30 July 2006

the U35

Contrary to rumours there were no secret U boat bases in Eire during World War II. The chances of one staying secret were virtually nil. Besides if there had been any evidence of one, the resultant British action would have been swift and drastic I am sure. That is not to say that U boats were not present in Irish waters. In one case a U Boat did actually land in Eire in rather unusual circumstances.

On 4 October 1939, the residents of Ballymore near Dingle noticed a strange craft heading for the rock at Ventry Harbour. They rushed towards the shore and to their amazement found that members of the crew of the German submarine, U 35, were landing two Greek sailors from a rubber dinghy.. After landing the men, the German sailors rowed back to the U Boat and brought in two more men, and they continued to make the trip until 28 men were put ashore. They were survivors from a Greek freighter, Diamantis, which had been bound from Freetown to Barrow on Furness with 4,000 tons of iron ore when it was intercepted by the U Boat off south of Ireland the previous day. The sea was so rough at the time that one of their life boats was overturned and in a rare show of chivalry, the German commander, Werner Lott, ordered his crew to rescue the Greek sailors.

All 28 seamen from the Diamantis were brought on board the U 35. The Greek crew were offered beds and told to make themselves comfortable.. Some of the men later expressed their keen appreciation of the way in which they had been treated. “When the Greek sailors said good bye to me on the conning tower they went on their knees and kissed my wedding ring as if I was a bishop,” Lott recalled. “I did not want this but they said ‘we owe our lives to you. You have treated us very nicely’.” After dropping off the Greek seamen, the U Boat left Ventry Harbour at a very slow speed. before submerging
Much to the embarrassment of the Dublin government, the story was reported not only in the local newspapers but also in the international press. It actually made the cover story of Life Magazine on October 16, 1939.From the Taoiseach Eamon de Valera’s standpoint, however, the report was embarrassing because it gave credence to rumours that German U Boats were being succored by the Irish.

When U 35 returned to Germany, Lott was reprimanded by Admiral Karl Donitz, the head of the German Navy, for endangering the life of his crew. But he was still in charge of U 35 on its next tour of duty. On 29 November 29 U 35 was cruising on the surface in the North Sea, east of the Shetland Islands when she was spotted by the British destroyer HMS Icarus. Blinded by the rising sun, the crew of U 35 failed to see the Icarus approaching until it was too late. The submarine managed to submerge but was hit and badly damaged in the ensuing depth charge attack. The Icarus was joined by other destroyers under the direction of the Captain of HMS Kelly, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Realising that their vessel was doomed, Lott ordered the boat to surface. As U 35 flooded, the crew took to the water - all 43 of whom survived the ordeal.

Normally the British would not wait to rescue German sailors, because the British ships would be sitting targets for any other U boats in the vicinity, but on this occasion Mountbatten ordered that all of the German sailors be rescued. Lott sought him out when they reached England. “I thanked him for the extraordinary efforts his destroyer made to pick us up,” Lott recalled. “That is how life is,” Mountbatten replied. “You were extraordinary picking up the Greeks.”. After the conflict Lott made friends with Mountbatten and they corresponded with one another until Mountbatten was murdered by the Provisional IRA in bomb blast on his boat off Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, in 1979.


Irish Examiner

U 35 homepage

U boat net

Portrait of the Artist as a Copycat

This review of Frank Wynne’s biography of Hans van Meegeren - I Was Vermeer: The Legend of the Forger Who Swindled the Nazis appeared in today’s Observer. I do feel a purchase coming on.

On 25 June 1938, as part of the jubilee for the reign of the Dutch monarch Queen Wilhelmina, Rotterdam's Boijmans Museum unveiled an exhibition entitled Four Centuries of Masterpieces 1400-1800. The poster for the exhibition featured a detail from Jan Vermeer's The Supper at Emmaus, a recently discovered painting, donated to the museum after being bought for 520,000 guilders and a work now being widely touted as the 17th-century artist's masterwork.

the Supper at Emmaus

Day after day, one man returned to view Emmaus. Han van Meegeren, also an artist, would stand alongside the awestruck pilgrims and pronounce: 'I can't believe they paid half a million guilders for this. It's obviously a fake.'

Han van Meegeren, would become the most famous forger in history. Born in Deventer in 1889, he was from the start a patently gifted artist, but also a man out of time, painting portraits in the manner of van Dyck when Cubism and Futurism were in vogue. Driven by a desire for revenge, on his dismissal at the hands of the Dutch art critics, he found himself drawn to forgery.

His career began slowly. In 1913, he won the prestigious Hague Gold Medal for his Study of the Interior of the Laurenskerk. Though van Meegeren received no money for the award, the study sold for 1,000 guilders, the equivalent of nearly £3,300 today. Sometime later, a foreign collector contacted van Meegeren and asked if he could buy the picture. Van Meegeren agreed and set to work to create a facsimile, intending to pass it off as the original. Under pressure from his wife, he balked at the last minute. The mathematics were striking: instead of the 1,000 guilders agreed, he was paid just 80.

As gifted as his tastes were unfashionable, it did not take van Meegeren long to see that forgery made financial sense. He plumped for Vermeer, the artist he admired above all others and with whom he felt a bond. Like him, Vermeer - or so he chose to believe - was an artist neglected and wronged by critics and who had died almost unknown. But it was also a canny move; so little was known of Vermeer's life and works that it would be easy to add to the catalogue of accepted work. He started modestly, with a minor genre piece: Lady and Gentleman at the Spinet, described by Wynne as 'forgery by numbers'. Pastiche or not, it was authenticated and sold for 40,000 guilders. With the money, van Meegeren bought his first car, a Dodge sedan.

The forger, writes Wynne, 'must become a skilled art historian, a restorer, a chemist, a graphologist and a documentalist if he is to exploit his talents as a charlatan. It is not a vocation for the indolent'. Now based in the south of France, van Meegeren was keeping himself busy, honing his technique while working on bread-and-butter portraits of the local merchants, expats and musicians. Though he had learnt as a student how to make his own pigments, creating something that would pass as a major 17th-century piece of art, not to mention securing a reputable authentication, was going to be a lot harder.

He devised a paint-hardening method using phenol and formaldehyde and built himself an oven in which, he discovered, it was possible to recreate the distinctive craquelure of 17th-century paintings. Eventually, through an intermediary, The Supper at Emmaus, featuring Christ and his disciples, was authenticated by no less a figure than respected Dutch art critic Abraham Bredius. From there, it was but a short step to the hallowed halls of the Boijmans.

Though he made a fortune from his forgeries his downfall came when he was arrested in 1945 for selling a Vermeer to Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering. When, finally, he admitted that the painting was, in fact, a forgery, the resulting court case turned into a media circus, a forum in which van Meegeren thrived. Here, at last, he got the revenge he thirsted for. As the judge said in his summing-up: 'The art world is reeling and experts are beginning to doubt the very basis of artistic attribution. This was precisely what the defendant was trying to achieve.'

Christ with the Adulteress

For the record the painting that brought about his downfall was Christ with the Adulteress which he sold in 1942 and which changed hands a number of times before it ended up in the collection of Reichsmarshall Göring, The painting was found in an Austrian salt mine by Allied forces, and led to Van Meegeren's arrest. Originally arrested as a collaborator when he told the police that the painting was a forgery, they didn't believe him, and challenged him to show he could paint a copy of one of the supposed fakes. He replied that he could create an entirely new fake.

