Friday 19 December 2014

Men of Yore: Gustaf Dalén

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Nils Gustaf Dalén

Nils Gustaf Dalén was born at Stenstorp in Skaraborg, Sweden on November 30, 1869, the son of a farmer. After his preliminary education, he entered a School of Agriculture to study dairy farming but he was later advised by Gustaf de Laval, who recognized his natural gift for mechanics, to seek a technical education. He prepared himself for the Chalmers Institute at Gothenburg and gained admission in 1892. He graduated as an engineer in 1896 and spent a year in Switzerland, studying under Professor Stodola at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum.

On his return to Sweden, Dalén carried out some research at Gothenburg and set up as a consulting engineer. He became Technical Chief of the Svenska Karbid- och Acetylen A.B. (Swedish Carbide and Acetylene, Ltd.) in 1901 and he later joined the Gas Accumulator Company where he became Chief Engineer in 1906. In 1909, the company was reorganized as Svenska Aktiebolaget Gasaccumulator (AGA) (Swedish Gas Accumulator Ltd.) with Dalén as Managing Director.

Dalén's inventiveness first showed in his early days on his father's farm when he built a threshing machine powered by an old spinning wheel. He contrived a device to indicate the butterfat content of milk and thereby made his contact with de Laval. On completion of his advanced education, he worked on the construction of a hot-air turbine and related air compressors and pumps. He also invented a pasteurization apparatus and a milking machine.

In 1901, Dalén's company purchased the patent rights of the French invention of dissolved acetylene and he began his work on automatic flashing beacons for lighthouses. His subsequent invention of the sun-valve, which causes a beacon to light automatically at dusk and extinguish itself at dawn, enabled lighthouses to function perfectly and unattended for periods of up to a year. His invention of cylinder filled with a porous mass of asbestos and diatomaceous earth for storage of acetylene reduced considerably the hazards in handling this material and its use in welding became safe. He also invented a mixer for providing a constant and correct balance of gas and air for use in the incandescent mantle and a device for removing broken mantles and replacing them by new ones.

In 1912, whilst testing safety devices on cylinders of acetylene in an outdoor location, and when satisfactory safety precautions had been taken, a sudden explosion seriously injured Dalén and caused the loss of his eyesight. He recovered from his other injuries and overcoming his great incapacity, continued his researches. He was awarded the contract for lighting the Panama Canal and later turned to the field of thermal technics to invent a stove [the Aga cooker - ed], now in universal use, which maintains cooking heat for 24 hours using only eight pounds of coal.

Dalén's writings were few, but he left his mark in a practical way by the provision of light, and therefore safety, for the benefit of travellers by land, sea and air.

Amongst the many distinctions conferred upon Dalén are membership of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, 1913, and the Academy of Science and Engineering, 1919. He was made Honorary Doctor of Lund University in 1918 and received the Morehead Medal of the International Acetylene Association. He took part in debates at the National Society of Economics and served on the Lidingö City Council for almost twenty years.

Dalén married Elma Persson in 1901. They had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Gunnar, qualified as an engineer and followed his father as a Director of AGA; their younger son, Anders, became a Doctor of Medicine; Gustaf's brother Albin, a famous ophthalmologist, was a Professor at the Caroline Institute.

Dalén died on December 9, 1937, in his villa at Lidingö.

Gustaf Dalen invented a light-sensitive valve (the sun valve), the Aga cooker, and the lighting for the Panama Canal, and founded the AGA AB chemical works company, amongst many other things.  Not a bad variety for a Nobel Physics Prize winning scientist eh?!  A whole menagerie of high-utility inventions from just man.

One of his inventions, the Aga cooker, is particularly pertinent at this time of year because of course we have Christmas fast approaching which means many needs have to be met including: Christmas dinner (which needs cooking), heating (which is provided for by a gas boiler), and hot water (for that long relaxing bath).

The Aga Rangemaster Group, which Dalen founded, is responsible for the Rayburn Range, which was an improvement on the Aga Cooker because of its high-utility value: It can heat food in pans; It can heat food (or other things) in ovens; It can heat water (e.g. for washing bodies or clothes or dishes, etc); It can heat water for use in radiators around the house; It can be powered by kerosene, diesel, biofuel, gas or electricity.  In short, it's a single household appliance that serves many many purposes.

This emphasis on high-utility is very different to the kitchen appliances of the 2010's where single-purpose appliances exist for pretty much every conceivable need.  e.g. the toaster for heating bread, an electric kettle for heating ~1 litre of water, an electric steamer for steaming vegetables, an electric deep fryer for chips and doughnuts, the electric grill plate, etc etc.  All quite expensive (~£30 per item) and all utterly superfluous if you own a simple, conventional oven and a basic few pots and pans.  And let's not forget that you will see many of these appliances advertised down the local shopping centre as Christmas gifts competing for your attention and hard earned cash.

High-utility appliances like the Aga and Rayburn are something to be thankful for because they save us time and effort and cut down on waste, particularly on superfluity.  It's something to think about when we are cooking our Christmas dinner in our warm houses.  And let's not forget that we have Gustaf Dalen to thank for it.


Monday 15 December 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 34 - Pessimism Wants to Rule Your World

(Based on the song 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' by Tears for Fears)

Life comes first, death comes second.  Joy comes first, misery comes second.  Joy does not need misery, yet misery needs joy.  Misery is contingent upon joy (just as death is contingent upon life), and joy is not contingent upon anything.

Misery conspires to deny joy.  Be aware of those who seek to deny you joy.

The important thing to remember, to always remember, while reading anything by an old misery guts, a pessimist or a doom-sayer (like an armaggedon-loving Christian, or a proponent of toxic meme 'enjoy the decline' etc) is that they are miserable.  Because they are miserable they seek to deny joy to everyone, and that includes you.  To deny anyone joy, or even worse to deny the opportunity of joy, is immoral.  God provides/provided you with both 'Will' (which is concurrent with joy) and the 'Freedom' to do it in.

