Napoleon’s Indestructible General – Marshal Nicolas Oudinot

This French General is famous for the many, many wounds he suffered in battle, but survived. You’ll be amazed the damage this bullet-magnet lived through!

Nicolas Charles Oudinot was born in Paris, 1767 and was born to survive against the odds as just one of nine siblings to reach adulthood. He joined the Kingdom of France’s army in 1784 as an ordinary soldier, then again in 1792 as a battalion commander in the revolutionary French First Republic. His gallant defence of the little fort of Bitsch in 1792 launched his career as one of France’s most irrepressible military leaders in a career spanning the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

1793 – Gunshot Wound

Oudinot suffered his first and most severe wound in the Battle of Hagenau. Colonel Oudinot’s division was ordered to assault an entrenched Austrian position that was apparently so strong the divisional commander, General Burcy, only followed orders to assault the position under threat of arrest. The subsequent attack failed and Burcy fell. The survivors fell back to some woodland, isolated and without orders. They were then assaulted themselves. Without a commander, Colonel Oudinot stepped up to the plate and led a spirited defence. In the process he took a musket ball to the head. Oudinot spent over a year convalescing and would suffer severe headaches for the rest of his days.

1794 – Broken Leg

During the War of Polish Succession, the French were attempting to capture the city of Trier from the Austrians. The Austrians made a brief stand outside the city gates before retreating within. Dashing in pursuit on horseback, it seems Brigadier Oudinot’s horse was shot as he was crossing a bridge. It fell and Oudinot’s leg was broken. Trier was soon captured and Oudinot was provided with the city’s governorship so that his leg could heal. It would take a long time, however, and his headaches restarted with vigour. Oudinot was kept out of action for 12 months.

1795 – 5 Sabre Wounds + 1 Gunshot Wound

During the Action at Mannheim a French Army was outmuscled by a larger Hapsburgian army in fighting outside Mannheim. Oudinot’s brigade took the brunt of the Austrian onslaught but Oudinot acted with his customary brand of leadership from the front, personally trying to rally his troops. The price for this was five sabre wounds and a minor gunshot wound. It is unreported where on his body he was hurt but the wounds were bad enough for him to be left for dead on the battlefield. The Austrians, however, discovered him and took him prisoner for a few months.

1796 – 1 Gunshot Wound + 4 Sabre Wounds

Oudinot was thoroughly mauled in an action during the Rhine Campaign. His division was holding ground against the Austrians and his divisional commander was killed in the fighting, so Oudinet once again took control. His division held off the enemy long enough for other French units to avoid being cut off. Oudinot’s tenacity was rewarded with a gunshot to his right thigh. His left arm was also lacerated three times plus a sabre blow was delivered to his neck. Oudinot survived again, though he was almost as familiar with the infirmary than his infantry.

1799 – Gunshot Wound

By now, it was the War of the Second Coalition and divisional commander Oudinot was fighting around Switzerland and was commended for the aggressive manner he led his troops. In June, though, Hapsburg forces gained the front foot and French forces were pushed back on all sides. Oudinot, retreating with the last ranks of grenadiers, was severely wounded by a musket ball in the chest. He was becoming loath to spend more than the minimum time convalescing, being ever more relied upon as he was. By August, the General was back in action.

1799 – Gunshot Wound

Oudinot’s fiery leadership had impressed his superiors enough for him to be promoted to Chief of Staff, yet he continued to lead his men personally into battle. In a successful assault against Austrian positions, the French suffered just 8 killed and 60 wounded, but one of those had to be General Oudinot who was shot again, this time in the shoulder blade as he led a cavalry charge. He returned to the frontline in September.

1805 – Gunshot Wound

Napoleon’s glorious era had now begun and Oudinot continued to impress with his command of a grenadier division. At Hollabrunn he suffered another gunshot wound to the left thigh. Naturally, he had been at the front with his men as the Grande Armee attempted to stop a Russian army from escaping intact. He retired to Vienna to recover but rushed back to rejoin his grenadiers in time for the great Battle of Austerlitz, even though Napoleon had given temporary command of the grenadiers to another officer to afford Oudinot some time away from the firing line.

Napoleon, left and Oudinot, right

1809 – Gunshot Wound

During the The Battle of Aspern-Essling, Napoleon’s army found itself with its back against the Danube River and cut off from a large number of troops because a bridge crossing had been destroyed. The French were subject to a murderous onrush of Austrian musketmen. Oudinot’s elite grenadiers again took the brunt of the assault and could only hold off the enemy after incredibly hard fighting in which every officer of Oudinot’s was either killed or wounded. Oudinot himself was shot in the arm and had to leave the battlefield. His superior, Marshal Lannes, was killed meaning Oudinot was promoted to corps commander in his stead.

1809 – Gunshot Wound

General Oudinot played a pivotal role in defeating the Hapsburg forces in the Battle of Wagram. Oudinot’s corps was attacking the left flank of the Austrian army when he was grazed by a bullet, which ripped off part of his right ear. Oudinot’s surgeon hastily sewed it up so that he could rejoin the battle. Oudinot’s troops finally captured Wagram and, thus, delivered victory to his Emperor. To show his gratitude, Napoleon elevated him to the rank of Marshal. 

1812 – Grapeshot Wound

By August of this year, Oudinot’s career had plateaued, as had Napoleon’s fortunes; The Marshal was showing his limitations for independent command, and Bonaparte had invaded Russia… Oudinot was tasked with grappling Field-Marshal Wittgenstein’s Russian army but eventually fell back to defend Polotsk against an attack from him instead. Whilst Oudinot was inspecting his troops’ dispositions, he was badly wounded in the shoulder and had to be carried off the battlefield, leaving one of his subordinates to defeat the enemy.  The Marshal retired to Vilna to recuperate and his wife travelled all the way from France to be by his side.

1812 – Gunshot Wound

Because the Russian campaign had turned so disastrously for the French, beginning their infamous retreat in October, Marshal Oudinot hurried back to command his troops whose task was to build and guard a bridge for Emperor Napoleon to escape his pursuers across. In the Battle of Berezina, a Russian force attacked the river crossing and in its defence Oudinot ordered his cavalry to counterattack. As he waited for his troops to form ranks, he took a musket ball to his side. This wound was so bad he was feared dead. Napoleon’s personal surgeon couldn’t even find the ball of lead, despite probing 6 inches (15.2cm) into his body.

1814 – Gunshot Wound

Marshal Oudinot’s final wound of note occurred during the death-throes of Napoleon’s Empire as the Grande Armee struggled to hold off Coalition forces much grander. During the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, Napoleon, despite his army punching above their weight, realised the futility of staggering on. He ordered a withdrawal. Oudinot assumed a task it seemed was his alone – being a bastion for his army. Pursuing Coalition artillery pounded his brigades of infantry and at some point Oudinot was struck by a musket round in the chest, throwing him spread-eagled into the ranks of the Legion of Honour.

“Le Bayard de l’armée français”

Marshal Nicholas Oudinot finally retired in 1830 with over 40 years of hard fighting under his belt. Sources state that this grizzled veteran suffered a total 34 injuries! With typical irony, he went on to live to the ripe old age of 80 years.

