Is this DC Comics film the best representation of WW1?

With this being my last post for WUHstry, what better way to sign off than two of my favourite things: superheroes and history.

Very rarely do films take my breath away, but that was not the case when I saw the most recent instalment of the DC Comics film universe.

Logo of the DC Films company

Wonder Woman was the beginning of the future- the first successful superhero film with a female lead, which will kick-start the future of female superhero films. But it was more than just a superhero film, it was a film that highlighted the true nature of World War 1- the War to end all Wars.

Image from the Wonder Woman film

For those of you that haven’t seen the film yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? It is easily the best film in the current DC universe, and tells the tale of how the Amazons and man were in conflict, and a new Amazon was moulded from clay to destroy Ares- the God of War. When the war comes to the Amazons, Diana realises it must be the actions of Ares. Without giving too much away, it is then Diana’s mission to find Ares, kill him and end the war to end all wars.

DC Comics illustration of Ares- the God of War

Of course it’s very easy to go what relevance has this fictional film got to the First World War, given the fact that it is made up. Well it was more this was the first film I have seen, other than perhaps the War Horse about World War 1, where it not only kept my hairs on end start to finish, but highlighted the true nature of war. Some films paint war as an opportunity for comradery, and although there is an enemy they are trying to defeat, there are losses along away (unless your a horse that seems to defy death).

A poster from the film War Horse

In Wonder Woman, we see how physically war effects the men. There is once scene in particular as Diana and her team are boarding the ferry, with the character passing all the wounded and injured returning from the front line. It gives the greatest example that the war did effect everyone who took part, a point which was further displayed throughout the film: character Charlie, played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner portrays a Scottish Marksman who very much carries the scars of war, constantly having nightmares about his friends that died in front of him. It portrays such a vivid image that has not been seen in many other films, that the war really was a torrid time, where millions of innocent lives were lost.

Image from the Wonder Woman film of Diana and Charlie

The biggest, saddest moment of the whole film (look away if you haven’t seen it yet), is when Diana realises that no matter what her actions, the war effects even the most innocent of lives- women and children. When she realises that the gas bombs set off had landed on the nearby village, it is a heart-breaking moment. It really hits home that war has no boundaries on who it effects, and that was what defined this new kind of warfare- a war where the battling happened at home as well as on the Front Line. It’s in this moment that you remember all those innocent lives that were lost, all those children that grew up as orphans.

One of the many harrowing images from World War 1

People forget that many of the British soldiers felt they would be home by Christmas, that the war wouldn’t be as tough as they thought. However once the realisation set in that this wasn’t the case, it really would have ruined morale within the trenches. One scene really sticks out though, highlighting how the littlest bit of hope can immediately lift the soldiers moods. Wonder Woman is in the trenches, an area where the soldiers had spent so much of their time struggling to cover any ground. However Diana leaps over the trenches, providing the much needed hope to the soldiers to advance. Of course, sadly Wonder Woman was not there in real life to provide this hope, but events such as the Christmas Truce would have done the job (albeit temporarily). It’s this hope which you realise kept the soldiers going, and made those trenches only slightly bearable.

Wonder Woman entering No Mans Land

Though I realise this was just a piece of fiction- a film, it did remind a new audience of the horrors of World War 1. The soldiers craved the kind of hope that Diana provided in the film, and even though there were winners in the end, there were far more losers. Shell shock, death, guilt, just some of the feelings that these soldiers would have felt when they returned home- either as heroes or disappointments.

In the current age of terror, it would appear the war to ‘End All Wars’ in fact created a new type of warfare. But it is the imagery of Diana jumping over the trenches- hope- that keep society going even in the darkest of days.

Thank you for reading this and my other posts, and keep enjoying WUHstry!


Who Was China’s Last Emperor?

When you think of China in the modern-day, you think of a communist/socialist state, a place of beauty with the Great Wall, and a country whose cuisine has spread worldwide. However there was a time when China did have its own emperor, and was not ran by either the Japanese or Mao.

Image of Henry Pu Yi

Henry Pu Yi was born on the 7th February 1906, and at the age of 2 years and 10 months was chosen by his predecessor Empress Dowager Cixi on her deathbed. Known as the Xuangong Emperor, his start to the reign did not go quite to plan: Puyi was taken from his family residence kicking and screaming by palace guards, leading to the eunuch needing to be sent to calm him down.

His father, Prince Chun became the Prince Regent, but could do little to stop the new Emperor from making a scene during his coronation. After developing a close relationship to his nurse, barely ever seeing his own biological mother, and saw her till the age of 8. However, getting all that power from such a young age, and being treated like a king had a negative affect on Puyi, who would feel distant from everyone around him, regularly having his eunuchs beaten for small things.

