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Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Turkey’s entry into the 1st World War on 29 October 1914 prompted Britain to open a new military front in the remote Ottoman province of Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). British and Indian troops, sent to the Persian Gulf in early November to protect British oil interests in Abadan made rapid progress inland against weak Turkish resistance. In less than a month, they had occupied the towns of Basra and Kurna.

Despite the unforgiving climate, British forces continued to march steadily up the River Tigris in 1915. By 28 September, under the leadership of General Charles Townshend they had taken the town of Kut-al-Amara just 120 miles south of Mesopotamia's major city, Baghdad. The tide turned quickly, however, at the Battle of Ctesiphon in which Turkish troops under the command of Yusef Nur-ed-Din withstood heavy casualties to defeat Townshend's attacking forces. The war continued into 1916 and despite more heavy defeats Kut-al-Amara was recaptured on 24 February 1917, and Ctesiphon was taken soon afterwards. On 11 March 1917, British troops finally entered Baghdad. The path was cleared for an advance into northern Mesopotamia, towards the heart of the Ottoman empire in Anatolia. The war with Turkey finally ended on 30 October 1918.

Henry M. Brocks (1875-1960) cartoon of 1915 highlights the fact that to most of the people in Britain at this time, the war in Mesopotamia had previously been a distant and largely unknown campaign.

Transcript below:

MR PESSIMIST: (cheering up for once). "British Mesopotamian success."
MRS PESSIMIST: "That's the worst of it. They mess up all their successes."

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


The latest Government proposals for the increase in pension age to 66 is being actively considered, to try and ensure it will be sustainable into the future with the life expectancy of individuals increasing year on year. Over a hundred years ago in 1908 the Old Age Pension Act was passed and the first payments made in January 1909. The maximum payment of five shillings (25p) for a single man or woman was meagre - the equivalent of just under £20 a week now. To get even this you had to be at least 70 years old, at a time when only about 5% of the population were older than that. You might be denied it at all if you had been sent to prison in the previous ten years, were habitually drunk, had never worked when able to do so, or were otherwise of bad character. To check up on claimants and their entitlement, civil servants known as pension enquiry officers would visit people in their homes, assess their circumstances and then make recommendations to a separate pensions committee. William Gunning King (1859-1940) cartoon depicts such a visit by the Pensions Officer.

Transcript below:

PENSION ENQUIRY OFFICER: "Have you ever been in the hands of the police?"
APPLICANT: "Well--er--sir, you see I used to be a cook! Girls will be girls!
Besides, it was a good many years ago, and he was a sergeant!"

Monday, 4 October 2010


The 2010 Ryder Cup match between Europe and the USA went into its fourth day at Celtic Manor in Wales, for the first time in its history. The Europeans held out for a very exciting climax and took the trophy back from the USA by 1 point. Golf has evolved over the last 80-100 years into a very technical sport, gone are the mashie niblicks, spoons and brassies of the early 1900’s being replaced by titanium and carbon fibre clubs, the rubber ball has now become a dimpled scientific projectile capable of travelling enormous distances, but the one constant is the weather. No matter what technology prevails in the game, Mother Nature still rules. This early 1920’s cartoon by Bert Thomas (1883-1966) typifies the play this weekend.

Transcript below:

THE AMERICAN: "Say, I've played this game in every country under the sun."
THE BRITON: "Ah, well, you're playing it in another country now."

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