Did you know about…the Battle of Jutland?

I love battleships!

Did you know that this week marks the centenary of the Battle of Jutland? Involving over 250 warships, Jutland was the largest naval battle of the First World War, and one of the largest sea battles in history.

The battle was the culmination of an almost 20-year naval arms race between Britain and Germany. In the late 19th Century, German naval commander Admiral Alfred Von Tirpitz (with the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II) began to increase the size of the German High Seas fleet. This build up was seen as a serious threat by the Royal Navy, who maintained a fleet as large as the next two largest battle fleets (the ‘two-power’ standard).

HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought

In order to meet the German challenge, the British increased battleship production, culminating in the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1905. A technological revolution, Dreadnought was larger and faster than any other battleship afloat and had two-and-a-half times the firepower, mounting a total of ten 12-inch guns to the average of four ‘big guns’ on preceding battleships. Dreadnought was followed by HMS Invincible, the world’s first battlecruiser (battleship-size hull and armament, with cruiser speed and protection) in 1908. Germany responded by building her own ‘dreadnought battleships’ and battlecruisers, beginning with the launch of the Nassau and Von Der Tann launched in 1908 and 1909 respectively.

By the outbreak of the war, Britain could boast a fleet of 29 dreadnoughts to the 17 German vessels.

It was expected that these two powerful fleets would immediately engage one another in a pitched battle that (in the words of Churchill) could decide the outcome of the war in a single afternoon. Instead, the two great fleets sat at anchor, with the British Grand Fleet conducting a long range blockade of the North Sea with skirmishes being fought between small groups of vessels.

Knowing that they could not fight the Grand Fleet head on, the Germans drew up a plan to draw out a small portion of the British Fleet (such as the battlecruiser force) by using its own battlecruisers as bait to lure them into the guns of the entire High Seas Fleet.

The German battlecruisers, under the command of Admiral Hipper set out at approximately 01:00 hours on the 31st May 1916, 90 minutes ahead of the main German Fleet (16 battleships; 5 battlecruisers; 6 pre-dreadnoughts; 11 light cruisers; 61 torpedo boats)  under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer. Unfortunately, the British had cracked the German codes and the entire Grand Fleet (28 battleships; 9 battlecruisers; 8 armoured cruisers; 26 light cruisers; 78 destroyers; 1 minelayer; 1 seaplane carrier), commanded by Admiral John Jellico, had already departed their harbour at Scapa Flow two and a half hours earlier with his battlecruisers (under Admiral David Beatty) acting as advance scouts.

The opposing battlecruisers sighted one another at approximately 15:22 and opened

HMS Invincible explodes

HMS Invincible explodes

fire about 25 minutes later. Though the British would lose both the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, they successfully lured the Germans north into the waiting guns of the Grand Fleet. The battle raged through the night, with the German’s performing two ‘battle turn-away’ manoeuvres before finally breaking contact and escaping.

The badly damaged German battlecruiser Seydlitz

The badly damaged German battlecruiser Seydlitz

Far from the decisive action that both sides had expected, the battle was as much of a stalemate as the trench warfare on the western front. Both sides would claim victory in the battle, with the German’s achieving a ‘tactical win’, sinking three battlecruisers, three cruisers, and eight torpedo boats and destroyers, almost twice their own losses (one battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought battleship, four light cruisers and five destroyers). The Royal Navy however, could weather these losses thanks to its fare greater size, and more importantly, retained strategic control of the sea for the remainder of the war.

Why not read more about the ships that fought in the battle or check out some documentaries on naval combat.

Did You Know…About Valentine’s Day?

We all know about Valentine’s Day, but Did You Know how Valentine’s Day actually came about?

There were actually numerous Christian martyrs who were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 496 and Valentine of Terni who became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) in about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian.

The day actually became associated with romantic love through the work of writer Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1381, Chaucer composed a poem in honour of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition, Chaucer associated the occasion with a feast day. In “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are linked:

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

The actual treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381 but readers have  assumed that Chaucer was referring to February 14 as Valentine’s Day. While Parliament of Fowls refers to a supposedly established tradition, historians have found no record of such a tradition before Chaucer.

