To bale out or not to bale out? (2)

The last RAF post was about an Avro Lancaster III of 61 Squadron, serial number DV 232, squadron letters QR-K which went for a swim in the River Trent near East Stoke on September 6th 1943:

They had taken off, one of many, at 2015 on September 5th 1943 from RAF Syerston to go and bomb Mannheim. This was a huge operation and involved 605 aircraft including 299 Lancasters, 195 Halifaxes and 111 Stirlings. Of the 605 aircraft, 34 were lost, some 5.6% of the attacking force. The trip to Mannheim was a very, very, costly one for the young men of Bomber Command:

9 Squadron  (14 killed)
10 Squadron (7 killed )
12 Squadron (2 killed)
44 Squadron (7 killed)
49 Squadron (5 killed)
51 Squadron (5 killed )
73 Squadron (4 killed )
76 Squadron (6 killed)
77 Squadron (12 killed )
78 Squadron (19 killed )
83 Squadron (7 killed)
90 Squadron (7 killed)
101 Squadron (1 killed )
106 Squadron (13 killed)
149 Squadron (12 killed )
156 Squadron (2 killed)
196 Squadron (6 killed)
405 Squadron (3 killed )
419 Squadron (13 killed )
427 Squadron (7 killed )
619 Squadron (6 killed )
620 Squadron (4 killed )

The people in Mannheim weren’t exactly dancing in the shattered streets either. The Pathfinders did their job perfectly, marking a target completely free of clouds as if it were a training exercise. The bombs fell exactly where they were scheduled to fall. We have very few facts and figures about the exact damage done. This was because the raid was so severe that the report gathering and recording process broke down completely. Indeed the German records use only one word about this night. That word is “catastrophe”.

Around six months later, during the night of March 24th-25th 1944, pretty much the same men who had been the crew of QR-K in the River Trent, but were now part of 97 Squadron, were compelled to ditch into the Channel after their 16th trip to Berlin. Fortunately for them, they were picked up by a German E-boat and became prisoners. Only poor Sergeant Robson, the flight engineer, still only 20 years old, perished. He was drowned in the very severe impact and his body was never found. The crew that day was Todd, Robson, Fuller, Duvall, Housley, McCloskey, Cartwright:


One man lost a leg and several of them were quite badly injured. But as far as my researches tell me, they all survived the war.
I don’t know though, about some of the others….people who made just occasional appearances in the crew’s line up, such as Patrick , or Debnam, for example. I have no initials and too many dead Debnams to make even a wild guess about him.

I might have found a match, though, with Frederick Cyril Shergold of 207 Squadron. On September 22nd 1943, at the age of only 21, Frederick was killed during a raid on Hannover. Like the Shergold on September 6th 1943, he too, was a navigator, so I strongly suspect he may have been the same man who went into the River Trent on that “All’s Well that Ends Well” night . Alas! More than one man called Shergold was killed in the RAF during this greedy war to be totally, absolutely certain.

Advertisements

15 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

The adverts in Victor Comic (1)

Years ago, one of my favourite comics was called ‘Victor’. At this time, during the 1960s, there were lots and lots of comics, which were read by lots and lots of boys.

And of course, with so many publications which reached so many boys, there were bound to be lots and lots of advertisements. Some were for games to pass the infinite time of childhood. This is one of the best known:

But that wasn’t the only one:

The majority of adverts were for hobbies:

One hobby which I always found quite bizarre involved miniature metal steam engines. One of the more familiar names was ‘Mamod’ although other types were also available:

The biggest money earner was surely philately. It was as if every boy in the country was a keen collector of postage stamps. First of all though, you had to buy an album:

Stamp collecting taught you a lot though. Where all the countries were. What language they used, and quite often a word or two of that language. You learnt if the language had a different alphabet. I could tell Chinese from Korean and so could a lot of other 10 year old boys. It was easy to be familiar with the different states of India or Malaysia and all those exotic sounding islands of the West Indies. And stamps were so easily obtainable:

They sold stamps by the Approvals method. This involved your being a member of, say, the Wulfruna Club, to quote the advert above. You were sent a little booklet full of stamps, usually in sets, all of which were priced at sums below five shillings (two weeks’ pocket money approximately). You could buy some stamps yourself or see if your friends wanted to buy any. You sent the money back to the Wulfruna Club by postal order. There were bonus stamps available if you sold more than a certain amount’s worth of stamps, or if you recruited your friends to the club. On one occasion, I received bonus stamps from Bahawalpur, one of the states of Pakistan, for recruiting two other boys to the club.