He was put under house arrest, and in three months he painted a new forgery, The Young Christ Teaching In The Templee. The story got into the press and attracted worldwide media attention. The charge was changed to one of forgery. In the week before the trial, a poll showed he was the second most popular man in the Netherlands, after the prime minister.

He finally came to trial in 1947 and was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Already in ill health van Meegeren was sent to a clinic where he died in December 1947.

A genuine Vermeer

The Art Forgeries of Hans Van Meegeren
The van Meegeren Forgeries

29 July 2006

Sergeant Coughlan and Irish History

Searching for information on Sean Russell I came across this from the Irish National Congress regarding the decapitation of his statue in 2004.

“Last December (2004), individuals claiming to be "anti-fascist" deliberately damaged the Republican monument to Sean Russell in Dublin's Fairview Park. Russell was a former IRA Chief of Staff who died aboard a German U-boat in 1940, and was buried at sea. Russell, according to those who knew him, had no hard-line ideological world view apart from a firm commitment to ending British rule in Ireland. Yet today in Ireland he is being branded a Nazi sympathiser; an anti-Semite, and a murderous fanatic with the blood of the innocents of the Holocaust on his hands. Russell's legacy is being subjected to a Big Lie technique worthy of Dr. Goebbels.

For some time now there has been an orchestrated campaign aimed at getting Dublin City Council to remove Russell's statue. If this attempt were to succeed anti-national elements would undoubtedly target other Irish Republican monument for removal on the grounds of their being 'racist' or 'offensive' or whatever.

There is another issue that needs to be kept in mind arising out of the Russell controversy. The Irish state is now actively promoting the restoration of British Imperial monuments and memorials; such as the one last year in Mayo with Sergeant Coughlan's grave and this year with the memorial to British Royal Navy submariners in Carrigaline Co. Cork. There will undoubtedly be others to come in the future. Significant sections of the Irish political elite now seem hell-bent on restoring the British dimension to the 26 Counties. We Nationalists and Republicans need to be vigilant.” ENDS

The Irish National Congress seems to ignore the fact that Russell could not have been ignorant of the nature of the Nazi regime. It is not as if Kristallnacht or the invasions of Poland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium or France went unreported in the Irish press. Hard line nationalists also tend to overlook the IRA’s increasingly pro-nazi stance during WWII (see my previous post X's difficulty is Y's opportunity ).

What particularly piqued my interest was the Irish National Congress’s issue at the “promotion” of what it describes as British imperial memorials. I cannot find any reference to a memorial to Royal Navy submariners in Carrigaline, but if it has been erected I can only presume that its purpose is to commemorate the participation of Irish submariners in the Royal Navy – Perhaps in the view of the Irish National Congress such people were traitors to Ireland. I can only imagine what they think of the Islandbridge War memorial in Dublin.

I had never heard of Sergeant Coughlan before reading the above article. According to the Victoria Cross website Cornelius Coughlan was an Irish soldier awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the Indian Mutiny in 1857

Born in Eyrecourt, Co. Galway in 1828, he joined the Gordon Highlanders and served with the regiment for 21 years. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for bringing an injured Private Corbett, who lay severely wounded, to safety under fire. Later, during the siege of Delhi, when his officers were killed and he found himself in command, he encouraged his wavering men by word and example to return to the attack. This engagement resulted in victory and the Kabul Gate was stormed and taken.

Coughlan died in February 1915. His funeral was a big affair but a year passed and nobody got around to erecting a headstone. After the Easter Rebellion the political wind changed, and soldiers who had worn the uniform of a British regiment were no longer welcome. As a result, Cornelius Coughlan lay in an unmarked grave for eighty nine years.

In 2004 a headstone was finally unveiled on Coughlan’s grave by Michael Smith, the Irish defence minister. "In fairness to Coughlan, and to the 60 other Irishmen who were awarded the VC during the military campaign that followed the Indian Mutiny, we should consider his actions in the light of the time in which he was living, rather than seek to judge him through the steely eye of complacent retrospection." Smith said

Like it or not, the participation of Irishmen in the British Empire is a matter of historical fact. To have continued to leave one such man to rest in an unmarked grave would do nothing to expunge this. One can take issue at the presence of an Irish government minister at the unveiling of Coughlan’s headstone but, like the recent commemoration of the battle of the Somme, it is perhaps an indication of a nation coming to terms with its past. To deny that Ireland’s fortunes were for so long interlinked with those of Britain is in my opinion to deny much of Ireland’s history.

History should be viewed in the round, warts and all. If doing so means that other forgotten Irish soldiers of the British Empire are remembered then so be it.

28 July 2006

an Alien Sponge from Atlantis?

I have been an avid reader of the Fortean Times, the Journal of Strange Phenomena for getting on for 20 years now. It is good to see that it now has a fair selection of old articles in its archives. It looks as if more will be put on line as time goes by, a welcome move in my view.

A few years ago veteran fortean researcher Peter Brookesmith wrote a fascinating article about a now largely forgotten mystery known as the Eltanin enigma. What I like about this particular mystery is that any outlandish theories were put to the sword by a mundane but still interesting solution.

The Eltanin enigma

In August 1964, The American National Science Federation Polar Research vessel Eltanin the ship photographed an unusual object at a depth of 13,500 feet approximately 1000 from Cape Horn. The object appeared to be a pole rising from the ocean floor with twelve spokes radiating from it, each ending in a sphere. All of the spokes were at 15 degree angles to each other.

Given that the object looked like an antenna there was some speculation that it could be some sort of ancient technology possibly from an ancient or an alien civilisation. One researcher, New Zealander Bruce Cathie, developed a theory that it formed part of an ancient planetary grid that is of fundamental importance to an understanding of our planet (whatever the understanding may be!).

The reality!

Perhaps to save the embarrassment of earth mystery writers this enigma never got the exposure that other “mysteries” have received over the years, especially since the item has been known to biologists since 1888. It is in fact a deep sea sponge Cladorhiza concrescens which appears to be common in southern latitudes. Needless to say that the those who held more outlandish views as to its origin were less than pleased at such a mundane explanation.

27 July 2006

Ultravox - Hiroshima Mon Amour

Ultravox - Hiroshima Mon Amour OGWT

Ultravox performing Hiroshima Mon Amour on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1978. This is an earlier line up with original singer John Foxx who had quite a reasonable solo carerr before giving it up for a carerr as a book cover illustrator in the mid 80s. He started releasing albums again in 1997, his last one being released a few weeks ago.

The not wife wanted to see him live so it's off to the Scala by Kings Cross later on to see him play. Hmm I havent seen a live act that wasn't Hawkwind or featured Robyn Hitchcock for almost 13 years!

24 July 2006

Two old foes became firm friends in new era

Stewart Eldon, the outgoing British Ambassador to Ireland wrote this article in today’s Irish Independent

"MOVING is the hardest part of diplomatic life, especially from a special posting. It has been an exceptional time to be in Ireland, which has left many lasting impressions.

