Monthly Archives: January 2021

Pictures from my past (3)

Last time we looked at the Romano-Scottish discussions of 148 AD about the height of the New Wall . Some limited progress was made towards a solution: As promised, though, here is “Where’s Wally?” on his visit to a famous battlefield, the “Battle of the Little Bighorn” where George Armstrong Custer finished a close second to the Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse and Tatanka Yotanka or Sitting Bull :

Wally takes some finding because he hasn’t got his usual shirt. Instead he is masquerading as a Lakota horseman on the far left of the picture. Bare chested, he has been forced to paint his skin with his trademark hoops, on this occasion in blood red:

Today though, I wanted to tell you about some pictures which were very important to me as a child, as I ploughed through the ten volumes of the Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia which had been owned by my Dad when he was a boy in the early 1930s. Arthur Mee was a wonderful contributor to the education of children:

The encyclopedias contained a good deal about dinosaurs. I was very struck by the picture of Mary Anning, the 11 year old girl who, in 1811, found the first ever ichthyosaur skeleton:

I hadn’t realised what an incredibly hard life Mary had. She was oppressed for six things she couldn’t help. She was working class. She was poor. She was a Dissenter, a group who were not members of the Church of England. Her father died when she was eleven. She was a woman. Furthermore she was not allowed to join the Geological Society, because she was working class, poor, a Dissenter and a woman.

I didn’t ever realise that, in order to supplement her income, Ann used to sell those delightful Henry de la Beche scenes from prehistoric life. There were some beautiful ones in Arthur Mee’s “Children’s Encyclopædia”:

The first image occupied only the top part of the page, and on the lower half there was a representation of the fossils created by those splendid creatures:

To help children learn the names of the dinosaurs, they were added to the second picture. There were Ammonites, Cetiosaurus, Chelonian, Rhamphorynchus,  Scelidosaurus and Teleosaurus. Go on, have a go, you know you want to!

Every volume of the Arthur Mee encyclopedia had a full colour frontispiece. For this volume, not surprisingly, there was a picture of an Iguanodon. It is probably the most striking image of my childhood:

I love the way that this iguanodon has exactly the same enigmatic smile as the Mona Lisa. And as an added bonus, his eyes follow you all round the room, just like the world’s greatest artists do in all their pictures. Such greats as Michelangelo. Raphael. Leonardo. And Donatello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under History, Humour, military, Science, Wildlife and Nature

Kamikaze (4)

According to author, Robert C Stern, in his superbly interesting book, “Fire from the Sky”, over the weeks and months, the tactics of the kamikaze gradually improved. This doesn’t mean, of course, that anybody ever came back to report on what went well on the day and what didn’t, but there had always been extra Japanese planes present, observing each kamikaze as he went into action. Ostensibly this was to give the family news of their son’s glorious death but in actual fact, it was to watch how events unfolded in an effort to refine tactics for the future.

What a photograph………

Training for the kamikaze lasted seven days. Four days were spent mastering take-off, assembly above the airfield before departure, and flying in formation. Then three days were dedicated to approaching and attacking the target vessel.

In the beginning, kamikazes attacked in small groups, but this soon changed to between 10-20 aircraft attacking simultaneously from different directions and at different heights. In this way, the Allied radar was swamped, and, as author Robert Stern points out, the Allied radar of the time couldn’t read heights particularly well anyway. For this reason, some groups of kamikazes got through entirely unopposed. And if any of these groups were flying particularly low, at wave top level, all the ships would be firing at them and there was a very real risk of serious damage from friendly fire. Indeed, US Navy sailors on neighbouring ships were frequently killed by friendly fire in these circumstances. Here’s wave top level and friendly fire:

Sometimes the kamikaze came in low but things didn’t work out quite as they should have. This was an Aichi “Val” which left a distinct impression on the sailors who witnessed the incident:

In general, it was thought best initially for the kamikaze to start his dive around 20,000-23,000 feet up, higher in the case of the lighter fighters such as “Zekes”, “Franks” and “Tony”s, in order to escape the Allied fighters with the speed they had built up as they dived. The Allied fighters in actual fact tended to patrol at around 16,000 feet. The hope was that by the time the kamikazes got down to 16,000 feet , they would be travelling far too quickly to be caught. As soon as they sighted the target, the kamikazes would begin to glide at an angle of 20°.

