The 9th Adventure Club Podcast: Double Agents, Naval Officers & Apples

In which we discuss our plans to re-enact the classic spy novel ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, following the route of Carruthers & Davies day by day through Germany. This week we’re concentrating on October 1, the day that Davies reveals what this duck shooting holiday is all about. He recounts his first encounters with the duplicitous Dollman and honourable German naval officer von Brüning.

To celebrate the arrival of the ‘baddies’ and their boats, we consider who might have been the real life inspirations for these two men. Importantly, we discuss how we’re going to get to Kiel – and exactly what kind of apples the bargeman Bartels would be taking to Kappeln.

DON’T FORGET – you can support this project by pledging to pay for access to the live web adventure in the autumn, and acquire a beautiful Handbook Edition of ‘The Riddle of the Sands which we are threatening to write.

For full details go to: Spread the word. We can’t go on our adventure without you!

Are these the apples that went to Kappeln? Photo By Rasbak (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
In the podcast we discuss: how you can support us and why it’s worth doing so (01:22); how we’re going to play with live streaming technology such as Periscope and Google Hangouts (01:54); how we might use Open Street Map to chart our route and the practicalities of cycling from Flensburg to Kiel (03:05).

Lloyd on real-life Dollmans (05:45); the possible influence of the Dreyfus affair, with Esterhazy as Dollman (05:58); enter spymaster Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, another Dollman-like figure (08:42); another British agent, William Melville, inspiration for The Secret Agent, acquaintance of Harry Houdini and the original ‘M’ (11:24).

So who are the real-life von Brünings? (15:29); Tirpitz & the SMS Blitz (15:45); why all this talk about torpedo gunboats?(18:38); Hipper the ‘baby killer’ (19:17); the musical interlude – the story of Colonel Bogey (21:56); a *real* von Brüning (24:57); even the apples in this story lead double lives! (26:26)

Club Business – Kevin on the workings of the Edwardian civil service (30:38); Liz corrects Lloyd’s story about Childers rowing from Newhaven (32:27); Film Club night is looming, see for details (32:58); Jeff on the different kinds of map in The Riddle of the Sands (33:29); Jerry is looking for crew (35:11).

Missions for next week – members assistance required.

Cigars and many weird brands of sausage and tinned meats: if anyone has any idea what brands of cigar, sausage and tinned meat we should be buying in Kiel, let us know.

A number of rough woollen garments: there’s a lot of clothes shopping at this point. We’d love to talk to someone who could talk us through the outfits Carruthers & Davies would be buying at this point.

The colossal gates of the Holtenau lock: who’s been through these? what’s it like?

The Kaiser Wilhelm Canal from Holtenau to Brunsbüttel: anything you can  tell us about the experience of travelling through the canal is very welcome. We’re planning to cycle the whole way and stop somewhere half-way. Any suggestions?

‘There is plenty ducks’

September 30 is the last day in the book that Carruthers is allowed to believe he really is on a duck shooting holiday, and not a spying mission. Finally, he gets to unpack his Lancaster (and specialist cartridges) to bag something for his dinner.

“It was just dusk when we sallied out again, crossed a stretch of bog-land, and took up strategic posts round a stagnant pond. Hans had been sent to drive, and the result was a fine mallard and three ducks.”

The bog-land described here is now part of the Oehe-Schleimünde sea-bird sanctuary, so I’m guessing we won’t be allowed to come along and take pot-shots. We will though be able to spot several kinds of duck.

Oehe-Schleimünde sea-bird sanctuary

Lloyd presumed we’d be mainly looking out for eider ducks since the Eider river is not far from here. But word has it that eiders aren’t great eating – a bit too muddy and salty. According to my ‘U.S. Forces Guide to Hunting in Germany  (this is the kind of material I’ve ended up reading now), it’s far more likely that what we need to find are pochards. Germans call them ‘tafelente’, the ‘tafel’ bit meaning ‘dining table’, so we can be pretty sure they’re tasty.

Common pochards actually spend a lot of their time in the UK, migrating annually from Russia. Carruthers could just as easily have gone to Norfolk or Scotland for his shooting holiday. These days he might have to revise what kind of shot he uses since under the terms of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), it’s no longer acceptable to  use any lead at all in your cartridges.