An Image of 3 Year old Puyi

As Emperor, he aimed to reform the Household Department, replacing the old aristocratic officers with outsiders, appointing Zheng Xiaoxu as the minister of the Household Department, who then hired Tong Jixu. Jixu was a former Air Force pilot, and as Chief of Staff was meant to clean up Puyi’s government. However the reforms did not go to plan, and Puyi was later forced out of the Forbidden City by Feng Yuxiang, who would later go onto be Vice Premier of the Republic of China.

Image of Feng Yuxiang

The Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which consisted many revolts and uprisings saw the end of the Chinese Imperial Dynasty, and Puyi’s reign. On the 12th February 1912,  a 6-year-old Puyi became the last Chinese Imperial Empire, marking the end of 2000 years of Imperial rule. Signed with the new Republic of China, he was able to retain his title, but would be treated like a foreign monarch, a similar agreement that Italy held with the pope. Puyi and his Imperia court were allowed to remain in the Northern half of the Forbidden City, as well as in the Summer Palace: all put in the Articles of Favourable treatment released on the 26th December 1914.

Although Puyi was restored in 1917 through warlord Zhang Xun, it was to only last from the 1st July to the 12th, a move which grew mass opposition across China, and would later lose Puyi his privileges put in place by the Articles of Favourable Treatment. In 1925, Puyi was moved to the Japanese Conession of Tianjin, spending time in the Zhang Garden and then the Garden of Serenity. Though he may have been pushed out of China, he was never too far away from politic, with discussions to reinstate him coming and going.

Image of Zhang Xun

After discussions with the ever-growing Japanese army Puyi was instated as a puppet ruler of Manchuko (1932-1945). In public, Puyi bared no sentiment towards the Japanese, but in private resented being made head of state/emperor. This is emphasised through his enthronement, where the Japanese wanted him to wear Manchuko-style uniform, but Puyi wanted to wear his traditional clothing. In the end, a compromise was met, seeing Puyi wear Western style uniform. From 1935-45, there were many assassination attempts on Puyi, including being stabbed in 1937 by a palace servant. All in all, his role as Emperor was limited, with Puyi’s wartime duties including sitting through Chinese-Language Shinto prayers.

After the war the Soviets sent Puyi to a sanatorium on the Soviet/Chinese border, and stayed there till the Communists took over China. Though Mao’s cultural revolution in 1966 looked to threaten Puyi, old age eventually caught up with him, and he died of Kidney cancer and heart disease in 1967 at the age of 61.

It’s easy to see why history forgot Puyi: unlike Tsar Nicholas II, he didn’t have much opportunity to mess up as badly, and control always seemed to be out of his hands. Given that he was on the throne at such a young age, it was hard for him to put his mark on history.

Did Cold War Doping Ever Stop?

As the 2016 Rio Olympics draw nearer, the focus of the games is no longer on the athletes taking part to do their country proud, but the poor facilities, the Zika virus and political turmoil within Brazil. But the main concern is Doping (the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs and Steroids).

Image from Wikipedia, official logo of the 2016 games

On the 9th November 2015, the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) report, stated that Russia had maintained a national doping scheme. For many athletes, there can be nothing worse than realising you have been cheated out of a Gold medal at the Olympics, especially to a cheat. It is an issue that will most certainly shape Rio 2016, an Olympics where many called for Russia as a whole to be banned, but only a few will be.

Image of certain types of Steroids from Simple Biology

Sadly in the Olympics and even the world of Sport, doping is nothing new. As science improved, it didn’t just improve weaponry, but health care, and an improvement in drugs would bring new meaning to the term: making people better. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and East Germany were both frequent users of drugs to improve their athletes chances in competition, with over 10,000 athletes rumoured to have been tested on in East Germany alone.

Uploaded by Grownupcartoons on YouTube

It was well known in the Western World that these countries were cheating. In the Rocky IV film, released in 1985, it portrayed the Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa go toe to toe with the Soviet Union’s Ivan Drago. Even though it is a piece of fiction, it portrays the extreme lengths the USSR would go to, to improve their athletes and win: though in this case, the man who didn’t use drugs would win.

Image of East German athlete Heidi Krieger from the Daily Mirror

Though the nation would win more medals, the athletes would be put through torturous routines, with rumours of East German athletes kept in crates if they didn’t cooperate. Sure the athletes in the short term made athletes better, but their long term effects helped ruin their lives in some cases. The biggest stories are namely Heidi Krieger, and Renate Neufeld.