The pessimists and the doom-sayers want to deny you that ability to 'go your own way', to do your own thing, to do something other than what they say.  They want to determine your future 100%.  To nail it deep down underground as a prisoner, and keep it there.  They want to determine your future as railway-lines determine where a railway-locomotive goes, that's what they want to do.  They want to deny you freedom.  So shrug your shoulders at them, ignore them; or yell at them, fight them.  Do whatever you need to do to get them out of your way.  They're arseholes.  You don't need them.  They need you.  Life doesn't need death, joy doesn't need misery, you don't need them.  Always remember this.  Remember this if you stumble across them or their works; remember that they strive to deny you joy and then remember you have a options and the ability to choose, to go your own way, Gods way, whatever way that may be.  Each to his own.

Finally a word on the lyrics: They are written from the perspective of Pessimism as an entity, as an actual person, and it is speaking to someone who is a newcomer to Western culture.

Play the song in the video above and sing along using the alternative lyrics given below.

# Pessimism Wants to Rule Your World #
Welcome to the West.
It's not like it seems.
Everywhere you turn.
You will find me.

Sapping at your joyous outlook.
Confounding your positive nature.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

It is by design.
It is for the worst.
I want to deny.
I want to destroy.

Your freedom and your pleasure,
I want to deny for ever.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

There's no place where my hate won't find you.
Nagging away 'til your heart comes crashing down.
When it does I'll have destroyed you.

My goal's to incarcerate.
Trap you, never let you out.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.

I can't stand your optimism.
Nor your long-distance vision.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.
Hate is all I ever, ever, ever, ever needed.
Why did you have to ruin it?
Pessimism wants to rule the world.

Your freedom and your pleasure,
I want to deny for ever.
Pessimism wants to rule your world.


Friday 12 December 2014

Men of Yore: James Dewar

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Sir James Dewar

Sir James Dewar was born in Kincardine, Scotland, on September 20, 1842, the son of an innkeeper. He attended local schools until he was ten when he suffered a serious case of rheumatic fever lasting two years. During this period he built a violin, and music remained a lifelong interest of his. In 1858 he entered the University of Edinburgh. There he studied physics and chemistry. Dewar, in an early display of his dexterity, developed a mechanical model of Alexander Crum Brown's graphic notation for organic compounds. This was sent to Friedrich Kekulé in Ghent who then invited Dewar to spend some time in his laboratory.

After holding a number of chemical posts in Scotland, Dewar was appointed Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 1873, and four years later he was appointed Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution. He held both chairs concurrently, but spent most of his time in London. At Cambridge he collaborated with George Downing Liveing on an extensive spectroscopic study linking spectra with atomic and molecular states. This led to a very public disagreement with Norman Lockyer about the dissociation of matter in the Sun and stars. One of Dewar's chief characteristics was his ability to engage, at times, in quite vitriolic arguments with other scientists; Robert John Strutt, the fourth Lord Rayleigh wrote that to argue with Dewar was akin to being a fly in molasses.

At the Royal Institution, Dewar found himself at the intersection of major scientific networks involving the government and industry. He thus collaborated in the late 1880s with Frederick Abel on the invention of the explosive cordite. Nevertheless, at the Royal Institution Dewar focused almost entirely on cryogenics. In 1877 oxygen had been liquefied in France, and the following year Dewar demonstrated this for the first time in England at a lecture at the Royal Institution. New methods for obtaining low temperatures were developed in the 1880s, but Dewar's ability to take advantage of these methods was restricted by his not being fully in charge of the Royal Institution. However, after forcing John Tyndall's retirement in 1887, Dewar became the director of its laboratory. He improved low-temperature methods, especially by the application of the Joule–Thomson effect that produced much lower temperatures. Dewar had now turned his attention to hydrogen, which he could not liquefy even at the low temperatures obtainable.

In the mid-1890s Dewar was responsible for one of the most important developments in the history of the Royal Institution: the establishment and endowment of the Davy–Faraday Research Laboratory of the Royal Institution. This not only entailed the acquisition of a new building, but also the direct support of Dewar's cryogenic research. Success came in 1898 when he finally liquefied hydrogen. However, in the race with Heike Kamerlingh Onnes at the University of Leiden to liquefy helium, Dewar lost and the Nobel Prize went to Kamerlingh Onnes. Although Dewar was nominated several times, he never won the coveted prize.

One of the consequences of Dewar's work was his invention of the vacuum flask to minimize heat loss. It was expensive and time-consuming to liquefy gases; hence, Dewar designed a container where, once liquefied, gases could be kept for as long as possible. Still known as the Dewar flask among chemists, it is more widely known as the Thermos, named after the company that obtained the patent for the flask and to whom Dewar lost an ensuing court case.

Dewar's later work involved investigating the chemical and physical properties of substances at low temperatures, including low-temperature calorimetry. With the outbreak of the Great War (or World War I, 1914–1918), the laboratory at the Royal Institution lost most of its staff and Dewar turned his attention to soap bubbles. By the end of the war Dewar, now in his late seventies, did not have the energy to restart the laboratory, nor would he retire. He died on March 27, 1923, and his funeral service was held in the director's flat at the Royal Institution.


Question:  What connects superconductors (used in MRI scanners and mag-lev trains) with vacuum flasks (used by businessmen and old women)? 

Answer:  James Dewar.