Here is a final three part advert which mentions not just postage stamp approvals but also matchbox covers. A lot of boys collected either matchboxes or cigarette packets but I wasn’t allowed to pick them up off the pavement because there might be germs involved. Anyway, here’s the advert:

Keen eyed detectives of the future or past will note that their advert also offers tuition in conjuring. There are few things in life more boring than a Member of the Magic Circle but, more worryingly perhaps, how would a stupendous world beating conjurer still be living in Stoke-on-Trent?

Unless, of course, you investigate with that Google thing whereby you walk down the street and discover that Whitfield Road is really the Las Vegas of the North Midlands.

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, Personal

Earthquakes and Lights in the Sky

At least one physical phenomenon is very rare in Nottingham. Would that it were not so:

Untitled
“Northern Lights,” or “Aurora Borealis” was first recorded as having been seen in the neighbourhood of Nottingham during the winter of 1755-1756. The Northern Lights appear at their best according to an eleven year cycle, and 2015-2016 was quite a good year, so keep yourself entertained by doing a very long backwards calculation!
Here is a website which will tell you when is a good time to look for the Northern Lights.
aurora-borealis-cccccccccccccccccccccccccc

Another physical phenomenon is almost equally infrequent in Nottingham…Thank Goodness!
And luckily, when it does happen, it tends to do little damage, and it soon gets forgotten. Who remembers this one now?…

August 23 1752  The severe shock of an earthquake was felt in Nottingham and the surrounding district, about 7 a.m. Great alarm, but not much damage, was the result. The day was remarkably fine, both before and after the shock.”

And forty years later, another earthquake came to nothing…thank goodness:

February 25, 1792  Between the hours of eight and nine this evening, an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise, like the rolling of a cannonball upon a boarded floor.”

Another Victorian source mentions an earthquake on October 6th 1863:

“The earthquake appears to have been felt over a great part of England” and it was decidedly more severe in the western parts of the country, especially the West Midlands:

“At Birmingham walls were seen to move, and people rose from their beds to see what damage had been done, for though the rumbling, grating sound is like a passing train, it was known at once to be something more. At Edgbaston successive shocks were plainly felt, and houses were shaken to their foundations. At Wolverhampton everything in the houses vibrated. The houses cracked and groaned as it the timbers had been strained. The policemen on duty saw the walls vibrate, heard everything rattle about them, and were witnesses to the universal terror of the roused sleepers.
At Cheltenham, a deep rumbling noise was heard, the heaviest furniture was shaken, the fire-irons rattled, heavy stone walls were heard to strain and crack, and the boys at Cheltenham College were all under the impression that the rest were engaged in making the greatest possible disturbance.”

I was unable to find a picture of the boys of Cheltenham College, but, much better, here are the splendid young ladies of Cheltenham Training College around the same period:

chel traoining

And what of Nottingham? Well…

“October 6th 1863  A slight shock of earthquake was felt early in the morning in Nottingham, and in most parts of the country.”

and then, just over a year later:

October 30th 1864  Slight shocks of an earthquake were felt in Nottingham, and in various parts of the country.”

Those two earthquakes were so insignificant that they have, literally, not passed “the test of time” and I have not been able to find really very much at all about them.

In fairly recent times, my Dad experienced an earthquake in South Derbyshire:

“On one occasion when he was walking home from his job as a teacher at Woodville Church of England Junior School in Moira Road, Woodville, Fred was the hapless victim of an earth tremor. It must have been quite frightening because, as he was to relate many times in subsequent years, he was able to watch the pavement rippling up and down with the force of the shock.

Seismological records for the local area show that this event occurred most probably on February 11, 1957. Here is my Dad’s quiet little mining village around that time, in the late 1950s:

tollgate
If you want to check the history of known earthquakes in England, then this is the link to the relevant Wikipedia page.

26 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Science

To bale out or not to bale out? (1)

This post is about an Avro Lancaster III of 61 Squadron, serial number DV 232, squadron letters QR-K. They took off, one of many, at 20:15 on September 5th 1943, from RAF Syerston near Nottingham to go and bomb Mannheim. This was a huge operation and involved 605 aircraft including 299 Lancasters, 195 Halifaxes and 111 Stirlings.

This is a Lancaster:

This is a Halifax:

And this is a Stirling:

Of the 605 aircraft, 34 were lost, some 5.6% of the attacking force, an unsustainable casualty rate.

