Category Archives: History

The Great Flood of 1875 and the Fossilised Streets of Nottingham (1)

I have always been fascinated by extreme weather, as many of you will have noticed. I recently came across an account of the Great Flood of Nottingham in 1875. It was in “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood” started by Mr John Frost Sutton and then continued by Henry Field.
The detailed account of the flood is particularly fascinating because it involves many streets which no longer exist. I was able to trace all of them on my Old Ordnance Survey Map for Nottingham (South) 1880. You can buy these on ebay or from a company run by Alan Godfrey .

The account begins with:

“October 22nd 1875
The greatest flood that has occurred in this century at Nottingham reached its height shortly before midnight, and, as viewed from the terrace of the Castle, was a scene never to be forgotten. Turn which way you would, the south side of town resembled a great sea, with here and there trees, factories, or blocks of houses standing out. The left portion had quite a Venetian aspect: people were moving to and fro, some on planks, some on hastily constructed rafts, fetching out their goods or those of some unfortunate neighbour, and floating them to higher parts.”

The castle has a tremendous view from the top of the cliff on which it stands:

Here’s the terrace and a very poor view of the view:

The description continues with particular reference to individual streets, using the peculiar way of writing them as “Downing-street” for example. Many of them are no longer there in their ancient form, such as Arkwright-street and Kirke White-street. We only have the fossilised fragments of what they once were:      `

“The Queen’s-walk was rendered impassable, and many of the houses on the sides had at least six feet of water in them. In parts of Queen’s-road, Arkwright-street, and Kirke White-street people were conveyed to and fro in carts. The water stood in the cellars of many of the houses in Leen-side, Carrington-street, Greyfriars-gate, and several other streets.”

Let’s take a look at these more obscure Nottingham streets, because if a magic wand could be waved and they were reinstated, quite a few of Nottingham’s current traffic problems might be solved.

On the map below the orange arrow points to  Queen’s Walk which I think is where the Manchester United footballer Andrew Cole originally came from. Queen’s Road, mentioned in the account of the flooding, is north east of the orange arrow and runs down the side of the station. Looking at the map, Queen’s Walk, still in white right next to the orange arrow, used to be a splendidly direct route out of the city to the south. Alas, it is now pedestrianized:

In the map below, Arkwright-street used to be a very big and important thoroughfare. It ran south of the station and curved gently but directly to Trent Bridge. It is there nowadays in a similar fossilised form. Find the red dot that marks the station at the top of the map below and follow it south eastwards towards the river in a long, long curve past the orange arrow and across to Trent Bridge, with the road number A60 on it. Nowadays, alas, this is not a continuous route for cars:

Kirke White-street was equally important. It ran from the canal on London Road straight as an (orange) arrow until it reached Wilford Road in the west. Kirke White-street crossed right through The Meadows, which were some of the most impressive slums in the whole British Empire. Even in 1970, children could be seen barefoot here, In the 19th century, its inhabitants provided the huge crowds that kept Notts County in the First Division and helped them to win the FA Cup:

After World War Two the inhabitants of the Meadows were moved en masse to Clifton Estate, some three or four miles outside the City.

Kirke White-street was a much used east to west route across the city and then out via Wilford Street and Wilford Road to Birmingham and the south west. On the map below, the long lost fossilised path of Kirke White-street is very roughly the red dotted  line going east to west. Wilford Street and then Wilford Road is in the top left corner. It very quickly changes into the A453 which was the old main road to Birmingham:

Leen-side is the eastwards continuation of Canal-street to London Road where the BBC is now situated. It ran to the south of Narrow Marsh, where the Nottingham police never dared to go. It was an area generally reckoned to be the absolute very worst slums in the whole British Empire. People who lived there used to queue up to live in the old Meadows. I found a picture of them queuing on the Internet. It’s hard to believe that on the right that group is just one family, but that’s what slums are all about:

