All posts by Phil Morrell


Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest moun­tain in Africa at 5,896 metres (or 19,341 feet in old money) and the tallest single freest­and­ing moun­tain in the world.

We wel­comed Anne Jones as our speaker who was the Head Teacher of the Infant and Junior School of Sheffield Girls High School for four­teen years until her retire­ment some four years ago. She became an ambas­sador for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, volun­teer­ing at the Charity Hub in the new outpatient’s depart­ment of the hos­pital.

Whilst at the Children’s Anne decided to take part in the hospital’s first over­seas fun­drais­ing chal­lenge to climb Kilimanjaro. What were the reas­ons for taking up the chal­lenge?

One to raise money for the ‘Build It Better’ cam­paign which aims to extend and ren­ov­ate the Oncology ward, to renew the Emergency depart­ment and to build a helipad on the hospital’s roof.

Secondly Anne wanted to test her­self by embra­cing new oppor­tun­it­ies and taking risks. She had never done any­thing like this before.

Preparation involved fund rais­ing via appeals to the public, talks to the girls at the High School and Tapas even­ings. A total of over £4,000 was raised in this way. Anne also had to assemble the neces­sary equip­ment with a weight limit of 15 kilos for the week. Finally, she wanted to make sure she was phys­ic­ally pre­pared and this involved many hours of walks and climbs in the Peak District and on the north coast of Menorca, yoga ses­sions and trips to the gym.

In September 2019 the party of twenty four arrived at the foot of the moun­tain ready for the task ahead.

The group took the Machame Route which is the longest approach with a total ascent of 7,130 metres and a dis­tance of 62 kilo­metres but is the most effect­ive for avoid­ing alti­tude sick­ness. The climb took five and a half days going up and one and a half days coming down. At the foot of the moun­tain there is rain forest so shorts and T shirts were the order of the day. At night they had sharp frosts so that everything in the tents was frozen. They were accom­pan­ied by an English guide, a Tanzanian doctor, who mon­itored oxygen levels daily, and a team of Rafiki. All their bags, tents and cook­ing equip­ment were trans­por­ted from one camp to the next.

By day three the reduced oxygen levels were notice­able, all phys­ical exer­tions took longer and tem­per­at­ures had fallen con­sid­er­ably. In addi­tion, the ter­rain became more dif­fi­cult. However, Anne said that all the things she wor­ried about before her trip such as the toilet facil­it­ies, the shar­ing a tent, the not shower­ing paled into insig­ni­fic­ance once you were on the moun­tain.

The last camp was at 4,663 metres on rocky sur­faces and with low oxygen levels. They were only able to cover 4 kilo­metres that day. They pre­pared for the final ascent with more cloth­ing layers, extra snacks and water. They left camp at 10.30 at night. It was a tough quiet climb although Anne had Rod Stewart on her head­phones to help! Twenty three of the group made it to the summit although they could only stay there for half an hour because of the thin air.

The des­cent from the top took one and a half days and was very hard — it rained all the way down and the sur­faces were steep and slip­pery.

Anne reflec­ted on the factors that kept the team motiv­ated – food they con­sumed 10,000 cal­or­ies a day so it was essen­tial to have a high carb diet and lots of sweets. The sup­port of the Rafiki (port­ers and sup­port team) who were fant­astic and the unfor­get­table views. Finally, there was the reason for the chal­lenge – the hos­pital. In the end the group man­aged to raise over £125,000.

This was a fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion which was thor­oughly enjoyed by our mem­bers.

Any dona­tions to the hos­pital would be grate­fully received:

(All photos cour­tesy of Anne Jones)


It is a little-known fact that a group of American oil work­ers “rough­necks” came over to Sherwood Forest during the Second World War on a top secret pro­ject to drill for oil to supply the British war effort.

Since the start of World War Two the supply of oil was vital to main­tain the armed forces. This had mainly been provided by fleets of tankers sail­ing from America but by 1942 German U boats were sink­ing 700,00 tonnes of ship­ping per month. At that time, it was repor­ted that there was only two months’ supply of oil left.

At an emer­gency meet­ing of the Oil Control Board in London Philip Southwell, man­aging dir­ector of the D’Arcy Oil Company, sug­ges­ted using a site around Duke’s Wood and Eakring in Sherwood Forest where the exist­ence of oil had already been estab­lished. The ques­tion was how this could be achieved given that man­power and equip­ment were in short supply. Also, the exist­ing equip­ment was old, heavy and dif­fi­cult to man­oeuvre between sites. The solu­tion was to approach America for help.

Southwell flew to the US in September 1942 and it was agreed by the American admin­is­tra­tion that the D’Arcy Company could employ a con­tractor to carry out the neces­sary work. The Noble Drilling Corporation based in Oklahoma took on the con­tract and agreed not to make any profit on the deal.



