How the Elgin Marbles Spent World War II Hidden Underground

During the First World War attacks on England from the air came in the form of Zeppelin raids during 1914 and 1915 and, by 1917, twin engine Gotha bombers. On one day in mid June of 1918, eighteen Gothas attacked London in broad daylight and caused 162 deaths, so it can be of no surprise that aerial bombardment quickly became a real concern for the nation.

As the British public began to seek underground shelter, arrangements were also made by British museums and galleries to move some of their most valuable artefacts out of the danger zone.

Items from the British Museum were moved to the National Library of Wales, underground strongrooms in Bloomsbury, and into the unfinished Post Office Underground Railway at Holborn. The GPO tube also offered shelter to artefacts from the Tate Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.

At the end of the war these artefacts were returned to their rightful homes, but the threat to the nation’s museums and galleries was not forgotten.

In July 1933—just five months after Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany—discussions were being held as to what should be done to protect the nation’s treasures should war break out again.

The task fell to the Museums and Galleries Air Raid Precaution Committee. They began by drawing up a list of fifty country houses that could safely accommodate a large volume of evacuated works and by the end of 1934 had an agreement in place with the London Passenger Transport Board to make use of disused tube tunnels.

Aldwych Underground Station opened as Strand Station in 1907, but saw such low passenger numbers that it was considered for closure in 1929, and again in 1933. With the start of the Blitz in September 1940, the station was closed and partly fitted out as an air-raid shelter.

It wasn’t just the people of London who took shelter down in the tube. Just as in the First World War, the London Underground would play a vital role in keeping the nation’s valuables safe during wartime.

On Friday 2nd September 1948 two lorries carried 100 tonnes of Elgin Marbles to Lillie Bridge depot in Kensington. From there the Marbles were transported by railway wagon to a disused tunnel at Aldwych.

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How protected the Marbles, and the members of the public, actually were down in the station is debatable (direct hits to stations in Balham in 1940 and Bank in 1941 resulted in hundreds of deaths).

In 1941 Sir John Forsdyke (Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum) complained to the Treasury about the poor conditions to be found down in Tube:

Accommodation in Tube Railway stations and tunnels was provided in good time, and this is satisfactory as far as it goes, but it does not go very far. The kind of material that can be kept in a tube tunnel is limited to what is waterproof. The humidity of the tubes is normally too high, if electric power is cut off it will rise to saturation point, and even with watertight doors there is a risk of flooding.

Nevertheless, the Elgin Marbles remained hidden down in the underground until the winter of 1948 when the first of the marbles was recovered and moved through Aldwych station in sight of the public, causing much press attention. Over time all of the sculptures were ferried back to Lillie Bridge yard and subsequently taken by lorry back to Bloomsbury.

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It is undoubtedly a good thing that the Marbles spent the war hidden away in the underground, for the British Museum suffered considerable bomb damage, including the Duveen Gallery where the Marbles had been exhibited before their evacuation.

Read more about how Britain’s Art survived the Blitz in the rather excellent Saving Britain’s Art Treasures, by N J McCamley

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WWII with Tentacles: Dark Tales From the Secret War

Back in December Modiphius Entertainment launched the rather brilliant Dark Tales From the Secret War, a short story collection edited by John Houlihan and set in their Achtung! Cthulhu game universe. Basically, it’s World War II meets Lovecraft …
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You can find more info on the book on the links below but there are two important points that aren’t listed in the description.

First, one of the stories in the collection is mine. Concerning Rudolf Hess, Mr Buckle and the Book is a rip-roaring World War II conspiracy with Lovecraftian undertones.

Second, Dark Tales also includes Shadow of the Black Sun, from dark-fantasy author David J Rodger. Sadly, David passed away toward the end of last year. He is much missed by his many friends, but it’s great that we have his work—novels such as Oakfield, The Black Lake, The Social Club, and many more—to remember him by. And now we have Dark Tales too.

I knew David pretty well and I think he’d have been stoked at how it turned out.

Dark Tales is a collection of 13 stories set in Modiphius’ Achtung! Cthulhu universe, a world which mixes the terrors of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos with mankind’s darkest yet finest hour, the second world war.

13 unhallowed stories await within it’s covers, which range from the wilds of the South Pacific, to the dark depths of the Black Forest, to the icy wastes of Norway, and they come from a stellar cast of writers including David J Rodger, Destiny and Fable writer Martin Korda, Splinter Cell’s Richard Dansky and the strange mind of horror master Patrick Garratt!

The Art of Misdirection – now available to buy at Amazon

I’ve been a little quite of late due to a number of projects I’ve been focusing on, the main one being the final edit and launch of The Art of Misdirection.

3D-Book-TAOMHappy to announce the day is finally here and the novel is now available to buy on Kindle from Amazon, both in the UK and the US.

I’m just beginning to promote the book on twitter and soon on Facebook.

Don’t forget, you can still get a free sample of the book here, or you can download a free sample to read on the free Kindle App.

I’d love you hear what you think.

 

 

 

Short Story: The Collector

In this never-before-published short story a young man returns to his family home following the death of his father to claim his inheritance—and finds nothing is quite as expected.

Continue reading Short Story: The Collector

Five things I’ve learned crowdfunding my first novel on Inkshares

One month into promoting my first novel The Art of Misdirection on Inkshares and I’ve learned that crowdfunding isn’t as easy as you might think.

inkshareslogoRather than providing a means for collecting the cash to fund whatever project milestones you decide on, Inkshares crowdfunding platform collects preorders to fund the publication of your book.