The biggest problem for the Japanese was that in a 20° glide, the nose of the aircraft would often mask the target. Experienced pilots would weave from side to side in order to keep the ship in vision, but many younger pilots could not do this. Between 3,500-6,500 feet, the experienced pilots would flip over onto their backs to keep the ship in view during the last section of the dive. We have already seen this in a diagram of how a Stuka pilot hits tanks or small groups of refugees:

Overall, kamikaze was a fairly simple way to carry out an attack. The biggest disadvantage was that it was difficult to control aircraft of that period at high speed. Many near misses were thought to be down to the pilot’s being unable to keep his eyes open until the very last second before impact. The pilots were exhorted to do this because:

“After all, a kamikaze gets no practice in his chosen profession and he must be perfect on his first and last attempt”.

The next stage in the kamikaze attacks was a skimming approach at 30-50 feet which was undetectable with Allied radar having such a short range at low altitude and the permanent presence of so much electronic clutter. Japanese aircraft also released “window” or “chaff”. As they approached the ship, the aircraft would pop up to 1300-1650 feet and then dive steeply to hit the target. With this method, the aircraft’s controls were not stiff:

The kamikaze were aiming to hit the target from astern. There were fewer guns there and the ship was a much more static target that was not moving from, say, left to right. A hit of this type, from the side, or “from abeam” required far more precision from a probably very inexperienced pilot.

Despite all of this, the kamikazes began to become less and less successful towards the end of 1944 as the number of potential pilots and their ability and their skills, inevitably diminished:

And good news for everybody…..

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Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

Len Dorricott (2)

As I pointed out in my previous blog post about Len Dorricott, although Bomber Command’ casualties continued at an absolutely dreadful level, many men, thank God, lived to tell the tale. Indeed, Len Dorricott, the navigator of the famous “G for George” of 460 Squadron, was to live to the ripe old age of 91.

His wife, Rosemary, described him thus:

“Len, my husband

A quiet man, a gifted man who performed courageous acts during the Second World War. Hardly more than a child, he trained and volunteered for the RAF and so started his adventures through life. Bomber Command took men of great bravery for the mammoth tasks they undertook and Len was one of them, gaining a DFM for his courage.

This determination remained with him throughout his life. In later years, he gained a degree in Engineering (M.T.Mch.E) and was principal engineer specialising in the performance of gas turbines.

He had enormous artistic gifts in photography, particularly the Bromoil branch of this. He lectured and judged. He demonstrated his favourite Bromoils as well as other forms of photography and exhibited profusely. Many an accolade he received for these feats.”

Some of his Bromoils are on the Internet. Here is “Grayfriars in winter” :

“The Glory Hole” :

“Encounter” :

and “The Stepping Stones”

“Len did not stay that adventurous teenager he was in Bomber Command !! Like all of us, old age has seen him take a more peaceful and restful existence with cryptic crosswords and his love of books. His weekly visits to the camera club and Friday lunchtime visits to the Dambusters Public House in Scampton with his great pal, Richard.”

When the time came, his wife has described Len’s funeral.

“Len’s funeral was a celebration of his life, the crematorium filled to over flowing with a lovely service by the vicar and a reading of the Australian prayer dedicated to all 460 Squadron personnel who had passed away. Len was attached to this squadron and the plane he flew many ops in is now housed in the Canberra War Museum in Australia gifted to them by our government after the war.”

“It was a very moving service and afterwards we made our way to the Dambusters Inn and RAF Museum where those who could make it were treated to a hot buffet and an exhibition of Len’s prints. This public house is in Scampton, home of the famous Dambuster squadron and today’s Red Arrows. At 4.15 pm the landlord of this inn arranged for two of the Red Arrows team to do a flypast (they were practicing anyway) and they finished with the pass for fallen heroes—a fitting end to the wonderful life of my husband Len.”

“The family flowers only were in the form of the 460 badge “Strike and return” and donations made to the IBBC Trust (IBBC is the International Bomber Command Centre).”