A bronze medal from the Stuttgart games, 1986, uploaded by the Sale Room

Krieger, now known as Andreas, was doped with steroids from the age of 16, which had significant effects on his body. Krieger had been a promising athlete, winning Gold in the 1986 European Championships. However in 1997, Krieger underwent sexual reassignment, a decision he puts down to the steroids taken in his past. These steroids would change the young girls bodies, and would help virilise them, and damage them psychologically and physically. Fellow athlete Neufeld, found that her voice grew gruff, her periods stopped and that she grew a moustache. It highlights the dangers of doping, something that still hasn’t stopped.

Image from the Telegraph, of the Headquarters of the World Anti-Doping Agency

With Russia’s doping program being unveiled by WADA, we have to ask ourselves, did the Cold War doping ever end? With athletes and sports stars being banned from competing, will this help stop the problem completely, or like it has in the past, will it just be swept under the rug till another day?


Burke or De Condorcet, who was the true king of Universalism?

Two men from very different backgrounds, with very different ideas on implementing their ideas, but with the same common core: universalism.

Edmund Burke

In one corner you have Edmund Burke, the Irish Whig politician, whom Sarah Palin (though not always the best backer, as seen through her Trump backing) once praised as one of the greatest conservatives, and who was involved within British politics.

Image of Sarah Palin

In the other corner you have one of France’s finest philosophers Nicolas de Condorcet, whom was a radical liberal, thoroughly behind the French Revolution, and the American one.

De Condorcet

Two people with different backgrounds, yet they agree on one thing: for universalism to be implemented within the British and French colonies across the globe. For Burke, he saw first hand how British rule was being changed in India by various different people to be harsh on the indigenous people. De Condorcet felt that the British had in the past been too unfair on their colonies, and wanted a change overall. Both wanted this change, but both wanted it in different ways. So who then is the true king of universalism?

Universalism of course is a modern-day term that would not have been used by both Burke and De Condorcet, but their work hints to what would be modern-day universalism. Burke by many historians is dubbed as the King of Universalism, that it was his views which helped pave the way towards it being a reality. As a politician, he saw the ugly side of the British Empire, whilst working in India.

Flag of the East India Company

The East India Trading Company carried the flag of the British Empire, not only showing the glory of the mass trade links that they had, but sadly highlighting the corruption that can come within an Imperial Empire. Warren Hasting’s in particular was a problem, taking the law into his own hands whilst in Bengal, and Burke knew that change was needed. The people within the colonies needed equal rights to the colonisers, they needed to be able to keep their cultural beliefs and religions but also be taught the British way. Rather than completely overthrow the British system, as had been done in France and America, Burke wanted slight changes carried out which would positively portray the British to their colonies. It was only one man wanting slight change, but it was the beginnings of the universal thought.

Image of Warren Hastings, a man who helped tarnish the Empire’s image

I realise whilst writing this post that the British Empire was not all tea and merriness, but was in many cases repressive and horrid, as was the Second French Colonial Empire in some cases. But the thoughts of a few people were aiming to get equal rights for the people within these colonies, to make the mother countries more respected, and to benefit the colonies more.

Similarly, Marquis de Condorcet, who was a French philosopher of the Enlightenment and was an advocate for Educational reforms and women’s equality. Like Burke, he wanted a universal set of languages, teachings and rights for everybody. However unlike Burke, his opinions changed just as much as the leadership of France. Living through the revolution created a very liberal viewpoint for Condorcet, who would happily overthrow the system if it meant that change could be made. Unlike Burke he viewed the French Revolution and American revolution as positive, seeing them as necessary. However he was similar to Burke in the belief that not only was it the big country’s duty to colonise these countries, but the people within the colonies had to benefit , that the big countries had to do it right.

Liberty Leading the People, one of the most famous French revolution images

When it comes to comparing the two, they both had the same sort of ideas when it came to universal thought. Burke was more vocal perhaps in his beliefs, writing up documents which would lead to Hastings getting tried, although not convicted. Condorcet also had the views that Burke did, though because of the revolution they often changed. However when it comes down to who is the true king of Universalism, the crown does have to go to Edmund Burke, who was happy to slightly tweak the system in order for the indigenous people within the colonies to benefit.

Oliver Cromwell- The Man that Banned Christmas

As part of WUHstry’s tag challenge, this blog will focus upon a man who is often overlooked at this time of year, and at a time of year where in the mid 17th century celebrations were restricted. The man in question is Oliver Cromwell, whom was in charge of England after the English Civil War of 1642- 1651. With more information of how Cromwell came into power, here is a song from a Monty Python sketch:

Once Cromwell rid of Charles I in 1649 within the third conflict of the English Civil War between 1649-1651, it quickly led to the Rump Parliament in place to be disbanded by Cromwell. It paved the way for Cromwell to become the leader of England, an action which saw him set up the Commonwealth, and carry out actions within Ireland and Scotland, due to the population following the Roman Catholic faith. Cromwell himself was a Puritan, or a protestant as is also known, leading to an action which will go down in history. Oliver Cromwell, the man who had led the Parliamentarians against the Royalists, with battles at Basing House which I have written about before, limited the celebration of Christmas. What better way to explain, than through the magic of the Horrible Histories TV series on CBBC.

