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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: War

Monday August 14 2017

For a while now I’ve had the Cricinfo Test Match Records page open, and also the particular page that deals with which test match batsmen have scored the most test match centuries.  But this page also contains some other information which I find even more interesting.  It includes, for instance how many mere fifties (i.e. scores between 50 and 100) each batsman has scored.  It also notes how many test matches each of these century-amassing batsman played in. 

Both of which additional numbers highlight how exceptional Don Bradman was.

About the only unexceptional thing about Bradman is how many test match centuries he scored, compared to all the other great batsmen on the list of top century makers.  The list contains, by my count, 75 names.  Tendulkar is top with 51 centuries.  Bradman comes in at 14th, with 29 centuries.  The bottom 9 on the list all got 15 centuries each.

But Bradman scored far fewer fifties, without getting to a hundred, than did any of his close rivals. The ratios for the top 10 century makers, starting with Tendulkar are: 51 hundreds/68 fifties, 45/58, 41/62, 38/52, 36/63, 34/33 (this is Younis Kahn of Pakistan – the only top century maker in the top 25 other than Bradman to score more centuries than fifties), 34/45, 34/48, 32/50.  The equivalent ratio for Bradman is … 29/13!  That’s right.  Bradman got past fifty 42 times, but on only 13 of these occasions did he then fail to get to a hundred.  You had to stop Bradman early, or the chances were that you weren’t going to stop him at all.

And he wasn’t easy to stop early either, as his hundreds-scored-to-test-matches-played-in ratio reveals.  Bradman played in just 52 tests, so he scored a century in more than half the tests he played in.  52 is the lowest number of tests played by anyone in this entire list of 75 test match greats, with all the other guys towards the top of the list having mostly played well over 100 tests.  Tendulkar, while scoring fewer than twice as many centuries as Bradman, played in 200 tests, almost four times as many tests as Bradman played in.

More Bradmania here.  But, not everyone loved Bradman.  As my Aussie friend Michael Jennings is fond of telling me, Bradman was and remains a rather divisive figure within Australian cricket, as I have been reading in a book called Bradman’s War.  The point being that, unlike many of his cricketing contemporaries, Bradman, who took no part in the real war, treated cricket as war.

Thursday June 15 2017

I have posted here recently about the design of tube maps.

And I have posted here about how the Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea.

But I didn’t expect ever to be posting about both, in the form of the same piece of graphics.  But now, Colossal has a posting entitled The Roman Empire’s 250,000 Miles of Roadways imagined as a Subway Transit Map:

image

If you click on that, you’ll get it big enough to clock all the station names.  (If your eyesight is in the same zone of dodgyness as mine.)

I actually think that this drives home the point, about Rome surrounding the Mediterranean, very well.  Just giving all the various tribes and countries and kingdoms involved a spanking on the battlefield is one thing.  Roman roads are something else again.  A Roman road says: We’re here to say, and we can do it again whenever we want.

Friday June 09 2017

I don’t go to Quotulatiousness every day, but I went there yesterday, and what did I find?  I found that this Samizdata piece of mine from 2015, was quotulated again.  The piece was about war and sport.  The earlier quotulation was from the sport bit.  Now he quotulates the war bit, which is how the piece begins.

I also told you here about the earlier quotulation.  Grander people than me have others to bang their drum for them, but if I don’t bang my own drum, nobody will.

Monday June 05 2017

A few hours after I took this photo (and not before all the latest terrorist dramas that were happening on the other side of the river (which I later crossed)), I took this photo, outside the Bank of England:

image

This combines four things that interest me.

First, most obviously, it is a photo of an unusual means of transport.  Rather confusingly, this contraption had “PedalBus.com” written on it.  But when you type that into the www, you get redirected to pedibus.co.uk.  Where you also discover photos of contraptions with “PedalBus.com” on them.  Very confusing.

Second, the persons on the pedibus/PedalBus are making a spectacle of themselves.  People who make a spectacle of themselves are not entitled to anonymity, or not at this blog.  Photoers going about their photoing business do, mostly, get anonymity here.  But people yelling drunkenly, albeit goodnaturedly, and striking dramatic attitudes when I photo them, not.