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The Most Successful Clubs in France, Ranked (May, 2022)

ARL Football Success Ranking System

Any club which remotely thinks it deserves the label ‘big’ should be playing in the top league of its association, buying the best players and, ideally, holding down a global brand presence. It is a club’s trophy cabinet which really sorts the economy class clubs from the business class, or even private jet ones though.

The ARL Football Success Ranking System for men’s European club football establishes for certain which clubs are the most successful of each nation and in the whole of Europe. It is a system of scoring points to clubs based on what trophies and how many have been won. Different trophies score different points and are based on a ‘glory’ criteria. Only ‘competitive football’ trophies are considered.

France and Ligue 1

As next door neighbours to the ‘Home of Football’, the game in France goes back a long way. At amateur level National Championships were contended from as far back as 1894 and then professionally in Ligue 1 since 1933, but with the usual World War breaks.

France is a curious footballing country. Its top tier league, Ligue 1, may be a level below the world’s top 4 highest quality leagues that are the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A, yet it’s certainly where top level football can be found, which makes sense given its rich footballing history and affluent fanbase.

Yet it’s teams have enjoyed such little success abroad; they’ve only scored 14.5 international points and little prestige to go with it. Ligue 1’s subsequently low international profile is probably explained by the fact is a very egalitarian league. Ten clubs have at least 5 Titles to their name and an impressive 5 clubs have reached the 100 points mark. Yet remarkably, no club has 300+ Success points.

Nevertheless, a lot of memories have been made in this big footballing country and it has given a lot to European football, particularly in the form of many world class players.

Scroll down to view the full table of France’s Most Successful Clubs


Below are France’s 5 ‘Big 100+ Clubs’:

5. Olympique Lyonnais

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OL celebrate winning their 7th consecutive Ligue 1 Title in 2008

Points: 100

Earliest Trophy Won: Coupe de France (CdF), 1964

Latest Trophy Won: CdF and Trophee des Champions (TdC), 2012

Most Successful Manager: Paul Le Guen – 30 points (2002–2005)

An amateur club, Racing Club de Lyon, was founded in 1896 yet wouldn’t commit to professional football. So, after decades of infighting a splinter group eventually formed – Olympique Lyonnais in 1950. It got on the scoreboard with its first major trophy, a French Cup in 1964 and then won a 2nd in ‘67.

In 1987, Lyon was bought by Rhône businessman Jean-Michel Aulas who took control of the club aiming to turn Lyon into an established Ligue 1 side. He launched an ambitious plan, titled OL – Europe, designed to make Olympique Lyonnais a European household name. This plan came to be realised at the turn of the millennium; from 2001-08 Les Gones kept a vice-like grip over Ligue 1 with 7 straight Titles in a row. OL had certainly become a household name by the time it achieved a Title/Cup Double in 2008.

Today, OL is France’s 5th most successful club.

4. AS Monaco FC

As Monaco players celebrate their latest Title win in 2017

Points: 105

Earliest Trophy Won: CdF, 1960

Latest Trophy Won: Coupe de la Ligue (CdlL), 2018

Most Successful Manager: Lucien Leduc – 37 points (1958-63 and 1976-79)

AS Monaco FC hold the distinction of being the only club to represent an entire country. It is the only club in Monaco hence why is plays in the French leagues. Monaco was founded in 1919 as an amalgamation of Monégasque sports clubs. It was invited to join the professional Ligue 2 in 1933 but got relegated back down to amateur status at the first try. It managed to break the door open again in 1948.

Manager Lucien Leduc arrived in 1958 and led Les Monégasques to their first major trophy, a French Cup at the decade’s turn. He went one step better the year after with Monaco’s first Title, then better again with a domestic ‘double’ in ‘63.

Monaco have enjoyed major trophy wins every decade since, including another Title under Leduc in ‘78 and Arsene Wenger in 1988. Monaco is France’s 4th most successful club.

3. AS Saint Etienne

 Rachid Mekhloufi, St E’s all-time leading goalscorer with the Coupe de France, won in 1968

Points: 129

Earliest Trophy Won: Ligue 1 and TdC, 1957

Latest Trophy Won: CdlL, 2013

Most Successful Manager: Robert Herbin – 51 points (1972-83 and 1987-90)

Another French club founded well before WW2 yet which won nothing until well after, Saint Etienne’s glory years centre around the 1960s and ‘70s. The ‘70s decade is its most successful decade to date winning 4 Titles, 4 French Cups and 56 out of a total 129 Success Points. It went into the 1980s to win its final Title regarded as one of France’s biggest clubs, as it still is now.

In 1982, a financial scandal involving a controversial slush fund led to the departure and eventual jailing of long-time president Roger Rocher. Saint-Étienne subsequently suffered a free-fall with the club suffering relegation in the 1983–84 season. Its only major trophy since has been a solitary League Cup in 2013.

Les Verts easily make it into the ‘Big 100+’ and 3rd in the Success Rankings.

2. Olympique de Marseille

Jubilant Marseille players with Marseille’s, and Ligue 1’s, sole Champions League triumph, 1993

Points: 163

Earliest Trophy Won: CdF, 1924

Latest Trophy Won: CdlL, 2012

Most Successful Manager: Gerard Gili – 23 points (1988-90, 1994 and 1995-97)

Marseille are a club tracing its history of winning big things back to the 20th Century’s first half. In the 1920s, Les Phocéens (The Phocaeans) hit the big time by winning 3 French Cups on the trot before a first league Title. By 1972, the club added its 5th Title to an ever bulging trophy cabinet as well as its first League/Cup Double.

By 1986 Bernard Tapie was elected Club President. He promptly assembled Ligue 1’s finest ever squad, packed with stars like Hoddle, Cantona, Deschamps and Desailly. From 1989, Marseille went on a barnstorming run, achieving a 2nd domestic Double then three more Titles immediately after. It was capped with the piece de resistance – a UEFA Champions League in 1993 – Marseille’s and Ligue 1’s only one to date.

Marseille’s latest success has also been a run of 3 trophy wins on the trot, this time League Cups from 2010 to 2012. Today Marseille are now France’s 2nd most successful club, pushed aside by the Paris new kids on the block.

1. Paris Saint Germain FC

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PSG’s incredible quadruple of Ligue 1 Title, French Cup, League Cup, and Champions Trophy, 2018

Points: 215.5

Earliest Trophy Won: CdF, 1982

Latest Trophy Won: Ligue 1, 2022

Most Successful Manager: Laurent Blanc, 54 points (2013-16)

Incredibly the capital of France didn’t have a top football club until Paris Saint Germain was formed in 1970. By 1974, Ligue 1 status was secured. Les Parisiens continued from strength to strength; they won 2 Cups and a Title in the 80s; another 4 Cups and a Title came in the 90s, including beating Rapid Vienna to win a much coveted UEFA trophy – the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996.

PSG struggled to prosper in the dawn of the new century, despite more cup wins. By 2011, the club achieved what all pragmatic clubs salivate at the prospect of; they hooked in a not-poor sheikh with the arrival of new majority shareholders Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). That squad has won 8 out of 10 Titles, 6 out of 9 French Cups and 6 League Cups.

