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Lost Battalion Dispatch #45

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Lost Battalion Publishing

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

This Week in History: The seeds of two very different insurrections are planted and an Australian circumnavigates the globe.

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The Lost Battalion Dispatch #45 for the Week of May 7, 2023
City of Adelaide Makes Her Final Voyage
City of Adelaide was launched on May 7th, 1864. She is the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship. From 1864 to 1887, she made annual voyages carrying passengers and goods between Plymouth, England and Adelaide, South Australia. After that, she was employed carrying coal around the coast of England and timber across the Atlantic from America. Her timber-carrying voyages also found her carrying emigrants seeking cheap passage to America, as she would have otherwise been empty when bound from England. In 1893 she became a hospital ship. The Royal Navy purchased her as a training ship in 1923 and based her in Scotland. She was retired from service in 1948 and became the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Club headquarters, moored in Glasgow on the River Clyde.

In 1989 she was damaged by flooding. The damage caused her to sink at her mooring in 1991. The Scottish Maritime Museum paid for her to be raised the next year and began a restoration project, but funding dried up. She was threatened with deconstruction until 2010, when the Scottish Government decided she would be sent to Adelaide as a museum ship.

One-hundred and forty-nine years after her first voyage to Adelaide, City of Adelaide began her final voyage strapped into a specially constructed steel cradle atop MV Palanpur. She now rests on a barge at Dock 2, Port of Adelaide, where daily tours are available. Plans are ongoing to move her ashore as part of a seaport village attraction.

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1789 Cartoon Depicting the First and Second Estate Riding on the Back of the Third

On May 8th, 1788, King Louis XVI of France made the crucial mistake that would lead to the French Revolution and his beheading. Irked by the refusal of the Paris parlement, the highest court of France, to register some of his proclamations as the law of the land, he essentially abolished the court and drove the magistrates into exile. As a result, the Paris mob began to riot, as did mobs in other cities. After two months, Louis sought to quell the unrest by calling for the Estates-General to convene.

The Estates-General was a national assembly established in the early 14th century. It was composed of delegates from the Three Estates of France—clergy, nobles, and commoners. By this time, the “commoners” had become wealthy middle-class businessmen. The assembly had not been convened for over 100 years. When they gathered in 1789, it would be for the last time.

Louis had naively expected the Estates-General to rubber stamp his proclamations and to provide the tax money he needed. Things did not go as planned, mainly because the Third Estate saw the First and Second as societal leeches. The 1789 Estates-General included 303 delegates from the clergy, 282 nobles, and 578 commoners. Traditionally, voting was by Estate. The clergy, nobles, and commoners voted among themselves, and each Estate then cast one vote on the measure at hand. However, in 1789, the commoners, supported by less wealthy clergy members, pressed for all votes to be tallied equally.

Given that the commoners had almost double the delegates of the other two Estates combined and could count on the poorer priests’ support, Louis’ proposed legislation was unlikely to pass. The rebellious Third Estate eventually voted to declare a National Assembly and invited members of the other Estates to join them.

Rather than deal with a hostile assembly, Louis attempted to shut it down. On June 20th, 1789, he sent troops to close the hall where the new National Assembly met. The delegates reconvened on a nearby tennis court and swore the Tennis Court oath, vowing they would not separate until they had given France a constitutional government.

On May 9th, 1941, the submarine, U-110, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Fritz Julius Lemp, attacked a convoy east of Cape Farewell, Greenland. She sank two ships but was then located with ASDIC by HMS Aubretia. HMS Broadway joined the hunt. The two destroyers dropped depth charges. U-110 was seriously damaged and forced to surface. Lemp announced, “Last stop. Everybody out.” over the 1MC, and the crew began to abandon ship.

HMS Bulldog joined the party, and the three destroyers closed in on U-110 and opened fire, thinking at first that the crew intended to fight back using the deck gun. When it became clear they were abandoning ship, the British ceased fire. They began conducting rescue operations and sent a boarding party to the U-boat.

In the life raft, Lemp realized, to his horror, that U-110 was not sinking. He tried to swim back to the U-boat to destroy the secret documents and Enigma cipher machine aboard but didn’t make it. He was never seen again.