“The funeral ended to the strains of Nimrod as he went on his way, we thought a fitting finale to his life

until the Red Arrows !!

It was a day to commemorate those airmen who flew on their missions during the war.

Coningsby is the home of today’s Royal Air Force and also the base for Bomber Command’s Memorial Flight, the City of Lincoln Lancaster together with the Hurricane and Spitfire.”

These were joined by the only other flying Lancaster that had come all the way over from Canada to tour this country and the day was made more special as the two Lancs sat side by side on the tarmac:

We were gathered there together with many fellow veteran airmen, to receive their well deserved clasps in recognition of their service by bomber command.

The summer weather had been lovely and we hoped that this would continue for the special day — but the British summer lived up to its reputation — and the heavens opened — so the planned flight of the two veteran aircraft was unable to take place —they still sat side by side on the tarmac !!

Seated in front of them were the veteran airmen one by one they were called to receive their clasps, a short synopsis was made of the war exploits of each one – then they were photographed in front of the planes ­ those who could stood —others in wheel chairs !!!

We were able to talk to and meet the crews of the two Lancs — a very great honour — and it was so moving to see the light in the eyes of those old airmen, some infirm — but that sparkle of adventure was still there !!

It was a privilege and an honour to share this day with them. A day that I will treasure and remember for the rest of my days !!

Rosemary CW Dorricott

                                                                          wife of Flight Lieutenant Leonard William Dorricott DFM

August 8th 2014

This may be the prayer that Rosemary mentioned.

Almighty and all-present Power,

Short is the prayer I make to Thee.

I do not ask in battle hour

For any shield to cover me.

The vast unalterable way

From which the stars do not depart,

May not be turned aside to stay

The bullet flying to my heart.

I ask no help to strike my foe,

I seek no petty victory here.

The enemy I hate, I know

To Thee is also dear

But this I pray:

Be at my side

when death is drawing through the sky,

Almighty God, Who also died,

Teach me the way that I should die.

Entitled, “An Airman’s Prayer ”, it was written by Hugh Brodie who was posted missing on June 3rd 1942 after the Wellington bomber in which he was the observer failed to return from a raid on Essen.

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

Kamikaze (3)

I was telling you last time how author Robert C Stern had listed in his excellent book about the kamikaze phenomenon, the numbers of men killed and wounded in various US Navy ships:

“……….with 16 killed and 21 wounded, the Colorado with 19 killed and 72 wounded, the Maryland with 31 killed and 30 wounded, the Aulick with 31 killed and 64 wounded, the Mugford with 8 killed and 14 wounded, the Lamson with 25 killed and 54 wounded, the Drayton with 6 killed and 12……”

The USS John Burke apparently blew up as soon as it was touched by a “Zeke” and both the ship and the 107 men on it were instantly vaporised. Not the slightest trace of them was ever found. This is the USS Suwannee, but you probably get the gist:

The worst day, Kamikaze-wise, was January 6th 1945. The Japanese caused damage to 15 American ships and killed 167 men and wounded 502. They lost 30 aircraft and 30 pilots. And in their strange alien world, it was a good return. US Navy policy was to push badly damaged aircraft into the sea. This was the USS Belleau Wood:

Author Robert Stern, explains extremely carefully the techniques used by the kamikazes. They usually came in fairly slowly, low in the sky, just above the horizon, trying not to draw attention to each other, pretending to be one of the many US Navy aircraft which always seemed to be around. Their favourite time was either at dawn or at sunset, with the light or the darkness helping to hide them. Their preferred weather was a clear morning followed by an afternoon which was cloudy with squalls, perhaps even thunderheads, rising high above the ships. Clouds and poor visibility helped the kamikaze to hide from the anti-aircraft fire. Such weather conditions used to be called “kamikaze weather”. In the picture above, note the sailors all standing in the safest place to stand:

A great many good men were killed or seriously injured by kamikaze attacks. 66 ships were sunk, and an unknown number were damaged, some of them so seriously that they only returned to Pacific waters in 1946.

Nobody ever suggested, though, at any point, that the war should be stopped. There was rather a desire to get the job done with the minimum number of casualties. Even so, the kamikazes had “a terrifying psychological value”. How’s this for “terrifying psychological value”..?

Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro wanted to use this “terrifying psychological value” to force the Allies to postpone or even cancel their attack on the home islands of Japan. He would have wanted a Japanese surrender that was not unconditional, he would have wanted not to have had any Allied soldiers on the sacred soil of Japan, and, fairly unbelievably, for Japan to have kept such overseas colonies as Manchuria.

Some ships were hit by more than one kamikaze either in the same incident or on different days. The most frequently struck ship is usually reckoned to be HMAS Australia. On October 21st 1944 it was hit by a Sonia dive bomber, although this may have been a “jibaku” act, when an already doomed aircraft was plunged into a nearby ship. 29 men were killed and 64 were wounded.

Here’s a “Sonia”:

And here’s HMAS Australia:

On January 5th 1945, a “Zeke” hit the HMAS Australia and killed 25 men and wounded 30. On the 8th, a “Dinah” hit at 0720 hours but caused no damage. At 0739, a second “Dinah” caused lots of serious damage. The ship was forced to list and to have its speed reduced. Many of its guns were put out of action. And then, at 1302 two “Val” dive bombers caused severe damage to the funnel, which rendered the forward fireroom unusable because of the subsequent lack of updraught. At the end of the day, HMAS Australia left Leyte Gulf for repairs, initially at Sydney, then in the USA and finally at Plymouth in the United Kingdom.

Let’s finish with a slideshow. Number one is  “Val”, then there’s a “Dinah”, reckoned to be one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed, and the last one is a Mitsubishi Zero.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The photograph of the “Dinah”, I took. If only I had had the brains to crouch down and lose the backlighting. What a stupid “Baka” as the Japanese say.

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Filed under Aviation, History, Pacific Theatre, the Japanese

Pictures from my past (2)

Last time we looked at bubble gum cards. There are still a few I haven’t talked about. In the late fifties, there was a TV series called “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. Richard Greene played Robin Hood :

The person who impressed me most, though, was the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham who was played by Alan Wheatley. I was unable to find the relevant card from the  “WHO-Z-AT-STAR?” series. The one I admired as a little boy had the Sheriff wearing his leather jacket covered in metal studs. Here’s the jacket in a still from the TV series:

I couldn’t find the card I remembered, though. So here’s a near miss:

One of my favourite ever images came from a comic called “Beezer” which wasn’t really the most academic of publications, but every year, at Christmas, it produced a book containing not just everybody’s favourite cartoon characters but also one or two special features. These were invariably linked with warfare and famous battles. It was a book for boys, after all!

In 1962, they produced a double page picture of the Scots, aka the Picts, attacking the Roman garrison on Hadrian’s Wall. For me, this was one of the very best images that I took from my childhood years. It’s not Rembrandt, but I loved it:


It even had an insert explaining that Hadrian’s Wall was built by the Emperor Hadrian in 128 AD to keep the Scots out of England. It is 73 miles long and took 15,000 men six years to build. And I just loved this picture. It has everything a picture should have. Just look at that  centurion, up to his knees in angry Scotsmen:

“Picti” means “painted” and these Scottish warriors must have spent considerable amounts of time at the local tattoo shop. But look at that Roman soldier below. Haven’t you always wanted to do that if you ever came home, went upstairs and found a burglar trying to break in?

And what about their weapons of choice? Never go to a Peace Rally without at least one of them, but if you have a choice, then steal a Roman sword:

Here’s a beautifully made lump of stone on a stick:

And here’s how the Romans invented the boiled egg:

And just look at the determination on the face of this long haired reveller (bottom left), as the barman announces that the bar will close in five minutes’ time. He’ll get in if it kills him. And don’t miss the massive club that some clown has dropped (centre). That’s really dangerous and it might hurt somebody:

“Oh no! It’s all going pear shaped! Quick soldier!! Ring CMIC (or CMII in the Iunctae Res Publicae )

What on earth is all that about ??? A clue…….”Numeri Romani sunt.

“Next time, “Where’s Wally?” has the chance to go to a famous battlefield.

 

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Filed under Film & TV, History, Humour, military, Nottingham, Personal