My Book (2)

With the books that I eventually produce, my main intention will be to preserve our knowledge of the sacrifices made by these men, but at the same time, I do feel that I have one other main aim, which is to demonstrate that, as we live our own lives, we are surrounded by history of all kinds.

History is always there, hiding in the streets we walk down and in the houses we walk past. It is there, hiding in the buildings of a great city and it is hiding even in the corridors and rooms of the High School. It hides behind the modern frontage of the Park Salon and Quality4Students on Derby Road, up near Canning Circus:


History even hides behind the steamed up windows of the City Chicken Cafe and the Istanbul Off Licence on Mansfield Road:

It hides catastrophic defeats:

And it hides catastrophic accidents:

 

There’s no blue plaque to remember Peter Vernon, though. No flag flies over the home of “Watty” Watson. We have no statue in Edwards Lane of “Farmer” Richardson. No films are ever shown on our televisions of George Brown, the young man:

“whose fast in-swinging yorker on the leg stump was so devastating on its day.”

But I do not want this secret history of ordinary people to be forgotten. The modest men in these books all died for our freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from racism, freedom from random prejudice, from arrest without reason, from chance execution, from a quick death in a gas chamber or a slow death as a slave labourer :

They saved us from a society without free speech, without choice and with no discussion of the future of us all:

They saved us from a political system which, at the end of the war, was quite willing to kill a substantial percentage of its own citizens as the best way forward towards a better life.
In this book, therefore, you will find as much as I could discover about well over a hundred men from Nottingham High School who gave their lives willingly in the cause of freedom.
That sounds a great many people and it was, for a school with total numbers of between five and six hundred at any one moment during the period under review.

The criteria for being added to the list were, for the most part, inclusion in the long list kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which uses its own date limits for the casualty’s death of September 3rd 1939 to December 31st 1947. I did stretch the definition slightly to include the men who died while working to support the Allied cause. A university lecturer who is killed in an aircraft crash as he travels from place to place on a lecture tour around the Mediterranean theatre will be in the list, just as much as the man who organises food for a million refugees in India and who prevents the outbreak of a typhoid epidemic. Both are clearly making contributions to the war effort. They are both, to quote a famous football manager, “Getting us closer to the top of the hill.”

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (1)

I haven’t done many book reviews over the course of my blog posts but every now and again, I come across a book which recounts almost unbelievably serious wrongdoing which has gone unpunished, often deliberately on somebody’s part. I feel that such incidents deserve to be given a little publicity. In such a category is “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton.

The book’s subtitle says it all: “Japanese Human Experiments on Allied Prisoners of War”. It recounts how the Japanese, terrified of the ultimate loss of face when they lose a war they themselves have started, make huge efforts to develop and perfect Biological Weapons, BWs. Before they are used, these weapons will need to be tested on both Europeans and Americans. The latter group are more important for the tests because Japanese attacks will target the West Coast of the USA, physically much closer to Japan.

“The Devil’s Doctors” concerns itself with the Allied prison camp at Mukden in Manchuria. Between one and three men are dying every day, only a short time after suddenly developing sickness and severe diarrhoea. On March 12th 1943, the senior officer records in his diary that 195 men have died in 126 days. All of the men who died were Americans with “not a single British, Australian or New Zealand prisoner“ involved. Here are some prisoners at Mukden during the time of the book:

As you can just about see in that photograph, conditions in the camp are infinitely better than the average Japanese POW camp, with clean fresh drinking water, hot water in the  bathhouse and three meals a day, with as many as 3,000 calories consumed. Discipline is enforced in a much more lenient way, with no random beatings or beheadings. Why is this? Why are men dying when there seems little reason for this to happen? Why are conditions so much better than, say, the Burma-Siam railway? Are the Japanese trying to reproduce life in California so that their testing of biological weapons produces accurate results? Here are some typical Japanese POWs. They are nothing like the prisoners at Mukden:

The author carefully follows the dreadful trail to the truth. Is there a link between biological weapons tests and the “barrage of hypodermic injections” to which the prisoners at Mukden are subject. Why do the deaths increase just after the injections have been administered? Why do the deaths increase just after the distribution of fresh fruit to the prisoners? And what about the reports from prisoners about being awakened in bed by Japanese orderlies touching their faces with feathers. Just what is going on at Mukden?