If ever you hear anyone doubt that what all scientists produce is of little value to the average John Doe on an average day in an average city, then just think of James Dewar.  Think what his studies on liquification of gases have led to in terms of practical everyday inventions.  Think of what they have allowed us to do:
  • They have allowed us to travel on super-fast, super-smooth mag-lev trains to commute to work and back.
  • They have allowed us to have our brains scanned for signs of tumours & cancerous growths.
  • They allow us to sit at car-boot sales (or flea markets/swap meets) and sup hot cups of tea in the cold mid-Winter.
These are just a few mundane examples of what scientists beavering away in laboratories can achieve when their abstract findings are utilised in practical projects.  All that needs to be done is for both sides of the dualistic coin to be utilised (noos & phusis, abstract & practical, thinking & doing, or however you wish to phrase it) by men for whatever their Will is.


Monday 8 December 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 33 - Left Wingers

(Based on the song 'Young Parisians' by Adam and the Ants)

This week we have a slightly sardonic song about those funky political Lefties and their attraction to all things un-attractive, written/sung from the perspective of a right-winger who lives in the countryside.

If you look at Lefties for long enough you begin to notice that their mindset tends towards things that are un-appealing and antagonistic to life in general: un-appealing to the eye (e.g. art of 'shark in a tank' Hirst or 'unmade bed' Emin), un-appealing to the ear (e.g. music of Schoenberg), antagonistic to family life (e.g. single-mother families and Communes/Kibbutzim), antagonistic to moderation (e.g. vulgarity of Hollywood movies and cosmetic surgeons), modern-architecture (e.g. the Guggenheim museum) and so on.  All in all they tend towards things that are excessive and un-appealing to humans.  Which is why so many of the political right, and those who are a-political, are repulsed by them.

But it's not enough to want to gouge your eyes out every time you see a Damien Hirst, or wail if you hear a Schoenberg, you have to be able to point and laugh at all of them every once in a while.  Getting indignant and stressed out every time you see some left-wing abomination may be useful, and certainly is, because the works (art, music, and anything produced) ARE an affront to decency and indeed to life itself, but it's no good for you personally.  Too much stress causes an increase in Cortisol production which in turn is responsible for increased risk of heart disease.  And men are suffering from enough stress as it is without adding to the pile.

Which is of course why this song is here: to poke fun at the lefties!  And to remind you to laugh at them every once in a blue moon.

A final word on the lyrics: The word 'queer' is used in the old English sense, as in 'odd or strange', rather than the modern usage of the word as 'homosexual'.  Though if you want to think of it in the modern sense, or even the pejorative sense, then that's entirely your prerogative.  I'm not implying that lefties are closet-homosexuals (like Lib-Dem politician Mark Oaten), or should be mocked, oh no, that would be wrong!

Play the song in the video above and sing along with the alternative lyrics given below.

# Left Wingers #
These left-wingers are so queer.
They love Tracey Emin.
These left-wingers are so queer.
All there art is c-rap.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do.
Why don't you come to the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

These left-wingers are so queer.
Listening to Schoenberg.
These left-wingers are so queer.
Not like me and you

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do to you.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

These left-wingers are so queer.
They live in a commune.
These left-wingers are so queer.
It drives them insane.

I wanna go to-the city with you
just to see what the lefties do to you.
Why don't you come to-the city with me
And chuckle at left-wingers.

They're so queer.
They're so queer.
They're so queer.
Ah oooh!


Saturday 6 December 2014

Men of Yore: The Complete List

(This page is here to enable people to browse through the various 'Men of Yore' posts more easily than just clicking on the 'Men of Yore' label on the right hand side of the blog, which shows entire posts rather than just hyperlinks.   It is a generous contribution from 'Slovenian Guest' who has been kind enough to provide links to all of the posts in the 'Men of Yore' series.  I'll try to make sure that the list is kept up to date, and that new Men of Yore posts are entered weekly.   Thanks again Slovenian Guest!)

This is intended to be a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

It is also partly intended to show images, be they paintings, statues or photographs of the countenances of men of yore. Because, quite frankly, many men wear the countenances of women these days: smiling, smirking, cooing, rolling their eyes, looking smug etc. It's a sign of the times, and by showing some images of men from the past, I hope to show some modern men why looking surly, frowning and giving hard-ball stares at people is something to do, something to practise.

Stephen Harding
Hippolyte Mege-Mouries
Robert Bakewell
Guillaume-Henri Dufour
Sir Robert Peel
Christopher Sholes
Oliver Evans
Phillip Bozzini
Arthur Hill Hassall
George Auguste Leschot
Norman Borlaug
John Smeaton
Thomas Davenport
Charles Martin Hall
Robert Randall
Freidrich Koenig
Carl Bosch
Rowland Hill
Ludwig van Beethoven
Dominique Larrey
Tiberius Gracchus
Pavel Schilling
Richard Chancellor
Henry Cavendish
James Simpson
Thomas Young
George Stephenson
John Hunyadi
Raud the Strong
Samuel Herne
Georgius Agricola
Abel Tasman
Hugo Grotius
Henri Nestle
William Ewart
Humphry Davy
Nicephore Niepce
Howard Hughes
Alexander Bell
Carl Wilhelm Scheele
Joseph Cyril Bamford
Barthélemy Thimonnier
Gustaf Dalén
Sir James Dewar
Adrian Carton de Wiart
John Blashford-Snell
Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard
Leo Gradwell
Max Himmelheber
Richard Buckminster Fuller
Nikolai Benardos
Joseph Aspdin
Peter Henlein
Robert Hooke
Jean Piaget
John Fitch
Linus Yale Jr
Michael Joseph Owens
John James Sainsbury
Thomas McKey
John Laird
Tycho Brahe
Louis-Nicholas Robert
Alan Turing
John Loudon McAdam
Robert Goddard
Jacques Piccard
Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir
John Wilkinson
William Henry Perkin
Rudolf Steiner
Thomas Wakley
Guglielmo Marconi
Frank Whittle
Alexander the Second of Russia
John Wilkins
Roald Amundsen
Joseph Rowntree
Alexander Parkes
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg
Henry Louis Mencken
Archibal Belaney
Ignaz Semmelweiss
John Rae
Thomas Brassey
Jean-Francois Champollion
Alfred Russel Wallace
Meister Eckhart
John Cowperthwaite
Joseph Whitworth
Nicholas of Cusa
Nicolas Appert
Edward Jenner
Eli Whitney
Karl Benz
Henry Bessemer
David Thompson
Malcom MacLean
Richard Francis Burton
Robert Stevenson
Pierre-Paul Riquet
John Deere
Ambroise Pare
Diogenes of Sinope
Samuel Colt
Joseph Bazalgette
Franz Achard
Daniel Boone
Philo Farnsworth
Gregor Mendel
James Cook
Titus Salt
Tadeusz Kosciuszko
John Rarey
Stephen III of Moldavia
George Petrovich
Vlad the Impaler
King Alfred the Great
John MacDouall Stuart
Robert Owen
Richard Trevithick
Wyatt Earp
William Cody
Andrew Carnegie
Duke of Viseu
Meriwether Lewis
Arthur Schopenhauer
Theodore Roosevelt
Rudolph Diesel
John Snow
Ludwig van Beethoven
Henry Ford
George Custer


