Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2023

Jack in a Box Otto

  Otto Koehn was a Dorchester prisoner of war nicknamed ‘ Jack in a Box’ for his extraordinary exploit. He was a distinguished-looking young man with fair hair and a slight fair moustache. Just 22 years old, he wore a pince-nez. Travelling on a Dutch vessel from the USA to Germany, Otto had been arrested when it berthed at Falmouth. At the start of World War I, he was interned in the prisoner of war camp at Poundbury just outside Dorchester. This was a large camp with as many as 4,500 German and Austrian prisoners. No sooner had Otto arrived in Poundbury, he started to scheme his escape. The opportunity arose when he heard that a group of elderly interns were being sent back to Germany, for humanitarian reasons, as a part of a prisoner exchange agreement with the British. They would travel to Tilbury by train and join the steamer, SS Batavia. After arriving in Rotterdam, they could easily return to the Fatherland. In the prisoners’ canteen Otto bought a box which had contained matches

Outspoken Editor James Bartlett

Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway

  The Radstock, Shaftesbury & Poole Railway was a proposal to build an ‘ expeditious and cheap inland communication’ between Bath & Bristol and Poole Harbour. Its route would also have connected the Somerset coalfields to the county of Dorset – a distance of some 80 miles. The planned route would be via Frome, Warminster, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Blandford & Dorchester. It was claimed the new line would reduce the price of coal sold in Blackmoor Vale by a half. A first meeting of the ‘ Gentlemen concerned’ was held at the Old Down Inn between Bath and Wells on the 9 th November 1825. Chaired by Hon. Captain William Waldegrave RN some sixty such respected gentlemen were present. Using steam locomotives, it was announced that goods would be carried ‘ at no less than 6mph by day or night’ and it might also be possible to carry passengers at 8mph. It was estimated the construction costs would be £250,000 to be raised by the issue of 2,500 shares of £100 each. On completion of

'Bunga Bunga' in Weymouth Bay!

‘ Bunga Bunga’ is today associated with allegedly colourful sex parties attended by former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Yet more than a century earlier, the phrase originated and was linked with a different type of party in Weymouth Bay. In 1910, author Virginia Woolf, and her small equally colourful party of friends pulled off one of the most famous practical jokes in British military history. At the time, the British Navy was the most powerful and largest in the world and Portland was an important base. The Royal Navy was seen as one of the foundations of the British Empire and as a reflection of the nation’s power and wealth. The formidable HMS Dreadnought was the pride of the Royal Navy and flagship of the Channel Fleet and in February 1910 was berthed in Weymouth Bay. Pretending to be a VIP foreign delegation, Virginia and her friends obtained permission to visit the prestigious battleship. Four of the party, including Virginia herself, dressed up as fake Abyssini

Sandbanks Ferry

  Sandbanks Ferry has provided a vehicle and passenger crossing between Sandbanks and Studland since 1926. This avoids the 25 mile journey around Poole Harbour. First ferry crossing was on 15 th July 1926 and was coal fired and steam driven. In 1904, the Branksome & Swanage Light Railway Scheme had proposed the construction of a tramway between Canford Cliffs and Swanage. A tower was to be erected on either side of the water and by means of a gondola the tram cars would be swung across the water enabling them to continue on their way onto Swanage. The Branksome & Swanage Light Railway Scheme was unable to obtain the approval of the Poole Harbour Commissioners for their plan and as there was strong local opposition it was never built. Also, early in the 20 th century, there had been a rowing boat crossing which operated only during the summer. Built by an Isle of Wight shipbuilder, the first Sandbanks Ferry remained in service for more than 30 years. Despite only able to c