The Anonymous Widower

Railways In Afghanistan

In Modern Railways this month, there is an informative article about how they are starting to build railways from scratch in that trouble country.

Apparently, they never developed a railway system, like neighbouring countries, and only now, with the need to remove vast amounts of natural resources around and out of the country, that the railways are being proposed.

It is a daunting task, made worse by the mountainous terrain and the fact that surrounding countries have a variety of different gauges.

Let’s hope the engineers succeed in their aims, as it might bring some wealth, prosperity and freedom to the country. There is a Wikipedia article, which gives more details.

February 1, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Henry Blofeld Is In Fine Form

I woke early today and after sorting my e-mails, I went back to bed to listen to Test Match Special from India. It wasn’t just England’s batsman, that were in fine form, but Henry Blofeld was as well, as have gave an amazing talk on his memories of India during the lunch break.

He told the tale, about how he nearly played for England in 1963 in India, when the team was decimated by the dreaded Delhi Belly. This link points to the paragraph containing the tale in Wikipedia, but it is much less colourful than Blowers account.

He also told how in 1976, he was one of five, who took a vintage Rolls-Royce all the way to India by road, travelling through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As it was such an immaculate vehicle, it was treated by everyone with the respect it deserved. Try doing that journey now. But it was done by many in those days.  My cousin, John, did it around the same time in a Thames Trader gown van. There was even a regular bus to India called something like the Overland Trail.

Henry Blofeld until recently used to wear a pith helmet whilst reporting cricket tours like India.

He must be one of the last great British eccentrics. Hopefully, his talk will appear on the BBC iPlayer after play finishes for today.  It’s well worth a listen. It’s here.

Incidentally, C who was a barrister, appeared several times in front of his elder brother, the judge, Sir John Blofeld.

November 25, 2012 Posted by | Sport, Travel, World | , , , | 1 Comment

The ExCel Blows Hot And Cold

I went to the ExCel yesterday afternoon, to watch the table-tennis.

The sport was fine, but that could not be said for the venue.  I was nearly passing out from the heat and left early.  I then had to walk the full length of the venue and then back on the outside to get to the cable-car, as I didn’t want to be in the crush on the DLR.  Although in the end, I didn’t use the cable-car and took the DLR to Bank, as it wasn’t as crowded as after the boxing. I did meet a guy who’d been in the fencing and he said that was freezing. So it looks like the ExCel should look at its heating and cooling system. A Royal Engineer also told me, he’d felt it was hot in the Excel and he’d just come back from Afghanistan.

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Sport, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sir Roger Bannister and the Affect of Heat and Humidity

I didn’t realise that one of the first papers that Sir Roger produced was about the affect of heat and humidity on people. He did his research in Aden in 1957.

I couldn’t find the paper, but I did find him quoted in a Powerpoint presentation on the subject, written Col. John Gardner, MD for the United States Army or Marines.

The notion that courage and esprit de corps can somehow defeat the principles of physiology is not only wrong but dangerously wrong. 

I don’t know what the temperatures and humidity are like in Afghanistan are like, but do the British and American forces take note of the doctor.

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Health, World | , , | Leave a comment

The United States Looks After Its Own

The fact that Sergeant Robert Bales, has been quickly returned to the US is no surprise to me.

 

In areas around the US bases in the UK in the 1970s, there were a couple of cases of death by dangerous driving caused by US servicemen.

 

No prosecution in the UK ever happened and in one case familiar to my late wife, a barrister in Suffolk at the time, nothing more was heard of the case, after the perpetrator was returned quickly to the United States.

The current case is very different and I suspect that he will face a Court of Law.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

FT Says Afghans Want Local Trial

The shooting of Afghans by a rogue US serviceman, is absolutely awful and I dread to think where it will lead. I think if I was a soldier out there now, I’d be watching a few Black Adder Goes Forth videos, to get myself invalided home.

The FT this morning is claiming that the Afghan government want a local trial.

I hope that Afghanistan doesn’t have the death penalty!

 

March 13, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | 2 Comments

Afghanistan

With the sad and tragic deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan, the news from the United States, where two hard-line religious fanatics, not well-disposed to Islam,  are vying for the Republican nomination for President, is not good.

Let’s hope that the United States sees sense and re-elects President Obama. At least he’s not in the blast-Iran-back-to-the-Stone-Age-tendency.

Otherwise, incidents like yesterday’s will get worse and more often.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

This Story Beggars Belief

The man who ordered this book-burning in Afghanistan has a functioning brain as poor as that of Dominique Strauss-Khan. Surely, he should have known that to burn anything slightly sensitive would have caused a riot.  And of course it did!

