Friday, 30 November 2012

How Ferry 1920s!

I'd actually been following this project for a while now, then like an eejit I forgot that the CD was released this week!

What am I going on about? Well for some time now the music press has featured the occasional news item about a forthcoming album from British pop singer Bryan Ferry, he of Roxy Music fame. Nothing so unusual in that, you might think, as Bryan Ferry has been releasing albums every few years since the 1970s both as a solo artist and with Roxy Music. In recent years, though, he has shown a growing interest in the music of the 1920s and '30s, beginning with As Time Goes By in 1999 which had him singing 1930s standards by the likes of Cole Porter.

Now his latest venture has him re-recording some of his and Roxy's earlier songs in - a 1920s jazz style! Incredibly successful it looks (and sounds) to have been too! There are no vocals on the recordings, I'm given to understand, so we don't actually hear Mr Ferry stretching the old larynx, but he has done a tremendous job in surrounding himself with some supremely talented musicians well-versed in the genre and who have helped him in rearranging his pop songs to get an authentic 1920s sound. The result is an album featuring 13 Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music tracks as you've never heard them before and, if you weren't familiar with the originals, could be forgiven for mistaking as actual 1920s songs.  It is definitely a welcome addition to a increasingly popular style of music, that of modern songs performed in the Twenties and Thirties fashion. I've only heard two of the tunes in their entirety - The Only Face and Don't Stop The Dance - and only snippets of the rest but even from that I am really very impressed.  I've never been what you might call a dyed-in-the-wool Roxy Music fan - I recognise their more well-known recordings and sing along and tap my feet whenever one comes on the radio, but that's about it.  The Jazz Age has certainly caught my attention, however - enough to earn it a place on my Christmas list! - and I heartily recommend it if you happen to be (or know someone who is) a fan of Twenties jazz and/or Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music.

*The Jazz Age was released in the UK on Monday 26th November*

Monday, 26 November 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Last Friday I received a welcome surprise in the form of a Liebster Blog Award from Little Lil of London.  Thank you, Lil, it was very kind of you to pass the award on to me.

I had actually been following this particular award around the blogosphere as it had been bestowed on a couple of blogs I already follow - and, I'm happy to say, helped introduce me to a few more splendid ones too!  It seems to have undergone a slight change since I first received it, courtesy of The Vintage Knitter, back in March 2011.  Now for bloggers with fewer than 300 (or sometimes still 200) followers it also seems to come with 11 questions - devised by the giver - rather than the "7 interesting facts" caveat of before.  Nonetheless I'm still delighted to accept it again and take this opportunity to recognise some of the more recent blogs that I have started following.

Lil didn't provide 11 questions for me to answer, for which I am partly grateful as I had enough trouble before thinking up 7 facts about me that wouldn't send you all into a stupor.  I also could not help but notice a common thread running through the questions on each awarded blog involving enquiries about make-up, high heels, dresses and perfumes - queries I would have found very difficult to answer!  However, to keep in the spirit of the thing, I have decided to crib the eleven best (i.e. answerable) questions from the various bloggers to/from whom the Liebster Blog has been awarded.

1. What are you reading right now?
R. J. Mitchell: Schooldays to Spitfire.  A combination of biography and historical narrative it tells the [all too-short] life story Reginald Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, and the development of that famous fighter aircraft.  Written by his son, Dr. Gordon Mitchell.
2. What countries have you travelled to?
Outside those in the United Kingdom, I have been to: America, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.

3. Which famous person/historical figure would you have dinner with?
If it were just dinner the historical figure would be W. O. Bentley, because then we would be able to "talk shop" and about the cars that still bear his name.  The famous person would be Stephen Fry, who would be able to talk about anything.  If it were more of a party I might choose Bix Beiderbecke historically and Robert Downey Jr. famously.

4. Does wearing or living vintage also affect the way you speak?
Yes, I would say first of all it encourages precise diction and clear speech because one wants to match one's appearance and the expectations it brings.  I also use a fair smattering of old-fashioned slang and exclamations, much to the amusement and mockery of my family and work colleagues - one of whom once observed that everything is "jolly good" with me on account of my saying it so much!

5. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I'd like to be an archivist in a museum or similar institution, in a dusty old library or records room, swotting up on my specialist subject while surrounded by books and folders the contents of which I'd know off the top of my head. ;-)

6. What era inspires and intrigues you the most?
It's almost certainly a dead heat between the inter-war period of 1919-39 or the late Victorian/Edwardian era of around 1875-1918.  Both have their own æsthetic delights, mechanical marvels and sartorial splendours that I'd be hard-pushed to put a pin between the two.

7. What season is the best & what is the worst for wearing vintage?
Personally for this chap the worst season is definitely summer as I just can't be doing with all the heat, which is a challenge when it comes to dressing in the vintage style and retaining an air of coolness.  Best is therefore the opposite - late autumn/winter when unsightly perspiration ceases to become a worry and I can break out even more of my wardrobe: coats, hats, gloves, woollens.

8. What is your most favourite item of clothing that you own?
Properly vintage would be the 1940s Kuppenheimer overcoat that my aunt & uncle brought over from America for me on one of their past visits.  Otherwise I have a pair of navy cords that I've practically worn out, so comfortable and adaptable have they been over the last 5-6 years I've had them.

9. What is your favourite vintage name for a female?
I suppose it depends on the definition of "vintage" in this sense, as a lot of old-fashioned girls' names are still popular today.  Sophie, for instance.  If I were to dig around for something more obscure I might say Georgina (or even Georgiana).

10. What is your favourite vintage name for a male?
Same goes for the chaps.  Daniel has long been a favourite (you can't get more vintage than the Old Testament!), while Clive also appeals for its uncommonness.  Incidentally, as a bonus fact/challenge, my [real] first name comes from the Greek for "victory of the people" (I know, misnamed or what?) if you fancy trying to figure it out from that.

11. When did you discover Vintage?
As a subculture, in that finding there were other people in the world who liked the same things as I did (and more importantly, were of the same peer group) I would say it was probably around late 2005 or thereabouts.  That was when I discovered The Chap magazine and its attendant "chap room", The Sheridan Club, which helped throw a light on the whole vintage scene for me.

There you are, then - a few more tit-bits about yours truly, interesting or not as the case may be.  All that remains now is for me pass this award on to five more deserving blogs [with fewer than 300 followers].  If the owners wish to answer the same questions, pose eleven of their own or provide the old 7 facts (or even none of the above if they're not inclined!) then they are welcome to do so.  Congratulations to:

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Forms, 'phones and frustrations

"Nooo, I DO NOT have a mobile number..."
I think I've made it clear on this blog before, but I am one of the few people remaining in this world who does without (and perfectly well without, I might add!) a mobile telephone and who has absolutely no intention of getting one.  (I warned you all some time ago, when I first mentioned the fact, that it might one day lead to a bit of a rant and today may well be that day!).  I don't think it is possible for me to succinctly explain how much I hate them - they way they rob people of manners and considerateness, replace common sense and restraint with imprudence and immoderation, and encourage banality over self-reliance and initiative - and just how much I consider their "essentialness" to be one of the biggest myths ever perpetrated on the modern world.

Before this turns into too much of an essay I should explain the series of events that has led to this post.  It all began the other week when I attempted to fill out an online form for something or other (I think it was a job application).  For the first few fields all was going well until I got to the box marked "Telephone (Mobile)".  Now up 'til this point I had always been able to bypass the request for a mobile number and simply move on.  Except this time a whole load of red warning signs and highlighted instructions appeared upon my pressing "Submit".   For perhaps only the second time in my experience, a mobile telephone number was a "required field"(!).

Source: via Bea on Pinterest
Not being the owner of such a device I had to make up some vaguely mobile-like number (lots of 0s and 7s are my favoured choice) before I could continue, but it confirmed to my mind an ever-more prevailing attitude that I (and others) are encountering.  My suspicions were first aroused when I perceived that, when providing my details at the request of some official lackey or other, the question "Do you have a mobile number?" had begun to subtly change.  First it lost its genuinely querying inflexion and became almost rhetorical (with the level of surprise registered when I explained that I do not own such an infernal appliance inversely proportionate to the perfunctoriness of the question).  Now the transformation is all but complete as the question has tended to become "What is your mobile number?" as if it is a foregone conclusion that I must possess - and make a note of this term, taken from The Chap magazine, for I have yet to find a better description - a chirruping horn of damnation. 

"He doesn't have a mobile number?!"
Then, as proof that I am not alone in this, Tupney encountered the selfsame problem last week in relation to her e-mail account.  I commiserated with her in the comments section using a phrase I've coined to describe this increasingly common attitude, which seemed to strike a chord with some of the other commenters and so convinced me that maybe there was blog material in it.  That phrase is - the presumption of technology.

