What would you do ? (15) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy the comic every week, mainly for its front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation:

The blue square carries the following text:

“Shoulder to shoulder the Roman soldiers stand tensed to face the thundering might of Hannibal’s elephants. But the Romans’ spears are of little use against the living battering-ram that sweeps down on them. Great gaps are torn in the tightly packed Roman ranks. Now Hannibal’s soldiers can follow through and rout the enemy. The Roman general, Scipio, knows that if he is to win future battles he must stop the elephants breaking his shield wall. What can he do?”

And the correct solution given on page 9 of the comic is:

And in case you are reading the extract from “Boys’ World” on a 1962 b/w television set, here is the text given above:

“In future battles, Scipio formed his ranks not as a solid mass, but with a soldier in every other space. When the elephants charged, the soldiers had room to move aside. This left clear lanes through which the elephants stormed harmlessly. When they had passed, the soldiers merely returned to their original positions.”

And as a very brief trip down memory lane, here is the advertisement right next to the problem solution on page 9. It is for the two latest Matchbox toys :

Nowadays, even the 24 page Matchbox catalogue is valuable, and certainly worth more than the original threepence, which was, theoretically, two pence in today’s money.


Filed under Africa, History, Humour

19 responses to “What would you do ? (15) The Solution

  1. Now it all makes sense! It’s so easy when you know the answer.

    • That sounds exactly like my opinion of Physics and Quantum Theory and Relativity and Philosophy and quite a lot of other things ending in “-y”.
      At least you’ve learnt something, though, so if you’re ever faced with 80,000 Carthaginian soldiers and 100 elephants, you’ll know exactly what to do!

    • It certainly is, and I suppose it may have changed the world. If Hannibal had conquered Rome, which he could well have done at one point, the foundations of our Western society would surely have been very different. .

  2. GP

    Well now, don’t I feel stupid!!

  3. My answer bring buckets of peanuts to entice the elephants to stop and eat. John, now realistically elephants thundering towards you would be a wee intimidating, yet my imagination does give me a funny “picture”. There you go.

  4. Aaah! If only it were that simple to avoid the elephants in our lives.

  5. “. . . Scipio, knows that if he is to win future battles he must stop the war elephants breaking his shield wall.” I am disappointed with the “Boys’ World” answer. Scipio, apparently, had no concern about war elephants rampaging about in the rear of his battleline, i.e., shield wall. I wonder what prevented the war elephants from simply turning about and attacking Scipio’s shield wall from its rear? Think of the ensuing chaos as the war elephants attacked from the rear while Hannibal’s infantry and cavalry attack from the front.

    I wouldn’t be too keen to follow “Boys’ World” battlefield leadership.

    • The only thing I can think of is that, as far as I am aware, we still don’t know what type of elephant Hannibal used. Nobody has ever tamed African elephants to my knowledge but perhaps Hannibal was dealing with some now extinct semi-wild African elephants that you could let loose at the enemy but you would be very lucky if they came back. Or. like many dogs, they only came back when they were hungry.
      In theory, that would stop an attack from the rear on the Roman troops, but it isn’t a 100% answer.
      As for the “Boys’ World” battlefield leadership, I have always made a point of never really following anybody…organised religion, political parties, anything where somebody claims to know more about it than you do. “Boys’ World” are far from being the worst offenders in this, but I very much take your point.

  6. I recall having a good collection of matchbox cars.

  7. I seem to remember that they were around 1/3, or perhaps 1/6. I can remember a dustcart with little doors that slid up and down, a white MG sports car, a dark green Jaguar sports car, possibly a “D” type and a Coca-Cola lorry with sharp tops to the bottles.
    I think, though, that I used to have more Dinky toys than Matchbox, because I used to get them as birthday and Christmas presents.

  8. Thanks for sharing!!.. sometimes we let life get so complicated we overlook the simple solutions… of course, the easiest solution were to communicate in a civilized manner and resolve any issues and not have conflict….. and my late wife were a avid Match Box collector and I have a house full of them (along with Hallmark)… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    • I didn’t realise that Matchbox was sold in the USA but it sounds as if your late wife was a very big fan.
      As for communication in a civilised manner, we don’t seem to be any further forward now than we were in 200 BC. This war in the Ukraine drags on and on and there are no winners, just as many as 100,000 mothers in Eastern Europe who have lost a son. That’s a sea full of tears, and we still learn nothing.

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