The feather stories and the injections and the free fruit might all be construed as just silliness were it not for link the author makes with the proximity of Pingfan to the camp. Pingfan is the home of Unit 731, where Japanese doctors and scientists carry out acts of appalling barbarity and cruelty on thousands of Chinese nationals. Although there were seventeen other places in the South East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere where this frightful barbarism went on in secret, Pingfan was the undoubted capital of this Evil Empire. The author will spend most of the book exploring the idea, persistent over the last seventy years, that the doctors of the nearby Mukden POW Camp were testing BWs developed at nearby Pingfan on white men of varying origins. This is Pingfan:

It wasn’t as if such treatment of prisoners was unique among prisoners of  the Japanese.  The author quotes evidence of horrific medical experiments at Shinagawa Hospital in Tokyo where Captain Hisikichi Tokada injected the bile from prisoners with amoebic dysentery into prisoners with tuberculosis. POWs were sprayed facially with dysentery amoebas, a practice which is known to have been carried out at Mukden. And these were Tokada’s more responsible deeds:

You can read about Tokada’s other Mengele moments when you buy the book! Tokada, thank goodness, would be hanged after the war:

More to come next time.

 

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Filed under Criminology, History, Personal, Politics, Science

Eagle Comic (4)

In Eagle Comic, the sponsored stories and advertisers’ contributions were  always very interesting.  Walls Ice Cream had their ordinary run-of-the-mill  adverts:

But they also had “Tommy Walls- the Wonder Boy”. The first stirrings of product placement. The perfect planting of a brand name in young, impressionable minds. I think that lots of the young readers actually thought that this story was part of the comic itself. I know I did:

The first picture says “NEW JET LINER MAKES FIRST TEST TODAY”

The last one says “WHAT A WIZARD DESIGN” which is countered by “BUT LOOK

Clearly something has gone drastically wrong, but if you eat lots and lots and lots of Walls ice cream, you’ll be able to save the day:

It must take sacks and sacks of sugar consumed to have the strength to hold the wing and the fuselage of a jet airliner together as it flies to an airport and makes a normal landing. Where was Tommy Walls when the De Havilland Comet was crashing all over Europe?

Cadbury’s came a close second with their “Cadbury’s Corner Quiz”. Here’s the first question:And Question 2:And Question 3:

And the final question:

And, of course, there were the ordinary quarter page adverts. Television told our mothers not to forget the Rowntrees Fruit Gums. Only listen to this irritating tune if you have always wanted your brain reformatted :

As well as the commercial links between our mothers and Rowntrees Fruit Gums, ‘Eagle’ Comic also emphasised the point with a comic strip starring “Ronnie the Gumster” :

 

But what’s a “Gumster” ? Something you find in a Forrest? Like Forrest Gumster.

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My Book (1)

It is a long time since I shared with you what I was up to, away from the knockabout world of blog posting. Some of you will know that for the last four years at least I have been researching the boys of the High School who gave their lives in the Second World War. At first, it was seven days a week, four hours a day, but I am now down to six days a week with three hours as a minimum and the usual being around three and a half hours. It’s difficult to describe what a huge job it was:

I began this mammoth task because as far as I was aware, nobody had ever carried out any research whatsoever about the brave Old Nottinghamians who gave their lives during the Second World War. At the moment I have around 120 people to include in an eventual book, of which 110 are men who qualify 100% as war casualties. Because of the volume of information I have discovered, hundreds of thousands of words, the final work is likely to be in three volumes if not four:

The majority of research I have carried out on the Internet which has supplied me with details which have never been known before. Most of all, I have discovered a large number of former pupils who deserve to be recognised as Old Nottinghamian war casualties but who were not included when the original lists were being compiled:

That is far from a criticism. In the late 1940s, how could anybody have found out that a little boy of eight or nine who spent just a couple of terms in the Preparatory School in the early 1920s had been killed in a tank three miles east of Hamburg five years before? Communication by letter:

and communication by postcard:

with other information distributed in newspapers could not possibly have coped with demands of this kind:

On occasion, the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, got me started with my researches, but overall, the solutions were largely provided by the men who have dedicated their entire lives to the recording of the minutest details of the Second World War. Men who have recorded the names of every RAF man killed in an aircraft of Bomber Command. Men who have recorded the names of every sailor who did not come home from the sea in World War Two. Every U-boat captain and his every kill. Every nightfighter pilot and every bomber he shot down:

I just felt that, unless I did produced some committed and detailed research of my own right now, there was a real risk that nothing would have been done by the time we reached the centenary of the beginning of the conflict in 2039.
In many ways, that absence of detailed research by others might even be seen as a bonus, because there would be very few people out there who could contradict what I had written. On the other hand, I do feel that after so many thousands of hours working on the project, there should be no huge errors in what I have produced. (Touch wood). Even my best guesses have often proved later to be quite reasonable ones, based on what, in many cases, is a paucity of actual facts.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School, Writing

