Off to France for the centenary of 1918 with the BBC

  It was the first day of the German spring offensive. The date was March 21, 1918 and the Kaiser’s boys were launching Operation Michael, an audacious bid to puncture Allied lines and seize the Channel ports that lay beyond. If they achieved that aim, Britain would be bracing itself…

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Passchendaele, 100 years on

A hundred years ago WW1’s second most notorious bloodbath was churning up souls in Flanders. Here, I spare a few words on Leicestershire’s involvement at Passchendaele.   The three Leicestershire Regiment officers stared at the map, looked hard at the surrounding mud and then, with incredulity, at each other. The…

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The Walcote murder and the hanging of William Henry Palmer

Yonks back there was a series in the Mercury on the men hung and buried inside the steep walls of Leicester Prison. William Henry Palmer was among them…and he didn’t go quietly.   They’re supposed to do it with weary resignation; a sniff, a sorrowful glance, sometimes even with a…

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“Presently both sides were out of their trenches, shaking hands and exchanged tobacco for cigarettes and chocolate. Four of us went over and were met by six Germans.”

On Christmas Eve, more than a century ago, a brave officer from the 1st Leicestershire Regiment climbed out of his trench and walked steadily towards No Man’s Land. Major Archibald Buchanan-Dunlop, who was serving on the frontline at Ypres in Belgium, hadn’t lost his mind. And he hadn’t gone accidentally…

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When it’s actually okay to get yourself arrested

It’s a tough question. Marlene Yeo looks skyward and then slides her eyes to the left in the hope of tweaking out the answer from a corner of her brain. The grey-haired 74-year-old looks defeated – she can’t remember how many times she’s been arrested. “I should keep a tally,”…

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The mud was scraped away and one word could be seen…Leicester

  It was February and raining when they found him, covered in a century-old cloak of earth and chalk. In the dirt near his bones, attached to a shred of uniform, they found a brass shoulder title, green with age and a little twisted. One word could be seen clearly…Leicester.…

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When St John’s lads carried swords

In classical parlance I am ‘knackered’. In recent days there’s been a double funeral in France, a christening in South Wigston, an orchestral concert and film on the Somme at Leicester Cathedral, and an archaeological dig at Castle Hill Country Park. Which is why I am sat in my comfies,…

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You’ll never look at Simon de Montfort the same way again

Simon de Montfort drew his last exhausted breath on a bloody Worcestershire battlefield. Outnumbered four to one, the powerful sixth Earl of Leicester had refused pleas to escape to safety as the Royalists continued their charge forward. “Our bodies are theirs, our souls are God’s,” he boomed as a hit-squad…

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Filth and more filth: The Leicesters at Vimy 1916

  The 4th Leicesters had sat in trenches overlooked by the Boche on the Messines Ridge and at Hill 60. And now at Vimy the enemy were at the top of the ridge again thanks to those responsible for our shortage in guns and munitions. If you had wished to…

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\,,/(*_*)\,,/ It’s Download time \,,/(*_*)\,,/ \,,/(*_*)\,,/ \,,/(*_*)\,,/

It’s that Paganistic time of year when 120,000 tattooed, long-haired, skinny jeanists come to worship upon the sacred fields of north west Leicestershire. Roll ups? Check. Leather boots? Check. The ability to lose one’s mind/wallet/friends? Check. This weekend, Download festival is serenading Donington Park. Rock’s General Synod first hooked up…

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The Wheatcroft Collection

With the annual French/Belgian battlefield experience rapidly approaching and Download rock festival soon after, my thoughts are currently turning towards Donington, which combines military on one hand and music on the Devil-horned other.   Cue an article from 2012…                                                          Kevin Wheatcroft next to a German half-track   Some people…

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Recent photos of Leicester and Leicestershire

What says Mothering Sunday more than dressing as one of Simon de Montfort’s knights at the Battle of Evesham (August 4, 1265)? Exactly. We were back at Jewry Wall Museum on Sunday to join in the 50th birthday celebrations. There were demonstrations, from Leicester’s many different periods, my daughter had…

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The future of Leicester Central

It’s one of Leicestershire’s unofficial tourist destinations. Tucked away down a side street, removed from the bustle of the city centre. “I get plenty of visitors,” nods Mukhtar Shah, who has a car workshop in Great Central Street. “Sometimes 10, 15 people come a month, a lot of people who…