Friday 5 December 2014

Men of Yore: Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, 1919 (aged 39)

Early Life
Carton de Wiart was born into an aristocratic family in Brussels, on 5 May 1880, eldest son of Leon Constant Ghislain Carton de Wiart (1854–1915). By his contemporaries, he was widely believed to be an illegitimate son of the King of the Belgians, Leopold II.[6] He spent his early days in Belgium and in England.

The death of his Irish mother when he was six prompted his father to move the family to Cairo so his father could practise international law. His father was a court magistrate, well connected in Egyptian governmental circles, and was a director of the Cairo Electric Railways. Carton de Wiart was a Roman Catholic. He learned to speak Arabic.

In 1891 his English stepmother sent him to a boarding school in England, the Roman Catholic Oratory School, founded by Cardinal John Henry Newman.

From there he went to Balliol College, Oxford, but left to join the British Army at the time of the Boer War around 1899, where he entered under the false name of "Trooper Carton", and claimed to be 25 years old.

Boer War
Carton de Wiart was wounded in the stomach and groin in South Africa early on in the War and invalided home, and his father found out about him leaving college. His father was furious but allowed his son to remain in the army. After another brief period at Oxford, where Aubrey Herbert was among his friends, he was given a commission in the Second Imperial Light Horse. He saw action in South Africa again and on 14 September 1901 was given a regular commission as a second lieutenant in the 4th Dragoon Guards.[7] Carton de Wiart was transferred to India in 1902. He enjoyed sports, especially shooting and pig sticking.

Character, Interests and Life in the Edwardian Army
Carton de Wiart's serious wound in the Boer War instilled in him a strong desire for physical fitness and he ran, jogged, walked, and played sports on a regular basis. In male company he was 'a delightful character and must hold the world record for bad language.'[8]

After his regiment was transferred to South Africa he was promoted to supernumerary lieutenant in July 1904[9] and appointed an aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Henry Hildyard the following July. He describes this period lasting up to 1914 as his "heyday".[10] His light duties as aide-de-camp gave him time for polo, another of his interests.

By 1907, although Carton de Wiart had now served in the British Army for eight years, he had remained a Belgian subject. On 13 September, he took the oath of allegiance to Edward VII and was formally naturalised as a British subject.[1]

Carton de Wiart was well connected in European circles, his two closest cousins being Count Henri Carton de Wiart, Prime Minister of Belgium from 1920 to 1921, and Baron Edmond Carton de Wiart, political secretary to the King of Belgium and director of La Société Générale de Belgique. While on leave, he travelled extensively throughout central Europe, using his Catholic aristocratic connections to shoot at country estates in Bohemia, Austria, Hungary and Bavaria.

Following his return to England, he rode with the famous Duke of Beaufort's Hunt where he met, among others, the future field marshal, Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, and the future air marshal, Sir Edward Leonard Ellington. He was promoted to captain in February 1910.[11]

In 1908 he married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen (1887 Klagenfurt – 1949 Vienna), eldest daughter of Karl Ludwig, 4th Fürst (Prince) Fugger-Babenhausen and Princess Eleonora Fugger von Babenhausen of Klagenfurt, Austria. They had two daughters, the elder of whom Anita (born 1909, deceased) was the maternal grandmother of the war correspondent Anthony Loyd (born 1966).

In his memoirs, Happy Odyssey, Carton de Wiart makes no reference to his wife or to his daughters.


His college career was marked by a conspicuous lack of success in examinations, and he ran away later that year and enlisted (under a false name and age) in Paget's horse, a newly raised, independent regiment. ‘Trooper Carton’ was severely wounded fighting the Boers and, his real identity revealed, he returned to Balliol in 1900, but he did not complete his studies there. He went back to South Africa with the Imperial light horse, and in 1901 obtained a regular commission in the 4th dragoon guards. After service in India (1902–4), he became aide-de-camp to Sir Henry Hildyard, commander-in-chief, South Africa (1904–8). At Vienna in 1908 he married Countess Frederica, eldest daughter of Prince Fugger-Babenhausen of Klagenfurt and his wife, Nora, Princess Hohenlohe; they had two daughters. From 1910 to 1914 he was adjutant of a yeomanry unit, the Royal Gloucestershire hussars. In the summer of 1914 he was attached to the camel corps in Somaliland, in operations against Mohammed bin Abdullah. In November he was wounded in an eye, which had to be removed; his black eye-patch was thereafter a distinguishing feature. He was appointed to the DSO, and joined the 4th dragoon guards in the trenches near Ypres.

