28 April 2012

Belltown Ramble

North Korea has warned that its army has "powerful modern weapons" that could defeat the US with a "single blow", as the isolated state continued to ramp up rhetoric ahead of an expected nuclear test.

Vice-marshal Ri Yong-ho, Chief of the General staff, speaking at a meeting to mark the 80th anniversary of the army's founding, added that they would "cut the throats" of anyone who defamed North Korean leaders.
"The Korean People's Army is armed with powerful modern weapons ... that can defeat the [US] imperialists at a single blow," he said at the meeting which was attended by new leader Kim Jong-un.

It was unclear what weapon Vice-marshal Ri was referring to, but following the high-profile failure of a rocket launch earlier this month, North Korea is believed to be preparing its third nuclear test. On Monday, Pyongyang warned it was planning special operations against the South Korean government.

I suppose that this sort of bullshit goes down well at home but they clearly have no idea how stupid they make the DPRK sound abroad.

Kim Jong-un has a laughably small penis. I await a visit from a North Korean agent brandishing a knife...

The axis of ennui

Dull and Boring are separated by an ocean but this will not stop an apparent attempt to forge a partnership of tedium, according to the Telegraph.  The partnership came about after a Scottish cyclist, who knew of Dull, in Perthshire, cycled through Boring in Oregon.

News was relayed back to villagers in Dull - who immediately made contact with their US counterparts in an effort to set up 'Dull and Boring'.
Tourism agency
The idea to 'twin' Dull, in Perthshire, and Boring, in the US state of Oregon, came about after Dull resident Elizabeth Leighton pedalled through Boring during a holiday.  On her return  to Scotland Elizabeth told her friend Emma Burtles, 43, who made contact across the pond with Steve Bates, chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organisation.

With Steve working up plans for a "sister community", Dull community councillor Marjorie Keddie then received a 'declaration of sistership' from Boring planning chiefs in the US town - named after an early resident, William H Boring.

Cllr Keddie said: "This could have real benefits. Everyone has been smiling at the prospect of the eye-catching road sign this will require."

Yesterday, Dull resident Peter Campbell, who runs Dull Farm, said: "All the more people to come to Dull, the better.We have two chalets up here that we let out to tourists, so we'd welcome any visitors that might come to see a sign linking the two places."

Dull community council chairman Tommy Pringles added: "It's bad enough when people stop dead to photograph the signpost for Dull. Imagine how many would do a double-take if it said, 'Welcome to Dull, a sister community of Boring?'"

Despite residents' attempts to have Boring recognised as a village in 2005, the US town - with a population around 12,000 - is too big to be officially twinned with tiny Dull, near Aberfeldy.

But I a sure that this will not prevent a new Axis of ennui forming that will sweep all before them with somnolence, Mwuahahahahah

27 April 2012


Boris:the protest continues

Boris continues his protest about his curfew

A poem on an unfortunate whale

 The actual whale

by William McGonagall

'TWAS in the month of December, and in the year 1883,
That a monster whale came to Dundee,
Resolved for a few days to sport and play,
And devour the small fishes in the silvery Tay.

So the monster whale did sport and play
Among the innocent little fishes in the beautiful Tay,
Until he was seen by some men one day,
And they resolved to catch him without delay.

When it came to be known a whale was seen in the Tay,
Some men began to talk and to say,
We must try and catch this monster of a whale,
So come on, brave boys, and never say fail.

Then the people together in crowds did run,
Resolved to capture the whale and to have some fun!
So small boats were launched on the silvery Tay,
While the monster of the deep did sport and play.

Oh! it was a most fearful and beautiful sight,
To see it lashing the water with its tail all its might,
And making the water ascend like a shower of hail,
With one lash of its ugly and mighty tail.

Then the water did descend on the men in the boats,
Which wet their trousers and also their coats;
But it only made them the more determined to catch the whale,
But the whale shook at them his tail.

Then the whale began to puff and to blow,
While the men and the boats after him did go,
Armed well with harpoons for the fray,
Which they fired at him without dismay.

And they laughed and grinned just like wild baboons,
While they fired at him their sharp harpoons:
But when struck with,the harpoons he dived below,
Which filled his pursuers' hearts with woe.

Because they guessed they had lost a prize,
Which caused the tears to well up in their eyes;
And in that their anticipations were only right,
Because he sped on to Stonehaven with all his might:

And was first seen by the crew of a Gourdon fishing boat
Which they thought was a big coble upturned afloat;
But when they drew near they saw it was a whale,
So they resolved to tow it ashore without fail.

So they got a rope from each boat tied round his tail,
And landed their burden at Stonehaven without fail;
And when the people saw it their voices they did raise,
Declaring that the brave fishermen deserved great praise.

And my opinion is that God sent the whale in time of need,
No matter what other people may think or what is their creed;
I know fishermen in general are often very poor,
And God in His goodness sent it drive poverty from their door.

So Mr John Wood has bought it for two hundred and twenty-six pound,
And has brought it to Dundee all safe and all sound;
Which measures 40 feet in length from the snout to the tail,
So I advise the people far and near to see it without fail.

Then hurrah! for the mighty monster whale,
Which has got 17 feet 4 inches from tip to tip of a tail!
Which can be seen for a sixpence or a shilling,
That is to say, if the people all are willing.

McGonagall Online Will meet every single poetic need. There is a reason for posting so many poems by the Tayside Tragedian. All will become clear soon

26 April 2012

Syd Cohen - The King of Lampedusa

These days Lampedusa is better known as a point of landing for African immigrants into southern Europe but in WWII it was the location of one of  strangest and most amusing incidents of that terrible conflict.

In 1943, Lampedusa and another island Pantelleria were heavily garrisoned by Italian trooops. Both islands presented a serious obstacle in the way of Operation Husky, the allied invasion of Sicily. Before the main invasion could take place it was essential that the threat posed by islands was neutralised.

 Operation Corkscrew was put in place to take these islands. Pantellaria was subjected to an intense bombardment by USAAF and RAF bombers and ,subsequently, by Royal Navy ships which did serious damage to the island's gun batteries and the Italian Army's command and communication system. When a contingent of Commandos landed on the island on 11 June the defending forces wisely surrendered without a fight.

HMS Lookout

On 13 June it was Lampedusa's turn, The destroyer HMS Lookout which was carrying a company of Coldstream Guards approached the island. Noting the white flags were visible on the island a launch was sent to confirm this. The Governor of Lampedusa made a formal surrender to a combined Army/Navy delegation during the late morning of 13 June.

That should have been the end of Lampedusa's story had it not been for the chance landing of an RAF Swordfish on the island on 12 June, the day before HMS Lookout's arrival.

Crewed by  Pilot Sgt Syd Cohen, navigator Bill Tait and gunner Sgt Les Wright, the Swordfish set out from RAF Hal Far in Malta on a Search and Rescue operation seeking a downed  Luftwaffe pilot.  Little did they know how the day would turn out!

