Monday 21 January 2008
Miles Kington: Did you know the Second World War ended in the 1960s?
It has suddenly occurred to me that I have never brought you the answers to our great Christmas Quiz!
Twelfth Night is now long behind us, and there still must be many of you out there wondering if you will ever be told the correct solutions to the 2007 Xmas Quiz.
And today is the day.
If you remember, we tried to have a quiz with a difference this year.
All the questions in this year's Christmas Quiz were about war, warfare and great battles. We thought it would make a change from peace studies. Oh yes, peace on earth, good will towards men ...it's all very nice in principle, but pretty damned dreary for a quiz, don't you agree?
Well, you did agree before Christmas. So here we go with our answers to the Great Warfare Christmas Quiz of 2007!
1. Yes, the modern marathon race is based on the famous run by the Greek runner Pheidippides in BC490, bringing the news of the result of the battle from the battlefield at Marathon to the Greek HQ at Athens. Pheidippides ran 25 miles and dropped dead at the end, after giving the result.
2. Despite this, over 90% of the finishers of the modern London Marathon confess when they cross the finishing line that they have no idea who actually did win the Battle of Marathon!
3. The Greeks, actually.
4. Not counting Sparta, who refused to get involved.
5. Against the Persians.
6. No, the identity of the Unknown Soldier has never been established.
7. The Hundred Years War was not known as such at the time. This was because until it had finished nobody knew how long it was going to last, and therefore no one had any idea what it should be called. It became progressively known as the Seventy Years War, then the Eighty Years War, then the Ninety Years War and so on. During that last decade it was in some danger of petering out at the Ninety-Five Year mark, but everyone thought it was such a shame to have got so close to a Hundred Years for a war for the first time in history that fighting was kept going long enough to hit the century mark.
8. There has never been a tomb of the Unknown Sailor. The idea was mooted strongly just after the Great War, but on balance it was considered unfair to those landlocked countries which had no sea coast and not much of a navy (Austria, Switzerland, Bolivia, Mali etc) and therefore might feel offended by not having any sailors, known or unknown.
9. The Second World War did not officially end until some time in the 1960s, when Andorra withdrew its declaration of war on Germany. It had not been realised in Andorra that Andorra was the aggressor against Germany, and not the other way round, until 20 years after everyone had stopped fighting, and some historian was idly going through the records of the time. Andorra took immediate steps to draw up peace with Germany, just in case Germany was tempted to resume hostilities.
10. The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571, but nobody knows for sure what panto was being re-enacted.
11. The Crimean War took place between the British and French on one side, and the Russians on the other. Everyone knew this, except a British commander, Lord Raglan. Lord Raglan had not fought in a military battle since Waterloo, 40 years previously, when the French were our enemies, not our allies, and in the Crimea he frequently referred to the enemy as "the French".
12. The origin of the half marathon race comes, curiously, from the same day as the marathon race.
When Pheidippides had got halfway back to Athens on his famous run, someone begged him to tell the result, then and there, just in case he collapsed before the end.
Pheidippides paused for some water and a snack, then said: "We won, but there are enough Persians left to follow up with an army. Let them guard against the Persians in Athens. This run is sponsored by the Hymettus Dried Fig Company."
Then he ran on.
More military Xmas answers by and by!
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