I suppose when there are 62½ million of the things in the country, with 85% of the population in thrall to them and the "average person" owning two of the confounded machines the odds are stacked heavily against the likes of Tups and me, leading to the aforementioned conclusion on the part of most people/forms.  Still, it is dashed frustrating for those of us who get by perfectly well without to encounter this presumptive attitude.

"People walking around with 'phones stuck to their heads..."
Yet there is still 15% of the population without a mobile telephone, so is it not jumping the gun a little to start making it a compulsory field or otherwise insisting on the provision of a number?  The 'papers are full of stories about rural broadband (or lack thereof) & mobile provider coverage and the recent record low turnout for the England & Wales Police and Crime Commissioners election has been blamed in part on a lack of information - information that was almost exclusively available online but to which not everyone had access.  We may be seeing the creeping advancement and acceptance of technology into our lives but it is by no means universal and perhaps there should be a greater realisation that folk who haven't bought into this "technology for the sake of it" malarkey (or aren't in the position to benefit from it) still exist.

How long before it becomes impossible for those of us sans mobile 'phone to get by on a day-to-day basis?  Already we are seeing the advent of "pay by mobile" in certain high street shops and car parks.  Will mandatory mobile numbers beget mandatory mobile 'phones, perhaps?  In a related aspect, many adverts and competitions seen on television are increasingly becoming accessible only for those with a Farcebook account.  Again, I do not have one.  I almost feel marginalised!


I expect I'm preaching to the converted here and I'm sure many readers who do have mobile telephones use them sensibly and recognise them for the occasionally-useful tools they can be.  Nor am I suggesting we all go back to tin cans and string; I've mentioned in the past how I like to see (and use!) modern technology fused with vintage æsthetics but I'd also like to see it married to certain vintage values and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  Part of that should be the acceptance - the understanding - that mobile telephones are not the be-all and end-all of things and are (and should remain) optional.

Until then, my stock response of "I don't own a mobile telephone" is becoming ever more long-suffering and the numberpad on my keyboard more frequently employed.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Rare Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes book on display

Rare Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes book on display

In May of 2010 I did a post about the sale of an ultra-rare copy of the first edition of A Study In Scarlet, one of only two copies known to exist that are signed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Thanks to a comment from Randall Stock, who maintains The Best of Sherlock Holmes & Conan Doyle website, we also learned that 30 other [unsigned] copies of the 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual - in which the story first appeared - have also survived to this day.

It is one of these other thirty, until recently in the hands of a now-deceased private collector, that will go on display at the Portsmouth City Museum in Hampshire on the 24th November - just in time for the 125th anniversary of The Great Detective's first appearance.  Sadly this particular example is not in the best of conditions and so will only be on view for a couple of months.

Still it is the least that should be done to help celebrate such a milestone, although I am sure we shall be commemorating many more Sherlockian anniversaries in the future - hopefully with one or more of these same first editions - as the appeal of the character and stories shows no signs of waning.  Indeed one could argue that never have the adventures of Mr Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson been more popular than at the present moment, with two hugely successful feature films (and a third rumoured to be on the way!), two series (and, again, a third next year) of the acclaimed modern B.B.C. interpretation Sherlock and most recently the positively-received American CBS version Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu proving the point.  That's before one even factors in the continuing availability of the books too, of which A Study In Scarlet is one of many still read by millions.  The game is definitely still afoot!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Britain's 'last typewriter' produced

UK's 'last typewriter' produced

Five reasons to still use a typewriter

We (that is, the family) had a Brother electric typewriter back in the early 1990s, prior to the advent of affordable personal computers.  'Fraid I can't remember the model though (could have been an early Wrexham CM1000, in fact - they all look alike to me!  Not as huge a fan of electric types as I am of the good old manual typewriter.).  Still ours was used fairly frequently, mainly by mother for work but also by me for schoolwork (always enjoyed the auto-correct function, I must admit!) and to give the old Imperial a bit of a rest now and then!

Britain's 'last typewriter' produced

The demise of British typewriter production does have a personal aspect then, as it also seems to in a wider sense for a great many Britishers who remember using [manual] typewriters and the U.K.'s manufacturing heyday.  From my point of view (and, I suspect, a number of my readers') it has the added layer of interest tinged with sadness as the sphere of the typewriter grows slightly smaller still.  As such it may not be the kind of jolly story this blog values and is known for, but it is a little bit of noteworthy technological history in the making and deserves to be documented here.