Recounting the story to the Malta Today in 2005, Les Wright said “Searching for a German pilot, we took off from Hal-Far, we eventually spotted the fallen pilot, dropped emergency packs, reported his position and then started off again back to Malta.”

On their return, with visibility dropping, problems cropped up. The Swordfish’s flight instruments started playing up. Over the intercom, Sid Cohen asked, “Does that look like Malta?”

In the distance, the crew noticed US Lightnings attacking what they assumed was Lampedusa   “So we knew it wasn’t Malta and we had the choice of landing on one of the three islands, but as far as we knew they were still in Italian hands despite the raid. We were completely disorientated. We tried to work out a way of how to fly from Lampedusa back to Malta, but the poor visibility and our instruments forced us to land on Lampedusa and take our chances as prisoners of war.”

On the ground however, Wright, Cohen and Tait were prepared for capture. As soon as they landed they were approached by Italian officers. Wright swung the Vickers gun towards them but it proved unnecessary. “It turned out the entire island wanted to surrender, thinking that after the raid we had come to sort out things.”

A contemporary report in the St Petersburg Times reported that the crew promised to deliver a notification of surrender of te garrison, 4,300 soldiers, to the proper authorities. The crew took the message to a USAAF base in Tunisia and the rest is history.

Syd Cohen (from Jewish Theatre.com)

The pilot, Syd Cohen, became am overnight celebrity and was crowned the "King of Lampedusa" by  the press.

A Telegraph article from 2001 states that Cohen was an orphan who became a tailor's cutter. In 1941, at the age of 20, he was called up and joined the Royal Air Force. Initially based at North Weald, near Epping, he then moved to an RAF base on Malta.

In interviews he later gave to the press, Sgt Cohen described what happened. "The plane had a fit of gremlins so we had to make for the nearest land," he said. "As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us. A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.' The whole island was surrendering to us. It was a bit of a shake-up but I put on a bold heart and asked to see the commandant. I was taken to the commandant's villa but an air raid started and everybody suddenly dashed from the room. I concluded that the nerves of my hosts were a bit jagged. They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender. They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it."

Syd's celebrity spawned a Yiddish play called the King of Lampedusa: 
News of his coup and his nickname King of Lampedusa attracted the attention of SJ Charendorf, the London correspondent for the Jewish Morning Journal of New York. It struck Charendorf that Cohen's story would me an excellent basis for a play. He thus wrote The King of Lampedusa,albeit with some changes - Syd was renamed Kagan in the play and he was given parents..

In November 1943 Charendorf took it to Meier Tzelniker, an actor, producer and director who ran the Grand Palais Yiddish theatre in Commercial Road in east London. Tzelniker commissioned some suitable music, wrote the lyrics and, with himself and his daughter Anna in the leading roles, gave the new musical play its world premiere on New Year's Eve.
At first it was not successful, but after Charendorf managed to get newspapers interested in the story, it became the most successful Yiddish play ever staged in London running for six months. The BBC broadcast it in English with Sydney Tafler in the title role.

Syd Cohen got to see it when it was performed in Hebrew in Haifa at the end of 1944  but he never saw the London production.

Sadly Syd did not live long. As he was flying home to be demobbed on August 26 1946, his plane crashed in the Straits of Dover and the wreckage was never found.

The Grand Palais closed its doors in 1970.

 Neither has been forgotten Jewish Theatre.com reported that the play was republised in 2003 in its original Yiddish and in English translation by Dr Heather Valencia.

I now that this is not a totally obscure story but it is one that deserves to be remebered

Conneticut abolishes the death penalty

The  Irish Times re[orts that  governor of Connecticut has abolished the death penalty in all future cases. This move means that 17 US states no longer have the death penalty as a judicial option.

Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the legislation without fanfare behind closed doors. Connecticut joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia that do not allow capital punishment. Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey all voted to abolish the death penalty in recent years, and New York's death penalty law was declared unconstitutional in 2004.

However the repeal in Connecticut applies only to future sentences, and the 11 men on its death row now still face execution. However some legal experts have said defence attorneys could use the repeal measure to win life sentences for those inmates.

Other state legislatures are considering bills to abolish the death penalty, and Oregon's governor has said he would halt all executions on his watch.
A repeal measure has qualified for the ballot in California, home to nearly a quarter of the nation's death row inmates.

Connecticut has executed only one person, in 2005, since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Calling capital punishment "one of the most compelling and vexing issues of our time," the governor said he came to oppose capital punishment while working as a prosecutor. "I learned firsthand that our system of justice is very imperfect. I came to believe that doing away with the death penalty was the only way to ensure it would not be unfairly imposed... The people of this state pay for appeal after appeal, and then watch time and again as defendants are marched in front of the cameras, giving them a platform of public attention they don't deserve," he said. "The 11 men currently on death row in Connecticut are far more likely to die of old age than they are to be put to death."

This is good news. and it looks like those on Death Row almost certainly will not be executed either.

Now for the 33 other US states to abolish the death penalty.

A poet on a poet

by William McGonagall

This Statue, I must confess, is magnificent to see,
And I hope will long be appreciated by the people of Dundee;
It has been beautifully made by Sir John Steell,
And I hope the pangs of hunger he will never feel.

This statue is most elegant in its design,
And I hope will defy all weathers for a very long time;
And I hope strangers from afar with admiration will stare
On this beautiful statue of thee, Immortal Bard of Ayr.

Fellow-citizens, this Statue seems most beautiful to the eye,
Which would cause Kings and Queens for such a one to sigh,
And make them feel envious while passing by
In fear of not getting such a beautiful Statue after they die.

See where he sits on the stump of that tree
His eyes tuned to heaven his Mary to see,
A scroll at his feet, a pen in his hand
Writing to his Mary in the Better Land

As ever don't forget  McGonagall Online!

25 April 2012

Brian Eno - Faraway Beach

Braquo back on Sunday

Walter, Theo, Eddy and Roxane

The second season of the French crime thriller Braquo returns to British screens on Sunday... well it does if you have cable or satellite anyway as it appears on FX.

For me last year's tv highlights were all european imports: Forbrydelsen from Denmark; Næturvaktin (Night Shift) fro Iceland and of course Braquo.

Eddy Caplan

At the end of season 1 we saw Eddy Caplan and his team, caught in a sting. The future does not look bright for Eddy, Theo, Walter and Roxane. I am looking forward to seeing how they fare.I daresay they will act as criminally as they did in the first seasn and that there will be a lot of violence and deaths. Eddy makes Gene Hunt look like a pussycat!

Back in Recession

 ONS has published the GDP estimate for the first quarter of 202. The key points make for grim reading:

  • The chained volume measure of GDP decreased by 0.2 per cent in Q1 2012
  • Output of the production industries decreased by 0.4 per cent in Q1 2012, following a decrease of 1.3 per cent in the previous quarter
  • Construction sector output decreased by 3.0 per cent in Q1 2012, following a decrease of 0.2 per cent in the previous quarter
  • Output of the service industries increased by 0.1 per cent in Q1 2012, following a decrease of 0.1 per cent in the previous quarter
  • GDP in volume terms is flat in Q1 2012, when compared with Q1 2011
Given that the last quarter's figures showed a reduction in GDP we are officially back in recession. Whatever the cause, it is not good news for the government as a tiny rise in GDP had been predicted.

