Thursday, 28 March 2013

I should have blogged about... (#2)

Another thing I didn't blog about during my little hiatus was the latest batch of medal auctions from the 'Big Four'.  On Monday and Tuesday of this week we had DNW and on Wednesday Bonhams.

DNW sales are always jam-packed full of goodies and, with over  1,200 lots, take two days to clear.  It's always difficult to decide what to draw attention to when blogging on one of them.  There were some very nice lifesaving medals, which are an interest of mine.  Some were from the collection of John Wilson, an expert on the awards on the Society for the Preservation of Life from Fire (he literally wrote the book on the subject).  One group of medals that jumped out at me wasn't from John's collection, but was to a bathing superintendent, Frank Shooter, who was credited with saving over 300 lives during a remarkable career.  For some reason these were unsold - perhaps the estimate of £3,000-3,500 was just a little too rich when there was so much else on offer.

Launcelot Fleming's medals

The Right Reverend Launcelot Fleming (1906–1990), KCVO, DD
Bishop Launcelot Fleming
Another group that appealed to me on several levels (except for the price!) was that to Launcelot Fleming.  After studying geology and glaciology at Cambridge, he was ordained into the Church of England.  Unusually, he was then invited to join expeditions to Iceland in 1932, Svalbard (Spitsbergen) in 1933, and then the British Graham Land Expedition to Antarctica, 1934-37.  During the Second World War he was a naval chaplain, among other postings, serving on the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth.  In 1949, despite having little parish experience, he was appointed Bishop of Portsmouth and, in 1959, Bishop of Norwich.  After retiring from that diocese in 1971, he became Dean of Windsor (he officiated at the funeral of the Duke of Windsor).  He died in 1990.  I'm pleased to say that his medals have returned to Norfolk, where they will be held by a private collector.

auction catalogue image
In contrast to DNW, Bonham's sale consisted of a single collection (in fact, just Part I of the collection) - the Dr A L Lloyd Collection of medals to medical personnel.

It was a lovely selection of material and just went to show how collecting themes can over-lap, for there was something for everyone.  There were medals from the Napoleonic Wars to modern conflicts; campaign awards; orders; gallantry awards; and long service medals.  Although there were medals to doctors and nurses who served in the Army and Air Forces, I'll pick out a couple of early pieces to naval surgeons.

A C.B. and K.H. group of four to Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets G.Macgrath, Royal Navy, and one of Lord Nelson's famous Surgeons,
Sir George Magrath's medal group - £14,400
The item that caught press attention both before and after the sale was the lot to Horatio Nelson's personal surgeon, Sir George Magrath, which sold for £14,400.  The long catalogue entry quoted from several of Nelson's letters, in which he described Magrath as 'the most able medical man I have seen' and 'Mr Magrath, whom I admire for his great abilities every day that I live'.  He missed being with Nelson at Trafalgar as he was left in Gibraltar to assist with an outbreak of yellow fever.  In later years he was Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets for the Royal Navy.

Naval General Service 1793-1840,
Naval General Service Medal to Surgeon B F Outram
 - an eye-watering £33,600.
Less eye-catching, but rather more desirable to at least two collectors was the single Naval General Service Medal to Surgeon B F Outram.  Although Outram (later Sir Benjamin Fonseca Outram KCB) had a distinguished career (he also was Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets), it is the numanistic aspects which are more important here than the 'man behind the medal'.  The medal has the clasps 'Nymphe, 8th March 1797' and 'Gut of Gibraltar 12th July 1801'.  The first clasp marks the engagement between HMS San Fiorenzo (Capt Sir Harry Neale), HMS Nymphe (Capt John Cooke) and the French ships Résistance (Cmdre Jean-Baptiste Montagniés Laroque) and Constance (Capt Desauney), who were returning from the farcical invasion of Pembrokeshire.  The second was awarded for an action off Cadiz when Sir James Saumarez defeated the French and Spanish fleets in July 1801. 

