Tag Archives: Cologne

Bomber Harris, not a happy man (2)

The inaccuracy of Bomber Command’s raids during the first two or three years of the conflict is one of the main areas examined by author, Roy Irons, in his book, “The Relentless Offensive: War and Bomber Command”.

Reading about the navigational failures of the early war years, it does not come as much of a surprise to the modern reader when Irons reveals that:

“in the first 21 years of the RAF (1918-1939) very little emphasis was put on accurate navigation or bombing accuracy….. In January 1933, of 1,346 junior officers in the RAF, only 38 had taken and passed the ordinary specialist course in navigation”.

He continues: “In 1934, the officer in charge of the Air Defence of Great Britain admitted that:

“the ability of the RAF to fly at night and in all weathers compared unfavourably with Lufthansa who operated a service between Cologne and Croydon”.

Here is Lufthansa’s four engined, streamlined monoplane airliner, the Junkers G38:

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And here is the RAF’s Handley Page Heyford, which looks, quite simply, bizarre. Mr Handley Page will have a prominent place in Roy Irons’ book later on:

In January 1937, a paper was written by a Group Captain Maclean. It was called “The Problem of Bombing at High Speeds” and he concluded that:

“even under conditions of maximum visibility on the clearest days, bombing anything but an area target would be an impossibility, while in conditions of poor visibility and at night, this problem becomes completely impossible.”

The problem was that Bomber Command “needed to see the ground” all the way to the target. If the bombers were going to bomb Dortmund successfully, they needed to watch the countryside unfolding beneath them all the way there if they were to find the city, and that even in daytime.

In 1939, Sir Henry Tizard, the chairman of the Aeronautical Research Committee, recommended the use of a sextant to all Bomber Command aircraft within 10-15 miles of the target, rather like Captain Hornblower against the French. This is not Captain Hornblower, by the way. No, this is Captain Ahab, who always preferred longer skirts as he had a false leg:

Sir Henry Tizard also felt that “nobody could guarantee accurate bombing unless they could see the ground”. Indeed, the results of Bomber Command’s bombing in the war’s early years were horrendous.  Slowly but surely, though, it came to be thought that trying to destroy specific targets was a complete waste of time, and highly trained lives. Accuracy was supposed to be “within 300 yards” of that specific target but a more accurate figure would have been a thousand  yards…more than half a mile.

These Vickers Wellingtons were constructed to high standards, but dropping bombs accurately on the target was not their strong point:

Can any more go wrong ? Well, what do you think ? Part Three very soon.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History

Anthony Richardson : the RAF poet (2)

Anthony Richardson was educated first at Marlborough College and then at Manchester University. Before the war he would publish a good few books, all of them detective novels, historical novels,  fantasy thrillers or what were then called  “bodice rippers”. They were almost what Quentin Tarantino would call “Pulp Fiction”, but without the sexual content. During his lifetime, Richardson probably made more money from his thrillers and detective stories rather than from his books of poetry, but that’s just a guess.

Nowadays the pulp fiction books are quite rare but they are still obtainable, sometimes at a considerable price. Here is “Ransom” (1925). The plot is that a bad boy returns as a success to the school that expelled him and marries the daughter of his former teacher. Note the UFO hovering over the book:

And ”High Silver” (1926):And “The Barbury Witch” (1927):Other books from before the war were “The Transgressor” (1928) “Milord and I “(1930), “City of the Rose” (1933) and “Golden Empire” (1938).

During the war years, Richardson turned to poetry. After the war, though, he went back to popular prose. His books included “Wingless Victory” (1951), “The Rose of Kantara” (1951):

“Crash Kavanagh” (1953):

“Rommel’s Birthday Party” (1956):

“No place to lay my Head” (1957), the tale of a Byelorussian soldier in the German army in WW2:

“One Man and his Dog” (1962):

Richardson must have made quite a bit of money too from two very successful non-fiction books. One was “Nick of Notting Hill: The bearded policeman. The story of Police Constable J. Nixon of the Metropolitan Police”:

The other was “Wingless Victory”, a World War Two prisoner of war escape story:

During the war years, Richardson wrote three books of verse. The first was called “Because of these: Verses of the Royal Air Force” (1942). I bought a copy about a year ago for two or three pounds. My book has the date April 4th 1942 written inside the front cover, presumably the date of purchase. On this date the Luftwaffe attacked the Soviet fleet at Kronstadt but without success. The book itself was bought at Goulden’s of Canterbury for 1/6d or 7½ pence in today’s money. Goulden’s, an important shop in the area, seems to have ceased trading in 1947. Their shop was on the High Street:

Here is what they sold:

I initially selected two poems to look at from this book. You have already met one of them in my first post, “W/OP–A/G Blenheim Mk IV”, and here is the second of the two entitled “There was an air gunner”.

The first four verses describe a man who lives in Devon, a particularly beautiful agricultural county in the south west of England. There are two verses which list “all that yields beauty and blessedness” in his life, which is, at that moment, completely and totally perfect. So much so that he begins to sing in sheer happiness. He sings the traditional Devon folk song “Uncle Tom Cobleigh”, which every child in England learnt until the Rolling Stones arrived in the 1960s to put a stop to all that kind of innocent childishness:

Here are the lyrics.  of Uncle Tom Cobleigh”.  And here is somebody singing them:

The man’s “lusty voice” echoes down the steep Devon valley, but there is also a supernatural note introduced because “There they echo still.” The supernatural idea is developed in the last verse by the fact that the man has had his voice cut short by violent death on a bombing mission to Cologne. Nevertheless, when the sun in spring is bright, the Devon valley now has, in ghostly fashion, “a voice its own”:

Since I picked out the first two, I’ve discovered a few more little gems in “Because of these: Verses of the Royal Air Force” and I will show you them next time.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Literature, Politics, Writing

The Nightingale and Bomber Command

This is a very famous recording of a nightingale singing its little heart out, only to be interrupted by the enormous noise of a large number of Bomber Command aircraft approaching and then flying over. Undaunted, the nightingale carries on with its beautiful song as the bombers leave and the roar of their engines gradually fades away. The recording lasts quite a long time but it is well worth listening to in its entirety, particularly if you have never heard it before. It comes from spud4x:

The recording was made from a garden in Surrey, England during the evening of May 19th 1942 as 197 aircraft flew over on their way to bomb Mannheim. There were 105 Wellingtons, 31 Stirlings, 29 Halifaxes, 15 Hampdens, 13 Lancasters and 4 Manchesters:

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47 men would be killed and 23 would finish up as prisoners of war. Eleven days later would come the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne. And in the woods of England, and indeed Germany, the war would count for very little. The bluebells would be lingering on and the nightingales would be starting to sing.

The nightingale has a very powerful, very famous, but not necessarily hyper distinctive song. On birdwatching trips, I have often seen people listen to a hidden blackcap or garden warbler and walk away happy that they have heard a nightingale. John Keats too, may have been misled. Some critics have mentioned that the bird’s behaviour as Keats describes it, is on occasion not dreadfully nightingaley. But the poetic thoughts are dreadfully, well, poetic:

“Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown”
Perhaps John Clare, of whom I wrote long. long ago, had a better idea:
“See there! she’s sitting on the old oak bough,
Mute in her fears ; our presence doth retard
Her joys, and doubt turns every rapture chill.
Sing on, sweet bird! may no worse hap befall
Thy visions, than the fear that now deceives.”

Anyway, there’s only one nightingale and here it is…

And here’s another version of that BBC recording:

If you’re interested, this is also to be found on Youtube. It is a recording made of a Bomber Command crew on a bombing mission over Germany:

As a fully paid up very sad person, I have two CDs  of this type of thing, bought many years ago from Amazon and I have listened to them many times.

This is the first one and this is the second one. They are particularly good for driving through rush hour traffic on your way to work. Goggles optional.

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

A Good Man doesn’t Stand By (2)

In the late spring of 1934, just as Hitler was consolidating his Nazi hold on the German state, Derby County toured Nazi Germany for a series of friendly matches.  At the time, two years before the Berlin Olympics, many Britons were still blissfully unaware of the political turmoil unfolding in central Europe, and the frightening rise of the Nazi Party and their shamelessly racist attitudes.
The Derby contingent took a train to Dover and then a cross-Channel steamer to Ostend. They dutifully practiced their Seig Heiling and their Heil Hitlering on the boat:

derby practice

They eventually reached the German border to find the swastika emblem flying everywhere they looked:

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The Germans, to a man, worshipped Adolf Hitler. He couldn’t even go out for a football paper on a Saturday night without bringing the place to a complete standstill:

hitler

The four matches which Derby played were all against teams designated as a “German XI”. The Rams lost their first match by 5-2 in Frankfurt but then drew 1-1 in Dortmund. Here are Derby running out at the start of the game. Some of those Hitler salutes could take your eye out if you weren’t ready for them:

running out

Here is a scene thought to be from that game:

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Derby lost by 5-0 in Cologne. We have a picture of the team going for a run to warm up before the match:

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After two defeats at the hands of the Master Race, Derby triumphed in their last game in Dusseldorf by 1-0.

Here is the start of that game:

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On the advice of the Foreign Office, to please Adolf Hitler, all the Derby players had been instructed to give the Nazi salute, with right arms outstretched, just before the start of every single game.

Before his death, at the age of 83 in 1989, Rams full-back George Collin, who was the captain of the Derby County team for the second half of the tour, when full back Tommy Cooper left the party to play for England, recalled how:

“We told the manager, George Jobey, that we didn’t want to do it. He spoke with the directors, but they said that the British ambassador insisted we must.

“He said that the Foreign Office were afraid of causing an international incident if we refused. It would be a snub to Hitler at a time when international relations were so delicate.

“So we did as we were told. All except our goalkeeper, Jack Kirby, that is.”

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Jack Kirby was from old South Derbyshire mining stock and he was adamant that when the players were asked to perform the Nazi salute, he, quite simply, would not do it:

“When the time came, he just kept his arm down and almost turned his back on the dignitaries. At the time nobody really noticed and nothing was said. It was only years later, with hindsight, that we can see what he is doing on the photograph. He is a lot better known for it now.”

There is, in actual fact, a famous photograph taken just before one of the matches which proves this very point. Jack Kirby, looks down the Derby County line up with utter disdain. His hands are firmly by his sides, and he looks rather embarrassed. He clearly does not know where to put himself, as he waits for the imminent start of the match. His ten white shirted colleagues all duly salute the Führer.

So Hitler went unheiled by at least one Englishman. And at least one Seig would remain equally unheiled:

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And here is Jack the Hero anti-Nazi Fighter in close up:

derby nazi closer

Jack Kirby may have been a rather lackadaisical character to be the goalkeeper of a top First Division team, but he was not slow to stand out from the rest. He was not slow to make sure that he would not be the good man who did nothing and let evil prosper. He refused adamantly to kowtow to the Fascist bully-boys:

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Jack Kirby left Derby County in August 1938 he became player-manager of Folkestone Town, a position he held until August 1939. And then war broke out.

And million upon million of innocent people were slaughtered. Many of them children. How different it might have been if one or two people with real power had done something when they had the chance and not just stood idly by, giving evil the chance to prosper.

Never again.

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Filed under Criminology, Derby County, Football, History, Politics