On the other hand don't worry. Corporal Jones, sorry, Nick Clegg is saying Don't Panic!

Well that's me reassured!

24 April 2012

They also served: Siamese Troops on the Western Front

For all its faults Wikipedia is an excellent first stop for information. One subject where I relied on Wikipedia was for notifications of deaths of WWI veterans. My posts on the passing of these veterans has now finished as there are none now left but I was interested to see a list called Last Surviving World War I Veterans by Country A while ago I noticed that Siam was included on this list. I had not realised that Siam had supplied forces to fight the Central Powers.

The last Siamese veteran, Yod Sangrungruang, died on 9 Octoer 2003. Ashort obituary in the Taipei Times says this:

Thailand 's last surviving veteran of World War I, Second Lieutenant Yod Sangrungruang, has died at the age of 106, reports said yesterday. Yod, who was a recipient of France's Legion d'Honneur award, was just 20 years old in 1917 when he joined 1,284 Thai soldiers in volunteering to fight with the Allies in France. He served as a mechanic in France before returning to Thailand in 1919 and was awarded a medal for his services from Thai King Rama VI. In 2000, French President Jacques Chriac awarded Yod the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration.

Siamese Troops on Parade in France in 1919.

An article on firstworldwar.com  provided more information. 

Although Thailand had remained neutral since the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) and his nation enjoyed friendly relations with Germany, the King recognised the political value of throwing in his lot with the Allied Powers.

The monarch was convinced that participation would be an "…an excellent opportunity for us to gain equality with other nations."  Thailand had suffered from the imperial designs of both the British and French, particularly the latter, losing control of Laos and Cambodia and ceding four southern provinces in the years between 1889 and 1909.

Additionally, Thailand was forced to accept the imposition of extraterritorial rights for the citizens of nations such as France, Britain and the United States and King Rama VI was hopeful that Thai participation in the war would allow a revision of these unequal treaties.

Therefore, on 22 July 1917,  King Rama VI declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.  The Thais immediately interned and later seized as war reparations no less than 12 ocean-going ships of the North German Line.

Thailand sent a small expeditionary force consisting of 1,284 volunteers under the command of Major General Phya Pijaijarnrit  to serve with the British and French forces on the Western Front.  Included was a contingent of the Army Air Corps. Thy in 1918 and the air personnel began training at the French Army Flying Schools.  Over 95 men qualified as pilots. It is not absolutely certain whether the pilots  saw active service: some sources indicate that they made their first sorties in the final weeks of the war; although others claim the Thais finished their training too late to take part.

There was also a medical unit which included nurses and it is claimed these were the only women to serve in the trenches of the Western Front.

The Thai contingent marched in a victory parade in Paris on 19 July 1919 and arrived back in Thailand on 21 September 1919.  A war memorial was erected in honour of the troops and stands in Sanam Luang park in Bangkok (above).  Inscribed are the names of the 19 soldiers killed in action on the Western Front.

Thailand also participated in the Versailles Peace Conference and in January 1920 it  became a founding member of the League of Nations.Later that year the King's decision to go to war was vindicated when the United States ceded her extraterritorial rights.  France, after five years of extensive negotiations relinquished her rights in February 1925 while Britain signed a treaty to the same effect in July the same year.

This  site has more information on the Siamese Expeditionary Force, including some excellent photos. I cannot find any substantial information on the active service of the army contingent.

In military terms the Siamese contribution to WWI was insignificant but the poilitical capital it earned the country was inestimable (do not think I am belittling these men and women for a single moment).   

Another Gem!

by William McGonagall

TWAS on the 22nd of March, in the year 1885,
That the Arabs rushed like a mountain torrent in full drive,
And quickly attacked General McNeill's transport-zereba,
But in a short time they were forced to withdraw.

And in the suddenness of surprise the men were carried away,

Also camels, mules, and horses were thrown into wild disarray,
By thousands of the Arabs that in ambush lay,
But our brave British heroes held the enemy at bay.

There was a multitude of camels heaped upon one another,

Kicking and screaming, while many of them did smother,
Owing to the heavy pressure of the entangled mass,
That were tramping o'er one another as they lay on the grass.

The scene was indescribable, and sickening to behold,

To see the mass of innocent brutes lying stiff and cold,
And the moaning cries of them were pitiful to hear,
Likewise the cries of the dying men that lay wounded in the rear.

Then General McNeill ordered his men to form in solid square,

Whilst deafening shouts and shrieks of animals did tend the air,
And the rush of stampeded camels made a fearful din,
While the Arabs they did yell, and fiendishly did grin.

Then the gallant Marines formed the east side of the square,

While clouds of dust and smoke did darken the air,
And on the west side the Berkshire were engaged in the fight,
Firing steadily and cooly with all their might.

Still camp followers were carried along by the huge animal mass,

And along the face of the zereba 'twas difficult to pass,
Because the mass of brutes swept on in wild dismay,
Which caused the troops to be thrown into disorderly array.

Then Indians and Bluejackets were all mixed together back to back,

And for half-an-hour the fire and din didn't slack;
And none but steady troops could have stood that fearful shock,
Because against overwhelming numbers they stood as firm as a rock.

The Arabs crept among the legs of the animals without any dread,

But by the British bullets many were killed dead,
And left dead on the field and weltering in their gore,
Whilst the dying moans of the camels made a hideous roar.

Then General McNeill to his men did say,

Forward! my lads, and keep them at bay!
Come, make ready, my men, and stand to your arms,
And don't be afraid of war's alarms

So forward! and charge them in front and rear,

And remember you are fighting for your Queen and country dear,
Therefore, charge them with your bayonets, left and right,
And we'll soon put this rebel horde to flight.

Then forward at the bayonet-charge they did rush,

And the rebel horde they soon did crush;
And by the charge of the bayonet they kept them at bay,
And in confusion and terror they all fled away.

The Marines held their own while engaged hand-to-hand,

And the courage they displayed was really very grand;
But it would be unfair to praise one corps more than another,
Because each man fought as if he'd been avenging the death of a brother.

The Berkshire men and the Naval Brigade fought with might and main,

And, thank God! the British have defeated the Arabs again,
And have added fresh laurels to their name,
Which will be enrolled in the book of fame.

'Tis lamentable to think of the horrors of war,

That men must leave their homes and go abroad afar,
To fight for their Queen and country in a foreign land,
Beneath the whirlwind's drifting scorching sand.

But whatsoever God wills must come to pass,

The fall of a sparrow, or a tiny blade of grass;
Also, man must fall at home by His command,
Just equally the same as in a foreign land.

