Monthly Archives: June 2022

The Sandiacre Screw Company (5)

Young Keith Doncaster, whom we have met already four times, was a mid-upper gunner, who sat in a perspex dome half way along the bomber’s fuselage. He protected the aircraft from attacks originating from above the horizon, mostly diving attacks from the rear. His turret was rather like an upturned goldfish bowl and could become extremely hot on occasion. That occasion was quite rare, and cold, particularly at altitude and at night, was a far more frequent problem:

An ex-Lancaster gunner, Russell Margerison, listed the clothes he wore for each mission:

“Women’s silk stockings, woollen knee-caps, woollen long johns with sleeves and a high neck, a shirt, trousers, ordinary socks and over those, long woollen ones. Then a thick pullover, a battle-dress top, a heated suit, an outer suit of kapok, electrically heated slippers, fur-lined boots, silk gloves, heated long gloves, and leather gauntlets. And anti-freeze ointment on any exposed flesh.”

If the perspex was shot away, temperatures might drop to 60° below.

Margerison said that the gunners hardly ever fired their guns. If anybody spotted an enemy aircraft, they would shout: “Corkscrew port !!” or “Corkscrew starboard !!” and the supremely agile thirty ton bomber would embark on its famous twisting and turning manoeuvre which no German fighter could possibly keep up with, especially in darkness:

Keith would have been familiar with this life. Ruled by superstition, clothes were always put on in a set sequence and mascots such as lucky dolls or toys were always taken along. And there were “chop girls”, young ladies whose boyfriends kept getting killed and whom nobody would date any more, no matter how pretty they were. And then there was the constant hunt for fuel for the metal stove in the middle of an icy Nissen hut:

The crew were the most important people in Keith’s life. Outside these seven men, you were a fool to make other close friendships when life expectancy was six weeks with just four weeks for a rear gunner. Only your family counted for more than your crew:

Before D-Day, 65% of crew members were killed before they completed their “tour” of thirty missions. Each mission carried a 4% chance of being shot down. Overall, the casualty rate was around 45%, and eventually 55,573 men would be killed. The death rate in the US Eighth Air Force was considerably lower. This was because they wore their parachutes during missions. Those silken life savers were not stored away from the owner. And the Eighth Air Force flew in daylight when it was easier, theoretically, to get out of the plane:

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

Another impossible Beatles Quiz (2….the Questions)

Hello there again, sad children of the sixties! I’d like to cheer you up with the second of a series of four Beatles quizzes. The questions all refer to albums, including “Sergeant Pepper” and afterwards. If you want to look up the answers and do it that way, then good for you, but you might enjoy the questions more if you tried to do them yourself without any help from the Internet. I have tried to make the questions doable, but clearly, one or two are meant to be difficult. Incidentally, the questions do not necessarily relate to the illustrations, although sometimes the illustrations are a very large clue.

1     Who had a silver hammer?

2     And the most difficult question of the lot, who always arrived late for tea? Mind you, the answer is staring you in the face!

3     Which fairground attraction gives its name to a Beatles song?

4     What is the name of the lovely meter maid?

5      What were any of the people doing in “Penny Lane?

6      She was a working girl, north of England way. But what happened to her?

7      What had the crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess done to be such a naughty girl ?

8     Who had a barrow in the market place and what did Molly do?

9     Which two other colours occur on the cover of “Yellow Submarine” as well as yellow?

10   Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly. Who is it?

 

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Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, the Beatles

Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (3)

Last time we were looking at Soviet football/soccer programmes for the top division, Division No 1. One or two more to look at. This  is “Спартак Москва” or Spartak Moscow, against “Зенит Ленинград” or “Zenit Leningrad”. Still a top team nowadays, “Spartak” was originally an international fitness and sports society and in Soviet times, was supported by the “Komsomol”. The latter was the “All-Union Leninist Young Communist League” or “Всесоюзный ленинский коммунистический союз молодёжи” abbreviated to” ВЛКСМ”. Despite all that, Spartak Moscow is today still considered to be “the people’s team:

This next programme has another famous team over the years in “Динамо Москва” or “Dynamo Moscow” who are playing “Спартак Орджоникидзе” or “Spartak Ordzhonikidze” on Saturday, April 25th 1970. The latter became “FC Spartak Vladikavkaz” in 1990 and then “Spartak-Alania Vladikavkaz” and then “Alania Vladikavkaz”. The club are still in Russia nowadays and they play in the North Ossetia–Alania region of the Caucasus:

They are based in Vladikavkaz, which in the days of the tsars was the frontier town of the Caucasus, a region which was very much the North West Frontier of the Russian Empire. All the dashing young officers would seek postings to Vladikavkaz, the one outpost of western ideas, surrounded by thousands of wild tribesmen:

Here are the team line ups and the team changes, written in by my friend, Oleg Soloviev, all those years ago, in a place as remote as you are likely to find. I presume he was there watching one of the teams before Zenit Leningrad had to play them, perhaps checking what their tactics were:

The Dynamo Moscow goalkeeper (No 1) was very famous. The Russian says “Лев Яшин” and the English is “Lev Yashin”. He always played dressed completely in black and was known as the “Black Octopus”. He was a legend in world football history and one evening, my Dad drove me to Leicester City to see them play Moscow Dynamo. Yashin didn’t play but they brought him out onto the pitch to wave at the crowd and he got a standing ovation. The Dynamo goalkeeper that night was the player below Yashin in the list. He was Vladimir Pilguy (Владимир Пильгуй).

