Welcome to the discussion forum of Ða Engliscan Gesiðas for all matters relating to the history, language and culture of Anglo-Saxon England. I hope it will provide a useful source of information, stimulate research, and be of real help. Ða Engliscan Gesiðas (The English Companions) maintains a strictly neutral line on all modern and current political and religious matters and it does not follow any particular interpretation of history. Transgression of this Rule will not be tolerated. Any posts which are perceived as breaking this Rule will be deleted with immediate effect without explanation.

Recent Posts

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91
Anglo-Saxon Discussion / Re: Downton Meadhall
« Last post by Bowerthane on September 11, 2021, 10:12:20 PM »
Just had a chance to watch the 'Downton Abbey' film.


Guess what?  My mum's old mixing bowl did not one but two cameos, the second when that French chef chucked it aside.


It was  :)  great.


Now if I have another chance to watch it, I'll see if I can't find out what that fuss about the visitor was all about...








92
General Discussion / Re: Great Yeldham
« Last post by Phyllis on September 11, 2021, 03:02:12 PM »
That's really interesting - keep us posted! :)
93
News & Events / Croft Gardens, Cambridge
« Last post by Phyllis on September 11, 2021, 03:01:15 PM »
At the end of January this year there was news about Anglo-Saxon finds in Cambridge on Kings College’s Croft Gardens site on Barton Road. Nowthere is news of the follow-up research on the find with appointment of a new Research Fellow.

https://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/news/2021/new-research-fellow-late-roman-and-early-medieval-archaeology-britain
94
General Discussion / Great Yeldham
« Last post by Blackdragon on September 08, 2021, 11:40:18 AM »


I live in Great Yeldham, Essex near to the Suffolk border at Sudbury. Yeldham (formerly Geldeham) appears to refer to a homestead where tax is collected in Old English.

They are now clearing a site to build houses at Nuns Walk. Archaeologists found a few Roman fragments, but more importantly a Saxon homestead and burial site with pottery urns containing cremated remains. Unfortunately the tops of the pots have been knocked off by ploughing. A pair of tongs have been found as well as some coins. No pictures or other details are available yet, but cremations most usually indicate early Pagan Saxon sites, since Christians most often used inhumation. Hopefully the coins will help date it.
95
News & Events / Re: Anyone dig 'The Dig'?
« Last post by Eanflaed on August 31, 2021, 12:00:28 PM »
It’s not so much a love story as such, but it does focus on relationships rather than the archaeology. Most, if not all, of the relationships are speculative too. We don’t get to see the fabulous array of artefacts, which is a pity.
96
News & Events / Re: Anyone dig 'The Dig'?
« Last post by Bowerthane on August 28, 2021, 10:40:58 PM »
Ah, do I take it the film is primarily a love story, with no special focus on the longship, treasures etc.?





97
General Discussion / Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Last post by Mearcstapa on August 27, 2021, 03:20:46 PM »
I've nearly finished Max Adam's 'The Last Kingdom' it's quite a long walk through the wavering marshes of the post-roman period and the beginning of the first Anglo Saxon kingdoms but worth reading for Mr Adam's has managed to synthesize together a lot of different information about this shadowy era and put it into an interesting, grounded narrative. You get the sense of the centuries 400-600ish being very dynamic for the communities living in Britain as they adapt to whatever comes next, and there being lots of possible kingdoms that never made it. Adam's talks about some very interesting things around the land and how the first kingdoms were organised around peripatetic kings with their followers who required special farms 'regia villae' within their territory to host them for a few months before moving on to the next. When it comes down to it all all these kingdoms could only exist with a peasant class who spent their days provisioning food, fuel and cloth for their lords. 
98
Old English Language / Re: Personal pronouns & grammar book
« Last post by Wayne Aelfhere on August 26, 2021, 04:58:25 AM »
Thanks Phyllis. I can't do this Saturday but I appreciate the invite. Maybe see u at some point in the future though.
Good to know it can be done over some years as that'd be me!
Best wishes.
99
General Discussion / Re: King Eardwulf hermitage?
« Last post by Bowerthane on August 25, 2021, 11:04:02 PM »
Well... obviously  :-[  I was just waiting to see who would spot that one.





100
General Discussion / Re: Tolkien
« Last post by Bowerthane on August 25, 2021, 10:38:07 PM »
Now guess what’s happened?


