Follow by Email

Friday, 25 July 2014


Over our street here in York, first the Red Arrows at around five o'clock, then the Battle of Britain Flight (the Avro Lancaster, a Spitfire and a Hurricane) about six-thirty, I think on their way to the Sunderland air-show.

Fortress Visit Report : Metz : Medieval Walls and Fort Bellecroix

Image from "Vauban and the French Military Under Louis XIV"
by Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage".

Metz had a long medieval wall, about 7 kilometres with around 60 towers. Many of the towers were built and maintained by the Guilds (you know - butchers, bakers, candlestick makers). Only part of this remains, from the Moselle to the Porte des Allemands, behind Fort Bellecroix.

As I walked around the walls, one tower in particular caught my attention, the Tour des Esprits.
Tour des Esprits

Damaged during the 1944 battle to liberate Metz, later restored

Lovely vaulted ceiling
On close inspection, it seems to me that the roundels to allow cannon fire were installed at a later date.

A musketry wall was added during the 1830's, all around the wall. This would have provided protection against small arms fire but probably have been easy meat for siege artillery.

Musketry wall in front, medieval wall behind.
(Picture pinched from internet - thanks to the poster)

From the Porte des Allemands, I crossed the river and entered Fort Bellecroix.

The notice board for the Circuit of the Ramparts, in need of some repair.

"Bellecroix Fort. The military past of Bellecroix.

It was under Louis XV that Cormontaigne, successor to Vauban, built to a large extent the double crown of Fort Bellecroix, under the direction of the Military Governor Marechal de Belle-Isle, between 1734 and 1740.

The works, comprising of four bastions, three curtain walls, three demi-lunes and a lunette, was protected by 3kms of dry ditch and 4.6kms of underground galleries.

Under Napoleon III and to the end of the 19th century, these fortifications were reinforced."

The double-crownwork is largely intact but under much tree growth. The main ditch between the line of the bastions and curtain walls and the line of the demi-lunes is used for playgrounds and basketball courts.

Bastion on the right, basketball court.


Demi-lune, under the shrubbery.

Porte de Sarrelouis

Pas de souris.

From a bastion shoulder towards the Porte de Sarrelouis.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Another disastrous Test Match

Having drawn the first test, England have lost the second test against India. (Sigh) That makes ten matches since our last win - seven of them losses. (Sigh)

I say England have lost the second test because I feel that is what happened, on a beautiful green track England bowled first and still lost by 95 runs. Credit to the Indians for some terrific batting and bowling but I feel they did not win it, England lost that match. (Grrr)

Time to rest Captain Cook?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Visit to Chatsworth House

We thought we would have a day away from the packing and the cricket and the horse and go for an outing. Our chosen destination was Chatsworth House, which is still a private house although it is run by a charitable trust.

The day was damp and miserable in York but we thought we should get on with it, there's no point in waiting for the weather to turn. After a pleasant drive, my first in the new Yeti, of around 90 minutes, we arrived to find the weather was still damp and miserable. Then we spotted the admission price, £3 for parking and £18 each to visit the house and gardens, a total of £41. Still, after driving so far, I passed over the plastic and we went in.

We are extremely pleased we did. A lovely spot, a beautiful house, an awe-inspiring collection of old and new art, helpful, often funny and always smiling staff, a wonderful trip.

Stable block, now cafes and shops

Not many takers for the outside tables, but love the colours

Compulsory silliness

Damen Hirst, "St Bartholomew Exquisite Pain" 2006


Lucien Freud

A wonderful portrait of General Somebody or Other

The library - gorgeous - not allowed in

With flash

Without flash

Side view of the house, the rain has stopped

Tree Fountain

A playful partner, B

A thoughtful blogger

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

"The Railway Man"

About twenty years ago I read Eric Lomax's very moving account "The Railway Man". Basically, Eric was a train enthusiast who was drafted into the Signals Corps in WW2, shipped to Singapore, taken into captivity when Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. He and his colleagues were transferred to work on the Burma railway. After the war, he struggled to adapt to civilian life, married and met one of his captors. A very good book, a really interesting autobiography that is well written and accessible. I recommend the book.

Now - the film. I enjoyed it very much. It is a telling of the book in 110 minutes. The dictates of film format dictate the amount of story that can be included, so it is inevitable that some things would be lost but the basic struggle to survive in the two worlds of the POW camp and of being a survivor is very well shown and acted. Overall - I think 7/10.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Fortress Visit Report - Metz - Porte Des Allemands

My first morning in Metz, I walked down from the hotel to the Porte des Allemands - the Gate of the Germans.

This was built in two stages. The two pepper pot towers on the left bank of the river were built around 1230. The towers were built, either by Teutonic Knights or Hospitalliers Brothers of Notre-Dame-des-Allemands, hence the name. The two right bank crenellated towers and the V-shaped machicolated gate were built around 1445. The courtyard with an arcaded gallery to unite the two was added in 1480.

A German postcard during the Annexation, of a pre-cleaned Porte

The gallery, showing the gun-ports added at a later date

Pepper pot towers and the left hand gate tower.

Left tower and gate house, with a lot of damage from November 1944.

Right tower

Right tower and gate house, good view of the machicolations.
A very well preserved and presented gate complex. A lot of later modifications as later engineers adapt the gate complex into their fortifications. The gallery is now an exhibition space. I spent about an hour at the complex.

The first four pictures I found on the web and I would like to thank the owners for their photos. The second five are mine.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

"A Duel of Giants" by David Wetzel

I have put my hand up to give a talk to my U3A history group on the Franco-Prussian War. I have started my research with this book.

Hard going - full of facts - very academic. I liked it but I cannot say I enjoyed it, on numerous occasions I got to the end of a sentence or a paragraph and I had to go back and reread it. Definitely a book for the specialist French history bod. A very good place to start my research.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

General John Ligonier

I came across this portrait on Facebook this morning, I think it is wonderful, I thought I would share it.

John (Jean-Louis) Ligonier, 1st Earl of Ligonier (07.11.1680 - 28.04.1770). Painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1760.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014


As my partner, B, has just left the Civil Service, she had to return the VW Golf. So she's gone off and bought another car, a Skoda Yeti 4X4. She wanted something to carry around her horsey stuff and bales of bedding and so on. Very much like the Golf, but taller and squarer and cheaper. I'm looking forward to a good trip in it.


I am a sci-fi film fan. On Sunday evening, our local cinema put on "Serenity". This showing was an opportunity too good to miss.

Following his successes with "Buffy" and "Angel", in 2003 Joss Whedon made a television series "Firefly". This was a sci-fi / western series about a spaceship, "Firefly", owned and captained by Mal, the Nathan Fillion character. A second series was not commissioned but the producers thought there was sufficient interest for a feature film, "Serenity", released in 2005.

We have both the tv series and the film on dvd, but this was the first time we had seen the film on a cinema screen. We just loved it, for us this is a 5-star film. Seeing a film on a big screen really does make a big difference to the film experience. It also gives the nerds a chance to dress up, in this case half a dozen came as a group wearing hand knitted, sort of Peruvian headwarmers, in orange and yellow and brown, as the crew's gun-obsessed muscle Jayne (Adam Baldwin) receives one in a package from his mother.

A great night out.