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Friday, 30 May 2014

Fortress Visit Report : Portsmouth Bastion

Before my recent visit to Portsmouth, I was researching the town, I could not find any hint of fortification of the town but I found reference to a 17th century gate. This is the gate.

A very fine, elegant, yet simple, gate it is. On the wall beside it there is a plaque that explains the gate had been resited.

This shows the 17th century bastioned fortification was in four layers.

First - an enceinte comprising of five bastions and a demi-bastion and a curtain wall. The river frontage used the existing Tudor defences and casemated artillery positions, the Round Tower and the Square Tower.

Second - four ravelins or demi-lunes and a counterguard in front of King's Bastion.

Third - a continuous covered way.

Fourth - two free standing demi-lunes and a free standing redoubt.

Most of the work was demolished by the Victorians but the King's Bastion was still standing, so I went for a look. these are some photos.

Looking South along the curtain to the right face of the King's Bastion

On King's Bastion looking North along the curtain

Angle of the bastion and the moat

Erosion, showing the earth construction of the bastion

Bastion gorge

Bricked-up bastion magazine

Tunnel under the curtain wall to the sally-port

Overlooking Spur Redoubt

Right flank of the bastion


On the remains of Spur Redoubt, looking back to the sally-port

Tudor riverside casemated artillery position

Thursday, 29 May 2014

"How Far From Austerlitz?" by Alistair Horne

I finished this book a few days ago. 400 pages of very readable strategic history.  Not a huge amount of detail - 10 years of Napoleon's life would fill several dozen volumes - but great as an easy read refresher. Doubly good as I bought the book second or maybe third hand at Vapnartak last year for a fiver.

There are four historians that I have admired above the others. Alistair Horne, AJP Taylor, Christopher Duffy and Richard Holmes. Alistair Horne is the man most responsible for my interest in French military history. In the early seventies I read his account of Verdun 1916 "The Price of Glory". I finished it believing the French Army showed great tenacity, courage and fortitude. That was not what we were told about the French - from the Germans, yes that is to be expected - but not from the French. When I had read "To Lose A Battle - France 1940" I was more puzzled, yes the Allies were defeated in Northern France, but it wasn't just the Brits who had fought hard, the French and the Belgians did as well.

Nothing so ground breaking in this book, but I enjoyed it.

Monday, 26 May 2014

England 1 Sri Lanka 1

Yesterday we went to the second One Day International Match at Riverside Stadium.

Sri Lanka won, very convincingly. Both teams made mistakes in the field but England's batting was very poor. The winter woes continue.

Still - the interval entertainment was funny - zorb racing, not seen that before.

Many groups don fancy dress and then drink huge quantities of beer. Some get a little carried away with the occasion.

Security personnel discussing - a mankini, is this proper dress?

This brought a chorus of "Where's your penis gone?" to Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
A few seconds later the spectator was asked to dress properly, so he promptly put on a St Trinian's schoolgirl outfit.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

"Godzilla" - 8 out of 10.

Cityscreen in York this afternoon - to see this remake of the 1954 original. Fantastic - we loved it - very much like the original but modernised, plenty of CGI but a good story that was well paced. The main leads were OK (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) Good to see Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche as a plausible couple, and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins as the scientists.  If you like sci-fi and don't mind CGI, I recommend it as good entertainment.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Fortress Visit report - Southsea Castle - a good morning's visit

An excellent guide booklet

I would like to start this report with a big thank you to the staff at Southsea Castle. All were helpful and very happy to answer my many questions.

Landward approach over what was the glacis, now flowerbeds.

The keep, squared off and so losing its lookout tower.

Model of the fort as constructed

Model showing 19th century modifications, counterscarp gallery and external batteries

Counterscarp gallery and the 19th century external battery

Caponier connecting the main building to the counterscarp gallery.

Morning mist has lifted, the sun is out, Fort Spitbank in the distance.
This small fort was built as part of Henry VIII's south coast defences. It was enlarged during the period 1812 - 1816 and in the 1860's. The only action seen by the fort - during the English Civil War, in 1642 the fort was seriously undermanned and easily stormed by Parliamentary forces.

A very good visit lasting around three hours. It would have been longer but the counterscarp gallery was closed due to damage caused by flooding during our very wet winter.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Portsmouth weekend

A very busy few days. My partner, B, was at the Royal Windsor Horse Show all week, so after Uni on Thursday I went down to Portsmouth for the weekend. Great weather , really good for fortress touring. a report of the walks around Portsmouth and Southsea will follow.

Then a piece of really bad news. We were driving back to York yesterday (Monday) when B had a call from the stables. Her horse had spooked during the night and speared himself on a post, he had to be rushed to the equine hospital for emergency surgery - he had torn his colon. The surgery went well, fingers crossed he doesn't get a serious infection.

This morning I had to travel a few miles from York, to Pocklington U3A History group to give a talk on 17th century fortification design. This was well received.

Now back to the routine for a few weeks - no, wait, - England cricket season starts today with a match against Sri Lanka - somewhere I have tickets for Sunday's match at Riverside - better get those found.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

"All Is Lost" - a 5 star film

I watched this film today on blu-ray disc. It is great - stunning - Robert Redford is on screen, alone, throughout the film - he has about ten sentences to say, one of which is a single swear word, his performance is amazing. I recommend this film without hesitation.

When I put All Is Lost into Google Images, I got a Spanish poster, two publicity photos like the second photo and then this photo below.

I don't know this woman (her name is Irina Shayk) or why she is a celebrity (or I guess she is a celebrity - the dress and the pose suggest a red carpet appearance) and I don't mind looking at such an attractive woman, but why has Google's software listed her so prominently in my search for images of All Is Lost? I'm mystified.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Wind Rises - but not on this occasion

Well, what a disappointment.  We have been fans of the work of Hayao Miyazaki for Studio Ghibli for some years. The film news is all saying, this is Miyazaki's last film, his swan song. We were excited to see it but we came out of the cinema very deflated. The film is lovely, well very crafted in the Miyazaki mould, beautifully drawn; but it lacks story, it lacks pace, it lacks interest. What a shame.
"My Neighbour Totoro" our favourite Miyazaki film

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The French Ambassador Came to York On Friday

He came to unveil a blue plaque

to honour FFL Pilot Officer Yves Mahé

Yorkshire Air Museum brought their Hurricane into Parliament

The York Parliament, not the London one.