PSG’s outstanding squad of Galacticos has ensured that it largely rules the roost over French football. It’s France’s number 1 most successful club!

Best of the Rest

Brittany’s no.1 club FC Nantes, have enjoyed sporadic success across the decades since the 60s. Known for its jeu à la nantaise (Nantes-style play) it sits just shy of the ‘Big 100’ on 99 points.

FC Girondins de Bordeaux thrived under the ownership of ambitious real estate mogul Claude Bez in the 80s; they ran riot for a while and smashed and grabbed 3 Titles and 2 Cups from ’84 to ’87. They enjoyed another renaissance in the noughties with 4 major trophies, including a ‘Title/League Cup Double’.

Competition KeyPoints
SC: Domestic ‘Super Cup’ (FFF Trophee des Champions)
1
UEFA SC: UEFA Super Cup
2
FIFA CWC: Intercontinental Cup / FIFA Club World Cup
3
LC: League Cup (LdFP Coupe de la Ligue)
4
UEFA ECL: UEFA Europa Conference League (TBC)
4
AC: Association Cup (FFF Coupe de France)
5
UEFA EL: UEFA Cup / Europa League
6
UEFA CWC: UEFA Cup Winners Cup
6.5
UEFA CL: UEFA European Cup / Champions League
8
T: Top Tier League Title (LdFP Ligue 1)
9
PositionClubPoints SubtotalsSuccess Points Total
1Paris Saint GermainSC: 10 x 1 = 10
LC: 9 x 4 = 36
AC: 14 x 5 = 70
UEFA CWC: 1 x 6.5 = 6.5
T: 10 x 9 = 90
+3 (Trebles)
215.5
2Olympique de MarseilleSC: 3 x 1 = 3
LC: 3 x 4 = 12
AC: 10 x 5 =50
CL: 1 x 8 = 8
T: 10 x 9 = 90
163
3AS Saint EtienneSC: 5 x 1 = 5
LC: 1 x 4 = 4
AC: 6 x 5 = 30
T: 10 x 9 = 90
129
4AS Monaco FCSC: 4 x 1 = 4
LC: 1 x 4 = 4
AC: 5 x 5 = 25
T: 8 x 9 = 72
105
5Olympique LyonnaiseSC: 8 x 1 = 8
LC: 1 x 4 = 4
AC: 5 x 5 = 25
T: 7 x 9 = 63
100
6FC NantesSC: 3 x 1 = 3
LC: 1 x 4 = 4
AC: 4 x 5 = 20
T: 8 x 9 = 72
99
7FC Girondins de BordeauxSC: 3 x 1 = 3
LC: 3 x 4 = 12
AC: 4 x 5 = 20
T: 6 x 9 = 54
89
8Stade de ReimsSC: 5 x 1 = 5
LC: 1 x 4 = 4
AC: 2 x 5 = 10
T : 6 x 9 = 54
73
9CO Roubaix TourcoingAC: 1 x 5 = 5
T: 7 x 9 = 63
68
10Lille OSCSC: 1 x 1 = 1
AC: 6 x 5 = 30
T: 4 x 9 = 36
67
11OGC NiceSC: 1 x 1 = 1
AC: 3 x 5 = 15
T: 4 x 9 = 36
52
12Standard Athletic ClubT: 5 x 9 = 4545
13RC Strasbourg AlsaceLC: 4 x 4 = 16
AC: 3 x 5 = 15
T: 1 x 9 = 9
40
14Stade Rennais FCSC: 1 x 1 = 1
AC: 3 x 5 = 15
T: 2 x 9 = 18
34
15Le Havre ACAC: 1 x 5 = 5
T: 3 x 9 = 27
32
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Swiss Air Combat in World War 2

The revealing story of Switzerland’s military operations to defend its airspace from Axis and Allied aircraft during World War Two

Blotted with deathly-black balkenkreuz wing insignia denoting them as war machines of the German Luftwaffe, droves of bulky Bf-110 twin-engined Messerschmitt fighters droned menacingly in circles. A flock of more nimble craft whizzed in to engage them; Bf-109E Messerschmitts, except these Bf-109s were emblazoned with an insignia seldom depicted in the annals of modern warfare, another cross painted the white of peace over the red of warning; these were Swiss fighters defending their homeland. The blaze of tracer round crisscrossing the sky; a loud crack; an oily puffball of smoke, culminating with a stricken BF109’s crash-dive into the tree-topped mountains of the Jura Canton below. 

To Have Peace, One Must Prepare for War

The Swiss played no part in the Second World War, so why did its airforce get into air battles with the Nazis, and even later the Allies?

Since the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1815, Switzerland, that diminutive nation bristling with jagged mountain peaks to deter potential enemies, has stood as a salient of peace when war has raged all around. In 1939, hostilities in Europe recommenced as the German Reich set forth once more in a quest to assert hegemony over its neighbours.

The unbridled military success of the Nazi Third Reich in the early stages of WW2 is well-told; nation after nation crumbled under the might of their hammer blows. While the Swiss hunkered down, Hitler and his generals accepted the status-quo of their neutrality but the dynamic between the two states was a wary one. On one hand, there was an ideological incentive to absorb the Swiss into the burgeoning Nazi empire as it included German speaking people who Hitler described as “a misbegotten branch of our Volk.” Yet Switzerland’s position was optimally balanced; it was sufficiently tough to be conquerable only with some difficulty whilst having insufficient natural resources to make it tempting to try. Also, Switzerland was a valuable wartime trading partner of the Third Reich’s, buying up its plundered gold to fuel the Nazi war-engine.

Switzerland perceived its position akin to that of a hedgehog known to a voracious but well-fed wolf. Its strategic aim was straightforward enough; stay off the German military’s radar whilst maintaining cordial enough relations to keep the supply of natural resources flowing for which it was heavily reliant. For its military, this meant ensuring that it wouldn’t be easy prey if ever the wolf came sniffing around without getting in its face.

Along with all the major European powers, Switzerland established its airforce during WW1. As the storm clouds gathered again in the 1930s the Swiss saw it prudent to develop an effective air-defence force of modern combat planes plus anti air flak units. To that end, modern Morane-Saulnier D‐3800 fighters were procured (a French aircraft built under licence in Switzerland). The latest Messerschmitt Bf-109E was also acquired – an embarrassing sale by the fledgling Nazi Germany in view of later events. By early 1940, the Swiss Luftwaffe was almost 200 aircraft strong including 60-odd Bf-109s and over 30 of the less mechanically sound D-3800s. This against a total 3000 aircraft of the German Luftwaffe – David vs Goliath.

Swiss Army anti-air gunners successfully caught a number of trespassing planes in their crosshairs (pinterest.com)

The trouble between the two states began with the Battle of France from early May, 1940. With the German Luftwaffe swarming over France, it no doubt felt to them that Europe was its playpen with little concern for what the Helvetic Cantons to their south might think of their military largesse. German incursions began to occur frequently and 197 Luftwaffe sorties violated Swiss airspace subsequently.