It is interesting to note that the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was observed between the 13th and 15th of February. Some researchers have theorized that Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with the celebration of the Purification of Mary in February 14 and claim a connection to the 14th century’s connotations of romantic love.

Struggling to find the words this year, why not take advantage of the library’s collection of Romance Poetry, or make your own card or gift with the aid of our craft collections. Or why not prepare the perfect romantic meal for someone special.

If you would like to know more, then check out this documentary courtesy of the History Channel website.

Did you know… that today is international Batman day?

Created by Bob Kane, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 way back in 1939, the second major costumed superhero to be introduced by DC Comics after Superman. The Dark Knight is ranked second only to Superman in IGNs top 100 Comic Book Heroes of all time and has been adapted to both the small and big screen, with perhaps the most iconic portrayals being Adam West in the 1960s Batman TV Series, Michael Keaton in 1989s Batman (directed by Tim Burton) and Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Next year (2016) will see Ben Affleck take on the role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

In comics, Batman has been written by such legendary figures as Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Grant Morison (who actually killed Bruce Wayne in RIP/Final Crisis) and Scott Snyder.

Almost as memorable as the Caped Crusader himself are his Rogues Gallery of villains which includes the sultry Catwoman and Poison Ivy, the fear inducing Scarecrow, criminal mastermind The Riddler, back-breaking Bane and the immortal Ras Al Ghul. None of these can compare, however, to the Clown Prince of Crime, the psychotic Joker

Why not checkout the library’s collection of Graphic Novels or DVDs and live the excitement that is…BATMAN.

Did you know…About April Fools Day?

Everybody knows that April 1st is April Fools Day, but do you know why?


The so called “April Fools Day” may actually have its origins in the middle ages or an even earlier time in history. In Europe during the Middle Ages, new years day was celebrated on March 25 with a week-long celebration ending on April 1st. It is suggested that those who use the now traditional January 1st as New Years made fun of those who did not.

It is interesting to note that the 13th day of the Iranian New Year, which falls on either April 1 or April 2, is a day of practical jokes. Called Sizdah Bedar it is believed to be the oldest such tradition in the world, dating as far back as 500BC or earlier. The Romans also celebrated the festival of Hilaria on the 25th of March.

Why not check out the library catalogue and find out more about the origins of folklore and superstitions like the book Black Cats and April Fools by Harry Oliver.

Did you know…about Godzilla?

Godzilla_(2014)_posterOn Thursday, Legendary Pictures will be bringing the monster Godzilla back to the big screen in an epic blockbuster that has been more than four years in the making. But what do you actually know about the titular monster?




The original Godzilla from 1954.

The original Godzilla from 1954.

The creation of Godzilla can be attributed to no single person, but rather a collaborative effort between Toho producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Director Ishiro Honda and special effects genius Eiji Tsubaraya. Inspired by the bombing of Hiroshima , Pacific Nuclear Tests and the incident involving the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 in addition films such as King Kong and The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms. These three men bought to life the story of an ancient creature, awakened and irradiated by atomic testing that proceeded to lay waste to Tokyo.

Godzilla as he appeared in 2004s Final Wars.
Godzilla as he appeared in 2004s Final Wars.

A serious film, the creature served as an allegory for nuclear weapons and the devastation they had wrought on Japan. The film was dubbed and re-cut for release in the West in 1956, re-titled as Godzilla – King of the Monsters. A box office smash in Japan and quite successful in the West, Godzilla would go on to star in a multitude of sequels, divided into the Showa (1954-1975), Heisie (1984-1995) and Millennium (1999-2004) series.

The first all-American made film was released 1998 by Sony/TriStar to somewhat mixed reactions. Will the Legendary Pictures effort prove to be more satisfying?

Before seeing the film, why not check out some of the old Japanese movies, or compare it to the TriStar effort, or why not check out some of the great Graphic Novels being produced by IDW Publishing.

