Tag Archives: Soviet Union

The place where I grew up (5)

After Smart’s wool and dress shop, the next shop was Burton’s Stores, which sold food and general groceries. As a little boy, of course, I did not realise that this was just one shop in a chain of many hundreds, stretching across most of the East Midlands, and in particular, the area around Nottingham. Still less did I anticipate the fact that one day, I would spend my entire working life in the school where the founder of the firm, Frank Burton, had received his education, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Here he is, ten minutes after he won the Gold Award in “Waxed Moustache Magazine” for December 1886:

Here’s Burton’s Stores today:

Just past Burton’s Stores was Shepherd’s the Chemists where, one day in the late 1950s, I was treated for the severe forehead cut which I suffered when I fell over on the pavement outside the shop, near the bus stop. Here’s the Chemists today:

Conceptually, the last business in the High Street was the Post Office which was just past the chemist’s. It was run by Ernie Chell and many is the First Day Cover I purchased from him over the years of the late 1960s and 1970s. Here is a first day cover from the early 1960s:

And here is the Post Office today, its presence in this rapidly decaying village guaranteed by government hand-outs, as was recently revealed in the local newspaper:

Next to the Post Office was the motorbike shop, which we as little boys always thought was the home of the Woodville Chapter of the Derbyshire Hell’s Angels. Now its changed its orientation and is home to “Chaps” and “Swishhh”:

Opposite was Dytham’s Dairy, which delivered milk to most of the area. Now it is home to “Timber Town Trophies whose opening hours are on their website“:

Beyond that on the right was the road which led up to the Infants’ School and to Woodville Secondary Modern, the destination, alas, of so many young people of the village over the years.  More striking, though, before its demolition in the late 1950s, was the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Church, which, in the vision of a five or six year old boy, towered as high as a medieval cathedral. Like the products of so many of the local pipe works, it was of a dark, reddish brown, made of bricks which may well themselves have had a partially glazed surface:

Beyond this was Leese’s furniture shop, which, despite its distant location at the top end of High Street, survived as a business for many years after I left the village.

Here is the shop today. Closed at 11 o’clock in the morning:

I was simply amazed at the economic desolation of Woodville today. So many shops were derelict. Presumably that is why everybody voted for Brexit. It was hoped that this gesture would be a punch on the nose of our politicians who have allowed the life of the ordinary working man in the north and Midlands to degenerate to an unacceptable standard. He no longer has any pride in what he does, and that is wrong.

I suppose the slogan will have to be “Let’s make Woodville great again”. Or at the very least, nice to live in.

One feature of life in the 1950s which has disappeared for ever from Woodville, and indeed from the whole of the rest of the country, was what used to happen at the end of every single working day, as all the factories closed down at five o’clock in the late afternoon.

Every single works, every single factory, had its own siren or hooter which would be sounded loudly in the still calm of the evening. From my Dad’s own back garden, he would have been able to hear perhaps as many as ten different factories closing down for the day, one after another.

Each hooter had its own distinctive note, and this, coupled with the direction the noise was coming from, meant that, with practice, every single one could be identified. Every night too, they would sound in the same order, a few seconds apart, and it was therefore possible to anticipate Outram’s, say, or Knowles’s or Wragg’s, all finishing work for the day.

Pretty much the same thing used to happen at the end of every lunch hour, as the managers and owners tried to bring their tired staff back for the afternoon. This was always less impressive, however, as invariably, the end of the midday break was always slightly different by at least a few minutes for every single factory.

I could only find a single factory hooter on Youtube. Listen from one minute onward:

Youtube also features the really unusual work of composer Arseny Avramov who created both a “Symphony Of Factory Sirens” and a second “Symphony of Industrial Horns” in 1922, using the various factory hooters of Baku in what was then the Soviet Union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Card Carrying Commies (3)

Last time, we were looking at the Communist Party membership cards carried by all of those Commies we have spent so much of our tax revenues trying to oppose. They all carried a little booklet:

The pretty young thing in the first booklet was called Aleesa. Here’s the second booklet we are going to look at. This is the top half of the identification page:

The surname of this gentleman is  “Artim”.  Look at the printed word “familiya”, with the Greek ‘Phi’. It means ‘surname’. His actual surname is handwritten which is a different alphabet and is best left for now. On the second line, his personal name is Vladimir with eight handwritten letters. It begins with a non-Greek letter which equals our “V” but then there is Lambda-Alpha as Letters No 2 and 3, and the word also ends with Rho as Letter  No 8.  The next line gives his patronymic, based on his father’s name. The first five letters show that Dear Old Comrade Dad was Vasili. Vladimir was born in 1933 on Line 4 and joined the Party in (March) 1967 on Line 5. He too comes from Lvov in the Ukraine.