Luftwaffe Vs Luftwaffe

Intercepting foreign aircraft was initially a real struggle due to their rudimentary command and control assets exposed early on when, for instance, a light bomber crossed into the western Jura sector and almost made it 400 miles (640 km) out at the other side at the eastern sector before being shot down, crashing into Austrian territory.

By June the 1st, Belgium had fallen and the British had scurried back across the ‘moat’ of the Channel to the security of ‘fortress Great Britain’. As the Germans manoeuvred to deliver the coup de grace to France, it brought them into a more scrutinising proximity to Switzerland. Hitler, and Goring – Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe – decided the time was right to test the mettle of the Swiss.

Their fighter squadrons, however, zealously defended their airspace. Between the 10th of May 1940 and 17th of June the Swiss shot down 11 German aircraft while suffering the loss of three of their own aircraft in several skirmishes. As the tally of German planes shot down over Switzerland grew, an aggravated Goring decided to bait the Swiss into a showdown. On June the 4th, dozens of fighters and bombers were sent to fly just on the French side of the border to flit in and out of Swiss airspace with the aim of drawing Swiss fighters into engaging them over France. This would give Goring a propaganda instrument against the Swiss as they could be smeared as aggressors. Three German squadrons crossed the border looking for trouble yet none was encountered. In the afternoon, however, almost 30 Bf-110s plus a single bomber took up position just north of a border town in the Neuchatel Canton to goad the Swiss into action. Eight Messerschmitts and Moranes accompanied by an observation plane attacked the Germans, destroying two of them for the loss of one in return.

Now, Goring had what he wanted. He angrily proclaimed a ‘violation of international law by Swiss fighter planes’ aggressively attacking German aircraft over France. The Swiss were teetering on the edge of war as the krauts turned the screws further. On June the 8th, there were no less than 133 violations into Swiss airspace, mainly over the Porrentruy and Schaffhausen territorial salients that jut into France and Germany respectively. Before noon an unarmed Swiss recce plane was caught unawares and its two aircrew were fatally wounded before the plane crash-landed. That afternoon, the Germans charged over the border with three squadrons of 28 to 32 Bf-110s looking for a fight. They employed the ‘vineyard’ tactic whereby each squadron took up a defensive carousel formation but each at altitude intervals of 2000m. The Swiss rose to the challenge. 10-15 Bf-109s led by no less than three squadron leaders were let loose on the trespassers. As they roared in, fierce and frantic fighting erupted. The Germans had prepared their trap well yet their adversaries, well outnumbered but fighting with their backs against the wall, were drilled to fly their more nimble 109s against the larger, lumbering 110s so as not to be overwhelmed by the swarm of Germans. They held their own. By the fight’s end the Swiss had lost a Bf-109 but downed three German fighters, including one caught by Swiss anti-aircraft flak.

The diplomatic situation was now on a knife edge. Swiss diplomats were struggling to mollify the increasingly incandescent Third Reich leadership. It must be remembered how heavily the Swiss depended on their northern neighbour for material imports. By July the 1st, the Swiss were sent a diplomatic note informing them it would be the last one they would receive in protest over their attacks on German aircraft ‘over French airspace’ and in future ‘other means’ would be used to protect themselves.

Indeed, since June the 8th, Hitler was beginning to eye the Swiss more predatorily. Now at the height of his pride and vanity, the humiliation wrought by the swashbuckling Swiss pilots was enough to make the dictator consider it might we worth dealing with the pesky southerners once and for all. He was especially riled that the BF109 fighter, Nazi Germany’s most important fighter throughout the war, was also being wielded by the Swiss to shoot down his own planes. Hitler ordered his generals to draw up an invasion plan titled Operation Tannenbaum but, of course, this would never be carried out.

As a result of political pressure from within as much as from without, the Swiss military command buckled. General Guisen, the Swiss Commander-in Chief, ordered his squadrons to stand down. Their border patrols were halted and they were ordered to hold fire in all but self-defence. To further appease the Germans, the Swiss returned all interned planes and pilots – a clear violation of the Geneva Convention that stipulated neutral nations must intern military personnel and hardware of either belligerent’s until the war’s end.

But these diplomatic efforts were prudent. By mid July, Britain’s battle for survival began and as fighting intensified over England, Swiss Germanic relations were put on ice. Hitler, now placated, withdrew his Messerschmitts from the border.

As the war raged on, Switzerland showed little bias to either the Axis or Allies whenever their air units violated its borders. British bomber incursions began in 1940, using Swiss airspace as a safe route to reach the Fatherland, and were high level night-time missions that the Swiss lacked the means to intercept. Allied bomber incursions then dwindled for a few years because the Swiss turned out their lights to make navigation through their airspace too difficult, but by 1943, their numbers surged once the RAF was augmented by the mighty USAF with its vast numbers of heavy bombers. Allied incursions occured either deliberately, due to errors of navigation or when stricken aircraft desperate to land chose to be interred by Swiss authorities over being captured as prisoners of war. 

An American P51 Mustang crash-landed in Switzerland, though likely not due to Swiss gunfire. (swissinfo.ch)

Allied Bombs

By this point, numbers of Swiss anti-air flak units had increased and more combat aircraft had been acquired. But more capable Allied aircraft operating in much larger formations than whatever the Third Reich employed made defending Swiss airspace even more daunting, yet the Swiss continued to guard their airspace, though much more passively given the Allies’ vast numbers and strength. The first Allied aircraft to be shot down were two RAF bombers flying low over Swiss territory in July 1943, caught by Swiss anti-aircraft fire. Later in October, an American bomber was shot down and only three of its crew survived. More than 100 B-17s and B-24s bombers in total were either shot down or, more commonly, forced to land – over a thousand allied aircrew interned for the duration of the war. Another source states six Allied aircraft were shot down by Swiss Air Force fighters and four by anti-aircraft cannons, killing 36 Allied airmen. One notable incident was when American P-51 Mustangs escorting a damaged B-17 bomber crossed into Swiss airspace and were confronted by Swiss Bf-109s. Whether the 109s actually attacked the Americans is not known but the P-51 pilots, perhaps unsure of their nationality, perhaps not, attacked the Swiss aircraft, shooting down one and damaging the other.

Much more gravely for the Swiss, the Allies bombed Switzerland repeatedly. The most serious incident to occur was when 50 B-24 Liberators misidentified Schaffhausen as their German target that was actually 146 miles (235 km) to the north. They dropped sixty tons of bombs on the town. Although an air raid alarm sounded, it had been set off so many times prior without any attack that complacency had set in and the locals failed to take cover. A total of 40 people were killed and about 270 injured. Other cities hit during the war included Geneva, Basel, Zurich and the historic town of Stein am Rhein. Officially speaking, these were all tragic accidents and that Swiss diplomats complained loudly over and received grovelling apologies from the Allied high command in response. Alternative narratives suggest that at least some of these bombings were quite deliberate in order to punish the Swiss for attacking Allied aircraft and to send a warning to halt their economic and industrial co-operation with the Axis powers. It was known, for example, that Switzerland were allowing trains to transport war matériel between Germany and Italy. 

Allies bombed Swiss towns on a total of 70 occasions, killing 84 civilians. In the end, the Americans paid the Swiss over $18 million in compensation for these ‘accidents’.

