Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Women Warriors - Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Otherwise known as Lady Death, Lyudmila was a Ukranian Soviet sniper during the Second World War.

She was creditted with 309 kills, making her the most successful female sniper in history, and one of the top military snipers of all time.
Her hobby before the Second World War was shooting, and in 1941 she volunteered for the infantry, being assigned to the 25th Rifle Division, where she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army - only about 500 of whom survived the war.
In 1942, she was wounded by mortar fire, and taken out of combat. Instead she was sent on a publicity tour of the USA, meeting President Roosevelt (the first Soviet citizen to be recieved by a US President). Woodie Guthrie wrote a song about her.
She also toured Canada, where she was presented with a Winchester rifle which is now on display in the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.
In the UK, she visited the cathedral ruins at Coventry, and several factories in Coventry and Birmingham, and collected over £4,000 from Coventry workers to pay for three X-ray units for the Red Army.
Back in the Soviet Union, she became an instructor, and trained snipers until the end of the war.
In 2015, a film of her life was made, called Battle for Sevastopol ("Unbreakable" in Ukranian), and her portrait has also been used on Russian postage stamps.
She died in 1974 after a career as a historian.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Steampunk Accessories

A friend shared this picture with me on Facebook. It's made by Broadarrow Jack Leather, and it's a fan holster!
It's just perfect for Li Bic, the main character in my Steampunk stories, to keep her fighting fan!

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Goodbye, R2D2

Or rather, Kenny Baker, who operated the droid. He was 83, and had been ill for some time. Here he is at the opening night of the last Star Wars film:

This picture's from the Guardian.

But he was much more than just the operator of R2D2.
In his long career, he worked as the shadow ringmaster in Billy Smart's Circus, and with many famous British comedians of the 1960s and 70s. He was even a Diddyman with Ken Dodd! He also played the harmonica as part of the Minitones musical comedy duo, and he could ice skate, starting off in Holiday on Ice and appearing in ice shows for the next twenty years all over the world. He was one of those old-fashioned variety entertainers who could turn his hand to anything.

Trowelblazers - Christian Maclaglan

She was "arguably the UK's first female archaeologist" according to Dr Murray Cook, who is leading a project to rediscover the broch she discovered and recorded in the 1870s. She is also one of the first to consider stratigraphy, and to draw cross sections of ruins, something that is absolutely basic to archaeological recording now. She was doing this five years before Pitt Rivers used the technique at Cranborne Chase, though he is generally credited with the introduction of the technique. She was, apparently, quite a talented artist, and left handed, as her right hand was affected by a bone disease.
The broch she recorded, at Livilands in Stirling, is thought to have been buried under garden landscaping.
The paper that Christian Maclaglan wrote, describing the broch, was not accepted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland because she was only a lady associate of the Society, not a Fellow - and only men could become Fellows. The paper was only accepted when it had been transcribed by a man. The Society first admitted women as Fellows in 1901, the year of her death.
So she donated important pieces of her research, on other brochs and monuments as well as the one at Livilands, to the British Museum rather than the Scottish Society. This included all the rubbings she had made of carvings on standing stones.
She was born in 1811, and died in 1901.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Trowelblazers - Beatrice de Cardi

Beatrice de Cardi died on July 5th this year, aged 102, and at the end of her career she was the world's oldest practicing archaeologist, as she continued to write up her excavations and catalogue pottery until after her 100th birthday. Her Who's Who entry lists her hobbies as "keeping up with archeological research".
And what a life she had!
She was born in London in 1914, the daughter of a Corsican aristocrat and an American heiress of German origin, and became interested in archaeology when she attended lectures at University College London given by Sir Mortimer Wheeler.
She went to work with Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa at Maiden Castle, where she worked on the classification of the pottery. After her graduation from university, Sir Mortimer Wheeler offered her a job as his secretary - he was then Keeper of the London Museum.
During the Second World War she was seconded to the Foreign Office, which sent her out to Chungking, China. She also visited India as part of her work there, and after the war she got a job at the Board of Trade in Delhi, and later Karachi. There she read an article about some previously unknown pottery from Quetta in Baluchistan, written by a young Stuart Piggott.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler was now Director General of Archaeology in India, and Beatrice persuaded him to lend her a jeep and an assistant, Sadar Din, to look for archaeological sites in Baluchistan.
Michael Wood the historian described her as "part Miss Marple and part Indiana Jones". Baluchistan was a wild and dangerous area, and she had to deal with bandits and wild animals during her time there, but she and Sadar Din located 47 archaeological sites, many of which contained the pottery style she named Quetta Ware, and dated to 4th - 3rd millenium BC.
Unrest in the region meant that she had to return to London, where she worked on archaeology uncovered by the Luftwaffe's bombing raids in the Second World War, but she returned to Baluchistan under her own steam in the 1960s.
In 1973 she helped to set up the national museum of Qatar, as director of an archaeological expedition sent by the British Museum. She had ten weeks to produce a report on Qatar from the Stone Age to the Oil Age and she later wrote a book on the archaeology of Qatar.

From her obituary in the Telegraph: "In 1989 Beatrice de Cardi was awarded the Al Qasimi Medal for archaeological services to Ras al-Khaimah, and in 1993 the Burton Memorial Medal by the Royal Asiatic Society. In June 2014, she was awarded the Gold Medal of the Society of Antiquaries of London “for distinguished services to archaeology”. She was a fellow of the British Academy and was appointed OBE in 1973."