At a time where we have all hopefully enjoyed a great Christmas, it is hard to imagine that there was once a time where the celebration was muted. The mid 17th century saw a time where Puritan’s were uncertain over the future of Christmas, due to the fact that each year it provided a lot of waste, and also due to the fact that Christ’s mass- the celebration of Christmas, was still heavily rooted to its Roman Catholic Roots, seeing no justification for the holiday.

Humorous Image of Cromwell in a Santa Hat

As Charles I started to lose power in the 1640’s to the Long Parliament, parliament began clamping down on the celebration of Christmas, which, if it was kept, should be a day of fasting and seeking the lord. In January 1642 shortly before the Civil War started, Charles I agreed to Parliaments suggestion that the last Wednesday of every month be kept as a fasting day. Many hoped that this would be alongside the Christmas fasting-day. Late 1644 saw the parliament agree upon the 25th December to be a day of fasting.

Cromwell as portrayed in Horrible Histories

January 1645 saw parliament appoint a group of ministers to produce a new Directory of Public Worship, which set out for a new church organisation to be followed in England and Wales. It made clear that Sundays were holy days, however there would be no holy days of festivities. June 1647 further added to this with the Long Parliament reiterating the abolition of feasts of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. This was further instated during the 1650’s, putting in place penalties for anyone found to be holding or attending Christmas services, with shops and markets made to stay open on this day.

Snoopy Celebrating Christmas- Imagine How Different Christmas Could Have Been

It is worth noting that although his name has not been mentioned directly, Cromwell was heavily involved within the Long Parliament, proving to be an important asset. As a Puritan he was against the open worship of Christmas, so was fully behind the acts passed. Yet although legislation had been passed banning Christmas, people still carried out the celebrations, with semi-clandestine services being performed. Shops often stayed closed, and riots had been known to take place in London, Canterbury, Bury St Edmunds and Norwich. Sadly for Cromwell (and luckily for everyone else), once Charles II was instated following the political crisis in Britain upon Cromwell’s death in 1658, Christmas was too, with people being allowed to openly celebrate the occasion.

Image of Charles II– The first Monarch after the Restoration- The Monarch Who Allowed Christmas

So at a time of year where we have celebrated Christmas, it is worth remembering the roots of Christmas are heavily Catholicised, remembering Christ. It is worth remembering that without Charles II, Christmas as we know it may not have been as celebrated as it was, due to the fact that Cromwell and parliament had attempted Puritan reform to limit the celebration of Christmas. Christmas in that time as it is now, became a time where family mattered more than just the celebration, something that is still true today. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as part of WUHstry’s tag challenge month, and that you had a good Christmas.

The Basingstoke Riots- Did the Salvation Army go too far! 

As part of my dissertation research into the football in Basingstoke in the late nineteenth century, I look at an event which perhaps has gone massively unnoticed in the modern era, but shook the walls of not only the Basingstoke local governance, but a problem for parliament as well.

An image of the old Basingstoke Town Hall in 1841

Basingstoke for those of you that do not know, is a town 19 miles from Basingstoke, but unlike its town brother, has nowhere near as much history. The Basingstoke market was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086, but other than that people never state Basingstoke of being a historic place of interest. So how did such a quiet town, go to making headlines in London such as: “About midway between London and Salisbury there is a benighted little town which appears to be inhabited chiefly by a race of barbarians. Can nothing be done for Barbarous Basingstoke?”  (The [London evening] Echo, 15 March 1882) People must have been wondering whether this was The Basingstoke that they were talking about, the one which was only famous for burying a woman, Mrs Bluden, alive twice.

Image of some of the damage of the Massaganians

Basingstoke to the outside world was a town of drunks, with many breweries within the town having a lot of public houses, 50 to be precise. So in 1880 when General Booth, leader of the Salvation Army, ordered in two female officers to sort out the town, who knew the true impact this would have upon the market town. What followed would be disruption for over three years, with the Salvation Army not being welcomed with open arms. The Massagainians, led by the breweries were not so welcoming to the Salvation Army, not accepting the terms of the Salvation Army.

