Monday, September 11, 2017

A horde of Roman Legion artifacts unearthed near Hadrian's Wall

Remains of the Vindolanda fort.
Credit: mramoeba.
This should interest both ancient history buffs and wargamers. Archaeologists discovered a previously hidden room under a Roman-era fort named Vindolanda and as they put it, won the lottery:
Archaeologists are likening the discovery to winning the lottery. A Roman cavalry barracks has been unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall, complete with extraordinary military and personal possessions left behind by soldiers and their families almost 2,000 years ago. A treasure trove of thousands of artefacts dating from the early second century has been excavated over the past fortnight.

The find is significant not just because of its size and pristine state, but also for its contribution to the history of Hadrian’s Wall, showing the military build-up that led to its construction in AD122. The barracks pre-dates the wall: the Romans already had a huge military presence in the area, keeping the local population under control.
The room, which was sealed when the Romans covered it with a concrete floor, contained two Roman cavalry swords, lances, wooden practice swords (one of which has a gemstone set in the hilt, fancy!), and even mundane items such as bath clogs, styluses, combs, hairpins, and more. The concrete floor itself apparently is what preserved all of these items by creating an airtight seal.

It's really fascinating to think that all of that stuff was just laying there for near two millennia and is now just being found. It really goes to show how much history is still left buried in the ground and that archaeology is not a field that will be going away anytime soon.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Under Renovation - Keep Clear

A seawall under construction in Galveston, Texas.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Without intending to, I let this blog lapse into nearly two years of inactivity, which is unfortunate because while I never posted with any kind of frequency, I did enjoy posting here. I also let the focus of this blog slip into more modern, less historical concerns and that I regret. So, I'm going to try and remedy it and bring A Matter of Expedients back. Here's some ideas I have in mind:

I don't think I ever had any kind of limitation imposed on what time periods I posted about, but it did seem like most of what ended up on here was 19th century stuff. I'm aiming to maintain that but at the same time, I want to avoid touching on anything recent, so I'm going to impose a limitation: nothing beyond the 1950s. Maybe I'll push that line further back later on, but for now, I just want to avoid touching on subjects that are still sensitive or have become heavily politicized by today's political climate.

So basically, anything from the very beginning of history (or even before) up to December 31, 1959.

Another thing I noticed is that a lot of my posts are military history related and while that's fine because wars and battles and such interest me, I want to post non-military history items too. There's a tremendous amount of meat there, with major events and larger than life figures to post about, so it's not like I'm going to be scrapping the bottoms of any barrels for subject matter.

In terms of posts, I'm aiming for both long and short. The former will roll out less often than the latter because I want to take my time crafting them and not everything needs a 1000+ word article.

On a minor note, there might be a blog redesign in the works. Blogger added new templates a few months back and I think one or two might work for this.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Well, that's a bit bothersome: Stalin's making a comeback in Eastern Ukraine

Credit: Alexey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images
Saw an article on The Guardian about how portraits of Josef Stalin are being installed in Donetsk, the capital of the rebel-held and unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic. In fact, the rebel government is also reviving other artifacts of the Soviet-era.
The previously taboo display comes as the rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule – while glossing over Stalin’s atrocities.

The portraits went down well with one young woman walking past. “I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed,” said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.

The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.
The Donetsk rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, said how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,” said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear. “Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”

Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.

The Donetsk rebels’ deputy defence minister, Eduard Basurin, wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.
Side note: Donetsk was also once named Stalino, so I wonder how long until that gets revived as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The pro-Russian separatists and their T-54


So I was derping around on Wikipedia, reading up on what kind of weapons and equipment the military of the self-proclaimed (and little recognized) Federal State of Novorossiya was using to fight against the Ukrainians. I noticed something interesting under the section about tanks: they've got a T-54. Now that itself isn't noteworthy because a lot of countries had them, thanks to the Soviet Union's foreign policies. What I did find amusing however was that they got the tank from a museum.
They've been erected new barricades on the streets of the city of a million people - and have even nicked a World War II tank from a local war museum.
The armed men arrived at Donetsk museum with heavy lifting gear, winched the Soviet era T-54 tank onto a flat-bed truck and drove it off. Squatting on top of the tank, one of them told a local online journalist: ‘‘We have got an engine to go in it. We have got some experts. We have to add the engine, ease the turret and it will be a working battle tank.’’
Well, necessity is the mother of invention, so I have to tip my hat to their improvisation. I wonder who these experts were and from which side of the border they hailed from? Actually, the separatists have a nice little armor corp, the bulk of which is made up of about 40 or more T-64s (apparently from Crimea after the Russians took over there), some T-72B1s, and a small number of other armored vehicles.