My last top class Soviet programme is one that I actually bought myself on the day of the match in Leningrad. It was for Zenit Leningrad aka “Зенит Ленинград” against Nacional (Uruguay) aka “Насьональ (Уругвай)”, which was an international friendly match.  It was a beautiful sunny summer’s early evening, July 19th 1969, and Nacional won easily by 4-0. The Uruguayan national anthem was interminable, and when it finally finished, our school party thought both anthems had been played.

 

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Filed under Football, History, Personal, Russia

My best friend, Widdle (1)

One summer’s day in 2007, I was sitting out on the patio when all of a sudden I looked down and there was an animal standing right next to me. It was a fox!! Latin name “Vulpes vulpes” for anybody who lives in a country where foxes are not known.

I said to him “What do you want?” “Are you hungry?” “Would you like some food?”

He looked back at me and I said, “Just stay there and I’ll go and fetch you something.”

And he stayed there and I went into kitchen, opened the door of the fridge and looked around.

Some milk. No, that’s cats.

Just a piece of apple and some cooked sausages.

That’s it. I’ll take him that. I picked up the apple and went out to feed him.

He was still there. I offered him the apple which he initially sniffed and then gave me a look of such disdain, as if to say,

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

I went back to the fridge. I got a sausage and I took it out to him. He sniffed it and I put it on the floor. He picked it up in his mouth and off he went. Back into the beautiful green world of flowers, bushes and trees.

That sausage would be the first of literally thousands, with the occasional lump of beef, pork or chicken to stop him getting bored. I soon became an expert on sausages, their make-up, their price, their value for money. We used to buy them in some quantity. I remember once going through the checkout at Iceland (the frozen food supermarket chain, not the island nation). I was buying the usual six packets and the woman said “Do you like sausages then?”  and I replied “Not really, I feed them to a fox”.

And she looked at me with complete disdain as if to say….

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

Little did she know, though, and little did I know, that very soon I would value our fox at ten times the value of almost all human beings. Being with him was like being with an extremely wise child who was always steps ahead of you. Somebody who could do amazing things that were as if he knew magic. Somebody who was always on his best behaviour. Who never hurt a fly. Who was a damn sight closer to God than I ever was. Here’s his four stage method to being given a sausage:

Stage 1            Look as if you’re hungry:

Stage 2           Reach for the Food of the Gods: sausage fried with extra fat :

Stage 3           Make that strange gesture with your lower jaw that is a basic part of “Talking Fox” but one which we never managed to  understand :

Stage 4    Show the kind humans your lovely brown eyes, and they’ll probably give you more sausages next time :

Sometimes, though, our new friend was nervous and he showed this by cocking his back leg against anything available, and squirting a tiny quantity of fox urine. He only did that when he was not 100% certain of our intentions, because we were human beings and potentially not as well behaved as he was. It gave him his name, though. We called him “Widdle”.

Over the next few weeks, we all grew to love him.

He was a gift from God. A wild creature who let us into his world for a few short years. We fed him morning and evening, day in, day out, and we saved his life several times. When he could not hunt because of injuries we saw to it that he was fed. Thanks to us, he had five lives.

We fed too, all of the minimum of 15 fox cubs that he raised. With a little bit of help from Mrs Widdle, of course.

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Filed under Humour, My Garden, My House, Nottingham, Personal, Widdle, Wildlife and Nature

The Sandiacre Screw Company (4)

This is the fourth episode of the tragic story of Keith Doncaster, whose grandfather and father owned the huge “Sandiacre Screw Company.”  Keith was an Old Nottinghamian, but after leaving the High School on July 30th 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, immediately after his 17th birthday. The RAFVR was the usual way to apply for aircrew entry to the RAF. Keith would have sworn an oath of allegiance to become a member of the RAFVR. The oath was very like the oath sworn today:

“I, Ivan Keith Doncaster, swear by Almighty God  that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George VI, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of the air officers and officers set over me. So help me God.”

And then he could wear an RAFVR silver badge to indicate his status. There were two distinct types of badge on the internet. This one is a lapel badge:

And this one isn’t. Is it to hold your tie in place? :

There was a wait of varying length before volunteers were able to begin aircrew training. In the meantime, Keith took part in farm work, helping a local farmer.

