Talks Background

My name is Rod MacArthur and you can read more about me here.  I have been giving Military History talks since about 2006.  I normally create at least one new talk per year, so I now have a portfolio of 19 talks, details of which can be seen by clicking on these links of 18th Century Talks, Napoleonic Talks and Modern Talks, or by the Top Menu dropdowns of the same names. If you then click on each talk a brief description comes up.

Some talks have only been given a few times, one (on Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal) has been given 25 times.  Most of these talks have been to Probus (Professional & Business) Clubs, Historical Associations and Military Associations (such as the Royal British Legion) in South East England.  Some have been given in Spain and Portugal, since we have a second home in Spain and I have given talks to groups during visits to Peninsular War battlefields.

Between 2006 and 2019, I gave nearly 60 talks.    I was due to give five more in 2020, but the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has temporarily postponed these.  The talks are all PowerPoint presentations and I have my own laptop, projector and screen, although some venues have built in projectors and screens, which is obviously more convenient.

I give all my talks to raise funds for appropriate charities.  If I need to travel any distance I would request modest travelling expenses.

If you are interested in any of my talks please contact me here.

The posts below are in reverse chronological order (ie newest first) and show recent talks given, new talks produced and other items of interest.

New talk – The Battle of Barrosa

Barrossa

I have created a new talk on the Battle of Barrosa which took place on 5th March 1811.  Details of this can be seen here.

While Wellington’s Army was driving the French out of Portugal, an Anglo-Spanish Army fought a battle against the French at Barrosa.

Although the majority of allied force was Spanish, these played no part in the battle which was entirely between General Graham’s British Division and two French Divisions. Despite being outnumbered 2:1 the British won and even managed to capture a French Eagle, the first of the Peninsular War.

This talk covers the events leading up to the battle and the detail of the battle itself. It neatly fills in the period between Rod’s other talks on “The Lines of Torres Vedras” and “The Battles of Fuentes de Oñoro and Albuera”.

New Talk – The Battle of Fuengirola

Rod has produced a new talk on the Battle of Fuengirola. More details can be seen here.

Many people will be aware of Fuengirola as a pretty holiday destination on the Costa del Sol.  What they may be less aware of is that it was the scene of a ferocious battle in 1810, involving British and Spanish forces on one side, against Polish troops on the other.

In 1810 an Anglo-Spanish force attempted to capture Fuengirola Castle, which was initially held by 150 Polish troops.  They were reinforced with small numbers of Polish troops from Mijas and Alhaurin, managing to hold out against an army more than 10 times their strength, and even succeeded in capturing the British General.

This talk covers the background to the battle and the events of the battle itself.  It neatly follows on from Rod’s talk on “The Lines of Torres Vedras”.

Talk to Rochester & District Probus Club

On 14th January I gave my Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal talk to the Rochester and District Probus (Professional & Business) Club.

It went down very well and raised money for the Felix Fund, which is a military charity supporting Bomb Disposal personnel (Army, Navy, Air Force and Metropolitan Police Bomb Squad) and their families. The Felix Fund is named after the Felix cartoon cat, with 9 lives, which was adopted as the badge of the Bomb Disposal teams in Northern Ireland.

Talk to Rotherfield St Martin

On 14th October 2019 I gave my talk “The Story of of a Medal” to the outstanding village charity Rotherfield St Martin. The talk covers my father’s Merchant Navy service, including Gibraltar Convoys, Atlantic Convoys, Russian Convoys and D-Day landings during World War II.

In 2013 the Government belatedly issued the Arctic Star Medal for those who had served on the Russian Convoys, 68 years after the last convoy took place. My father had died in 1985, but the Government allowed families to claim medals, and since I had his other medals, I decided to claim this. The latter part of my talk therefore covers how I went about researching his Merchant Navy service at the National Archives and other sources, leading to my successfully claiming his medal.

This talk was given to raise funds for The Mission to Seamen, which both my parents supported.

Talks Preparation

I thought I would post an article about how I prepare my talks.

The starting point is reading up on the subject and since I have over 2,000 books on Military History in my study, plus hundreds of electronic ones on my computer, I normally have everything I want.  If not, then I do some research online.

I set up an electronic folder for each talk, and copy as many relevant pictures, maps etc into it that I can find.  I modify some maps or diagrams of battles by taking out all images of troop positions and movements, then I can use the same map to show various stages in the battle.  Some images just go straight in, others may take a week or more of modification.

