Brave Britannia’s Loco History
We both love old locomotives and can remember them thundering past and swaying as they picked up speed. Sometimes we would see the name of the locomotive and dream a moment of driving one. It took only a short time for the Train to vanish into the distance and the red of the tail light to fade. We thought of five Britannia’s with famous names and mention little of the technical details, more the story behind the name.
The Britannia Class standard class is a 4-6-2 Steam engine designed at the time basically for express passenger work.
Coeur de Leon.
Engine No 70007
Coeur de Leon, better known as Richard the Lionheart. Richard 1 of England spent most of his time in France or on Crusade. He reined for 10 years and lived in his kingdom for around 6 months give or take a week. This is not surprising as he was a child of Aquitaine and much preferred his homeland.
Richard won the praise of history for his bravery in battle in particular during the Crusades. Later he was mortally wounded by an arrow while searching for riches, Richard foolhardy challenged one of the two knights defending of a Castle, who had all the advantages of height. He forgave the archer and rewarded him with his freedom and 100 shillings.
Richard was man of wit recognised in this exchange with King Philip on the matter of a fortress, held by Richard. Philip, "if its walls were iron, yet would I take it", to which Richard replied, "If these walls were butter, yet would I hold them!"
Engine No 70035
Rudyard a short story writer (The Jungle Book) novelist and Poet born in Bombay India 1865. On 1878 he entered the United Service College known as a stepping stone for a Military career, but poor eyesight brought his to an end. Returning to India in 1882 worked as a Journalist for the Civil and Military Gazette and overseas correspondent for the Pioneer.
On his return to England he was extolled as the successor to Dickens. Gunga Din and Captain Courageous, many a schoolboy will remember a line of his poem If. He was the first Englishman to win the coveted Nobel prize for literature in 1907.
In 1934 he shared the Gothenburg Prize for Poetry with Yeats. Kipling was offered a Knighthood and the position of Poet Laureate which he refused. He now rests in Poets Corner Westminster Abbey.
Rudyard Kipling is still popular despite being considered out of tune with today’s thinking but one cannot help but acknowledge Kiplings Poems and Stories will outlive his critics.
If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;
The Iron Duke.
Engine No 70014
Arthur Wellesley the 1st Duke of Wellington was born in 1769. Well known as a famous soldier and statesmen, was not much of a student and in his mother's eyes, a disaster! Often acknowledging she had an awkward son and probably wondered what would become of him. His two brothers were well respected at school and Eaton, while Wellesley found his mark at a French Military Academy. He became a passable soldier and rose to the rank of Captain in 1787. When in 1797 after he saw triumph in Flanders moved to India’s sunny clime to succeed at Mysore and defeat Tipu Sultan and then break the power of the Mahratta in 1803. On returning to England two years later he was knighted. In 1806 he married Lady Katherine Pakenham, and was appointed Irish Secretary in 1807.
He went to Copenhagen to sort out the Danes and in 1809 took control of the British, Portuguese and Spanish forces during the Peninsular War. Driving the Napoleonic Army out of Spain with his Scum of the Earth Army and forcing Napoleon to abdicate in 1814. He returned home to an energetic acknowledgment of his achievements and became the Duke of Wellington.
Duties as Ambassador were shortened by Napoleon's return from Elba in 1815. Wellington was made leader of the allied forces. Along with the help of Prussian general von Bluecher he defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, bringing Napoleon's reign to an final end. A close run thing he thought. Wellington inflicted an tremendous defeat on Napoleon, but the victory cost a shocking number of lives. Wellington had become known as the 'Iron Duke' by his men, but even the Iron Duke wept when he learned of the number of men slain that day. This was to be Wellington's last battle. He returned to England and took up his political career again, eventually becoming Prime Minister in 1828.
Under the subsequent PM John Peel, Wellington was named foreign secretary (1834-1835). He spent the rest of his life in various public roles, from guru to Queen Victoria and Commander in Chief of the Army.
The Duke was not a man to be pushed around by anyone. Noted in his reply to a discarded mistress, who threatened to publish the love-letters he had written to her, "Publish and be damned!"
Alfred the Great.
Engine No 70009
The just man builds on a modest foundation and gradually proceeds to greater things. King Alfred the great who ruled between 871 and 899 was considered the best of all kings.
He succeeded in defending Anglo Saxon England against the might of the Vikings while devising a code of law, enhancing religion and scholarly pursuits. Alfred had considerable military skills also the ability to vigorously carry out the quest of Kingsmanship entrusted to him.
As King he thought his land should to be resourced by praying men, fighting men and men not afraid of toil. Alfred said. “I desired to live worthily as long as I lived, and to leave after my life, to the men who should come after me, the memory of me in good works."
Hereward the Wake.
Engine No 70037
Hereward the Wake is one of those inspiring heroes that fits into our long history. Vengeful on the murder of a brother and the treatment of his mother when he returned from a trip to Europe killed fourteen of the offenders single handed.
In his youth Hereward rescued the promised bride of Prince Sigtry from the clutches of two suitors her father demanded she would wed. The dashing Hereward fought his way through the wilds of the country and vanquished a Irish Giant and a extracted the head of a Cornish bully. He rescued fellow Danes due to be blinded by their captors and fixed it so the bride could marry the true Prince. Not a bad start?
As a free born man and a Knight into the bargain we have the makings of a man of valour and decision. In an act guaranteed to anger William the Conqueror helped sack Peterborough Abbey to rescue its asset, then ran off to the Isle of Ely. Where some of his chronicles still remain.
William could not afford such a display of rebellion send an army and fleet to secure Ely. This proved more difficult than expected due to marsh lands. Abbot Thurstan betrayed Hereward and his followers by showing William’s men the way across the wetland. Hereward escaped with some of the men to hold out until granted peace and the restoration of his land.
William faithfully recorded this act in his Doomsday Book no doubt glad to appease Hereward the Wake.