Franklin D Roosevelt and Churchill – a summary

America’s longest serving, President, Franklin D Roosevelt, proved an absolutely crucial ally to Winston Churchill and Britain during the early years of World War Two. Later disagreements about strategy meant that the relationship between the two men cooled from 1943, and Churchill declined to attend Roosevelt’s funeral. They shared an understanding of the threat posed by Nazi Germany, although in Roosevelt’s case, operating in a society deeply isolationist in sentiment. Despite this, he facilitated American rearmament, lend-lease, and a robust naval policy towards Germany that came very close to war.

Franklin D RooseveltIt was Roosevelt who struck up the personal correspondence with Churchill which proved so productive. In those years they had a strong rapport, sharing an interest in naval affairs. Like Churchill, Roosevelt had been responsible for naval policy prior to and during World War One. Hence, once he became Prime Minister, Churchill’s famous  ‘former naval person’ sign-off. In fact, they were both former naval persons.

Roosevelt came from a wealthy New York family and was a lawyer by profession. Both he and his wife Eleanor were active Democrats. In 1910 he entered the New York Senate and in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary for the Navy. By 1920 he was on the vice-presidential ticket for the Democrats, though they lost the election. The following year he contracted the polio which was to partially paralyse him.   Roosevelt tried to hide his condition whenever he could, yet it changed him psychologically as well as physically. Many around him noted a much more compassionate, less arrogant man.


As Governor of New York state during the Great Depression, Roosevelt was critical of the Hoover administration and introduced a raft of policies to actively tackle unemployment. Notwithstanding this, he fought the 1932 Presidential election on a platform of national deficit reduction. It was only once in office, as the 32nd US president, confronted with the enormity of the economic slump, that Roosevelt was persuaded by his advisors to change tack. His famous New Deal measures included employment programmes, bank reform and public works. He also scrapped the Prohibition laws.

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Rachele Mussolini – a summary

In 1914, in Milan, the future fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, married Ida Dalser, a 34-year-old beautician who soon bore him a child, Benito Albino Mussolini. The marriage lasted just a few months and on 17 December 1915, before the birth of Benito Jr., Mussolini, at the time at home on army sick leave, married Rachele Guidi in a civil ceremony. Guidi had been his long-term mistress and mother to his first child, Edda, who had been born in 1910.

Mussolini and Rachele Guidi shared the same place of birth – the town of Predappio in the area of Forlì in northern Italy. Guidi had been born 11 April 1890. She and Mussolini had first met when Mussolini appeared at her school as a stand-in teacher. Guidi’s father had warned her against marrying the penniless Mussolini: ‘That young man will starve you to death,’ he warned. After the death of her father, Guidi’s mother began a relationship with Mussolini’s widowed father.

In December 1925, ten years after their civil marriage, Rachele and Mussolini were married in a Catholic church. It was less a romantic gesture than an attempt by Mussolini to ingratiate himself with the pope, Pius XI. The Mussolinis were to have five children. As dictator, Mussolini preached about the importance of the family and liked to portray his own family as a model fascist household. But in truth, he had little time for his children and could number his lovers by the hundred. Rachele knew about her husband’s many indiscretions. In an interview with Life magazine in February 1966, Rachele said, ‘My husband had a fascination for women. They all wanted him. Sometimes he showed me their letters – from women who wanted to sleep with him or have a baby with him. It always made me laugh.’

A beautiful companion

Benito and Rachele MussoliniIn 1923, Rachele took on a lover of her own – according to Edda in an interview in 1995, shortly before her death, and only broadcast in 2001. Rachele, according to Edda, told Mussolini, ‘You have many women. There is a person who loves me a lot, a beautiful companion.’ Mussolini may have been shocked but he did nothing to stop the affair, which, apparently, lasted several years.

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The Amritsar Massacre – a summary

In February 2013, David Cameron, UK prime minister, paid his respects at the scene of the 1919 Amritsar massacre, one of the bloodiest massacres in British history. Rupert Colley offers a summary of the occasion:

On Sunday 13 April 1919, the occupants of the city of Amritsar, in the Punjab, were preparing to celebrate the Sikh New Year. Three days previously, six Britons had been indiscriminately killed by an Indian mob and the British, fearful of further violence during such a potentially volatile occasion, sent in a man ‘not afraid to act.’ That man was 54-year-old Reginald Dyer, and act he did.