William Booth, leader of the Salvation Army

What followed over the next three years was a series of demonstrations and riots, with the Massaganians doing everything in their power to disrupt these demonstrations; demonstrations from the Salvation Army trying to spread the “word of god”, trying to “cure” the men who had been drinking, and trying to impose a lot of rule upon the people of Basingstoke. As shown earlier, stones were thrown, and in the picture there was damage to the Gazette building, which posted a lot of support for the army. It is no surprise that alcohol was the reasoning behind such actions, with the man who smashed the Gazette building benefiting from a supply of the liquid gold. But through December 1880, it would only be drunken antics which caused rioting amongst the Army corps. Then again, who can blame them for fighting back against the army. Who were they to decide that God’s will was to be their true purpose, that they would act against the drunkards of Basingstoke. Only a small number of the people of Basingstoke respected the army, and near the end of the rioting a lot thought they had outstayed their welcome.

A Pint of Ale, the Reward for the Massagainians, and the reasoning behind the rioting

The worst of the Massaganian attacks upon the Salvation Army came on the Sunday 20th March 1881, when 200 of the dodgy characters in town gathered to harass the Army’s usual Sunday meeting, with numbers gathering to 1000. Though there was a police presence which headed the army, once the onlookers hurled stones, and the Salvation Army ranks had been broken, the police and the mayor- W.B. Blatch the brewer stood back and did nothing. It illustrates just how much of a negative feeling there was towards the Salvation Army, with the town full of brewers, a town that benefited from the brewing industry, did not appreciate the Salvation Army telling them what to do, trying to change the lift that was not so bad.

This march led to the police calling to the mayor to recruit more forces, with 100 extra cops recruited for when the Army marched again on the 27th March. However after this morning, a number of the constables turned up at town hall stating that they would no longer be supporting the hypocritical Army on their  next march. Later in the afternoon, the mayor would not allow the Army to leave their base at the Silk Mill, for fear that the 3000 odd protestors would ruin their march and the peace. This in turn led to the mayor reading the Riot Act, something that was extremely unheard of, and the Royal Horse Artillery, who were rather conveniently visiting at the same time were called in to clear the crowds.

A Group of the Royal Horse Artillery

On 30th August, 20 people appeared at the magistrates, charged with assault and abduction. This was just a small number compared to the people jailed/fined in the 3 year period between 1880 and 1883. After this set of people were charged, a number of the Massaganians had assembled outside the court, creating disruption and harassing a member of the magistrates, leading to 10 rioters jailed. However once these prisoners were released from Winchester, they were greeted to a heroes welcome, being paraded through the streets. It highlighted the fact that the Salvation Army had perhaps outstayed their welcome in Basingstoke. This is further emphasised by the fact that over the next few years, it was still mainly drunken antics that got the riots going, rather than a large number of people doing so. Though the army did stay, can we count their actions as a success? Only a few people were converted to Christianity, and though after a few changes both in the local government and calls from Parliament, there was no real big changes to enforce acts. So whether or not the Salvation Army’s motives can be classed as a success, then you cannot answer.


Basing House- Is it One of the Most Underrated Symbols of Early Modern British History?

As a man who has spent most of his life on Old Basing, the relevance of Basing House has been something often slipped by under my nose, even though I often saw memories of it on a daily basis. Yet on a recent trip to the ruins, unlike through previous visits during childhood, I was gripped by just how much history there was around the house. Of course as a child I knew that this was no ordinary ruins, but as I have grown older the significance blew me away. Basing House was perhaps one of the most underrated symbols of Early Modern British history, with every brick having its own unique history.

Basing House Gateway

For many of the residents of Old Basing, I’m sure they fail to realise on a day-to-day basis the significance of the land they step. For Basing House was a hub of activity, through the Tudor and the Stuart age. The house itself dates back to Medieval age, with the huge circular bank and defensive ditches of the castle still visible, following the famous Motte and Bailey castle layout. These were put in place by the de Port family, who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066, and in the 1100’s made Basing House their home. But it wasn’t until the Paulet family, with Sir William Paulet, the first Marquess of Winchester and Lord Treasurer of England, who decided to build what was the more recent picture of the Basing House that we all know in 1535.

Image of one of the many defensive ditches around the castle

It was this settlement in Basing which welcomed big names throughout British History, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I after her marriage in Winchester on her honeymoon and Elizabeth I on many occasions. It was such an important hub of activity in the Tudor era, with it being labelled as the biggest Private House at the time. The house played what we can imagine as such an important part within the village, having the canal run through with a link to Woking, allowing for good link ups to London, as well as providing trade to the area. It is weird to believe that the people of Old Basing will most probably be walking in the footsteps of some of the biggest names in English history.