On their way to the target, Lancaster DV 232 and QR-K had severe engine problems, with the port outer engine failing and the pilot unable to maintain height. And then the port outer engine caught fire. Pilot Officer Peter Todd, the pilot, extinguished it and feathered the propeller. The decision was taken to carry on and not to bale out. The aircraft’s 4,000lb cookie and the rest of the bombload were all duly dropped on Mannheim from around 15,000ft:

The crew then turned for home, full of a strange mixture of trepidation and perhaps misplaced hope. All credit to the plane, though, as the aircraft flew on sedately with Todd at the controls. Eventually he crossed the North Sea, crossed the English coast and discovered that the crew still did not want to bale out, even though they were over English fields. They wanted to stick with the plane which had faithfully brought them so far. They finally reached RAF Syerston where Todd attempted a landing. It did not go too well as the three remaining engines all stalled and the bomber began to sheer over towards the left. Todd missed the airfield buildings but soon found himself skipping too low and too fast over a landscape of fields unfamiliar to him. To the south was the River Trent and eventually the aircraft somehow skidded to stop in the welcoming waters of the river:

The crew were all completely uninjured, floating gently on the river’s calm cold waters:

And just in case you were wondering, the Lancaster was removed by floating it downstream and then rescuing it from the foaming torrent on the southern bank where there was a large flat area just before the village of East Stoke.

This story also turns out to be a very good example of how paperwork often went wrong in WW2. “We had more important things to do than get the bloody paperwork right!” as one high ranking RAF officer once said.

I mentioned just recently that research nowadays, especially with the Internet, can reveal many, many details about the events of the Second World War. But sometimes, quite basic details are lost. One website therefore, the best one, I would say, gives the crew as

Pilot Officer PH Todd (pilot), Sergeant S Robson, (flight engineer), Flying Officer J Hodgkinson, (navigator), Sergeant VR Duvall, (bomb aimer), Sergeant W Housley, (wireless operator / air gunner), Flight Sergeant Patrick , Sergeant John Cartwright, (air gunner).

 

An RAF Forum says, though, that the original Todd crew, posted in to 61 Squadron from 1661 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943, was:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, (navigator), Duvall, Housley, Debnam, (air gunner). Cartwright.

Sergeant Patrick came from 1654 Conversion Unit on August 25th 1943 and he replaced Debnam for their first operation on the 3/4th September 1943. This was a disastrous raid on Berlin with 316 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitoes. 22 Lancasters were lost, an unsustainable rate, just below 7.0%. At least 70 aircrew were killed:


In Berlin, destruction was caused to major water and electricity works and to one of the city’s largest breweries. A total of 422 people were killed, namely 225 civilians, 24 servicemen, 18 men and 2 women of the air-raid services, along with 123 foreign workers made up of 92 women and 31 men. Another 170 civilians were missing. Two delayed action bombs eventually went off and they killed a soldier and seven “criminals”….convicts who could earn remission of their sentence by volunteering for this work. Later in the war, of course, when they ran out of convicts, the Germans made extensive use of Jews for the manual transportation of apparently live bombs which had failed to explode.

The same crew which flew to Berlin was used to fly to Mannheim. They were the ones who returned ultimately to slither rather ignominiously into the River Trent. My belief is that they were:

Todd, Robson, Shergold, Duvall, Housley, Patrick, Cartwright

All of the crew were able, incidentally, to walk to the bank of the River Trent along the fuselage and then out through the front gun turret:

 

 

 

23 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham

Staff cricket : the Golden Years (4)

I know of only one photograph of the staff team in action. I don’t remember who the opponents were, but I believe the picture was taken by Allan Sparrow who was very keen on photography and who ran the School Photography Society which had its very own dark room in one of those tiny rooms off the very short corridor which leads to the Language Laboratory. Anyway, here is that photograph of a split second in time, forty years ago:

The batsman at this end, his name, alas, unknown, has been, literally, caught out, and the bowler, Clem Lee, makes his loud appeal, “Howzat !” to the Umpire. This is Me, dressed as Ché Guévara in a Surgeon’s outfit. On the left, Tony Slack, who, in one game he played, once hit the England fast bowler Freddie Truman to the boundary for four runs, adds his voice to the appeals. The only one not appealing is the batsman near me, who just turns around to await my decision. My raised index finger signifies “Out!”

Here’s the second photograph:

This photograph shows the staff team, I suspect, on the same summer’s evening as the previous one. In the back row, on the left, is three quarters of Chris Smith, the English  teacher who left the school as long ago as 1992:

Next to him is Richard Willan, the best Chairman the Staff Common Room ever had:

Then there is Phil Eastwood, who must be very pleased indeed to see Manchester City doing so well:

Then Bob Dickason, teacher of German and French, who I haven’t seen for a very long time. He left in 1983, to go and teach in France, I believe:

Then there’s Clem Lee, the Head of Games:

There’s Ray Moore with his hair much shorter than when he first arrived. He went to West Bridgford School, I have heard, and had unbelievable success running the girls’ football team.

