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Things I didn’t know: Frenchmen in the British army, ancient British coal mining, & the Marine sniper school dropout rate

I only learned recently that in the 18th century British army, 'About one in ten colonels serving between 1713 and 1763 were of Huguenot origin, and they were still better represented in the lower ranks of officer.'


I only learned recently that in the 18th century British army, “About one in ten colonels serving between 1713 and 1763 were of Huguenot origin, and they were still better represented in the lower ranks of officer.” (John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783.)

I also read that between mid-March and mid-July of 1918 — that is, about four months — the Germans lost nearly a million men in their big offensive.

In other British military news, I also learned recently that the British ambassador to Iraq during World War II was named Cornwallis.

Another World War II bit: I don’t think I knew that Standartenführer Joachim Peiper,  who oversaw the Malmedy massacre of American PoWs in December 1944, had previously been an aide de camp to the fiend Heinrich Himmler.

From left field: I’ve also learned that the Romans oversaw coal mining in England in the 2nd century AD. I knew that tin was a very early export from the island, and also I think bronze. Ever since I was in the town of Mousehole (pronounced a lot like “Mosul”) I’ve wondered how much Phoenician or Arab trading occurred in SW Cornwall, and how much linguistic influence they may have had there. Anyone know?

Meantime, back in the US of A, an interesting milestone: In 1890, the United States imported large amounts of fish from Europe for the first time. (This was done because the herring stock in the western North Atlantic was depleted by industrialized fishing using steam engines and machine-made nets.) It is interesting to me that this occurred at about the same time the American frontier was declared closed.

I also read recently that the dropout rate at the Marine Scout Sniper Course is 50 to 60 percent. Still, not as high as SEAL school, I am told.

Speaking of the Marines, here is the odd story of how a Marine terminal lance corporal once stole an A-4 Skyhawk—and then, after flying it out over the California coast, returned to base.

And how did this guy wander into the section of Wright-Pat where they keep the alien spaceships?

I also learned (from a review in the new issue of Journal of Military History) that two weeks after Gen. Lesley McNair was killed by friendly bombing in Normandy, his only son, who was chief of staff of the 77th Division, also was killed.

And here is something I still don’t know: How are those manmade Chinese islands gonna survive the first big typhoon? Verily, the works of man will crumble under the wrath of the skies. Anyone got any answers?

Photo credit: Rygel, M.C./Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1

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