For the armchair adventurers amongst us, there’s an even easier way of bagging pochard for dinner, of course. Simply order it from

‘the strains of a huge musical box’

The stopover at the pilot’s house in Schlei Fjord on September 30 is a convivial affair:

“… the shooting-party was none the less a triumphal success. It was celebrated with beer and music as before, while the pilot, an infant on each podgy knee, discoursed exuberantly on the glories of his country and the Elysian content of his life. ‘There is plenty beer, plenty meat, plenty money, plenty ducks,’ summed up his survey.”

The beer is more than likely to be home-brew, although it would be nice to think we can recreate the scene, when we get out there later in the year, by knocking back a few bottles of Dithmarscher (from Brunsbuttel) or Flensburger (from – er – Flensburg), both of which would have been in commercial circulation when Carruthers & Davies came ashore in 1898.

The kind of Symphonion musical box that the Schlei Fjord pilot might have owned.

The trickier thing to recreate is going to be ‘the strains of a huge musical box’. Musical boxes were big in the late 1800s, but they didn’t last long, wiped out eventually by the gramophone (aka the record player). They are, though, the first signs of what we now call ‘home entertainment systems’, and the leaders in musical box technology at the time were definitely the Germans.

The first big mass market box in Europe was the Symphonion, certainly huge and armed with a set of perforated metal disks that could be spun round to trigger a ‘comb’ of vibrating metal pins. It’s almost certainly one of these that the pilot owns – a symbol of German glory and technological leadership.

This wonder of entertainment technology was invented in Leipzig. So too was its successor the mighty Polyphon, that quite literally added bells (but not whistles). Leipzig music box engineers ruled the home music roost across the Pond, too, setting up the Regina company in America in 1892. It wasn’t long, though, before Emile Berliner (another German) turned up with his gramophone and the musical box pretty much died out forever.

It should be noted that the Polyphon in the above video is playing a tune from ‘Carmen’, an opera much loved by Germans in the 1880s and 1890s. Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, apparently saw it on 27 different occasions. Friedrich Nietzsche opined that he “became a better man when Bizet speaks to me”. It’s interesting, too, to note that, at the very same time Carruthers and Davies are tasting the pleasures of ‘modern’ German beer and music, Berliner is setting up the illustrious recording label Deutsche GrammaphonWe are at the very tipping point of the home entertainment explosion.

The sound of the pilot’s Symphonion musical box is heralding the time when fewer and fewer of us would bother going off on adventures, or endure the rigours of a duck shoot or embark on a sail in the Baltic in late autumn. Instead we’d sit at home, listen to music, drink a beer and confine ourselves to an adventure only in the mind. Just as many of you, dear Club members, are doing right now.

p.s. if you want to hear what happens when a Symphonion ‘goes bad’, you can hear it on the latest podcast.

Cremated in the steam box

The boat that was the template for the Dulcibella of Riddle of the Sands, the Vixen, was the subject of a previous post here. That post covered the Vixen’s early life as a Kent lifeboat, before she was reborn, on the Ramsgate sands, as the scrappy-but-functional yacht that Childers took cruising through the Frisian Islands and Baltic in the autumn of 1897.

We’ll cover some of that trip in another post, as it formed so much of the basis for Riddle of the Sands. This post covers the second half of the Vixen’s life, and like so many boat tales, it doesn’t have a happy ending.

Childers sailed her back to Terschelling, one of the Dutch Frisian islands, in December 1897, and left her there for the winter, in the care of a Herr Schroo. He then took the post-steamer back via Harlingen, Stavoren, Amsterdam and the night steamer from the Hook of Holland (I take much of the information here from Maldwen Drummond’s book The Riddle – and I wonder if it was actually the Flushing steamer that Childers took back to London).

Childers was befogged outside Harwich on the 16th December, and arrived in London on the 17th. He travelled back to Terschelling in Easter of the following year, 1898, to sail the Vixen home. She and he arrived in Dover on 17 April 1898.

Vixen stayed in home waters for the rest of her days. During Whitsun 1898, Childers sailed her to Newhaven with William Le Fanu, a close friend and brother of Captain Hugh Barrington Le Fanu (who would later become harbour master at Dunkirk during the First World War). Childers and Le Fanu rowed from Newhaven to Lewes for dinner, rowing back along the Ouse ‘at a great pace’ on the tide (with presumably a good quantity of wine and brandy in their bellies).