The relationship between the UK and Ireland is maturing fast. With territorial differences settled by the Good Friday Agreement, it was natural for me to attend the 90th Anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising in April. The first official Irish commemoration of The Somme on 1 July was another important landmark. The ceremony was a clear signal of determination to pursue the cause of inclusiveness within this island

In parallel with the politics, mutually beneficial cooperation is becoming an increasingly accepted fact of life. Business between North and South is booming. There have been two joint overseas trade missions this year, with more to come. Developments like this can only underpin lasting peace.

Much has changed for the better over the last three years, including, crucially, the Provisional IRA's decision to decommission. Everyone should want to see a complete end to terrorism and paramilitary activity and support from all sides of the community for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I'm sure that is the wish of the great majority.

The last three years have seen developments in other areas. Irish Peacekeepers have served with British counterparts overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Liberia, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and many other operations. Trade and Investment continue to grow to mutual advantage. Many thousands of jobs, on both sides of the Irish Sea, have been created thanks to the investments UK and Irish businessmen have made in each others' countries.
We shall need to face new challenges together. The threat from international terrorism, people-trafficking and organised crime - on which cooperation between the relevant law enforcement agencies has never been better.

My three years here have confirmed one fundamental truth - that the United Kingdom and Ireland are so intertwined that we simply cannot be apart; 85pc of Irish people have friends or family in the UK. The relationship between Ireland and Britain will always be exceptional. But, increasingly, the time for exceptionalism in managing it is over."

There are many who I am sure will not see Anglo-Irish relations in the same way but Mr Eldon is correct to point out that there have been major changes in the relationship between the UK and Ireland. For so long Ireland was the poor neighbour whose greatest export was its people. No longer is this the case: the Celtic Tiger has created a prosperous and self assured nation. As a result the relationship between the two nations has never been on a more equal footing. The sordid tale of British domination of Ireland will never be forgotten but at least they are not an obstacle to progress.

Ceausescu regime used children as police spies

There was a report in Saturday’s Guardian concerning the recruitment of thousands of Romanian children by the Securitate to spy on schoolfriends, parents and teachers. I have read this article again and I still find it hard to contemplate the sheer callousness and paranoia of a state that would engage in such blatant child abuse..

According to communist-era archives the children were blackmailed into becoming informers in the late 1980s, as the whiff of liberalisation in the Soviet bloc prompted Ceausescu to tighten his grip on the country.

The files have shocked Romanians and prompted calls for an inquiry into why many of the agents who allegedly recruited the child spies continued working for the security services after Ceausescu was toppled and executed in 1989.

Romanian historian Marius Oprea unearthed a cache of such files in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, which was run like a fiefdom in the 1980s by Ceausescu's son, Nicu. "In Sibiu in 1989, the Securitate recruited 830 informers and of these 170 were under 18," said Mr Oprea. "On the basis of Sibiu, you could say that perhaps 15% of the whole country's informers were children."

Historians believe the Securitate had hundreds of thousands of collaborators on its books by 1989, as Soviet power faded across eastern Europe. "What kind of information could these children give, except on family, teachers and so on?" asked Mr Oprea. "This shows that, by then, the Securitate was being used to control its own, ordinary people."

The children were expected to tell their Securitate handlers about their friends' and families' opinions on the Communist party, and whether they listened to western radio stations, had contact with foreigners or made jokes about Ceausescu.
The secret police targeted intelligent and sporty children, whose participation in teams and clubs gave them access to many teachers, other children and their parents. everal alleged recruiters were promoted through the ranks of the secret police after 1989, and some brought their young spies to work alongside them when they left school.

Mr Oprea found evidence of the child-spy programme soon after 1989, but found no appetite for such revelations among the ex-communists who seized power after Ceausescu's demise, and stayed quiet for 15 years. Only when reformers ousted the old guard in 2004 elections did the Securitate archive begin opening.

23 July 2006

Not so Gorgeous George Galloway

I am grateful to Paul Burgin and his excellent blog Mars Hill for drawing this video to my attention. I am not trying to steal the thunder of others who have already blogged this video.

George Galloway spoke at yesterday's demonstration in London protesting Israel's actions in lebanon. I have said before that I consider Israel's actions to be disproportionate and counter productive. I draw the line at Galloway's quote,,

"I am here to glorify the Lebanese resistance... Hezbollah. I am here to glorify Syed Hassan Nasrullah"

Once again Galloway shows himself to be an opportunistic piece of slime. Identifying with an organisation that has the aim of destroying Israel is just another measure of the man along with his previous fawning support for Saddam (but to be fair the same could be said for Donald Rumsfeld in the 1980s too. What Galloway said yesterday only marginally lowers my esteem for this man, from the top to the bottom of the sewer.

Nothing New Under the Sun

Black and Tans

Irish American Ryle Dwyer writes a weekly column for the Irish Examiner. They cover a range of subjects but erhaps his historical items are of the greatest interest (to me at least). His current article draws a parallel between the recent kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and the repercussions and events in Tralee in 1920. Needless to say there is no intention on Dwyer’s part to equate historical events to current events but it shows that there is nothing new under the sun.

In September 1920 the IRA in Tralee kidnapped a Black and Tan, holding him for five weeks before shooting him in late October. Shortly after, the IRA took two more Black and Tans prisoner. Patrick Waters and Ernest Bright were shot on the authority of Paddy Cahill, the local IRA brigadier and their bodies were never recovered.

During the early hours of the next morning, the Black and Tans swept through the streets of Tralee shooting indiscriminately, often into houses. They burned down the County Hall. Assuming the IRA was holding their colleagues, the Black and Tans then unleashed a reign of terror on Tralee over the next nine days. Monday, November 1, was All Saints’ Day, a holy day of obligation, and all the churches were busy. The Black and Tans drove up and down the streets in lorries, discharging rifle shots. On the evening of 1 November they shot dead a painter, John Conway, 57, as he was returning from evening devotions.

A group of foreign journalists who had attended the funeral of Terence MacSwiney in Cork on the Sunday (Note: MacSwiney was Lord Mayor of Cork and had been imprisoned for offences under the Defence of the Realm Act. He died after a hunger strike) came to Tralee. They witnessed Black and Tans posting a warning: “Unless the two Tralee policemen in Sinn Féin custody are returned before 10am on the 2nd inst. reprisal of a nature not yet heard of in Ireland will take place in Tralee and surroundings.”

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Tommy Wall, 24, an ex-soldier who had fought in France during World War I, was standing at a corner on the main street. As a former soldier who had fought for the Crown, he may have thought he would be safe. One of the Tans hit him in the face with a rifle butt and told him to get out of the place. As he left, they shot and fatally wounded him, claiming he was shot trying to escape.

Publication of the town’s newspapers was suspended for the duration of the siege. But the international press focused on the town as never before or since. During the nine-day siege, events in Tralee made the front pages of the Montreal Gazette four times and the New York Times three times.

The front page report in the Montreal Gazette began: “The town of Tralee, Ireland, is fast approaching starvation in consequence of recent police orders forbidding the carrying on of business — until two missing policemen are returned by the townspeople. Trade is paralysed, the banks, and bakeries even being closed, and the condition of the people is becoming desperate.”

In an editorial, the Montreal Gazette lamented: “Men in high places, who should understand the danger of irregular methods of lynch law order, do not show a serious appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some give veiled excuses for the violence that almost amount to encouragement.”

