Monday, June 19, 2017

Guest Post: Historical Details in War of Loyalties: Life on the Homefront in WW1

A friend of mine, Schuyler M., has written a World War I spy novel called War of Loyalties. She kindly agreed to share the fascinating historical background undergirding her story here on Defending the Legacy.


For the past seven years, I’ve been writing novel entitled War of Loyalties. It’s a Dickensian novel with a spy flavor, and today I’m glad to be invited to Defending the Legacy to talk about some of the historical details in its pages. But before I start, let me set the context with the novel description:

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the security of England’s Secret Service. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover false British agents who are traitors to their country. However, Ben’s secrecy may be the very thing that puts their mission in jeopardy. Unwilling to trust fellow agent Jaeryn Graham with the clues hidden in his family’s broken past, he wants to resign and go back to his medical practice. But success means one last chance at winning the respect of the father he’s never met. And when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered.

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission to investigate the true loyalties of his fellow spies should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But the agents he has to work with are determined to prove he himself is a traitor. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Grace Triumphant--Reprise

In January of this year, I reviewed Alicia Willis's 18th Century novel Grace Triumphant (see the original review at http://defendingthelegacy.blogspot.com/2017/01/review-of-grace-triumphant-by-alicia.html).  I thoroughly enjoyed it when I read it, and as time has passed, I noticed yet another gem tucked inside the story.






The book follows three characters: Captain Russell Lawrence, cabin boy Jack Dunbar, and English aristocrat Elizabeth Grey.  The narrative is told from the point of view of each of these three characters and the author does an excellent job of never allowing the characters to know each others' thoughts, though we as the readers can get inside the minds of all three.  Jack Dunbar's story quickly links up with Russell Lawrence's, and their two points of view then focus on the same events: a pirate attack, for example, is seen by both.






But Elizabeth Grey is different.  We see high-society London through her eyes, and her eyes alone.  We have no way of analyzing her character from the perspective of an outsider.  All her actions are peppered with nagging doubts and prayers that she will be found true to her convictions.  This sort of internal struggle is something I greatly sympathize with: trying to do the right thing, but knowing one's weaknesses and fearing that they will taint the good we are trying to accomplish.




But eventually, we see Elizabeth as others see her: a fine example of a godly Christian woman.   While her internal struggles have been real, they have not hindered her good works or others' good opinion of her.  I found this encouraging.  Even though our good works may be tainted by our weaknesses and sins, these works will still shape our character into what we were created to be--reflections of the goodness of our Creator.  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Make a Playmobil Cannon...That Really Fires!

Have you ever wanted to make your Playmobil cannons shoot with long range and high velocity?  It is nearly impossible with the standard configuration.  Fortunately, there is an easy way to equip your armies with this handy weapon.  This tutorial will show you how.

Step #1: Disassemble cannon
Step #1: Remove the cannon barrel from its carriage (the wooden part with wheels).  Disassemble the barrel by removing the breech (the little circular part in the top right of the picture).  This can be done by depressing the tabs on each side of the breech.  I used a Playmobil spear to avoid crushing the tabs.  Once the tabs are depressed, the breech can be easily removed, and with the breech removed, the plunger is also easily accessible.  The photo at left shows the barrel (far left), the plunger (center), and the breech (top right).

It is important to add a spring to this group of parts.  The spring will provide the mechanism to power the cannon.

Step #2: Insert plunger and spring.
Step #2: Return the plunger to its position inside the cannon barrel.  Now add the spring, dropping it down the barrel and around the plunger.  If you click on the picture to expand it, you may be able to see the spring in its position.  The breech is still unused, but we will add that in the next step.


Step #3: Reassemble cannon


Step #3: Carefully replace the breech over the plunger.  The cannon should now look exactly like it did before you started.  Replace the cannon back on its carriage and your project is all done!

To fire, load some ammo in the cannon's muzzle and pull back on the plunger.  Because the spring creates tension, the released plunger will fire the projectile quite a long way.  Of course, never shoot it at a person or animal.  Now your Playmobil armies have some artillery support...that really fires!




Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Lecture: Know the Past to Understand the Future

Last weekend, my family and I attended our state homeschooling convention.  While there, I delivered a lecture called Know the Past to Understand the Future.


"Have you ever wondered why you should study history? While it is interesting to see how people lived in the past, what other uses does history have? Join historian Jordan Jachim in exploring the importance of history in this lecture. Knowledge of the past can help us make decisions in the future, avoiding errors that previous generations have committed. “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” But history can also encourage us. While one act of kindness to a stranger sometimes seems insignificant, did you know that this resulted in the discovery of a hidden cache of treasure during World War II? History can also educate us and entertain us, but most importantly, it shows us how faithful God has been in guiding our lives."


The recording is now available for sale (at https://www.alliancerecordings.com/detail.cfm?context=Recordings&cid=58&RID=2157) and I do not make any money if you purchase it.  This lecture was accompanied by a slide presentation.  If you would like a copy of my slides, just contact me.
A piece of artwork I created for one of the slides

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Tests of Peter Pevensie


I have been a Narnian fan for many years, and Peter Pevensie is one of my two favorite characters (the other is Reepicheep).  In the 2005 movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Pevensie embarks on a journey that will result in overcoming his flaws.  I will assume that you are familiar with the original story from either book or movie (if not, find some time to read the one or watch the other, or preferably, do both).  Peter’s first test occurs during the air-raid.  Edmund runs back into the house to recover his father’s photo, and Peter chases him out of a sense of duty, not brotherly love.  As the Pevensies settle in to the house of Professor Kirke, Peter tries to comfort and encourage Lucy.  Even though he does not believe her stories about Narnia, he is sorry to have to tell her to stop pretending.  But Peter and Edmund continue to have friction in the Professor’s house and then when all four enter Narnia.


Peter is angry when Edmund runs off alone to the White Witch’s castle, yet there is a hint of brotherly love in his desire to charge the castle single-handed to rescue Edmund.  This would be suicidal and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver lead the three Pevensies to meet Aslan.  Peter is given a sword and shield by Father Christmas, then they proceed to cross the frozen river.  They are ambushed by the White Witch’s wolves under Maugrim, and Peter faces him down with his sword.  Susan (who is still hoping to return safely to England) dissuades Peter from fighting the wolf, but Peter shows initiative by shepherding his siblings to safety on a floating ice floe.


Meeting Aslan
The three siblings and the Beavers arrive at Aslan’s camp, where they meet the Great Lion himself.  Aslan asks where the fourth Pevenise is, and Mr. Beaver states that Edmund has betrayed them.  This may be the turning-point for Peter.  He sheathes his sword (which had been at the salute) and confesses that his harshness to Edmund had contributed to Edmund’s betrayal.


Aslan shows Peter the castle of Cair Paravel, where the four are to be Kings and Queens, but Peter is doubtful of his fitness for this responsibility.  Aslan encourages Peter “You brought them [your siblings] safely this far,” but Peter’s test comes in the next moment.


Maugrim and another wolf have chased Susan and Lucy Pevensie into a large tree and Peter runs to their rescue.  Maugrim is cynical of Peter’s ability—“Come on, we’ve already been through this before”, but Peter fights and kills him.  For his valor, Aslan knights him Sir Peter Wolf’s-Bane.


"Aslan believed you could...and so do I"
Edmund is rescued and Aslan sacrifices himself for him.  The White Witch and her hordes prepare to crush Aslan’s army, and Peter is forced into a major decision: fight or withdraw?  Edmund is Peter’s councilor, stating “there’s an army out there, and it’s ready to follow you.”  Again Peter is doubtful, but Edmund reminds him “Aslan believed you could,” and in a moment of forgiveness on both sides, “and so do I.” 


With the support of his brother, Peter commits the army to battle.  The battle rages and at a crucial moment, a dismounted Peter is targeted by the White Witch.  She is armed with a magic wand that can turn living creatures into stone.  Edmund had seen her do this to a fox and a Faun and knows that she will attack Peter.  Jumping down from a rocky outcropping, Edmund smashes the Witch’s wand.  Furiously, the Witch turns on Edmund, badly wounding him.