In February 1943 42 oil work­ers arrived in the UK under the strict­est secrecy. Why did they volun­teer for the task? It has been sug­ges­ted the fact that they could avoid mil­it­ary ser­vice had a lot to do with it! In March four American jack-knife rigs and other drilling equip­ment were shipped to the UK in sep­ar­ate ves­sels. Unfortunately, one rig was lost – the ship car­ry­ing it having been tor­pedoed by U boats.

The men (aver­age age 24) were bil­leted in Kelham Hall,which at that time was a mon­as­tery, as it was felt an ideal place for forty two vir­u­lent young American gen­tle­men! Life was tough – they were sub­jec­ted to harsh ration­ing of food and fuel, they had no local sup­port or know­ledge and were largely ignored by the local res­id­ents. They worked twelve hour shifts, with four men per shift, every single day for a year. Tragically one worker was killed when he fell 55 feet from a drilling mast.

The result was that during the year they were here, they drilled 106 wells of which 94 pro­duced oil. By 1945 1.4 mil­lion bar­rels of oil had been pro­duced as after March 1944 D’Arcy con­tin­ued to pro­duce oil from the Eakring and Duke’s Wood sites. The oil extrac­ted was delivered by rail to a refinery at Grangemouth in Scotland.

How were the American crews able to pro­duce oil in greater quant­it­ies and at greater speed than their British coun­ter­parts? They had better logist­ics, they took more risks (not sur­pris­ingly no Health and Safety reg­u­la­tions) and they were able to reduce pro­duc­tion times through the repe­ti­tion of reg­u­lar tasks.

Two bronze statues were erec­ted in trib­ute to the Oil Patch Warriors, one in Duke’s Wood in 1991 and another in Ardmore Oklahoma in 2001. Unfortunately, the one in Duke’s Wood was van­dal­ised and has been replaced by another in Rufford Abbey Sculpture Park where it can be seen today.


Roger Vernon again provided a fas­cin­at­ing talk and we look for­ward to wel­com­ing him back for fur­ther enlight­en­ment on the oil industry.




Steve Brennan is a retired chest phys­i­cian who worked for many years at the Northern General Hospital and came this morn­ing to talk to us about the life of Gerolamo Cardano who lived in 16th cen­tury Italy and who has been described at vari­ous times as a phys­i­cian, chem­ist, astro­lo­ger, astro­nomer, philo­sopher, math­em­atician, bio­lo­gist and gam­bler. He cer­tainly had a busy life.

He was born ille­git­im­ate in Pavia in 1501. His father was a lawyer who also had con­sid­er­able expert­ise in math­em­at­ics and was an asso­ci­ate of Leonardo da Vinci. He ini­tially assisted his father in his legal prac­tice but left to read medi­cine at Pavia University much to his father’s dis­ap­proval.

When war broke out the uni­ver­sity was forced to close so Cardano moved to Padua University where he proved to be an excep­tional but out­spoken and unpop­u­lar stu­dent. He was gran­ted his doc­tor­ate in medi­cine at the third attempt in 1525 and applied for a pos­i­tion in the Milan College of Physicians but was turned down because he was ille­git­im­ate. He then moved to Sacco and set him­self up in a small prac­tice without any great suc­cess and had to rely on gambling to provide his income. In 1531 he mar­ried Lucia Bandarini and soon after moved to Milan and applied to the College of Physicians but was rejec­ted again. This was a des­per­ate period in his life he suffered from mal­aria, des­ti­tute and had to enter the poor­house.

Cardano even­tu­ally obtained a post as lec­turer in math­em­at­ics in Milan, was able to treat patients in his spare time and man­aged to estab­lish a good repu­ta­tion par­tic­u­larly amongst the nobil­ity. He applied once more for entry to the Milan College without suc­cess prob­ably due to his pub­lish­ing a book entitled “The Differing Opinions of Physicians” attack­ing the med­ical estab­lish­ment and high­light­ing no less than 76 errors com­monly made by doc­tors. However, the book was pop­u­lar with the public and fol­low­ing pres­sure from his admirers in 1539 he was accep­ted by the College. Over the next six years Cardano immersed him­self in the study of math­em­at­ics cul­min­at­ing in the pub­lish­ing of an opus which demon­strated the solu­tion of the cubic equa­tion.

Cardano’s fame spread due to the pop­ular­ity of his pub­lished works and his grow­ing repu­ta­tion as a top phys­i­cian. He received sev­eral offers from the crowned heads of Europe but turned them down apart from the Archbishop of St Andrews who suffered from debil­it­at­ing asthma. The best medics in Europe were unsuc­cess­ful in treat­ing him so Cardano, having been offered a huge sum of money, trav­elled to Scotland set­ting off in February 1552. His rem­ed­ies for asthma were suc­cess­ful and many are still rel­ev­ant today.

