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Family History

My historical research has focussed on events in the lives of some of my ancestors. Visit my Family History page for further details.

George Payne c 1895

My great-grandfather, George Payne (c 1900), a Cutler living and working in Tooting, London and, surprisingly, a lifelong friend of the former Prime Minister of Australia William Morris Hughes

Contact details (email)


A member of the 'baby-boomer' post-war generation, I was born in Kingston-on-Thames, UK, and lived for the first 19 years of my life in the London suburbs. I was educated at Bexley Grammar School  and Wadham College, Oxford  and benefited greatly from some inspirational teaching at both locations. After leaving University I pursued a career in virus research, working initially at the University of Otago, New Zealand, having been offered a post-doc fellowship  by Dr James Kalmakoff, who has subsequently become a lifetime friend, mentor and my IT guru. In 1973 I moved to  the Unit of Invertebrate Virology, Oxford, and later to the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute, Littlehampton.  Between 1983 and 1999, I held several science-management positions, including 9 years as Chief Executive of Horticulture Research International.  I was Professor of Horticulture at The University of Reading for four years from 1999, before becoming self-employed. During my scientific career I contributed to about 90 scientific publications in books, journals and technical magazines on topics related to virology, biological pest control and integrated pest management. I received the OBE for services to horticultural science in 1997.

Since my retirement from scientific research in 2003, my research interests have transferred to historical topics based on the experiences of my ancestors. In this context, I am a member of the Crime Writers' Association, the Police History Society, the Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection and the Western Front Association. I am married to Meg, and live in Arnside, Cumbria where the beautiful countryside, and our Border Terrier (referred to as our 'Personal Trainer' in Facebook circles), provides us with the exercise and thinking-time that research and writing requires.

This website focuses on my historical research and publications. For anyone interested in my contribution to scientific research, information on my  publications in that discipline can be accessed by clicking on Scientific Publications.  More details of my interests and experience can also be found on Facebook and LinkedIn and at my ResearchGate page. I can also be contacted via email at .


I am an experienced speaker and lecturer and have presented talks at a wide range of national and international venues, ranging from meeting rooms in village halls, to presentations at Scotland Yard, the Houses of Parliament, numerous UK conferences and at scientific meetings in continental Europe, East Africa, North America and New Zealand. I would normally request a small fee and reasonable travel expenses, but will consider reducing or waiving any fee if the event will allow me to sell copies of my relevant publications to interested customers.  A  talk  would normally occupy 50-60 minutes and would be suitable for a general audience.  I am happy to adapt my talks to cater for an audience with more specific interests, and would be delighted to respond to any questions.

The current talks that I offer cover three main subject areas:

1. The detection of crime in mid-Victorian London e.g.:

‘A Very Unusual Article’;  Detective Chief Inspector George Clarke  of Scotland Yard 1862-1878.

Based on my book 'The Chieftain', the talk Includes the North London Railway murder, the Plaistow Marshes murder, the Fenian Conspiracy, the suspicious deaths of Charles Bravo, Elizabeth Brigham and Madeline de Tourville, the Turf Fraud trial and the Trial of the Detectives.

The Eventful Life of Superintendent James Jacob Thomson 1837-1902.

The story of a 'Gentleman Copper': James Thomson was the son of a Scottish merchant and an Italian Countess who was a Scotland Yard detective between 1862 and 1869 before  transferring to the uniformed Branch where he became Superintendent in the central London areas of Covent Garden and Holborn.  He was also engaged in several  secret missions overseas in his retirement. The talk includes reference to murders of prostitutes, the Fenian Conspiracy and the Clerkenwell explosion, rouble forgery and missions to Russia; the sensational trial of the transvestites 'Stella' and 'Fanny' (Boulton and Park);  the Jubilee Plot and the Parnell Commission.

2. A Soldier's Perspective of the First World War

How British Conscripts Helped to Win The War.

Including the background and procedures of conscription; different perceptions and experiences of conscripts and volunteers; conscript training; experiences of  war on the Western Front during late 1917-1918, when the 'all arms' warfare strategies developed by the Allied armies ultimately secured a victory.

Charlie's War; Tales of a Derbyite Conscript 1916-1919.

Covering experiences of army training with the Yorkshire Regiment in Clacton and West Hartlepool, and experiences of trench warfare with the 2/5th and 5th battalions of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment on the Western Front in France, including the Battle of Cambrai, the German Spring Offensive , the Second Battle of the Marne, 'The Last 100 days' (including the crossings of the St Quentin Canal and the River Selle), and participation in the Army of Occupation in the Rhineland.

3. The Politics of the First World War War, illustrated by the experiences of a Dominion Prime Minister

"The Little Digger": The impact of William Morris Hughes (the Australian Prime Minister) on the Great War and its Aftermath

Background to the career of Billy Hughes; his emigration from the UK and  early years in Australia; Prime Ministerial career 1915-1923 including his attitudes to German internment and industry, the White Australia Policy, his visits to the UK in 1916 and 1918, the Conscription plebiscites and his participation in the Paris Peace Treaty negotiations in 1919.

My talks would be based around a Powerpoint presentation. I can provide a small data projector suitable for audiences of up to 50-60 but  for larger audiences I would require access to an appropriate data projector and, at all venues, would need a screen or suitable blank wall!

For further information or to book me as a speaker, please contact me via email to

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