Category Archives: Science

“Soldaten” by Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer (1)

“Soldaten”, which means “Soldiers” is a book about the many atrocities committed by the German armed forces during World War II, although the two young authors do not hesitate to include other conflicts if they wish to make a particular point. War crimes by American forces in both Vietnam and Iraq are therefore included:

The two young authors are both highly distinguished academics, Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer.

Harald Welzer (above) was born in Hannover in 1958 and he is a German social psychologist, having studied sociology, psychology and literature at the University of Hannover.

Born in 1968, Sönke Neitzel (above) studied at the University of Mainz and is Professor of Military History at the University of Potsdam. He has previously held professorships at the London School of Economics, the University of Karlsruhe, the University of Bern, the University of Glasgow and the University of Saarbrücken.

The two young men belong to a burgeoning group of modern German academics who are completely willing to study and to write about Hitler, Nazism and the conduct of the German people during World War II. They are not in the slightest bit biased towards the Germans and they do not try to defend the behaviour of the Nazis. Overall, in “Soldaten”, they treat the Nazi period, quite rightly, as if Hitler’s Germany was so far away in the past that it has become a foreign country. Things were done differently there:

I read “Soldaten” recently and I found it absolutely stunning. I even read the first fifty pages twice to make sure that I had understood it all fully.

The book is based on what was probably Sönke Neitzel’s luckiest day ever. He discovered that during World War II, British Intelligence had taped German prisoners of war in secret and had then transcribed their conversations. This process had produced 50,000 pages of transcripts, which he was able to locate and then to read. Neitzel later found that the National Archives in Washington DC had around 100,000 further pages of prisoners’ conversations. The transcripts from the German prisoners in England have produced a 400 page book which I am going to review in almost note form.

In the earliest pages, it is explained that:

“the brutality, harshness and absence of emotion are what is so disturbing for us, sixty years after the fact…..killing and the worse sorts of violence were part of everyday reality (back then).”

The book will seek to explain why these levels of violence came about, and whether they were unique to this period of the twentieth century.

One idea, mentioned as early as page four, is that when you have reacted once in a particular way to a certain situation, you will continue to apply the very same rules:

“In the Third Reich, people didn’t need to be anti-semitic to murder Jews, or altruistic to rescue them….it was enough to be in a social situation in which one or the other course of action seemed called for. After that, people tended to follow what they had already done…massacre or rescue.”

When the course of action chosen is massacre, the situation may also incorporate the idea of “inhumanity with impunity”. Clearly, if everybody commits acts of violence and nobody is ever punished for it, then this promotes situations where people can “follow what they had already done”. Here is an example from a conversation between German POWs which was taped by British Intelligence:

Soldier A : “Kharkiv was a delightful town. At Taganrog too, there were splendid cinemas and wonderful cafés.

Everywhere we saw Russian women doing compulsory service.

We drove past, pulled them into the armoured car, raped them and threw them out again. And did they curse!”

Where does “inhumanity with impunity” come from? Well, on page 25 of “Soldaten, an explanation is given:

“In psychological terms the inhabitants of the Third Reich were as normal as people in all other societies at all other times. The spectrum of perpetrators (of violence) was a cross section of normal society. No specific group proved immune to the temptation of “inhumanity with impunity”.

The Third Reich did not though, reduce the variations of individual personalities to absolute zero. But it showed them to be of comparatively slight, indeed often negligible, importance.

In other words, we are more or less all capable of carrying out dreadful acts, because our characters do not differ enormously from those of other people. And that is why those variations are of negligible importance. All of us, every single one, can do dreadful evil.

They were people just like any other, under that showy uniform………

 

18 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Russia, Science

Old Nottinghamian saves the World OR Why no statue? (4)

Thomas Hawksley was born on July 12th 1807 at Arnot Hill House in Arnold, Nottingham, to parents John Hawksley and Sarah Thompson. Arnot Hill House is still there:

John was a worsted woollen manufacturer who co-owned the mill in Arnold. The mill engine’s cooling pond is now the ornamental lake, situated in front of Arnot Hill House. That’s still there too:

Thomas was educated at the Free School, or Grammar School, in Stoney Street, studying under the Headmaster, Dr Robert Wood.