Hugh Martin of the Daily News reported: “During the past few days Tralee has been in the public eye more than any other town in Ireland and the reprisals there have been given worldwide publicity. Women and children, in addition to the men who may have been guilty of the kidnappings, were going hungry and may soon be faced with the prospect of starvation. How can the Government clear itself of the charge of waging war on women and children?”

22 July 2006

In Praise of Essex Part 3: the Essex Girl

Chantelle Houghton

“What does an Essex girl put behind her ears to attract men? – her legs”

This is the sort of joke that that is used to stereotype the Essex girl as a person of few morals and fewer brain cells. The stereotype normally has her wearing a short skirt, stilettos and sporting bottle blonde hair. She typically is a heavy drinker, usually of cheap swill like Lambrini or Bacardi Breezers. People who buy into this view will cite unfairly a z-lister like Chantelle Houghton who won Celebrity Big Brother this year as a non-celebrity.

In my view (and in deference to the not-wife who is a proud Essex girl, albeit with brown hair) the Essex girl is to be treasured. I would like to cite two fine examples, one famous and one not so famous but very talented, that that refute the stereotype.

Essex Girl 1: Ilyena Lydia Mironova

Ilyena Mironova

Ilyena is of course better known as Helen Mirren, the stage and film actress. Born in 1945 to a Russian noble father and an English mother (her grandfather, was stranded in the UK by the Russian Revolution) Educated at St Bernard's School for Girls in Westcliff on Sea, her first starring role was in 1965 as Cleopatra for the National Youth. Since then she has had a stellar career appearing in such films as The Long Good Friday, The Madness of King George and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and on television as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect.

Essex Girl 2 – Danielle Gardner

An experimental/goth musician Danielle is better (but not much better) known as Danielle Dax. She was born in 1958 in Southend on Sea and first She recorded two bizarre albums as one half of the Lemon Kittens before embarking on a solo career which included such highlights1984’s Jesus Egg That Wept and 1987’s Inky Bloaters . Her last major release was 1990’s Blast the Human Flower which sank without trace. Sadly Dax has left the music business behind and now works in interior design. For me this is a major shame as I loved the quirkiness of her output.

She can also be seen in The Company of Woles where she appeared as the the naked wolfgirl.

Garden 22 July

Bumble Bee finding slim pickings from Echinops flowers

Cardoon head (Cynara cardunculus)

Zantadeschia flower

Rot in Hell Brother Number 4

Today’s papers are carrying the story of the death of Ta Mok a former top leader of the Khmer Rouge. I doubt there will be a single person who will shed a tear for this butcher’s passing. It is the likes of Ta Mok that makes me wish Hell existed.

The rest of the post is taken from an article in today’s Independent

Ta Mok died yesterday at the age of 80 in a Phnom Penh military hospital . He was suffering from tuberculosis and high blood pressure and for a week he had flitted in and out of a coma. But he was a man who was intimately involved in the systematic massacre of somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million of his own people. This feeble old man was once Brother Number Four, part of the Khmer Rouge high command, and one of the architects of the Killing Fields.

Ta Mok was born in 1926, into a poor peasant family. His real name was Chhit Choeun. Ta Mok was a nom de guerre he later took for himself. His background meant that, unlike many of the other Khmer Rouge leaders, he did not have a foreign education, and was not considered an intellectual. He fought in the resistance in the Forties, first against French colonial rule and later against the Japanese. But in 1964 he was training to become a Buddhist monk when he fell in with the Khmer Rouge. The religious life was soon left far behind. By the end of the Sixties he was the Khmer Rouge's military commander.

When the Khmer Rouge finally seized power on 17 April 1975, they abolished schools, hospitals, factories, banking, money, religion and private property. They declared the Year Zero, the start of one of the most extraordinary and brutal attempts completely to reorder a society in modern history. In an attempt to create an agrarian communist Utopia, the Khmer Rouge attempted to abolish cities altogether. They ordered the people out of Phnomh Penh and Cambodia's other cities, telling them it was because of the threat of American bombing, and would only be for a few days. In fact, the Khmer Rouge had no intention of letting people back into the cities. They were forced to live in rural labour camps, working in the fields in 12-hour shifts without a break.
Anyone who stood in the way of this insane plan was executed. Even the most minor infringement of the rules could get you sent to the Killing Fields. And some groups were executed automatically: Christians, Muslims, Buddhist monks, whose number Ta Mok had once hoped to join, professionals and intellectuals. But they weren't simply dragged away to be killed. The Khmer Rouge's Cambodia was an Orwellian nightmare. They were sent for "re-education". In practice, it meant being sent for torture and probably execution. Crimes that could get you sent there included "memory sickness" - any degree of nostalgia for pre-Khmer Rouge times.
The Khmer Rouge tried to seal Cambodia off entirely from the outside world. But their horrific experiment in restructuring society lasted less than four years in the end. In December 1978, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, capturing Phnomh Penh a month later and deposing the Khmer Rouge, whose leaders fled into the west of the country. In a strange postscript to their rule, the Khmer Rouge managed to cling on to dwindling pockets of Cambodia for the next two decades, fighting on as jungle guerrillas and trying to preserve their ideology.

Ta Mok remained a pivotal figure, controlling the northern part of the Khmer Rouge's territory. In the end, his determination to keep the Khmer Rouge's ideology alive was one of the factors blamed for its downfall, after he tried to lead a crackdown against a more capitalist lifestyle in its territory. In 1997, he named himself supreme commander of the Khmer Rouge, arrested Pol Pot and placed him under house arrest.. Pol Pot finally died in a jungle shack, reportedly of a heart attack. Ta Mok was finally captured in 1999 and brought to Phnomh Penh.

Several other high-profile Khmer Rouge leaders, including Brothers Number Two and Three, had given themselves up in return for a guarantee of immunity from the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, who said Cambodia should bury the past. But the pardons have causing considerable discontent among ordinary Cambodians, so after years of delaying tactics, Mr Hun was prepared to send Ta Mok before the UN-backed tribunals next year. Some critics said that, with so many other leaders getting off the hook, Ta Mok was a scapegoat.

Now that is a trial that will never happen. The only senior Khmer Rouge leader who is now likely to stand trial is Kaing Khek Iev, also known by his nom de guerre "Duch", who was head of the S-21 torture centre. He is the only other senior leader in custody who has not been given immunity. He is 59 years old, which means Cambodians may yet get to see the trial of one of the men who carried out genocide on their own people.

21 July 2006

Hitler in Liverpool

Sorting out various junk in the back bedroom (not that a bed could fit in there anymore!), I came across my copy of Beryl Bainbridge’s novel Young Adolf. The book imagines in quite a humorous manner, a trip a youthful Adolf Hitler may have made to Liverpool before the outbreak of World War I.

The very idea may sound preposterous but it is not outside the bounds of feasibility: his half brother Alois lived in Toxteth with his wife Bridget and their young son William Patrick before WWI. Bridget herself claimed in her own memoirs, published posthumously in 1979, that Adolf did in fact spend around six months in Liverpool between 1912 and 1913.

Historians dismiss Bridget’s claims believing them to be a work of fantasy. Sadly there is no proof other than to put Hitler in Austria sleeping rough or living in doss houses and earning a living from menial labouring jobs. It would be amusing to think of Hitler becoming a scally rather than an evil dictator. Even if the story of Adolf the scouser is untrue, the story of Hitler’s nephew is quite interesting.