Childers then sailed Vixen around to the Solent, and kept her at Picketts Yard, Southampton for a while, taking the train down from London to sail her at the weekends. Le Fanu often accompanied him. In August, Childers sailed Vixen down the Solent and then back up to the Hamble, where he left her at Moody’s boatyard (now Moody’s Swanwick Marina – and, in one of those odd coincidences this project seems to throw out, the first place I ever sailed in a yacht from).

Vixen was taken out of the water at Moody’s while Childers headed for Trinidad for the autumn, staying there until early December 1898. He didn’t return to Vixen until March 1899. Moodys had fitted her out afresh and she was ready for the sea. He went cruising in her with Herbert Warington-Smyth, who had been at Trinity with Childers and was a fellow member of the Cruising Club. Warington (as he was known) had been on his own adventures in Indo-China after Trinity, and had written a couple of books about it. He was an advocate of refounding the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, which had been disbanded in 1891. I wonder whether there might have been a bit of Carruthers in Warington; he wrote about the Vixen in Yachting Monthly in 1932, and particularly recalled the centre-board: ‘It was a terrible weight, but Childers thought nothing of it.’ That sounds like the authentic voice of Carruthers.

Childers’s own sailing log ends at the beginning of May 1899, with a trip in the Vixen to Beaulieu, where Childers and Warington were joined by Le Fanu. Storm clouds were gathering in South Africa. Childers and Le Fanu went on a bicyling holiday in France in October 1899, and Childers volunteered for service in South Africa in January 1900. He served in South Africa until August 1900, and left the country in October 1900. He published his first book, the bestselling In The Ranks of the CIV, about his time in South Africa, on his return.

Childers finally returned to see the Vixen in April 1901. She was still at Moody’s in the Hamble, but on this trip his eyes were distracted by another: the Sunbeam, a 27-year-old yacht. He formed a syndicate with Le Fanu and Aldred Dennis, all three of them giving their address as Carlyle Mansions in London. Moody’s agreed to purchase the Vixen.

But she wasn’t called Vixen any longer; at some point she had been named the Dulcibella. Why? The surviving manuscript of Riddle of the Sands is dated 13 December 1901, so he must have been writing the book at the same time as he was preparing to purchase the Sunbeam. Given how much the Vixen inspired the fictional Dulcibella, it must have pleased him to make the fiction into a fact.

Moody’s made some further alterations to Dulcibella, and sold her on to Mr George Newbury for 12 pounds. Compared to her previous adventurous existence, life with Newbury seems to have been scandalously Home Counties – he used her at Hill Head Haven at weekends as a houseboat, and built a gazebo on her coach-roof, an awful fate for such a feted vessel. On 27 November 1906, the Registrar of British Ships entry for Dulcibella was altered to read ‘Closed – Vessel converted into a houseboat and registry no longer required.’

Dulcibella was bought in 1932 by Claude ‘Happy’ Hapgood for three pounds. She was taken to his yard at Wootton Creek on the Isle of Wight. Hapgood was yachting correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and he and partner Jim Young had a ‘beer money yard’ at Wootton Creek. They worked on boat-building and repair work during the winter, with Hapgood allegedly reading Riddle of the Sands to Young over their lunchtime sandwiches.

She was there, on the slipway at Wootton Creek, for a few years, and some people came to pay their respects. The Dulcibella Memorial Committee was set up in 1937, to raise money to put her on a plinth. It was proposed to do this at Ryde on the Isle of Wight, but the local council refused. Was Childers’ Republican adventure after the war the reason?

Happy Hopgood never got round to fixing her up, either. Hapgood sold the yard and its contents to Ted Watson, who kept her for a while, and then a new berth for Dulcibella was offered by the Lymington Slipway and Engineering Company, the directors of which also owned a boatyard. She was towed by powerboat from the Isle of Wight in August 1939, almost sinking on the way. A hole was plugged and she was taken the rest of the way. Restoration was apparently about to start, but then the world broke in, as the Second World War broke out.

The Dulcibella at Lymingon in 1942. Photograph by Group Captain FC Griffiths, from the edition of The Riddle of the Sands edited by RM Bowker
The Dulcibella at Lymingon in 1942. Photograph by Group Captain FC Griffiths, from the edition of The Riddle of the Sands edited by RM Bowker

The Lymington yard was sold again after the war. The remnants of the Memorial Committee tried to find another berth, but none was forthcoming. Dulcibella was allegedly ‘cremated’ (in Drummond’s words) in the steam box used for bending wood. There is an additional postscript here, from Michael Balyard – he witnessed, it appears, the final breaking-up of the Dulcibella, and the despatch of a fragment of the keel to Childers’s widow Molly.


