Filed: ABC Wednesday

A is for Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov

The name Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov may not mean much to you, but you have a lot to thank him for because he has also been called the man who saved the world.

Arkhipov was born to a peasant family near Moscow in 1926. He was educated at the Pacific Higher Naval School and served on board a minesweeper in the war with Japan in 1945. Read more ›››

Z is for Alexander Zass

Apart from The World’s Strongest Man, the idea of watching feats of strength for entertainment seems faintly ridiculous, but strongmen were once great box office and one of the greatest was Alexander Zass.

Zass was born in Vilna, Poland, in 1888, but lived in Russia for most of his early life. He served in the Russian army in WWI and in was wounded and taken prisoner by the Austrians in 1914. Read more ›››

Y is for Tomoyuki Yamashita

Tomoyuki Yamashita

Tomoyuki Yamashita was the Japanese WWII general who was ignorded when he counselled against war with the United States and Britain, then commanded his country’s victories in Malaya and Singapore.

But it is the treasure hunt that he subsequently that interests me, the one that became known as the search for Yamashita’s Gold. Read more ›››

X is for Francis Xavier

If there is anything destined to scupper my ABC Wednesday posts, it has to be the letter X. There just aren’t that many people who have that as an initial, but while there are I’ll carry on, this time with Francis Xavier.

Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits and more provocatively as God’s Marines. Read more ›››

W is for Prof Dick Willoughby

The Alaskan mining prospector ‘Professor’ Dick Willoughby was looking out across the Muir Glacier in June 1888 when he caught a glimpse of a most remarkable sight – the outline of a modern city skyline looming out of the misty horizon.

Although the mirage lasted only a few minutes, he was able to photograph it to prove that he had indeed seen it. Willoughby speculated that what he had witnessed was the reflection of a real city many thousands of miles away. Read more ›››

V is for Vicki Van Meter

Vicki Van Meter

Vicki Van Meter is the youngest female pilot to have made a transatlantic flight when she was aged twelve, but despite a promising future before her, she was to die by her own hand when she was just 26.

Van Meter was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 1982 and became hooked on the idea of flying and space travel when NASA visited her junior school. Read more ›››

U is for Stanley Unwin

Stanley Unwin

If there is a universal language misunderstood by all it’s gobbledegook and there was no greater exponent of the art than ‘Professor’ Stanley Unwin.

Unwin was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1911 since his parents had emigrated there in the early 1900s. But his father died in 1914 and Unwin and his mother returned to the UK. Read more ›››

T is for Tanita Tikaram

Tanita Tikaram

The letter T gives me an opportunity to write briefly about one of my favourite singers of the 1980s and to feature a rather excellent song and video.

Tanita Tikaram is the daughter of a Malaysian mother, Fatimah Rohani, and an Indo-Fijian father, Pramod Tikaram. She was born in Münster, Germany, in 1969, due to her father’s military career, but moved to Basingstoke in England in her early teens. Read more ›››

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