Oct 222014
 

George Blake (born George Behar on 11 November 1922) was a British spy and was uncovered in 1961 as a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison on this day in 1966 and fled to the USSR, as was.

Born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1922, George was the son of a Dutch mother from a Protestant background and an Egyptian Jewish father who was a naturalised British subject…. not too complicated a start in life! He was apparently named George after King George V. His father, Albert Behar, fought against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War despite his origins in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and received awards from the French and British for his gallantry. Albert died in the Netherlands in 1936 and George was sent to live with relatives in Egypt, where he continued his education at the English School, Cairo.

As a teenager, George was a runner for the anti-Nazi Dutch resistance under the nom de guerre of Max de Vries. He was interned but released temporarily because of his age. He would have been re-interned on his eighteenth birthday had he not escaped to London, disguised as a monk! In England, he anglicised his name and became George Blake, working for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). He intended to marry an MI6 secretary, Iris Peake, but her family did not allow their marriage because of Blake’s Jewish background.

GeorgeBlakeFor the duration of World War II, Blake’s work involved translating German documents captured by British agents and interrogating Germans captured in France following the D-Day landings. In 1955, he was sent by MI6 to work as a case officer in Berlin, where his task was to recruit Soviet officers as double agents. He made contact with the KGB and informed them of the details of British and American operations. In the course of almost a decade, he betrayed details of almost forty MI6 agents to the Soviets, destroying most of MI6’s operations in Eastern Europe.

In 1961, Polish defector Michael Goleniewski exposed him as a Soviet agent and George was arrested when he arrived in London from Lebanon. In May 1961, after a trial at the Old Bailey, he was sentenced to the maximum term of 14 years consecutively on each of three counts of spying for a potential enemy and 14 years concurrently on both the two remaining counts – a total of 42 years imprisonment – by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Parker of Waddington.

Five years later, on 22 October 1966, Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison with the assistance of three men whom he met in jail: Sean Bourke and two anti-nuclear campaigners, Michael Randle and Pat Pottle. Blake fled to the USSR, divorced his wife – with whom he had three children – and started a new life. He is pictured, right, in Moscow in 1975.

As far as I can make out, he is still living in Moscow, Russia, on a KGB pension. He denies being a traitor, insisting that he never felt British: ‘To betray, you first have to belong. I never belonged.’ The question is: does George belong in the Blake surname study, Elizabeth?!

Oct 212014
 

…..the signal sent from Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory before the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, the most significant naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, establishing British supremacy at sea for many years thereafter. The British fleet, led by Lord Nelson (1758-1805), attacked an allied fleet of Spanish and French ships off Cape Trafalgar (east of Cádiz) with the intention of preventing them from passing through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. Nelson’s tactics outwitted the commander of the Spanish and French fleet, Villeneuve (1763-1806), and the British won the day.HMSVic

At the height of the battle, a musket shot fatally wounded Lord Nelson and his illustrious career was brought to an untimely end. As he lay dying in the cockpit of the HMS Victory, frequent reports on the progress of the battle were brought to him by Captain Thomas Hardy. His last request was said to be ‘Kiss me Hardy’ before he died with the words, ‘Now I am satisfied. Thank God, I have done my duty.’ I think perhaps these words did not relate directly to kissing Captain Hardy but who knows….

Trafalgar Square in London, dominated by Nelson’s Column, commemorates the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and today is celebrated as Trafalgar Day with parades and other ceremonies.

There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of plaques around the United Kingdom (and further afield) commemorating Lord Nelson in various ways from his birthplace to where he lived in 1798!

BirthplaceLordN

LondonLordN

Oct 202014
 

Guildford FourThe Guildford pub bombings occurred on 5 October 1974. Two pubs in Guildford, Surrey were targeted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who detonated a six-pound gelignite bomb in each location. The pubs were selected as they were popular with British Army personnel stationed at the barracks in Pirbright. Sixty-five people were wounded and five people died in the bombing (four soldiers and one civilian).

At 20:30, the bomb in The Horse and Groom detonated, killing a 22-year-old local plasterer, Paul Craig, as well as two members of the Women’s Royal Army Corps and two Scots Guards. The other pub – The Seven Stars – was evacuated after the first blast and therefore, there were no serious injuries when the second bomb detonated at 21:00.