The aftermath of the Allied bombing of Schaffhausen where some 400 bombs were dropped (swissinfo.ch)

So, the war was not a peaceful period for the Swiss even if they were ‘at peace’. They demonstrated to the world that their placid stance to war was not one borne of meekness. Perhaps one day they will have to show their resolve to protect themselves again.

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10 Prehistoric Giants of The Animal Kingdom

From dragonflies the size of large birds to sharks the size of large whales, here are the 10 most awesome giants from prehistory.

Archelon 

Just the head of this two-tonne monster was 1 metre long. (youtube.com)

With the Greek roots of its name meaning ‘chief of the turtles’, the Archelon glided across the temperate oceans of the Campanian Period possessing the dimensions of a large, round garden pool.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle of today can measure in at 2.1m (7 ft) long and 650kg (1433 lb) heavy. The Archelon absolutely dwarfed it. The largest specimen found, ‘Brigitta’, measures 4.6m (15 ft) from head to tail, 4m (13 ft) from flipper to flipper and weighed around 2.2 tonnes (4,900 lb), with the head alone 1 metre long. 

Achelons could’ve been found on soft, muddy sea floors moving slowly to use their beaks to crush an abundance of large molluscs and crustaceans, some measuring up to 1.2m (4 ft) in diameter. Alternatively, these sea monster’s huge flippers could have made them excellent long-distance swimmers with sharp beaks handy for shearing flesh from larger fish and reptiles, as well as soft-bodied creatures like the squid, jellyfish, or even other Archelon.

Archelon eventually died out mainly due to a cooling of the oceans. An increase of predation from emerging mammalian species on its hatchlings contributed to its eventual demise as well, perhaps 70 millions years ago.

Deinosuchus

This giant croc hunted large dinosaurs (hakaimagazine.com)

Today, crocodiles and alligators are the kings of the reptile world, but in the Campanian Period the Alligator’s largest ever ancestor could grow to more than half the length of a tennis court.

The largest ‘gators come out at 4.2 m (14 ft) long and weigh 473 kg (1,043 lb). Scientists guess the largest Deinos, by contrast, grew to a whopping 10-12m (35-39ft) long and 8.5 tonnes heavy based on a skull alone measuring 1.5m (4.8ft). So, it’s no surprise Deinos were the largest crocodilians of all time.

Deinosuchus, which translates from Greek as ‘terrible crocodile’, would’ve resembled the Alligator closely. With massive incisors towards the front of its maw and blunter teeth towards the back for crushing, Deinosuchus was the apex predator of its age, capable of an amazingly powerful bite force of anything from 18,000 newtons (N) up to 102,803 N (compared to a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s bite of just 35,000 N). As such it probably preyed on large ornithopods like the Kritosaurus around brackish water bays where other large predators avoided. And they’d ambush prey similarly to alligators, even utilising the dreaded ‘barrel roll’ method of killing. It might have also hunted giant sea turtles and large fish in coastal waters. Make no mistake, Deinosuchus was king. 

It eventually died during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

Titanoboa

The one-tonne snake (wired.com)

The giant of the snake world was the Titanoboa and it makes the modern Anaconda look like a grass snake by comparison.

Titanoboa lived in the first ever rainforests to exist in South America, specifically around coastal swampy areas on the proto Caribbean Sea. Its fossil remains were found in the northern coastal region of Colombia Existing during the Paleocene-Period.

Whereas our heaviest snake, the Green Anaconda, can be up to 5.21 m (17.1 ft) long and 70 kg (154 lb) heavy, the Titanoboa is estimated to have been around 12.8 m (42 ft) and weighed about 1.1 tonnes (2,500 lb). One full scale replica model measured a colossal 14.6m – over 1.5 London Buses long!

Although assumed to have been an apex predator, preying on crocodilians of the age, experts now believe its diet consisted more of aquatic creatures like 3m (10 ft) long lungfish, a dietary trait unique to Titanoboa among all boas. Because of its sheer weight, moving around on land would’ve been hard, and among the tree canopies out of the question, hence why it was mostly water bound.

Vorombe Titan

84 Prehistoric Madagascar ideas | prehistoric, prehistoric animals, extinct  animals
Vorombe Titan was the very largest of the massive Elephant Birds native to Madagascar.

The Vorombe Titan was the largest ever bird to exist and belonged to the ratite group of flightless birds with long, thin legs. It inhabited Madagascar just 1 millenia ago.

The largest bird to exist today, the Ostrich, grows up to 2.75 metres (about 9 feet) tall and weighs more than 150 kg (330 pounds). By comparison, the Vorombe may not have towered over the Ostrich at 3m, yet was much bulkier with a thicker neck, great hulking legs, and feet resembling more a T Rex’s than a big bird’s. And it was more than four times heavier at 650kg (1500 lbs). One specimen even reached 860 kg (1,900 lb) in weight. It was so enormous, its weight matched that of the smallest Sauropod dinosaurs. Its eggs were like large footballs.

Fortunately, with its giant talons and daggered beak, it was a herbivore and fed on fruit among the forests of Madagascar rather than early human settlers. As these people spread and multiplied across the large island, however, they preyed on these giant avians and destroyed their habitats from 600 AD until their eventual demise as late as 1200 AD. 

Griffinflies

One of nature’s largest ever bugs discovered (abc.net.au)

Greater levels of atmospheric oxygen in prehistory meant insects could also grow to ginormous dimensions. Meganeuropsis aka the Griffinfly is one of the largest insects ever discovered.

It resembled modern dragonflies/damselflies, with their two sets of wings and long thin bodies.

With the largest flying insects today, the Giant Dobsonfly boasting a 20cm (8 in) wingspan, the Griffinfly was more like the size of a large Sparrowhawk with one specimen measuring a 71cm (28 in) wingspan, and body length of 43 centimetres (17 in).

This huge bug flittered about in the Permian period 300-250 million years back at a time before dinosaurs truly ruled the world. It’s presumed to have been carnivorous like its modern descendent.

Arctotherium

Giant jaguars, colossal bears done in by deadly combo of humans and heat |  Science | AAAS
Arctotherium won the arms race to dominate the food chain by simply outgrowing its competition (science.org)

The largest ever bear lived between 2.5-1 million years ago after its ancestors migrated down to South America after the formation of the Panamanian isthmus. Arctotherium, meaning ‘Bear Beast’ would’ve been able to sniff at the cranium of a tall man whilst on all fours before presumably devouring him.

The largest bear and land carnivore alive today, the Polar Bear, can be as big as 350–700 kg (770–1,540 lb), averaging 450kg (990lbs) and can stand on their hind legs to be almost 3 metres (10 foot). The Arctotherium would’ve stood even bigger, at 3.4–4.3 metres (11–14 ft) and weighed in at 1.6-1.7 tonnes (3,501 to 3,856 lb). 

Arctotherium’s size is explained by an evolutionary drive to outgrow its competition in order to secure the largest carcasses against hunters like the Smilodon Sabercat.

