Category Archives: Politics & War

Politics & War

The Shores of Normandy


On June 6th 1944 Jim Radford, aged just 15, was serving on the HM Rescue tug Empire Larch at Gold Beach tasked, amongst other things, with building the breakwater and later the mulberry harbour there. 70 years later an 85 year old Jim stood up in front of a packed Albert Hall in London and, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, sung his autobiographical composition – The Shores of Normandy.

On the night, Jim spoke about how he felt to be a survivor, seventy years on.

Glad and sad. I’m glad that I survived. I’ve had seventy years of a good life, and very sad every time I think of D-Day, and of all the poor devils who never made it back. And that’s the people I think about, on this day, every year.

He also gave some background on the song itself.

It’s actually the first song I ever wrote. And the clue to why I wrote it is in the last verse. I didn’t go back to Arromanches [Gold Beach] until about 1960, and I didn’t expect to be moved. But when I did go back, and stood on a beach that I’d last seen covered in bodies, and saw children building sandcastles, I wept.

And that’s when I decided to write this song.

Another version of the video can be found on the BBC site here. You can read more about the D-Day landings in The Longest Forecast, the story of James Stagg’s battle to beat the British weather and find a suitable day for the invasion.

Games, Politics & War

Tackling WW1 In Video Games: Valiant Hearts


War and gaming are a not uncommon partnership. This is particularly true in the field of strategy games, where the last twenty years have seen the kind of historical gaming once confined to pen and paper (and tables and rulers) brought to the digital world in an increasingly advanced and enjoyable way.

Outside of Strategy games, however, it is not often that past wars – or the people and personalities within them – get the individual treatment. At least not with any depth beyond that which is required to advance from one mission to the next. The original Call of Duty was perhaps one of the only real stand out exceptions to this, providing a genuinely interesting insight into how operations in WW2 affected individual combatants. It is an approach that the modern version of the game has long since moved on from, however, which while understandable perhaps presents an opportunity lost.

Bearing all this in mind, it was genuinely pleasing to see given both time and hype at Ubisoft’s E3 Press Conference today. Given the constraints of time and the much bigger games they could have given that time too, it was nice to see a small game that attempts to take a look at WW1 in a non-standard way a big push.

Following the lives of five people and basing their experiences on real-world accounts and letters, Valiant Hearts is looking very interesting indeed.

You can watch the game’s trailer by clicking the “play” link in the image at the top of this article.

Politics & War

London and the Battle of the Somme

A few years ago whilst recording a podcast on a certain aspect of London’s railway history I found myself in conversation with author N Quentin Woolf about the impact the battle of the Somme had on those who fought in it. At the time Woolf was working on a novel, The Death of a Poet, […]

Politics & War

The Impact Of The Blitz On London

It can be hard sometimes to grasp just how much of an impact the Blitz had on London alone. Between September 1940 and 21 May 1941 London was subjected to major raids over seventy times, and suffered countless other minor attacks besides. In the capital alone, over one million homes were damaged and almost twenty […]

Longform, Politics & War

The Forgotten Prime Minister

t 5:15 on the 11th May 1812, Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister of Great Britain entered the House of Commons on his way to attend an inquiry into a set of Orders of Council he had issued. As Perceval walked through the lobby, he passed through a crowd of petitioners and civil servants, something that he […]