Carton de Wiart's career in the First World War was legendary. Severely wounded eight times, he lost his left hand, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on the Somme in which he assumed command of 57 brigade of 19th division during the capture and defence of La Boiselle (3–4 July 1916). He subsequently commanded in succession the 12th, 105th, and 113th infantry brigades. He ended the war a brigadier-general. After the armistice he was appointed second-in-command of the British military mission to Poland, succeeding to the command on the death of General Louis Botha in 1919. He was involved in the widespread fighting, including the battle of Warsaw against the Bolsheviks, but had little influence over the course of the Polish–Soviet war. Indeed, Carton de Wiart was embarrassed by the Lloyd George government's off-hand attitude towards the Poles. In 1924 he resigned his commission, and spent the rest of the inter-war years happily shooting duck in the Pripet marshes in Poland, from a house there lent to him by Prince Charles Radziwill, his last Polish aide-de-camp. He was summoned back to England in July 1939, and was asked to resume his old mission to Poland. Unhappily for him, Carton de Wiart found himself reprising his role of the early 1920s, acting as the representative of a state friendly towards Poland but unwilling or unable to offer any immediate military aid. He had strong disagreements with the Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal Smigly-Rydz. With the Polish forces defeated by the invading Germans, Carton de Wiart returned to England by way of Romania and was given command of the 61st (territorial) division. In April 1940 he was appointed to command, as lieutenant-general, the central Norwegian expeditionary force. He failed to capture Namsos, but skilfully extracted his force, emerging from the disastrous campaign with his stock high with Churchill.

In April 1941 Carton de Wiart was dispatched to form a British military mission in Yugoslavia, but his aircraft was shot and came down in the sea, and he became a prisoner of the Italians. Held with other senior officers at Sulmona and the Castello di Vincigliati at Fiesole, he was at once busy with attempts to escape. With Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor, on one occasion he eluded recapture for eight days, no small achievement given Carton de Wiart's distinctive appearance. In August 1943 the Italians dispatched Carton de Wiart to Lisbon to act as an intermediary in the negotiations which led to Italy's withdrawal from the war in the following month.

In October 1943 Churchill sent Carton de Wiart, as a lieutenant-general, as his personal representative to Chiang Kai-shek in China. The rest of the war he spent in Chungking (Chongqing), where he could do little to resist the erosion of British power in the face of increasing American power in the region. He attended the Cairo conference in November–December 1943, and in December 1944 made a personal report to the cabinet on the situation in the Far East. His dismissive view of Mao Zedong and the Chinese communists revealed the shallowness of his grasp of Chinese politics. He eventually retired to England in 1946, having broken his back in Rangoon en route. He was appointed KBE in 1945, was elected an honorary fellow of Balliol in 1957, and held an honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, as well as many foreign decorations.

Carton de Wiart's wife died in 1949, and on 18 July 1951 he married (Ruth Myrtle Muriel) Joan (b. 1903/4), daughter of George McKechnie and divorced wife of Arthur Henry Carr Sutherland. They settled at Aghinagh House, Killinardrish, co. Cork, where he continued his tireless pursuit of snipe and salmon. He died there on 5 June 1963.

With his black eye-patch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and became a figure of legend. In 1916 Cynthia Asquith called him ‘the hero of the war’ (Diaries, 244), and Evelyn Waugh based the figure of Ritchie-Hook in his Sword of Honour trilogy on Carton de Wiart. His autobiography, Happy Odyssey (1950), gives something of the flavour of the man. He was quick-tempered and modest, omitting any mention of his decorations from his autobiography, and he loathed humbug and meanness. Carton de Wiart was a battlefield leader in the most literal sense, rather than a commander or a diplomat. It was ironic that much of his post-1918 career was concerned with quasi-diplomatic roles for which he was neither well-suited nor well-qualified, and in which he was not particularly successful. In the view of one historian, he was ‘almost as politically naive as he was brave’ (Thorne, 560).

As Guest, the commentor who kindly recommended de Wiart to me, said he "has the honor of having the best opening paragraph on Wikipedia".  No mean feat!

De Wiart was more a man of action than of contemplation, much like the 'Mad Baron' Ungern-Sternberg, who like de Wiart failed miserably in the academic world (at the elite Naval Cadet Corps, he racked-up no less than twenty-five disciplinary charges).  It seems that the action and rote-learning are not always compatable.  It might also be why boys are doing worse at school than girls at present (despite the efforts of teachers to drug them into compliance with Ritalin), because they are more like Carton de Wiart inasmuch as they tend more towards action than towards rote-learning.


Saturday 29 November 2014

Men of Yore: John Blashford-Snell

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

John Blashford-Snell

First Steps
Born in 1936, John was educated at Victoria College, Jersey and subsequently entered The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He served for 37 years in the Army and saw active services in many areas. His family roots lie in Jersey where his grandfather was a sea captain. His father was an Army Chaplain and his mother is well remembered for her care of animals as well as the people of their parishes. JBS grew up amongst a menagerie of wounded and orphaned wildlife which generated his own interest in conservation. He married Judith in 1960, they have two married daughters and live in Dorset.
Youth and Exploration
In 1969, following the success of the Blue Nile Expedition, JBS and his colleagues formed the Scientific Exploration Society, their aim being "to foster and encourage scientific exploration worldwide". The SES became the parent body for many worldwide ventures with the support and involvement of HRH The Prince of Wales.
Inspired by the spirit of Sir Frances Drake's voyage 400 years ago, JBS poured his energy into raising funds and selecting a team to run Operation Drake. From 1978 to 1980 projects were organised for 400 young people from 27 nations working with scientists and servicemen in 16 counties. Operations were run from the Eye of the Wind, a 150-ton British brigantine which circumnavigated the world providing a floating base and laboratory for their scientific work.