Paraceratherium

Paraceratherium was as tall as a Giraffe and heavy as a fully loaded bus. (thoughtco.com)

Now to the largest land mammal ever. The Paraceratherium brings to mind more the Star Wars AT-AT walkers than the largest land mammal today, the African Elephant.

This giant hornless rhino lived during the Oligocene epoch 34–23 million years ago. Incomplete fossils make its size hard to exact but estimates put its shoulder height between 4.8 – 7.4 metres (15.7 – 24.3 feet). Its weight was probably 15 to 20 tonnes (33,000 to 44,000 lb). The long neck supported a skull alone that was 1.3 metres (4.3 ft) long. This compares to a Giraffe’s height of 6 metres (20ft) and a male African Elephant’s weight of 6,8 tonnes (15,000 lbs) 

They ranged across deserts and subtropical environments in small herds browsing on a variety of flora, safe in the knowledge there was barely a creature that could even gnaw on its legs – although evidence suggests the 10 metre long Astorgosuchus tried, and their young were obviously more vulnerable.

Gigantopithecus Blacki   

A truly giant ancestor of ours (newscientist.com)

The largest ever known primate existed 2 to 0.3 million years ago during the Pleistocene period, and whilst it stood erect you might feel more like you were staring up at King Kong less an Orangutan that is its closest relative.

Size estimates are pretty speculative based on teeth and jaw remains only, yet Gigantopithecus Blacki could grow up to 3.5 metres (11.5ft) standing and could be over half a tonne (1200lb) in weight. This compares to the largest primate alive today, male Eastern Lowland Gorillas which grow to 140–205.5 kg (309–453 lb) and 1.7 m (5.6 ft) upright.

This hulking giant was a herbivore that lived on a diet of fruit and leaves amongst the dense, humid tropical forests of modern-day southern China. The males’ larger size was due to a fierce competition for mates. The species’ size meant the large sabre toothed tigers of the time posed little threat to fully grown Blacki.

They died out 300,000 years ago because their forests retreated southward. This abandoned them to a dwindling diet and possible predation by Homo Erectus.

Pelagornis sandersi

Gliding vast distances across the oceans at speeds up to 37 mph (60 kmh), the Pelagornis Sandersi is the largest ever bird capable of flight and lived approximately 25 million years back in the Oligocene period. This bird is most closely related to today’s Great Wandering Albatross, however compared to the Albatross with its wingspan of up to 3.7 m (12ft), the Sandersi’s wingspan was so broad it exceeded the height of the tallest giraffes at 6.1 – 7.4 m (17 – 24 ft). It also weighed at least 48 pounds (21.8 kilograms), the same as a Roe Deer, so was too bulky to get airborne by any other method than launching itself off sea-cliff edges.

The Sandersi lived similarly to the Albatross in that it likely preyed on fish and squid close to the surface. Unlike the Albatross, however, it likely couldn’t touch down on water, thus spending more time airborne.

Megalodon

The notorious Megalodon, the ‘whale hunter’. (thenews.com)

The Otodus Megalodon is perhaps the most terrifying giant of all in this list; a swift sailing behemoth, with the proportions similar to a Sperm Whale yet with a gaping mouth filled with razor-edged teeth like that of its descendent, the Great White Shark. And the Ancient Greek translation of its name, ‘Big Tooth’ was apt; Meg’s teeth could protrude up to 18 cm (7 in).

Estimations of the largest Megalodon sharks are anything between 10 to an awesome 25 metres (32 to 82 ft) in length and 27.4 to 59.4 metric tons in weight. This compares to Great White sharks that grow up to just 6.1 m long. Even the largest fish alive today, the Whale Shark, comes in at 15 m (49 ft).

Estimates suggest they could exert a bite force of up to 108,500 to 182,200 newtons – that’s 18 tonnes per square inch! Together with their size and strength, Megalodon is likely the most supreme predator to ever exist, and in the 23 – 4 million years ago it prowled the seas none of the giant whale ancestors would’ve been too much to take down.

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Model Citizen Returned to Prison, 2014

THE TIME THE US JUSTICE SYSTEM TRIED TO RE-IMPRISON A MODEL CITIZEN THEY HAD RELEASED 90 YEARS EARLY.

It was just another day for Rene Lima-Marin in his job helping to transform city skylines by installing glass windows into skyscrapers until an unknown caller buzzed his mobile phone. The woman on the line said she was from the Denver Public Defender’s office. As she talked Lima-Marin could feel his breathing turn shallow, his muscles tighten and his mind start to race.

For the slim Latino man, with his hair shaved high on the back and sides and an immaculately groomed goatee, the day had come he feared for years would. Now all those dreams and plans lay shattered like a windowpane that slipped from his grasp.

The story started fourteen years before when 22-year-old Lima-Marin and an accomplice were sentenced for committing robbery, burglary, and kidnapping during a series of video store robberies. These were to be served consecutively so, the US legal system being what it was, effectively locked the two up and threw away the key.

The sentence was a whopping 98 years. It was basically game over for the two young men.

Yet maybe Lima-Marin had an angel guardian looking out for him or something. The court clerk mistakenly wrote ‘concurrently’ not ‘consecutively’ next to his sentence and Lima-Marin discovered he only had a nine-year stint to do (not so his accomplice, however). Realising someone had blundered, he kept shtum and did his time.

2008 came around and Lima-Marin heard the main gate of Colorado’s Crowley County Correctional Facility slam behind him and his life, rebooted, in front of him. Was he going to take his second chance to live a good life as a rehabilitated man or would he slip back into his old ways?

He married his old girlfriend and became a father to her one-year-old son. He found a job, and then a better union job working construction on skyscrapers in the centre of Denver. The family went to church. They took older relatives in at their new, bigger house in a nice area of Aurora. They then had a child together, another boy.

Lima-Marin feared that the justice system would discover its mistake and destroy what he was building. But the years passed by and the fear receded as his life entered the humdrum slipstream of work, church and football training for his sons. After six years, this was surely proof he was rehabilitated.

The phone call from the Public Defender’s Office informed him that the Justice Department had discovered their mistake and, gut-wrenching though it was, he was going to have to go back to serve out the rest of his life long sentence.

How on earth was Lima-Marin going to break the news to his family? How were they all going to bear the heartache?

Lima Marin embraces his son while in prison (denverpost.com)

From there his fortunes fluctuated like a heart monitor does for someone whose life hangs on a knife-edge; he went back to prison but, after a campaign for clemency lasting years, the state governor pardoned him.

Lima-Marin’s wife’s euphoric high upon hearing this seesawed to a scream of frustration when the news was followed up with the fact her husband had to fight his case against illegal immigration in an immigration centre.

The ending however was a happy one for Lima-Marin. He overcame the final hurdle by winning his case and walked away a free man, for good, from Aurora’s detention facility in 2018.

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Child Drowned for an Hour but Survives, 1986

Read of how a little girl survived a 1-hour submersion in freezing creek water one Summer in Utah.

On a hot June day the birds were singing, the bees buzzing, and mum’s voice on the phone wafted through the warm air, so warm after a late start to Summer.

Her reassuring tones set her blond-haired toddler at ease to range the backyard’s expanse and soak up its lush colours.

The green foliage was offset by a beautifully painted butterfly, drifting into focus for the keen-eyed child.

