19th February. I bought this double-sided pendant at auction at the start of this month, because I felt sorry for
it - but who is this First World War soldier? His uniform has been confirmed as that of the Royal Artillery, most probably
the Royal Field Artillery, and although the photo has been cut from a larger photograph, the letters that were on the reverse
of the photo were enough to work out (with the help of the Ancestry search engine!) that the picture was taken by a
professional photographer with premises in Hebden Bridge and Todmorden - West Yorkshire, near Halifax. The Hebden Bridge newspaper
is taking an interest, so maybe the soldier will be identified. On the reverse of the pendant is a photo of the same man as
a child. I have a sad feeling that this is something that, perhaps, a bereaved mother might have had made... I am compiling
a list of those from Todmorden and Hebden Bridge who were killed in action, but this chap may have come from somewhere near
either place, and there is no proof he was killed. The auctioneer remembers only that the item was part
of a job lot of bits of scrap gold etc that he bought a while ago - he felt, however, that the pendant was too evocative to
If you have any ideas, please get in touch: use the email
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A little bit about me....
I'm primarily a maritime and naval author, though
my books have included an illustrated history of Trafalgar Square, a companion to the Imperial War Museum's War Correspondent
exhibition, and the TV-tie in for Dan Snow's three-part Dig WW2, which took me into land conflict and air
warfare (though I had covered a century of naval aviation while writing Carrier) as well as naval aspects.
I've set up the website in order to provide information about my current and forthcoming books, post corrections and extra
information, and to build up a list of resources and material you may find useful. My most recent commission was
to co-edit Shipwright 2013, which came out in June (2013).
Due to another other big commitment at the moment, I'm
currently not working on a book , but soon I will start on the one I have wanted to write for a long time, ever since
I touched on the story in another book. It could be a long time before it is done, and then I'll worry about finding
However, I am sporadically assisting an Italian documentary producer who is developing what
looks to be a really exciting project. I may not have any Italian blood in my veins, but I have plenty of Italian wine
in them, and I have long been attracted to all things Italian, including aspects of its naval history. I very much hope it
comes to fruition, but I know that the idea has to be 'sold' to the people who put content in front of the viewer,
especially foreign networks, in order to make any project financially viable.
You may be surprised to find a big
article about antique mercury barometers and the Ortelli family who made them, in Britain, in the very late
18th and the first half of the 19th century. Well, we all have our guilty pleasures, and this is one of mine. There
is something very special about these beautiful, unique and useful creations that were handcrafted and signed by
Italians who, more than two centuries ago, began crossing the Alps and travelling some 750 miles across Europe to
bring their skills to Britain. It's work in constant progress. It is also a chance to write
in a friendly style, with little digressions here and there, speculation, admissions of ignorance, not to mention well-intentioned
promises to find out missing information at some unspecified time in the vague future. Freed from commercial considerations
and the straightjacket of a brief, and from the twin pressures of time schedule and word count,
I can indulge myself and, I hope, revive interest in, and acquisition of, mercury barometers. I have also tried to show
more than the fruits of research. I wanted to explain something of the process of research, the false starts, the blanks,
the way connections were made, the sources used and the thought processes involved, because the research is, for me at least,
the best part of it, the part that leaves a writer alternately frustrated or euphoric.