The Titanic: Wallace Hartley tribute violin

Arthur Lancaster’s tribute violin: Created in memory of Wallace Hartley Wallace Hartley was the bandleader of the small orchestra on board RMS Titanic. All the band members were lost in the sinking. Wallace was just thirty three at the time and had just become engaged. (The average age of the musicians at the time of the sinking was just twenty six). Wallace had been born in Colne, Lancashire, and  had played the violin in the...

Read More

ValuJet Flight 592

The crash of ValuJet Flight 592. This was the worst aviation accident in Florida and happened on May 11th, 1996. The plane crashed into the Florida Everglades. There were no survivors. The aircraft took off from Dallas-Fort Worth at 8.20 in the morning. It was bound for Miami and there was a scheduled stop in Atlanta. Everything went as usual. At 2.30 in the afternoon, the plane was cleared for takeoff from Miami Airport for its...

Read More

The Sinking of the Lusitania

Why is the Titanic better known than the Lusitania? It seems that the fate of the Titanic captured the imagination of the public much more than that of the Lusitania. Yet it seems that the story of the Lusitania is more dramatic,if not more so. They both ended up at the bottom of the ocean, of course, but whereas the Titanic met its end because of an iceberg, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine during the First World...

Read More

The Rhythm Club Fire of 1940

The Natchez Dance Hall Fire of 1940. At 11.30 pm,on the night of 23rd April, 1940, hundreds of people were enjoying listening to music and dancing at a venue called the Rhythm Club in Natchez, Mississippi. Before midnight, at least two hundred of them were dead. Fire had blazed its way through the packed single-storey building. Just a few weeks before the fire the owner,  Edward Frazier, had boarded up with windows to that people...

Read More

Myths Surrounding the Sinking of RMS Titanic.

Myths & questions surrounding the sinking of RMS Titanic. It still fascinates us, doesn’t it? And yet it seems that over the years there have been many myths and legends that have appeared surrounding the loss of the RMS Titanic. Many of these, I suspect, have been due to the films that have been made about the sinking. It’s such a good subject for a movie and it’s hardly surprising that filmmakers want to add...

Read More

The Dreamland Fire of 1911

Coney Island: The Dreamland Fire, 1911. Have you ever thought, like me, that places such as fairgrounds, circuses and amusement parks have a vaguely creepy side to them? At these places, much of what we see is illusion. Nothing is as it appears to be. This was especially the case in the early nineteenth century and in Victorian days. Dreamland, a huge amusement park on Coney Island, was the perfect example.In many ways, it was...

Read More

The Triangle Fire

Death in Manhattan: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Disaster. Thirty five horse-drawn fire fighting vehicles were dashing through the streets of Manhattan.  It was March in 1911 and the streets were quiet on that Saturday afternoon. But nevertheless, the firefighters were unable to save lives that day. They were headed towards the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where fire had broken out in the ten-storey building. The business, which made...

Read More

BOAC Flight 911

BOAC Flight 911, Ninjas and James Bond What is it about the number 911?  As well as the obvious connotation that we know nowadays, it was also the number of a scheduled passenger airliner that crashed in 1966. Then there was also the mysterious disappearance of Flight 19  just after World War Two. The numbers 9 and 1 are beginning to get a bit spooky to me. The BOAC crash was certainly tragic. The plane, which had only been airborne...

Read More

The Busby Babes & the Munich Air Disaster

The Busby Babes & the Munich Air Disaster. A plane accident in 1958 took the lives of eight football players from the Manchester United team.Two others were so badly injured that they never played  again. Staff from the football club died too, as did several respected sports journalists. The football players in the Manchester United team who were killed were all in their twenties, the youngest being twenty-one. The team were known...

Read More

Dead Wake: The Story of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Story of the Lusitania by Erik Larson The wonderful thing about being a book reviewer is having the opportunity to read books before they are published and sharing them with you. I’ve long been fascinated by the story of the Lusitania and its final voyage and this book is by far the best I have read on the subject. It is incredibly detailed – more so than any other book about the tragedy that I’ve ever...

Read More

Otis Redding

In the summer of 1967, it seemed that singer-songwriter Otis Redding had everything going for him. His career was really taking off and he’d bought a ranch where he lived with his wife and three children. In the autumn of that year he even purchased his own plane. He hoped that the new airplane would mean that he and his band would be able to travel more easily between gigs. On December 9th, they played for a television show in...

