Monthly Archives: April 2021

The Supermarine Walrus (4)

Last time, we looked at how practically no provisions whatsoever were made in 1940 to rescue RAF fighter pilots who were forced to bale out over the sea:

“A passing ship is bound to pick them up, and pretty damn speedily at that, don’t you know, what ? what?”

During the Battle of Britain, Flight Lieutenant RF Aitken of the RNZAF was so disturbed by the death rates among his fellow fighter pilots that he actually “borrowed” a Supermarine Walrus flying boat from the Fleet Air Arm. During this period of grotesque complacency on the part of the RAF top brass, Flight Lieutenant Aitken,  despite working single handed, managed to rescue thirty five British and German flyers from The Cruel Sea during the summer of 1940.

The situation though, did not really improve. Twelve hundred British airmen went “into the drink” between February 1941-August 1941. Of these 444 were picked up by the British. 78 were picked up by the German Seenotdienst and 678 were not picked up by anybody whatsoever and they all died. Every single one. It was lucky that their training cost so little.

At official levels, it was only on August 22nd 1940 that an emergency meeting was held under the chairmanship of Air Marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris to explore the shortcomings of air sea rescue provision.

And thus, from September 1941 onwards, the Air Sea Rescue Directorate became functional and gradually the RAF began to use the Supermarine Walrus more widely from coastal land bases as an Air Sea Rescue aircraft.

By the end of the war things had improved out of all recognition. The RAF now possessed not eighteen but 600 high speed rescue launches and numerous squadrons of specialist aircraft.

Even so, results were nowhere near 100%.

Many crews did not ever rescue anybody in all their years looking for stranded airmen. Some never found even a single dinghy. Worse still, some only ever found empty dinghies.

Some crews only ever found corpses, men frozen stiff with the cold, dead from exposure or any of the other conditions likely to occur in a dinghy which, for some reason best known to the top brass, did not have a covering of any kind and was completely open to the elements.

Old Nottinghamian, John Harold Gilbert Walker (1918-1942), died in this dreadful way. He was shot down in his Spitfire over St Omer, and four days later, the dinghy and his lifeless body were found, a mere eight miles south of Dungeness. John was only twenty three years of age and he had died of exposure waiting in vain to be rescued.

John’s remains were returned to his family in Nottingham and he was interred in the cemetery of St Leonard’s Church in Wollaton on May 19th 1942. If you’re ever out that way, go and put a few flowers on his grave.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

Famous Monsters of Filmland (2)

I thought I’d cheer you all up with a few more covers from the American  horror film magazine from the 1960s called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. There was nothing subtle about them. Here’s Boris Karloff, real name William Pratt, as “The Mummy”:

And here’s the long forgotten film star Duncan ‘Dean’ Parkin in the long forgotten film, “The War of the Colossal Beast”:

They’re all here. King Kong. And tonight, it’s Kentucky Fried Pterodactyl. Save me a wing :

And here’s Lon Chaney senior in the silent film of “The Phantom of the Opera”, still the best version to watch:

And here’s the little Martian guy from “War of the Worlds”, and I don’t mean Tom Cruise. This is the 1953 version, one of my favourite sci-fi films ever, produced by George Pal, one of my favourite sci-fi directors ever:

This is a very stylised cover based on the film “Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man” Note the damsel in distress and her gravity defying bosoms:

Having said that, it is arguable that the magazine cover does no more than echo the feel of the original film poster:

In a strange twist the two protagonists are played by Lon Chaney junior (the original Wolf Man, and completely expected) and Bela Lugosi (playing Frankenstein’s monster, an incredible piece of irony, given that Lugosi rejected the chance to be Frankenstein’s monster in the original film and let Boris Karloff take the role. Apparently, the monster wasn’t worthy of his acting talents).

Here are two wonderful Wolf Men (or Werewolves, or perhaps even Werewolfs). (Or even Wolf People). They look as if some buffoon has put them through the wrong cycle in the washing machine. This is the first one:

And here’s his younger brother. What a strange dental arrangement:

Here’s “The Monster from the Black Lagoon”, wishing he’d never used that cheap moisturising cream  :

This cover is about the silent film that does not exist any more in its fullest form, “London after Midnight”. It is available only in a reconstructed version. It looks like it’s back to strange dental arrangements again:

Not all of the artwork is good. Here’s a daubed Frankenstein, painted with a brush big enough to clean the garage out with:

Only the covers of the magazines are in colour, but there are some very striking black and white photographs inside. I have chosen some characters from my favourite horror films, the old 1930s Universal productions:

Here’s Doctor Pretorius. The man with all the best lines:

His toast:    “To a new world of gods and monsters! “

And:     “Do you like gin? It’s my only weakness. “

And:   “Have a cigar – they’re my only weakness! “

And then, in the mausoleum when the Frankenstein monster makes a sudden unexpected appearance:

“And I thought I was alone!”

