Lest we forget

Bonfire Night & Remembrance Day bookend a week to remember

2nd November 2019

We’ve been travelling a lot lately (you may have seen us at recent IP conferences like EPOPIC) and have come back home just in time for bonfires, fireworks, flame grilled sausages and toffee apples on one of our favourite nights of the year, Guy Fawkes Night.

For the non-Brits, Guy Fawkes night is the celebration of the foiled, dastardly plot by Guy Fawkes and his colleagues to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and assassinate King James I in 1605.

Aside from national pride (and an excuse to drink beer on a school night) Guy Fawkes night has a special place for us here for more practical reasons; if the plotters had been successful, we might not have a job today!

The same Parliament that narrowly avoided disaster went on to draft the Statute of Monopolies in 1624. The statute formed the basis of patent law in the UK, and ultimately the European Patent Convention, as well as for many other countries with historical links to Britain’s Imperial past including the USA, Canada, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and much of the Commonwealth.

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot

We celebrated by attending Ally Pally’s Fireworks Festival and had a fantastic time. We’d like to say thanks to all those involved in organising it and we can’t wait to see you all again next year!

There was a time when bangs and flashes over London were not such a welcome occurrence, and as the nation pauses to reflect on those those who have suffered or died in wars and conflicts, we wanted to mention one of the unsung heroes who’s invention helped save countless lives during The Great War.

His name was Alexander Worsfold and his life-saving device nicknamed ‘The Transporter’ was an ambulance stretcher designed to reduce the ‘difficulties of transport of provisions, munitions, comforts, etc., from the field base to the trench, and of wounded soldiers from the trench to the field hospital’.

In a time where motor car bodies were hand-built using timber, Alexander Worsfold was a ‘wholesale manufacturer of motor and carriage ware’ based in Sydney, Australia, and built his first ‘Transporter’ from mountain ash and a pair of bicycle wheels. It was capable of carrying up to a quarter of a ton and resembled a snow sledge.

In fact, Worsfold had previously designed sleighs and skis for the Antarctic expeditions of both Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Douglas Mawson. On hearing of Worsfold’s intention to use his expertise to contribute to the war effort, Sir Mawson responded by saying: “In your particular line I judge that you have no peers, and feel certain that there are many openings for your genius in producing paraphernalia in connection with war requirements”.

Despite this glowing endorsement, it took several years for the top brass to see the potential of his invention and after it was initially rejected, the Transporter was eventually used in combat in France in 1917.

Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Worsfold joined the Australian army as a Private in the 9th Field Ambulance and 11 May 1916, contracted the flu in December of the same year and was admitted to hospital. His genius was detected and by June 1918 he had been transferred to the AIF Research Section Headquarters in London. During his time there, he invented a sound-ranging apparatus and was then promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in April 1919. He was sent home to Australia later that year.

During his career, Worsfold registered numerous patents, such as: ‘Improved movable seat appliances for dog-carts, gigs and such like vehicles’ (1905), ‘Improved hollow concrete block to be used in the construction of walls and other structures’ (1921), ‘Improved type of autoclave for soap making, steam distillation and analogous purposes’ (1922) and ‘Improved system of construction for wireless telegraphic masts’ (1922).

This Remembrance Day, we are thinking of the members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty.

You can donate to the Poppy Appeal to help support veterans, and veteran families, of the Royal Navy, British Army and the Royal Air Force.

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