Fascinated by history? Try the Historical Association’s West Surrey branch

If you’re fascinated by history, be it local, or more worldly, then there are places to accommodate your interests.

With a programme of quality talks, the West Surrey branch of the Historical Association, should be considered. Click on the image to enlarge and link to the website.

For more information and talks about local history, and that means Surrey Heath, then  the Surrey Heath Local History Club is where you should visit.

Not forgetting, of course the regular lunch time talks at the Heritage Gallery in Camberley.

An Insight Talk at Gordon’s School by Jeremy Paxman

Gordon’s School in West End host occasional Insight Talks, which they describe as,

giving students, parents, and staff the opportunity to meet, listen to, and ask questions of experienced professionals.

It’s to the school’s credit that they’ve attracted such impressive past speaker’s. As a Friend of Gordon’s School, we can be in the audience for these talks. And so it was that we listened to Jeremy Paxman’s talk yesterday evening, Nice camel, but was Charles Gordon really a hero?

Having described the exploits of General Gordon within his documentary series on the history of the British Empire. His talk was a deeper examination of General Gordon’s career, character and actions.

In typical Paxman style he surmised that while brave, and being an outstanding leader, Gordon was a deeply flawed character, and was involved in some of Great Britain’s more shameful wars and actions. Jeremy concluded that Gordon is part of our national past, and we should not expunge him from our history, but should reflect on the good and the bad of the man. Here are a few photos from the evening – click on images to expand.

Intellectual Friday: Reading a language of knots on strings

Occasional delving into the multiplicity of links in Arts & Letters Daily provides insights into a variety of topics. An article on Unraveling a Secret from the Discover Magazine, is one such topic.

The article describes the work of anthropologists studying the language Khipus, of the Inka, contained in knots on strings. The fascinating article delves into current understanding of the lost language in the strings. The article begins,

High in the Peruvian Andes, in the remote village of San Juan de Collata, sits a wooden box that’s sacred to the locals who keep close guard over it. It contains 487 cords of twisted and dyed animal fibers that, according to its caretakers, encode messages planning an 18th-century rebellion.

Anthropologist Sabine Hyland was invited by community members to study the strings — the first outsider permitted to view them — but only for 48 hours and under constant supervision.

Although no one alive today can decipher the cords, their general message and significance has been passed down orally for generations. Hyland was told by a village elder, “If we could read what is in here, we would know for the first time who we truly are.”

The strings are khipus, devices invented by indigenous Andeans to store information. Khipus are mostly known by archaeologists as the records of the Inka civilization,

Herbert Sulzbach’s extraordinary life told by Ainslie Hepburn

An enrapt audience listened to Ainslie Hepburn’s talk, at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum, on the extraordinary life of Herbert Sulzbach 1894-1985, (select Google translate).

Herbert Sulzbach was a German Jew who served in the German Army during WW1 and was awarded the Iron Cross Second and First Class. During the 1930s he fled Nazi persecution and settled in England. In 1940 he volunteered for service in the British Army, becoming a Captain in The Pioneer Corps. He was in charge of several Prisoner of War camps, while serving at these camps he began his work actively promoting reconciliation between the two nations, for which he was made an OBE and received the European Cross of Peace.

In her talk, which you can watch below, Ainslie brings to life Sulzbach’s exploits and his contribution Anglo-German relations. Part of Sulzbach’s book With German Guns – Four years on the Western Front, is available on Google, and contains a Memoir by Terence Prittie, in which he ends with this, “Sir Bernard Braine said on Sulzbach’s 80th birthday,’We British and Germans owe more to Herbert Sulzbach than we can ever repay. He led the way in Anglo-German relations.”

Herbert Sulzbach’s medals, in the photo above, are, from the top left to right: Iron Cross 1st Class, Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, Cross of Merit 1st Class of the Order of Merit, Iron Cross 2nd Class, Soldiers Cross of Honour, Order of British Empire, Defence Medal, 1939-45 War Medal, and the European Cross of Peace.

Mrs Rosette Savill’s story told in the Camberley News

Pippa Anderson continues to do her ‘Woodies’ proud. ‘Woodies’ being girls who attended Paddock Wood Finishing School in Lightwater, of which she is one. Pippa is the instigator, along with Gillian Riding of Surrey Heath Museum of the Blue Plaque recently unveiled, on the remaining building of the now closed school.

I feel sure that its Pippa wanting the story behind the blue plaque, commemorating the work of Mrs Rosette Savill, to be told for everyone to read, and ensured the Camberley News & Mail covered the story, see copy of the article below. [Click on image to expand]

Crossing the Bilbao estuary on the world’s oldest Transporter Bridge

A smattering of stories about our recent holiday to Bilbao is what I promised. Here’s the first, about an unusual bridge.

Bilbao sits astride the tidal Nervion River, whose outlet is into the Bay of Biscay. Not far to the north of Bilbao, near the mouth of the river, is the world’s oldest transporter bridge connecting the two towns, Portugalete [left side bank] and Getxo [right side bank].

The bridge has a number of names, Bizkaia Bridge in Basque language, Vizcaya Bridge in Spanish, and commonly known locally as Puente Colgante [“Hanging Bridge”].

Built between 1890 and 1893 by Alberto de Palacio in cooperation with Ferdinand Arnodin. Palacio was a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. During the Spanish civil war the bridge suffered, with the crossbeam being destroyed. It was rebuilt in 1941. In 1998 a modernised gondola was inaugurated, and in 1999 a walkway across the crossbeam.

On 13th July 2006 the bridge was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. We crossed the river on the bridge – price remarkably cheap, just 40 cents. On the Portugalete side are images of other transporter bridges, including three in the UK. Here are our photos of the bridge.


Uncovering the location of WW1 Prisoner of War Camp in Frimley

It’s well known that there was a First World War prisoner of war camp on Frith Hill in Frimley. There are many photos and drawings attesting to the camp. It’s its exact location that’s been lost over time.

It’s taken local military historian, Army veteran, and local resident, Roy Sellstrom BEM considerable research to identify the exact location. Roy spoke about his research in his recent talk on the subject at the Heritage Gallery in Camberley.

I’m delighted to post Roy’s talk here, along with some photos used in his talk. The timing of the article is appropriate as on Sunday 10th September Roy is leading a Frith Hill Trench Walk for Surrey Heath Museum’s Heritage Open Day events programme.

Frith Hill has had many military camps and practice areas during both World Wars. The area was a practice area for trench warfare and the site of a German Prisoner of War camp during the First World War. In the walk, Roy will reveal the earth movements and visual signs that reveal the use
of the area during the war years and the stories and facts from the past.