A large town at the other end of the world sea

We have gone on, probably more than is good for you or for us, about the political resonances of Schleswig-Holstein, and about how Erskine Childers uses them so skilfully to make an unavoidable point about the growth in German power. Nonetheless, it turns out that this particular part of the world has always been on a very notable political fault line. In fact, it’s a line you can actually see today.

It is on September 30th that our heroes reach Schlei Fjord, south of the Flensburg fjord and, of course, on the route to Kiel, which is Davies’s real destination (though Carruthers knows nothing of this yet). As Carruthers says, this fjord is rather interesting:

I could see no sign of the entrance he had spoken of, and no wonder, for it is only eighty yards wide, though it leads to a fjord thirty miles long.

Schlei Fjord, from
Schlei Fjord, from

It is indeed a rather extraordinary landscape, judging by the map. Not only is it an enormous body of water with a tiny entrance – it also cuts deep into Schleswig-Holstein, reaching almost halfway across the peninsula.

It is this geographical landscape that brings us to the subject of this post. Because at the far end of the fjord, deep into the body of Schleswig-Holstein, a mighty town was founded in the eighth century. It was called Hedeby, and it was the second biggest city of the Vikings. These days, there’s nothing left of it other than a ring of trees on a raised bank.

Hedeby Today, from Wikimedia Commons "Haithabu Haddebyer Noor WT2005". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Hedeby Today, from Wikimedia Commons “Haithabu Haddebyer Noor WT2005”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In those days before canals, the Schlei Fjord afforded your entrepreneurial Viking with an obvious opportunity. Instead of sailing your ship all the way around the Jutland peninsula to reach to the North Sea, you could sail it to Hedeby at the head of the Schlei Fjord, lift it out of the water, carry it a mere 10 miles and then reach the Treene River. The Treene flows into the Eider, and the Eider flows into the North Sea.

So important was this location that Hedeby grew mighty on the back of it, attracting traders from as far away as Arab Spain. One of these traders, called al-Tartushi, described the world of Hedeby thus:

Hedeby is a large town at the other end of the world sea…. The town is not rich in goods… The staple food is fish, since it is so plentiful. It often happens that a newborn infant is tossed into the sea to save raising it. Also… Women may divorce their husbands. Nothing can compare with the dreadful singing of these people, worse even than the barking of dogs.

Hedeby’s singers may not have been up to much, but its merchants were. So successful were they that that Hedeby captured the attention of the peoples who lived to the south of it – the Frisians, the Franks and the Wends. One doesn’t normally think of Vikings as being a defensive lot, but in this case they were keen to protect their trading golden egg. So they built an earth wall, called the Danewirk, across almost the entire width of the peninsula just south of Hedeby. It is this wall, rather like Offa’s Dyke, that can be seen today.

 Danewirk » by Joachim Müllerchen. Under licence CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Wikimedia Commons.
Danewirk » by Joachim Müllerchen. Under licence CC BY-SA 2.0 de via Wikimedia Commons.

The Danewirk didn’t work. Hedeby was lost for most of the 10th century, first to the Swedes and then to the Franks. King Harald Bluetooth, conqueror and inventor of local wireless networks, got Hedeby back in 983, but raids continued and in the 11th century Hedeby was abandoned for the neighbouring town of Schleswig.

We like to imagine an earlier version of Carruthers and Davies, dressed in furs and leather instead of Norfolk jackets, pottering around the waters of the Schlei Fjord and coming across a dastardly Swedish plot to invade their precious town from the sea. And singing their awful songs, worse than the barking of dogs.

The 8th Adventure Club Podcast: Ducks, Vikings & Music Boxes

This week we’re concentrating on September 29 & 30, in which we arrive at the Schlei Fjord for a spot of duck shooting, beer and music. We also talk at length about how you can support this project by pledging to pay for access to the live web adventure in the autumn, and acquire a beautiful Handbook Edition of ‘The Riddle of the Sands which we are threatening to write.

For full details go to: Spread the word. We can’t go on our adventure without you!