Then the best man at our wedding, Bob Howard, a friend I miss a lot and who I wish I had seen much more of over the years:

Then Me. That umpire’s coat must be the only thing I have ever worn that’s been too big for me. It also gave me the magic power to balance things on my head with consummate ease:

On the left of the front row is Norman Thompson the Head of Economics who taught at least one future Chancellor of the Exchequer:

Next to him is Harry Latchman, the Groundsman and Cricket Coach. He was the only proper cricketer in the team, having played for both Middlesex and Nottinghamshire and in Minor Counties cricket, for Cambridgeshire. He was elected President of Middlesex County Cricket Club in 2015:

Then comes Tony Slack:

He has already appeared in a post about the First XI football team. In fact, a number of posts about the First XI football team. One. Two. Three.Tony taught Chemistry and then he took charge of the School’s computers. More impressive, he played for the reserves at Rotherham United, and in one game was personally threatened by Charlie Hurley, Sunderland’s Player of the Century:

The final player is the Team Captain, David Phillips, the Maths teacher, who used to run both the Second XV and the Second XI if my memory serves me right. He worked at the High School for 37 years where he was an important rôle model for vast numbers of junior boys:

I don’t know if the staff still have a cricket team. The summer 2017 would mark their 70th Anniversary if they still played any fixtures.

22 Comments

Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

The Starfish Thrower (4)

In my previous posts about St Ives, in western Cornwall, I mentioned a good many of its attractions:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I also mentioned Alfred Wallis, the most famous artist to have lived and worked there. Alfred was born in Devon in 1855 but moved with his parents to Penzance at quite an early age. He became a deep sea fisherman and sailed on trawlers as far away as Newfoundland. When he was 20 he married Susan Ward who was then 41 years of age. Alfred still worked as a fisherman, but on land he was also a labourer and a dealer in marine supplies.  Around this time, the family all moved to St Ives. As he grew older, Alfred worked for a local antique seller and it was perhaps this which pointed him towards painting. After his wife died in 1922, he began to paint, making use of the limited number of colours available in chandlers’ shops to paint ships and boats. Here he is as an old man and a young artist:

Instead of canvas, Alfred made use of scraps of cardboard which had been used as packaging.

Here are some of his paintings. This is called “Windjammer and Cutter”:

This is called “Four luggers leaving a harbour”:

This one is “Wreck of the Alba”. It is possible to recognise Godrevy Island, the beach at Porthmeor, and The Island with the Coast Guard Lookout:

“The Hold House Port Meor Island” also has recognisable features of St Ives such as Porthmeor Beach, The Island with St Nicholas Chapel on the top as well as Wallis’ own house:

Here is the map of these two paintings. The white area at the top is called “The Island”:

Here is Alfred’s rather unusual grave in Porthmeor Cemetery which overlooks the sea to the west of the word “(w)ater” on the map:

Here is the top, created in ceramic tiles by Bernard Leach:

One of the paintings above, and Wallis’ grave, both carry illustrations of a lighthouse. It is on Godrevy Island, a view which I have birdwatched for countless hundreds of hours over the years:

To study Wallis, your first port of call should be the Great Mother of Us All   After that, many of his paintings can be viewed at the Tate St Ives, which again, has a beautiful view over the Atlantic Ocean.

I have used some of these paintings at the Tate St Ives to illustrate this little introduction. If you are going to Cornwall this summer, make sure that you go there and check out this wonderful old man’s paintings. It’s certainly time better spent than wandering around the interminable surf shops and fast food eateries that are being allowed to spoil one of Britain’s most beautiful places.

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Cornwall, History

We love you Stalin, we do, we love you Stalin, we do, we love you Stalin……

I found this picture when I was looking for illustrations of Napoleon for the blog posts about the great man I did a little while back. In actual fact I never used it:

That pose of the hand inside the coat was considered quite normal and ordinary at the time of Napoleon, but it was used 140 years later by people who were far from normal and ordinary:

The Russian means “Glory to the Great Stalin!”

All things considered, I think that this is the best Stalin poster I found, though. Here it is:

The Russian means “Thank you, Beloved Stalin for a Happy Childhood!”

Runner-up was the uncaptioned:

That would look just wonderful on the back wall of one of Nottingham’s fast food shops.

“Thank you, Beloved Stalin for some Happy Fish and Chips! “

18 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, Politics