The bombings contributed to the speedy and unchallenged passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in November 1974, which were used by the Metropolitan Police to draw false confessions from the ‘Guildford Four’.

The bombings took place at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. The Metropolitan Police were under enormous pressure to apprehend the IRA bombers responsible for the attacks in England. In December 1974, the police arrested three men and a woman, later known as the Guildford Four (pictured right). These were: Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson.

The Guildford Four were falsely convicted of the bombings in October 1975 and sentenced to life in prison. All the convictions were overturned on 20 October 1989 in the appeal courts after it was proven that the Guildford Four’s convictions had been based on confessions obtained by torture – as were some of the Maguire Seven’s convictions, which included Gerry Conlon’s father, Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon, who sadly died in his third year of imprisonment.

Oct 192014
 

William Day is currently at the top of my Day tree. I was very lucky to have a ‘Day tree’ c/o my Day grandfather back in the 1980s, which took me back to the mid-1800s. During my visits to the Family Records Centre – back in the day! – I managed to develop the information, locating the Day family in Cheshunt in 1851, before the censuses were digitised. Oh heavens, I remember that visit vividly…. page-by-page of the microfilm for Cheshunt…. Ugh! Now, I can just put the name into Ancestry and up it pops (HO107/1704/257/9):

BRKHO107_1704_1704-0488

William was recorded as ‘widowed’ having lost his first wife just prior to the 1851 census, perhaps in child birth. But it is not this William who heads up my tree – guess what? His father was called William too!

This William was William Henry Day, son of William and Grace Day, baptised 11 July 1815 Margaretting, Essex (Source ref: D/P 235/1/12):

Bp1815 S William Day cropped

William (senior) married Grace Penny on 29 October 1814 in Margaretting (Source ref: D/P 235/1/15):

M1814 D DAY William PENNY Grace

Neither William nor Grace had been married prior to 1814 – or so this record implies – but the 1841 census makes interesting reading for the ages of William and Grace! He was 65 and she was 43 (HO107/326/1/14/21):

1841WilliamDay

Thomas and Grace Stubbing(s) were son-in-law and daughter of William and Grace, Grace Day having been their second eldest child (after William). William and Grace had seven known children: William Henry, Grace, James, Sarah, Charles, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Some of these names may help in tracing the Day/Penny lines further back in time…..

So, a few questions remain regarding this William Day:

  • Where in Essex was he born? [He died in 1848, so is not found on any census detailing a more precise birth place.]
  • Was Grace actually his first wife, or was he married before?
  • Who were his parents?

Is anyone connected to this Day line from Margaretting, Essex? I’d love to hear from you!

Oct 182014
 

StLukeLogoThis is the feast day of St Luke, a doctor by profession and the writer of the third gospel of the New Testament (and quite possibly, the Acts of the Apostles). He is the patron saint of many professions – physicians and surgeons (for obvious reasons), as well as artists and butchers. His symbol is a horned ox or bull. In art, Luke is represented by a winged ox because he begins his gospel with an account of the priest, Zachary (Zechariah), sacrificing in the temple. The ox represents Christ’s sacrifice.

St Luke’s Day is supposed to be a good time to choose a spouse and various rituals are prescribed for young women who wish to dream of their future husband. It is also formerly the date of the Charlton Horn Fair, held in London until 1872. On sale at the fair were horns of every description, merchandise made of horn and figures bearing horns. All the visitors to the fair wore or carried horns and all the stalls were decorated with horns. The link with horns is of uncertain origin – they may be the horns of the cuckold (according to a popular legend concerning King John and a miller’s wife) or the horns of St Luke’s ox.

So, don’t hold back on St Luke’s Day ladies – get out there and choose your spouse. Choose wisely though, won’t you?!

[Did you know, that there are three birth references on FreeBMD to people with the name St Luke? Born in JQ1845 in Stepney RD is St Luke Dixon, St Luke Salinger in SQ1851 in St Giles RD and St Luke Spencer in DQ1900 in Mile End RD, but only the latter could actually have been born on St Luke's Day of course!]

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