Read More

The Winecoff Fire of 1946

The Winecoff Fire Disaster of 1946. During the early hours of 7th December, 1946, Arnold Hardy took an iconic and award-winning photograph that was to become a symbol of the worst hotel disaster in the United States. Arnold was only twenty four years old and had just relocated to Atlanta. His great hobby was photography and to make ends meet, he was trying to get part-time work as a newspaper photographer. His camera was not...

Read More

The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis. The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine just after midnight. The blast was so powerful it split the ship and sunk it in about 12 minutes; there were 1,196 men on board. The ship went down halfway between Guam and Leyte Gulf in shark infested waters. There were 300 men trapped inside who never made it out, 900 men made it into the water, but only 317 men survived. Help did not...

Read More

SS City of Cairo

The sinking and discovery of the SS City of Cairo In 1942, the SS City of Cairo was steaming from Bombay towards England. It was carrying a cargo of 1000 tonnes of silver. The money was headed to His Majesty’s Treasury to bolster up the war effort. But on November 6th, it was spotted by a German U-boat. As a result, the ship was torpedoed and sank to the ocean floor – complete with the silver. Almost seventy years later,...

Read More

The Aberfan Disaster

The Aberfan disaster of 1966. Aberfan is a small mining village in Wales. On the misty morning of October 21st, 1966, the village’s children had just entered the classrooms of the small local school. It was just after nine o’clock. Suddenly, a loud roaring noise was heard. One teacher was sure that it was an aeroplane that was about to crash and she ordered the children to get under their desks. It was in fact, tens of...

Read More

R101: Disaster in the air

R101: The disaster that ended the British airship programme After the First World War, it was clear to see that despite Germany’s losses, one of their strengths had been the dirigible or airship. Their Zeppelins, virtually silent monsters, had been able to fly unseen over British land and drop bombs in places which were otherwise inaccessible. This technology was embraced by other countries. Air travel had many advantages but in...

Read More

Eyam Village and the Great Plague

Eyam Village and the Great Plague. Eyam is a small and picturesque village in Derbyshire. If you visit, at first there is nothing to immediately distinguish it from other English villages but you’ll soon find history surrounds you. Three hundred and fifty years ago, the great plague came to the village. And the villagers decided to quarantine themselves to stop this horrible and fatal disease spreading to the rest of the north...

Read More

The Racing Driver and the Titanic

Washington Augustus Roebling II. Washington Roebling was named after his well-known uncle who had played a part in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and as a boy, like others in his family, he had a huge interest in engineering. But for Washington, that had nothing to do with civil engineering but with cars and racing. He co-created the Roebling-Planche car which he drove successfully in several races in the USA. But late in 1911 he...

Read More

Songs For New Orleans : Katrina

New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse, and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory – Harry Connick Jr.   All the songs - Spotify playlist A catastrophe like Katrina changes everything. The harsh and painful realities are so hard to bear. The experience losing your home and possessions, of enforced exile, of desperate choices forced on families, on entire communities can be a massive challenge to...

Read More

Plane Lost in the Andes for Fifty Years

What happened to the British South American Airways Avro Lancastrian Star Dust? In 1947, an aircraft flying over the treacherous Andes Mountains, and all the passengers and crew aboard, disappeared into thin air. The radio operator sent a strange message which has not been deciphered to this day and the aircraft wasn’t seen again – for over fifty years. The plane, Star Dust, was a converted World War 2 bomber. The crew...

Read More

RMS Titanic: The band

The musicians of the Titanic It’s over a hundred years ago that the Titanic sank with such an appalling loss of life but we’re still fascinated by the fate of this ‘unsinkable’ ship and its passengers and crew. All the band members went down with the ship. Who were these men? And what is the truth about the last song they played as the ship went down?   Those of us whose first movie exposure to the story...

Read More

The Hindenburg Disaster

Hindenburg Airship Disaster. 1937 When the British R101 Airship crashed in 1930, the public began to lose confidence in this supposedly luxurious mode of travel. Passengers were transported in a ‘gondola’ – a capsule fitted out to be somewhat like  luxury ocean liner. The R101 disaster sowed seeds of serious doubts about the safety of airships but the events of May 6th, 1937,confirmed them. The German Hindenburg...