Friday, August 15, 2014

There's that bear again: Russian armor convoy enters Ukraine, part of it destroyed by Ukrainian artillery

Well, this is getting interesting. According to reporters from both The Guardian and The Telegraph, a convoy of about 23 APCs, along with a number of support vehicles crossed the border into Ukraine yesterday. The Ukrainian government reports that the army destroyed part of the convoy with artillery fire.

This is starting to get worrying. It's more or less an open secret that the Russians have been supplying pro-Russian separatists with both weapons and *ahem* "volunteers" ever since the revolution there and maybe they just got caught red handed? Or, if I may go a little bit further than I should, what if this was meant to provoke the Ukrainians into doing this very thing? Who knows what Putin's game plan and end goals are. I don't think he could gobble up all of Ukraine without provoking a serious response from the rest of the world, but he could repeat what happened in Crimea and take another piece of Ukrainian territory, specifically, Eastern Ukraine.

I'm pretty much sliding over the thin line between speculating and bullshitting here, but this idea popped into my head just now. What if Putin goes on TV and tells the Russian people (and the rest of the world) that there was no incursion into Ukraine, at least not an intentional one? He could claim that the convoy that crossed over the border was just a patrol that took a wrong turn and got lost. Ignore the fact that the convoy was traveling with the supposed aid convoy the Russians have assembled on the border*; the two convoys were totally unrelated and just happened to driving down the same highway together. It would be easy for Putin to wave the bloody shirt and lament the "murders" of soldier who were merely serving their country, only to be cut down by "the barbaric" Ukrainians. Spin it some more and he could probably fan the patriotic flames and manufacture a mandate to send troops into Eastern Ukraine in order to prevent the loss of anymore Russian life. Again, I'm just crossing over from speculation to bullshitting here, so I doubt it will happen.

What do you think of this whole mess?


*Yeah, I believe what the Russians say about as much as I believe anything that comes from an untrustworthy source. They say "humanitarian convoy", but unless they allow the contents to be inspected by a third party, who's to say that it isn't carrying more weapons and supplies to the separatists?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

(via Barnes & Noble)
I was at the local library the other day and not seeing much that interested me at the moment, I went to check out the bookshelves where they keep books they sale and found this. Two dollars well spent, in my opinion. Oddly, my copy looks brand spanking new, like somebody bought it and then just got rid of it without touching it. Maybe they bought it just to donate it to the library, figuring that it would end up in circulation? According to Amazon, the American edition of The Plantagenets was published April 18, 2013, which also happens to have been my birthday by coincidence. Anyways, here's the blurb, which differs from the one on the dustjacket:
The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world. We meet the captivating Eleanor of Aquitaine, twice queen and the most famous woman in Christendom; her son, Richard the Lionheart, who fought Saladin in the Third Crusade; and King John, a tyrant who was forced to sign Magna Carta, which formed the basis of our own Bill of Rights. This is the era of chivalry, of Robin Hood and the Knights Templar, the Black Death, the founding of Parliament, the Black Prince, and the Hundred Year’s War. It will appeal as much to readers of Tudor history as to fans of Game of Thrones.
The version on the dustjacket is much longer and I might edit this post later on to include it, since I like it more than the condensed version Amazon and others are using.

As of right now, I'm on the final chapter of Part 1 and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. Dan Jones' writing isn't stale or stuffy and he hasn't tried (at this point, anyways) to make a connection between the Plantagenet era and modern times. He's 32 years old, according to Wikipedia, and that apparently makes a difference. He knows how to write for a more contemporary crowd who aren't interested in sitting through a history lecture.