I begin to create the talk on PowerPoint and as I do so, create a script as a Word Document.   The talk will go through many modifications during its preparation.  I tend to put everything of interest into it then, when it is complete, practice it to see how long it is.   If it is too long I go back over it to see what can be cut out.  I may well do this several times before it is right.

When I actually give my talks, I do not use a script or notes, but rely on the slides to act as a prompt for what I am going to say.  I therefore make sure that the caption or other notes on the slides is sufficient to give me that prompt.  Reading the script a few times beforehand also helps.

I use a remote slide changer, which doubles up as a laser pointer to assist in making sure that the talk flows smoothly.

Finally, when I have given the talk, I always ask for questions, which sometimes lets me mention additional matters which I had to cut out to prevent the talk being too long.

New Projector

I recently was given a new projector for my birthday, kindly funded by my wife and my daughter.  My old projector was 10 years old and only worked reasonably in a dark room.  My new one, an Epson EB-S41, has a brilliantly sharp picture, even in ambient light, and is lighter and more advanced than my old one.  I have tested it to get used to how it works, but not yet used it for a talk.

I thought of giving my old projector to my grandson’s school, but they informed me, in a very kindly way, that all of their classrooms had interactive whiteboards, so they did not need it!!!  I am obviously behind the times on the latest educational developments.

I therefore donated my old one to our outstanding local village charity, which runs many events.  For larger events they use our village hall, which has a really large drop down screen and a projector, but they sometimes run smaller events in other venues so they thought it would be useful.  They have a new Chief Executive and she promptly took the opportunity to book me in for a talk later this year.  They heard my Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal talk back in 2012, so this time I will be giving them my talk “The Story of a Medal”.

The ’45

A few days ago, I completed my talk on “The ‘45”, which covers the events of the last Jacobite Rebellion, or Rising, depending upon your viewpoint. 

Being half Scots, I have been interested in the Jacobite Rebellion for many years and have finally got around to producing a talk about it.

I say I have finished it; however, I did a test run and it is an hour and a half long.   I need to cut it down considerably before it is of a suitable length to give to an audience.  I aim to do this by the end of the year.

I always end up doing this with my talks.  I put everything of interest into them and then, if they are too long, see what can be cut out.

2019 Talks

In March 2019, I gave a talk to the Bexhill Hanoverian Study Group about the Battles of Oporto and Talavera, which took place in 1809, some 210 years ago.  I am a member of that group and some may be unaware of why Bexhill, in East Sussex, has a Hanoverian connection. 

For over 120 years the United Kingdom and Hanover had the same King but separate governments.  In 1803 the French invaded Hanover.  The Hanoverian Government capitulated, but most of its Army fled to England where it reformed as The King’s German Legion, fighting for the next 12 years in British uniform as part of the British Army, until Hanover was liberated once more.   They provided some of Wellington’s best and most reliable troops, fighting in every major battle of the Peninsular War and at Waterloo.  The KGL Depot was at Bexhill and when they arrived their 15,000 men greatly outnumbered the population of the town, which in those days was only 5,000.  The townspeople were apprehensive at first but rapidly discovered that the Hanoverians were far better behaved than the average British soldiers.   Several marriages ensued and some people living in Bexhill today are their descendants.   After 1807 most of the King’s German Legion were overseas but a Depot remained at Bexhill.

The talk raised funds for Combat Stress, which provides support and treatment to military veterans with mental health problems to help them tackle the past and take on the future.

In April 2019, I gave a talk on Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal to the Hailsham Historical Society.  This was a joint venture with Pat Strickson, who was promoting her excellent book “Time Stood Still in a Muddy Hole”, based on the diaries of John Hannaford, a World War II Bomb Disposal Officer, who died in 2015.  I am Chairman of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers Club and had helped Pat with the technical details in the book.

Over the Bank Holiday Weekend 4th to 6th May 2019, I gave three talks (one each day) on Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal at the Royal Engineers Museum at Chatham, who were having a special event on Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search.

We were in Spain in May and June, where I belong to a Probus Club (entirely British ex-pats).   A couple of days before one of their meetings we all had an email informing us that the guest speaker had cancelled.  I stepped in and gave my Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal talk again.  They had heard it previously in 2010, but it had been updated since then.

In July 2019, I gave my talk on Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal to the Ashdown Probus Club.

All of these Bomb Disposal talks went down very well and raised a considerable amount of money for the Felix Fund,  which is a military charity supporting Bomb Disposal personnel (Army, Navy, Air Force and Metropolitan Police Bomb Squad) and their families.  The Felix Fund is named after the Felix cartoon cat, with 9 lives, which was adopted as the badge of the Bomb Disposal teams in Northern Ireland.