Thomas arrived on May 27th 1821, at the age of 13 years 6 months. His school days were comparatively brief, for in September 1822 he was removed, with a view to practical training.

Thomas was self-taught from the age of 15 but eventually he was articled to an architect and surveyor Mr Edward Staveley, of Nottingham. He soon became a partner, along with Mr Jalland, of “Staveley, Hawksley and Jalland, engineers, architects, &c.” By 1835, Thomas was based at Middle Pavement and Trent Bridge, and “Staveley & Dudley” were based in Stoney Street. Mr Hawksley and Mr Jalland then worked together until 1850 when Jalland left. Thomas then left for London.

During his time in Nottingham, in 1823, aged only 23, Thomas had constructed a new pumping station for the Trent Waterworks Company near Trent Bridge.

Before this, Nottingham’s water was taken from shallow wells or from the Trent or its tributaries. The new pumping station filtered water taken from the Trent through natural beds of sand and gravel. The water was then pumped through a 15 inch main to a reservoir near the General Hospital. The pipes that carried the water were always kept under high pressure, and taps provided water day and night. Thomas eliminated leakage, and ensured an unvarying supply of fresh water. The pressure also meant that germs could not get in. This arrangement provided “Britain’s first constant supply of clean water, whose high pressure prevented contamination.”

In 1832, the young engineer personally turned on the tap. Anybody in Nottingham could now have clean fresh water from the tap in the yard, thanks to Thomas’ pumping station:

Thomas was the first engineer to set up a scheme of this type in a large and generally fairly dirty industrial town, and to make it work. The local plumbers, of course, objected tooth and nail to doing what Thomas told them to do, but his patience and, presumably, the threat of the sack, persuaded them to obey him.

In 1845, Thomas became chief engineer of the newly formed Nottingham Water Company. Five years later he excavated a seven feet wide and 250 foot deep borehole to get at the purest water which was present in the Bunter sandstone below the town:

 

Before long, Thomas was setting up schemes like the one at Nottingham across the length and breadth of England.

In this way, an Old Nottinghamian provided clear fresh water at the turn of a tap for most of the citizens of Barnsley, Barnstaple, Birmingham, Boston, Bridgwater, Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Cambridge, Coventry, Darlington, Derby, Durham, Great Yarmouth, Haslingden, Hinckley, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Liverpool, Lowestoft, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough, Newark Newcastle-on-Tyne Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rochdale, Southport, Sheffield, Southend, Stockton, Sunderland, Wakefield Waterford, Wexford, Windsor, Worcester and York.

Sunderland seems to have revered Thomas. There is a Thomas Hawkesley Park in Sunderland, full of expensive four and five bedroom houses:

It’s not as beautiful, though, as Hawkesley House:

 

Thomas was also a gas engineer and, applying the same basic principles for gas as for water, he advised about how to set up the supply for large cities. The number of gas-works he built was very large, and included Barnsley, Bishop Auckland, Burton-on-Trent, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Derby, Folkestone, Gosport, Lowestoft, Newark, Normanton, Nottingham, Pilkington, Radcliffe, Sunderland and Bombay.

Thomas also worked hard on sewage treatment and, as with water and gas, he helped a great many places including Aylesbury, Birmingham, Hertford, Whitehaven, Windsor and Worcester. He anticipated modern methods in refusing to discharge raw sewage into rivers and recommended treatment with chemicals. He believed that spreading the resultant mixture on farmland might well render it completely harmless.

Here is Thomas in later life:

Thomas became the first president of the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (1863), President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (1872), President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and of the Institution of Gas Engineers (1876) and Fellow of the Royal Society (1878). And he was not a one-trick-pony. In 1885 he received a gold medal for the invention of an instrument for the assistance of the deaf.

Thomas died on September 15th 1893 at 14 Phillimore Gardens in Kensington. London.

In 1907, Thomas’ son, Charles, established the Thomas Hawksley Fund on the centenary of his father’s birth on July 12th 1907. In 1913 Charles initiated the Thomas Hawksley lectures. The first was given by Edward B Ellington, an expert in hydraulic engineering, talking about “Water as a Mechanical Agent”. The lecture was presented at the headquarters of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and then given again in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham. Subsequent speakers have included H L Callendar (published the first steam tables), F W Lanchester, (the car engine), Harry Ricardo (an engine designer) and Sir Noel Ashbridge (broadcasting). Hawksley lectures still take place today.

