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 ›››
Another hero of the Second World War this week in the pacifist turned Special Operations Executive spy, Harry Rée.
Rée was born in Manchester in 1914, the son of Dr. Alfred Rée, an industrial chemist from a Danish Jewish family, and American-born Lavinia Elisabeth Dimmick, the great-granddaughter of chemist and industrialist Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Read more ›››
The power of documentary imagery can bring about great change and one of the pioneers of this technique was Jacob Riis, the photographer whose work brought about social reform to the housing of New York.
He was one of fifteen children of Niels and Carolina Riis and was born in Ribe, Denmark in 1849. His father was a schoolteacher and the young Riis was encouraged to learn English through works of Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper. Read more ›››
I usually write about the mad, bad and heroic for my ABC Wednesday posts, but Charles à Court Repington isn’t really one of them.
However, in the centenary year of the start of the Great War, he does answer that tricky question – exactly when did we start to refer to the horrors of the 1914-1918 conflict as ‘The First World War’?
There is a false assumption that it could not have been so named until after the start of World War Two, but it was Repington who first popularised the phrase in the title of his book The First World War published in 1920… Read more ›››
In a parallel universe somewhere, all Hollywood movies are made in Russian, the Beach Boys are called пляжные мальчики and the American Civil War pitted east against west rather than north against south. And all because their Nikolai Rezanov didn’t die prematurely of a fever…
Rezanov was born in St Petersburg in 1764 to an impoverished noble family, although he spent much of his early years in Eastern Siberia after his father was made chairman of the Province Court Civil Chamber in Irkutsk… Read more about Nikolai Rezanov ›››
I’ve written before about amputees who have achieved great things in sport despite their physical disability and another such is Austrian tennis player Hans Redl.
Born in Vienna in 1914, Redl was a better than average player and made the Austrian Davis Cup team in 1937, but after the Anschluss he represented Germany in 1938 and 1939… Read more ›››
You may not recognise the name Rebecca Rolfe, but she is a major figure in American folklore, became an animated star for Disney and was the first American to be buried in England. You will know her better by her original name – Pocahontas.
She was born near what is now Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of the supreme chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, an alliance of Algonquin tribes who lived around Chesapeake Boy. Read more ›››
The French Revolution resulted in many ridiculous ideas, but perhaps the most risible was the French Republican Calendar devised by Gilbert Romme.
The thinking behind the new calendar was twofold. First that it should remove all religious references and second that time itself should embrace decimalisation. The result was a largely unworkable system. Read more ›››