And here’s the studio where Godzilla trashes Tokyo on a daily basis. Occasionally his Monkey Mate, King Kong, comes along to help him. The original film, “King Kong v Godzilla”, of course, was voted “Best Film for a late night beer drinking session” for eighteen consecutive years:

And finally, John Cleese’s entry in the Christmas Competition at the Ministry of Silly Werewolves:

 

 

 

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Filed under Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Writing

What would you do ? (11) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle.

It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation, as always, explained in the coloured box:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

“The crashed pilot took off his jacket and spread it across the swamp before him. He then leaned forward on the jacket, reaching for firm ground. In this way he eased his way to safety . For the jacket acted as a kind of platform, enabling the pilot to distribute his weight more evenly. Snowshoes act in much the same way on soft, deep snow.”

Now personally, I don’t think this would work. I think that the first time you put your jacket down it would disappear into the swamp and you’d lose it for ever. My solution, if it qualifies as such, was based on lying very still in the water/mud etc and hopefully finding a small log to act as a float. Even better would be to have an aircraft with a inflatable dinghy in the wing and to know how to find it, release it and paddle away.

I did a blogpost about this a good while ago. It was called “The Luckiest Man in the World” (4) and concerned Tom Weightman, an RAF rear gunner who survived a crash on a lake in Norway because he knew where the aircraft’s dinghy was stored, unlike his six colleagues who all perished trying to swim to shore. You can find the story here.

This was not the first time that Tom had been the only survivor. Read how he escaped a fatal crash at Dilhorne near Stoke some time previously here.

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Filed under Aviation, Wildlife and Nature

What would you do ? (11) The Puzzle

I’m sure that you all remember the feature called “What would you do ?”. It used to appear on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and it ran from January 26th 1963 to  October 3rd 1964 when “Eagle”, itself not in the best of financial health, merged with it. The last issue of “Boys’ World” was No 89, and any of its fans left by then would have struggled to find any trace of their favourite comic in Eagle:

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Let’s take a look:

And here’s the situation, according to the blue box:

“I’m sinking and I can’t get out!”

That is the first terrifying thought in this flier’s mind. He ha escaped from his blazing plane, only to find that the ‘lake’ he has plunged into, is really a swamp. Slowly, he is being sucked deeper and deeper…within minutes, he will be completely covered. What can he do?

Here’s the Blue Box, just to prove that I’m not making all this up:

The blue box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

So…..it’s one “Dilly of a pickle”.  Sinking into the swamp. Sucked down deeper and deeper.. Only minutes left.

What can  he do??

And don’t cheat by asking an expert!

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Filed under Aviation, Wildlife and Nature

“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (3)

The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate:

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.

Arthur John Thurman was born on May 8th 1875, the son of Edward Harrington Thurman and Ann Eliza Thurman. The family lived in Castle Street off Sneinton Hollows. Edward was a maltster with business premises at 33 Sneinton Road. The family house in Castle Street would eventually be given the name of “Gloster Villa”. Here’s present-day Castle Street:

Castle Street is within sight of St Stephen’s Church, the place where DH Lawrence’s parents got married. Here’s the church:

And here’s the High School’s most famous Old Boy:

Arthur John Thurman entered the High School on June 2nd 1888 as Boy No 723. He was thirteen, and he left at the end of the Christmas Term, 1889.

Arthur played for the High School First Team at football on a number of occasions, although the match reports in the school magazine, “The Forester” are not sufficiently detailed to record his rather irregular appearances. Arthur then played for a number of years for Gedling Grove FC before joining the “Notts Club” (today’s Notts County) where he became:

“a valued playing member of the Reserves. He will be remembered by a great number of football enthusiasts as a useful player. Upon the accident to W Bull, he found a place in the League team”.

Here’s Notts County around this time. If you know how to play musical chairs, you won’t be surprised to know that this team doubled up as the Notts County Musical Moustaches team:

On December 3rd 1898, Walter Bull, the regular First Team Number 4, was seriously injured during County’s 0-1 defeat at Meadow Lane. They were playing Everton, a team who had fielded seven international players for the game.