 

 

photo of lake courtesy of geogreph

 

14 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Science, The High School

Why no statue ? (2)

Last time, I talked of how men who were once famous but who had evil hidden deep in their souls can live on artificially through their statues. Without that statue, such men would soon be forgotten in the dustbin of history.

I would rather emulate John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, who, in 2014, told the descendants of those murdered by Colonel Chivington and his men at Sand Creek in 1864:

“We should not be afraid to criticize and condemn that which is inexcusable ……. We will not run from this history.”

And in 2015, construction of a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre victims began.

And I certainly feel that, if there are people who do not want to have statues of these “dubious heroes”, who do not want to be reminded of their ancestors’ suffering, then so be it. And, by this method, such men will gradually fade away rather than be kept alive artificially by a statue.

An excellent example would be Werner von Braun. Operation Paperclip made him an American citizen, along with 1600 of his fellow scientists. These were the people who helped to mastermind manned space flight and the landing on the moon. An ordinary person might want a statue.

I can think of a few Jews who wouldn’t though. And Russians, and Poles or any other East European descendants of the ones who died, as tens of thousands of slave workers perished building concrete bunkers, blast proof shelters, and rocket launching ramps all over the island of Peenemünde. If these people feel strongly enough, then no statue.

Back then, of course, von Braun was known as SS Sturmbannführer von Braun. And here is the SS Sturmbannführer with high ranking Nazis:

Here he is with the highest ranking Nazi of all. The SS Sturmbannführer is dressed as a civilian, middle of the next to back row:

This one is more difficult, but von Braun is behind Himmler, dressed up in his all black SS uniform:

We’re not in the slightest bit short of people in this category. Lord Nelson was an excellent naval commander with a 100% belief in the British Empire. But by 1801, Nelson, already married to the unfortunate Mrs Frances Nelson, was living with another woman, Emma Hamilton. She was not his wife, and he shouldn’t have been living with her. In actual fact, she was the wife of one of his closest friends, Sir William Hamilton.

There will be a lot of men nowadays who will not be too bothered about Nelson’s little foibles, but I bet there are a lot of women who would not want a statue of him staring them in the face, especially in the nation’s capital city.

I wonder who bought more of these satirical jugs? Men or women?

High on the list of people from this period who have shocking sides to their character is Lord Byron, the Romantic poet. Not that he couldn’t knock out some famous poems when he put his mind to it:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes”

Or, perhaps more famous, “The Destruction of Sennacherib”

“The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.”

Lord Byron, though, ought to encounter a great deal of difficulty having a statue erected to him, and I don’t mean just his dress sense:

George Gordon Byron, the Sixth Baron Byron, was allegedly England’s greatest poet. Yet, it has been written that “By our own modern standards he was probably a paedophile and certainly a rapist, at least of the statutory kind.”

The evidence for these charges include the fact that Byron had an infatuation with a shapely fifteen year-old Greek boy, Lukas Chalandritsanos and spent enormous sums of money on him.

He had already had an incestuous relationship with Augusta Leigh, his own half-sister. Here she is:

Augusta gave birth to Elizabeth Medora Leigh, who was widely thought to be Byron’s child. Three days after the birth, Byron visited Augusta and the baby. He reported later to a friend, Lady Melbourne:

“It is not an Ape and if it is – that must be my fault.”

There was a widely held belief at the time that a child born of incest would be an ape.

Byron’s wife was Anne Isabella Noel Byron, 11th Baroness Wentworth and Baroness Byron, Here she is:

Evidence from a servant says that Byron raped his wife only days before she gave birth to their daughter, Ada. And then he raped her again only days after she had given birth.

In those days, of course, a husband could not be refused by his wife. What would now be considered rape was just a gentleman exercising his conjugal rights. But by today’s standards, actions like that are repulsive, especially so soon either before or after the poor woman has given birth.

Byron’s appalling arrogance was equally in evidence in his love affair with Claire Clairmont. Here she is:

Claire gave birth to a daughter, Allegra, but Byron immediately forbade her all access to her child, whom he sent away to a convent. She died there aged five.

