Saturday Time-Out

Enjoy these from a friend of mine in Indiana.

A Trivial Mind At Work

Some dry humor for your Saturday…

  1. The first time I got a universal remote control I thought to myself, “This changes everything”.
  2. I refused to believe my road worker father was stealing from his job, but when I got home all the signs were there.
  3. I recently decided to sell my vacuum cleaner as all it was doing was gathering dust.
  4. Don’t you hate it when someone answers their own questions? I do.
  5. As I watched the dog chasing his tail I thought “Dogs are easily amused”, then I realized I was watching the dog chasing his tail.
  6. Gambling addiction hotlines would do so much better if every fifth caller was a winner.
  7. Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.
  8. To the man on crutches, dressed in camouflage, who stole my wallet – you can hide, but you can’t run.
  9. Velcro – what a rip-off!
  10. My friend…

View original post 63 more words



Filed under Uncategorized

Nina Potapova: a woman I cannot forget (2)

Last time I was talking about the lovely artwork in a book which had intrigued me as a 9 year old. It was:

It has some beautiful pen and ink drawings. This is Moscow University in Moscow. The winning quiz question, of course, is “What is the name of the river in Moscow?”

Here is the Moscow Hotel, built in the old Stalinist style:

Here is a football match in Moscow. Defending the goal is Moscow Spartak and attacking is Moscow Dynamo, team of the great Lev Yashin, the ‘Black Octopus’:

Other sketches are just of everyday events Here is the seaside. Don’t miss the seven nuclear submarines. The crews spent days camouflaging them:

Here are two siblings, one is playing tennis despite her legs being drawn straight with a ruler while her brother is swimming away through a sea of oil after his submarine collided with one of the other six. That’s just one of the risks of high quality camouflage:

Here’s winter. Can you see Bigfoot sitting thoughtfully in front of the trees on the right?:

A nice picture of a table set for a meal. Note the traditional vodka in the tiny glasses although the bottle seems to be missing:

Lastly a bomber flies slowly over its target which appears to be some kind of factory. Surely the starboard propeller is about to cut the wing off ?

But who was Nina Potapova?

A beautiful slip of a girl when she got married:

She had all the usual hobbies:

She fought the Germans in the war:

She was always jealous of her husband, Frank, who always received more medals than she did. He was in the Red Fleet, the Commander of seven nuclear submarines. Note the KGB man behind him:

But that was all years ago. Nowadays, Nina is just famous as the mother of a successful Olympic weightlifter, Frank junior:


Filed under History, Humour, Personal

The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 2

Last time I mentioned the ways in which boys used to come to Nottingham High School before the cossetted era of luxury cars, luxury trams and luxury city buses. They walked. They cycled. They came in Papa’s carriage.

But there were other methods too. Just look at this photograph of the school piling out of the North Entrance at top speed at 4 o’clock and 30 seconds in  1947 or perhaps 1952 or even 1957 :

In other words, I don’t know the exact date. Here is the view from inside the yard in 1932. As far as I know, both pillars of the gate have now been replaced. Years back, a bone headed lorry driver backed his bone headed lorry into the left pillar and down it came. The other pillar, I believe may also have been replaced, perhaps for a similar reason:

And here is the view, outside the gates, on Forest Road in 1932. Look at the spindly trees…

Hopefully, during these periods of building work, the graffitti from the early 1940s is still there. The link will take you to what I wrote about them a little while back:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve managed to enlarge sections of the original photograph of all those boys, all eager to get home to see if Dad has bought a television yet. This is the left hand side:

Notice how all the boys are wearing their caps, presumably all of them black with the lozenge of Dame Agnes Mellers attached. I did do some posts a while back examining the truth of the idea that the school badge is the coat of arms of the Mellers family.  Needless to say, my ideas were different from what you might have expected. Just take a look if you have the time.