The Tudor Family

Yet it was the when the English Civil War broke out in 1642, with a divide between the Royalist and catholic supporters of King Charles I, and the protestants who favoured a stronger parliament, when the greatness of Basing House played out in such a bloody battle. John Paulet, the fifth Marquess of Winchester was the resident of Basing House at the time, and very much kept to his family motto of: “Aymez Loyaulte” (Love Loyalty). As you can imagine, being close to the monarchy at a tender time like this did come at a cost, and led to Basing House being attacked by Parliamentary troops, something that happened on 3 occasions. However the house did not fall easily, and it took 3 years for the parliamentary forces to finally break the walls, with the final assault in August 1645 seeing 800 men take up positions on the walls. It wasn’t until Cromwell himself turned up with heavy artillery that the house had been breached in October 1645.

Image of Cromwell as the Storming if Basing House by Croft

In the last few days of Basing House as a real symbol of excellence saw a bloody battle break out in the Basing barn, and saw between 40 and a hundred people killed. Though this may not seem much now, back then it was a huge loss to the village, with the parliamentary troops taking pillage to the house, and soon a fire destroyed the building. Parliament called for the demolition of the building, with villagers allowed to take materials for their own building. Paulet was stripped of his estate, and sent to the Tower of London on a charge of high treason, yet this charge was later dropped and Basing House later returned to him by the restoration of Charles II. Later, Charles Paulet, son of John pulled down the house and moved his own family home to Hackwood, leading to the end of the importance of Basing House in this period.

Image of the Cannon at Basing House, with a range of hitting the AA building in the background of that photo

Unknown to many, the importance of Basing House has been something overlooked by people, and had been such an important symbol of the Civil war conflict in Britain. I myself had completely been naïve on just how much history Basing House had, and how it is still evident in modern-day. For years I had walked on the Old Basing Common, not realising that these were the old hunting fields of the house, and the battlefield where Cromwell led his army to take the castle. History was quite literally on my door step and had such an important role in the Tudor and Stuart periods, and was an important battlefield in the Civil War, without me ever knowing. I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and if you can, go visit Basing House!

Artist Impression of the storming

Why did Winchester Play Rugby rather than Football in the 19th Century?

As many of you know, Winchester is famously known for having an influential college in the 19th century, with the boys school playing an integral part to the community. For the boys, sport and recreational events allowed for competitions, not only amongst the other houses within the school but against other boys schools. But for Winchester College, rugby was the sport of choice compared to football? Why was this I hear you say? Well read on, and you will find out 🙂 This blog post is in aid of my dissertation research question: ‘How Does Football Develop in Basingstoke: 1870-1890?’

Game of Winchester College Football

Winchester College was an important hub of the community, with the role of the college not one to be underestimated in modern-day society. For the colleges and the civilians around it, sport allowed for rules and mannerisms to be taught and aid development in everyday life. For Winchester, rugby allowed for the rules to be taught to their men, who would in turn play a massive part in the spread of the Empire. At the time, the British Empire was spreading across the globe, and it was these boys who were taught in schools like Winchester, who played such a massive part in helping spread the rules and the mannerisms of the respectable English gentleman across the Empire. This in turn led to the spread of sport throughout the Empire, with many high figure profiles within it performing the sports.

Image of an Indian Polo Team

Yet, for Winchester football was not the game in question. Though the boys in the school did take part in Winchester football, it was not the sport of choice, mainly due to the fact that the game at the time was very lower-class based, and the breweries helped to fund the teams. Winchester unlike Basingstoke was not home to many breweries, so football was not a sport in demand. For Winchester and the schools, rugby was a respectable sport with respectable mannerisms, and football provided an ugly side of civilisation. With neighbours Basingstoke having so many problems with football, rugby seemed to be the ideal sport for the people of Winchester. Basingstoke had many pub and church football teams, all teaching different constitutions and mannerisms. The pub sides were a lot more working class, with the local drinkers all pitching together to play against the other pub sides. The church teams as you can imagine liked football in the respect that it could teach good manners and lessons of the bible, and often thought of the pub teams as being similar to hooligans. In a time where drinking was frowned upon, football proved to be the centre point for one of the most famous riots at the time.

Interesting book on the Basingstoke Riots

With the Salvation Army marching into Basingstoke demanding that lessons of Christ be taught in all football, and that the pub teams should not have such a strong hold on the teams. What followed was the Basingstoke Riots of 1881, where the Breweries and pub teams went against the Salvation Army, leading to parliamentary action to solve the crisis. Whilst tarnishing the image of football, it illustrated that perhaps Winchester were not wrong to be focusing all their attention on playing rugby. Rugby allowed for rules to be taught, for respectability to be earned, life lessons to be taught overseas. Rugby was Winchester’s sport, and certainly benefitted the area, living on in their history into present day.

I hope you have enjoyed my little insight into why rugby was more popular than football in Winchester, hopefully as I do more dissertation research I can share more with you all.

