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The Wing Major

‘It consists of a windmill, but one totally different in appearance and principle from all windmills known hitherto.’ This is a Ventimotor, designed by an Artillery Officer to save the German Milling Industry. It is a very early version of an electricity-producing wind turbine. Designed by Major Kurt Bilau, it makes use of principals from…

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A handy mill

Feeding an army in the depths of a Russian winter requires some handy ideas. Handmills like this one were carried by thousands of Swedish soldiers during the Great Northern Wars of the 18th Century. They were used by the Caroleans, the highly professional soldiers of the Swedish Empire. Grain both lasts longer than flour, and…

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An explosive business

These tools of war enabled centuries of explosive bloodshed. This Gem is an adjustable copper measure for gunpowder and shot. Without these, it would once have been impossible for riflemen and sportsmen to reliably measure the correct amount of powder for their weapon and launch projectiles. To work it, one would twist the bottom of…

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Tilting at windmills

“Those over there are not giants but windmills.” You’ve probably heard the common phrase ’tilting at windmills’, which, as the well-read amongst you might know, originates in the misadventures of Don Quixote – the influential novel written by the Spanish writer Cervantes in the early 17th century. As an idiom it refers to wasting time, fighting imaginary…

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Your fate is like that of man

“You worked blindly and towards an unknown end; but your end was certain.” This beautiful watercolour is from a collection by Frank Brangwyn and Hayter Preston. The collection consists of a number of watercolours of different windmills, each with poetic anecdotes, which make up a beautiful and moving series exploring the state of milling and…

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A direct hit

‘By a piece of singular good fortune, no one was killed.’ This book called A Train Errant shines a light on a little-known aspect of the First World War. The book contains a bound collection of newsletters called The Orderly Review, which were published on board Great War Ambulance Train No.16, which was donated to the war effort by the…

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Germans reborn

Mills are often used as a symbol of rebirth. This intriguing Gem is a pre-First World War postcard entitled ‘The Reservist Mill’. It depicts German recruits going into the mill and coming out as reservists – the image explained by a poem underneath the mill: ‘Just as the finely-milled cornComes out as flourThe Recruit goes…

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