As a result of the success of this venture, The Fairbridge Drake Society (now part of the Princes Trust) was formed to help disadvantaged young people and subsequently, at the request of the Government and many organisations, a much larger global youth programme was organised. In 1984 JBS launched Operation Raleigh and by 1992 over 10,000 young men and women from 50 nations had taken part in challenges and worthwhile global expeditions, returning home as true young pioneers intent on putting something back into their own communities.

In the interim, in the wake of the urban riots in 1981, JBS set up a special army unit in the Scottish Highlands named The Fort George Volunteers, designed to give the young a greater sense of purpose and responsibility. In the space of a year several thousand youngsters, many from Britain's inner cities, were put through a series of tough, exciting exercises. Places for these and his other ventures were extremely competitive and the method used to assess the potential and calibre of young people became a blueprint for many other youth-orientated organisations.

In 1993 he became Chairman of a £2.5 million appeal to establish a unique centre to provide vocational training and guidance for the young of Merseyside. It is now open and proving to be a great success. Later he helped to set up the Liverpool Construction Crafts Guild to promote the training of skilled craftsmen in Liverpool. 

Adult Exploration Opportunities
In 1991 JBS retired from the Army and as Director General of Operation Raleigh. Following requests to use his wealth of experience to provide similar opportunities for mature people, he organises and leads many science and community aid based ventures, taking people of all ages to remote areas of the world. 

The Present
He assists less privileged youngsters and is concerned with the development of opportunities for youth. He is also a Patron of the Moorlands Community Development in Brixton and assists the Calvert Exmoor Trust in its work with physically handicapped young people. From 2004 to 2009 JBS directed the Trinity Sailing Foundation appeal that raised funds to give disadvantaged youngsters short sea training courses. He continues as Vice-President.
He has founded Operation New World, a programme providing field experience for environmental students and is President of the Scientific Exploration Society, which now approves expeditions worldwide. Since 1998 he has led the major Kota Mama expeditions, involving the navigation of South American rivers with traditional reed boats, seeking archaeological sites and providing support for the people, fauna and flora of remote regions. JBS also helped to set up Just a Drop, the World Travel Market's charity that provides funding for water projects in the developing world and he is now its President. He is also a fervent supporter of British Army charities and a Vice President of the St George's Day Club.

His interest in unsolved mysteries and wildlife has led him to be elected Life President of the Centre for Fortean Zoology and succeeds the late Dr Bernard Heuvelmans. He has a special affection for voles and is President of the Vole Club.

In recent years JBS has been concentrating on exploration in little known areas of South America and in 2009 he led another meteorite quest in Bolivian Amazonas.

JBS is an international ambassador for the famous Zenith watch company of Geneva who supplied watches for the epic Darien Gap Expedition in 1972. JBS is a brand ambassador for Zenith watches and a limited edition of 500, named "Zenith, El Primero Blashford", has been produced as a tribute to him.


Another example of a former soldier who had, or rather has, a compassionate attitude towards animals.  Which demonstrates to us that the stereotype of the hard-drinking, action-loving, soldier is an inaccurate one.

P.S. Again thanks to an anonymous commentor for suggesting Mr Blashford-Snell.


Friday 21 November 2014

Men of Yore: Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard

Major Hesketh Vernon Prichard, later Hesketh-Prichard, DSO, MC, FRGS, FZS (17 November 1876 – 14 June 1922) was an explorer, adventurer, big-game hunter and marksman who made a significant contribution to sniping practice within the British Army during the First World War. Concerned not only with improving the quality of marksmanship, the measures he introduced to counter the threat of German snipers were credited by a contemporary with saving the lives of over 3,500 Allied soldiers.

During his lifetime, he also explored territory never seen before by white man, played cricket at first-class level, including on overseas tours, wrote short stories and novels (one of which was turned into a Douglas Fairbanks film) and was a successful newspaper correspondent and travel writer. His many activities brought him into the highest social and professional circles. Like other turn of the century hunters such as Teddy Roosevelt, he was an active campaigner for animal welfare and succeeded in seeing legal measures introduced for their protection.

Early Life
Hesketh-Prichard was born an only child on 17 November 1876 in Jhansi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.[1] His father Hesketh Brodrick Prichard, an officer in the King's Own Scottish Borderers, died from typhoid six weeks before he was born,[2] leading him to be raised alone by his mother Kate O'Brien Ryall Prichard.[1] She herself had come from a military family, her father being Major-General Browne William Ryall.[3]

Hesketh-Prichard and his mother returned to Great Britain soon after, and lived for a while at her parents' house, before moving to St Helier on Jersey for several years. His nickname was "Hex", which he would bear throughout his life. They returned to the mainland that the boy might be educated at a prep school in Rugby.[4] In 1887 he won a scholarship to Fettes College, Edinburgh; his entrance paper was an essay on "Summer Sports".[2] He excelled at sports there, particularly cricket, at which the school magazine described him as "the best bowler we have had for a long time".[5] He was invited to play for Scotland against South Africa, but declined as he would have been unable to play against Fette's rival Loretto School.[5] After school, he studied law privately in Horsham, West Sussex. He passed the preliminary exam, though he would never practice as a solicitor.[2]

In 1899 Pearson chose Hesketh-Prichard to explore and report on the relatively unknown republic of Haiti, wanting something dramatic with which to launch his forthcoming Daily Express. His mother accompanied him as far as Jamaica; in later years she would often travel with him to remote destinations in a time when it was uncommon for a woman of her age to do so. Hesketh-Prichard travelled extensively into the uncharted interior of Haiti, narrowly avoiding death on one occasion when someone tried to poison him.[1] No white man was believed to have crossed the island since 1803, and his trip provided the first written description of some of the secret practices of "vaudoux" (voodoo).[8] He later wrote a vivid account of his travels in the popular book Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti.[9]
Pearson welcomed his reports, and on his return immediately commissioned him to travel to Patagonia to investigate dramatic rumours of a hairy beast roaming the land. The animal was conjectured by Natural History Museum director Ray Lankester to be a living example of the long-extinct giant ground sloth.[9] Hesketh-Prichard's talent for descriptive narration enthralled the readers of the Daily Express. He explored the area surrounding Lake Argentino, finding one of its feeder lakes, naming it Lake Pearson after his patron, and their connecting river Caterina after his mother.[10] Lake Pearson was subsequently renamed Lake Anita, but the Río Caterina, known for its salmon, retains the name Hesketh-Prichard gave it.[11] The surrounding area is now part of Los Glaciares National Park.