More gems  are available here at McGonagall Online

He lurks in the lilies

© Shaun P Downey 2012

Tim Among the Flowers

© Shaun O Downey 2012

23 April 2012

Rubber Chicken Astronaut

 The Mail  rports that a rubber chicken has been sent to the threshold of space as oart of  High school project to study a solar storm. 

The bird, called Camilla, was attached to a helium balloon and sent to an altitude of 120,000ft to test the levels of radiation in one of the strongest proton storms in years.It was the second time she has been sent to space.  

The flight was carried out by Bishop Union High School students in California, as part of their science project, last month.  Rachel Molina, 17, told NASA: 'Later this year, we plan to launch a species of microbes to find out if they can live at the edge of space.'

Romeo Durscher, of Stanford University, said: 'Camilla's trip to the stratosphere gave us a chance to talk to thousands of people about the radiation storm.'

During the two-and-a-half-hour flight, Camilla spetnt about 90 minutes in the stratosphere where temperatures and air pressures are like those on the planet Mars.

On the outside of her specially knitted space suit, she wore a pair of radiation badges She was recovered intact from a landing site in the Inyo Mountains.

Her spacecraft - a modified department store lunchbox, carried four cameras, a cryogenic thermometer and two GPS trackers.
Seven insects and two dozen sunflower seeds also rode along to test their response to near-space travel. The insects did not the survive the trip however. Camilla's radiation badges have been sent to a laboratory for analysis.

I only wish I had that sort of science project at school. I might have taken more interest in physics than I did

St George is, inter alia, the Patron Saint of:

Portugal, Georgia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Agricultural workers, Moscow, Catalonia, Aragon,Majorca, Palestinian Christians, Beirut, Butchers, Freemasons, Armourers, Field workers, Horsemen, Knights, Shepherds, Saddlers, Sheep, Horses, Syphilitics, Herpes sufferers, Soldiers and Skin diseases

Oh and England too of course.....!The poor chap must be knackered!


Red Cushing after WWII

 Yesterday Peter Lunt left a couple of very enlightening comments about Red Cushing. Peter is in an excellent position to comment on Cushing's character as he was once his platoon commander

In 2002, Peter Lunt provided the following information to Ciarran Crossey's excellent  site about Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War. He writes, inter alia:

  • In January 1954, I was posted to The 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in Berlin as a 2nd Lieutenant, and was assigned a Sergeant "Red" Cushing as my Platoon Sergeant....when we moved to Kenya at the beginning of 1955 - in fact, he accompanied us to Kenya, where he became Acting Sergeant-Major at Brigade H.Q. After that, I lost track of him and there is no reference to him in the regimental magazines for the next two years.

  • When the battalion moved from Berlin to Korea, I took a group of soldiers on to Japan for several weeks of training at the Commonwealth Division Battle School at Hara Mura, Japan. During that time, Sgt Cushing was given temporary command of #4 Platoon, "B" Company in Korea. Upon my arrival in Korea, he was "all mine" again and accompanied me on a number of detached operations, where we lived in close proximity to one another for weeks at a time. There were very few stories that I missed, and he certainly led a very "varied" existence - although how much he contributed to the war effort on his own side is open to question!

  • My first major problem with Red arose on St. Patrick's Day 1954 in Berlin, where we were responsible for internal security at Spandau. On the night prior to the traditional St Patrick's Day parade, Red drank the mess dry and was still drunk the following morning when the time came to march to the Roman Catholic Church for St. Patrick's Day services. Red (as the name implies) had a very ruddy complexion and fiery red hair which stuck out all over the place - he always looked inebriated, so no-one realized how drunk he was that morning and he was allowed to march off with a group of soldiers who soon realized that they he was heading in the wrong direction. After the party failed to show up for church service, we had to send out a security detail to find them, since we were adjacent to the border between the British Sector of Berlin and the Russian Zone of East Germany and an international incident could easily have been started. The following day, he was paraded before the C.O., who advised that he was tired of these "incidents" and was going to recommend a court martial - whereupon Red confessed his sins, implored the C.O. to give him one more chance and explained how he had met with the Padre that morning to renounce the drink forever. By that time, the Adjutant, R.S.M. and myself were practically on the floor with laughter at the "sincerity" of his performance, and the C.O. was having a hard time keeping a straight face. He was finally given a caution that if he was ever brought before the C.O. again, it would mean his stripes (not the first time he would have been demoted for over-indulging!).

  • The month-long ocean voyage to Korea (with duty-free booze en route) was heaven-made for Red, and it also helped that a new C.O. joined us, who was not as familiar with Red's background. That soon changed when Red decided to look up his old "buddy" General Maxwell Taylor - then Commander of the U.S. 8th Army, of which the Commonwealth Division was a part, but whom Red claimed had once been his C.O. when he served in the U.S. Army. In order to do this, he left our platoon area in the front lines, and was not seen for several days - by which time, he was reported A.W.O.L. On his return, he was brought up before the C.O. and charged with multiple offences - but, again, managed to talk his way out of it because he had so mesmerized officers at 8th Army H.Q., who wanted to know when he was returning for another visit!
  • We were subsequently assigned the responsibility of manning a forward position on the north side of the Imjin River and arrived with 48 hours rations and a large jug of rum - much to Red's delight! We gave each of the troops a small shot of rum, which still left a large quantity in the jug, and Red and I spent the evening finishing it off. Two days later, a 3/4 ton truck arrived with more rations, but no rum, so Red called up the Quartermaster to complain - only to be told that the rum was supposed to have been issued to troops on night patrol, as an addition to their water bottles, and was meant to last for the whole month of our assignment!

  • Shortly after that incident, I was called back to Company H.Q. for a meeting with the Company Commander and left Sgt Cushing in charge. Unfortunately, during my absence, the Battalion C.O. arrived for an inspection and found that Red (who was an enthusiastic member of the Sergeant's Mess Football Team) had organized a football match, which was in full swing just a short distance from the enemy positions - about the only thing he didn't do was to invite the North Koreans/Chinese to form an opposing team! By this time, you will have begun to see what I mean about "reliability".
  • In reading through the regimental magazines for the period, I came across a few interesting quotes: 
  1. "That international figure, Sgt Cushing..."
  2. "The only goddam yank in the mess was Sgt Red Cushing (now back with us once again)"
  3. "Sgt Cushing is never really a total loss, for wherever he goes he leaves memories of his indomitable character and ever-ready fund of entertaining stories and unquenchable thirst. His latest proposed adventure is to join the Kenya Police. With a twinkle in his eye he informed his Company Commander that "I may yet have the privilege of arresting you, sir. God bless you, sir:"
It is good to know that Red never changed although he must have driven Peter Lunt to distraction!

22 April 2012

Female Genital Mutilation in the news

The Sunday Times today has undertaken an investigation into the appalling and illegal act of female genital mutilation or FGM (well legally so but there seems to be little interest in pursuing people who practice this foul act). The report itself is behind the Times paywall but there are plenty of references on other news sites

The report claims that as many as 100,000 women in Britain may have been mutilated in the name of culture and religion, a report claims. FGM is performed on young girls and women around the world, especially in African countries.  The practice seems to be perpetuated by refugees despite it being illegal.