Here is Leen-side, marked with the orange arrow. Just to the north of Canal Street, it used to form an excellent east-west route through the city, and linked well with the route leading south via London Road and the other one going past the red dot of the modern station:

Carrington-street was exactly where it is now and you can see it to the west of the railway station on the map below. In Victorian times, though, it ran a lot further north to a junction with Greyfriars Gate and Broad Marsh, much of which is now covered by the Broad Marsh Centre. Only a small part of Greyfriars Gate remains, between Wilford Street and the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre. I suspect that it used to link up with Lister Gate. I have marked it with our old friend, the Orange Arrow:

There will be more pointed accusations of the slack jawed local planners of the 1960s, and their pathetic and repeated failures to use their brains next time, although I do promise not to mention the fact that they demolished this wonderful old coaching inn and World War II RAF knocking shop without hesitation:

They replaced it with one of the finest examples of sixties architecture in the city:

 

Advertisements

24 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham

Vandalism in the School Archives? Or is it Art?

A few months ago, I went into the School Archives to photograph the School Lists. They are quite boring little booklets to be brutally honest, but they are very informative and record the names of all the members of all the forms in the School for every year. The oldest ones date from the late 1860s, but because I was researching the school’s casualties in World War II, I started my James Bond activities with 1892 and then went forwards as far as 1950. Just for the sake of argument, here’s one, with a particularly famous ex-pupil on it:

With all that information, it is actually a Victorian Excel Spreadsheet!

The only thing out of the ordinary that I found in 3.96 GB of School Lists was in the edition for 1941:

Once again, some young man was feeling the ‘Call of the Skies’:

Below the printers’ name, he had knocked out a couple of bombers;

Here’s the larger of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 320 and has a range of 3,000 miles, with an endurance, I think he means, not ‘duration’, of 6 hours 8 minutes and a bomb load of 3,000lbs. It also has 8 machine guns. Looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines.

Here’s the smaller of the two bombers blown up as best I can:

It is called the 350 and has a range of 1,000 miles, with no armament. It looks a bit like a Blenheim with the nose of a Heinkel, the tail of an Airspeed Oxford perhaps and inline engines. Here’s one I prepared earlier:

I have also tried hard to blow up the first of the fighters:

It has one 1 inch cannon, in the propeller boss, by the look of it, and 8 machine guns.

The other fighter is rather Spitfire like:

It is called the 398 and has 4 cannon, 4 machine guns, an endurance of 5 hours and a range of 3,000 miles. I’m sorry to say that Maths was not necessarily this young man’s strong point! The German fighter has no names or specifications:

For me, it is mainly Focke Wulf Fw 190, but there is a little dash of Mitsubishi Zero in it as well perhaps.

I often think that we regret what we do not do far more than what we do do. When I was in the Sixth Form at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Boys’ Grammar School, we used to have French lessons in a smaller room because there were only 12 of us. One of the desks had a fantastic carving of a B-17 Flying Fortress, deep into the wood of the lid, with all the ailerons, all the machine guns and all the ventilation holes in the gun barrels. It was fabulous. This is the closest I can find on the Internet:Looking back at how much money the school had, I suspect it dated from  1943 rather than 1963 and the Airfix kit of that era:

My regret is that I did not find any way of preserving this work of art rather than it be thrown into a skip in the middle 70s.

Not much survives of the pupils in any school. And what does would have been classified as vandalism at the time. Such as this example from 1922:

or this one from 1942:

or this one from a young man who upset the High School more than he could ever imagine:

 

 

24 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (3)

Last time I was talking about “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton which describes how, at Mukden POW Camp in Manchuria,  Allied prisoners of war, primarily Americans, were used to test Japanese biological weapons developed at Pingfan, the nearby headquarters of Unit 731:

The author then extends his account to some of the other atrocities carried out at other locations within the Japanese sphere of influence. In the last post I spoke of what happened to the crew of a B-29 Superfortress, brought down over Japan on May 5th 1945:

The crew were all murdered in the vilest fashion  and 30 Japanese eventually stood trial in an American court. Dr Fumio Ishiyama, the university’s chief of surgery, committed suicide to avoid justice. Of the remaining 29 Japanese, 23 were found guilty. There were five death sentences, four life imprisonments and prison for all the rest. Sadly, the sentences, awarded for war crimes up to and including cannibalism, were never carried out.