In the podcast we discuss: how you can support us and why it’s worth doing so (01:12); the fate of Childers’s real-life Dulcibella (5:51), including details about such characters as Claude ‘Happy’ Hapgood (11:11); the discovery of a decent ‘theme tune’ for the Dulcibella, arranged by Britten (14:04); a brief but spooky listen to German music boxes of the late 1800s (15:24); Vikings make an appearance and reinforce worries about the Germans (20:45); the low-down on what kind of ducks Carruthers would have been shooting (24:37).

The pochard – almost certainly the duck that Carruthers & Davies shoot in the Schei Fjord.

Club Business – Erskine Childers’s great grandson sets us straight on an episode in Cambridge (28:27); Tony kicks on with the centreboard vs leeboard debate and alerts us to the British Army Sailing Club (30:03); Amanda tells us about her mother-in-law, who has stories to tell about spending every summer in Norderney for most of her life (31:55)

Missions for next week (33:56) – information please about Bartels, Baddies, Boats… and Babes (33:54)


‘a formidable beverage, called coffee-punch’

When you go searching on the web for Danish coffee-punch recipes (as you do), Google tends to come up with rather Christmassy recipes involving warm port, cinnamon and rum added to a shot of coffee. All very cosy and delicious, but I suspect not the kind of thing a Danish smacksman of yesteryear would have sought out in his local inn after a hard day’s trawl in the fjord on September 28.

Club member Kate Mayfield gets closer to the mark, I think, putting this recipe our way (feel free, btw, to become a Member yourself and chip in at any time):

Here’s a recipe from the artist, the kiteflier, the man, the Dane, who was Jørgen Møller Hansen.

Jørgen explained the formula for the Kaffe-punch; place a kroner in the cup, add coffee until you can’t see the coin, then add schnapps until you can see the coin again.


Ahoy, indeed, Kate. I had not heard of Jørgen Møller Hansen before, and was sad to hear that he had died recently. But, boy, what a lot of love there is for him out there, especially amongst the kite-flying community. This, for example, from :

His kites you may well know; the apparently simple, almost minimalist graphics based on white, black or grey with the inclusion of a single colour, the pattern chopped and rearranged to create balance and tension. Some designs could be gently decorative, like the patterns in drapery painted by Matisse; others could be bold and almost aggressive, the diagonal lines slashing boldly from left to right, cut and rearranged like collage in a Russian constructivist composition. They were undoubtedly some of the most ambitious attempts at a pure, fine-art approach to kite design; the kite was Jørgen’s canvas, the sky his gallery wall.

A key thing to note about Jørgen, for our purposes, is that he lived in Aarhus, which was the schnapps capital of Denmark in the early 1900s. Northern Jutland generally is ‘schnapps central’. Or rather it is *akvavit* central, since that is basically what Scandinavian schnapps is.

The best-selling brand in Denmark is called Aalborg Tafel Akvavit, although it’s quite strong stuff flavour-wise to put in your coffee. A clearer, less overpowering option might be Brøndums. I suspect, however, our Danish smacksmen didn’t bother buying their hooch. They would have made their own.

“Flickr – cyclonebill – Mandelsnaps, snaps med hasselnødder, julesnaps, dildakvavit og lakridssnaps” by cyclonebill – Mandelsnaps, snaps med hasselnødder, julesnaps, dildakvavit og lakridssnaps. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a fine tradition in this part of the world of distilling your own grain alcohol (although illegal these days), and then flavouring it with local herbs, flowers and berries. When it’s not called aquavit its also called ‘bjesk’.

Basically you souse your alcohol base in whatever’s at hand, whether it be dill or caraway, fennel, wormwood or pretty much anything that you can find in your local hedgerow or on the beach. If you have the patience you can then mature it in oak barrels – the Norwegians bother to sail it to East Asia and back just to ensure a distinct flavour. The more direct approach is to let the herbs soak in for a week so, and then get drinking. What you’re getting is a drink that is quite literally a distillation of your local area and season.

Davies and Carruthers should be knocking back the taste of Satrup in a glass, therefore – and also I suspect singing short local drinking songs or ‘snapsvisa‘ with every  shot.

“A typical snapsvisa is a short, vigorous song; its lyrics usually tell of the delicacy and glory of the drink, or of the singer’s craving for snaps. Snapsvisor are short, bright, and easy to learn.”