Third, I like these downward counting numbers on the pedestrian light bits of traffic lights, which London apparently got from New Zealand.  (Blog and learn.) Very useful.  I like to photo them, preferably in combination with other interesting things.  Score.  Score again, because there is not just one 7 in this photo, there are two 7s.  This particular time of the day, just when it is starting to become dark, is the best time to photo these numbers.

And fourth, I am becoming increasingly interested by London’s many statues, as often as not commemorating the heroes of earlier conflicts.  I think one of the things I like about them is the sense of a very particular place that they radiate, just as the more showoffy Big Things do, but even more precisely.  They thus facilitate meeting up with people.  “In front of the Bank of England” might prove too vague.  “Next to Wellington” pins it down far more exactly.

The Wellington statue makes a splendid contrast with the pedi/PedalBussers.  Wellington is Wellington, seated on his horse (Copenhagen presumably), very dignified and patrician.  And the peddlers are the kind of people he commanded in his battles.

I don’t get why this statue is in front of the Bank of England.  Why isn’t there a Wellington statue at Waterloo?

Saturday May 27 2017

I’m guessing I resemble many other bloggers in hoping that my best bits will somehow linger on, for years and perhaps even for decades, not just in the sense of still being available to be read, but in actually being read.  Not expecting, you understand.  Just hoping.

So, you can imagine how happy this piece of Quolulatiousness made me, after a gap of nearly two years.  How did he encounter it, after all this time?

The posting that the Quotulator quotulated is about two subjects which, regulars here will know, fascinate me, war and sport, and about how the modern version of sport and the modern absence of big wars of the WW1 and WW2 sort are rather closely connected.

If the particular sport of cricket does not interest you, then if you are inclined to follow either of the above links, I recommend the first rather than the second, i.e. to the quotulated excerpt rather than to the whole thing.

Wednesday May 24 2017

I have already done two postings of bits from Lincoln Paine’s The Sea and Civilization, here and here.  I have now reached the point at which the Romans are making their considerable presence felt, at sea as well as on land (pp. 119-122 – the quote within this quote is from Appian’s Roman History):

Within a decade of Pyrrhus’s withdrawal from Italy, Rome and Carthage were at war. The casus belli was a dispute between the people of Carthage and Messina, Sicily, but it quickly became a struggle for control of Sicily and the western Mediterranean, and it launched Rome on a path to mastery over all of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The first of the three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage took place chiefly in Sicily, where the land war simmered for twenty-three years. But it was the naval war that proved decisive in ending Carthage’s centuries-long primacy in the western Mediterranean and catapulted Rome into the front rank of military, and naval, powers. As Polybius notes, “those who are impressed by the great sea-battles of an Antigonus, a Ptolemy or a Demetrius would doubtless be amazed ... at the vast scale of the [naval] operations” in the First Punic War.

By the mid-third century BCE, Carthage ruled the most extensive empire west of Asia Minor or Egypt, including vast tracts of North Africa, southern Spain, the Balearics, Sardinia, Corsica, and western Sicily. The city itself was on a peninsula about five kilometers wide in the Gulf of Tunis. On the seaward side, it was protected by a single wall, while from the land it was protected by three fifteen-meter-high walls with towers every sixty meters. The walls had two levels of stables - the lower could house three hundred elephants, the upper four thousand horses - and the barracks could accommodate twenty-four thousand soldiers. By the second century BCE, at least, the double harbor complex was probably the most sophisticated in the world:

The harbours had communication with each other, and a common entrance from the sea seventy feet wide, which could be closed with iron chains. The first port was for merchant vessels .... Within the second port was an island, and great quays were set at intervals round both the harbour and the island. These embankments were full of shipyards which had capacity for 220 vessels. ... Two Ionic columns stood in front of each dock, giving the appearance of a continuous portico to both the harbour and the island ... from which ... the admiral could observe what was going on at sea, while those who were approaching by water could not get any clear view of what took place within. Not even incoming merchants could see the docks at once, for a double wall enclosed them, and there were gates by which merchant ships could pass from the first port to the city without traversing the dockyards.

