Filed: ABC Wednesday

D is for Jimmy Durham

When the BBC included a black actor as a Victorian soldier in the Empress of Mars episode last year, writer Mark Gatiss protested that there were no black soldiers in Victoria’s army but when he researched further he found there was at least one – James Durham.

The story of how Durham’s came to join the army is a remarkable one. Born in Sudan around 1884, he was abandoned, found and adopted by the men of the Durham Light Infantry in 1885. Read more ›››

This week’s ABC Wednesday subject is the aristocrat, friend of royalty and cad and card cheat Sir William Alexander Gordon (sic) Gordon-Cumming.

Cumming was born in Morayshire, Scotland, in 1848, the son of the 3rd Baronet, the title he inherited at the age of eighteen as well as becoming chief of the Clan Cumming. Read more ›››

William Brodie was ostensibly a respectable member of Edinburgh society in the 18th century but he also led a secret life as a thief and was the inspiration for one of the most famous works of fiction.

Brodie was born in 1741 and became a respected cabinet-maker and became the deacon (or president) of the Incorporation of Wrights, the trade association that controlled cabinetmaking. Read more ›››

A is for Mary Anning

I begin this latest round of ABC Wednesday with Mary Anning, a very ordinary woman who made the most extraordinary contribution to science and our understanding of prehistoric life.

Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis on the south coast of England. She was the daughter of a carpenter who supplemented his income by mining the fossils that can be found in the nearby limestone cliffs and selling them to tourists. Read more ›››

My last post for this round of ABC Wednesday focusses on André Zirnheld who was a philosopher, a pioneer of the Special Air Service (SAS) and writer of the Paratroopers’ Prayer.

Zirnheld was born in Paris in 1913 to a Jewish family originally from Alsace. He studied at the Pensionnat diocésain de Passy, a private Catholic school in the city, and graduated in philosophy. Read more ›››

Isoroku Yamamoto

Isoroku Yamamoto was the ‘mastermind behind the dastardly sneak attack on Pearl Harbour’ in 1941 and who died as a result of equally sneaky tactics by the American air force.

Born Isoroku Takano in Nagaoka in 1884, his first name translates from the old Japanese as the number 56, the age his schoolmaster father was when his son was born. Read more ›››

X is for Father Xmas

Father Xmas

Certain letters are getting harder to fill and none is more eXasperating than X. So yet again I have decided what could be more timely than to resurrect my post about Father Xmas.

Actually, the Father Xmas I have in mind is not the Coca-Cola swilling, red-coated fellow in his speed of light sleigh, but rather the English Father Xmas who has quite different origins to St Nicholas and Santa Claus. Read more ›››

Adrian Carton de Wiart is known as the unkillable soldier who served in the Boer War and World Wars One and Two.

Along the way he was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp and; tore off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. Read more ›››

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