A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

This Week in History: A musician are born, the Sepoys revolt, and Perry practices Gunboat Diplomacy

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The Lost Battalion Dispatch #39 for the Week of March 26, 2023
Above 2023 Blue Anjgels

Below Blue Angels in F8 Bearcast circa 1948

The Blue Angels are performing at the Barksdale
Defenders of Liberty Air Show on
March 26, 2023.

In 1946, Admiral Chester Nimitz had the vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation In the 1940s, the team flew the F6 Hellcat, the F8 Bearcat, and the F9 Panther. During the 1950s, the demonstration was refined with aerobatic maneuvers in the F9 Cougar and F-11 Tiger and introduced the first six-plane delta formation, still flown to this day. By the end of the 1960s, the Angels transitioned to the F-4 Phantom, the only two-seat aircraft flown by the delta formation. In 1974, the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller and lighter aircraft with a tighter turning radius, allowed them to create a more dynamic flight demonstration. For the 40th Anniversary of the team in 1986, they unveiled the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. In 2021, they switched to the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and celebrated their 75th anniversary.

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Gravesite of Lt. Roland Leighton
Lt. Roland Aubrey Leighton was born on March 27, 1895. He died on December 23, 1915 after being shot by a sniper while inspecting the wire in front of his trench near Hébuterne, France. A poet, he had written this to his fiancé:

Violets from Plug Street wood,

Sweet, I send you oversea.

(It is strange they should be blue,

Blue, when his soaked blood was red,

For they grew around his head:

It is strange they should be blue.)

Violets from Plug Street Wood,

Think what they have meant to me—

Life and hope and love and you.

(And you did not see them grow,

where his mangled body lay,

Hiding horror from the day;

Sweetest it was better so)

Violets from oversea,

To your dear, far, forgetting land,

These I send in memory,

Knowing you will understand

His grave is often covered in blue violets.

Another poem, perhaps predicting his death, was found on his body:

Hedauville. Nov 1915.

The sunshine on the long white road

That ribboned down the hill,

The velvet clematis that clung

Around your window sill,

Are waiting for you still.

Again the shadowed pool shall break,

In dimples round your feet,

And when the thrush sings in your wood,

Unknowing you may meet

Another stranger, sweet.

And if he is not quite as old

As the boy you used to know,

And less proud too, and worthier,

You may not let him go.

(And daisies are truer than passion flowers)

It will be better so.

General John Pershing canceled further training for the United States 42nd “Rainbow” Division on March 28, 1918. The division instead occupied the Baccarat sector in Lorraine, France, becoming the first American division to hold an entire sector of the front on its own. They occupied the sector for three months.

Unlike many divisions, which were traditionally formed by recruits from a single state and thus named after that state. The Rainbow Division was the brainchild of Major Douglas McArthur, who envisioned a unit that would “stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.” Thus the 42nd Division was comprised of recruits from all 26 states and the District of Columbia.

According to veterans of the division, the unit patch was modified into a quarter rainbow to commemorate the half of its men who were lost in combat during World War I.

Original 42nd Division Patch and Patch Adopted After WWI
Storming of the Kashmir Gate at the Siege of Dehli
The Sepoy Mutiny was sparked on March 29, 1857, when Mangal Pandey of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry declared he would rebel against his British officers. The sepoy were native Indian soldiers recruited by the British East Indian Company which served as a sovereign power in India on behalf of the British Crown. Many factors of East India Company’s policies contributed to unrest among the native soldiers, but the introduction of the Enfield rifle is often cited as the precipitating cause of the rebellion. The new rifle fired Minie balls. Because of the tighter fit of the projectiles, the ammunition came with greased cartridges to facilitate ramming them into the rifled barrel. Rumors spread among the sepoy that the cartridges were greased with animal fat. Since the soldier was required to bite the end off the cartridge before loading the rifle, this violated Hindu religious laws. For some time, it had been widely believed that the British were attempting to destroy the native religions, and it was thought that forcing soldiers to break sacred codes was another step in this direction.