And to think that I criticised the baddies in the TV series “Poldark” as not being true to life!

20 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, Criminology, History, Humour, military, Politics, Science, war crimes

What would you do ? (12) 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 in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out 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:

And here is the puzzle:

And as we turn quickly to page two, we find out that:

“There is only one thing the fighter pilot can do. Sweeping down out of his dive he flies alongside the V.I., maintaining the same speed. Then, he gently manoeuvres his wing-tip under the wingtip of the deadly bomb. With a gentle pull on his stick, he turns his plane away, his wing whipping the V.1. over. Its delicate gyro-compass thrown off-course, the bomb hurtles earthward, to explode harmlessly in open countryside.”

So now you know!!

The people who throw around their accusations  about Bomber Command, aiming them chiefly at Bomber Harris, as if he was the Number One in the RAF rather than someone subject to a whole chain of superior officers and politicians, they forget both the V-1 and the V-2, which were pilotless and aimed only in the most general of terms. The V-1s were all aimed at Target 42, London, and more precisely, Tower Bridge. They never hit Tower Bridge or even got particularly close. V-2s were even more random and indiscriminate. In efforts ordered personally by Hitler to blow up the bridge over the Rhine at Remagen, no V-2 got within 900 yards but they did hit Cologne (still German at the time).

The statistics are not very precise but 22,880 V-1s were fired at targets in England (8,892) and Belgium (11,988). Around 4,000 V-2s were launched at targets in England (c 1,400) and Belgium (2,342). The main target in Belgium was the port of Antwerp. Hitler was determined to deny its use to the Allies. Overall,  V-weapons killed approximately 18,000 people in England and Belgium. Nearly all of them were  civilians.

Here’s a V-1 and a Spitfire playing nicely:

And here’s a V2 setting off to annihilate as many civilians as possible in London. It was designed by SS Sturmbannführer Werner von Braun, soon to be an American citizen and certainly not a war criminal responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of slave workers, most of them Russian or East European, particularly Poles. Hopefully though, like the Führer, he loved his dog:

18 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Criminology, History, Humour, military, Science, war crimes

Famous Adverts of Filmland (2)

Last time I talked about the American magazines which appeared in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop from time to time during the early 1960s. They all had one thing in common. They had advertisements for what we all thought were rather bizarre products which were largely unobtainable in England. On the other hand, had a lorry arrived in our village, full of “Crawling Hands”, we would have been fighting each other for the chance to purchase this amazing toy for only $4.95, plus an extremely reasonable 50c for postage and handling:

Wow and double wow!! It walks across the room and the ring on the third finger sheds light over the floor. What a bargain.  I wondered how much $5.45 in 1960 might be worth today. Well, it’s between $45-$50. In English money, that’s around £34-£37. I repeat. What a bargain!

I’m not so sure about the next one though.  A whistle for dogs?

What kind of trick is that? You can’t hear it but the dog can? What rubbish. How do you know if it works?

And how will you know the dog has heard it if he is habitually disobedient? And why should he obey a whistle that you cannot hear when he can pretend he hasn’t heard it and you are none the wiser?? He’ll just carry on in the same old way and you’ve wasted your money.

This is a much better product. While my friends join the Boy Scouts, I can put on my black mask and become a member of the Judean People’s Front, or perhaps the Judean Popular People’s Front, or even the Popular Front of Judea.

What have the Romans ever done for us ? “Romanes eunt domus“:

As an adult, I can see now that the majority of the adverts appeal, for the most part, to two categories of customer. The first category is that of the person who is perhaps less intelligent, shall we say? He does not know the names of the simplest dinosaurs. He needs pictures to distinguish between a cave BEAR and a Giant BIRD, or between a GIANT WOOLLY MAMMOTH and a thirteen inch long JUNGLE SWAMP :

In the intelligent section of the magazine, however, much more technical language is used. And if you’re intelligent enough to know what a Styracosaurus is, you’ll definitely want one with a wind up motor :

It isn’t the most intelligent kind of person, though, who will pay money for an authentic fingerprint kit, but is unaware that it will be completely useless without access to the FBI fingerprint database and three years at Police College:

Other adverts just offer products for customers who want to frighten people. They want to scare the living daylights out of the last few friends they have. Perhaps they’ll do it with a monster fly:

They’d like a mask that makes them look like their movie heroes:

Or, the only full colour advert that I could find, a zombie mask:

Presumably, they will wear their mask with their eyeball cufflinks:

And what a slogan.

