Of the thousands of people who have swum the English Channel, the unluckiest has to be Jabez ‘Jappy’ Wolffe who made at least twenty-two attempts and never succeeded.
Wolffe was born in Glasgow in 1876, just a year after Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim unaided across the Strait of Dover and so sparking what has become an obsession for many wild water swimmers. 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 ›››
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 ›››
It has been a while since I wrote about some of history’s more disreputable characters, but I make up for it this week with one of the most notorious criminal masterminds – Adam Worth, the ‘Napoleon of Crime’ and the real-life Moriarty.
Worth was born in Germany around 1844, although no-one is sure exactly when. Nor whether Worth was his real name – it may have been Werth or Wirtz. Read more ›››
The word filibuster is usually used to refer to someone obstructs a legislative assembly by talking too much, but it has an earlier meaning – a person engaging in unauthorized warfare against a foreign state.
And the greatest filibuster of them all by this definition was the American, William Walker, regarded by some as a hero, for others he is a symbol of American imperialism. Read more ›››
Charles Waterton is another of my English eccentrics, but more than that he was also an eminent naturalist, an early environmentalist, as well as making a major contribution to medicine.
Waterton was born in 1782 to a well-t0-do family at Walton Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire, and was educated at the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancashire… Read more ›››
As I walk along the Bois Boolong with an independent air, you can hear the girls declare “He must be a Millionaire.” You can hear them sigh and wish to die, you can see them wink the other eye at the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.
The words of the musical hall song that made a celebrity of Charles Deville Wells, the man who inspired the song and who was also dubbed ‘the biggest swindler living’. Read more ›››
James Wyld was an eminent Victorian geographer and map maker, Member of Parliament and businessman who also turned the world inside out with his ‘Great Globe’.
Wyld was born in 1812 and named after his father, the geographer royal James Wyld who had introduced the art of lithography to England, using it to create his maps for the quartermaster-general’s office. Read more ›››