 Sky News reports that The Sunday Times uncovered evidence of three medical practitioners offering advice on how it could be done, or in one case charging £750 to carry out the procedure.

Omar Sheikh Mohamed Addow is a dentist in Birmingham, but was filmed describing how the clitoris could be pierced with a needle and then clamped.

"Once they won't feel anything, then you cut with scissors. It will bleed. Then you take the stitches. You close." 

When contacted by Sky News he denied he said ever been involved in the act. "I have not referred anyone for this treatment. I am a dentist. I am aware of female genital mutilation and have campaigned against it." 

 Yet he was he recorded by the Sunday Times apparently agreeing to mutilate two young girls, aged 10 and 13, in secret:

Omar Sheikh Mohamed Addow: I will do it for you. 

Sunday Times reporter: Thank you. 

Addow: Nobody should know. Between you me and Allah only. 

The Sunday Times say they were put in touch with the Birmingham dentist by Dr Ali Mao Aweys, who has practices in Birmingham and London and was recorded suggesting it was safer to have the surgery outside the UK.

 "Yes it must have (sic) confidential. But I think it's better if you go to Africa, and then do, and then stay for 14 days, and then I give you some medication you can take and then give them." 

When Sky News visited his practice in north London his receptionist told us he was not prepared to comment and asked us to leave.  But he may have to speak to the General Medical Council. The council’s chief executive, Niall Dixon, said he was concerned and has begun an investigation.

Mohammad Sahib describes himself as an alternative medicine practitioner and the newspaper said he wanted £750 to perform surgery on the genitalia.

The newspaper secretly recorded this exchange:

Sunday Times (ST): You'll cut the clitoris? 
Mohammad Sahib (MS): Yeah 
ST: You'll cut with blade? 
MB: Yeah 
ST: You'll do it here? 
MB: Yeah. 
ST: What about stitching? Sew it? 
MB: Yes I can do both

There is no medical justification for any of these procedures. Waris Dirie Dirie was a victim of female circumcision And despite them being illegal, no one in Britain has ever been prosecuted for being involved.

Equality Now campaigner Efua Dorkenoo told Sky News: "Members of the community,family members know about it... there's a lot of pressure. "And if you expose it you could be ostracised and you could be persecuted in the community. "So people are frightened of coming forward."

Somali-born supermodel Waris Dirie, who was mutilated as a child, is an vociferous opponent of the practice. Calling for a crackdown on it, she said:

 "If a white girl is abused, the police come break down the door. If a black girl is mutilated, nobody takes care of her. This is what I call racism." 

As far as I am concerned FGM is an act of extreme violence. I don't care about cultural traditions, it is an evil act. Any parent who has their daughter violated in such a manner is not fit to be a parent. Anyone who performs the act is guilty of grievous bodily harm at the very least and should be punished accordingly.

Criminal sanctions alone will not stamp out the practice. Awareness and other persuasive campaigns will assist to some extent . Still I do find the apparent lack of will by the authorities to address the issue an utter disgrace.  It's not that the Sunday Times report tells us anything that is new. Just two doctors have been struck off for performing the FGM and there have been no other arrests in connection with it. 

Don't for a second think that I am against multiculturism. Personally it has brought a hell of a lot that is good; but there are some things that should never be tolerated in its name. 

As for Waris Dirie's comment, sadly she has a point. I just wish that she didn't.

Miracle of Love

Red Cushing continues to interest

Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by Thomas "Red" Cushing, a man who served in teh US army in the 30s, then on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. After this he joined the British army wwas taken prisoner during the fall of France was sent as a labourer to a mine where he played the "Good Soldier Svejk", then to the Freisack camp which was set up by the Germans to recruit Irish soldiers to their cause.

With the Senior British Officer's connivance, he joined a group of of potential recruits with the full intention of disrupting german efforts. These failed and he sat out a large portion of the war in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. It was there where he met Yakov Stalin and provides a prosaic but plausible reason for Stalin minor's suicide.

Some time ago (I cannot recall exact dates of this or most other comments) Joseph Conlon wrote

My dad met Red Cushing. We have a photo of him on our bathroom wall at home. I'm just reading the book 'Soldier For Hire' and its great so far.  I asked my dad today - Red's dad seems like a bit of a nutter to which her replied "yes but Red's daughter was even worse"... guess I have got more to find out... 

Today I received a comment from someone giving his name as Peter:

I was Red Cushing's platoon commander 9n Germany (Berlin) and Korea in the 1950's. I have many stories about him - most of which revolved around his problem with "the drink" (he really loved his beer!). He was truly a one of a kind character, and I'm pleased to see that people are still interested in his exploits.

I was truly delighted to receive this comment. Peter (Lunt?), if you come back to this low quality blog I would be delighted to hear more. Indeed, if there is anyone else out there who knew Red, I would love to hear from you. In fact I am not even sure when he died. I know he would still have been alive in 1980

Red Cushing was a truly larger than life character. I have more information on his time in Germany in WWII  from books such as Terrence O' Reilly's superb work Hitler's Irishmen.There is a record of correspondence sent by Peter Lunt to Ciarran Crossey, who used to run a superb website Ireland and the Spanish Civil War, which details some of Red's post war exploits in the British Army and which shows Red as much a "character" as he ever was!

One day, maybe, I will research Red's life more fully. His own book "Soldier For Hire", is an entertaining read but is  not an accurate account of his life. His was truly a life less ordinary and surely deserves a good biography. I'm not sure that I am up to that task but maybe I wil try!

21 April 2012

Fucked up priorities, part 4,112,534,714

Two days ago India successfully test-launched its first ICBM. Named Agni V, the missile has a range of at least 5,000km (3,100 miles).

While the US, Russia, Britain France and China are in no position to complain about India joining the ICBM club, it is further proof, to me anyway, that India clearly does not need another penny of developmental aid from our  or any other government.

Heaven forfend that India spends a little more money on  providing adequate food and sanitation to the hundreds of millions of its citizens that need it. As for the UK, it is time we gave up on our own pointless nuclear deterrent.

Plus ça change....

In January 1934, the Daily Mail carried an article by its owner, Lord Rothermere praising the British Union of Fascists

In April 2012 the Daily Mail carries a piece by some dickhead called Richard Waghorne who considers that Jean-Marie Le Pen is the only salvation for France.

In 1934 it was Hurrah for the Blackshirts; in 2012 it is Bravo Les Chemises Noires!

Plus ca change......


Bert Weedon RIP

It looks like this April is a bad month for guitar fans. First  we saw the death of Ampmeister Jim Marshall, now Bert Weedon. He died yesterday morning at his home in Beaconsfiled aged 91, having been "poorly" for some time.

Acording to his Guardian obituary Weedon was born in east London and bought his first guitar  when he was 12. The man who became known as Mr Guitar started out playing with big bands including the hugely popular Ted Heath band, before starting on a solo career which saw him sell millions of records and notch up hits including Guitar Boogie Shuffle and Nashville Boogie.

