The unidentified victims of the Iolaire tragedy – remembered with their own memorials, unlike other unknown sailors

The special treatment of the unidentified servicemen who drowned in HMY Iolaire 100 years ago is unusual - the bodies of most seamen who washed up unidentified on British shores were never given a memorial after WWI. Today marks the centenary of the Iolaire tragedy, when some 200 Scottish Hebridians lost their lives in a … Continue reading The unidentified victims of the Iolaire tragedy – remembered with their own memorials, unlike other unknown sailors

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Lassie, the resurrection dog

A chance discovery of a tombstone in West Norwood Cemetery led me to the torpdeoing of HMS Formidable and an amazing resurrection of a drowned sailor by a Hollywood legend. As the festive season descends upon us, it's nice to share a story with a positive twist. A while ago I found an overgrown headstone … Continue reading Lassie, the resurrection dog

Twentieth century body-snatching: battlefield grave robbers

I now look at several documented cases of body-snatching from the burial grounds of the Great War. I previously described the uncompromising approach of the authorities who managed the war graves of the dead of Britain and Dominions. Two decisions were particularly contentious: the uniformity of headstones, and the refusal to allow families to repatriate … Continue reading Twentieth century body-snatching: battlefield grave robbers

Twentieth-century body snatching: Who owns the body?

The Great War cemeteries are today accepted without question. But at the time, the British Empire’s policy of keeping bodies overseas even led to body snatching. British soldiers’ bodies had been left overseas before, but never on the scale seen in WWI. Previous wars were fought by a volunteer army of professional soldiers: they were … Continue reading Twentieth-century body snatching: Who owns the body?

Palm oil, slavery and Liverpool’s abandoned Jamaican benefactor

Palm oil was first brought to Europe from Africa during the Georgian era and soon established itself as a valuable raw ingredient in soaps and cooking. The port of Liverpool dominated the trade, complemented by its proximity to the factories of Britain’s industrial heartland. Today palm oil provides a third of global edible oils and … Continue reading Palm oil, slavery and Liverpool’s abandoned Jamaican benefactor

The mass-mobilization of corpses during World War I

The long-distance carriage of the dead of the British Army and Royal Navy is not recorded in the official histories. It is largely forgotten, as public focus is primarily on the large war cemeteries overseas where the dead were buried 'in perpetuity' close to where they fell.[1]   In the words of Rupert Brookes: 'If I … Continue reading The mass-mobilization of corpses during World War I