Although he found no traces of the creature after a year overseas and 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of travel, he did provide compelling descriptions of unknown areas of the country, its fauna and inhabitants.[9] He acquired the pelt of an unknown subspecies of puma, naming it Felis concolor pearsoni. (The puma is now considered to be a variety of the southern South American cougar Puma concolor concolor.) The grass species Poa prichardii was named after Hesketh-Prichard after he brought back a specimen.[12] He compiled the story of his travels in the well-received Through the Heart of Patagonia.[9]

Hesketh-Prichard first visited Atlantic Canada in August 1903, travelling up the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, and donating the heads of stags he had shot to the Newfoundland Exhibition then in London. He returned in October 1904, this time with his mother, and the cricketer Teddy Wynyard.[14]

His most ambitious trip to the region was however in July 1910, when he undertook to explore the interior of Labrador, saying "it seemed to us a pity that such a terra incognita should continue to exist under the British flag".[15] This same territory had claimed the life of writer Leonidas Hubbard a few years earlier. He described his journey up the Fraser River to access Indian House Lake on George River in the popular Through Trackless Labrador in 1911.[15]

His reputation was such that former president Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow writer, explorer and hunter, wrote to him, commending him on his latest book, which he described as the best that season, and asking to meet him.[16]

He wrote his first story "Tammer's Duel" in the summer of 1896, which his mother helped him refine, and was sold soon after to Pall Mall Magazine for a guinea.[6] That year he abandoned a career in law and spent the summer travelling around southern Europe and North Africa. He spent the sea-time on the trip writing or planning plots.[6] When back in London, he and his mother wrote together under the pseudonyms "H. Heron" and "E. Heron", and saw publication in several journals, including Cornhill Magazine.[7] Hesketh-Prichard's circle of literary friends widened and he became acquainted with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and J. M. Barrie. In 1897 Barrie introduced him to the press baron Cyril Arthur Pearson, who suggested he write a series of ghost stories for his monthly Pearson's Magazine.[7] Hesketh-Prichard and his mother created a series of stories around the character "Flaxman Low"', the first psychic detective of fiction, though they were disconcerted to find the tales promoted by Pearson as "real".[7] The collected work was published as The Experiences of Flaxman Low in 1899.

In 1897, he and his mother worked on the plot of A Modern Mercenary, the stories of Captain Rallywood, a dashing diplomat in Germany.[2] It was published by Smith and Elder the following year. He travelled to South America in February 1898, seeing the construction work for the Panama Canal,[7] but returned after developing malaria while in the Caribbean.

In 1904, the mother-and-son writing team produced The Chronicles of Don Q., a collection of short stories featuring the fictional rogue Don Quebranta Huesos, a Spanish Robin Hood-like figure who was fierce to the evil rich but kind-hearted to the virtuous poor. [..]

In 1913, writing on his own, Hesketh-Prichard created the crime-fighting figure "November Joe", a hunter and backwoodsman from the Canadian wilderness.[20] It was broadcast as a radio play by the BBC on 23 September 1970.[21]

Despite his reputation as a hunter, he campaigned to end the clubbing of Grey Seals around the coast. Aided by his friend Charles Lyell MP, he was successful in seeing the Grey Seals (Protection) Act passed unopposed in 1914,[22] Britain's first legal protection for non-game mammals.[23] His article "Slaughtered for Fashion" in the March 1914 Pearson's Magazine argued to protect birds from slaughter for their plumage for millinery.[24]

Hesketh-Prichard was a talented cricketer,[25][26] and played for a number of teams, including Hampshire, London County, and Marylebone Cricket Club.[27]
A tall man, he was able to use his height and reach to his advantage when bowling. In a first-class career that lasted from 1900 to 1913, he took 339 wickets for a total of 7,586 runs.[27][30] A career best was 8/32 for Hampshire against Derbyshire in July 1905.[31]

Military Service
At the outbreak of the First World War, Hesketh-Prichard tried for a commission in the Black Watch and Guards, but both turned him down because of his age, then 37.[32] He was eventually successful obtaining a post as Assistant Press Officer at the War Office, and first sent to the front lines in France in February 1915 as an "eyewitness officer" in charge of war correspondents.[32] By this time, open warfare on the front had ceased, and had stagnated into the trench warfare that characterised much of the conflict. He witnessed there the victims of gas attack.[32]
Hesketh-Prichard was shocked to learn of the high attrition rate due to well-trained German snipers. It was common for British regiments to lose five men a day to snipers;[33] he learned that one battalion lost eighteen in a single day.[34] The German snipers could not be located, leaving them free to continue shooting from their place of concealment. He was also dismayed by the poor quality of marksmanship amongst the British troops.

