The Anonymous Widower

An Historical Snippet From Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth can always be relied upon to add something of note to a discussion. He has just said that the Duke of Edinburgh‘s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was at the Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving of Queen Victoria.

She stayed in Athens during the Second World War, and this snippet, shows an insight into her character.

During the fighting in Athens, to the dismay of the British, she insisted on walking the streets distributing rations to policemen and children in contravention of the curfew order. When told that she might have been shot by a stray bullet, she replied “they tell me that you don’t hear the shot that kills you and in any case I am deaf. So, why worry about that?”

So did the Duke get his forthright character from his mother?

June 5, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Place for the Little Ships

In the Diamond Jubilee flotilla today, there are about forty or so of the Little Ships of Dunkirk.  If you look at the Wikipedia entry, you’ll see that some unusual boats took part in 1940.  What surprised me was that 39 Dutch coasters that had escaped the Germans also took part and rescued about seven percent of the total of the troops brought home.

June 3, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Big Spelling Mistake

I photographed this in a shop window in the Kingsland Road.

A Big Spelling Mistake

I thought spelling mistakes like this on products were a thing of the past.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Where’s The Mosquito?

The extraordinary obituary of Ted Sismore in the Telegraph is also a catalogue of the amazing exploits of the most versatile aircraft of the Second World War; the de Havilland Mosquito. The Times describes the Mosquito as Britain’s first multi-role combat aircraft, but some of its exploits weren’t actually in combat. The aircraft flew in US Air Force colours to perform high-altitude weather research and also as an airliner to bring valuable cargoes, as varied as ball bearings, the physicist Neils Bohr and Marshall Zhukov across the North Sea to the UK.

In 1962, Queen Elizabeth awarded the Order of Merit to the Mosquito’s designer; Sir Geoffrey de Havilland. He is the only aircraft designer to receive the award, which is a personal gift of the sovereign.

So as we come to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it would be fitting that one of de Havilland’s wooden wonders should be in the fly-past to mark the event. But it won’t be as there are no flyable examples left in the UK. The non-flying prototype sits in splendour at the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre in the hangar where it was built.

But then the RAF had no policy on the preservation of historic aircraft.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Emotional

I can sometimes get very emotional and start crying quietly. I did this morning in Carluccio’s in Islington. I’ve talked of this before.  All I was doing as reading the colour magazine in The Times and especially the piece about some of the people who had won medals at the 1948 Games after suffering badly in the war.

The star of those Games was the Dutch female athlete, Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four gold medals.  The Dutch presented her with a new bicycle.

One other competitor I’d heard of was the Hungarian marksman,  Karoly Takacs, who after losing his right hand to a grenade accident, learned to shoot left handed and won gold. He also won gold four years later in Helsinki.

One amazing tale concerns Jim Halliday, who fought in the retreat from Dunkirk and later was captured by the Japanese in 1942. On release from the his POW camp, he weighed just  27 Kg. He then won silver or bronze, depending on the source,  in the wrestling. Sadly he died in 2007, so won’t be able to present any medals.  Perhaps, he has a son or daughter, who can be asked!

And people moan about, VAT on pies and pasties. They don’t know they’re alive.

To me though, the crying may also be about my eyes telling me that they have now wetted up and are not as bone dry as they have been in recent months. Two years ago, a nurse treated them and said they were the driest eyes she’d ever seen. She gave me some artificial tears, but I can’t put anything in my eyes.

It’s not as if this day is anything significant in my life, as my son died on the 23rd, not the 30th.

Perhaps, I’m just one of those people, who needs to cry!

March 31, 2012 Posted by | Sport | , , , | 1 Comment

Remembering M.R.D. Foot

M. R. D. Foot, who has recently died, was an historian, whose wartime exploits and subsequent researches led him to be a leading authority on the Special Operations Executive.

I seem to have come across him first, as he had written one of C’s books for her History and Politics course at Liverpool. But I remember him most for his book that he wrote in conjunction with Jimmy Langley, MI9: Escape and Evasion in 1939-1945. In there he relates how the first two British servicemen to make a Home Run from Germany were two Sikh sergeants in the Pioneer Corps.

It is a tale that has fascinated me and no-one seems to have any more knowledge than that one line in the book.

Hopefully, one day the tale will fully surface.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

An Obituary For an Unknown in the Fight Against Capital Punishment in the UK

I have said before that C used to visit prisoners in Holloway Prison in the early 1970s.

Yesterday, the Times and other papers carried reports of the death or full obituaries of the death of Stella Cunliffe.

Here is the report of her death on the Surrey Today website.

I have a feeling that C used to visit Holloway prison in a group, which involved this formidable lady. She seems to have provided the statistical evidence for the abolishment of capital punishment in parts or all of the UK.  The obituaries vary.

There’s more here on Wikipedia, which states she was one of the first civilians to go into Belsen.

I think I met her a couple of times in about 1970 and we never knew what she did.  Her male friend and they were just that, was a senior hospital manager and one of the best practical jokers that I’ve ever come across. I have to admit to stealing one of his best jokes.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Ronald Searle

Ronald Searle was one of the greatest cartoonists this country has ever produced.

He is remembered most for St. Trinians. But I saw his wartime drawings from the Burma Railway in the sixties and they left a deep impression about the horrors of war and man’s inhumanity to man. All are part of a legacy of a great artist, who is mainly remembered for just one small part of his work.

He deserves to have a proper retrospective exhibition at a major gallery in the UK.

I noticed that Ronald Searle had the initials, RDI,  after his name. The initials stand for Royal Designers for Industry. It is is a distinction established by the Royal Society of Arts  in 1936, to encourage a high standard of industrial design and enhance the status of designers.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liverpool Parish Church

Liverpool parish church is St. Nick’s by the Pierhead or the Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas to name it correctly.

The pictures show the church and the surrounding gardens.

Like St. Luke’s church, it was seriously damaged in the Second World War.

September 12, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

P.G. Wodehouse Was A Traitor

My father hated P.G. Wodehouse with a vengeance because of his broadcasts for the Nazis in the Second World War. We didn’t have any of his books in the house.

More has just been released from MI5 files as reported here in the Guardian.

I would follow my father and have nothing to do with any of Wodehouse’s books and can’t even say now, I’d go out of my way to watch a film, play or TV series of any of his books.

Remember my father was very involved with anti-Fascism protests before the war and active on the left wing of the Conservative party. He was also present at the Battle of Cable Street, when the East End stopped Mosley from marching.

My father could also do a mean impersonation of Lord Haw-Haw. But then I’ve never met anybody who didn’t feel that he wasn’t one of the funniest things of the war.

August 26, 2011 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

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