On return­ing to Italy he was appoin­ted pro­fessor of medi­cine at Pavia University and acquired a port­fo­lio of wealthy cli­ents and celebrity status. However, in 1557 his son Giovanni mar­ried Brandonia di Seroni who was described as worth­less and shame­less. The mar­riage was a dis­aster and Giovanni even­tu­ally poisoned his wife, was tried and executed in 1560 and Cardano was dev­ast­ated.

His repu­ta­tion rap­idly declined and he moved to Bologna as pro­fessor of medi­cine where due to his arrog­ance he was deeply unpop­u­lar.

In 1570 he was jailed for heresy, a result of the inquisition’s activ­it­ies. Archbishop Hamilton inter­ceded on his behalf and he was released in 1571. He decided to move to Rome where he was well received par­tic­u­larly by the Pope who gran­ted him a pen­sion.  He died in September 1576 and was buried in Milan. Remarkably Cardano was cred­ited with inven­tions such as the smoke­less chim­ney, the mul­tiple Archimedes screw, the gimbal com­pass sta­bil­iser and an early ver­sion of the uni­ver­sal joint. This was a fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion about a bril­liant but dif­fi­cult man told with great style and good humour.










This morning’s talk was presen­ted by George Clark a retired anaes­thet­ist and covered the Anglo Zulu con­flict of 1879. The war has been described as an ill-conceived, incom­pet­ently executed and fruit­less cam­paign. 20,000 British troops faced 40,000 Zulus, more than 10,000 Zulus were killed and 2,000 British troops died. Not the British Empire’s finest hour.

The Zulu nation was foun­ded in about 1816 and the first king was called Shaka who instig­ated the buf­falo horns form­a­tion when attack­ing the enemy which proved to be very effect­ive par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with shorter spears and larger shields.


By 1872 Cetshwayo kaMpande had become king of the Zulus and in 1873 the king­dom was described as the most polit­ic­ally soph­ist­ic­ated, admin­is­trat­ively integ­rated and mil­it­ar­ily power­ful black state in sub-Saharan Africa. The pop­u­la­tion numbered 250,000 and the army 40,000.

The British Government had neg­li­gible interest in South African ter­rit­or­ies until the dis­cov­ery of dia­monds there in the 1860’s and it became British policy to try to estab­lish a con­fed­er­a­tion of South Africa to include the Boer states and to annexe the Zulu king­dom.

In 1877 Sir Bartle Frere was appoin­ted High Commissioner for Southern Africa to achieve this aim. He decided to instig­ate a con­flict with the Zulus by exag­ger­at­ing recent border incid­ents and issued an ulti­matum to King Cetshwayo which included the dis­band­ing of the Zulu army. When Bartle Frere received no response to his demands a British force under the com­mand of Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand in January 1879 with about 17,000 troops des­pite the fact the British Government had not author­ised any such action.

The ini­tial inva­sion in three columns was largely unop­posed and Chelmsford set up camp with the cent­ral column at Isandlwana but failed to estab­lish proper defens­ive pos­i­tions. Chelmsford decided to split his forces to sup­port a recon­noitring party and left the camp in the charge of Colonel Pulleine. The British force was out­man­oeuvred by the nearly 20,000 strong Zulu army and of the 1,700 troops in camp over 1,300 were killed with about 1,000 Zulus per­ish­ing. Messages sent to Chelmsford implor­ing him to send rein­force­ments were ignored. Of the other British forces, the right flank column advanced as far as Eshowe but was cut off and the left flank retreated on hear­ing of the dis­aster at Isandlwana.

Dugan, William Henry; Siege of Rorke’s Drift; The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum Trust;

Meanwhile a small force under Lieutenants Bromhead and Chard (about 100 sol­diers) was gar­risoned at Rorke’s Drift when they came under attack from a force of approx­im­ately 3,000 Zulu. This was the sub­ject of the famous film “Zulu”. Over the next six hours the gar­rison was sub­jec­ted to wave after wave of Zulu attacks which were repelled by gun­fire and bay­on­ets. The enemy tired and without food, even­tu­ally aban­doned their attack after mid­night. Over 600 Zulus were killed com­pared to 15 British dead and 12 wounded. 11 VC’s were awar­ded.

The British Government decided to com­plete the inva­sion of Zululand and sent rein­force­ments over the next two months to help Chelmsford achieve this. He had suc­cesses at Khambula and in the relief of Eshowe. He then moun­ted a second inva­sion with 9,000 infantry and 1,000 cav­alry and cannon. At the battle of Ulundi, Cetshwayo’s army of 20,000 was decis­ively defeated.

Chelmsford was never given a com­mand again and the British Government decided they no longer wanted Zululand annex­ing or form­ing part of a con­fed­er­a­tion. Instead the land was divided into thir­teen chief­doms.

This was a fas­cin­at­ing and detailed talk thor­oughly enjoyed by all.