He set about improving the quality of marksmanship, calibrating and correcting the few telescopic sights that the army already possessed.[25] He borrowed more sights and hunting rifles from friends and famous hunters back home, and funded the acquisition of others from his own pocket, or donations he solicited. To investigate the quality of German armour plate, he retrieved a sample from a German trench. He discovered that their armour could only be penetrated by a heavy cartridge such as Jeffery 333, while British plate could be easily defeated by a much smaller gun such as a Mauser.[35]

Trench Warfare Innovations
He recognised German skill in constructing trench parapets: by making use of an irregular top and face to the parapet, and constructing it from material of varying composition, the presence of a sniper or an observer poking his head up became much less conspicuous. In contrast, British trench practice had been to give a military-straight neat edge to the parapet top, making any movement or protrusion immediately obvious.[36]

An observer was vulnerable to an enemy sniper firing a bullet through his loophole, but Hesketh-Prichard devised a metal-armoured double loophole that would protect him. The front loophole was fixed, but the rear was housed in a metal shutter sliding in grooves. Only when the two loopholes were lined up—a one-to-twenty chance—could an enemy shoot between them.[37]
Another innovation was the use of a dummy head to find the location of an enemy sniper.[38] The tempting target of a realistic papier-mâché head was raised above the parapet on a stick running in a groove on a fixed board. To increase the realism, a lit cigarette could be inserted into the dummy's mouth and be smoked by a soldier via a rubber tube.[38] If the head was shot, it was dropped rapidly, simulating a casualty. The sniper's bullet would have made a hole in the front and back of the dummy's head. The head was then raised in the groove again, but lower than before by the vertical distance between the glasses of a trench periscope. If the lower glass of a periscope was placed before the front bullet hole, its upper glass would be at exactly the same height as the bullet had been. By looking through the rear hole in the head, through the front hole and up through the periscope, the soldier would be looking exactly along the line the bullet had taken, and so would be looking directly at the sniper, revealing his position.[38]

Training Snipers
Hesketh-Prichard was eventually successful in gaining official support for his campaign, and in August 1915 was given permission to proceed with formalised sniper training.[39] By November of that year, his reputation was such that he was in high demand from many units. In December he was ordered on General Allenby's request to the Third Army School of Instruction and was made a general staff officer with the rank of captain.[40] He was Mentioned in Despatches on 1 January 1916.[41]

In August 1916, he founded the First Army School of Sniping in the village of Linghem, Pas-de-Calais.[42] Starting with a first class of only six, in time he was able to lecture to large numbers of soldiers from different Allied nations, proudly proclaiming in a letter that his school was turning out snipers at three times the rate of any such other school in the world.[42] In October of that year he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation of which read: "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has instructed snipers in the trenches on many occasions, and in most dangerous Circumstances, with great skill and determination. He has, directly and indirectly, inflicted enormous casualties on the enemy."[43] His friend George Gray, himself a champion shooter, told him that he had reduced sniping casualties from five a week per battalion to forty-four in three months in sixty battalions; by his reckoning, this meant that Hesketh-Prichard had saved over 3,500 lives.[33] He was promoted to major in November 1916.[44] By this time in the war, his contributions to sniping had been such that the former German superiority in the practice had now been reversed.[25]

Later War Years
Hesketh-Prichard was taken ill with an undetermined infection in late 1917 and was granted leave. His health remained poor for the rest of his life, and he spent much of it convalescing.
He continued to write and hunt when his health permitted him. In 1920, he wrote his account of his war time activities in the critically acclaimed Sniping in France (full-text available on Wikisource and as a PDF document), which is still referenced by modern authors on the subject.[47][48][49] The following year he wrote Sport in Wildest Britain, in which he shared his experiences of bird shooting, particularly in the Outer Hebrides.[17]

Family life
In 1908, he married Lady Elizabeth Grimston, the daughter of James Grimston, 3rd Earl of Verulam, whom he'd met through friends.[2] They had three children[..]  His younger son Alfgar Hesketh-Prichard was later recruited to the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, where he became the first head of its Czech Section, training agents to conduct the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.[50][..]

Later years
In July 1919 Hesketh-Prichard was elected Chairman of the Society of Authors, of which he had been a member for many years.[53] Poor health forced him to resign in the following January.[54]
Hesketh-Prichard died from sepsis on 14 June 1922, at the ancestral home of his wife at Gorhambury, Hertfordshire, England.[..]
His biography was written two years after his death by his friend Eric Parker, who encapsulated his many accomplishments within its title: Hesketh Prichard D.S.O., M.C.: Explorer, Naturalist, Cricketer, Author, Soldier.


It's always surprising to find the types of men that are animal welfare advocates and conservationists, because they are far from the stereotypical left-wing, sandal-wearing, metrosexual modern person that society would have you believe.  Hesketh Hesketh-Pritchard was a military man and an animal welfare advocate.  Theodore Rooselevelt (a military man), John Soloman Rarey (a horse trainer), Rudolf Steiner (a philosopher/theosophist with a practical side), Arthur Schopenhauer (a philosopher), and Grey Owl (an Eccentric Englishman) were other such men who showed compassion towards animals which demonstrates to us that animal compassion (and empathy in general) come from all walks of life and comes from all types of men.

The compassionate element of his character may also have been the driving force behind his various army inventions which helped to stop his own men from being killed or wounded.  If he had been more cold-hearted then he may have been more likely to blame the soldiers rather than the tactics and tools they were using, rather than trying to improve their situation.  And it was down to his own personal ingenuity, drive and compassion that those new inventions came to the fore, not the top-down method preferred by organisation-type people.

The more that you find out about men or yore and about how the world works and is made then you find that the monolithic organisations and institutions that walk the globe are less important than you would have them believe.  Organisations are merely the outworking of men's collective efforts and works.  This is in direct contra-distinction to how the organisations portray themselves: as structures that you join.  As soon as communities cease being communities of men working for a collective purpose and become organisations (things that men join and work for, or exploit, for their own gain disregarding others), then the whole thing takes a massive nose-dive as men start seeing men as something other than men - as more like workers, jobs, numbers, heartless, compassionateless entities that are moved around like piles of data disks.

Compassion for others is one characteristic that truly distinguishes men.

P.S. Thanks to an anyonymous commentor for suggesting Hesketh-Prichard as a Men of Yore entry.