Hitler’s half-brother Alois was working as a waiter in Dublin, in 1909 when he met Bridget Dowling. In response to her parent’s opposition to their marriage, Bridget and Alois eloped and married in London in June 1910. The couple then moved to Liverpool, where Alois opened a restaurant. He subsequently bought a boarding house and a hotel before plunging into bankruptcy. A son William Patrick was born in 1911

In May 1914, Alois moved back to Germany, where he started a business making razors. Bridget refused to join him and the outbreak of war meant that she heard nothing of her husband until 1920, when she received a message he had died in the Ukraine. A year later, however, she learned that Alois was alive and bigamously married to a German woman. Alois, and Bridget officially separated but remained in contact thereafter

In 1933 William Patrick went to Berlin with the intention of benefiting from his connection to the new Chancellor. Hitler found him various jobs. Their relationship was uneasy, a situation not helped by William Patrick’s ambition. In 1938, he was asked by Hitler to relinquish his British nationality. If he became a German, said Hitler, he could play a significant role in the Reich. William Patrick the offer down. He apparently had seen enough of Hitler's intentions to know he wanted nothing more to do with it. On his return to England, Patrick immediately attacked Hitler. In January 1939, he wrote an article for Look magazine headlined "Why I hate my uncle".

William Patrick Hitler in the US Navy

Realising that life in Britain with Hitler for a surname would not be easy, mother and son went to the US, where William Patrick went on a lecture tour to warn that his uncle had turned into a madman. In 1944, he enlisted in the US Navy serving for three years before being honourably discharged in 1947. (It is amusing to note that Hitler’s recruiting officer went by the name of Hess!)

After the war William and Bridget reinvented themselves. First they changed their name to Stewart–Houston (apparently after the anti Semitic writer Houston Stewart Chamberlain. He then married and moved to a Long Island where he and his family lived in anonymity William Patrick’s children are apparently aware of their origins and are said to have entered into a pact never to have children. In this way they intend to ensure that the Hitler bloodline dies with them.

Bridget Hitler died in 1967. William Patrick Hitler died in November 1987 after picking up a bronchial infection.

Further Reading

the Last of the Hitlers

Daily Telegraph Getting to Know the Hitlers

Hitler’s Irish Relatives

FBI documents on Bridget and William Patrick Hitler

20 July 2006

17 July 2006

Fur das Kind

Fur das Kind, Liverpool Street

Like millions of other suburbanite I commute to work in central London. The route I use terminates at Liverpool street station in the City. I then cut across the “square mile” to catch the underground to get to my office.

I am fortunate to pass a now reduced memorial just outside Liverpool St station called “Fur das Kind” which commemorates the Kindertransport – a rescue mission that saved around 10,000 mainly Jewish children from Nazi occupied areas just before the outbreak of WWII. When it was unveiled in 2003 the memorial consisted of a statue of a small girl beside a transparent suitcase filled with memorabilia brought by the children, including books, toys and, poignantly, photographs of family members who almost certainly perished during the Holocaust.

Fur Das Kind as it was in 2003

It now consists just of the base and the statue of the child: the suitcase was unfortunately, not as safe a location for the memorabilia which began to deteriorate. The good news is that a new monument is being created and will be erected later in the year.

Although greatly overshadowed by the awful events of the Holocaust the Kindertransport rescue was an astonishing feat the first transport arrived in England on December 2, 1938, bringing 196 children from a Berlin Jewish orphanage torched by the Nazis the previous month. And continued until the outbreak of war, although a final transport brought 80 children from earlier transports that had stayed in Holland on the day it fell to the Nazis. The freighter itself was strafed by German warplanes.

Although precise figures are unknown, the Kindertransports saved around 10,000 children, most of them Jews, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. None were accompanied by parents.

In an effort to deal with the “refugee problem” a conference proposed by President Roosevelt was held in the French resort town of Evian in July 1938, but despite grand words, the conference was ineffectual, as most countries continued to refuse to accept new immigrants.

Following events in Germany and Austria refuge aid committees in Britain swayed the government to permit an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 to enter the United Kingdom. Jews, Quakers, and Christians of many denominations worked together to rescue the children. Many great people rose to the moment, including Nicholas Winton, who saved nearly 700 Czech children; and Truus Wijsmuller-Meyer was a Dutch Christian who faced down Eichmann in Vienna and brought out 600 children on one train,

The Children who had prearranged sponsors were sent to London, arriving at Liverpool Street station. The unsponsored children waited in transient camps until individual families came forward to take them. The children were dispersed to many parts of the British Isles. Those over 14, unless they were fortunate enough to be sponsored by individuals and set to boarding schools or taken into foster care, were frequently absorbed into the country’s labor force after a few weeks of training, mainly in agriculture or domestic service. But many families, Jewish and non-Jewish, opened their homes to take in these children.

In 1940, more than 1,000 Kindertransportees over 16 were interred on the Isle of Man and other sites. Some boys, including Nobel Chemistry laureate Walter Kohn were transported to Canada. Many young men and women who had stayed in Britain, Kindertransportees later joined the army when it accepted “enemy aliens”.
Most of the Kinder survived the war, and a small percentage was reunited with parents who had either spent the war in hiding or endured the Nazi camps. The majority of children, however, had to face the reality that home and family were lost forever. The end of the war brought confirmation of the worst: their parents were dead. In the years since the Kinder had left the European mainland, the Nazis and their collaborators had killed nearly six million European Jews, including nearly 1.5 million children.

Kindertransport organisation

Wikipedia article on the Kindertransport

16 July 2006

In Praise of Essex Part 2 - the Kelvedon Bunker

Heading out from Brentwood towards Greensted (of the church fame see my earlier post in praise of Essex) and Ongar you will see, when you reach Kelvedon Hatch, road signs towards a Secret Nuclear Bunker. This is no joke sign: Kelvedon Hatch was where the government would attempt to run London in the event of a nuclear war.

The Kelvedon Hatch bunker was originally built in 1952 by the Air Ministry for use as a control centre for an upgraded air defence radar system called ROTOR. When ROTOR became obsolete in the 1960s it was transferred to the (now defunct) UKWMO (United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation) – the key function of this organization was to war the population of an impending nuclear attack. In the late 1960's it was finally converted into a Regional Government Headquarters and it stayed that way until 1994 when the bunker was decommissioned. It was then purchased by the owners of the surrounding land who have opened it as a tourist attraction cum conference centre (!). While not unique (other bunkers have been opened to the public in Cheshire and Scotland) it is a fascinating and somewhat disturbing place to visit.

The bunker, needless to say is rather unobtrusive. It is quite a distance up track and surrounded by farmland. When you enter the bunker you first go through a Guard house, disguised as an ordinary cottage (except that the cottage is made out of concrete and finished off with bricks).After walking through the cottage you walk down a couple steps and you then come to the 120 yard (approx 103m) yard tunnel which takes you to the bunker itself.

