Thursday, 24 May 2012

Violets as buttonhole flowers

Here is a picture of Thomas R Agar Robartes (1880-1915), sporting a buttonhole of violets; which often used to be the hunting buttonhole, as explained in my feature in The Field published on 21.06.12:

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

La Liberté

An excerpt from Great British Adventurers:
After their arrests by the Gestapo, on 10 September 1944 Noor Inayat Khan GC, MBE, Croix de Guerre and three other Special Operations Executive agents (Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman and Madeleine Damerment), were taken to Karlsruhe prison and, the next day, they were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp.

During the night of 12-13 September 1944, the four women were taken outside and shot in the back of the head. A former Dachau prisoner later came forward and said that Noor was first cruelly beaten by a sadistic SS soldier called Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert and that her last words had been to shout: "La Liberté!". As modern societies whittle away at Liberty, on any old excuse, ranging from our own health and the need to protect us from ourselves, to the need to protect us all from the vague threat of terrorism, by the ‘authorities’ treating everyone as a suspect, we might occasionally pause to consider how many people have actually given their lives to protect Liberty; which is far more precious than the ‘safety’ to be found in all the smokeless zones and all the airport body searches in the world.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Great British Adventurers

The text and plates have now gone to the publisher, just in time to meet the projected publication date. Here is part of the Introduction:


One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

From Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

About this Book

In selecting my particular adventurers, I have had to find limits. The first has been to confine my selection to men and women who are (at least loosely), British and, even then, service and adoption have sometimes, as with Krystyna Skarbek-Granville (Christine Granville), taken the place of birth, and I have chosen to ignore such things as competing national claims for Tenzing Norgay. The second limit that I have set myself is generally to exclude heroic adventurers in battle, simply because there is (rightly), so much already written about them, but I have found place for certain (representative) female secret agents of the Second World War, whose acts (in voluntary service, beyond the call of simple duty), surely took them out of the arena of straight-forward battle and into the realm of the most individual and courageous adventure. They were, moreover, the first modern, female British warriors, not just on the front line but behind it on the enemy’s own turf, long, long before any calls on the grounds of ‘sex equality’ put modern women into battle.

The result of my decisions remains to be judged but the overall objective has been to renew interest in the lives of some of our real heroes and heroines, as representative of the many others that there are; in an age in which contemporary sporting and pop art ‘heroes’ dominate the news and provide the only readily evident ‘inspiration’, and also an age in which addiction to the computer screen nearly robs the young of memories and dreams of the high adventure; of which ripping yarns are made.

The third limit is a limit of time: this speaks for itself; otherwise how would Drake and Raleigh, Clive of India, General Woolf and Captain Cook not have found their places? There have to be such limits. The final limit has been to exclude those who are widely famed already: what more is there to say, in a book of this size, of General Gordon or Dr David Livingstone; of Charles Darwin; of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Captain Laurence Oates; of Ernest Shackleton; of T E ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, even though what has been said should never be forgotten? Moreover, although Sir Edmund Hillary is acknowledged as the first conqueror of Mount Everest; Tenzing Norgay was there with him and what of George Mallory who, sometime before, had died, either going up or coming down?

I also cover the adventurous spirit in different degrees, just because it exists in different degrees: Sir Richard Burton’s daring in making the Hajj pilgrimage is of quite a different kind from Thomas Lipton’s gentler adventures, in the nature of trade, in seeking out sources of, and markets for, tea. Yet each made a memorable contribution to the world.

As will be seen, some of my subjects were very, very good; some of them were very, very bad; some, as I have come to know them better, I like very much and some I do not like at all; yet they all share the characteristics of: originality; a sense of self-determination, unfettered by the diktats of Tin-Hitlers; a thirst for living; perseverance and persistence, even defiance; many of them showed bravery, some of them to a truly exceptional degree and, I think, they all lived without the wish to have lived more quietly. In short, they shared a rage for life and yet also managed to see beyond themselves and the times in which they lived.

To those who might accuse me of having been at all obscure, in my choices, I just plead that my purpose has been to bring back into ready remembrance certain men and women, many of them not widely fêted now, who had great impact upon the accrual of knowledge of: other peoples, their customs, their traditions and their countries; or who have striven, often against various obstacles (including the odds), to promote exploration and trade and, sometimes, even to preserve life and liberty for others. To the erudite, who might say that I shed little new light, I plead, in mitigation of sentence, that my principal purpose has been to remind of worthy lives that might still stir our blood; and to bring them together, as representatives of our adventurous people, in one handy volume.
Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, the initials ‘RGS’ stand for ‘Royal Geographical Society’, and the initials ‘SOE’ stand for ‘Special Operations Executive’, which is first described in the entry for Krystyna Skarbek-Granville.

And here is the link to Amazon:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fran Sanscisco

Fran Sanscisco:

Great stuff!