Here’s an example of a slightly fancy one sung by Benny from Abba, with his mates in the BAO (Benny Andersson Orchestra):

September 28 is looking like a highly convivial affair in the inn at Satrup. I’m looking forward to it when we get out there in the autumn. I’m not looking forward to the day after.  Carruthers doesn’t talk about having a hangover when he goes sailing in a ‘heavy thresh’ the next day in the Augustenborg Fjord, but you can bet your bottom kroner he had one.



‘The medley on our bookshelf’

We’ve said – a few times now – that Childers is doing something very deliberate in this part of the book. The excursion to Schleswig-Holstein seems deliberately designed to emphasise the growing military threat from Prussian arms, and the little collection of books on the shelf in the Dulcibella’s saloon is just as significant.

Our conversation at dinner turned naturally on war, and in naval warfare I found I had come upon Davies’s literary hobby. I had not hitherto paid attention to the medley on our bookshelf, but I now saw that, besides a Nautical Almanack and some dilapidated Sailing Directions, there were several books on the cruises of small yachts, and also some big volumes crushed in anyhow or lying on the top. Squinting painfully at them I saw Mahan’s Life of Nelson, Brassey’s Naval Annual, and others.

‘It’s a tremendously interesting subject,’ said Davies, pulling down (in two pieces) a volume of Mahan’s Influence of Sea Power.

The Nautical Almanack is one of the oldest recurring editions in British letters, dating back to 1767 and originally published by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. It is essentially a catalogue of the heavens, showing the position of celestial objects on each day of the year, to be used as an aid to navigation. Since 1958, a joint edition has been published by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office (what a department!) and the US Naval Observatory. The ‘special relationship’ is alive and well in at least this area, it seems.

‘Sailing Directions’ is a generic term for a series of publications – also known as ‘Pilots’ – which are still published today by the Admiralty. They are essentially user guides to harbours and coasts for sailors, giving instructions on how to navigate in and out of anchorages.

Brassey’s Naval Annual was first published by Thomas Brassey, 1st Earl of Brassey, in 1886. It was essentially a guide to navies, showing the development of the most powerful navies in some detail, listing new ships and future plans. Here are a couple of screenshots from the 1901 edition, which should make it clear why Davies was reading it!



In other words – Brassey showed, in detail, the rate of growth of the German navy.

The last two books – The Life of Nelson and Influence of Sea Power – were both written by American admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan. Life of Nelson was published in 1897, the year of Childers’s own voyage to the Baltic and the East Frisians, and only a year before the setting of Riddle of the SandsInfluence of Sea Power came out in 1890, and was immediately, and hugely, influential. Mahan’s essential contention was that the nation that controlled the seas, controlled everything. Ever since Nelson, this nation had been Britain. But in 1890 – and even more so in 1898 – Britain’s preeminent position was increasingly threatened by Germany.

HMS Dreadnought, Britains first Dreadnought-class warship - picture By U.S. Navy (U.S. Naval Historical Center) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
HMS Dreadnought, Britains first Dreadnought-class warship – picture By U.S. Navy (U.S. Naval Historical Center) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is a nice detail to add here, from Maldwen Drummond’s book The Riddle. Drummond points out that Childers visited Kiel – the main naval harbour for Germany – during October 1897. At this time, the German Colonial Society was orchestrating a propaganda campaign in favour of German armament and aggression. The Society ‘had organized 173 lectures, printed 140,000 pamphlets and distributed 2,000 copies of Magain’s The Influence of Sea Power Upon History.’

Books, then, were another means by which Childers could emphasise his political point. One final thing about them: Childers lists in the log of his own journey to the Baltic and the Frisians in 1897 the books he himself took. He was a big fan of Thackeray, and took two Thackeray titles with him, Esmond and Pendennis. The log entry for 2 October, off the East Frisian island of Langeroog, is rather lovely:

3 fathoms, fine deep channel – just off a long pier. Lovely calm night. Dinner, white soup, steak, onions and potatoes, champagne, black coffee, cigars – Esmond.

We shall, of course, be seeking to re-enact this charming scene when we get there ourselves!

The 7th Adventure Club Podcast: Books, Handbooks & Punch

This week we’re concentrating on September 28 & 29, in which Davies’s onboard library is discussed, and a dangerous concoction called ‘coffee-punch’ sampled.

We also talk at length about how you can support this project by pledging to pay for access to the live web adventure in the autumn, acquiring a beautiful Handbook Edition of ‘The Riddle of the Sands which we are threatening to write, and bag various other lovely rewards. 