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46 interesting facts about Leicestershire…

    Leicester City FC won the league in 2015/16. But what do you know about the city and county which spawned them?   1. Leicestershire is the Spiritual Home of Rock Music. It started back in 1980 with the first Monsters of Rock at Donington Park. It continues today…

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So you thought you’d like to go to the show, to feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow

  In the moth-tattered annals of De Montfort Hall, many a band have turned up, plugged in and rocked out. Yet none have executed an edge-of-your-seat show with quite the same singular panache as Pink Floyd. Technologically advanced and technically adept, Floyd swept into the city on February 10, 1972,…

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Leicester legacies: The life and times of The Charlotte

  It was the sort of place where it was okay to spill your pint, ruminates Andy Wright. “It was what it was – stage, bogs, bar. Some called The Charlotte a toilet stop,” he shrugs, “I don’t have a problem with that.” For many, The Charlotte needs no introduction. For…

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Vicar bonking, Toffos and such like

It’s a riches-to-rags story where the ponies, nannies and chauffeurs are swallowed in the vortex of a collapsing city knitwear firm. It’s a story where the finishing school-raised family matriarch, recently divorced, finds herself making a living changing roller towels in pubs and clubs across Leicestershire. It’s a story which,…

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The tale within Fairytale of New York

    “And the boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay, and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.” Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York gets everywhere at this time of year. Even Tesco in Narborough Road, where this week I was shopping and…

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Stoneywell – our National Trust piece of skirt in Charnwood Forest

  Newish among the artillery of the National Trust is an Arts and Crafts family home nestled in the scenic folds of Charnwood Forest. “This is the postcard shot, really,” grins Joe Thompson, the head gardener, as he leads us down the proverbial garden path, past a crest of heather…

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From Leicestershire to Middle Earth, calling at Westeros and Camelot

  It was supposed to have been a little chat about coracles, a gentle natter about how the ancient river boats handmade in rural Leicestershire end up in the waters of Westeros, Middle Earth and Camelot. And it was, mostly. But then, like the boats themselves, you end up going…

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Lilian Lenton – the Leicester suffragette who the Home Secretary wanted stopped

  Lilian Lenton in court in Doncaster with co-accused Harry Johnson in June 1913.     Lilian Lenton’s prison photograph sits in a display case at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The sepia image, now more than a century old, was taken covertly by police when she was among…

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In need of TLC. New and old pics of Leicester’s listed Western Park Open Air School

      With vandals on one side and the elements on the other, Western Park School – formerly Western Park Open Air School – has taken a bit of a kicking in recent years. Shut in 2005, this elegant 1930s building – Grade II listed and one of very…

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There’s a new film Suffragette – here are some suffragists, they’re usually less camera shy

  “Always and always facing toward the light.” They’ve not seen Poltergeist, have they? Here are some magnificent suffragists standing proud in Bowling Green Street. I don’t know their names but I’d like to buy each of them a drink. Which they’d most likely turn down, cos they’re probably part…

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Here’s a highly suspicious 110 year old Leicester advert for male hair restoration

      Take Mr Henry Lee, the verger of St Peter’s Church in Leicester. Add Professor GF Moss, who had consulting rooms at 70 Sparkenhoe Street. And then throw in photographer Mr HJ Hitchcock to take a picture. What do you get? The answer is this rather spiffy advert…

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Modern Toss creator and former Leicester resident Mick Bunnage, also of cult musos Deep Freeze Mice

      Mick Bunnage is a dream interviewee. The former musician, Loaded writer, cartoonist and Leicester resident has an unerring habit of making the mundane seem peculiarly jocular. Even when he’s trying to pronounce the address of his old stomping ground in Belgrave. “Leer-rah Street,” he hazards. “Leer-eh?” He…

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The prettiest industrial estate in England?

It’s a sunny Sunday in October and I’m pootling around Faircharm Industrial Estate with a camera. Faircharm is a mixed use industrial estate on the edge of Aylestone Meadows, bisected by the River Soar and the Grand Union Canal. On first appearance it’s pretty underwhelming, but carry on walking, graze your…

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