Initially Bull’s place was taken by Alfred B Carter in a 4-1 victory over Bury. On December 17th though, Arthur Thurman took Alfred’s place in the Notts County team. Making his début, he performed well as a right half in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground, in front of some 4,000 spectators. County’s goal was scored by Harry Fletcher. On December 24th, Arthur was equally successful in a 1-0 home victory over Aston Villa. He gave what “The Forester”, called “an exceedingly creditable exhibition as a hard and consistent half back.” County’s winning goal came from Alexander Maconnachie. This was a famous victory as Aston Villa would finish this, the 1898-1899 season, as League Champions.

Here’s a County v Villa game of the period. Strangely, the goalkeeper seems to be dressed the same as the rest of the team, except for his cap:

After the  Aston Villa game, County’s number four shirt went to Ernie Watts for six games until Walter Bull had recovered. Then Walter got back his old shirt and Ernie Watts kept his place in the team, for the rest of the season.

Arthur would probably have played many more games for Notts County, but the Second Boer War broke out in October 1899, caused by the shocking treatment by the Boers of British gold prospectors in the Transvaal. A completely understandable reason for a war, and the deaths of 30,000 men. Bad treatment of our gold prospectors? Unforgivable. The “bad treatment” seems to be getting really out of hand at this point :

According to “The Forester”, Arthur was

“among the first to volunteer to join the Imperial Yeomanry, a mounted unit made up exclusively of volunteers.”

They were never a particularly effective regiment. Many of them had already :

“been captured two or three times, giving the Boers on each occasion a free horse, a free rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition “.

Arthur was accepted into the Imperial Yeomanry and left England in the SS Winifredian. Here’s the Imperial Yeomanry and their Dad. You may laugh, but I’ve seen the paternity test results :

During the voyage Arthur impressed his superiors with his demeanour and his always immaculate appearance, and he was promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant in the 12th Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Yeomanry. He was ordered to join Lord Methuen’s force and duly proceeded to Boshof in the Orange River Colony.

At Boshof he was seized with enteric fever and he died on May 30th 1900, presumably without seeing a single Boer.

There were 23,026 British casualties during this war, but the majority, some 60% at least, succumbed not to the Boers, but to enteric fever, or typhoid, as it is now called.

The news of Arthur’s death was received:

“……….with deep regret by a large circle of friends and acquaintances in Nottingham.

The announcement of his untimely death, at the early age of 25, comes in singularly sad circumstances. He leaves a widow and one child, born subsequent to his departure for the seat of war.”

Arthur’s death is commemorated on the Boer War Memorial which used to stand in Queen Street in the city centre, but was moved in 1927 to the Forest Recreation Ground. He is recorded as “S.Q.M.S. A. Thurman”, one of three members of the Imperial Yeomanry / South Notts Hussars who died.

 

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Filed under Africa, History, military, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

The Supermarine Walrus (3)

The RAF’s provisions for Air Sea Rescue during much of the Second World War were absolutely abysmal. Nowadays there would be Public Inquiries and the newspapers would be explaining to their readers exactly what corporate manslaughter was.

Throughout the first two years of the conflict the RAF had twenty eight ships and no search aircraft. During the Battle of Britain, recent research has revealed that around two hundred pilots died unnecessarily when they ditched in the English Channel:

Indeed, in August 1940, Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, who commanded the fighter group in the south east, actually ordered his flight controllers not to vector pilots over the sea because “too many were getting drowned:

The problem was that most of them perished once they hit the water because they were only visible until their parachute folded up into the waves and both pilot and parachute sank.

There was just no effective means of looking at all those waves from above and finding a downed pilot.

It all came from that lack of decent search aircraft. Making up the deficit in reconnaissance aircraft with Avro Ansons and Westland Lysanders was no use. Their range was not long enough. The Anson was 660 miles, and the Lysander just 600 miles. A limit of 600-700 miles didn’t allow them to carry out patrols of either the required time or the required distance.

Overall therefore, there was very little chance of survival if you ditched into the sea, and only the occasional flier was picked up by a passing destroyer or fishing boat:

On one day in August 1940, fifteen of the eighteen RAF pilots who baled out over the North Sea and the English Channel were lost to the cold, cold, waves. Overall, the statistics showed that if a pilot baled out over land, he had a fifty per cent chance of survival. Over water that fell to twenty per cent. In the words of one writer, “The ditching of a British aeroplane in the Channel or the North Sea usually doomed its crew.”

The men to blame, of course, as always, were the top brass who sat in their offices and decided:

“There are so many ships constantly sailing round British waters that nobody could possibly fail to be picked up, and picked up pretty damn speedily at that, don’t you know, what ? what?”

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Humour