The arrival of rock 'n' roll ended his run of hit singles, but provided him with a new role as an in-demand session man who played with stars including Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and Billy Fury. His first Play In A Day book was published in 1957 and the books have sold in their millions.

Clapton openly acknowledged his debt to Weedon, saying he had "never met a player of any consequence" who had not learned from the books.

Singer and guitarist Joe Brown said: "I am very sad to hear of the death of my dear old friend and brother Water Rat Bert Weedon who was a lovely man and a great inspiration to many British guitar players in the early days, myself included. My heart goes out to his wife Maggie and all the family."

Weedon is survived by his wife and two sons.

RIP Bert Weedon, the man who launched a million guitarists

20 April 2012

I'm Mohammad Ashan and I claim my $100

A couple of days ago many news sites reported on the strange case of a minor Taliban leader  giving himself up and claiming the reward for his capture.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that Mr Ahsan is a mid- to low-level Taliban commander in the south-eastern province of Paktika. He is not thought to have commanded a significant number of insurgents. But he is suspected in a role in planting IED that were damaging enough to prompt officials into putting up numerous "wanted" posters in the districts where he was active.

NATO officials and Afghan troops are at a loss to understand why Mr Ashan attempted to claim a reward for his own capture.

Perhaps he thought that claiming his own reward would keep him in beer and fags (cigarettes) for a while... Whatever the reason it was a pretty stupid thing to do!

An Austerity Gift For Council Of Europe Meeting

In days of yore when New Labour walked the earth, the Government provided Conway Stewart fountain pens as gifts for attending heads of state attending a G8 meeting (The Conway Stewart brand was resurrected in the late '90s and the company now produces quality pens in limited numbers, rather than the now highly collectable mass market pens it produced up to the 60s...The less said about the original company's later products, the better!). Nowadays such extravagance is not contemplated.

Ministers attending a Council of Europe meeting in Brighton on human rights law in Brighton had to make do with far less expensive gifts - a stick of rock!

According to the Telegraph five hundred sticks of pink rock, with the words Council of Europe running through the centre, were ordered by the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Office at a cost of £380.

They were apparently piled high on a table leading to the main hall at the Brighton Centre, as representative of the 47 states in the Council of Europe gathered  to discuss reform of the European Court of Human Rights.

Journalists were not allowed to see the promotional gifts and one press officer claimed Brighton Council had paid for them before suggesting a Freedom of Information request, taking up to three weeks, would have to be made in order to find out where they came from.

The previous day, the Lib Dem justice minister Lord Mcnally told a conference at Parliament: “I’m not sure who had this brilliant idea but all the delegates are going to be presented with a stick of Brighton rock.I’m from Blackpool so I have great experience of this delicious confection. But for those of who are not, just make sure that your dentures are in.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "It's customary for the host nation to give a gift to delegates. This represents good value for money."

Hmm while the rock cost a mere £380, I can imagine that the claims for dental work arising from trying to eat those awful things probably runs to the tens of thousands!  It probably would have been cheaper to give each minister a  Conway Stewart pen after all!

A Powerful and Moving Image

This was the official poster for Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day. For me it is truly a powerful image.

My thanks to Snoopy for posting it and thus drawing it to my attention

Snoopy also provided a link to Midnight East which provides more background information regarding the image.

For information: the Hebrew caption reads Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day 5772. I had to ask Snoopy for a translation as I do not read Hebrew

So What If You Can't Change Channels!

Boris has taken to sleeping in front of the telly making it hard to change channels. Alas he couldn't care less!

18 April 2012

DPRK say: I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick

Yesterday North Korea gave a typical response to the suspension byt teh USA of food aid.
"We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement. The US will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences," its foreign ministry said.

THe North Koreans also rejected condemnation by the United Nations Security Council, including China, of the failed launch last ure that iday.
Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said on Wednesday that China has suspended the refugee repatriation deal because it was not consulted about the launch, seen by the US and its allies as a covert test of ballistic missile technology. The paper quoted two Chinese officials as saying the longstanding policy of swiftly returning North Koreans as economic migrants - despite the punishment they face back home - had been put on hold.

"North Korea failed to disclose specific plans of the missile launch to the Chinese side," the paper quoted one unidentified official as saying.
The suspension reflects Beijing's displeasure with its neighbour which "did not show the necessary attention to its friend China", the official said.

Pyongyang insists its failed satellite launch did not breach a February deal with Washington, under which it vowed to suspend uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile tests in return for food aid.But the US called off plans to start shipping 240,000 tonnes of food, saying the North could no longer be trusted.

On Monday a Security Council presidential statement "strongly condemned" the launch. It ordered a tightening of existing sanctions and warned of new action if the isolated state stages another nuclear or long-range missile test.

Pyongyang said Washington had imposed a "brigandish demand" on the Council and that every country has the right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes."Nothing can stand in the way of (North Korea)'s space development for peaceful purposes," it vowed. (Apart form their own incompetence)

"With the February agreement broken down in practice, the North will likely take many of the steps the US and South Korea have long feared, including another nuclear test and a long-range missile test," said Paik Hak-Soon of the South's Sejong Institute think-tank.

Paik tvelieved it was hard to imagine any conciliatory US gesture in an election year, and a with a presidential election was looming in South Korea.
"The North has realised, given the situation in the US and the South, that it is unlikely there will be any major diplomatic breakthroughs with either country until early 2013. So it will do whatever it wants to do until then," he said.

Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies said that when the US and the Security Council start taking punitive actions, "Pyongyang will certainly respond with actions as well. "These would include a third nuclear test, or test-launching of an inter-continental ballistic missile or stepping up activities involving weapons-grade uranium," Yang said.

To be honest I simply cannot get my head around  the DPRK. Personally I would simply forget about an my conciliation or aid to the country, help ensure that South Korea's defences are adequate to meet an attack fro the North (if  they are so stupid as to try an invasion) and get on with other things.

If the DPRK wushes to shout and scream like some petulant child then why should we listen. As for China, it looks as if they are reaching the end of their very long tether. It is unlikely they would attack DPRK but I am sure they have the facility to make things difficult for Kim Jong Young 'Un if they so wished.

And yet another Tim

© Shaun P Downey 2012

And another Tim

© Shaun P Downey 2012

A little Gem From William Topaz McG

by William McGonagall

He is an actor of great fame
He play'd King Richard in Drury Lane,
He fill'd the house from ceiling to floor,
For upwards of three months or more.

While performing in Drury Lane,
A theatre of wide world fame,
Mr Sullivan in combat cut his eye,
But it didn't make him cry

Please visit  www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk for ALL of you poetry needs!

16 April 2012

This is what happens when you text!

Next time the bear will get you. You have been warned!

H/T to Snooy the Goon

And the Sex Pistols do Hawkwind

Well Lydon was a big fan of Peter Hammill and Krautrock bands like Neu and Can. He probably liked the Hawks too!