The author then reveals that the American government, having realised that their erstwhile allies, the Russians, were in actual fact, total savages and vile people and worse than that, a bunch of Commies, decided to do very little indeed with the guilty Japanese defendants. After all, the Japanese people were a lovely lot who well might fight on our side against the Russians if we were very, very kind to them. Nobody was hanged and every single war criminal was free as a bird by 1958. Personally, I’m only surprised that the thirty Japanese weren’t asked to write a best selling recipe book.

One of the most striking things in the author’s research is that the 700 page Official History of Kyushu Imperial University devotes just one page to the vivisection experiments it carried out for years on hundreds of innocent people. It reminded me of one German company’s attitude to the 80,000 concentration camp slave labourers they used. They don’t even get a mention.

The doctor in charge at Pingfan was Shiro Ischii:

Ischii wanted to discover how diseases affected the human body, and hundreds of thousands of Chinese people paid the ultimate price to help him. Aerial sprays were used from aircraft and bombs made of ceramic material but full of germs were dropped on Chinese civilians. It must have been a little bit like spraying forest fires nowadays:

Poisoned food and water was frequently offered to Chinese victims. Fleas carrying bubonic plague were released by Japanese aircraft over the Chinese cities of Ningbo (1940) and Changde (1941). At least 400,000 people died as a result of this. Here are the two cities nowadays:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In comparison, casualties at Hiroshima were 90,000–146,000 and at Nagasaki between 39,000–80,000.
Dr Felton has researched Pingfan in enormous detail. The centre was divided into various ‘Divisions’, all under the command of Shiro Ischii. Division 1 worked with anthrax, bubonic plague, cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid, frequently introducing it to live people. As test volunteers, between 300-400 Chinese were kept confined at a local camp and numbers were always maintained around that level. Division 2 worked on weapons to deliver the toxins, trying to invent radical new ways to contaminate the western USA. Division 3 constructed artillery shells for shorter range operations and Division 4 developed new biological agents.
The book tells exactly what kind of medical and surgical war crimes were committed by Unit 731 personnel but I will not inflict them upon you. You will need to buy the book! Suffice it to say that the treatment meted out to these poor Chinese people was vile, beyond contempt. It still affects Sino-Japanese relationships today, mainly because of the extreme reluctance on the part of the Japanese to accept their guilt and to apologise in a meaningful and sincere way.

10 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Politics, Science

My Book (3)

I am still quite proud of the fact that I have found out so much information about the vast majority of these young men. I feel that I have done them all justice and that I have done my very best to keep them in people’s memories, even as they seem to be receding further and further into the anonymous grey mists of time. Here is the School Rugby team in 1926-1927:

I have made great efforts to drag the complete ghost out of the past and to write not just about their fiery deaths but to try and unfold the full and energetic lives they led. It’s only too easy to see a name on a war memorial, to read that name and then to forget it, all in the same moment. For that reason I have tried to describe their families, their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and sisters. I have tried to find out what their father did as a job, where the family lived, in some cases occupying just one or two houses in their lifetime, in others half a dozen. What were their houses like? How might they have travelled to the High School? I have tracked their Forms, their teachers, what they did at School, how their exams went, what position they came in class and what prizes they won, all the things that would have been so important to them at the time. I have written about what their Form Masters were like and talked about their careers. This is Mr Kennard. He definitely took no prisoners:

I have tried to find out what sports our future heroes played:

What school plays they were in. The French farce of the 1920s, “Dr Knock”, perhaps? And which one of these boys became the war hero?:

Or perhaps a play with a chance to wear a lovely frock and a string of pearls? :

Which person collected stamps and who loved to make home movies? I have tried to identify other boys in their Forms who might have been their friends, even if that is just a case of saying who won the Form Prize and where they lived, what job their father did and so on. Here is a class of really small boys, eight and nine year olds, before the First World War:

The worst thing I could have done would have been to have written three thousand words about their death and thirty about their lives. So whatever I could find, I have included. Their sports, their hobbies, their jobs between school and the forces, and, if possible, what their abilities and talents were.
By doing this I revealed, even to myself, just how many different places have provided High School pupils over these years and just how many hundreds of different jobs their fathers have done, some of them long gone and requiring a search on the Internet.

At least one High School hero of Bomber Command had come straight from Waring & Gillow’s shop to fly his Lancaster. He apparently said one day in the shop that selling double beds and three piece suites was not a worthy job for a man when his country was at war, and off he went. Waring & Gillow sold luxury furniture of all kinds, and they appear to have made a lot themselves, because here is their factory. :


And when I have written about the boys’ streets and houses, some simple directions are usually included. Without them, which of us could ever locate Balfour Road or Conway Avenue or Derby Terrace or Florence Road? And many old streets have completely disappeared. This is a very different Forest Recreation Ground, only a few decades before the first of the World War Two casualties was born. Look at the windmills, and the race course for horses. It was one of the very few ever to be a figure-of-eight, in the hope of some juicy crashes:

It is, of course, the young readers who are my ultimate target audience. It would be a tragedy indeed if they were never to realise who died for their right not to be brainwashed, not to speak German as their first language, not to be slave labourers in a foreign land and to have the right to make their own decisions at all the different stages of their young lives. Freedom does not come cheap, and I’m not talking about money. The situation is perhaps best summed up by what one Old Nottinghamian war hero has inscribed on his grave:

HE GAVE THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL
HIS UNFINISHED LIFE.

18 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (2)

Last time I was talking about “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton which describes how, at Mukden POW Camp in Manchuria,  Allied prisoners of war, primarily Americans, were used to test Japanese biological weapons developed at Pingfan, the nearby headquarters of Unit 731. This is Manchuria:

The events at Mukden were not a unique series of atrocities, however. By no means:

The author relates the dreadful events which took place on May 5th 1945 when a B-29 was rammed and brought down over Japan by a kamikaze fighter pilot. Of the crew, the first fatality had his parachute lines cut in mid-air by the wing of a second Japanese fighter aircraft. A second American was attacked by a mob of Japanese civilians who came running across a field to kill him. With the six bullets in his revolver he shot five of them and then himself. A third man was shot by civilians. A fourth man was never found. A fifth was sent to Tokyo to be questioned under torture. The rest were rounded up and taken to Kyushu Imperial University where they were murdered by the medical staff who dissected them alive in the post mortem room. The witness to all this was Dr Toshio Tono, a young medical assistant at the time.

In the 1980s he wrote a book about the event which named names, most of whom were, by then, in senior posts within the university. According to the author, the dissection of the prisoners paid particular attention to the brain, heart, liver and stomach. Times and places are given. On May 17th 1945, two Americans were dissected, on May 22nd two more, on the 25th a single man and on June 2nd, the last three men died. The horror is not over yet. On June 3rd the last victim’s liver was preserved for a party that evening in the Officers’ Hospital. More than one witness has come forward to say that the meat was chargrilled, seasoned with soy sauce and served as an hors-d’œuvre to the military and civilian guests, who knew what they were eating and enjoyed the meal.

I suspect that this incident may well have inspired Hannibal Lecter.

