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THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE MOST RECENT BBC HISTORY

I’VE JUST READ about a real scoundrel, an exceedingly incapable restorer, a thoughtful Nazi, an ex-slave named Washington, and a guy known as the Candy Bomber. All in the same magazine: the September 2020 issue of BBC History. Here are tidbits about these five, gleaned from BBC History pages and from my usual Internet sleuthing.

This and other images from BBC History, September 2020.

Starkey Shunned—And For Good Reason. David Starkey, historian of the Tudor era, used to have an honorary fellowship at the University of Cambridge, a position at the Mary Rose Trust and Canterbury Christ University, and also a book deal with U.K. publisher HarperCollins. But no longer. 

The reason: As cited in BBC History, in an online interview “he suggested that slavery wasn’t genocide because of the survival of ‘so many damn blacks.’ ”

David Starkey, historian. Image from BBC News, July 6, 2020.

BBC History reported that he later apologized for his “awful clumsiness” and “deplorably inflammatory” language.

Good riddance, I say.

Furniture Restorer Botches the Immaculate Conception. An art collector paid €1200 ($1355) to have an image of the Virgin Mary cleaned and restored. However, BBC History calls it a “Botched repair.” 

The art work is a copy of a painting by Spanish Baroque artist Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, 1618–1682. Its owner in Valencia gave a furniture restorer two chances to repair the Virgin Mary’s visage.

Image from BBC News, June 23, 2020. See this BBC News article’s recounting of other restoration disasters, including the “Monkey Christ.”

I suggest the restorer should stick to tables and chairs.

Channel Islands Radio Mystery. The CHANNEL ISLANDS have already appeared here at SimanaitisSays. And in the BBC History’s Letters department, a reader shares a tale about Nazi occupation of these British islands just off the French coast:

A young German officer became friendly in his billeting with a family who offered him evening meals either at 7 or 10 p.m. “On one occasion,” the letter writer notes, “he told them that he knew they had a radio in the house (forbidden, of course, by the occupying authorities) and, unless they got rid of it, they would all be in trouble. They did as he advised.”

After the war, they visited him in Germany and asked how he know about the radio. He replied that, if the meal was at 7 p.m., their clock was always a little slow. But, at 10 p.m., it was right. 

The letter writer explains the young officer’s deduction: “The family had been listening to the BBC’s 9 p.m. news bulletin and correcting the clock (as many of us did) by the chimes of Big Ben.”

A Redcoats’ Deal with Revolutionary War Blacks. David Olusoga is Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester and shares a tidbit from the American Revolutionary War: “The British made an extraordinary promise. They issued proclamations informing all slaves… that if they came over to the British lines, they would be freed. Thousands did exactly that. Some of these so-called ‘black loyalists’ were formed into special regiments and fought against the rebels wearing sashes or badges that read ‘liberty to slaves.’ ”

Things went fine until the British defeat at Yorktown, after which “these former slaves were put into a terrifying predicament,” Olusoga writes. “Their legal owners were determined to reclaim their human property once the last of the British forces withdrew.”

Harry Washington was one of these slaves, having served in the Black Pioneers, and his owner came looking for him. Fortunately, Harry was one of thousands evacuated from New York to Nova Scotia.

George Washington surveys his enslaved plantation workers in this lithograph of an 1850s painting.

Harry’s owner, George Washington, never did reclaim him.       

Celebrating Onkel Wackenfügel. U.S. Army Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen earned nicknames “The Candy Bomber” and the German equivalent of “Uncle Wiggly Wings” during the BERLIN AIRLIFT, 1948–1949. Flying into Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in bringing critical supplies to the Soviet-blockaded city, Halvorsen would also parachute little packs of candy, chocolate, and chewing gum to kids. In time, other pilots followed with what came to be called Operation “Little Vittles.” 

Berlin Airlift pilot Gail Halvorsen, 1920-2020. Image from 2005.

A BBC History reader earned Letter of the Month honors for celebrating Gail Halvorsen. Halvorsen and his colleagues airdropped some 250,000 parachutes containing more than 23 tons of sweets.

Quite a historical collection offered in one month of BBC History. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

3 comments on “THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE MOST RECENT BBC HISTORY

  1. Mike B
    October 6, 2020

    Great stories. Wonder how many candy bars could be parachuted from that C-5 in the background? And how many C-5s would be needed to equal what was dropped over Berlin?

  2. Colorful Sisters
    October 7, 2020

    amazing post. thanks for sharing!

    • simanaitissays
      October 7, 2020

      Thanks for your kind words. Indeed, thanks to BBC History editors and contributors.

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