The arrival of Killer Cholera in Britain

On the 23 October 1831 William Sproat, a sailor on the inshore coal boats at Sunderland, made a ‘short but disastrous contribution to British medical history’. On that day he fell ill with violent vomiting and diarrhoea, stomach cramps and his skin turned blueish grey. He died three days later, the first confirmed victim of … Continue reading The arrival of Killer Cholera in Britain

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

The special treatment of the bodies of the unidentified servicemen who drowned in HMY Iolaire 100 years ago is unusual - they were given headstones, whereas most seamen in WWI who washed up unidentified on British shores were buried in unmarked graves. Today marks the centenary of the Iolaire tragedy, when some 200 Scottish Hebridians … Continue reading The unidentified victims of the Iolaire tragedy – remembered with their own memorials, unlike other unknown sailors

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

State-sanctioned body snatching in WWI?: Who owns a dead 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 State-sanctioned body snatching in WWI?: Who owns a dead 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

Not worthy? The dis-remembered in Britain’s hidden war graves

Last Remembrance Sunday we stopped to think of the dead of two World Wars laying beneath headstones provided by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. But now spare an extra thought for thousands of other men and women who were given a military burial during the Great War but were later disqualified from official recognition by … Continue reading Not worthy? The dis-remembered in Britain’s hidden war graves