Two and a half-year-old Michelle Funk’s eyes sparkled in awe and the eyes on the butterfly’s wings waved back. She lunged to grope the floating beauty to hold it. The butterfly flittered on towards the sound of gushing water.

Could the intrepid infant reach the insect before the forest of grass which marked the garden boundary end the chase? Her mother’s voice was now almost drowned out by the babble of icy cold water below.

She got her break; in a chance moment the butterfly dipped in time for Michelle to swing her little arms up and capture her quarry.

But the ground treacherously slipped downwards; her face an instant of triumph turned to alarm as she vanished under the grass blades towards the water’s edge …Michelle’s alert older brother hared back to the house.

At the Bells Canyon Creek-bank Michelle tumbled down through the grass then plunged over the edge. There was no one to respond to her gurgled cries. As the warm sun rays glistened off the mountain meltwater Michelle slipped under, lost.

Michelle drowned in the Bells Canyon Creek for over an hour (thisisgoodgood.com)

The minutes ticked by; her skin now a ghostly white and her flame barely flickering. After 66 minutes a rescuer finally hauled her blue, lifeless form from the 4 Celcius (40 Fahrenheit) water. Could she be saved at all? If there was even the smallest chance it was worth the try.

They rushed her to hospital where a Dr Bolte was waiting. The extreme time Michelle had been submerged had surely drowned her. Many doctors, knowing how long she’d been submerged, would have declared her dead on arrival — indeed some of them thought Bolte crazy for even entertaining the notion she had a decent chance.

Yet one factor was in her favour; instead of sealing her fate, the icy submersion had slowed down her metabolism to the extent her body’s oxygen needs were suspended. What’s more by happenstance, Dr Bolte had been preparing for such an emergency for months. He and his team went straight to work.

They started injecting warm fluids into Michelle’s veins and stomach and squeezed warmed air through a tube into her lungs, but three hours after the child had fallen into the creek she was still lifeless. Meanwhile, Michelle’s parents and doctors feared her resuscitation would merely bring her back to a vegetative state. They persevered.

However it was when her body reached 25 Celcius (77 Fahrenheit) that Bolte allowed himself to think there was hope for the poor little thing yet. She gasped; moments later she opened her eyes; then her pupils, responding to the bright lights in the operating room, narrowed — a sign of returning brain function. And then, to everyone’s cheers and high fives, a faint heartbeat was detected.

Michelle was saved and made a full recovery with no lasting cognitive damage. Even the staid Journal of the American Medical Association described the case of Michelle Funk as “miraculous’’.

Her treatment went on to form the protocol for treating previously deadly cases of drowning.

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US Airforce Almost Nukes Spain, 1966

The time the US accidently dropped not one, but three nuclear devices on Spanish soil.

The imagery of a nuclear fireball inspires awe and terror in equal doses; we all understand the capacity a massive ball of rising red flame, seen on the horizon, has to turn flesh to dust and obliterate anything in its proximity. The nuclear bomb’s destructive energy is a byword for the collapse of civilisation into Armageddon.

Thus handling nuclear weapons is delicately done with many safeguards …but accidents are inevitable.

It was January 1966 and the Cold War was at such an icy stage US B52 strategic bombers were being kept constantly airborne, ready to rain death and destruction on the Soviet populace at a moment’s notice.

These big bombers were armed with four B28 nuclear bombs with a total explosive force of 6,000,000 tonnes of TNT; if any airborne accident were to occur the result of those nukes being destroyed could potentially kill millions and make vast tracts of the earth below uninhabitable.

The day was 17th of January and one of those massive, lumbering eight-engined birds vectored into rendezvous with a KC135 air tanker at 9,450m (31,000ft).

They were currently over Spain as the B52 took on its first of two refuels as part of a mammoth flight from its airbase in North Carolina, across the Atlantic and on to the Adriatic Sea, before returning.

The B52 came in behind the tanker, but too fast and the two aircraft collided with the nozzle of the refuelling boom striking the top of the B-52 fuselage.

The airborne fuel tanker erupted into a massive fireball, killing all four of its crew and three of seven of the bomber’s crew, with the remaining three bailing out in time.

Yet, four nuclear bombs plummeted down with the plane wreckage. One of the highly lethal weapons plunged into the sea but the other three smashed into land.

Was Spain’s Andalusia province transformed into a radiated wasteland? Two of the bombs’ conventional explosives did detonate on impact, contaminating 1.0 sq mi (2.6 square kilometres) with radioactive material yet safeguards were in place to block a nuclear fusion reaction that would release the bombs’ destructive energy.

The Andalusians came very close to utter catastrophe and still had a serious incident on their hands.

The US Govt took responsibility for the recovery of the nukes and cleaned up the affected area by removing 6000 barrels of contaminated soil to the USA.

Soon after the Spanish government formally banned U.S. flights over its territory that carried such weapons, and such long-range B52 sorties were ended two years later.

Where the bombs fell in Spain (dailymail.co.uk)
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The Craziest Day in English Football History

The hectic goal-fest of Boxing Day, 1963 when 66 goals were scored in 10 games in the English top flight Division 1 is probably the most epic day in English football history. Read about the time records were broken and legends were made.

The beautiful game has a reputation in some quarters for not being the most exciting sport because it’s perhaps the only sport where matches can sometimes be played without a single game point being scored.

Yet football often throws up games of breathless action and Boxing Day 1963 served up a whole day of them with 66 goals in just 10 games.

It was the day after Christmas in 1963, still three years to go before England’s first and, to date, only World Cup triumph. Everton were the English Division 1 (precursor to the Premier League) title holders and AC Milan were the current European champions. On that day 20 of the 22 Division 1 clubs were going to attempt to warm the hearts and bodies of spectators across the land, numbed as they were by artic temperatures during the ‘Big Freeze of 63’, with an exhilarating 90 minutes.

Firstly, Liverpool, who would go on to be crowned league champions that season, thrashed Stoke City 6-1 at home with club legend Roger Hunt scoring four goals. Hunt went on be a record goalscorer for ‘The Reds’ and played an integral part of England’s 1966 World Cup campaign.

Matt Busby’s Man United, meanwhile, were thrashed 6-1 away by Burnley with four of their goals coming from striker Andy Lochhead. The Guardian wrote: “The Clarets were organised and compact as they set about dismantling the FA Cup holders, and it was down to ‘Morgan’s mastery’ that a series of frustrated fouls ultimately resulted in a red card for United defender Paddy Crerand.”

Entertaining draws were played out by Sheffield Utd, who fought back to draw after going 3-0 down to Nottingham Forest, and cross-town rivals Wolves and Aston Villa also played out a 3-3 draw.

West Bromwich Albion and UEFA Cup Winners Cup holders Tottenham Hotspur fought out an eight goal thriller after Spurs let a 4-2 lead slip from their grasp to end the game even-stevens. Days earlier, West Brom’s players had gone on strike when they were told that they had to wear shorts to train in freezing conditions during the exceptionally artic winter of that year, but peace was reached ahead of their Boxing Day fixture and the Daily Mirror wrote that “the only crisis at the Hawthorns [West Brom stadium] was in the Spurs defence.