The Ground floor contains a huge array of plant and equipment necessary to keep the bunker safe and habitable. It also was the location of the plotting room where nuclear strikes would be recorded, a major communications exchange and a BBC broadcasting centre.

layout of the bunker

The next level was known as the Government level where several hundred officials would, as directed by a Commissioner (a politician of cabinet minister rank), try to administer a post Armageddon London. This floor still contains much of the original equipment. There are also showings of Cold War information films, including the risible “Protect and Survive”

The final level consists of sleeping accommodation for up to six hundred staff (hot bedding) and the other necessities of life. The bunker would have held sufficient stores for up to three months but it is hard to imagine that conditions would have been particularly comfortable by the end of that period (but compared to the situation above ground I am sure they would have seemed like paradise).

The reality is that had there ever been an impending nuclear war very few of the designated staff would have wanted to staff the bunker. Most would have chosen to die with their families.

UK Cold War website

Kelvedon Secret Bunker website

Subterranea Britannica Cold War Research section

Lawnless in Lakewood

Thursday’s New York Times carried a feature about a family in suburban California who have thought outside of the box and put their front garden to work growing a marvelous range of fruit and vegetables. This move has not necessarily been welcomed by their neighbours, but to hell with the neighbours I say.

Me? I love the idea and the not-wife and myself would do similar were it not for the fact that our own front garden (in the loosest of terms) were not a concrete postage stamp covered in debris from recent home improvements. Perhaps we could try some container-grown produce but I fear that anything not swiped would receive an unwelcome watering from the people en route home from the pub….

Redefining American Beauty, by the Yard (extract)

When Cecilia Foti, a seventh grader, was asked to write a “persuasive” essay for her English class she did not choose a topic deeply in tune with her peers. Instead, she addressed the neighborhood’s latest controversy: her family’s front yard. “The American lawn needs to be eradicated from our society and fast!” she wrote, explaining that her family had replaced its own with a fruit and vegetable garden. She argued for the importance of water conservation, the dangers of pesticides and the dietary benefits and visual appeal of an edible yard. “Was the Garden of Eden grass?” she reasoned. “No.”

In a 1950’s tract community about 25 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, the transformation of the Foti family’s front yard from one of grass to one dense with pattypan squash plants, cornstalks, millionaire eggplants, crimson sweet watermelons, dwarf curry trees and about 195 other edible varieties has been startling.

“The empty front lawn requiring mowing, watering and weeding previously on this location has been removed,” reads a placard set amid veggies in oval planting beds fronting the street.

The sign is a not-so-subtle bit of propaganda proclaiming the second and most recent installment of Edible Estates, an experimental project by Fritz Haeg, a 37-year-old Los Angeles architect. The project, which he inaugurated in 2005 in a front yard in Salina, Kan., is part of a nascent “delawning” movement concerned with replacing lawns around the country with native plants, from prairie grasses in suburban Chicago to cactus gardens in Tucson. “It’s about what happens on that square of land between the public street and the private house. It’s about social engagement. I wanted to get away from the idea of home as an obsessive isolating cocoon.”

The Fotis volunteered for the project after reading about it in early 2006 on an environmental Web site. Cecilia’s father, Michael Foti, a 36-year-old computer programmer and avid gardener who raises chickens in the backyard, was eager to put his environmental politics into practice. “I am looking to think differently about this space,” Mr. Foti said of the family’s once-placid front yard. “I want to look outward rather than inward.”
The delawning was accomplished over Memorial Day weekend by a team of some 15 recruits who read about the project on Mr. Haeg’s Web site. Mr. Haeg arrived armed with three rented sod cutters, a roto-tiller and a dozen rakes and shovels, and within three days the yard was transformed.

The new garden has caused much rumbling in the neighborhood, where colorful windsocks and plastic yard butterflies prevail. Some neighbors fret about a potential decline in property values, while others worry that all those succulent fruits and vegetables will attract drive-by thieves — as well as opossums and other vermin — in pursuit of Maui onions and Brandywine tomatoes.

But the biggest concern seems to be the breaching of an unspoken perimeter. “What happens in the backyard is their business,” said a 40-year-old high-voltage lineman who lives down the street and would give only his initials, Z.V. “But this doesn’t seem to me to be a front yard kind of a deal.”

In spite of its contemporary media-savvy title, Edible Estates is a throwback to the early 20th century, when yards were widely regarded as utilitarian spaces, particularly in working-class neighborhoods. As recently as the 1920’s and 1930’s, decorative lawns were still largely the province of the elite. The yard was for putting food on the table, Dr. Steinberg said, in the form of vegetables, goats, rabbits and small livestock. It was not until the postwar period that the notion of the lawn as the “national landscape” developed as a vehicle for upward mobility, with zoning setbacks designed to encourage clover- and dandelion-free perfection

While backyards remained private, the front yard evolved into “a ceremonial space that appears effortlessly and without labor,” said Margaret Crawford, a professor of urban design and planning theory at Harvard. “In middle-class neighborhoods,” she said, “the idea of actually using the front yard is extremely unusual.”

Mr. Foti is taking the garden one day at a time, A.A. style, “I do feel a certain pressure not to fail. The whole neighborhood is watching.”

Edible Estates

15 July 2006

Cerne Abbas - the Great Phallusy

Just half a mile (about 800m) from the picturesque Dorset village of Cerne Abbas is Britain’s largest hill figure. Carved into chalk bedrock it is 180 feet (55m) high, and carries a club, which measures 120 feet (37m) in length. It is only one of two hill figures to represent a human form, the other being the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex

Needless to say, the very size of its main attribute was put to good use in fertility folk magic. Local women who wanted to conceive would spend a night alone within the phallus, and young couples would make love on the giant to ensure conception. Sleeping on the giant was also thought to be a good way to ensure a future wedding for unmarried women. Just above the giant's head is an Iron Age earthwork known as the 'Frying Pan' or the 'Trendle'. This site was used for Mayday Maypole celebrations.

There are many theories about the age and the purpose of the Cerne Abbas Giant. It is believed that the figure represents Hercules. Some believe that it may have been created as part of a worship cult that started not long after the Roman invasion of Britain, others that it was created during the reign of the Emperor Commodus (180 – 193CE) who believed himself to be a reincarnation of Hercules. Another story suggests that it was created as a lampoon of an abbot of a nearby monastery who was expelled for malpractice. There is also a folk tradition that it is the representation of a Danish giant who had fallen asleep on the side of the hill. The villagers had cut off his head and then drawn around his body to show where he met his doom. It is said that the figure sometimes rises on dark nights, to quench his thirst in the local stream.

Unfortunately for those who believe the figure is of great antiquity its history cannot be traced back further than the late 17th century Mediaeval writers refer to the location as 'Trendle Hill' but make no mention of the giant. The earliest written reference to the Giant comes from 1694 where the Cerne Abbas churchwarden’s accounts show a payment of 3 shillings was made towards the re-cutting of the giant.

In 1751, John Hutchins wrote in his Guide to Dorset that the carving had only been done the previous century. Currently the most accepted (and the most entertaining) theory is that the Giant was made by servants of the local Lord of the Manor, Denzil Holles as a parody of Oliver Cromwell. There is a lot to commend this theory: Holles was a leading Parliamentary figure during the Civil War but he hated Cromwell with a passion (the feeling was mutual). Cromwell was also sometimes referred to as "England's Hercules" by his enemies.

I doubt that the origin of the giant will ever be determined absolutely but it amuses me to think that it may well be the biggest piece of graffiti in the world. I wonder if there ever was a slogan to accompany it like “Cromwell be ye bigge pricke” – if only!