The typewriter will no doubt continue for many more years to come both in its existing modern form and in its previous incarnations thanks to the concerted efforts of the Typosphere.  From now on, though, only the latter will exist in Britain.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Graceful days of travel re-lived on railmotor coach

Graceful days of travel re-lived on railmotor coach

In April 2011 I did a little post about a 1903 "autocar" - an early form of petrol-electric railway engine carriage - that had been restored thanks to an Heritage Lottery grant.  This was one of Britain's first [part] electric-powered locomotives, a glimpse into the history of a train type we now take for granted and a very rare example being one of only three ever built.

The 1908 Steam Railmotor that features in this story from Cornwall would seem to owe something to the North Eastern Railway's slightly earlier autocar - certainly in its overall design and appearance - but still retained the tried and tested steam propulsion of more traditional locomotives of the time.

Now, having lived a life of self-propelled coach, locomotive-hauled carriage and even a railway office it has finally been restored to its original condition after decades of fund-raising and thanks - once more - to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (perhaps even part of the same pot?).  Last Sunday it undertook its first passenger-carrying run under its own power since the 1930s, along the achingly picturesque East Looe River branch line of the West Coast Railway, and will return for a further series of journeys this weekend.

Another unique and fascinating piece of railway history has thus been saved for future generations' enjoyment thanks to the hard work of volunteers and enthusiasts plus the collective might of the Heritage Lottery Fund and First Great Western.  Steam Railmotor 93 makes a pretty sight chuffing along the banks of the Looe and long may it continue to do so.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

WWII toy aeroplane bought in Bristol fetches £10,000

WWII toy aeroplane bought in Bristol fetches £10,000

From the West Country comes this story featuring a dashing tinplate toy which, thanks to its rarity value, has recently made £10,000 at auction.  It's certainly a splendid model, but I'd rather pay 9/6 for it myself...

One of only 3 known to exist in the particular camouflage paintwork, this model monoplane has a potentially bittersweet story attached to it.  Its mint condition, including its original box marked with the name of the Bristol shop that sold it (and which still exists today as a sporting goods store), proves that it has had little use and so enhances its value.  However the accompanying newspaper in which the toy was wrapped features an ominous headline - a bombing raid on Bristol - that possibly hints at why the model had never been played with.

The story behind this little tinplate may never be fully known but it adds in its own small way to the history of Bristol and the family business from where it was bought.  It sounds as though it is taking pride of place in some collector's display; let's hope its past history is just as appreciated and, more importantly, remembered.

Friday, 9 November 2012

New life for old corner drugstore

Vintage pharmacy is reborn at Heritage Square Museum

Here's a happy story with a vintage flavour from Los Angeles, where the fascinating-looking Heritage Square Museum has just gained a wonderful new "exhibit". A living history museum depicting southern California as it would have been at the turn of the last century, Heritage Square seems to have a wonderful selection of Victorian-era buildings to its name.  It had never had a chemists - or to use the American vernacular, a drugstore - though, until now.

The manner in which Colonial Drug has been introduced into Heritage Square is a heartwarming example of a business coming full circle and involving three generations of a local pharmaceutical family.  For the original Colonial Drug store, started in the 1920s by Latvian immigrant George Simmons, sat only a few streets away from where Heritage Square is now.  Thanks to Simmons' stockpiling habits his family, consisting of two sons and now their children (all of whom have worked at the various incarnations of Colonial Drug over the years), are in the unique position of having boxes of patent medicines and other vintage treatments from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Now after 20 years of sorting through these boxfuls of weird and wonderful potions the brothers Simmons and their families have opened a period-specific Colonial Drug store in the Heritage Square, using all the old products kept by George Simmons all those decades ago.  It was a stroke of minor genius to think of the living history museum as an outlet for these otherwise unwanted goods and top marks must go to Heritage Square people for seeing the potential and allowing - for the first time - the construction of a new building, an exact replica of the original Colonial Drug.