Hawkwind cover - Spirit of the Age

Not a bad cover at all

Breivik trial starts

The trial of Anders Berivik, who murdered 77 people last year has comenced in Oslo. He shot 69 people dead at a Norwegian Labour Party youth camp, and killed a further eight with a bomb at a government building in Oslo.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming self defence: "I acknowledge the acts, but not criminal guilt - I claim I was doing it in self-defence", he said.

He also refused to acknowledge the authority of the court trying him:

"I don't recognize Norwegian courts because you get your mandate from the Norwegian political parties who support multiculturalism."

Breivik may not recognise the courts but the courts certainly recognise him.  As for self defence bullshit, that claim will be brushed aside in seconds.

In all certainty he is going to jail for the rest of his life. Here's to a very long and very miserable life Breivik

15 April 2012

UK Aid funding forced sterilisation in India?

Today's Observer carries a report, which, if substantiated, is very disturbing indeed.  The report claims that tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money is being spent on the Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II

The UK agreed to give India £166m to fund the programme, despite allegations that the money would be used to sterilise the poor in an attempt to curb the country's burgeoning population of 1.2 billion people. Poor and little-educated men and women in rural areas are routinely rounded up and sterilised without having a chance to object. Activists say some are told they are going to health camps for operations that will improve their general wellbeing and only discover the truth after going under the knife.

Court documents filed in India earlier this month claim that many victims have been left in pain, with little or no aftercare. Across the country, there have been numerous reports of deaths and of pregnant women suffering miscarriages after being selected for sterilisation without being warned that they would lose their unborn babies.

The allegations centre on the states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, both targeted by the UK government for aid after a review of funding last year.
Earlier this month, India's supreme court heard how a surgeon operating in a school building in the Araria district of Bihar in January carried out 53 operations in two hours, assisted by unqualified staff, with no access to running water or equipment to clean the operating equipment. A video shot by activists shows filthy conditions and women lying on the straw-covered ground.

Human rights campaigner Devika Biswas told the court that "inhuman sterilisations, particularly in rural areas, continue with reckless disregard for the lives of poor women". Biswas said 53 poor and low-caste women were rounded up and sterilised in operations carried out by torchlight that left three bleeding profusely and led to one woman who was three months pregnant miscarrying. "After the surgeries, all 53 women were crying out in pain. Though they were in desperate need of medical care, no one came to assist them," she said.

Activists say that it is India's poor – and particularly tribal people – who are most frequently targeted and who are most vulnerable to pressure to be sterilised. They claim that people have been threatened with losing their ration cards if they do not undergo operations, or bribed with as little as 600 rupees (£7.34) and a sari. Some states run lotteries in which people can win cars and fridges if they agree to be sterilised.

Despite the controversy, an Indian government report shows that sterilisation remains the most common method of family planning used in its Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II, launched in 2005 with £166m of UK funding. According to the DfID, the UK is committed to the project until next year and has spent £34m in 2011-12. Most of the money – £162m – has been paid out, but no special conditions have been placed on the funding.
Funding varies from state to state, but in Bihar private clinics receive 1,500 rupees for every sterilisation, with a bonus of 500 rupees a patient if they carry out more than 30 operations on a particular day. NGO workers who convince people to have the operations receive 150 rupees a person, while doctors get 75 rupees for each patient.

A 2009 Indian government report said that nearly half a million sterilisations had been carried out the previous year but warned of problems with quality control and financial management.  In 2006, India's ministry of health and family welfare published a report into sterilisation, which warned of growing concerns, and the following year an Indian government audit of the programme warned of continuing problems with sterilisation camps. "Quality of sterilisation services in the camps is a matter of concern," it said. It also said the quality of services was affected because much of the work was crammed into the final part of the financial year.

When it announced changes to aid for India last year, the DfID promised to improve the lives of more than 10 million poor women and girls. It said: "We condemn forced sterilisation and have taken steps to ensure that not a penny of UK aid could support it. The UK does not fund sterilisation centres anywhere.

"The coalition government has completely changed the way that aid is spent in India to focus on three of the poorest states, and our support for this programme is about to end as part of that change. Giving women access to family planning, no matter where they live or how poor they are, is a fundamental tenet of the coalition's international development policy."

If it does transpire that British money has been spent of forced sterilisation the this is an utter disgrace which is a stain on the current and the last government. India has

Personally I am all for ensuring that the UK continues to provide aid to developing countries but should we aid a country with a nuclear stockpile and a space programme? Despite this far too many people in India live in appalling poverty. My head says to hell with aid to India, my heart says otherwise. On the other hand There is no way that we should be funding any programme that includes forcible sterlisation under any circumstance

Some blooms in black and white

A bluebell and a tulip in our garden

Spring has sprung!

I always feel that spring is here when the first blooms appear on our Tree Paeony ( Paeonia ludlowii)

14 April 2012

In the Army Now

Not the shite Status Quo original but the Laibach cover. Love them or hate them Laibach could make the Birdy Song sound dark and sinister.

Cy Grant - Feeling Good

While on the subject of Caribbean airmen here's Cy Grant, who served as a flight Lieutenant in Bomber Command during WWII. He was shot down over the Netherlands in 843 remaining a POW until the end of the war.

After the war he trained as a barrister but is better known as an actor and a singer. Fans of Captain Scarlett will probably know that he voiced the character Lt Green. I the 1950s he became the first black performer to appear regularly on British tv - on his ATV series For Members Only.

 He died in 2010.

Here is an interview with Mr Grant. This little post does not do justice to the man. Here is a  website dedicated to him.

He was also instrumental in setting up Caribbean Aircrew in the RAF During WWII

A sobering statistic (St Kitts aircrew WWII)

Earlier on today my father asked me if I would be able to take him to this year's Pathfinder Sunday at RAF Wyton. Although it is not a currently a base for RAF aircraft RAF Wyton is still operational.During WWII it was the HQ of 8 Group, RAF's Pathfinder Force which was responsible for marking targets during bombing raids.

My dad hasn't attended for some years. The last time he did attend he met Ulric Cross, a Trinidadian, who served as a Navigator on 139 Squadron, attaining the rank of Wing Commander. He was highly decorated, receiving the DSO and the DFC and after the war he became Trinidad's High Commissioner to London (Senior ranking diplomats of Commonwealth missions are called High Commissioner rather than Ambassador).  But I digress.

Ulric Cross's story is recounted in an excellent website Caribbean Aircrew in the RAF During WWII. Over 6,000 men and women from the Caribbean served in the RAF and the RCAF during WWII of which 440 served as aircrew. Most the aircrew aircrew came from Trinidad & Tobago or Jamaica, but there are representatives from the other islands too as well as one from Nicaragua.

The site lists three aircrew from St Kitts: Flying Officer Basil Veira; Sergeant Sydney De Lisle and Flying Officer Eugene Vanier.

