Filed: ABC Wednesday

This week I give you another of the remarkable women who operated in Europe during World War Two in the shape of Nancy Wake, also known as The White Mouse.

Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1912, the youngest of six children. Two years later the family moved to Australia only for her father to return to New Zealand leaving his wife to raise the children alone. Read more ›››

Espionage can be a dirty business of duplicity, double-crossing and general skullduggery but one case that stands out is that of Erwin Van Haarlem also known as the spy with no name.

His story begins in occupied Europe in 1944 when Johanna Van Haarlem gave birth to her son Erwin in the Netherlands. His father was a Polish Nazi who was killed soon after in the fighting around Caen. Read more ›››

Sir Thomas Urquhart

Much as I hate to repeat myself, U is a tricky letter to fill so here is a favourite ABC Wednesday entry of mine from a few years ago.

We all like to think that there is an ancestor with a claim to a title or was notable in some way, but few people can have taken his family history as far as Sir Thomas Urquhart when he published his Pantochronachanon in 1652. Read more ›››

George Francis Train was an American entrepreneur, political activist and as an eccentric globetrotter possibly the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.

Train was born in Boston in 1829, the son of Oliver Train, but both his parents and his three sisters died in a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans when he was just four years old. Read more ›››

Thomas Sopwith had a remarkable career as a pioneer of aviation, designing and producing the iconic planes for the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, the Hurricane fighter plane in the Second and the world’s first jump-jet in the 1960s.

And if that wasn’t enough, Sopwith was also an accomplished yachtsman who challenged for the America’s Cup in the 1930s. Read more ›››

September 2016 saw the death of Irina Vyacheslavovna Rakobolskaya, renowned physicist and one of the last remaining members of the all-female Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment of the Red Army known as the ‘night witches’.

Rakobolskaya was born in 1919, the daughter of a physics lecturer and a school teacher, in Dankov which is about 190 miles south of Moscow on the River Don. Read more ›››

Queen Mandukhai Khatun, also known as Mandukhai Sechen Khatun, was a Mongolian Empress. The word ‘Khatun’ is the female form of the word ‘Khan’, as in Genghis Kahn, which she earned by reuniting the warring Mongol tribes.

The future queen was born in 1449, the only daughter of  Chorosbai, grand counsellor of the Ongud Mongols in eastern Mongolia. Read more ›››

Back in 2013, I wrote about Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, the man who saved the world, but there is another Russian who can lay claim to that title – Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov.

Petrov was born in 1939 in Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast. He joined the Soviet Air Defence Forces, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and it was in this role that he prevented nuclear armageddon by doing absolutely nothing. Read more ›››

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