The significance of all this lies in the fact that the Naval General Service Medal wasn't awarded until 1847 and only to those surviving veterans who went through the application process.  As a result, some of the early, 'single ship' clasps were only claimed by a very few men.  Although 144 of the 'Gut of Gibratar' clasps were issued, there were only 5 of the 'Nymphe'.  This is a unique combination.  One knowledgeable collector of Naval General Service medals described this as a 'once in a lifetime' purchase.  Oddly enough, there was no indication of this scarcity factor in Bonham's catalogue description.  With an estimate of £5,000-7,000, the medal sold for an eye-watering £33,600 (inc premium).

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Books and Stuff

A regular(ish) round-up of my book news.

What I've bought this week...

Doreen J Waugh, The Faces of Orkney: Stones, Skalds and Saints - £1.99

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book - 99p

What I've been reading this week...

Stephen Hunt, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves
Joseph Wambaugh, Hollywood Crows
'Centurion' (Reginald Branwhite Jay)  Men Whose Fathers Were Men: The Story of a Hobby

Friday, 22 March 2013

Literary Prize Update

Last month I blogged about the Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year.

I'm pleased to say that one of the books that I then said was my one of my two favorites has won.

Reginald Bakeley's Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop is a worthy winner.  It's apparently about how to keep fairies from infiltrating your house.  Obviously essential information.

More Popery

Over at the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor blog there's an interesting post on the royal attendees of the Pope Francis' inaugural mass. If anyone is interested in dress code, and in particular the privilège du blanc, then I'd certainly recommend popping over there. Follow the links she posts, there are some nice pics of popes from John XXIII onwards with various royals.

I'm just going to nick a picture of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.  Since it was announced the they were to represent the Queen at the mass, my 'Royals in Medals' profile of them has been held the top spot in the visitor stats, so see this as my cheap attempt to grab more hits!  It's not shown in this photo, but the poor duchess had to sit next to Ken Clarke (which might explain why she's looking a little deafened).

On the 'Royals in Medals' front there's nothing new to add here - the orders and medals are explained in my previous post.  It's interesting to see the duchess choosing the Royal Family Order, GCVO, Diamond Jubilee Medal (on bow) combo - why the last as opposed to anything else?  It looks a little cluttered; but there's no real significance in any of this.

I've just noticed that in my profile post I'd said the duke has the Nepal Coronation medal, but haven't mentioned in the duchess' medals though she is clearly wearing it in the photo.

One other small point of no interest.  When did you last see a UK diplomat (other than the late lamented Rex Hunt) in Levee Dress?  Well, here's one  Perhaps when the Ambassador's blog is updated he'll explain why he hasn't mounted up his jubilee medal (or perhaps he's been a naughty boy and didn't get one).

By the way, in her blog post OSS says one of the wisest things I've ever read about ceremonial
I have a personal theory on all issues of protocol, by the way: just when you think you've got the "rules" down, you will find an example to contradict you. Therefore, by the transitive property of meh, you shouldn't worry about it too much.
I shall cite the 'transitive power of meh' in future.

I should have blogged about... (#1)

I should have blogged about the Archbishop of Canterbury's enthronement on Thursday.  For one thing there's an interesting point to make about the archbishop being 'enthroned', but the Pope apparently not. 

© Rupert Fawcett (all rights reserved)

The short answer is that 'enthronement' is quite appropriate for a bishop in his Cathedral - the seat (cathedra) of his diocese - and that the pope will have an enthronement ceremony in the Lateran Basilica, Rome's cathedral, in due course. 

For some reason, despite the emphasis put on the fact that the pope is after all a bishop, this is given much less prominence than the inaugural mass.  There are those, of course, who think that Vatican Council II's declaration that popes are bishops and not a separate order of ministry is a threat to the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff: that is a grave error.

Pius IX and hat
Popes used to have coronations.  Papal coronation were thrown out for being too triumphalistic after Paul VI stopped wearing the tiara and sold it in aid of charity.  Let's face it, what's this if not Triumphalism: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world on earth, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory through all ages"?  Much better is the idea of 'Servant of the servants of God" - we know which Pope Francis would go for!