He probably continued with his ATC attendance, proudly wearing his silver badge on his lapel. Here’s the Long Eaton ATC today:

Once he was eighteen in 1941, Keith finally made it into the RAF. He would not be a pilot, as most boys dreamed of being. Instead, Keith joined 166 Squadron as a mid-upper gunner in an Avro Lancaster:

The squadron used both Mark I and Mark III Lancasters which were apparently indistinguishable externally. The Mark III had Merlin engines built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit in Michigan in the United States.

At the Lancaster factory the aircraft were constructed in the normal way and either type of engine was fitted according to availability, although they were never mixed on the same aircraft. Eventually, 3,425 Mark Is were constructed and 3,469 Mark IIIs or Mark Xs, the latter aircraft being constructed in Canada. The engines’ performance was hardly different, although the Packard Merlin was more likely to overheat on take-off and landing, which meant that training units used it less frequently. The propeller blades were Hamilton Standard or Nash Kelvinator made “paddle blade” types. Mark Is had de Havilland “needle blade” propellers. Here are some “paddle blade” types :

And here are some “needle blade” propellers:

The Lancaster was still the same. That huge, huge bomb bay, thirty three feet long and completely uninterrupted, capable of accommodating 4,000lb, 8,000 lb or 12,000 lb blockbuster bombs. Or perhaps fourteen x 1,000 lb bombs. General Purpose or High Explosive. Instant explosion or with a wait of six days.

Or perhaps Monsieur would prefer 3,304 incendiaries this evening?

It was a Devil’s Menu where  Satanic Chefs could choose exactly what kind of disaster they would like to produce. And each combination had its own codeword: “Arson”. “Abnormal”. “Cookie”, “Plumduff”, “Gardening”. “No-ball”. “Piece”. “Plumduff Plus”, “Usual”.

What “a lovely way to spend an evening”, as the hit song of the day used to say…..

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (2)

The first programme today is another top football/soccer game, this time between “ЦСКА” and “Динамо Минск”. Don’t forget that the home team is always printed second on the front of the programme. It’s a politeness, a little like allowing a guest to go through the door first.

Many football fans will recognise the abbreviation above. bottom right,  as “CSKA”, which stands for the “Central Sports Club of the Army”. It’s rather like English clubs were often founded by a particular church or factory.

The opposition in this game was “Dynamo Minsk” a team which used to be in the USSR although the city is nowadays in Byelorussia and its club no longer plays top class football. A club founded, no doubt, by electricians, who are often a bunch of really bright sparks.

The Byelorussian Premier League is today so small that it contains even “СФК Слуцк” or “SFC Slutsk” whose ground can accommodate a mere 1,896 spectators. That’s the least of Minskian worries, though. Minsk has been invaded quite a few times. Indeed, one of the few bits of good news in the history of Minsk was that it somehow escaped the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan’s Mongols in 1237–1239.

Otherwise it took a battering from the troops of Tsar Alexei of Russia (1655), the army of Charles XII of Sweden (1708), the army of Peter the Great (1708), Napoleon (1812), the Red Army (1918), the Poles (1919), more Poles (1920), even more Poles (1920-1921) and the Germans (1941-1944). The latter barbarians took the population of Minsk from 300,000 down to 50,000.

Just up by the “ф” of “футбол” is a tiny diagram with a rather unclear picture, captioned “централный стадион”. I’ll leave you to work that one out, now you’re all mostly fluent with Russian letters. As a clue, the diagram looks pretty much like a “Central Stadium” to me.

The one thing that has always struck me about the few Russian football programmes I still have left  in my collection, fifty years after my friend, Oleg Soloviev, sent them to me, is that they speak of places so far away, so remote and so difficult to get to as to be beyond the reasonable expectations of most people. Many of them are from cities literally thousands of miles from where he lived in Leningrad (St Petersburg). This programme is from Tbilisi in Georgia, a mere 1400 miles from where Oleg lived:

The local team was Dynamo Tbilisi. The name is in the bottom left of the programme and is written “Динамо Тбилиси” with “Зенит Ленинград” in the bottom left corner, and also above the blue diagram of the two teams. In places like Georgia, everybody spoke Russian but the local language, Georgian, also appears. The top left, yellow rectangle has some good examples. In the bottom right is the diagram of the Tbilisi team with three interesting players. Number 6 is Khurtsilava, “Хурцилава”, and Number 8 is Metreveli, “Метревели”. Both of these two played in the Soviet Union team which came to England in 1966 for the World Cup and finished fourth in the world. At right back, No 2 is a famous Georgian name, “Дзодзуашвили”  or Dzodzuashvili, a man of complete and utter genius who ruled the USSR for 29 years, died, but still played First Division football a quarter of a century after his death. Still can’t place him? Well, here’s a clue.

This is another, more artistic, programme with the Georgian word for football or “футбол”.

Compared to the rest of the Russian programmes you have seen so far, this one is a riotous multicoloured festival of brightly coloured inks. Most of the rest of them have only four or five colours maximum. Still, at least you know the Georgian for “football”. The big question is, though, where in the blog post is the Georgian for “October” ?

 

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Filed under Football, History, Personal, Russia