 
Thanks to Humphrey Carpenter’s The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien I have long known that, in the months leading to the outbreak of the Second World War, Professor J. R. R. Tolkien agreed to be assessed as a cryptographer only nothing came of it.  On the second of February 1939 he wrote to a C. A. Furth of the-then Allen & Unwin publishers: “I shall have [ to do] some work in preparation for a possible ‘National Emergency’ ( which will take a week out).1 I have to go to Scotland either in March or April.”
 
Somewhat of this process is also described in COLOSSUS, the Secrets of Bletchley Park’s Codebreaking Computers edited by B. Jack Copeland ( ISBN-13: 978-0-19-284055-4, OUP 2006) where Michael Smith writes of Commander Denniston, then the Head of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC & CS):

    “Denniston, who realised that the elderly classicists who made up the bulk of his codebreakers desperately needed an injection of new talent, had spent the months before the war touring the universities looking for the mathematicians and linguists needed to break the German Enigma cipher.
   ‘He dined at several High Tables in Oxford and Cambridge and came home with promises from a number of dons to attend a “territorial training course”,’ Cooper said. ‘It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of this course for the future development of GC & CS. ...’
   “The academics who attended the course were made to sign the Official Secrets Act and told that on receipt of a telegram they should report to Bletchley Park.  Initially, all the codebreakers were crowded into the Mansion, with the exception of Knox and his small team of mathematicians, Turing, Twinn, and John Jeffreys, who were working on the Enigma traffic in an adjoining cottage.”
 

As it is in The Secret Listeners ( ISBN 10 1781310793, Aurum Press 2013) by Sinclair McKay:
 
   “Some months before war broke out, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) – in essence, the codebreaking arm of the Foreign Office – had established itself in a faintly ugly country house on the edge of an unremarkable provincial town. And it was within the bounds of this plain house and its estate – Bletchley Park – that an extraordinary line-up of the country’s finest minds was assembled.”
 
 
In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien Carpenter’s footnote reads: “In January 1939 Tolkien was asked whether in the event of a national emergency ( i.e. war) he would be prepared to work in the cryptographical department of the Foreign Office.  He agreed, and apparently attended a four-day course of instruction at the Foreign Office beginning on 27 March. But in October 1939 he was informed that his services would not be required for the present, and in the event he never worked as a cryptographer.”   For those who dont know, the Rape of Czechoslovakia began in January 1939, was completed by mid March and was the greatest, single tipping point in the lead-up to the outbreak of the Second World War. As a huge fan of Alan Fursts novels I cannot recommend higher his The Polish Officer ( ISBN 978-0-7538-2556-3, Orion Books 1995) for evoking the heartsink moment when, realising that Hitlers forces werent stopping in the Sudetenland but taking the whole of Czechoslovakia, that this means war ( and the game was certainly up for Appeasement).
 

However, lately I have bagsed a DVD of the Pen & Sword documentary about Bletchley Park titled Bletchley Park and the Ultra Secret. According to this, including a close-up of a source document with Professor Tolkien’s name typed in a list with other Oxford academics ( with “Dec” penned to its right), it was to neither “the Foreign Office” nor Scotland that Professor Tolkien came, but Bletchley Park itself. Ironically, what aroused my suspicions was how silly I felt because, having mugged up about the heroines of the Strategic Operations Executive for my kiddies’ book and developed an interest in both the SOE and Bletchley Park for their own sakes, I should have guessed that this ‘I’m off to Scotland’ business was no more than the bog-standard, off-the-shelf cover story that just about everyone recruited to either had to tell even their nearest and dearest.  All the time that Christine Granville GM, Odette Sansom GC, Violette Szabo GC, Nancy Wake GM, Princess Noor Inayat Khan GC and Pearl Witherington CBE were kicking Nazi arse in Occupied France and Poland, their loved ones thought they were driving staff cars for the top brass in Scotland.
    Furthermore, in my copy of The Debs of Bletchley Park by Michael Smith ( ISBN 978-1-78131-388-6, Aurum Press 2015) it says, here:
 
“All the academics were given some training in codebreaking and made to sign the Offical Secrets Act.  They were told to keep a ten-shilling note in their pockets at all times for a railway ticket and to wait for a telegram saying simply that ‘Auntie Flo is unwell’.  Upon receipt of the message, they were to make their way to Station X.
    “In the days following Chamberlain’s declaration of war, the messages went out and the dons began arriving at Bletchley.”
 