Interestingly enough, that most triumphalist of popes, Pius IX, suspended enthronements (but not coronations) when he and his successors declared themselves 'prisoners of the Vatican' between the seizure of Rome by Italian troops (1870) and the much-misunderstood Lateran Treaty (1929).  During this self-imposed separation from their See, they only operated as Bishop of Rome through proxies.

In short:-

Coronation: Bad
Inaugural Mass: Good way to start anything
Enthronement: A real affirmation of the pastoral nature of the Papacy.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The State of Things to Come

Apologies to those of you who come to this blog looking at things royalty-related (and I see from the visitor stats that this is is the majority of you).  You must have found the recent spate of posts on Victorian Science Fiction and modelling a little bizarre!

However, I've always said that I post here for fun and it won't be a single-subject blog.  You'll have to follow the way my mind meanders, I'm afraid!

There will be royal updates soon.  Hopefully I won't have to do a health update on my profile of the Duke of Kent, but I am reminded that I promised some time ago that my next profile would be of his father.

Here's a little something to keep you content until then...

The four sons of King George, by Bertram Park, 26 June 1931 - NPG  - © estate of Bertram Park / Camera Press

Steam Contraption Thingie

Thanks for those who got in touch with me with suggestions when I said the other day that I wasn't quite sure what to do with the steamtank  I'd acquired.  Thanks also for not pointing out that it's not a steamtank, but a steam-armoured-car!  For reasons I'll explain in a minute, I'm now referring to it as the Steam Contraption.

As I've made my mind up, and as it's actually almost completed, I thought I'd do an update.

The illustration from the manufacturer's website

My first thought was to see what (ideas I could steal from the Internet) inspiration I could get from other people's efforts.  As you see above, Ironclad Miniatures have gone with battleship grey with a brass dome on the boiler.  Although I like the brassiness, I'm not too keen on the grey, so I carried on looking.

Most people seem to have gone for generic tank colours, in either green or desert shades.  I didn't want to do this, as it seemed a bit too modern, post-WWI and, dare I say, it Real World.  There is also a tendency amongst some to add mud and rust 'to give verisimilitude'.  Now mud is fine (even the horses pick up mud, after all), but in my world there is always a Jimmy-Number-One in the Naval Brigade or a BQMS giving merry hell to the poor sod who lets his kit stay dirty.  Rust would give them apoplexy!  [In defence of Maud in the picture below, the concept there is that she belongs to an irregular faction in the Very British Civil War of 1938.]

These are some of my favourites from what I was able to find.
Top left is HMLS Suffolk from Victoria's Boys in Red, bottom left is Maud from Heredforshire 1938 and
bottom right from Tobsen77.  Apologies to the owner of the WWI camo pic - I didn't note where it was from.

 But I wanted something a more Steamy and Victorian - I suppose a little more brass-goggle-ly.

I had a little look at some pictures of Late Victorian artillery pieces, but that only confirmed my impression that they came in a nice shade of gray-blue (influenced by the naval brigades?).  Not impressive enough for my purposes!

At this point The Wife said "You have to consider what your purposes are.  What would it be used for?"  "Exactly," I answered enthusiastically  "a paint-job that's geared towards battling Martian tripods in Berkshire isn't going to be much use on the return leg on Mars or fighting Selenites on the Moon..."  At this point I saw the look She was giving me (she believes that wargaming should be demilitarised) and decided not to expand on my conceit of an Italy where the Risorgimento didn't take place, the Papal States survived, Cardinal Manning was elected Pope Charles and then sent the Swiss Guard to participate in Scramble for Mars.

"No," She sighed "is it like a tank, or more of a traction engine?" 