Too Much Too Young- The Specials, Ska and West Brom!

As part of our music month, I am posting about a song which very much not only paints a picture of the political scene at the time, but showed a new movement arising in the urban hubs. The song I am talking about of course, is Too Much Too Young by the Specials, a band based in the Midlands and was one of the many taking advantage of the changing political landscape and the views of the time. As a band, they were one of the few to have both black and white members, which at the time in the late 70’s/early 80’s of Britain, this was a very weird thing to happen. Here is the song:

Too Much Too Young Lyrics by the Specials

Music and youth culture went hand in hand like bread and butter, and with the generation coming through containing a lot of the common wealth nations such as Jamaicans and more Asians mixing with the white children; it was a mixed society where the rules were broken and the club scene was somewhere you could not only let your thoughts be known but also to let your hair down. The club scene itself was often playing what was known as Ska music, which had its roots from Jamaica. The Specials used the Ska beat to vent their frustrations and the dissatisfactions of the British underclass growing up out of sight and mind on bleak and soulless inner-city council estates.

Image of the Specials

In this song in particular, we are hearing the dissatisfaction with the welfare state, how far too many young girls are getting children too early and missing out on the fun that could be had at the time. The title itself, Too Much Too Young, further illustrates that the society at this age were doing far much more than was perhaps expected of them, and in a way throwing their lives away before they had lived their lives to the way that they should have done. But the effect the lyrics had on the society which listened to them created an obvious message that this was the generation that were going to enjoy their lives; they weren’t going to live by the norms of getting a job, having a family. Instead they would party until the sun rose and not have any regrets about doing so. Even the build up of the band, with 2 Jamaicans and the bands colour scheme of black and white made the racist society look outdated. The Specials helped to create a new idea which many generations since have followed.

Image of some of the National Front activities in 1980’s England

The fact that at the time, the current political climate was full of massive demonstrations about putting a cap on the amount of migrants allowed to come into the country doesn’t sound too dissimilar to today. However it was an awful lot more violent, with groups such as the National Front regularly demonstrating against anybody that wasn’t a white Briton. The fact that groups such as The Specials so openly promoted integration amongst races would have angered a lot of the Front’s members. However it wasn’t just The Specials that were making big moves to integrate the blacks amongst the white community. Further down the road in the West Midlands, football club West Bromwich Albion had their own idea on how to integrate the races.

Image of the band- The Three Degrees on their tour of the UK, with West Brom players Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis.

West Brom was a normal football club like many other: managed by a good manager in Ron Atkinson, they were playing competitive football at the highest level in England. However what made them different from most other teams was the fact that they were the first team to play more than one black player at a time, and they were regularly integrating with the squad. The amount of pressure that must have been on Cyrille Regis, (a brilliant striker who had a hunger for goals he regularly tended to), Laurie Cunningham, (a pacey midfielder who flew whilst on the ball and who was taken from us too early), and Brendon Batson, (a solid defender and who would later become an important member of the Players Football Association), is hard to imagine. These were the men that led the football of the late 1970’s early 1980’s forward, showing not just the fans but the players and the manager themselves that it could be done, and not only that but that they can play football.

Laurie Cunningham floating over the pitch

After reading the Three Degrees- The Men Who Changed British Football Forever by Paul Rees, I was struck by just how much not only these 3 men but the music of the time had on the society around them. Cunningham himself helped destroy the racial stereotypes in society around him but having a white girlfriend with whom he regularly went out with every weekend on the Birmingham club scene. He also became such a good footballer that he played for Real Madrid, one of the biggest teams in the World. Both Cunningham and Regis further emphasised that a mixed community worked by representing England on a number of occasions, letting their feet do the talking. In Rees book he regularly talks of the fact that Cunningham would let his feet do the talking, and although he was subject to an awful lot of racist abuse, he would consistently silence his doubters with his skill.

Video showing the skill and grace of Laurie Cunningham

The trio at West Brom and the music acts like The Specials all helped to change a period of racial prejudice and create a new period  rebelling against the system and acceptance of certain aspects at the same time. Too Much Too Young made not only people dance but think about their own lives and make them think of themselves. The fact it is convincing them not to get held down too early by family, marriage and life illustrates a changing shift at the time. It was songs like Too Much Too Young which really did help to shape a generation.  With the music and the way that football was changing, it has helped improve both society and the outlook on race within this country. If you have time, I would suggest reading the Three Degrees, it is an excellent book, talking not just about the football but the cultural significance of these 3 great football players and the spirit of the Midlands music scene.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, and I hope you enjoy the rest of WUHstry’s music month.