Flying Officer Veira was killed when his Lancaster bomber (example above)was shot down by a night fighter on 28 April 1943 off the coast of what is now Leba in Poland (it being part of Germany during WWII). He was posthumously warded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Flying Officer Vanier had left a degree course at McGill University to join the RCAF in 1940. Promoted to Flying Officer, he was killed in action on 1 September 1942. His Beaufighter (example above) failed to return from a strafing operation behind Axis lines in North Africa. His name appears on the El Alamein memorial.

The site has no other details about Sergeant De Lisle except to note that he was killed in action and is buried in Milan. The War Graves Photographic Project states that he was a Sergeant air gunner in 31 Squadron, South African Air Force and died on 12 or 13 October 1944. A site concerning the SAAF indicates that the squadron would have been flying B-24 Liberators at that time

Three men originally from one island served as aircrew, all three were killed in action. That is a sobering statistic.

13 April 2012

The true masters of space

If the North Koreans ever get into space they will probably find Dave Brock and co playing!
Only a small number of nations have successfully launched a satellite into orbit so far: The USSR (and following its break up, Russia and Ukraine); The USA; France; Japan; China; The UK; India; Israel and Iran. In addition, the European Space Agency launched its first satellite in 1979. Many nations have satellites in orbit but these would have been launched by one of these nations.

Much of the international press carries reports of North Korea's latest attempt to to join the select band of satellite launchers. unlike its previous two attempts North Korea has admitted failure. KCNA has apparently issued a brief report stating:

The DPRK launched its first application satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38:55 a.m. on Friday.

The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit.
Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure.

Claimed to be an earth observation satellite, it was intended that the launch of  Kwangmyongsong-3 would mark the centenary of the "Great Leader", Kim Il Sung's, birth.

This is not the first time that North Korea has failed to launch a satellite but it is the first time that it has admitted the faliure.

North Korea's first attempt to reach space took place in 1998 with Kwangmyongsong-1 (above). Although the launched failed the North Korean media claimed that it completed more than 100 orbits broadcasting such stirring songs as "the Song of General Kim Jong-Il and "Juche Korea", albeit in morse code.

Good isn't it!

 It wasn't until 1999 that North Korea tried another launch. Once again, the satellite, Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 (launch pic above), failed to reach orbit. This did not stop KCNA issuing a press release claiming success:

The successful satellite launch symbolic of the leaping advance made in the nation's space science and technology was conducted against the background of the stirring period when a high-pitched drive for bringing about a fresh great revolutionary surge is under way throughout the country to open the gate to a great prosperous and powerful nation without fail by 2012, the centenary of birth of President Kim Il Sung, under the far-reaching plan of General Secretary Kim Jong Il. This is powerfully encouraging the Korean people all out in the general advance.

Everone one else, except the likes of Alexandro Cao de Benes and his Korean Friendship Association lackeys, said "it ain't there dude!"

For North Korea third time wasn't lucky. Perhaps it's time to give up and try macrame instead.

A wonderful birthday gift

Yesterday a large letter arrived for me from Iran. Imagine my delight when I found that it contained a drawing by my dear friend Elahe Heidari. Elahe had posted it as a birthday gift but the Iranian post and the Royal Mail conspired to ensure that delivery took three weeks. But no matter, it will be framed and will grace my wall along with the other five of Elahe's works that I own.

No I will NOT open my eyes

Ted will not cooperate when it comes to photographs... or anything for that matter

12 April 2012

Indian muleteers in France

Back in 1998 I remember seeing the late and utterly unlamented Bernard Manning  on the Mrs Merton show (strange that I watched it in the first place as I did not like Caroline Ahern at all). At one point the disgusting old bigot said "....There were no Pakis at Dunkirk, and Anzio and Arnhem and Monte Cassino..."

Admittedly I have refreshed my memory: the clip was included in a subsequent Timewatch episode concerning the Indian army's role in WWII. If you are desperate you can find Manning's quote here.

Manning probably never let a fact get in the way of his beliefs. While it is true that Indian Army units did not serve at Arnhem (the Indian Army was not called upo to not contribute to Overlord or the liberation of Western Europe) and no major units appear in the Order of Battle for the Anzio landings Manning is utterly wrong about Monte Cassino. There were three Indian Army divisions in Italy and the 4th ID was deeply involved in the fighting at Monte Cassino.

Manning is also wrong about Dunkirk. The Indian contribution to the British Expeditionary Force was small, but quite important.

The Comonwealth War Graves Commission has an interesting article on the Indian Army Service Corps'scontribution to the BEF.

By the start of WWII the British army was  mechanised and had phased out its animal transport companies had been phased out. However, it was decided that mules would of use to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) carrying ammunition and supplies to forward positions where roads were impassable for vehicles.

As a result each division in the BEF would be provided with an Animal Transport company, each with 400 mules. Four of the required companies came from the Indian Ary Service Corps (two more came from Cyprus). These came from Rawalpindi, part of modern-day Pakistan.

2700 mules were shipped from Bombay to Marseilles without a single loss and operated successfully in France. The German assault on France started on May 10th, 1940 when German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, breaking the French line and cutting off and surrounding the Allied Units that had advanced into Belgium.

IASC troops somewhere in France

The Indian transport companies, along with the rest of the Allied forces, were ordered towards the coast. Boulogne and Calais were take by the Germans leaving only Dunkirk as the only port of evacuation

Three of the companies were evacuated at Dunkirk but many men of the 22nd Mule Company were captured just short of Dunkirk and became Prisoners of War. Some of them died in captivity.

The British Pathe news archice has newsreel footage of the Indian muleteers in France (here).

According to an article on the BBC website it was decided not to send the Indan units back to Inda, Instead they were initially stationed in Cornwall and then in South Wales. The units were initially re-equipped with French Army horses and then by  mules which had been imported from the USA.
First they were stationed in Cornwall, then Crickhowell in South Wales. On 2 April 1942 they were sent to to North Wales where they spent their time here practising mountain warfare in Snowdonia. The units were then sent to Northern Scotland before fnally returning to India in 1944, seeing considerable service in the Burma campaign.

In 2004 the specialist auctioneers  Dix Noonan auctioned an Indian Distinguished Service Medal (an example of an Indian DSM is shown above although it is not the meal in question) for £1100. The Indian DSM was the third highest medal awarded to Indian forces after the Victoria Cross and the Indian Order of Merit. It had been awarded to  junior officer Jemadar Maula Dad Khan for courage displayed in France The citation reads:

On 24 May 1940 when approaching Dunkerque, Jemadar Maula Dad Khan showed magnificent courage, coolness and decision. When his troop was shelled from the ground and bombed from the air by the enemy he promptly reorganised his men and animals, got them off the road and under cover under extremely difficult conditions. It was due to this initiative and the confidence he inspired that it was possible to extricate his troop without loss in men or animals.’

The medal was one of just three awards of the I.D.S.M. for services with the British Expeditionary Force in 1940.

 Interestingly in 1940 Britains Ltd. produced a set of Indian Army Service corps figures.  Chakoten, a Danis military history site has a photo of the set which includes a photo of the set (five soldier an officer plus one mule)