This got me thinking.  Steam-tank was out and  the Steam Contraption Thingie was born.  I'd already toyed with the idea of Flying Scotsman green with brass, so I agreed with her that a VSF Admiralty would consider camouflage "damn'd un-British and underhand!".  We had a look at traction engines and decided that they were just the biscuit.

I quite like the paint-scheme of the one on the right, but when I tried my Vallejo 'Hull Red' it came out more of a mucky brown.

I'm afraid that because of camera difficulties I'm going to have to do 1,000 words rather than a single picture, but to cut a long story short, the Steam Contraption (and here you may have to refer back to the pic at the top of the page) ended up painted black.  The boiler dome, door fittings and window-frames are in brass.  Having done that, we decided (by now it was 'We' making the decisions!) to go the whole hog and pick out the rivets in brass (though I've never seen the Golden Rivet).  The wheels have followed the traction engine model and are in red (though I'm a little undecided on this).  She is still armed, and the Maxim is in gun-metal.  The result is quite pleasing.

The Steam Contraption Thingie has developed a personality, and consideration has to be given to naming her.  Any suggestions anybody?  I think The Empress (of Mars?) is suitably grandiose.

One of the off-shoots of this is that The Wife, who is interested in Steampunk and tolerates my miniatures being on the kitchen table, has had a look at VSF modelling.  She is suitably taken aback by Colonel O'Truth's blog and this morning found us discussing his method for hand-producing rivets!  "You should start saving bits of boxes and packaging rather than throwing them away" She said, frugally.  So I told her about the gash bin in the shed that contains all the things I've salvaged from the re-cycling pile.

I fear there is no hope for us and we will soon be as mad (though not as talented) as the Colonel!


A little bird tells me that the Victorian army used steam contraption thingies in the Boer War.  The Fowler B.5 Armoured Road Locomotive was designed and built by traction engine builder John Fowler & Coof Leeds.  The armour proved a success (most of it was canabalised to make armoured trains), but as a practical vehicle the Fowlers were limited by their large consumption of coal and water, and the fact that they had no off-road capability.

The Fowler armored road train of 1900
A Fowler Armoured Road Locomotive

A model of the Fowler is produced by Old Glory in the States.  It looks as it could be interesting, though the front wheels seem odd.
Old Glory's Fowler

All this serves to remind me of something I thought about the Empress earlier today though: she really could do with a tender.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Shiney Things!

First an attack of Real World.  This might go some way to explaining why I've not been blogging so regularly over the last few months.

Last week I got sacked, or as the letter put it 'it was with regret I delivered my decision that your employment be terminated due to medical capability.'

Enough of that.

Lot No. 620
Lot 620 at DNW 25 Mar 2013
After a while I decided I need a little treat.  Normally I would get myself a nice book, but I fancied something a little different.

I can't afford anything at either of the medal auctions coming up this month (another thing I haven't blogged about!), so decided to go for something completely frivolous.

I've ordered a Steam Tank...

...and some Selenite Warriors.

I did consider a Mad Scientist, to go with some Killer Robots I've had my eyes on, but The Wife persuaded me That Would Be Silly.  Next time though...

The miniatures (28mm scale) are all from Ironclad Miniatures, from whom I've lifted the pics.  [I hope they don't mind as, in effect, I'm promoting their products, but if you're connected with them and want me to remove the pics, I will.]

They arrived today, and I'm very pleased with them.  I dare say they'll sit in the shed for ages before I decide to construct and paint them, but that isn't the point.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: Habemus Papam!

And let's talk about the one thing I haven't heard the pundits on yet.  No, not papal socks (Red or White anybody?): heraldry!

Here are Francis' pre-papal arms:

File:Coat of arms of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.svg

A pretty uninspiring effort, I think you'd agree. Hopefully the Vatican heralds will pull something better out of the hat.  Efforts for past popes don't bode well though, and most Catholic heraldry is pretty poor to English eyes.

There is an Argentinian blog entry here discussing the significance of the design.  You'll have to excuse the failings of the automatic translation.

The motto is interesting though - 'Lowly, but chosen'. 
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