Did you know … about Doctor Who?

Doctor WhoDid you know that the BBC Science Fiction Series Doctor Who premiered on the 23rd of November, 1963? Chronicling the adventures of a time travelling alien who calls himself The Doctor, the series celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend with a special episode entitled The Day of the Doctor simultaneously broadcast in more than 70 countries coinciding with the time the original pilot (entitled An Unearthly Child) was screened 50 years earlier.

In Australia, this meant the program was shown on the ABC at 6:50am on Sunday the 24th. Fortunately, the ABC re-broadcast the show in Doctor Who’s usual timeslot of 7:30pm that same day.

Technically, Doctor Who has not been broadcast continuously for 50 years. The original run, or ‘Classic’ series ran from 1963-1989 at which point the BBC ceased production. An attempt to re-launch the series occurred in 1996, however it was not until 2005 that the series finally returned to our screens.

One of the unique aspects of Doctor Who and the secret to its longevity is the concept of ‘regeneration’. The Doctor hails from the world of Gallifrey and is a member of the planets hierarchy known as the Time Lords. One of the benefits of his alien physiology is that, when injured to the point of death, his body can renew itself, effectively transforming him into a completely new person. Thanks to the concept of regeneration, the BBC could replace the actor playing The Doctor as needed.

To date there have been twelve (well 13, but in the words of River Song would be ‘spoilers’!) actors to play the character. The original Doctor was William Hartnell (1963-1966), The Second Doctor was played by Patrick Troughton (1966-1969), next came Jon Pertwee (1970-1974) followed by Tom Baker (1974-1981), Peter Davidson (1981-1984), Colin Baker (1984-1986) and Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989). McCoy would return for a regeneration sequence in The Doctor Who Movie, which saw Paul McGann take on the roll for a single performance (though he did continue to ‘play’ the role in a series of audio adventures and has returned for a 6 minute ‘mini-episode’ as part of the 50th Anniversary). With the revival of the series in 2005, Chrstopher Eccleston became the 9th Doctor and was followed by David Tennant (2005-2010) and Matt Smith (2010-2013). It was recently announced that Smith would be stepping down from the role in this year’s Christmas Special with Peter Capaldi announced to be his replacement.

Why not check out some of the Classic Episodes or Revived Series? Read some of the Doctor Who Novels or Audio Adventures or even check out some of the books about the show.

Jump on over to our Facebook page and tell who your favourite Doctor is and give us your thoughts on the 50th Anniversary Special!

Did You Know About DC Comics and the New 52?

DC LogoTwo years ago, DC Comics (publishers of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, etc) made a highly controversial decision. In the conclusion of their Flashpoint crossover series, all of their titles were rebooted to Issue #1.

That’s right – all of them

In Flashpoint, the Flash had inadvertently altered time and tried to return the universe to its proper course. A mysterious woman (later revealed to be Pandora) appeared and altered time yet again – merging several ‘universes’ together to form a new ‘core reality’.

Referred to as the New 52, DC Launched 52 titles, all at Issue #1. Something of a ‘soft reboot’, most titles were now set 5 years after Superman made his public debut. with some of the old story elements retained, while others (such as the various ‘Crisis’ crossovers, Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane and Batman’s death) were removed. Costume designs were updated as were some characters and even powers being changed radically.

Designed as a new ‘jumping on’ point to attract new readers, their decision was Rebirth_GScreen_front_lres1met with some anger on the part of long standing fans and collectors, myself included. I have since revised my opinion as the stories, particularly the Justice League titles by Geoff Johns, have clearly been building up to something.

Last year, Johns teased us that something called the ‘Trinity War‘ was coming. This event, which crossed over between all three Justice League titles, has just concluded and leads us directly into the New 52’s first Crossover: Forever Evil where, in the aftermath of the Trinity War, the villains take over the world!

Why not check out some of the New 52 stories such as Justice League: Origins, Batman: Death of the Family, Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel or Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army and see what you think of the New52.