Even though the Military Secretary quickly ordered that all cartridges should be issued ungreased and that sepoys could grease them with whatever substance they might prefer, and the loading drill was changed so that the cartridge was torn by hand instead of bitten, the sepoys became convinced that the rumors of British perfidy with regard to their religion were true. On April 24, a contingent of mostly Muslim sepoys at Meerut was ordered to perform a firing drill. All but five of the 90 men refused to accept their cartridges. The 85 dissenters were court-martialed and imprisoned. The next day, the 3rd Indian Cavalry broke into revolt, killed their British officers, the officer’s families, and about 50 Indian civilians who attempted to protect the women and children. The 3rd Cavalry then occupied the walled city of Delhi, and the mutiny spread from there. Fifty-four of the 74 Native Infantry regiments eventually joined forces with the rebel or disbanded and returned to their homes.

It took the British considerable time to bring in British regiments to suppress the rebellion. Two months after the outbreak of hostilities, British and Gurka units finally defeated the main rebel army at the Battle of Badli-ki-Serai and drove them back to Delhi, which fell after a four-month siege that cost the British almost 4000 causalities. The rebellion raged on in other regions of India until the final sepoy army was destroyed at the Battle of Gwalior on June 19, 1858. Countless Indian civilians and 6000 of the 40,000 British civilians living in India were killed during the munity.

Eric Clapton and the Irreverent Graffiti Meant to Honor Him
March 30 is the birthday of Eric Clapton. Born in 1945, Clapton is outranked only by Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. His father was a Canadian soldier who got his 16-year-old mother pregnant before leaving for the war and then returned to Canada afterward. Clapton grew up believing his grandparents were his parents and his mother was his older sister.

His fame began in 1963 as a member of the Yardbirds. The band mostly played covers of American blues tunes. They had their first major hit, “For Your Love,” in March 1965, shortly before Clapton left the group. Several short stints as guitarist for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers earned him the reputation as the finest blues guitarist on the club circuit and inspired a young fan to spray paint “Clapton is God” graffiti on a wall in North London.

In 1966 he formed the “supergroup” Cream with Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums. The group produced four albums and a string of top radio hits before breaking up in 1969. Clapton’s work with Cream cemented him as a legendary guitarist. During this time, he also developed a close friendship with Beatle George Harrison and played the guitar solo on Harrison’s solo hit “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

From 1969 through 1971, Clapton played for the groups Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, and Derek and the Dominos. During this time, he began using heroin and became obsessed with George Harrison’s first wife Pattie Boyd. His hit song “Layla” was written about Boyd. Torn between his love for Boyd and friendship with Harrison and racked by heroin addiction, he withdrew from performing.

Boyd left Harrison and moved in with Clapton in 1974. By then, he had kicked his heroin habit. He launched a solo career that produced too many hits to name.

Clapton has used his fame and success to found many charitable organizations. On November 29, 2002, one year after the death of George Harrison, he organized a charity tribute called Concert for George to honor his long-time friend.

Bust of Matthew Perry in Shimoda, Japan
Commodore Matthew Perry coerced Japanese authorities (by the use of Gunboat Diplomacy) to sign the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854. This opened two ports to trade with American ships and ended Japanese isolation from Western powers. This eventually resulted in the Tokugawa shogunate’s fall and the Japanese emperor’s restoration. It also introduced Japanese art and culture to the west producing a trend called Japonisme by the French, where Western arts began to imitate Japanese styles.
On April 1, 1933, Heinrich Himmler was named Police Commander of Germany. This may have been the worst April Fool’s prank in the history of the world. This appointment consolidated Himmler’s control over almost all aspects of state security, including the SD secret police, the SA internal paramilitary enforcers, and the dreaded SS. Effectively Himmler became the most powerful man in Nazi Germany, Hitler’s right-hand man, and the chief architect of the Holocaust.
Himmler Smiles While Inspecting the Dachau Concentration Camp
A Spirited Game of Sergeants at Adepticon 2023

Big things have come out of our trip to the convention! Look for announcements about new products and other great stuff in the coming months!

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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