Mysterious Britain

Cerne Abbas Parish Council


12 July 2006

Jessie Jordan, Dundee Spy

The Poor Mouth has received a number of hits from people searching for information about Jessie Jordan of Dundee. I mentioned her in passing in this previous post.

There appears to be virtually nothing about her on the internet apart from this very very brief item from the Daily Telegraph in 2000. For the benefit of other searchers I have taken this from Sean Murphy’s book “Letting the Side Down” (Sutton 2003):

Although Germany had virtually no spies operating in the UK before the start of WWII a few individuals were imprisoned for espionage during the late 1930’s.

One of these was Jessie Jordan, the Scottish widow of a German who had been killed during WWI. After the war she had stayed in Germany and had set up a hairdressing salon in Hamburg. However, business suffered after the Nazis took power (a lot of her clientele were Jewish)and in 1937 she decided to return to Scotland to act as housekeeper to her recently widowed brother.

It would appear that her plans to return came to the attention to the Abwehr who recruited her. Unfortunately for her the Abwehr agent was under surveillance by British Intelligence and she herself was monitored from the very moment she returned to the UK. In Dundee she opened a hew salon but in her spare time she would dress up as a char lady and would map coastal defences in Eastern Scotland. On other occasions she travelled to Southern England to map defences in Aldershot and Southampton. She was also acted as a post box cover for German agents in the USA. The discovery of this activity by MI5 enabled the FBI to break up a major spy ring in the USA.

Jessie Jordan was arrested and imprisoned for four years for being “in communication with foreign agents for purposes prejudicial to the purposes and interests of the State.”

11 July 2006

Shine No More You Crazy Diamond

Syd Barrett, the former lead singer of Pink Floyd and one of the key figures of the 60s, has died at the Cambridgeshire home to which he retreated as a recluse more than 30 years ago. Barrett, 60, who suffered from a psychedelic-drug induced breakdown while at the peak of his career, died last Friday from cancer.

Born Roger Keith Barrett in Cambridge in 1946, he acquired the nickname Syd aged 15. He left Pink Floyd in 1968, just as the band was about to achieve worldwide recognition, and lived in the basement of his mother’s house, where he boarded up the windows to keep out the eyes of both the press and fans. He recorded two solo albums.

Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond, from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here, was said by many to be a salute to him. Barrett's use of drugs, particularly LSD, in the 60s, was well-documented and he was often described as the original acid casualty.

A statement issued on behalf of Pink Floyd said: "The band are naturally very upset and sad to learn of Syd Barrett's death. Syd was the guiding light of the early band line-up and leaves a legacy which continues to inspire."

Barrett’s influence on the music scene continues even to this day. If it had not been for him we may not have had David Bowie or many of the other artists he inspired, including Robyn Hitchcock

From the Guardian. A full obituary is available here

10 July 2006

Mad Science (or Perhaps Downright Insane Science)

Etorphine is a relative of Morphine but thousands of times more potent. First synthesised in 1963 it is best known as “Elephant Juice” the drug that can drop a rampaging elephant in a second. The Molecule of the Month website (yes it does exist!) includes this sentence “Scientists at BAT (British American Tobacco) once debated adding it to tobacco as it might create an addictive craving for it”

Etorphine in cigarettes? This must be a joke I thought and I kept on thinking it until I came across this 2003 article from the BMJ journal Tobacco Control Online :

“Working in tobacco control, it is easy to get the impression that the tobacco industry is a united front, with all parties avoiding divisions that might undermine the greater struggle against the "antis". However, tobacco industry documents that have been made public as a result of litigation in the USA reveal ruthless competition as well as intense suspicion about competitors’ activities. This was brought home to us recently when reading a 1977 document on "developments in the scientific field" by Dr Sydney J Green, then British American Tobacco’s (BAT’s) senior scientist for research and development. Green informed his readers about"way-out" developments at BAT including :

"A way-out development is that of compounds (such as etorphine) which are 10,000 times as effective as analgesics [such] as morphine and which are very addictive. It is theoretically possible (if politically unthinkable) to add analytically undetectable quantities of such materials to cigarettes to create brand allegiance. But this thought may suggest the possibility of such compounds occurring naturally."

Green’s report followed an earlier memo from Keith D Kilburn to CI Ayres, expressing concern about what BAT’s competitors might be doing in order to create brand allegiance. Kilburn proposed that a regular etorphine dose of as little as 0.2 microgram per day would be sufficient to create an addictive craving for the source. He also claimed that the required delivery per cigarette…would be analytically difficult to measure.

Etorphine is a powerful drug with heroin-like effects, which include respiratory failure in the case of overdose. The dangers of etorphine to humans have been dramatically demonstrated in accidents during veterinary use, as there have been fatal overdoses to veterinarians attempting to dart large unruly animals. As a consequence of these fatalities, veterinarians who are registered to use etorphine must now have an assistant standing by with a dose of an etorphine antagonist in hand.

Very low concentrations of certain psychoactive substances may be sufficient to produce important effects, including addiction. Fortunately, etorphine has become much more readily detectable in recent years than Green and Kilburn suggested was the case in 1977, because forensic toxicologists have put considerable effort into developing highly sensitive detection methods. However, in a world market with minimal regulation of cigarette additives and limited testing capacity outside the industry’s own laboratories, we should remain concerned about what the tobacco industry might be willing to do in order to create "brand allegiance".

I suppose one should never be surprised at such ideas but to consider using Elephant juice to increase brand addiction, even as a wild idea, was sheer and utter madness!It is just as well they never implemented the plan. On the other hand one would probably go down well with a Heroin Cola and an Opium club sandwich…..


Field Marshall Slim, Army Commander South East Asia WWII
Only the second private soldier ever to gain the highest army rank

09 July 2006

Teasel in Bloom - 9 July

aka Dipsacus fullonum

Bear's Britches - 8 July

aka Acanthus Mollis

Swearing for Britain

Friday’s Metro (the paper that has done more to litter London’s public transport system than McDonalds, Burger King and KFC combined) carried a story about a hapless tube traveller who, after swearing, was pounced on by six police officers and fined £80.

The man, identified only as Phil, was walking through a metal detector at Highbury and Islington station, North London, when he murmured that it was 'a piece of shit that wouldn't stop anyone'. He was then grabbed by police who detained him for about 20 minutes before giving him an £80 fine.

I would like to salute Phil for his civic duty, no his PATRIOTISM. In the full knowledge that the Government is facing a significant budget deficit he selflessly helped reduce the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement. He is nothing short of a hero in my view.

As a good citizen and in solidarity with Phil I would like also to do my bit for Britain:

Arse, Wank, Bollocks, Tits, Fuck, Shit and Bastard..

Feel free to do likewise even if overseas. I am sure the Inland Revenue takes Paypal.....

08 July 2006

Squaring the Sphere

This post was a comment on a shite Stalinst apologist site regarding the virtues of the Peters Map over the older Mercator Projection. The comment, shown below:

“Peter’s World Map is only one that represents countries, continents, and seas accurately according to their surface areas…..We have been duped into believing false facts about the Earth and for self serving political reason. Traditional Mercator maps show countries incorrectly in proportion or relative size to one another, to the advantage of the European colonial powers who drew the maps as they dominated and exploited the world, while the southern continents (Africa, South America, Australia) are shown far too small. “

I am neither a cartographer nor geographer but I have always loved maps. The comment struck reminded me of arguments years back over this issue, one where Mercator was portrayed as a cartographical demon and Peters as an angel.