“NO–THEY’RE NOT REAL, BUT THEY LOOK LIKE IT !

Surely that has a future with a publicity hungry plastic surgeon. It’s certainly better than this excessively subtle 1950s ad :

I borrowed that advert from a website which boasts 39 more. Take a look. It certainly shows how attitudes towards women have altered over the years.

Or have they?

24 Comments

Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, History, Humour, My House, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

My Dad, Fred, and the Hollywood cinema of yesteryear

When he was a little boy, perhaps around ten or twelve years of age, around 1933, my Dad, Fred along with some friends, walked the mile or so to nearby Swadlincote, to go to the cinema. Here is the cinema:

That’s not the best of views, so here is the “Empire” but in later years:

Swadlincote has always had two cinemas but never at the same time. The sequence is usually

Cinema 1 open

Cinema 1 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 2 open

Cinema 2 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 1 is reopened by over-optimistic idiot

Cinema 1 goes bust

Cinema 2 is eventually reopened by another over-optimistic idiot

And so on

Anyway, Fred and his pals, all around ten to twelve years old, weren’t there to see any old film. They were there to see Boris Karloff in “The Mummy”, one of the most frightening horror films of that decade. Feeling extremely brave, they sneaked in and settled down, waiting to be frightened:

Fred was not, of course, like the modern child, immured to fear by hour after hour of relentless television, and he came out chilled to the core by Karloff, completely terrified by the whole film. And so did the rest of them.

There could be no sharper contrast, however, than that between this Karloff chiller and Fred’s favourite, and funniest, Laurel and Hardy film. The latter was “Fra Diavolo”, which, again, he would have seen at the cinema in Swadlincote:

One other tiny detail that I can remember my Dad supplying, which must have come from this era, was how, when watching silent films at the cinema, however old you were, you were expected to read the words of the dialogue for yourself. Nobody would help you. If you asked for assistance, you would be told contemptuously, “Learn to read !”

Overall, Fred must have been very interested in the cinema. His collection of old magazines, kept for thirty or more years in the glass fronted bookcase in the front room of his parents’ house, contained ones which featured German expressionist cinema of the 1920s, including both Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”. The stills featured included Rotwang’s house, Maria the Robot and the somnambulist Conrad Veidt carrying his victim high above the rooftops.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On one occasion, Fred was actually able to meet a real, genuine Hollywood star. Just after the war ended, he was in Brighton for some long forgotten reason. He decided to visit a very distant cousin who worked in a local cinema, and who may well have been one of the Sussex branch of the Knifton family.

At the time, this particular cinema was the centre of all attention, as it was being visited by Charles Laughton, the world famous English and Hollywood film actor. Laughton was there to give a little publicity to one of his less famous films, a rather unloved feature entitled “The Beachcomber”, made with his then wife Elsa Lanchester in 1938. All of the cinema employees lined up to meet their famous guest, and Fred, at the urgent bidding of his cousin, joined on to the very end of the line, thereby managing, eventually, to shake hands with the great man:

Years earlier, of course, Fred had watched the inimitable Laughton in the 1933 film, “The Private Life of Henry VIII”. In common with countless thousands of other cinema goers, he had particularly vivid memories of the greedy king eating a whole chicken with his bare hands, and then throwing bits of meat and bone over his shoulder to the waiting hounds:

Who said that table manners were a thing of the past?

But, please be aware. Restaurants of all types seem to frown on throwing bits of meat and bone over your shoulder, and there are very seldom any waiting hounds to tidy up the mess.

19 Comments

Filed under Africa, History, Humour, Literature, Personal, Science

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Comments

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

What would you do ? (7) The Solution

Here’s the emergency from last time:

And here’s the situation:

So, twenty seconds have already passed, and it’s already a dilly of a space pickle.

The space craft is still floating helplessly after the failure of the atomic motors. The crew have their space suits but they have had very little time to start the repairs to the motors before the alarm suddenly goes off. An extremely large meteorite is approaching them at ten miles a second. The time remaining before impact is less than forty seconds and decisive action is required.

