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Sunday, 26 August 2018
The unknown bullet
Topic: Literature

Rolf Uppström's new book Den okända kulan (The unknown bullet) has now been published. It's basically a slightly revised and updated version of his 1994 thesis. I can quite uneqivocally say that I am very unimpressed. Some examples:

Uppström has discovered that the statement written by three high officials (who had no medical or military training) after they had opened the King's coffin in 1746 has been published in two slightly different versions. It is very well known that three copies were made and that at least two have been preserved. So has Uppström checked them? No...

Uppström, who is an historian and a teacher, also takes it upon himself to question the shooting tests made by Dr Beat Kneubuehl and Dr Michael Thali, suggesting that these two forensic experts did not know what the inside of a human head looks like...

Another curious item is Uppström's suggestion that the trenches may have been placed futher away than previously thought, in his opinion making a Norwegian bullet less likely. Ballistically this is just hogwash. Old and modern tests have repeatedly shown that a lead ball could very easily kill a man at 210 meters - if it hit. It was of course impossible for the Norwegians to see the King's head, but they fired towards the area where they heard the Swedes working.

The top prize must however go to the assassination theory Uppström presents. According to him the murderer fired from a position between the parallell and the line that was started the same evening. From the available sources it is quite clear that the new trench was dug by using "sape volante". This means that the soldiers were digging side by side all along the line, the closest of them likely not more than 5-6 meters from the King's position - with no wall in between. The night was dark, but Carlberg states that the closest of the soldiers may have been able to see the King. It's also reasonable to believe that he mostly looked towards them and the fortress beyond. So how would an assassin remain undiscovered as he was making his way to this position? How would the shot not be heard and the muzzle flash not be seen? How would he get away without being noticed by the soldiers? Seriously?

The most interesting chapter is the description of the still unsuccessful attempt to gain permission for a new opening the coffin. I was immensly critical of it already from the beginning (in 2008) and nothing in Uppström's description causes me to reconsider. It seems to me that some of the tests are quite pointless, like finding out the King's dental health and others could just as well be made without opening the coffin, at least initially (A preliminary dynamic finite element simulation of the injuries, which they wanted to do, could surely be made using a computerized generic human skull?). Why not for example start looking for a suitable open field far from all artificial lightning and build the key parts of the trench system, hire some reenactors and test the possible assassination scenarios under realistic conditions? I realize that this is not as exciting as opening the coffin before rolling TV cameras and putting the King's body through various new tests, but why not start with the fundamental stuff if one is inclined to question most of what has been done before?

Posted by bengt_nilsson at 9:43 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 27 August 2018 8:08 AM MEST
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