Anyway, if you’ve seen the caps, don’t miss those old black and white scarves, no doubt obtainable only from one retail outlet at a rather inflated price. Back in 1932, somebody drew and painted the permutations of ties. Here is the top half of the drawing, with thin yellow stripes for the Colours tie, awarded to those who had represented the School at sport:

And the bottom half. I believe that purple is the extra colour of these ties, worn by the Old Nottinghamians :

Now the boy on the bicycle. What’s he carrying in his right hand? Is he riding a Raleigh bike? I’m no expert but I think he’s got one of those front lights that is powered by pedalling the bicycle. And look at his huge hands, clad in those heavy knitted gloves of yesteryear, eminently suitable for wearing while digging an Avro Lancaster out of deep snow:

And what is the boy behind him wearing? A coat which appears to be striped in a rather strange fashion. Perhaps he was an expert in some field and he has a special garment to prove it. He does look a little young to have School Colours, though. And the boys’ faces. The thin faced little chap on the right, looking so, so worried. He won’t lose that look of terror until he’s got home and done his homework.

Now look at the right hand side:

This part of the photograph shows the star of the show. He looks so very young to be a motor cycle rider. But at least he has the equipment. The voluminous mackintosh, pulled tight with a plastic buckle. The collar turned up like Eric Cantona. No crash helmet though. Nor for the young gentleman on his left, sitting on what must surely be some kind of moped, unless, of course, it’s one of those Hell’s Angels Easy Rider motorbikes with huge handlebars. But how will his cap stay on? Especially if he can reach 28 mph again on some steep hill. He is wearing what almost looks like the little boy’s version of the motorcyclist’s gloves, but not as hard or stiff. And why has the boy standing behind them got a black and white hooped tie? If he is wearing a Junior School tie, then why has nobody else got the same thing?
And finally, the back of the crowd:

All those different expressions. All those different angles to wear a cap. Boys climbing the gate. And behind all of them, the windows of the Assembly Hall, dare I say it? Wreathed in smog. It’s certainly a day in late autumn because of the top coats and the scarves and the gloves. But it’s not so far into December or January that it’s dark. Any more conclusions gratefully received.


Filed under History, Nottingham, The High School

The Luckiest Man in the World (4)

Flight Sergeant Thomas Weightman, as we have seen, survived the crash at Dilhorne described in my last post The Luckiest Man in the World (3). Tom is listed as an Air Gunner. I suspect that he was the tail gunner and that is why he was not killed. The impact he had to endure was much less forceful at the back of the aircraft. Furthermore, he was further from any fire than the rest of the crew. And so, he survived. By this time he must have felt that he was extremely lucky. Perhaps he even experienced “survivor guilt”:

Let’s finish on a positive note. And one that explains the title of the post. After his fortunate escape, Tom Weightman joined 644 Squadron who flew Halifaxes and transported supplies for Special Operations Executive operatives, usually to Norway and Denmark:

On April 23rd 1945, probably without the dog, Tom flew off to Scandinavia in a Halifax Mark VII, serial number NA337, squadron letters 2P-X. It was Operation Crop 17, tasked with supplying the Norwegian resistance, the Ling, with 13 containers and 2 packages containing rifles, food, and clothes. These were successfully dropped but the aircraft flew off course by accident and was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. The pilot had to land somewhere, so he ditched the stricken plane in Lake Mjøsa which was the only flat area around:

The dinghy should have deployed automatically but it failed to do so. I presume that the members of the crew, as the cold, cold waters rose around them, must have decided to try to swim to shore. They could not have known that this was the largest lake in Norway. Alas, they all died from hypothermia. Flight Engineer Goronwy Amman Bassett (34) from Swansea. Wireless Operator Alec Naylor (22) from Oakenshaw in Yorkshire. Navigator Walter Reginald Mitchell (23) from East Dulwich in London. Bomb Aimer Gordon Russell Tuckett (23) from Cardiff and Pilot Alexander Turnbull (27) from Edinburgh.

