible – if they obeyed the law at all. It was said that sharks could be seen following the ships because so many bodies were thrown overboard

One of these ships, the Carricks, set sail from Ireland to Quebec City in 1847. It sank off Cap-des-Rosiers, about 500 miles northeast of its goal, and 87 people died. The 100 survivors were taken in by families in the village.

A monument was erected in 1900 to remember the victims. In 2011, skeletal remains were discovered 40 yards away from the marker. Without DNA evidence and carbon dating it’s uncertain whether the children traveled aboard the Carricks.

Researchers were able to determine that children – two of them between seven and nine years old and another as old as 12 – showed evidence of rickets, a vitamin D deficiency, and malnourished, according to the publication.

Georges Kavanagh, a resident of Gaspé, can trace his ancestors back to the victims and survivors of the shipwreck. He told the Washington Post that he plans to ensure they get a proper reburial.

He said, “I have a link to these people – I almost consider them my family. Who wouldn’t want their ancestors to get a peaceful rest?”

The Irish famine is commonly attributed to widespread potato blight that led to devastation of the staple crop of millions of Irish, resulting in starvation. This despite the fact that Ireland was still producing and exporting butter, peas, salmon, rabbit, lard, herring, honey, tongues, onions, seed and more.

These commodities were shipped out of Ireland to Britain, demonstrating what could be at best be termed a misguided policy on the part of the United Kingdom, policy that was instrumental in the disaster.

Between death and emigration, Ireland’s population fell by an estimated 20 to 25 percent, and even today is still below pre-Famine levels.

(Top: Drawing of a “coffin ship” preparing to leave Ireland for North America.)

A typical summer day in United Kingdom air space

This mesmerizing video shows air traffic during a 24-hour period in the United Kingdom during a typical summer day.

Created by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, the data visualization shows air traffic coming into, going out of and flying across the UK on a typical summer day.

It was created using real data from 7,000 flights from a day this past June as recorded by radar and air traffic-management systems.

Activity is shown at 800 times faster than real time, according to NATS.

The time runs from midnight to midnight and shows the arrival of early morning traffic coming across the Atlantic in the early hours, the build up through the day and then tapers off into the night before the pattern repeats.

The noticeable difference in flight speeds is likely due to varying speeds of commercial and military aircraft.

(Viewing this in full-screen mode is particularly cool.)

(HT: Carpe Diem)

‘Coming a cropper’ on a cranky camel along the River Nile

camel corps

While there’s no question that European colonization of Africa in the second half of the 19th century left permanent scars, it’s easy to forget that many of those who planted flags of various imperialist regimes had a variety of reasons for doing so, and not all were self-serving.

The so-called three “Cs” of colonialism – civilization, commerce, and Christianity – were the driving force, along with grabbing strategic lands to enable various European powers to be positioned in case they came into conflict with one another.

Thomas Pakenham’s sprawling work, The Scramble for Africa: The White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, details how Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Portugal carved up Africa with little regard for its inhabitants.

The 738-page book has been out for more than 20 years, yet it remains one of the definitive descriptions of the colonization of Africa.

While Pakenham’s book is full of somber topics such as diplomatic squabbles, political maneuvering and bloody clashes between natives and Europeans, it also has its light moments, delivered in Pakenham’s Anglo-Irish style.

Among the best is his description of Gen. Garnet Wolseley’s effort to relieve Gen. Charles George Gordon, besieged beginning in March 1884 at Khartoum by forces led by a self-proclaimed messianic redeemer of the Islamic faith, Muhammad Ahmad.

Wolseley’s relief expedition consisted of 10,000 men, led by a picked force of 1,600 officers with 2,500 camels, the former described as “the flower of the British army led by the flower of London society – including eleven peers or peers’ sons.”

By mid-November 1884, the camel-borne soldiers were plodding along the banks of the Nile, strung out in groups of 150, stretching 240 miles from Aswan to Wadi Halfa.

Unfortunately, the “flower of the British army” and their beasts of burden weren’t particularly well suited for one another, according to Pakenham:

What confirmed the air of a charade was the outlandish uniform of the new Camel Corps, a hybrid of the seventeenth century and a circus: red jumpers, breeches and bandoliers, sun goggles and white helmets. ‘Fancy a Life Guardsman clothed like a scarecrow with blue goggles on, mounted on a camel, over which he has little control. What a picture!’ was Wolseley’s comment. The camels, too, were a strange collection, raked up at the last minute from as far away as Aden, beasts of all colours and sizes, from the great brown baggagers, each as large as a rhinoceros, to the elegant fawn-coloured racing camels from Arabia. The men found that mounting a frisky camel was exciting work, and they often came a cropper. Wolseley himself fell off, painfully hard, on a piece of gravelly sand, in front of his army. He hated camels. ‘They are so stupid; they begin to howl the moment you put a saddle on them and they smell abominably … ‘

Perhaps not surprisingly, Wolseley’s force arrived too late to save Gordon, who was killed and beheaded by Ahmad’s men in January 1885 amid a general massacre of Khartoum.

(Top: Photograph of two Sikh members of Camel Corps, taken during Nile Expedition to relieve Khartoum in either 1884 or 1885. Source: National Archives, United Kingdom.)

Did famed French marshal end his days as NC schoolmaster?

Marshal Ney at Waterloo

As improbable as it seems, in some circles there is still doubt as to whether Michel Ney, one of France’s greatest military minds, was executed for treason in 1815 or instead ended his days as a North Carolina schoolmaster three decades later.

Ney was among the ablest of Napoleon’s military leaders, commanding troops during both the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was wounded at least four times during his career, fought in scores of battles and commanded the rearguard of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as it withdrew from Russia during the ill-fated invasion of that country. Ney was said to have been the last Frenchman on Russian soil during the Patriotic War of 1812.

Napoleon himself called Ney “the bravest of the brave.”

It was Ney, however, who in April 1814 led the Marshals’ revolt and demanded Napoleon’s abdication.

Initially, Ney was lauded by the Bourbons when they reclaimed the French crown, but the newly restored monarchy was said to have reacted coolly to Ney’s non-aristocratic beginnings.

Marshal Michel Ney.

Marshal Michel Ney.

When Ney heard of Napoleon’s escape from Elba in early 1815, he organized a force to stop his former leader’s march on Paris in a bid to keep France at peace and show his loyalty to the newly restored regime. But despite Ney’s promise to King Louis XVIII, he found himself unable to resist Napoleon’s siren song and rejoined his former commander on March 18, 1815.

Three months later, Napoleon appointed Ney commander of the left wing of the Army of the North. On June 16, 1815, Napoleon’s forces split up to fight two separate battles simultaneously.

Ney attacked the Duke of Wellington at Quatre Bras while Napoleon attacked Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher’s Prussians at Ligny. The French won the initial battle, but weren’t able to deliver a knockout blow.

At Waterloo two days later Ney again commanded the left wing of the French army. At mid-afternoon, Ney ordered a mass cavalry charge against the Anglo-Allied line. Ney’s cavalry overran the enemy cannon, but found the enemy infantry arrayed in cavalry-proof square formations.

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