The capture of U-110 was only a minor intelligence coup for the Allies. British code-breakers at the Bletchley Park campus of the Government Code and Cypher School had been decrypting Enigma messages since late 1939 with help from experts from the Polish Cipher Bureau. Intelligence from decrypted messages kept the British informed of Luftwaffe’s activities during the Battle of Britain and contributed to victories over the Italians in Libya and at the naval battle of Cape Matapan. The British even warned Stalin of preparations for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, although he refused to believe them. However, the British had more difficulty decrypting Kriegsmarine messages. The capture of the U-110 Enigma machine and decrypted documents assisted this, but the advantage only lasted until June when U-boats were equipped with a more sophisticated Engima device.

In June of 1941, British intelligence started using the codeword Ultra for intelligence gathered through Bletchley Park decryption. They considered it more sensitive than Most Secret, the highest British security classification at the time. In December, Bletchley Park would break the new Kriegsmarine Enigma code through pure cryptoanalysis, giving the Allies an advantage over U-boat wolfpacks for the rest of the war.

The capture of U-110 was fictionalized and attributed to the Americans in the silly movie U-517. Another silly film Enigma greatly overestimates the value of Ultra intelligence while getting many of the facts wrong. Ultra decryption was a factor in the Allied victory, but not the decisive factor Hollywood would have you believe.

Capture of U-110

1789 Illustration of the Boston Tea Party

In another precursor to revolution, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Tea Act on May 10th, 1773. Designed to assist the financially troubled British East India Company, the Act granted the East India Company the right to ship tea directly to North America and to export tea from its over-stocked British warehouses duty-free. It was hoped this would undercut the price of smuggled tea and convince colonists to buy Company tea and pay the associated Townshend Duty taxes.

The colonists resisted. Cheap tea sold with Townshend taxes paid on it jeopardized the businesses of both legitimate middlemen and those engaged in illegal sales of Dutch tea. Furthermore, the colonists felt that buying taxed tea was a tacit admission of the right of Parliament to levy taxes without colonial representation in the legislative body. In New York and Philadelphia, tea shipments were returned to Britain. In Charleston, tea was left on the docks to rot.

In Boston, the British Governor was determined to have the tea landed and the taxes paid, so, on the night of December 16th, colonists disguised themselves as Indians, boarded three tea ships, and dumped their cargo into the harbor. At the time, the event was called the “Destruction of the Tea,” but it has gone down in history as the “Boston Tea Party.”

Giuseppe Garibaldi and his “Expedition of the Thousand” landed at Marsala, Sicily, on May 11th, 1860. Within three months, Garibaldi’s Red Shirt volunteer army had conquered the island.

After conquering Sicily, Garibaldi and his men crossed the Strait of Messina and marched on Naples. The Neapolitan army was much larger than Garibaldi’s, but they were poorly trained and motivated. Garibaldi’s men, on the other hand, were highly motivated and inspired by Garibaldi’s charisma.

Garibaldi’s army won a series of victories over the Neapolitans, and by September 1860, they had reached Naples. The king of Naples, Francis II, fled the city, and Garibaldi declared himself dictator of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Garibaldi’s victory in Naples was a major turning point in the unification of Italy. The northern Italian state of Piedmont-Sardinia had been working to unify Italy for many years, but it had been unable to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Garibaldi’s victory made it possible for Piedmont-Sardinia to annex the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and complete the unification of Italy.

In October 1860, Garibaldi met with Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Piedmont-Sardinia, at Teano. Garibaldi offered to surrender his power to Victor Emmanuel, and Victor Emmanuel accepted. Garibaldi’s victory in the Expedition of the Thousand was a major factor in the unification of Italy, and Garibaldi is considered a national hero in Italy.

The Expedition of the Thousand was a daring and risky venture, but it was ultimately successful. Garibaldi’s victory in Sicily and Naples helped to pave the way for the unification of Italy. Garibaldi is a national hero in Italy, and his legacy continues to inspire people around the world.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Engraving of the Charles Town Explosion

On May 12th, 1780, Charleston, South Carolina, fell to the British after a sis-week long siege. The capture of Charles Town (as it was known then) was a major victory for the British. It effectively ended Patriot resident in the South. With safe harbors to land troops and supplies, the British hoped to open a new front against George Washington’s army and prevent him from continuing to wear down his opponents through Fabian tactics.

So great was the number of military supplies captured by the British that they became careless in the way they stored it. Hundreds of cannons and thousands of muskets were haphazardly piled near a building the Patriots had been using as a powder arsenal. Although more than one American claims to have warned the British that many of the cannons and muskets were probably still loaded, no precautions were taken. Two days after the surrender, a massive explosion ripped through the arsenal. As many an 300 British soldiers may have been killed.