Today, the day after the Times has leader entitled, Flaming Idiocy, on the subject.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | 3 Comments

Was It Right To Bomb Germany As We Did in the Second World War?

I have felt for a long time that the bombing of German cities by the RAF and the USAAF was rather a pointless exercise driven more by vengeance and revenge than any strategic purpose to defeat the Nazis.

Remember, I was brought up in London and many of my relatives experienced the bombing first hand. My grandfather’s premises close to the Barbican, where he worked as an engraver, were completely destroyed in the Blitz. Many of these people weren’t too bothered about the bombing as it just made them angry and anyway they survived. Others might have felt different, but most just felt that you had to deal with what happened and get on with life. Supposedly, one of the reasons for bombing civilians was to break their moral and hopefully get them to turn against the government.  I think that London and other British cities that were bombed showed that it didn’t work.  If anything it just stiffened their resolve to carry on.

Was it any different in Germany, when we bombed their cities? I’ve only met a couple of Germans, who endured the bombing from the RAF and the USAAF and they didn’t seem to react any differently  to the way we did. And they probably suffered a lot more.

But also remember that a 250,000 from both the RAF and the USAAF either died or went missing in the bombing of Germany. So in some ways we lost the trained personnel that we really needed to support the invasion.

 I also remember reading the history of the de Havilland Mosquito. Initially this superb design wasn’t really wanted by the RAF, as they felt who in his right mind would want to fly across to bomb Germany in an unarmed aircraft built out of ply and balsa wood. To them and the USAAF, a heavily armed four engined bomber would obviously be better. But statistics proved them wrong, as the Mosquito, which carried virtually the same bomb load as a B-17, but with a crew of two instead of ten, had a much higher return rate and much lower losses of crew. It was also much faster and could bomb Germany twice in one night.

In my view it should have been used strategically to take out German infrastructure, such as important factories and rail junctions. Wikipedia says this.

Mosquitos were widely used by the RAF Pathfinder Force, which marked targets for night-time strategic bombing. Despite an initially high loss rate, the Mosquito ended the war with the lowest losses of any aircraft in RAF Bomber Command service. Post war, the RAF found that when finally applied to bombing, in terms of useful damage done, the Mosquito had proved 4.95 times cheaper than the Avro Lancaster.

Yesterday, the obituary of Flight Lieutenant Don Nelson was published in the papers.

He was an RAF navigator, who helped to plan the destruction of German infrastructure in the run up to D-Day.

This is an extract from The Times.

In the spring of 1944 Bomber Command under its redoubtable but stubborn leader, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, was ordered to divert a proportion of its energies from the strategic bombing of Germany, of which Harris was the architect, to attacking targets in northern France and Belgium — railways, bridges, tunnels, marshalling yards — whose destruction would materially expedite the forthcoming Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe.

Although Harris dug his heels in against what he was convinced was a misuse of his strategic bomber force, a trial raid against a railway centre at Trappes, south west of Paris, in early March resulted in such spectacular destruction and dislocation of rail traffic that it became evident that a sustained assault by Bomber Command would be capable of virtually paralysing the German capacity to move troops against whatever beach heads the Allies might establish before, and not after, the projected invasion. This was a vital discovery. In spite of Harris’s protests his best bomber squadrons were from then until June 6, 1944, and afterwards, employed on this momentous interdiction work.

The Telegraph tells a very similar story.

Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I think we probably could have done better in our bombing campaign against Germany, by bombing infrastructure important to the war effort, rather than the general population.

We also never learn from the past, as if we look at Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, we continue to make the same mistakes we always do. Inevitably vengeance seems to get mixed up with the simple objective of defeating a vile and hideous regime and its leader.

June 16, 2011 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 5 Comments

US Troops Turn to a Tricycle

The third leader of The Times today is unusual in that it tells the story of how the Pentagon has commissioned two command performances of The Great Game, by North London’s Tricycle Theatre. Here’s an extract.

The idea of staging The Tricycle Theatre’s production in Washington is so that generals, and soldiers heading to Afghanistan, might come away thinking what General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, thought after seeing the show in London; that “if I’d seen the plays before being deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in 2005 it would have made me a much better commander”.

Let’s hope we see more education of those who go to war, as we always tend to forget the lessons of history.  I would also hope that they also read the thoughts of Aircraftsman Shaw.

I’d love to hear Sarah Palin’s thoughts on US forces being educated by Britain’s leading political playhouse.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

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