The Demon

Mercator Projection

The Mercator projection was devised by Flemish mathematician Gerhard Kremer (= merchant in English or Mercator in Latin) in 1569 as a tool for navigation. Its layout is such that a navigator can simply draw a line between two points and he will know the correct compass bearing.

As a navigational aid the Mercator projection is excellent but it was never intended for use in world maps as it increasingly inflates the size of land masses, the further they are away from the equator: as a result Greenland appears to be as big as Africa. Sadly that did not stop its use by non geographers in wall maps, atlases and just about anywhere else. This would appear to give some credence to the argument that its flaws - making Western Europe appear much larger than it is reality - suited the colonial powers and thus ensured its longevity. In reality the most likely reason for its continued use outside the world of navigation is inertia rather than racism.

Geographers have criticised the use of the Mercator Projection for over 100 years. For example, in 1902, a cartographer warned, "People's ideas of geography are not founded on actual facts but on Mercator's map." In 1953 Arthur Robinson in the fist edition of Elements of Cartography textbook, called the Mercator projection "of little use for purposes other than navigation.”

The Angel

Peters Projection

In 1973 historian and journalist Arno Peters announced a new map projection that that treated countries fairly by representing area accurately. Peters claimed that his projection more fairly displayed third world countries than the Mercator projection because of its distortion of Eurasia and North America. When announced it was also claimed in some quarters that the Peters Projection was the only "area-correct" map, it had no “extreme distortions of form" and was "totally distance-factual.

Gall Orthographic Projection

While the Peters map does more or less show the attribute the correct area to land masses, to say that it is the only “area correct” map is simply not true. Equal area maps have been around for centuries. The Peters Projection itself is identical to one described in 1855 by Scotsman James Gall. In turn the Gall Orthographic Projection was a modification of the Lambert Cylindrical Equal-Area Projection, published in 1772. It would appear that Peters arrived at his projection independently and there is no suggestion of plagiarism on his behalf.

Lambert Cylindrical Equal Area Projection

Many of the other claims are also false. The Peters projection still has extreme distortion in the polar regions and significant distortion along the equator. Surprisingly the minimum distortion actually occurs at 45 degrees of latitude (where Germany sits). This in itself partly undermines any assertion that it treats the Third World more justly, for it significantly changes the shape of both Africa and South America.. Where it does work, is to challenge our perceptions of the planet

Squaring the sphere

Presenting Cartography as a straight fight between Mercator and Peters ignores the hundred of projections developed over the centuries. However, because any projection tries to render a globe onto a cylinder there is not a world map in existence that does not distort distance, shape, area, or direction in some way shape or form. Neither the Peters nor the Mercator projection gives a good indication of what the earth really looks like.

Winkel Tripel Projection

Other projections do give a rather better representation of the Earth than either Mercator or Peters. For example The National Geographic Society uses the Winkel Tripel projection, It is still flawed in many ways but it does presents the world in a more globe-like manner. At the end of the day, however, if you want to see the world as it really is, get a globe

Further Reading

Peters v Mercator

Diversophy An explanation and Guide to the Peters Map

Social Consciousness and World Maps by John P Snyder

Winkel Triple Projection

Wikipedia article on Gall-Peters Projection

Wikipedia article on the Mercator Projection

07 July 2006


Londoners placing flowers at the memorial Flower Mosaic, Regents Park 7 July
One year ago today four suicide bombers took the lives of 52 people in London. They may believed it was some sort of blow a blow for justice against the evils, real or perceived, committed by Britain against fellow Muslims but it was murder, simply muder. The bombers made no attempt to strike against the machinery of state. They chose instead to destroy the lives of ordinary Londoners. As Mayor Ken Livingstone put it:

“I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn’t an ideology, it isn’t even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved.”

Ken Livingstone’s analysis was utterly correct. It was an evil act commited by deluded people. Nothing can justify what the bombers did one year ago

The BBC still maintains a list of the dead along with brief biographies. Here is just one of them:

Gladys Wundowa

The death of Gladys Wundowa, 50, prompted a visit from the president of her native Ghana at her family home in Chadwell Heath, Essex. The mother-of-two died from injuries sustained on the number 30 bus in Tavistock Square. President John Kufuor, on his way back to Ghana from an official visit to Jamaica, shared his condolences with her husband, Emmanuel, their 16-year-old daughter Azuma, son Zakari, 14, and other relatives and friends.

On 7 July, Mrs Wundowa, who had lived in London for 18 years, finished her cleaning job in the department of civil and environmental engineering at University College London at 0900 BST and was heading towards Hackney on the bus, for a meeting to do with her housing management course.

Her husband, an architect who was working as a security guard, watched the news on television and became concerned when his wife failed to arrive home. After three days of searching, the family received confirmation that she was dead. One year on, Mr Wundowa said the sense of loss was greater than ever. The couple had made plans to move back to Ghana and live in a house they were in the process of building. "She never had a problem with anyone. She would give her last dime to make you comfortable. And cheerful, always smiling." Mrs Wundowa also volunteered at a charity which helped African immigrants to settle in London, and she was heavily involved in Downs Baptist Church in Hackney. She was buried in her home village in Ghana, where 2,000 mourners attended her funeral.

06 July 2006

Photos 6th July - Trafalgar Square

Dolphin girl fountain, Trafalgar Square

Alison Lapper (again)

Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eiu

Al Jazeera television today carried a video featuring London suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer. Tanweer, 23, killed six people and himself on a tube train near Aldgate station on 7 July last year. "What have you witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel." He said.

He also referred to the non-Muslims of Britain and saying that because they voted for a government which “continues to oppress… in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya”, then they deserve such actions.

Given the other content, including that from Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahri, the video intended to make a link between the London bombers and Al-Qaeda. It was also intended to cause the greatest possible hurt to the families and friends of those who died on 7/7 and the hundreds of people who were injured in the terrorist attacks.

Shehzad Tanweer has been proved wrong so far when he said the attacks would increase – God forbid he will be proved right. His argument that any British person is fair game because they voted for the Government is simply a pathetic attempt to justify their choice of target. It hardly accounts for the Muslims who where killed or wounded at their hands but then again he would probably subscribe to the infamous “Kill them all God will know his own” quote attributed Arnaud Amaury during the Albigensian Crusade is appropriate (the original Latin phrase is the title of this post).

Tanweer is dead but London abides. I left work early today and went to Trafalgar Square with the intention to take a few more photographs of the Alison Lapper statue It was a normal day, very different to this time last year when there were major celebrations to mark the occasion of London being awarded the 2012 Olympics. Today it is was a normal day with tourists from all around the world going about their tourist affairs, dipping their feet in the fountain and generally being happy with the world. It gave me a great sense of well being just to see this. Tanweer failed.

The Tanweer story is available from just about every news source

04 July 2006

Photos 4th July

Another image from Rodin's Burghers of Calais

Arch at Houses of Parliament

Archbishop Luwum of Uganda who was murdered by Amin in 1977. One of the 10 "Modern Martyr" statues over the main entrance to Westminster Abbey

All photos were taken today. I will post more of today's photos on Plant Porn and Pussycats shortly