Reginald DyerDyer (pictured) issued a proclamation banning any gatherings of four or more men and imposing an eight o’clock curfew. Those failing to comply risked being shot. Yet word reached Dyer that a gathering of about 5,000 men, women and children (Dyer’s estimate) had converged in a square at Jallianwala Bagh for a public meeting. The square was accessible only via a narrow gateway and otherwise was surrounded by walls. Dyer approached with a unit of about 90 soldiers, mainly Indians and Gurkhas. Although the gathering was unarmed and, it seemed, peaceful, Dyer feared that his small contingent of men would, if things got out of hand, soon be overwhelmed. Deciding attack was the best form of defence, he ordered, without warning, his men to open fire. Bedlam ensued.

With the only entrance blocked, there was no escape from the withering fire that lasted an entire quarter of an hour. People hid behind bodies, others were killed in the circling stampede. Dyer only ordered a stop when he feared his men would run out of ammunition. Without sanctioning any medical aid, Dyer ordered his men out. 379 were left dead, over 1,200 wounded. Dyer did not stop there; in the days that followed, Dyer subjected miscreants, as he saw them, to public flogging.

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The Battle of Cable Street – a summary

The Battle of Cable Street was only a brief moment in the grand scheme of history. It lasted for less than one day, and was not fought by noble, princely leaders on the field of battle, but was instead fought by ordinary people on the streets of East End London. However, it is this which makes the Battle of Cable Street so emotive, and which gives it the power to strike a chord even in the present day.

On Sunday 4th October 1936, when the British Union of Fascists (BUF) tried to march down Cable Street, they met a crowd which had adopted the revolutionary motto ‘they shall not pass’ as their battle cry. The crowd had blocked and barricaded the street. They refused to budge. As a result of their determination, the BUF were forced to call off the march. The day was a victory for all who disagreed with fascist ideology.

This article will examine the background circumstances of the Battle of Cable Street, the events of the day, and the aftermath which followed.

The Rise of the BUF

While the 1920s had, on the whole, been a period of excitement and prosperity, the 1930s were the reverse. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 had caused stock markets to crash around the world. Soon after, both America and Europe were in the grip of the Great Depression.

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Amelia Earhart – the Lost Aviatrix

On 2 July 1937, American aviatrix Amelia Earhart departed from Lae, New Guinea on the penultimate leg of her record-breaking attempt to fly around the globe equatorially. Her next destination was Howland Island, a strip of land in the Pacific Ocean less than two miles long, where she would refuel her Lockheed Electra airplane. Amelia never arrived at Howland. The US Navy mounted a massive search and rescue operation, but neither Amelia nor her plane was ever found. Seventy-five years after she disappeared, her final fate remains one of the greatest historical mysteries of the last century.

Learning to Fly

By the time of her world flight attempt, Amelia Earhart was a prominent name in aviation circles and one of America’s most famous women. Born in Kansas in 1897, she first took to the air as a passenger for ten minutes in 1920, a trip that cost her father Edwin ten dollars. This experience prompted Amelia to save money for flying lessons, which she began under the tutelage of Anita Snook in December 1920.

She purchased her first plane, nicknamed ‘the Canary’ in July 1921 and became only the sixteenth woman to be granted a pilot’s licence. The Canary was later sold due to financial difficulties, but Amelia continued to pursue flying opportunities, undertaking numerous part-time jobs to fund her passion. Aviation was neither a reliable nor viable career path, however, and eventually Amelia settled as a social worker in Boston, still taking to the air whenever time and money allowed and becoming a well-known figure around the local air fields.

Putnam and Publicity

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The Bombardment of the Four Courts

It was on 28 June 1922 that the newly formed army of the Irish Free State opened cannon fire upon the Four Courts, a large neoclassical building dominating the quayside in central Dublin. Their aim? To dislodge former colleagues from the Irish Republican Army who had occupied the building. The attack on the Four Courts was the beginning of the Irish Civil War.

Why did former comrades turn on each other? The answer can be found in divisions over the agreement that ended the Irish War of Independence — the guerilla war that the Irish Republican Army had been fighting against the British authorities in Ireland since 1919. It was a bloody and brutal conflict, marked by many atrocities and civilian casualties, but one which had brought about no clear resolution. A truce was agreed in July 1921 and a delegation from Sinn Féin (the Irish republican party that had won the overwhelming number of Irish seats in the 1918 general election) was sent to London to negotiate with the British government.