So the store that began decades ago is back just as it was, albeit now as a living recreation, stocked full of original medications and still staffed by the Simmons family.  Should I ever find myself in Los Angeles a trip to the Heritage Square Museum and Colonial Drug (and its soda fountain!) would definitely be on my list of experiences.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Steam train to return to London Underground; celebrations to mark 150 years

Steam train to return to London Underground

Back in October of 2011 I did a post about the renovation of the oldest extant London Underground railway carriage - Metropolitan Railway Carriage Number 353, originally constructed and in use from 1892.  Plans were well underway to restore 353 to its former 19th-century glory in time for 2013, the 150th anniversary of the London Underground system.  I wondered then just what form these celebrations might take and how 353 would fit into them and now 2 years later, with 2013 rapidly approaching, the events to mark this momentous milestone have been revealed.

London Underground celebrations to mark 150 years

What splendid events they sound, too!  Transport for London and the London Transport Museum have really pulled out all the stops to make these celebrations something to remember.  For not only has Carriage No. 353 been fully restored - an impressive and laudable event in itself - but it will actually run on the Underground on two dates in January as the start of a year-long commemoration. 

It gets even better.  Four additional coaches of 1898 vintage will also accompany 353 on these special excursions.  One of the oldest working electric locomotives, the 1922 Sarah Siddons, will be on hand to assist in the towing of these carriages.  "Assist" because... the work will be shared with one of the last surviving Underground steam trains - Metropolitan Railway Locomotive No. 1.  That's right - an 1898 steam engine is going to pull 19th-century carriages along a stretch of the London Underground! 

In pictures: Steam train to recreate London Tube journey

I'm sure it will be an amazing experience - a real time warp - for those who will win the ballot that the London Transport Museum has deemed necessary to decide who can purchase tickets for these historical journeys.  In any event it is an incredible way to mark 150 years of the world's first underground passenger railway and begins a whole year's worth of special events including: further heritage rail trips, books & poems, displays & exhibits, commemorative £2 coins, LU memorabilia and even a series of theatre events at the old Aldwych Underground station.  So even if you can't get to see (or like me can't afford to see) these oldest survivors there is bound to be something else to take your fancy and suit your pocket.  Well done to TfL/LTM and happy birthday to the London Underground!  

*Met. Locomotive No. 1, Sarah Siddons, Carriage No. 353 and the 1898 coaches will be travelling on the London Underground on the 13th and 20th January 2013, between Moorgate and Kensington (Olympia), Edgeware Road, Earl's Court and Baker Street.  See the London Transport Museum's website for times and ticket prices.*

Monday, 5 November 2012

How Pinteresting!

Some of my more eagle-eyed readers may have noticed a little (and I mean little) bit of a tidy up on Eclectic Ephemera this past week.  In reality all I've done is move a few things from here to there - much like I do when tidying up my flat, if I'm honest!  There is one new addition though, almost hidden away on the right column... that's right, I am now on Pinterest!

I can't quite remember now why I suddenly decided to sign up; I suppose I was finding more and more interesting pictures and the urge to share them when it was not always conducive to do so on this blog.  As a chap for whom "social media" means reading a newspaper in a public place Pinterest had never really been on my scope, I had a vague awareness of it but nothing more.  I still wasn't quite sure what it entailed when I joined it but I have come to the swift conclusion that it is the perfect complement to this blog and a mine of beautiful, interesting images.  I'm beginning to wonder how I ever got by without it!

Do please go on over and have a look and if you like what you see, let me know!  I've already found a few fellow bloggers' boards and am very definitely hooked.

Pip-pip! (or should that be Pin-Pin!).

Sunday, 4 November 2012

'Oldest Vauxhall' auctioned by Bonhams for £94,000

© GM Company

'Oldest Vauxhall' auctioned by Bonhams for £94,000

Here's an interesting article now about the successful sale by Bonhams auction house of an important part of British motoring history - the oldest surviving Vauxhall motor car.

Vauxhall Motors started life in 1857 as Alex Wilson and Company, a marine engine and pump manufacturer started by Scotsman Alexander Wilson in the borough of Vauxhall, London.  In 1897 the company changed its name to Vauxhall Iron Works and six years later built its first motorised carriage (above).  Work on improving the design continued and in 1907 the business relocated to Luton, Bedfordshire, where its headquarters remain to this day.

Vauxhall Motors Limited, as it was from then on known, gained swift success thanks in no small part to its chief designer Laurence Pomeroy, who had only joined the company in 1906 aged 22 but so impressed the management when he covered for the holidaying original design chief that he was given the job himself barely a year later.  Pomeroy would go on to design what are considered the two best pre-war Vauxhalls and the engine that powered them.