Chelsea’s away victory over Blackpool meanwhile was won at a trot, with ‘the Blues’ scoring five goals to Blackpool’s one.

Then there was the game with West Ham v Blackburn. ‘the Blues and Whites’ showed why they were current league leaders by demolishing the London side a whopping eight goals to two which is their highest ever away win. Both England footballer Fred Pickering and Republic of Ireland international Andy McAvoy scored hattricks that afternoon and McAvoy went on to be the joint top goalscorer for that season. A reporter summed up the game thus: “Everything West Ham did was tinged with misfortune. Everything Blackburn did was coldly calculated and correct.

West Ham goalkeeper Jim Standen trudges away as he conceded eight against Blackburn (dailymail.co.uk)

Even that game was topped, however, when Fulham destroyed visitors Ipswich Town 10-1. ‘The Tractor Boys’ had been crowned English champions just 18 months prior, but in this game Bobby Howfield scored a hattrick and Scottish International Graham Leggat scored four goals including a hattrick chalked up in an incredible three minutes. That was a record fastest hattrick in Division 1 history. Fulham boss Bedford Jezzard said after the game: “It must have been those lovely turkeys we gave ’em for Christmas. From now on, they get one every week.” Ipswich chairman John Cobbold could only retort: “It could have gone either way, until the match began.” That result is both Fulham’s best, and Ipswich’s worst ever result respectively to date.

Newspaper report of Fulham’s historic win (fulhamfc.com)

The two other results were Leicester City’s 2-0 win over Everton and Sheffield Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat of Bolton Wanderers.

That afternoon’s incredible haul of 66 goals scored in a single round of league fixtures compares to a Premier League record of 44 goals. It was a crazy day. Tottenham centre forward Terry Dyson, who played in his side’s 4-4 draw with West Bromwich Albion, remarked: “It was a bizarre afternoon of football, without a doubt.

Even more remarkably, two days later the reverse fixtures were played out and some of those badly mauled teams turned the tables on their tormentors.

Despite how dominant their opponents had been on Boxing Day, West Ham would hit back at Blackburn with a 3-1 win, Ipswich overcame Fulham 4-2, and Man Utd retaliated against Burnley with a 5-1 thrashing. And Bolton Wanders also bounced back to beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 to cancel out their previous result.

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Drunken Aviator Lands in New York Street 1956

In perhaps the greatest ‘hold my beer’ escapade to date, Thomas Fitzpatrick stole a plane to prove he could fly from Jersey to New York in just 15 minutes. Read about how he won his crazy bet.

Bulky sedans rumbled sedately along the right-angled streets, and haggard creatures of the night here and there passed under the patchy street lighting past rows of rectilinear brownstone tenements.

It was the witching hour on St Nics Avenue in New York City’s heart. Of course in the city that never sleeps life still stirred, and it was about to get a serious wake up call.

Jimmy was wiping down the bar waiting for the last of his patrons to stumble out after a long night. The edge of his lips curled up with a wry smile; earlier that night one of his favourite patrons, a gung-ho flyboy named Thomas ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick made a bet that he could fly from New Jersey to New York City in 15 minutes. ‘I’ll land out there to prove it, how ‘bout that?’ slurred Fitz. ‘OK ya crazy, drunken Irishman’ laughed Jimmy ‘Hold my beer, will ya?.’ And, with a leery grin, Fitzpatrick plodded out the door.

Good laughs, thought Jimmy.

That was almost an hour ago. A barking dog out the window broke his reverie and Jimmy looked up to see a late night walker and his dog facing opposite directions; the man was pulled back by his leashed dog.

The mut was staring back up the street and whined, its head tilted with that gaze of rapt concentration only a dog can do. “Come on!” the guy bawled, looking bewildered.

Then Jim detected the sound of an engine, but it was no automobile; it was more of a deep buzz, and it quickly got louder.

That sound was one of a small plane approaching and, crazy as it sounds, Fitzpatrick was making his approach to land the thing on the Avenue.

One or two cars screeched to a halt as the small aircraft buzzed overhead. Bedroom lights flicked on and anyone quick enough caught a fleeting glimpse of Fitzpatrick as he zipped by.

Jimmy slammed the door open in time to witness, mouth agape, the plane touchdown and whizz past his bar before coming to a stop.

So Fitz won the bet after all!

The stolen plane on St Nics Avenue, complete with chalk outline (cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com)

After leaving the bar, Fitzpatrick had hightailed it 15 miles across the state line to Teterboro Airport and there, stole an aircraft.

What the wager was is unknown but he won his bet and his antics made newspaper headlines. The New York Times called the flight a “feat of aeronautics” and a “fine landing”, and a plane parked in the middle of the street made for quite a sight in the morning.

For his illegal flight, he was fined $100 after the plane’s owner refused to press charges.

Incredibly Fitzpatrick performed the same stunt again in 1958 because in another bar someone questioned the story. For that, he was sentenced to 6 months incarceration, blaming his antics on the “lousy drink

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Train Crash for Publicity, 1896

What’s the best way to promote train travel to Texas? Stage a train crash for people to come and see there, of course! Read about what happened on the big day when the guy in charge of health and safety took the day off.

We know that one to two hundred years back, people’s faith in God and hardy living standards made them much more immune to the seductions of health and safety; they could be pretty casual about accidents occurring and should someone get killed in an construction project, for example, then that was what your faith was for.

It was 1896 USA and a marketing guru was tasked with promoting train ticket sales to Texas. What genius idea did he pull out of the bag? To stage a train crash, of course!

Sounding like a scene that should’ve made it into ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’, the stunt was be held in the specially built town of Crush and the idea was to sell tickets so that people could visit the state and make a jamboree of it, with amusements and sideshows to the main event – 50,000 people attended.

The organisers weren’t dismissive of health and safety however, they took it seriously big time. Spectators to the crash rail track had to stay a whole 180m (200yards) back and reporters half that – I bet they couldn’t even make out the names on the drivers’ name badges they were so safely far away.

A specially built track was laid and the stage was set; two 32 tonne steam locomotives would be driven at each other, with time given for the crews to jump off before collision.

A local newspaper report described the scene: “The rumble of the two trains, faint and far off at first, was like the gathering force of a cyclone…They rolled down at a frightful rate of speed… Nearer and nearer as they approached the fatal meeting place the rumbling increased, the roaring grew louder

Then the trains impacted: “…a crash, a sound of timbers rent and torn, and then a shower of splinters… There was just a swift instance of silence and then, as if controlled by a single impulse, both boilers exploded simultaneously and the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and steel varying in size from a postage stamp to half of a driving wheel…

Debris was blown hundreds of metres into the air and panic quickly broke out as the crowd turned and ran. Some of the debris came down among the spectators, killing three people and injuring dozens.

Crowds clamber around the train wreck of America’s deadliest ever stunt (southernmysteries.com)

In the aftermath the train company involved had to pay out tens of thousands of dollars in compensation to the crash victims as headlines of the spectacular event flashed across the country.

Ultimately, the company profited enormously from the botched stunt, however, which goes to show that infamy is often as good as publicity.

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