Why ships are more than just steel and lists of statistics

There’s a vigorous naval enthusiast community out there. And it’s always intrigued me how often their discussions devolve to bitterly personalised argument, often infused with a kind of nationalist machismo in which paper statistics become weapons for invalidating the personal worth of the other party. Setting aside the point that this is basically dick-waving, using … More Why ships are more than just steel and lists of statistics

Stranger battleships than British ones, and other odd stuff

I posted a year or two back about some of the oddest British battleships ever built – engineering weirdness that always had a rational explanation but ended up creating some very strange and quirky vessels indeed. I was careful to specify ‘British’ because their oddities were actually quite sane by comparison with designs concocted by … More Stranger battleships than British ones, and other odd stuff

The Second World War began 77 years ago this week

It is 77 years since the Second World War broke out – a succession of anniversaries starting on 1 September with the German invasion of Poland, and continuing two days later, 3 September, when the French, the British – and their Empire – declared war on Germany in response. It was a case of political … More The Second World War began 77 years ago this week

What if Germany had won the First World War in autumn 1914?

I pointed out in an earlier post that a German victory in 1918 would have always been marginal because by then all combatants had been run down by the strains of war. Revolution simmered in Germany and the chances of Ludendorff’s military junta continuing to rule without compromise or change afterwards seem slim. What of … More What if Germany had won the First World War in autumn 1914?

It’s a century since Britain’s advance on the Somme

A century ago – 1 July 1916 – British soldiers climbed out of their trenches on the Somme front and began advancing towards trenches held by the German Fourth Army. So opened the huge Somme offensive, a combined British-French effort to break the German lines and push through into open country beyond. The plan seemed … More It’s a century since Britain’s advance on the Somme

The common clay of the new social media. You know…

The initial social media response to my Listener cover article was intriguing. It mostly riffed from snap judgement of the cover and headline without reading the actual content. Alas, being ignorant of what I’d said didn’t stop commenters from judging what they imagined I wrote, sight unseen. If I judge something, I have to know … More The common clay of the new social media. You know…