Here’s his details in the Ukrainian version. Given that his Party number is 14,773,494 and Aleesa’s was 11,286,415, that means the Party acquired 3,487,079 new people in three years. I don’t know about the Democrats and the Republicans but it’s certainly a lot better recruitment than the Conservatives or Labour have ever managed in England:

As you can see, Ukrainian is only a little bit different although it is definitely a separate language rather than just a dialect of Russian. It’s perhaps like the difference between, say, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, or maybe, Portuguese and Spanish.

Here is the bottom half of the page:

The bit above the photo refers to the issuing authority which is near Lvov in the Ukraine (now Lviv). His party membership book was issued on April 26th 1974 (bottom line).

I like Vladimir. He looks exactly the sort of bloke to have with you if you were a landlord and one of your tenants  was a day late with the rent. When I went to the Soviet Union in 1969 on a school trip,  we used to go out on our own in the evenings. Quite frequently we would be followed by KGB men who were not at all subtle about what they were doing.  Just imagine Vladimir in an over sized 1950s double breasted pale grey pin stripe suit and that’s them! Apparently, the KGB wanted to make sure most of all that we were not visiting churches to make contact with the Christian underground. We weren’t.  Here’s one of their student-agents of the time:

 

 

 

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Card Carrying Commies (1)

During the days of the Soviet Union, people frequently joined the Communist Party mainly by reason of their political beliefs or for career advancement. It must have been like joining the Church of England or being a Freemason or buying your way into a top university like Oxford or Cambridge. It was not compulsory, but entirely by coincidence, everybody in the top jobs had done it.
Communist Party members had a booklet to prove their membership, pocket sized at 11 cm by 8 cm. Now that the Evil Empire has collapsed (the Soviet Union, not the Church of England or the Freemasons) you can buy old ones which belonged to previous Party members on ebay. Here is one of the job lot of 10 that I bought years ago. I only paid £3 each so I’m already making a profit from the deal if you have a look at current prices:

The lettering is in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet which is based on Ancient Greek. Here is the Greek alphabet, beloved of mathematicians and physicists, and ancient Greeks, presumably:

The top four words of the red cover of the booklet mean “Proletarians of all countries, unite”. You might recognise the “Pi-Rho-Omicron-Lambda” of the first word. Here is Marx’s phrase printed more clearly:

The second version of the Communist mission statement above is in Ukrainian because, as you will see, both of the Party members in these blog posts are from the Ukraine. Ukrainian is slightly different from Russian. You can always recognise Ukrainian because it has the letters  “ i ” and “ ï ”.

This means “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

You might recognise the “Kappa-Omicron-Mu-Mu” of the first word. Soviet Union begins with the non-Greek letter ‘C’ which is our letter ‘S’. You will have seen it perhaps on ice hockey players with their CCCP letters.

The abbreviation at the bottom is “ц-K” which stands for “Central Committee”. “ц” is a non Greek letter which means “ts” as in “bits”. “KПCC” is again “Communist Party (of the) Soviet Union”.

The first page on the inside has some bald bloke on it:

His autograph is at the end, “Ulyanov (Lenin)”. The quote, again with lots of Greek letters, is “(The) Party (is the) Intellect, Honour and Conscience (of) Our Epoch”. The words in brackets are not in the text. Russian does not normally have “the” “a” or “is, are”.

More from “Know your Enemy” next time.

 

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Two strange graves

Wandering around Penzance Cemetery looking for the graves of three Luftwaffe bomber crew members, I soon found the War Graves Section of the cemetery.

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Of the 110 identified casualties, two stood out from the rest for very different reasons. The first is a war grave of an extremely strange and unusual political background, coupled with a puzzling discrepancy over dates.
According to his grave, Sapper William Ormerod (1903548) of the 661st General Construction Company of the Royal Engineers died on June 17th 1941.

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William was born in Manchester and had lived in London. As Sapper Ormerod, he was a British Volunteer in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and was killed in action fighting against the Soviet Red Army in Finland.

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Sapper Ormerod was initially buried in Karelia, but at some point his remains were returned to England. This lengthy delay is presumably the reason that the date of death on his grave in Penzance is listed as June 17th 1941, when there is much evidence to support the idea that he was actually killed in the previous year. But neither is a death date of June 17th 1940 particularly likely either, given that the Winter War ended with the Peace of Moscow,  a treaty which was signed on March 12th 1940. Perhaps Sapper Ormerod was initially injured in combat, and then died of his wounds.

The Soviet Union, of course, were our allies for the vast majority of the Second World War. Before Hitler’s surprise attack on Russia, however, the Soviets, having signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939, the so-called Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, were considered by the British to be an ally of Nazi Germany.