The Carthaginians posed a constant threat to the Romans, who according to Polybius “were handling the operations in Sicily capably enough. But so long as the Carthaginians held unchallenged control of the sea, the issue of the war still hung in the balance.” After a three-year stalemate, during which they depended on their allies’ ships to reach Sicily, the Romans decided to build” 100 quinqueremes and twenty triremes. They faced great difficulties because their shipwrights were completely inexperienced in the building of a quinquereme, since these vessels had never before been employed in Italy.” The initial difficulty was overcome when they seized a Carthaginian patrol vessel that had run aground: “It was this ship which they proceeded to use as a model, and they built their whole fleet according to its specifications.”

Reverse engineering is notoriously difficult under the best of circumstances, but according to Pliny the Elder, from a standing start with virtually no shipbuilding industry of their own, the Roman fleet “was on the water within 60 days after the timber left the tree.” This is all the more astonishing when compared with the three years that experienced Athenian shipwrights had taken to build two hundred ships under Themistocles. Archaeological finds suggest that the Romans may have benefited from Carthaginian construction techniques. Examination of the so-called Punic Ship, a third-century BCE liburnian found off Marsala, Sicily, showed that the Carthaginian shipbuilders had written on the various hull pieces to mark their placement in relation to one another, not unlike the system employed in the Khufu ship twenty-two hundred years before. (A liburnian was an oared vessel-this one had seventeen sweeps on either side-with two men per oar and employed for carrying dispatches and for scouting.) If the ship the Romans used as their template included such builders’ marks, it would have made the job of creating a fleet of ships from scratch far easier than it might otherwise have been.

Because the Carthaginian ships were better built and more capably manned, consul Gaius Duilius determined to offset the Carthaginians’ superior seamanship by replicating the conditions in which the Romans were unrivaled in battle, and to beat the Carthaginians in boarding actions. Central to the Romans’ tactics was the corvus (literally, raven), a boarding ramp 11 meters long by 1.5 meters wide with rails along the sides. One end of the corvus was hinged at the base of an eight-meter-high mast mounted forward in the ship. When dropped on the deck of an enemy ship, an iron spike at the outer end held the corvus fast and the Roman soldiers swept aboard the enemy ship. When Duilius caught a Carthaginian fleet off the northeastern coast of Sicily near Mylae in 260 BCE, the effectiveness of the corvi told early. As the Roman marines swarmed the enemy ships, “the fighting seemed to have been transformed into a battle on dry land.” Carthaginian attempts to round on the Roman ships from astern were ineffective because the corvus could be dropped across a broad arc from port to starboard, thus ensuring that the Romans never lost their advantage. By the battle’s end, the Carthaginians had lost 50 of their 130 ships.

Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in Sicily, four years later the Romans took the war to North Africa and came close to forcing an onerous peace on the Carthaginians before their army was soundly defeated. A relief expedition captured more than 100 Carthaginian ships, but en route home the Romans lost more than 280 ships and thirty-five thousand soldiers and crew to storms. Polybius blames the disaster on the commanders’ utter disregard for their pilots’ advice about the weather and their destination, “the southern coast of Sicily ... a rocky shore which possesses few safe anchorages.” He goes on to draw some general observations about Roman character, their reliance on brute strength, and their stubbornness, and why these are incompatible with success at sea. On land, the Romans frequently prevailed against other men and their machines because they could apply “one kind of force against another which is essentially similar .... But when they are contending with the sea and the atmosphere and try to overcome these by force, they meet with crushing defeats. So it turned out on this occasion, and the process will no doubt continue until they correct these preconceptions about daring and force.” One theory attributes the heavy losses to the corvus, which in an elevated position would have made the ships top-heavy and prone to capsize. If the Romans realized this, they may have decided that the corvus was more dangerous than it was worth, which would explain why it is not mentioned after the start of the North African campaign.

