A Handy Guide to Vampires

As October rolls on and the nights draw in, ghosts, ghouls and the otherwise undead lurk around every corner. What better way to prepare for the spooky month ahead than with a crash course in vampires…just in case! Vampires have been a staple of popular culture for two centuries, from the publication of Polidori’s ‘The Vampyre’ in 1819 to Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic ‘Dracula’, to the ‘Twilight‘ and ‘I Am Legend‘ of modern day. The belief in real vampires is of course farRead more

What is the Difference Between a Penknife and a Pocket Knife?

In today’s blog, Peter Smithurst, Curator Emeritus of Historical Firearms at the Royal Armouries explains the difference between a penknife and a pocket knife. I was asked recently about terminology in cutlery, especially pen and pocket knives. Firstly, when is a penknife a pocket knife? Traditionally a penknife was used of course for cutting a quill pen. Its blade was fairly small and had a razor-edge. To enable it to hold an edge, the blade was also very hard whichRead more

How was artillery developed in World War One?

By Adrian Parry, University of Portsmouth. The British army fired 273,000 shells in the first 36 months of the Second Boer War. Yet in the four years of World War One, it fired over 170 million shells. This amounted to over five million tons of ordnance. In September 1915, British guns fired 535,000 artillery rounds in four days at the Battle of Loos; 1,732,873 rounds in June 1916 in the eight days prior to the attack on the Somme; 3,258,000 roundsRead more

Spies in the Tower: Fernando Buschmann

In the run up to our Spy Academy running throughout half term at Fort Nelson, Bridget Clifford recounts the stories of just some of the men held in the Tower of London on espionage charges during the First World War. NB: This post first appeared in November 2014 as part of our The Curator @ War series. Fernando Buschmann was the seventh of eleven spies shot at the Tower of London between November 1914 and April 1916, and at 25Read more

Spies in the Tower: Carl Hans Lody

In the run up to our Spy Academy running throughout half term at Fort Nelson, Bridget Clifford recounts the stories of just some of the men held in the Tower of London on espionage charges during the First World War. NB: This post was originally published in November 2014 as part of our The Curator @ War series. Three months into the First World War as the combatants on the Western Front learnt the grim reality of trench warfare inRead more

History of the term ‘Brown Bess’.

Curator of Firearms, Jonathan Ferguson, gives us a peek at just some of the fascinating research that has gone into his article: ‘Trusty Bess’: the Definitive Origins and History of the term ‘Brown Bess’ ‘Twas then I thought on trusty Bess; Who, tho’ I knew she was but poor, I always found a faithful Whore.’ -’Fecit Recantatio Versum’ by Thomas Brown (1730) The smoothbore muzzle-loading musket, whether fitted with matchlock, flintlock or percussion lock, was the infantry soldier’s main weapon forRead more