The Tail Gunner and “The RAF’s Luckiest Man”, Tom Weightman, meanwhile, had by now recovered consciousness after being knocked out by the impact of the aircraft hitting the surface of the lake. He awakened to find all of his colleagues had gone. Water was still rising inside the Halifax so he climbed out through the upper escape hatch and walked out onto the wing. The dinghy was still in its special cupboard in the wing so he climbed back into the aircraft and released it manually with a winch. He then set off paddling across the cold waters of the lake trying to find the rest of his crew. This is the only picture I could find of a deployed dinghy:

There were no replies, though, to Tom’s shouts and it was far too dark to see anybody in the ice cold water. When it got light, the locals found Thomas in his dinghy and looked after him and made sure he was in good health. And then, quite rightly, they handed him over to the German Army because they feared, quite rightly, appalling reprisals to their families if they harboured an RAF flyer. And after just 14 days of captivity, the war ended and Tom Weightman was a free man. He was to have 62 more years of life than his colleagues in the 644 Squadron Halifax and 63 more years of life than Jack Sweeney.

Even his plane was lucky. It lay sleeping peacefully at the bottom of the lake for 50 years. And then somebody’s sonar turned up a very strange fish:

And then the Halifax Aircraft Association dived down, found it, rescued it, restored it in magnificent fashion, took it to the RCAF Memorial Museum at Trenton in Ontario and there it remains to this very day. If you ever manage to see it, make sure you look carefully at the rear turret and wonder what made the man in it so special.:

The Norwegian lake is still there. In winter it freezes over and recently it played host to some of the events in the Winter Olympics:

I could not have written this blog post without recourse to this website.





Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

The High School Hell’s Angels, Chapter 1

Most Nottingham High School pupils nowadays arrive by car, of course, or perhaps by bus, usually, either a special school bus or a Nottingham City bus.  We even have our own advertisements on one bus:

A few boys come by bicycle, a few come on the tram, a few walk and, I suppose, there must be some who arrive by train.
In years gone by, that was by no means the case. In the late 19th century, lots of boys lived on the other side of the Forest, or along Forest Road West, in the Alfreton Road area or even in the streets between the school and Shakespeare Street. They all walked in to school, which is indicated by the orange arrow. All the streets mentioned are on the map:

In the early 20th century, many boys lived in the Mapperley Park area and they arrived either by bicycle or on foot. And as Nottingham grew in the 1920s and 1930s, boys started to arrive in bigger numbers from expanding suburban areas such as West Bridgford. And in the 1940s and the 1950s, they began to arrive in greater numbers from more distant areas such as Arnold and Burton Joyce. They are both on the map, and the orange arrow points to the High School:

Before 1876, lots of boys are recorded as “Donation No x” which may refer to money which was given by a single well-wisher. The earliest, “Donation No 1 by Swann” (sic), was given to Haywood White Buller, who was born in July 1857, the son of a Hosier from 8 Addison Villas in Eastwood. The first ever actual scholar as far as I can see was a “Caup Scholar” (sic) although I don’t really understand what this was. He was Arthur John Cresswell, born in 1865, of 19 Harrington Street. His father was a Warehouseman.  Arthur entered the High School in May 1876, two months before General Custer came an unlucky second in his struggles with the Lakota:

Soon local councils were happy to provide help. Boys might be Derbyshire County Council Scholars, Nottinghamshire County Council Scholars or Nottingham City Scholars. The most famous was young David Herbert Lawrence whose father worked as a coalminer. Here he is in the Fifth Form:

DH Lawrence, though, was not the first miner’s son to come to the High School. That was Fred Cook, the son of Thomas Cook of 48 Watnall Road, Hucknall Torkard, the old name, I believe, for Hucknall. He entered the School on September 15th 1897 at the age of 13. And after him came David Herbert Lawrence, the School’s greatest author.  And then William Dunn in 1901, from New Brinsley in Eastwood. Then Willis Walker from Selston on the same day as William Dunn. John Thomas Moult in 1905 from 100 Derbyshire Lane, Hucknall Torkard. In July 1907 it was William Hutchinson from 7, Old Church Street in Old Lenton. In September 1907 it was William Ernest Thomas of 8 Glebe Street in Hucknall Torkard. A year later, the appropriately named Cyril Coleman from 34 York Street in Hucknall Torkard. Three more miners were to follow before the outbreak of the First World War:

There are no more coal miners in England now, of course. And during that period of 1897-1914 there were many High School fathers who had jobs which have become equally infrequent in our modern world. There were blacksmiths, bleachers, cheese factors, cork cutters, dairymen, filers, hosiery packers, farm labourers, framesmiths, hatters, goods guards on the trains and, most mysterious of all, “twisthands”. In actual fact, they were operators of lace machines. Here is the School in that period:

And as the years went by, the catchment area of the school began to resemble that of today. In other words, boys, and girls, from all over the county and the nearer parts of neighbouring counties. I worked at the High School for almost 40 years and the longest journeys to school I remember were in 1976 or 1977 when I helped Mr Padwick on the French Exchange to Rodez, and we were taking the French boys to see the splendours of the Blue John Mines near Castleton in north Derbyshire. One of the English boys’ mothers said that they would bring little Jean-Pierre to meet us as they lived more or less next door to the mine:

In the middle 1980s I had a boy in my tutor set who lived on the far side of Lincoln where his Dad owned a pig farm. He got up at 5.00 am and his mother took him by car to meet the school bus setting off from Newark to the High School.

And DH Lawrence used to complain about the travelling.


Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

Nina Potapova: a woman I cannot forget (1)

When I was about eight or nine, I was intrigued by a book in our local library in South Derbyshire:

Last year I bought a second hand copy off the Internet. A book from Bangor in north west Wales. Probably the very book used to learn Russian by the defector (or is he a defector?), Richard Burton, in “The Spy who came in from the Cold”. Still, at least I learned the Welsh for ‘stock’:

I was intrigued by the copperplate Russian alphabet. Here’s the first 16 letters. :

There are 33 altogether because our ‘ch’ or ‘sh’ or ‘ts’ are single letters in Russian. Here’s the full 33 from Wikicommie:

With Nina, I loved the artwork:

And here’s the text. It looks childish and moronic, but not if you’re in MI6. If you are in Moscow and ask the right person the question “Is the house there?” and they replied “Yes, the bridge is here.” you got to spend the night with Ursula Andress:

Here is Moscow. The Moscow Kremlin to be precise:

And here’s Leningrad. For me, some things will never change:

That’s all for now. I have people to meet in a park near Helsinki. Please excuse the uneven shapes of some of the pictures. They were taken under difficult circumstances, using a MasterSpy Mark 4 Nasal Camera in a small stoc cupboard in Bangor Library at 3.00 in the morning.

In ze meantime,    До свидания




Filed under History, Humour, Personal, Russia

The Luckiest Man in the World (3)

In a previous post, I told in the barest of details how Jack Sweeney was killed in an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mark V when he took off from RAF Tilstock on January 31st 1944:

During my researches I found a video on the Internet, uploaded by someone called “1tothirtysix”, which is an interesting walk around the crash site and puts together all the various details to produce a coherent account of what occurred.

In March 1989, the land was still owned by the farmer at the time of the accident, Mr Challenor. He could remember coming to the crash site immediately after the impact, which took place around 8.30 in the morning. He found a sheet which obviously covered a body, and lifted it to see the blackened and burnt features of one of the aircrew. There was one survivor, Flight Sergeant Thomas Weightman who made his way along the hedge and then downwards to the mine which was operating then, although is now closed down. This is Foxfield Colliery which may be the mine referred to in the account. The tower like structure is modern:

Once Flight Sergeant Weightman told the miners the news, they raised the alarm, although it was far too late by now. Indeed, the three other crew members were already dead even as Weightman climbed out of the crashed aeroplane. The bomber had first hit high up on the hill, half way between the two woods near the mine. Having hit this field near a pond, the aircraft careered across it, then smashed through a hedge and skidded, nose first, down the very, very steep slope to the good sized stream at the bottom. The Whitley finally came to a stop, smashed to smithereens with its nose almost in the water. The three dead crew members were still on board and when fire broke out, the bodies were all burned to a greater or lesser extent. This is a crashed Whitley:

There were, of course, many, many crashes in this North Midlands area. The aircraft were extremely varied with 7 Wellingtons, 3 Whitleys, 2 Blenheims and 2 Halifaxes, but also 4 Thunderbolt P-47s, and single B-17s, Martin Baltimores, Fairey Battles and Armstrong Whitworth Albemarles. A majority of the aircraft were operated by either 27 OTU or 42 OTU. Here is an Albemarle:

And here is a Martin Baltimore, used widely in North Africa and very popular with its crews:

Jack Sweeney was killed in January 1944. A brief look at all the OTUs in Britain during this month  reveals that every single fatality listed came in Wellingtons, a sorry state of affairs…January 1st (1 dead), January 2nd (6 dead), 3rd (7), 4th (5), 9th (2), 11th (5), 17th (2), 20th (5), 21st (10), 23rd (6), 24th (3), 25th(6), 27th (16), 29th (4), 30th (7).