Read More

The Superga Air Disaster

In May 1949, a man who couldn’t get his passport renewed, another who was ill with influenza and an injured footballer were the luckiest men in Italy. For they could not be on the trip when their colleagues in the Torino football team  all perished in a tragic air crash when they were on  their way back from playing a friendly match in Lisbon. When the accident happened, on May 4th, there were thirty one people in the plane....

Read More

The Great Jacksonville Fire

Jacksonville fire: 1901. Friday, May 3rd, 1901 was a beautiful day in Jacksonville, Florida. The sky was blue and there was no wind – it was perfect Floridian weather. At the Cleveland Fibre Factory, workers were sitting outside enjoying their lunch and there was a delicious smell of food cooking on a wood burning stove from a nearby shanty. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the smell that was floating through the air –...

Read More

You’ll Never Walk Alone – Justice for the 96.

Andy Royston remembers the 96. (originally published by Ayup Online Magazine, 2000). For English football fans it is a moment etched in the memory, something never to be forgotten. The moment we heard the news. 96 lives lost in a crush of people at an FA Cup Semi-final football match taking place at the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield. A moment we’ll never forget. The moment when the game stopped. The occasion was supposed to be...

Read More

The Bethnal Green Tube Disaster

A wartime disaster in London. In 2013, two seventy year old women met for the first time. Although they were strangers, it was a highly emotional meeting. They had a common bond which involved tragedy and immense bravery. That same year, another women who was all of ninety seven years old, was interviewed about the same event – a disaster that had been covered up by the authorities for many years. March 3rd, 1943 It was the...

Read More

SS Mohegan

The Mohegan disaster The SS Mohegan sank off the coast of Cornwall in 1898. Although this maritime disaster has been largely forgotten, the cause remains a mystery and of course, there is a conspiracy theory regarding the loss of the ship. And it’s a mysterious story indeed. The ship was built in the Yorkshire port of Hull. Her original name was Cleopatra and she didn’t get off to a good start. On her maiden voyage, which...

Read More

RMS Titanic: The band

The musicians of the Titanic It’s over a hundred years ago that the Titanic sank with such an appalling loss of life but we’re still fascinated by the fate of this ‘unsinkable’ ship and its passengers and crew. All the band members went down with the ship. Who were these men? And what is the truth about the last song they played as the ship went down?   Those of us whose first movie exposure to the story...

Read More

The man who sank the Lusitania

The man who sank the Lusitania – Walther von Schwieger On Friday, April 30th, 1915, a German U-boat left a naval base in the North Sea. The submarine traveled around Scotland, then down to Ireland. She was commanded by thirty year old Kapitänleutnant Walther von Schwieger. The following day, the passenger liner Lusitania, with over fifteen hundred people aboard, left New York bound for England. The two vessels were to meet and...

Read More

Miracle in the Andes: Survival

Nando Parrado was part of the Young Christians rugby team in Uruguay and when the team intended to go to play a match in Santiago, Chile, he was chosen for the team. In October 1972 a plane took off for Chile carrying the young men of the team, plus some of their families and supporters. There were forty-five people aboard. When flying over the Andes Mountains – that treacherous and inhospitable land – and due, it’s...

Read More

Last Meals: The Lusitania

The last meals before the sinking of the Lusitania Unlike the Titanic, that struck an iceberg in the middle of the night, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sank by a German U-boat just after lunchtime. We know what the final dinner consisted of on board the Titanic but lunch menus weren’t generally recorded in the same way as the lavish evening meals. But we do know that the meals were equally luxurious on both ships. Here’s...

Read More

Into Thin Air: An Account of a Mount Everest Climbing Expedition Disaster

Into Thin Air: An Account of a Mount Everest Climbing Expedition Disaster This book is the true story, written by a man who was there, of an expedition seeking to climb up to the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest point of elevation above sea level. This mighty mountain has a peak so high that most climbers need to wear oxygen masks, and the climb is so dangerous that one person dies for every seventeen who reach the summit....

Read More

The Great Beer Disaster

The Great Beer Disaster of 1814. On Monday October 17, 1814, a huge vat of beer burst in the centre of London sending a tidal wave of black porter ale, 15 feet high, flooding into houses, drowning people, and demolishing property in its wake. At the heart of London’s retail centre today is a crossroads, where the Charing Cross Road, intersects with Oxford Street, New Oxford Street, and Tottenham Court Road. Just a few yards along...

Read More