The Kings and Queens of Narnia
Peter sees the entire exchange, and now he runs to his brother’s defense—but not out of duty this time.  This time, Peter is motivated by brotherly love.  As Peter and the Witch duel, Aslan (who has come back to life) arrives with reinforcements, who rout the Witch’s army.  The four Pevensies are then happily crowned Kings and Queens at Cair Paravel.


The problems that Peter Pevensie faces are not unfamiliar to many of us. We interact with our siblings and often feel overwhelmed when great responsibilities are laid on our shoulders.  Yet it should be noted that Peter’s turning point occurs after he meets Aslan.  Much as we can try to manage our flaws and shortcomings, only Jesus Christ can truly set us free from them.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bavarian Flags at Blenheim (1704)


The Elector of Bavaria charges into battle
In the battle of Blenheim, the Elector of Bavaria and his French allies were defeated by the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene.  Nine Bavarian flags were captured in the course of the battle, and they were listed in a London newspaper as follows:


"Nine standards of blue satin, richly embroidered with the Bavarian arms; six belonging to the Elector's own troops, and three to those of Cologne, having the following devices and mottoes."
1st. A laurel; motto, Aut Coronari aut rumpi.
2d. An olive-tree on a rock; motto, Per Ardua Laurus.
3d. A pillar reaching to the clouds; motto, Tantum Umbra movetur.
4th. A bear rampant; motto, Ex Vulnere Crudelior.
5th. A dove with a laurel branch; motto, Uni servo fidem.
6th. A chaos; motto, Obstantia firmant.
7th. A helmet with a feather on a pedestal; motto, Ex duris Gloria.
8th. An olive-tree shading serpents; motto, Nocet Umbra nocenti.
9th. A standard of the Elector's guards with the colour torn to pieces."


The source for this report is The Historical Record of the 5th, or Princess Charlotte of Wales' Regiment of Dragoon Guards, available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/54607/54607-h/54607-h.htm

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: Crescent Tides by J. Aaron Gruben

How far would you go to defend the life you knew in the past?

The year is 1562, and Europe is at war with the Ottoman Turks. The climax of this war is the famous naval battle of Lepanto, where the Holy League decisively defeated the Ottoman navy. But what if Lepanto had turned out differently? What if the Turks had defeated the Holy League’s fleet? What impact would this have on Europe? Enter Crescent Tides, a historical novel dealing with these very questions. 

Dr. Calvin “Cal” Schmitt is an ordinary, overworked, veterinarian living in the heart of New Mexico. His life is one unending treadmill of sick animals, irate owners, and overwork in massive quantities. At last he gets a welcome “break” out of the office to visit a sick horse on a man’s property. While setting up, his overcurious technician Fred Kawalkowitz pulls on a bridle in the tack room, opening a door and revealing another room. Dr. Schmitt’s passenger, an ultra-liberal doctor named Sara Perez moves to investigate the room, and sets her feet on a strange device. As Schmitt grabs for her, they are both shot back into time to 1562 and the battle of Lepanto.

The two time travellers are quickly followed by Fred, and discover that they are aboard the La Real, the flagship of the Holy League in a naval battle against the Ottoman Turks. Before they have time to take it all in, a group of armed time travellers appears aboard La Real. With machine guns, they massacre the crew and turn La Real into a Turkish ship. The Holy League, distracted by the takeover of their flagship, is obliterated by the Ottoman fleet. Now nothing stands in the way of a Turkish conquest of Europe. Nothing, that is, except for Dr. Calvin Schmitt.


Knights and Janissaries of the 16th century will forge strange alliances with 21st Century men and their “magic arquebuses.” But whether wielding swords or automatic rifles, each warrior fights for a certain way of life—and these two philosophies will clash on the battlefield.

This book explores several interesting themes: the difference between the 16th and 21st centuries, nobility and knightly conduct, the Crusades, how our decisions affect the future, and the differences between Christianity and Islam. But one of the book’s most powerful themes revolves around trusting a personal God vs. resigning oneself to an inevitable—and impersonal—fate. This was definitely the high point of the book for me.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. 4/5 stars