They then take care of the design, editing, distribution and marketing for the final product, providing you hit your funding target—all the stuff that, even with a chunk of cash raised, you might not have time, resources or know-how to do yourself.

It’s an interesting proposition and one that appealed to me because of its author-focus, and the possibility that they can take on some of the heavy lifting once the funding target is hit.

One month in and my own campaign with Inkshares hasn’t exactly taken off like I’d hoped. This is primarily because the onus on promoting the campaign lives with me, and not with Inkshares. New to crowdfunding, and to online promotion of my work in general, I went into it woefully unprepared and am now playing catchup.

So, what should you know before you start using Inkshares—or similar services—to crowdfund your novel?

1. Build it and (then) they will come:

By ‘it’, in this case, I mean your fan base. Launching into your crowdfunding campaign without an existing fan base is just about as stupid as it sounds. No twitter or Facebook followers? No blog for readers to see your work on? You’re making life that much harder for yourself. Even if you are hugely talented, you’re going to find it hard to shout about your campaign with no-one listening to you—and it takes time to build up your audience …

2. Give yourself time:

Since I had a finished work in its final stages of editing, I jumped right ahead and announced my novel for funding via Inkshares on day one. A bad move. I didn’t have to do this—I could have listed the work, generated interest, and then switched the funding campaign on at a later stage.

In the last month I’ve worked hard to increase twitter followers, to produce interesting and relevant blog content and to build up some sort of audience, but the campaign-clock is ticking. Generating interest in your project before launching your crowd funding campaign will help buy you extra time to hit your target.

3. Hone your pitch:

Using a platform like Inkshares means you don’t have to pitch to an agent or publisher—but you do have to pitch to hundreds of thousands of potential readers. The Inkshares platform is designed to be friendly and encouraging, but when you start to promote your campaign on other channels it becomes much harder to tell potential readers what your book is about without a concise pitch and tagline. Can’t explain your plot in a paragraph? How about 140 characters?

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4. Think visually:

A decent cover will go a long way towards making your project stand out from the crowd, but visual assets are also important for promoting across other channels, too. Appropriately sized assets for social media channels will help your campaign look professional and will encourage people to share. If you can afford to hire a designer, that’s your best bet. If you’re going to do it yourself, Canva is the best online tool I’ve found for creating e-book covers, with lots of templates and professional photography you can use for a minimal fee.

Book trailers and video interviews are also great at attracting attention. There are quite a few on the Inkshare platform and they certainly seem to help give their book a boost.

Have a look at this example from Alison Carlson’s Winston Churchill study, The Man Within:

5. Be social:

Twitter remains the biggest source of traffic for my campaign and social media has really helped drive traffic to my Inkshares page, and to my blog. Facebook was great for announcing the campaign, and drove the first batch of sales.Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 18.44.43

I’m still working on build up more interesting content to tweet about (see points 1 & 2) but the most successful social interactions to date have come from a raft of related content I’ve been working on: given that 1930s London gangster Darby Sabini appears in my book, and the recent Netflix series Peaky Blinders, this gave me a great excuse to talk about my research, and tap into Peaky Blinders fan base. Thinking outside the box is a great way of expanding your reach. Inspired by a particular places, person or piece of work? There’s a whole bunch of new people to talk to about your campaign through social media.

So, that’s my experience of crowdfunding with Inkshares to date. Not as successful as I would have liked (though there’s still time) but if nothing else launching the campaign has forced me to focus on developing my online presence as a writer. I’ve doubled my twitter followers, have a blog up and running, and new short fiction and articles circulating online.

If the Inkshares campaign doesn’t hit its target, then I’ll have at least gone some way to building up a fan base for other activity in the future.

Launching your book through Inkshares or another crowdfunding platform? Let me know our experiences below, and check out the Art of Misdirection funding page while you’re at it.

London’s Forgotten Underground City

Many newer London residents are surprised to hear that just a short journey from the capital is a labyrinth of tunnels that once acted as an underground city, with thousands of inhabitants, shops, a hospital and even a cinema.

Chislehurst is located around 11 miles south-east of central London in the Borough of Bromley, between Bromley and Sidcup. Visit now and you’ll find a relatively peaceful suburb with a pleasant High Street, a number of bars, cafes and restaurants, and plenty of open spaces and ponds to explore.

If you’d have visited in the winter of 1940, you’d have encountered a very different scene as thousands of Londoners headed south to take shelter from the Blitz in Chislehurst Caves. This network of man-made tunnels, just a short walk from Chislehurst Station, is twenty-two miles long and up to ninety-five feet deep. Continue reading London’s Forgotten Underground City

Britain’s Godfather and the Peaky Blinders

Tom Hardy and Noah Taylor bring new life to season two of Netflix’s Peaky Blinders, playing real life gang-leaders Darby Sabini and Alfie Solomons. But how close to real life are these fine actors portrayals?

In season two of the BBC’s excellent historical crime drama Peaky Blinders, the Shelby family look south, beyond the borders of their Birmingham heartland, in an effort to expand their criminal empire.

Setting their sites on London, Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) and his brothers first establish a working relationship with the Jewish gang-leader Alfie Solomons (menacingly played by Tom Hardy), based out of Camden. This alliance brings them into conflict with the dapper and dangerous Italian gang-leader, Darby Sabini (played by Noah Taylor). Continue reading Britain’s Godfather and the Peaky Blinders