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For this reason, when the Soviets attacked Finland on November 30th 1939, the gallant Finns were considered to be our allies. Presumably, this was the reason that men such as Sapper William Ormerod went out there to fight and in some cases, to make the supreme sacrifice. The great ironies of war were re-established, of course on June 22nd 1941, Operation Barbarossa, when Hitler attacked his erstwhile ally. The Soviet Union then immediately ceased to be a bunch of Commies and became our true and most wonderful of friends. The gallant little Finns became our treacherous, despicable enemies. Too late alas, for William Ormerod.

A second war grave in Penzance Cemetery is unusual for a very different reason. It is the grave of John Ostrich.

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John was a member of the Merchant Navy and served as a Mess Room Boy. He was aged only fourteen years and 344 days old at the time of his death. John was the son of Louis and Nancy Ostrich of Canton in Cardiff, and was a member of the crew of the S.S. Margo, a cargo ship registered in Cardiff, with a weight of 1,412 tons.

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John was killed on March 8th 1941. This account comes from a Merchant Navy Message Board and was written by a guest who signed in with the name of “SIF9HD8”. I hope he will not mind my quoting his words…

“On the afternoon of the March 8, 1941, sailing in the English Channel, the Margo came under attack from three German aircraft who proceeded to rake the ship with machine gun, cannon fire and bombs. Although no bombs or explosives hit the Margo, the ship was violently shaken by the concussion of the near misses and her hull and superstructure were pierced by cannon and machine gun fire. Crew members returned fire with small calibre weapons onboard the Margo, and in the process hit one of the aircraft, which was subsequently seen to break off the attack and black smoke was observed coming from the starboard engine. The remaining aircraft continued their attacks for several more minutes, which was eventually broken off and the aircraft disappeared over the horizon. While assessing the ship’s damage, it was found four crew had suffered various injuries and the young Mess Room Boy lay dead. A course was then set for Penzance to land the wounded and the dead”.

At the tender age of fourteen, John Ostrich was one of the youngest casualties of the Second World War. I found another part of the story on the Internet….

“Archie Richards, a former serviceman with the Royal Navy, who notified the local; newspaper, “The Cornishman” of the grave, said: “I don’t want this to be a competition for who has the youngest war dead. I just want to let people know that a 14-year-old died for his country and lies here.” His final resting place is sited across a path from other war graves, meaning John Ostrich is separated from fallen comrades . Mr Richards added: “I also hope that maybe a family member might come across this and want to visit the grave”.

For years,  the Royal Navy Association had held a service at the war memorial in Penzance cemetery and members had wondered about this boy. Recent government acknowledgement now allows Merchant Navy veterans to stand alongside armed forces personnel and their efforts and achievements in time of war have been recognised as an important part in winning the war.”

A book “They Shall Grow Not Old” by Billy McGee is dedicated to more than 500 boys aged under 16 who died in service with the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. It is only available from the author who can be contacted on “billy1963@ntlworld.com”

The Margo herself had a very long and complex history. Just one screen capture hardly does it justice.

Capture

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What more does Afghanistan want?

A recent report on the financial help given to Afghanistan by the United States was recently presented to Congress. In summary, apparently more money has now been spent on rebuilding Afghanistan than the entire cost of helping Europe to rise from the ruins of the Second World War.

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In 1948-1952, the then US Secretary of State, George Marshall, launched his famous Marshall Plan ($61 billion today) to help reenergise not just one, but sixteen different European countries. Money was even offered to the Soviet Union and its allies, but they refused it.
250px-US-MarshallPlanAid-Logo_svgNearly sixty years later, Aghan corruption and waste have now pushed the price of reconstruction of that one single country to more than $62 billion, thus exceeding the amount the USA provided for Europe under the Marshall plan.
Despite all this cash spent in Afghanistan, the country remains in what appears to be almost permanent and insoluble political crisis and may well remain dependent on hand-outs for years to come, even though British and other foreign troops prepare to withdraw at the end of the year.
Development projects meant to provide Afghans with a sound structural foundation have cost American taxpayers $61.5 billion, but John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that…

“The majority of the projects seen were hampered by poor planning, shoddy construction, mechanical failures and inadequate oversight. Billions were spent on ill-fated agricultural and infrastructure projects that failed to take into account Afghanistan’s culture. More than £2 billion was spent on improving the Afghan police, yet tens of thousands of ghost officers collect their pay, but never turn up for work. Nearly half of the 747,000 firearms provided for Afghan security forces at a cost of £372 million have vanished. The annual cost of maintaining Afghans police and military is likely to be double what the country collects in tax revenue.”

Well, poor old Afghanistan.
What more help do they need?
What else do we have to give them?
Have we not given enough?

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The whole situation is so very reminiscent of a previous involvement of the USA in Asia, now almost fifty years ago. This time, the American forces are helped by their many allies, but the situation is not so very different. They are fighting a frequently invisible foe, on behalf of people who may well not be worth fighting for.

It may not quite be a case of “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” but so often it seems like that…

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