What can the crew do ?

Well, page 2 of “Boys’ World” says that the correct solution is:

“There is only one thing they can do. They re-open both doors of the port airlock, allowing all the air to rush out of the ship. The rushing air acts like a rocket jet in the vacuum of space, and propels the ship away from the meteorite. Later the ship can be re-pressurised from their emergency air cylinders. “

And just to prove it, here’s the slightly blurry page of the comic:

“Why”, said the nine year old Ridley Scott. “What an amazing idea. When I’m a famous Hollywood director, I shall make use of it.”

“Stop daydreaming”, said his mother. “Have you done your paper round, Ridley? And have you done your English homework? That story about that woman on that space rocket?”

One intriguing thought is that Ridley Scott is known to have been a subscriber to “Eagle” comic. Did he used to read “Boys’ World” as well?

19 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Humour, Literature, Personal, Science, Writing

the Supermarine Southampton at Hendon

You don’t always expect to see a flying boat in a museum in London, but the RAF Museum at Hendon has, among many other seaplanes, a Supermarine Southampton, a type which, between the two wars, was an extremely successful aircraft in Royal Air Force service:

The Southampton was designed by the famous R J Mitchell and it immediately brought Mitchell’s name to the fore as an aircraft designer. At the same time, it also gave Supermarine an enormous amount of publicity, affording a much greater chance that their later designs might be approved:

The first 18 examples of the Mark I were made completely of wood. They were delivered in August 1925. The RAF, however, was now beginning to express a growing preference for metal aircraft and when the Mark IIs were delivered, they were made entirely of metal. They were much preferred to the older wooden Southamptons which, from 1929 onwards, were all gradually converted to have metal hulls:


The aircraft was amazingly durable and reliable and each one had an average service life of around eleven years. One source of their fame was a series of long distance formation flights to many different parts of the world. In 1927-1928, the “Far East Flight” travelled from Felixstowe to the Mediterranean and then on to India and Singapore, a total of some 27,000 miles:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The museum aircraft is a Mark I, N9899, from the very first ever batch of Mark Is which were numbered N9896-N9901. It was used by No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight at Calshot in Hampshire. Here’s a general view. Not many aircraft have a ladder. At least, not on the outside.:

On September 7th 1925 the crew had an engine failure just off Wicklow Head in Ireland and had to be towed more than one hundred miles over the sea to Belfast Lough by HMS Calliope. On November 23rd 1928 N9899 was one of three Southamptons moored near Portland when it broke loose from its moorings in a gale and crashed violently into a breakwater. Only its engines were salvageable. In 1929 it was purchased privately so that its fuselage could be used as a houseboat, one of five flying boats to suffer such a fate at this time. N9899 then seems to have been towed to Felixstowe where it remained until the RAF bought it back and began a restoration scheme in the late 1960s.

What struck me about the aircraft was its vast collection of amazing old fashioned rivets and apparently heavy ironwork. Here is a closer view of the hull, revealing just how many rivets are holding the aircraft together. I haven’t bothered to count, but I bet there must be the best part of a couple of thousand. It’s a good job Mitchell’s most famous design, the Spitfire, was not too much like a Southampton!:

Notice the beautiful flowing lines of that tight, superbly graceful, bottom, or perhaps “hull” would be a better word. The museum still has that purple light to stop excessive fading of fragile old colours. I would think that aviation experts will see in the Southampton much of the design that Mitchell took forward to the Walrus.

This photograph shows a view from the rear, with the squadron letters of QN. I have the distinct feeling that every one of those silver metal panels might have a few rivets. The section around the gun turret, above the roundel, certainly does:

Here’s my final view, with the wheels used to bring the aircraft into the museum still in situ. They are not part of the aircraft because the Southampton was a flying boat, rather than an amphibian like the Consolidated PBY Catalina, which had its own undercarriage:

Notice behind the Southampton a Lockheed Hudson of the Royal Australian Air Force. Can you spot the kangaroo? Here’s a better view:

The Japanese used the Southampton as well as the RAF. Here’s a photograph of a modern day Polish construction kit:

I think that “IJNAF” stands for “Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force” (or something very like it.)

 

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, Personal, Science

On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.

24 Comments

Filed under Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Science