Saturday Snippet: The Old Navy

Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix III served in the US Navy from the 1890’s until the 1920’s.  He recorded an amusing, absorbing account of his service in his private journals, letters, etc.  Later, his son, well-known author Daniel P. Mannix IV, took those documents and used them to write “The Old Navy”, a record of his father’s life and naval career. The paper edition is long out of print, although used copies are available.  Fortunately, there’s also an inexpensive Kindle edition, which makes the e-book version available to a new generation of readers. Here’s a selection of excerpts from Admiral Mannix’s early years

Continue reading

Saturday snippet: Doses of economic reality

Instead of putting up my usual Saturday snippet of an excerpt from a book, today, in the light of the coronavirus situation, I’d like to post snippets from three articles that summarize where we are today, and show a trend that’s certain to continue for at least a few months, if not considerably longer. The reason I’m doing so is that, almost unbelievably, there are still those who maintain that the coronavirus pandemic is “all in the mind”, that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, and that this whole affair is overblown fear-mongering by those seeking to manufacture a non-existent “crisis”

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: An American with the Shangani Patrol

The so-called Shangani Patrol was a legendary encounter in 1893 between colonial forces and the Matabele tribe of Lobengula in what is today Zimbabwe.  The entire patrol was annihilated, after having killed more than ten times its own number in an epic fight through the bush.  In colonial Rhodesia, it was regarded in the same light as the fall of the Alamo in Texas, or the doomed fight of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. In this excerpt from his book “Scouting on Two Continents“, the world-famous American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, a legend in his own lifetime, describes some of his experiences

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: Cossack patriotic overkill

In 1835, Nikolai Gogol published his famous work Taras Bulba. It’s an over-the-top patriotic panegyric to the Cossack people and culture of the time, wildly exaggerated, but very popular ever since.  Wikipedia says of it: The main character is based on several historical personalities, and other characters are not as exaggerated or grotesque as was common in Gogol’s later fiction. The story can be understood in the context of the Romantic nationalism movement in literature, which developed around a historical ethnic culture which meets the Romantic ideal. Initially published in 1835 as part of a collection of stories, it was much more abridged and evinced some

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: Between silk and cyanide

One of the most remarkable autobiographies to come out of World War II was that of Leo Marks, who became the code specialist for Special Operations Executive (SOE), the clandestine operations department set up by Winston Churchill with the directive to “set Europe ablaze”.  SOE supplied arms, money and operators to resistance movements all over occupied Europe and throughout the Far East.  It made many mistakes and experienced many failures, but grew into a massive organization that made a measurable contribution to victory. Many years after the war, Marks wrote about his SOE experiences.  He battled for almost a decade to get

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: a fake nun in the Army in Northern Ireland

The late Australian author Russell Braddon was one of the most extraordinary writers to emerge from World War II.  His prolific output includes “The Naked Island“, his world-famous and best-selling account of his experiences as a prisoner of war under the Japanese;  “Cheshire VC“, a study of the wartime career and post-war conversion of one of the top bomber pilots during the war (who is currently being investigated, along with his wife, for possible canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church);  “Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy“, a true account of an extraordinary woman and her exploits with the French Resistance; 

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: a fake nun in the Army in Northern Ireland

The late Australian author Russell Braddon was one of the most extraordinary writers to emerge from World War II.  His prolific output includes “The Naked Island“, his world-famous and best-selling account of his experiences as a prisoner of war under the Japanese;  “Cheshire VC“, a study of the wartime career and post-war conversion of one of the top bomber pilots during the war (who is currently being investigated, along with his wife, for possible canonization as a saint by the Catholic Church);  “Nancy Wake: World War Two’s Most Rebellious Spy“, a true account of an extraordinary woman and her exploits with the French Resistance; 

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: the 1929 stock market slams headlong into reality

In their book “The Day the Bubble Burst“, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts examine the human side of the 1929 stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression. There are many parallels between the behavior of markets and individuals prior to the Crash, and those we see today.  The divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is at least as pronounced today, if not more so, and of course there are many more people in the country – and the world – to be affected by such divisions.  Attitudes are also very materialistic, the focus entirely on worldly reward and material

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: a fast Viking getaway

Here’s another excerpt from my Viking fantasy novel, a work in progress of which I’ve already published two excerpts in these pages (see here and here).  The background to this snippet is that Alvar, now in his mid-teens, has joined the crew of a trading ship that Olaf, his mentor, has taken to the upper reaches of the Baltic Sea to look for amber, a valuable commodity in Viking trading.  Olaf has taken a party of warriors inland on his quest, while Alvar and other younger men hold the trading vessel in readiness for a quick getaway – which is about to be

Continue reading

Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn’t only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results. This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to

Continue reading