In the podcast we discuss: how we’re going to write a book of our adventures (02:20); our partnership with Unbound (03:18); details of the online adventure you could enjoy in the autumn (04:29); honourable mentions in mainstream media (06:20); the different levels of reward for supporters (06:58). For full details go to: Spread the word. We can’t go on our adventure without you!

Thank you Kate Mayfield for Jørgen Møller Hansen’s powerful coffee punch recipe

Also – the serious and important business of researching ‘coffee punch’ (09:19); Kate Mayfield’s excellent suggestion for a punch recipe (11:11); talk of Danish ‘snaps’, aquavit and ‘bjesk’ (13:27); the fine tradition of singing ‘snapsvisa’ (16:15); the books on board the Dulcibella (18:34); the books on board Childers’s boat  in 1897 (21:33); other popular books of the late 1890s about Germany (24:20); E.F Knight, the godfather of small boat sailing in the Baltic (27:16); club members Paul & Tony share their expertise about converted lifeboats (29:22); we start the great centreboard vs leeboard debate (31:08).

Club business: Jeff alerts us to opportunities to visit the Foreign Office building where Carruthers would have worked (33:12); Jerry alerts us to his own planned adventure on board his boat Marihona (34:17).

Missions for next week – members assistance required.

‘the strains of a huge musical box’. What kind of musical box would have been taking up room in a north German pilot’s house in 1898?

Beer. There appears to be quite a lot of beer drunk on September 30, so we think it’s about time we got to know the local Schleswig brews. Join us!

Duck shooting. Finally we get a chance to use our Lancasters (see We’d love to hear from someone who’s been duck shooting, and we also need a few German duck recipes, please.

Vikings and the  Schlei Fjord. We believe this was a key part of an ancient route for Vikings heading from the Baltic to the North Sea – yet another bunch of people planning to invade Britain by boat. Tell us what you know about this area.

‘the spire of a little monument rising from a leafy hollow’

It’s the evening of September 28. Carruthers and Davies have moored in a ‘shaded backwater’ about halfway up the Als Sound when they catch sight of a spire on the opposite shore. What can it be?

The Arnkieldenkmal. Image sourced from

It’s called the Arnkieldenkmal, and it’s one of several monuments the German erected in a flush of triumphalism after their victory over the Danes in 1864. This one commemorates the Battle of Als. The Germans were that cocky about winning, they even composed music to go with their monuments. This is ‘Der Alsenströmer’ by Gottfried Piefke:

There was an equally Gothic and showy spire at Dybbøl plonked on the headland at the end of the Flensburg fjord. Carruthers takes that one in on his trip to the Sonderburg shops. Such a draw were they, that people used to buy postcards of them at the time.

We have no problem, therefore, working out where the Dulcibella moored on the 28th. Basically, Childers has placed his characters exactly at the point where the Prussian army set off across the sound in little boats, between the village Sottrupskov (or Satrup) and the Sandbjerg Estate, a grand house originally owned by the Duke of Schleswig Holstein. If you want a precise map reference, we’ve got it in the form of the battle map itself:

Map of the Prussian ‘flotilla’ invasion of 1864. courtesy of

If you haven’t got the message already, Childers is trying to tell us something, and it’s this: look at how good those Germans are at crossing channels and invading countries. Or as Davies puts it: “ Germany’s a thundering great nation… I wonder if we shall ever fight her.”

It turns out there are still quite a lot of small monuments still to be found around the area – Sören Östergaard on his wonderful site has done a great job of logging them. The big gothic spires of the Dueppeldenkmal and the Arnkieldenkmal are long gone, though. Both of them were blown sky-high by Danish freedom fighters as soon as the Second World War was over. In the case of the Dueppeldenkmal, they blew it up while Doenitz was still negotiating the surrender of the Third Reich in nearby Flensburg. He would have heard the explosion, for sure – perhaps even seen the resulting puff of smoke & dust hanging over the fjord.

Go there now and you’ll find a rather striking symbol of Danish national pride – a windmill. A few broken pieces of the German monument are lying around. But at Arnkiel there’s nothing – it’s completely gone. So we can’t quite recreate the scene when we head out there in the autumn.

What we can do, however, is join in a re-enactment of the Battle of Als itself. This is happening in June, and there’s a call for participants on the website Perhaps this would be a good dry run for Adventure Club members before we start the adventure proper in September.

Who’s in?