Thursday, 7 March 2013

Down and out in Paris and London

"On the second day I thought of pawning my overcoat, but it seemed too far to walk to the pawnshop, and I spent the day in bed, reading 'The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes'. It was all that I felt equal to." (My italics) - George Orwell. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Trumpeter R. Walmsley and the Battle of Maiwand

On March 20 Hall's Fine Art Auctioneers will be offering certain items which may be of some interest to anyone following Watson's misfortunes in Afghanistan. As a young soldier of eighteen, Trumpeter R. Walmsley marched from Kabul to Kandahar with  the rest of Major-General Frederick Roberts' Field Force to relieve the Garrison there. It was being besieged by the victorious Ayub Khan after the Battle of Maiwand,  and as a result of this march and military engagement Walmsley was awarded a medal described by Hall's as an 'Afghanistan 1878-80 with Kandahar Clasp' and also a 'Kabul to Kandahar Star'. An Afghan
Tulwar is also being auctioned. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

"MET 150 - Baker Street Revisited

A centre-spread in the March 2013 Railway Observer celebrates one hundred and fifty years of the Metropolitan Railway, the world's first "Underground", which went from Paddington via Baker Street to Moorgate and came   into operation on January 10th, 1863.
The re-enactment used steam locomotive no. 1 and electric locomotive no. 12 (aka "Sarah Siddons") for a V.I.P. Special starting  from Kensington (Olympia) on 13th January this year. All the electric locomotives which hauled the 'slam-door trains' from the 1920's to the 1950's were named for famous Londoners and, as well as Siddons, included Thomas Lord, John Lyon and (No.8) Sherlock Holmes! Were any Sherlockians  waiting at Baker Street to see this re-enactment?!
In "The Bruce-Partington Plans" an observant Conan Doyle writes about a similar line, The District Railway, calling it  the "Metropolitan  Underground". From 1872 this ran west London trains on what later became the southern section of the Circle Line, and Doyle describes how Holmes deduces that the body of the unfortunate Cadogan West must have been placed (by the villains of the piece) on the roof of the steam train when it paused briefly at Cromwell Junction near Kensington and fell off  at a sharp curve which caused the train to roll just before Aldgate  East Station.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Some of my fellow Sherlockians have recently written a series of emails about the battle of Maiwand, in which Watson was so badly wounded he was sent home and eventually met Holmes.
I first began to take an interest in this iconic pair eleven years ago - when I saw a modest memorial in Beverley Minster  to a group of men who died marching up from Quetta to relieve Kandahar, under siege by the victorious Afghans, at the same time as Major-General Frederick Roberts was bringing a similar force from Kabul.
The famous painting of the Last Stand of the 66 Regiment of Foot, showing Bobbie (the Regimental Mascot) standing calmly in the middle of the carnage, can be found in Colonel Leigh Maxwell's book My God! Maiwand  first published by Leo Cooper in 1979. It also appears in what must be the definitive account of the battle by Richard J. Stacpoole-Ryding in association with the Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum: MAIWAND The Last Stand of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment in Afghanistan, 1880, published in 2008 by The History Press.
My own book, In Search of Doctor Watson, written soon after my visit to Yorkshire but not published until 2011, has an account of the battle of Maiwand and some speculations about who may have been the original Model for John H. Watson - which I hope you will find interesting.