Eagle Comic (3)

Last time we were trying very hard to get the Ovaltineys song out of our heads. I was trying to make the point that Dan Dare was not the only character in the comic:

Eagle had sporting personalities. I have even written myself about the first one ever to appear:

There was cricket coaching, and, thirty years before its time, and in a largely all white society, it was presented by a black man, Leary Constantine, a cricketer who achieved more in his life than most of  us do:

There were features about how to make models:

There were two written serials with solid text rather than just pictures. “Plot against the World” was the first ever to appear:

There was a half page about road safety. It was presented by Billy Steel, the famous Derby County footballer of the day:

During the 1950s lots and lots of children would be killed on the roads, because the drivers in England knew very little about how to drive safely and the children of England, accustomed to just a couple of cars a day going past, had very little road sense. Around 1963, a little boy in our class called Nigel Sparrow was killed by a car as he cycled along country lanes looking for bluebells for his mother. He was in hospital for two weeks or so before he passed away. We prayed for him every day in our school assembly but it was all in vain. He succumbed to his injuries and died. That was the first time I ever had any serious doubts about the religion I had been given. I think about Nigel regularly, poor little boy.

Billy Steel offered a lot of very good advice:

He offered advice a lot better than he played football for Derby County.

Years ago, I actually wrote about him, but only in the context of my Dad, Fred, who thought he was “a right twerp”:

“As regards football players, in the late 1940s, Fred was always less than impressed by Derby’s then record signing, a young man they bought as they attempted to stop their slow but inexorable slide out of the First Division. This was a handsome young forward called Billy Steel, whose dark tousled hair was, for Fred, his best, and probably only, positive feature. Fred was just unable to stomach how Steel would miss an easy chance to score a goal, and then merely laugh about it as if it were nothing important.”

Next time, the other features that made Eagle the best selling comic in English history:

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Sports Day : the race that lasted 20 years

The Reverend Stephens provides us here with yet another journey into “a foreign country; they do things differently there” (L.P.Hartley). And sixty years back in the past, it’s the start of the race in 1957. It’s late in the day, judging by the shadows. I think that the starter is Oswald Lush and look how each team has a differently coloured sash for identification purposes:

The next race started, I think, in 1969. None of those rather young little boys will be nervous, just because thousands of people are watching them and if anybody in the race slips and falls over, everybody will laugh at them and remember the event for the rest of their lives:

And here are the finishes. This one comes from 1957:

And here’s another tight finish from the same era:

The finishing judges display great concentration, especially Mr Lush on the right:

And the winner is…..No 22. Except he’s twelve years late, because this is 1969:

Some finishes in 1969 seem to have been based on folk dances:

The finish in 1977 was a lot more decisive:

And talking of individuals, this is thought to be B Watchorn in 1957. Just look at where there used to be a cricket scorebox:

And finally, here is a young man thought to be called Burney winning the mile in 1954:

This was possibly John Murray Burney from Gedling. He will be over 80 years old if he’s still out there somewhere. I hope he is.

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Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

Eagle Comic (2)

Last time we looked at the appearance of a brand new comic called “Eagle”, which was an almost revolutionary step forward in the world of boys’ comics in England. The eponymous hero of the comic was space pilot Dan Dare, always combatting something or other, in this case Psycho-Rocket-Repair-Man :

Dan wasn’t the only person in the comic though. There was “Rob Conway” who seems to have been some kind of aviation detective:

Note the three aircraft, a Hawker Seahawk, an Avro Lancaster and possibly a Gloster Meteor.

There was PC 49, where ‘PC’ does not necessarily stand for “politically correct” :

And “Seth and Shorty – Cowboys”, wrangling away deep in the heart of Texas :

Seth’s grandson is probably better known to you as Dr Sheldon Cooper:

“The Great Adventurer” was a comic strip that predicted Middle East politics seventy years ahead of its time:

And there was even Captain Pugwash:

There were cutaway drawings of the latest technological marvels of the day:

And more science from Professor Brittain, now that radar wasn’t top secret any more:

“Discovering the Countryside” featured the hedgehog and an adder:

We learnt about aviation from reading “Heroes of the Clouds”:

There were the Ovaltineys, another paramilitary group I have previously written about:

They had their own little section, with a quiz about British town names:

And nobody gets out of here without a little sing-song. A song you cannot get out of your head. Go on, you know you want to:

Next time, safety, science fiction, serials, sport and Steel. And no, that last one isn’t a typo.

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