The war dragged on another fourteen years punctuated by triumphant successes and epic failures, none of them conclusive. The keystone of Carthaginian strategy was the security of Lilybaeum (Marsala, Sicily), which the Romans blockaded off and on for nearly a decade, though they lost more than a thousand ships in storms. The Carthaginians were able to slip the blockade at crucial junctures until 241 BCE when a fleet laden with grain and manned by relatively unseasoned seamen and marines was intercepted in the battle of the Aegates Islands north of the port. The Carthaginians lost 120 ships and the Romans took ten thousand prisoners. With no possibility of support from home, Lilybaeum’s position was untenable and the Carthaginians surrendered.

Despite their longer tradition of seafaring, the Carthaginians never came close to victory in the First Punic War. In some respects this is understandable. Carthaginian sea power depended on its people’s role as merchant-sailors. They had never fought a major naval war, and while they were not ignorant of warfare - they frequently fought their Numidian neighbors, even during the war with Rome - it was not a hallmark of their civic life. The Romans’ martial spirit and relentless military ambition enabled them to adapt readily to ships and naval warfare, and once they learned to respect the sea, they mastered it.

More about the corvus here.

Tuesday May 09 2017

Remember all those anti-Brexit signs that I photoed, at that demo?  My original official objective that day was not signs or demos.  It was statues.

In particular, I wanted to photo the statue of Frederick, Duke of York, the man whose army reforms contributed greatly to Britain’s victory in the Napoleonic Wars.  Wellington rated him very highly, which is not surprising.  No Frederick, Duke of York, and there would probably have been no Waterloo.  Or not the kind of Waterloo that we Brits would have been able to celebrate.

This FDoY statue is on the other side of St James’s Park from me.  This was the best photo I managed of it, that day:

image

I agree.  Nice sky and pretty trees, but not so good of the Duke himself.  He is at the top of a very tall column and the light was mostly behind him.

I had better luck with the far more down-to-earth statues of three World War 2 military supremos, outside the War Office:

imageimageimageimageimage

Left to right: Monty, Slim, Brooke.  My photos look good that way.  The real order is Slim, Brooke, Monty.

More about these statues (together with twenty two other “powerful” London statues) here.  Scroll down to get full length photos of these particular three.

I really like the Slim and Monty statues.  Brooke, not so much.

Wednesday March 22 2017

Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:

image

Hm, what to do?

Easy.  Use a drone instead.

LATER: See first comment.  It’s this:

image

There can only be one fort like that.

Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.

Blog and learn.

Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
World War One questions
The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
Mosaic diversion
Some more Christmas cheer
Remembering ten years ago
A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
A direct hit
A “What If?” concerning the Battle of the Atlantic
My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
Anti-drone drones
Trump
A Japanese torpedo bomber that could use some zoom
Ronald Harwood on Karajan
Steven Pinker on the (im)moral message of the Old Testament
Juliet Barker on Knights of Old: A lot of history in one paragraph
You can tell that drones have arrived because now they are being turned into a sport
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
Aerobots
The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
Photo-drones fighting in the Ukraine and a photo-drone above the new Apple headquarters building
The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Knackered
Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
The Poppies (2): The crowds
The Poppies (1): What they look like
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Is it practise or practice?  (And: would perfect communication actually be perfect?)
PID at the Times
Football comment
Russian tanks in London
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
South Bank signs
Feline ephemera
Omaha dead
How hydrogen bombs work
Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Heroes?
The Times of May 24th 1940
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Crossrail grubbings
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Classical CDs from Gramex
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Remembrance Sunday photos
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Lancaster
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
Links to this and that
Super Galaxy
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
Taranis
Peaceful time in war zone
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
Three Gorges Dam picture
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
Osprey pictures
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
What-iffing
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Redirect
Wingtipping a V1
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
“Who are you going to sell it to if we don’t buy it?”
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Flypast!
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Probably not right - but definitely written
Remembrance photos
Short posting with short photograph
Did Hitler have a plan to conquer the USA?
A conversation - and another outage
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Cold War winner
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Mean bombers
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Another link to a friend and that’s your lot today
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Geoffrey Blainey on Ivan Bloch - the man who predicted World War One
Rubble
Admiral Coward
“Liberty might be defended, after all” - Tom Holland’s account of the Battle of Marathon