Anglo-Irish Treaty

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Edward VIII – a brief summary

Prince Edward, the future Edward VIII, was the eldest child of King George V and his wife, Queen Mary of Teck.  Born on 23 June 1894 at White Lodge in Richmond Park, Surrey, he was baptized three weeks later, on 16 July, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  His given names were Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David – but he was known to his family simply as ‘David’.

Edward was educated at home until he was 13, and then spent two years at Osborne Naval College on the Isle of Wight, before progressing to Dartmouth Naval College.  He did not, however, complete his two-year course at Dartmouth – he left in 1910 when he became Prince of Wales after his father’s ascension to the throne (although his official investiture did not take place on 13 July 1911).   Nonetheless, he did serve as a staff officer in the Grenadier Guards during World War I.

As Prince of Wales (pictured here in 1919), he enjoyed widespread popularity, thanks in large part to his numerous visits to economically deprived areas of the country and his successful trips overseas.  He was also the first in a long line of royals to become a qualified pilot.

However, David had little patience for protocol and the formality of royal occasions greatly bored him, a fact which greatly upset his father.

Edward and Mrs Simpson

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King George V

Sinead Fitzgibbon summarises the life of Britain’s King George V, grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

Grandson of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria and second son of Edward VII, Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert was born on 3 June 1865.

At the age of 18, George entered the Royal Navy, an occupation he retained until the unexpected death of his elder brother, Albert, from pneumonia in 1892.  With Albert’s passing, George became second-in-line to the throne.

In 1893, George became engaged to his dead brother’s fiancée, Mary of Teck. The couple would go on to have six children.

Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, the throne passed to George’s father, Edward VII. However, Edward’s reign was not destined to be a long one – he died just nine years after becoming king, and the Crown passed to George V.

‘The King is a very jolly chap’

George, essentially a shy man, preferred shooting and stamp collecting than being in the company of politicians or intellectuals. Nor were politicians and intellectuals terribly impressed by the new king – during his coronation in 1911, the English writer and caricaturist, Max Beerbohm, dismissed George V as ‘such a piteous, good, feeble, heroic little figure’. And David Lloyd George, at the time the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on first meeting the king, said, ‘The King is a very jolly chap… thank God there is not much in his head’.

The House of Windsor

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George Mallory – death on Mount Everest

Altitude Films presents THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST. This stunning feature documentary directed by Emmy® award winning filmmaker Anthony Geffen retraces British explorer George Mallory’s final attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924 and become the first person to conquer the world’s highest peak.

George Mallory was obsessed with becoming the first person to conquer the untouched Mount Everest.

Dressed in gabardine and wearing hobnailed boots, Mallory risked everything in pursuit of his dream. He was last seen alive just 800 feet below the mountain’s peak, before the clouds closed in and he disappeared into legend. Mallory’s death stunned the world.

In 1999, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker discovered Mallory’s frozen body high in the mountain’s “death zone” and his life became intertwined with Mallory’s story. Remarkably, all Mallory’s belongings were found intact on his body. The only thing missing was a photograph of his wife, Ruth, which Mallory had promised to place on the summit if he succeeded. Haunted by the story, Anker returned to Everest to solve the enduring mystery surrounding the ill-fated expedition and the disappearance of one of the world’s greatest explorers.

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The Hindenburg Disaster – “Oh, the humanity”

On 6 May 1937, took place a tragedy, caught on film, that haunted the American consciousness for decades.

Hindenburg disasterBuilt in Germany in 1935 the 800-foot long Zeppelin airship, the Hindenburg, was considered the height of sophisticated travel. It may only have travelled at 80 mph but it was akin to being on a luxury liner and had already made hundreds of journeys across the Atlantic from Germany to Brazil.

It was named after the last president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, who had appointed Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933 and who died in August 1934.

The Hindenburg‘s last journey

On its last, fateful journey, the Hindenburg had departed from Frankfurt on May 3, 1937, and was due to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on the morning of May 6. But poor weather had delayed its landing by about twelve hours. The captain, Max Pruss, kept his passengers entertained by flying over New York City. The Hindenburg had a capacity for about 70 passengers but on this trip there were only 36 passengers plus 61 crew.

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