After leaving an OTU, the next step for everybody was an HCU, a Heavy Conversion Unit. Here, trainees tried their hand at four engined bombers, usually Stirlings and Halifaxes. The deaths in January 1944 were, in Halifaxes… January 3rd (7 dead), January 10th (7 dead), 13th (6), 18th (6), 21st (7), 22nd (3), 23rd (9) and the 31st (6). In Stirlings, it was January 4th (5 dead), 14th (8), 20th (14), 21st (2), 26th (8), 29th (8) and 31st (5).

Quite a toll. In the OTUs, in just one month in 1944, a total of 85 men died.

In the HCUs, a total of 51 died in Halifaxes and 50 in Stirlings.

Not that far short of 200 dead without ever seeing a German.

A couple of pictures will show you why so many were killed. Here is a crashed Halifax:

And here is a crashed Stirling:

After further research, I was also surprised to see that Dilhorne where Jack Sweeney crashed was pretty much the local “Magnet of Death”, surrounded by higher ground and relatively close to a number of OTU airfields.

On January 30th 1943, a Wellington, R1538 of 28 OTU, crashed there after leaving RAF Wymeswold near Loughborough. Sergeant Thomas Butterly from Portsmouth and Sergeant Allan Priest from Reading were killed. On March 27th 1953, a jet bomber crashed at Dilhorne. It was a Canberra WH669 of No 10 Squadron. This resulted in the death of the Pilot, Flying Officer Patrick Esmond Reeve, the Navigator / Plotter, Pilot Officer John Golden Woods and the Navigator / (Set Operator), Vivian Owen.

Here’s a Canberra:

Who died with Jack Sweeney?
Well, Flying Officer John Frederick Cusworth was the Navigator. He was the son of Harry Cusworth and Clara Cusworth, born in 1912 at North Bierley in the West Riding, 2 miles south east of Bradford. After a few years, the family moved to Pudsey, a market town now incorporated into the City of Leeds. John was 31 years of age and he was married to Grace Edna Bowen at Strood in Kent in 1940. The couple lived in Pudsey. John was cremated and his sacrifice is commemorated at Leeds (Lawnswood) Crematorium along with 73 others. His name is just visible on this side of the special column:

Sergeant George Victor Bourne was the Bomb Aimer. He was the son of Albert Ernest Bourne and Maude Penelope Bourne from East Ham in the London Borough of Newham. East Ham is right next to West Ham. George was only 21. Did he go to the football? Did he shout “Up the ‘ammers!!” every fortnight? Like John Cusworth, he would have had a strong accent. Did they joke to each other about the way they talked? George was buried close to the airfield, at Whitchurch, a small town in Shropshire near the Welsh border. There are 14 other Commonwealth casualties buried there, but also 52 Poles and Czechs because the No 4 Polish General Hospital was at Iscoyal Park, four miles to the west. This is the West Ham United badge:

Andrew Harkes Robertson was the Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner. He was 30 years old. He was the son of George Robertson and Lizzie Robertson from Edinburgh. Andrew was buried in Inveresk Parish Churchyard. Inveresk is a small village in East Lothian to the south of Musselburgh. It is so pretty that it has been a conservation area for the last 50 years or so. There are 72 casualties buried in the churchyard at St.Michael’s Church. Here it is:

Flight Sergeant Thomas Weightman, as we have seen, survived his crash. I will tell you about him next time. He is the man who has given me the title of this series of blog posts. You will find out exactly why next time.

I could not have written these posts without help from here and here and here.





Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History