The 1908 Vauxhall A-type was a 3-litre, 20hp car that proved to be a great success and leagues ahead of the competition at the time.  In hill-climb trials it completed courses over 30 seconds faster than any other car and was the first vehicle of its class from anywhere in the world to exceed 100mph at the Brooklands race circuit, also posting class-leading fuel economy figures.  It could cruise at 46-55mph, remarkable speeds for the age.

© GM Company

Within 2 years the A-Type (which remained in production until 1915) had been used as the basis for the new C10-Type with an extra 20hp extracted from the engine and a selection of body styles available.  After one was entered in the 1910 1200-mile Motor Trials, which were named in honour of a Prussian Royal, the car became forever known as the Vauxhall Prince Henry.
In the following years further refinements and updates were made on the basic C10-type.  In 1913 the engine was increased to 4½ litres and 98hp, giving rise to the 30/98 model.  A version of this with a lower-powered engine of 4 litres and 60hp became the D-type, much used during the Great War as staff cars.

© GM Company

After the First World War production of the 30/98 was restarted and continued as the E-type, with a more powerful 4.2-litre 115hp variant - the OE-type - joining it in 1923.  Things were looking rosy for Vauxhall until 1925, when a huge corporate behemoth - even then - loomed large on the horizon.  America's General Motors had taken an interest in the company and in 1925 bought Vauxhall Motors Ltd. for $2½million (about $26½million, or £16½million in today's money).

On that day in 1925 the Vauxhall company changed irrevocably.  What is rarely known these days is that prior to 1925 Vauxhall was considered the contemporary of high-end marques such as Bentley, Napier and Daimler.  All that changed following its acquisition by GM, who relaunched Vauxhall so that its products competed with the mass-market, everyman cars.  Models started to appear based on Chevrolets and when GM bought German marque Opel in 1929 the designs of that company too.  In the ensuing 87 years Vauxhall, Opel, Chevrolet (and Australia's Holden, absorbed by GM in 1931) have grown ever more intertwined to the point where almost all of their models today are based on the same single design and often differ only in the badge on the grille.  The last truly 100% Vauxhall-designed car, the Viva, ceased production in 1979.

© GM Company

The sale of this rare early Vauxhall is noteworthy, then, for not only being the earliest known extant example, sold publicly for the first time since it was new, but also coming from a time when Vauxhall was a very different company to what we know now.  It has had a very interesting life by the sounds of it and it is good to see it still appreciated enough to command such a high purchase price.  Vauxhall Motors has been through some turbulent times in its 109-year history but this car (or one very much like it) was there at the beginning.

Friday, 2 November 2012

WWII carrier pigeon message discovered in Surrey chimney

WWII carrier pigeon message discovered in Surrey chimney

Here's a corking story of the kind that is so beloved of this blogger and which we have had little of recently - a remarkable historical find with an edge of oddness about it.

Plenty of interesting, long-forgotten pieces of the past can be discovered during renovation work on old buildings and nesting birds are often a problem for those houses that still have a fireplace with a chimney.  Here, however, the two have combined to create this amazing discovery - the skeletal remains of a Second World War carrier pigeon complete with leg capsule and, more importantly, the original message still contained within! 

Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire
The whole story is almost unbelievable in the way it has unfolded and it isn't complete yet.  The message, sent by an RAF sergeant from still-occupied Normandy in the early stages of D-Day and probably intended for Bletchley Park - a mere 80 miles from where the message was eventually discovered - or Field-Marshal Montgomery's London headquarters in St Paul's School, Barnes, is unusual not only for remaining attached to a dead pigeon's leg undiscovered (and undelivered) for over 60 years but for being in code when the majority of messages sent back from the D-Day operation were not.  This implies that the contents were of major importance and highly secret.

Quest to crack secrets of lost D-Day pigeon

Unfortunately no-one seems to know the code that was used and there are no extant records that reveal the cipher employed by this Sergeant W. Stot.  Unless the modern-day codebreakers at GCHQ in Cheltenham, to whom the message has been handed, can use their skills to decode this mysterious message the information it contains will likely remain unknown.  Would it have had an important bearing on the course of the war?  Hopefully GCHQ can tell us, but either way it is a fantastic tale.


Popular Posts