Station X is simply the MI6’s official designation for Bletchley Park.  So for all that Professor Tolkien never worked there as a cryptographer, and whether or not his four-day assessment took place at Bletchley Park, Scotland or “at the Foreign Office” as the balloon went up, he was surely given the right directions for Bletchley Park. Directions the importance of which, as a signals officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the First World War, Professor Tolkien would not have needed labouring, and quite possibly did have the wit and experience to memorise them clearly rather than keep a written copy, even if the academics were not told to do exactly that, anyway.


 
In which light the plot thickens.  For disbelievers may scoff and true believers may nibble a little just to be polite, but it’s a hard fact, which fellow Tolkienists and anyone else who read Professor Tolkien’s landmark lecture On Fairy Stories with anything like interest and attention should recall, that in one of the key passages, he discusses the relationship between modernity and reality in these terms:
 
“For my part, I cannot convince myself that the roof of Bletchley station is more ‘real’ than the clouds. And as an artefact I find it less inspiring than the legendary dome of heaven. The bridge to platform 4 is to me less interesting than Bifröst guarded by Heimdall with the Gjallarhorn.”
 
 
   Thickens because, having checked, it turns out that Professor Tolkien’s reference to a trip to Scotland need have nothing to do with his cryptographic assessment, anyway.  It was earlier in the same month, the eighth of March 1939, that Professor Tolkien first delivered the original version of On Fairy Stories at St Andrews University, Scotland.  Only later in the same month, presumably from the twenty-seventh to the thirtieth of March at least, did he undertake this “course of instruction” if Carpenter’s dates are correct.
 
   Thickens because, at the end of my copy of The Secret Listeners there happens to be an excerpt from The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay ( ISBN 10 1845136330, Aurum Press 2016), in which the following occurs; ‘I got to Bletchley around midnight,’ recalled another veteran. ‘Everything was in darkness. There were some iron steps going over the bridge. There wasn’t a soul about.’”
 
   So... well yes, it could all be some wild and crazy co-incidence that, of all the railway stations in Britain Professor Tolkien should quite randomly plump for the one and only ( I’ve checked) Bletchley Station at the Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, the ground plan of which abuts the Bletchley Park estate.  A railway station that then, as now, does have a platform 4 ( I’ve checked) and a footbridge ( I’ve checked) he’d have to walk over to and from it ( I’ve checked) and most likely did if then, as now, platforms 1 and 2 handled the through trains between Birmingham New Street and Euston, whereas platform 6 handles trains to and from Bedford.
 
   Some, wild and crazy co-incidence that, of all the railway stations in England with which Professor Tolkien was likely to be familiar ( Oxford’s, one in Birmingham and give or take Paddington) he quite randomly plumped for one with which there is no special reason he should be familiar at all, still less in any of its particulars.
 
   Or for that matter why he should plump for a railway station at all to illustrate his point in a lecture.
 
   Unless of course there was a special reason why these details about Bletchley Station were known to Professor Tolkien before he left Oxford early in 1939, when he was still writing/ um-ing and ah-ing about/ touching up/ re-writing his Andrew Lang lecture.  Some special reason why, as a sometime signals officer on the Somme and still on the Reserve List as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, he understood the importance of making sure he understood information, and of keeping it clear in his head...
 
 

All I wonder now is whether that “Dec” was penned to the right of Professor Tolkien’s name in the December of 1938 because Bletchley Park first contacted him in the December of 1938 .  “In the months leading up to the war, Commander Denniston had toured Britain’s universities, looking for professors and lecturers who might make good codebreakers.  Initially, he targeted linguists and classicists,” etc. it says here in The Debs of Bletchley Park. Knowing Professor Tolkien’s other great talent ( for not getting his finger out) it could refer to December 1939 when Bletchley Park received his acknowledgement of their message that his services would not be required, but I doubt it because Dec” is penned to the right of the names of other Oxford dons, above and below his.
 
 
 
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
The moral right of the author to be identified outside the barracks by the corner light, signalling the attack by whistling Lily Marleen, has been asserted.
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