Point of interest is that The Plantagenets is only the first book of what is so far a two book series. The second book has two different names: The UK and Canadian edition is called The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, while the U.S. edition is The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors. No idea why they removed "The Hollow Crown" from the title for the latter, because I liked it. Here's the blurb for the American edition:
The crown of England changed hands five times over the course of the fifteenth century, as two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fought to the death for the right to rule. In this riveting follow-up to The Plantagenets, celebrated historian Dan Jones describes how the longest-reigning British royal family tore itself apart until it was finally replaced by the Tudors.
Some of the greatest heroes and villains of history were thrown together in these turbulent times, from Joan of Arc to Henry V, whose victory at Agincourt marked the high point of the medieval monarchy, and Richard III, who murdered his own nephews in a desperate bid to secure his stolen crown. This was a period when headstrong queens and consorts seized power and bent men to their will. With vivid descriptions of the battles of Towton and Bosworth, where the last Plantagenet king was slain, this dramatic narrative history revels in bedlam and intrigue. It also offers a long-overdue corrective to Tudor propaganda, dismantling their self-serving account of what they called the Wars of the Roses.
The UK edition drops this September and the American edition drops in October. If the rest of The Plantagenets is as good as it is so far, I'll be eagerly waiting for the sequel.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Zulu is quite a good movie

https://www.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-6188/Zulu.html
One of my all time favorite war movies. It was Michael Caine's first big acting role and he and Stanley Baker were excellent. The battle was top notch and it was really cool seeing what late-19th century fighting might have looked like.

The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British and the Zulu Empires in modern day South Africa. The war is famous for the Zulu's surprise victory at Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke's Drift, where less than 200 British soldiers defeated a force of 4,000 Zulu warriors. Zulu depicts the latter battle and a prequel, Zulu Dawn, centers on the former. The war ended the same year it started with the fall of the Zulu Empire and its annexation into the British Empire.

Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to survivors of Rorke's Drift and even if the movie isn't 100% historically accurate, the medals were definitely deserved.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fun fact: If Prince William becomes king, his regnal name will be William V of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Provided that either of those states still exist by that point. If Northern Ireland goes back to Ireland and Scottish independence ends the United Kingdom, then he would just be William V of England.

Or maybe William the Bald
would be more appropriate?

(via Wikipedia)
If Prince Harry somehow, someway were to become king, his name would be Henry IX and would be the first King Henry since 1547!

Hopefully he'll avoid the
relationship issues of his predecessor
.
(via Wikipedia)
William's son, George, would be known as George VII.

Prince Charles, meanwhile, would be Charles III. Hopefully, he won't be like Charles I, who ended up losing his head - literally - over a change in management, nor Charles II, who was partly responsible for his successor, James VI being overthrown in the Glorious Revolution by...William III.

Let's be real though,
this guy is going to be senile or dead by then
.
(via Wikipedia)
And what of the Duchess of Cambridge? If her husband were to ascend the throne, she would be known as Katherine, Queen Consort.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Weapons: Baker rifle

(via Wikimedia)
A counterpart to the Brown Bess musket used by British infantry, the Baker rifle was used by rifle regiments, who in turn were deployed as skirmishers and marksmen during battles. While the Baker had a much longer range and better accuracy than the Bess, the rifles had a longer loading time than the former. Supposedly, a soldier could fire off four shots with a Bess compared to the two of a Baker. Still, it was a fine weapon and was even used once to kill a French general (Auguste-Marie-François Colbert during the Peninsular War of the Napoleonic Wars at a range of 600 yards! Behind impressive considering that the rifle's nominal range was like 200 yards, so shout out to Thomas Plunket for that feat. He repeated the feat by shooting a drum major who was trying to help General Colbert, just to prove that it wasn't a fluke. The rifle also came with a 24 inch sword bayonet, which is the just awesome as all hell. A two foot long sword attached to a rifle? Damn, son.

I tried looking for more pictures, especially outside of Wikipedia, but the only sites that had any were ones selling like replicas.