Ben Carlin became the first and only person to circumnavigate the globe via an amphibious vehicle on May 13th, 1958.

Ben Carlin was born in Northam, Western Australia, on July 27, 1912.

Carlin’s father was a mining engineer, and so the boy grew up in mining towns in Western Australia. He attended Guildford Grammar School in Perth, where he excelled in mathematics and science.

After graduating from high school, Carlin studied mining engineering at the Kalgoorlie School of Mines. He graduated in 1934 and went to work as a mining engineer in Western Australia. In 1939, took a job in Peking, China, working for a British cola mining company.

When World War II broke out, Carlin enlisted in the Indian Army at Shanghai. He was posted to the Madras Sappers of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers. He became a Mustang second lieutenant and saw combat in India, Iraq, Persia, Palestine, Syria, and Itlay. By the end of the war, he had been promoted to the rank of major and met Elinore Arone, a Red Cross nurse from Boston. After his discharge, they moved to Bean Town and married.

During his time in the war, Ben had come across a Ford GPA (Seep), the amphibious version of the iconic Jeep. He made the remark, “With a bit of titivation, you could go around the world in one of those.” The quip earned him mockery from his fellow engineers, but evidently, that only made Carlin more determined to try.

The Carlins bought a surplus GPA from Ford for $901 and also tried to get Ford Motor Company to sponsor their expedition. A Ford executive declined, saying that it was impossible. The couple spent the next several years testing and modifying the vehicle they had christened Half Safe. In 1948, they felt they were ready and drove from Montreal to New Your Harbor.

Three times they failed to cross the Atlantic and were forced to return. The third failure left them drifting for weeks with broken radios until they were rescued by an oil tanker. Carlin was ready to give up, but the captain of the tanker encouraged him to try again.

Carlin worked for months to make money for improvements on Half Safe. Finally, on the 19th of July, 1950, they set out for the Azores. LIFE Magazine was there to greet them. After making their way southeast through the chain of islands, they arrived at Madeira. The couple then took an unexpected turn. Instead of making for Lisbon as planned, they sailed straight to Africa and drove up the coast to Casablanca. Then, they sailed across the Straits of Gibraltar and took a driving tour of Europe before crossing the English Channel and pulling into Birmingham on January 1st, 1952, for a period of much-needed rest and repairs.

During their stay in England, Carlin wrote Half Safe: Across the Atlantic, a chronicle of the first leg of their journey. It sold 32,000 copies

The Carlins set out again in early 1955, driving across France, Switzerland, northern Italy, Yugoslavia, and Greece. They sailed across the Bosphorus and drove through Turkey, Syria, Jordon, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan to reach Calcutta, India. At Calcutta, they decided to have Half Safe put aboard a steamer for a fundraising tour in Australia. Ben also needed a vacation to the land of his birth in order to wind down a bit. He told some friends, “The 2000 miles across the Atlantic to the Azores were in many ways much less worrying than a similar distance covered on murderous roads in Persia.”

Apparently, the worry was even harder on Elinore. She stayed in Australia when Half Safe was shipped back to Calcutta. Carlin continued alone on a sea journey across the Bay of Bengal to Akyab, Burma. Barry Hanley, one of Carlin’s friends from Australia, joined him there. They drove across southeast Asia to Saigon, then sailed from Indochina to Japan, making many stops at islands in the South China Sea, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Carlan landed at Kagoshima Prefecture at the southern tip of Japan in July of 1956. From there, they drove to Tokyo. Hanley decide to return to Australia, and Boye Lafayette de Mente, an American journalist working for The Japan Times, agreed to join the voyage.

After a long layover for rest and repairs, Half Safe sailed out of Toyko Bay on May 1st, 1957. They arrived at Homer, Alaska, in late August. Heading down the Alaska Highway, just one more minor obstacle stood in their way. When they came upon the recently collapsed Peace River Suspension Bridge, Carlin bypassed the lines of cars waiting for the ferry and simply sailed across the river.

Carlin and de Mente drove down to San Fransico to pick up Elinore. Reunited, the couple then drove across the United States to Canada and back to Montreal. Carlin and Half Safe had traveled 11,050 miles by sea and 38,987 miles by land in ten years, passing through 38 countries and across two oceans.

Ben Carlin Drives Half Safe Through Paris

Which one of this week’s entries was partially written by an AI?
April 30
May 1
May 2
May 3
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