World War 1- The Importance of Joffre and Von Moltke

As the country all turned their lights out on the 5th August, we all stood and remembered 100 years since the beginning of World War 1, the War which was famously quoted as ‘ending all wars’. As part of WUHstry’s remembrance, we are posting on the big events of the war and all the innocent lives that were lost.

My post is about the importance of Marshal Joseph Joffre, one of France’s most senior officers in World War One, as well as Helmuth von Moltke the younger, who was the German Army Chief of Staff. Both were important in the early stages of the War.

Marshall Joseph Joffre

Joffre was a senior officer in the French army when World War 1 broke out, his role was Chief of the General Staff. As a senior figure in the army, Joffre had gained a reputation for being an offensive strategist who had replaced all the defensive minded strategists in the French Army.

Regiment of the French Bayonets 

The reason Joffre was held in such regard at the time for his actions in the Battle of Marne, which took place on the 6th-10th of September 1914. The Germans at the time were carrying out the Schlieffen Plan which aimed to circle the French army after marching through central Belgium to get the Lille, and if the plans work it would capture Paris.

A French offensive which prompted German counter-attacks, which then forced the French back onto a fortified barrier, leading to their defence being strengthened. With this move happening, it meant that  they could redistribute their forces to reinforce their left flank, which proved vital in the Battle of the Marne. The North Wing of the German forces was weakened further due to the movement of 11 divisions to fight in Belgium and East Prussia. The German 1st Army which was led under General Von Kluck swung north of Paris rather than the South West that was predicted. This required them to pass into the valley of the River Marne, leading them straight across the Paris defences exposing them to a flank attack and possible counter-envelopment.

This led to Joffre on the 3rd September to order a halt to the French retreat and then reinforced the French left flank to begin a general offensive. This lead to Kluck to halt the advance prematurely in order to support the German flank. This act led to the keeping the French in the war, saving Paris and pushing back the Germans 42 miles.

Although this was a great victory for Joffre and the French, however he is better known for becoming associated with trench warfare on the Western Front and not being able to come up with a strategy to end it. Not only this but he lost his credibility amongst the French public further by failing to breakthrough at the battle of the Somme. This push was touted as the final one but was a failure, and was made worse by endurance the French soldiers had to take in the Trenches through battles like the Verdun.

Therefore you could easily argue that Joffre was important to the French War effort, due to the fact that he kept the French in the war, and helped saved countless lives. Although the trenches meant that countless lives were lost, more could have been lost if Joffre had not been able to counter the German attack.

French soldiers in one of the many Trenches

Helmuth von Moltke:

Helmuth von Moltke was nephew of the renowned Prussian General Moltke the Elder, who was famous for important victories against Austria in 1866 and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. This meant that straight away, if the younger von Moltke was to pursue any military interests, he would have pretty big shoes to fill.

Von Moltke the Elder

In 1906 Von Moltke the younger took the position of Army Chief of Staff, taking over from Alfred von Schlieffen, who as mentioned earlier had an integral plan which would become a big part of the German war effort. This plan was to quickly defeat the French in the West through a rapid, overwhelming flank attack through Belgium and the Netherlands whilst keeping a small army at bay for Russian attacks.

Basic Image of the Schlieffen Plan

Moltke retained the plan of his predecessor but modified it to take account of the French military build up in the South prior to the war beginning. However Moltke’s adaptations did not work as well as he would have hoped, due to the fact he did not implement them effectively. Although Moltke managed to persuade Kaiser Wilhelm II that the plan would be unstoppable once the ball started rolling, Moltke’s own indecisiveness cost him and Germany massively during the invasion of France.

Kaiser Wilhelm III

Unlike Joffre, Moltke was easily distracted and was awfully indecisive. Fear of a Russian attack in the east as well as an opportunity to capture an unplanned victory against the French in Lorraine just make him indecisive and he couldn’t make up his mind over what action to take. His indecisiveness cost him in the Battle of the Marne, where his orders were unclear, resulting in field officers ordering a retreat, stalemate and then trench warfare. After all the actions or lack of them, Wilhelm replaced Moltke on the 14th September 1914, 4 days after the end of the Battle of the Marne with Erich Falkenhayn, and Moltke later died in 1916.

There is an obvious difference between both Joffre and Von Moltke. Joffre was a confident commander in that he knew he always wanted an offensive plan, and he illustrated this through getting rid of his defensive tacticians to stick to his offensive plans. However Von Moltke was indecisive and had big shoes to fill due to having such a famous uncle, as well as being in the shadow of his predecessor, it made it hard for him to be his own man. However what both have in common is they ended up shaping the events of the first World War and the trench warfare, through having stalemate and having both sides move around so much to conquer the other. The Schlieffen plan if anything just allowed for the Germans to be attacked from both sides rather than have just one area flattened at a time.