 

14 Comments

Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, History, Politics, Science

Eagle Comic (5)

On the front cover, Eagle featured Dan Dare, the lantern jawed squeaky clean hero:

He could easily dominate the whole front page:

He was always helped, and occasionally hindered, by Digby, his rather podgy sidekick:

Presumably, he was named after an extremely obscure aircraft called the Digby, which was the name given to the Douglas B-18 Bolo in Canadian Air Force service. You can see this lost aircraft in action in the Powell and Pressburger film “49th Parallel” made in 1941 with Leslie Howard and Laurence Olivier. It’s a thriller well worth keeping an eye out for, and a film which portrays perfectly the repulsive attitudes of the Nazis:

Here’s another picture of Digby:

And, yes, he is using an electric hairdryer as a weapon:

I shouldn’t poke fun, though. Some of the science was years ahead of its time. Who else had heard of nuclear fusion in 1950?:

Dan Dare and Digby had their nemesis in the extraterrestrial figure of “The Mekon”:

Dan, Digby and the Mekon caused a revolution in the unchanging comic world of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. Issue N0 2 of Eagle came out on April 21st and the comic was on its way. Here’s the top half of that second issue:

And the bottom half of the same page:

Sometimes the price of the comic was rather strange. This issue cost 4½ old pence which even in the days of a pound made up of 240 pence was an unusual price. I can’t get enough of that eagle personally:

On the other hand, there was a 4½d  stamp at the time. Here’s a special one for National Nature Week:

The Eagle went from strength to strength, with its brightly coloured, vigorous art work…

It always had futuristic machines…

Here’s that orange caption:

There are occasional monsters…

And the Dan Dare stories always had lots of alien species. Was it this type of picture that inspired the bars and cafes of “Star Wars” ?

Why, they even had girls from time to time…

 

19 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Film & TV, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Writing

My Book (2)

With the books that I eventually produce, my main intention will be to preserve our knowledge of the sacrifices made by these men, but at the same time, I do feel that I have one other main aim, which is to demonstrate that, as we live our own lives, we are surrounded by history of all kinds.

History is always there, hiding in the streets we walk down and in the houses we walk past. It is there, hiding in the buildings of a great city and it is hiding even in the corridors and rooms of the High School. It hides behind the modern frontage of the Park Salon and Quality4Students on Derby Road, up near Canning Circus:


History even hides behind the steamed up windows of the City Chicken Cafe and the Istanbul Off Licence on Mansfield Road:

It hides catastrophic defeats:

And it hides catastrophic accidents:

 

There’s no blue plaque to remember Peter Vernon, though. No flag flies over the home of “Watty” Watson. We have no statue in Edwards Lane of “Farmer” Richardson. No films are ever shown on our televisions of George Brown, the young man:

“whose fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump was so devastating on its day.”

But I do not want this secret history of ordinary people to be forgotten. The modest men in these books all died for our freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from racism, freedom from random prejudice, from arrest without reason, from chance execution, from a quick death in a gas chamber or a slow death as a slave labourer :

They saved us from a society without free speech, without choice and with no discussion of the future of us all:

They saved us from a political system which, at the end of the war, was quite willing to kill a substantial percentage of its own citizens as the best way forward towards a better life.
In this book, therefore, you will find as much as I could discover about well over a hundred men from Nottingham High School who gave their lives willingly in the cause of freedom.
That sounds a great many people and it was, for a school with total numbers of between five and six hundred at any one moment during the period under review.

The criteria for being added to the list were, for the most part, inclusion in the long list kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which uses its own date limits for the casualty’s death of September 3rd 1939 to December 31st 1947. I did stretch the definition slightly to include the men who died while working to support the Allied cause. A university lecturer who is killed in an aircraft crash as he travels from place to place on a lecture tour around the Mediterranean theatre will be in the list, just as much as the man who organises food for a million refugees in India and who prevents the outbreak of a typhoid epidemic. Both are clearly making contributions to the war effort. They are both, to quote a famous football manager, “Getting us closer to the top of the hill.”

14 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing