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The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume I, 1887-1909

As well as John Francis Haseldine, another High School footballer has carved his initials on the stone mantelpiece of the ground floor fireplace between the General Office and the entrance to the Assembly Hall. This footballing vandal is “F.C.Mahin”.

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Frank Cadle Mahin is one of the most interesting of the school’s pupils. He was born on May 27th 1887, in Clinton, Iowa, the son of Frank W. Mahin, who was a retired United States Consular Officer at the time. Frank W. had graduated from Harvard University in 1877. Frank C.’s mother was Abbie Anna Cadle, who was born in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1857 to Cornelius Cadle and Ruth Lamprey.
This was Abbie’s second marriage. She had previously been married to Frank Mann with whom she had one child. With her second husband, Frank W., she had two more children, Frank C., and a daughter, Anna, who was born in 1880.

Anna was to meet a young English doctor during the family’s stay in Nottingham, and she remained with him after her parents eventually left England for Amsterdam in Holland. I have been unable to trace Anna’s husband’s surname, although he was to become Frank’s Uncle Alec. As an Englishman, Alec was to fight in the Great War well before Frank and his fellow Americans became involved in the hostilities. Alec was certainly in combat as early as 1915, and I believe that he survived the conflict. The year of Anna’s death has not been recorded. Her mother, Abbie, died in 1941 at the age of 84.

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Frank Cadle Mahin entered the High School on September 15th 1902, at the age of fifteen. The Mahin family lived at 7, Sherwood Rise, on the opposite side of the Forest Recreation Ground from the High School. His father was by now the United States Consul in Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

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Despite a comparatively short stay at the High School, Frank Junior seems to have been an accomplished sportsman, and appeared for the First XI at football in a fixture against Loughborough Grammar School on Wednesday, October 25th 1904 at Mapperley Park. The High School began very slowly and had quite a fright before they eventually ran out victors by 4-1. The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, S.D.M.Horner, R.B.Wray, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.
Frank played a second match on the afternoon of Saturday, December 3rd 1904. Again, it was at Mapperley Park against Notts. Magdala F.C. 2nd XI. The game finished in a 1-3 away win as:

“a weakened team, who ought really to have won, but did not play as well as they might have, against opponents who themselves were rather poor.”

This time the team was  M.J.Hogan, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, J.Henson, L.W.Peters, C.R.Attenborough and P.G.Richards.
Frank’s only away game was against Worksop College at Worksop. The entire team doubtless travelled by steam train from Nottingham’s Victoria Station on the afternoon of Saturday, March 11th 1905:

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According to the school magazine:

“The High School fielded a weakened team, but played well, and did not deserve to lose by such a wide margin as he 0-5 final result would suggest.”

The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, W.E.Williams , F.C.Mahin, R.B.Wray, R.E.Trease, H.E.Mills, C.S.Robinson, S.D.M.Horner, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.

This photograph shows the First Team in the 1904-1905 season. It was taken at Mapperley Park Sports Ground, opposite the old Carrington Lido on Mansfield Road. Serjeant Holmes is present, and on the back row are S.D.M.Horner, C.F.R.Fryer, M.J.Hogan, R.E.Trease and J.P.K.Groves. Seated are R.G.Cairns, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper (Captain) and L.W.Peters, Seated on the grass are H.E.Mills and P.G.Richards. On the right is the so-called twelfth man, the reserve player, who is Frank Cadle Mahin. I believe that the photograph was taken on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 12th 1904, just before the High School played against Mr.Hughes’ XI. The School won 12-5, and we know that Cooper in defence was the outstanding player, but the whole team played well, and the forwards’ finishing was particularly deadly. This year, the team was amazingly successful. Their season began with victories by 5-4, 2-1, 23-0, 12-5, 9-0, 15-0, 3-1, 4-1, 11-0, 16-1. They had scored exactly 100 goals by November 3rd, in only ten games:

mahin @ carrington

The detectives among you will notice that it is warm enough for the changing room windows to be open, and the design of the ball is very different from nowadays. Young Horner has forgotten his football socks, and, because this game marked his début for the side, Mr Fryer’s mother has not yet had the time to sew his school badge onto his shirt. Frank is, in actual fact, in the full school uniform of the time, which was a respectable suit or jacket, topped off with a neat white straw boater, with a school ribbon around it.

Frank also performed as a linesman, or assistant referee, in First XI football fixtures on several occasions in 1904-1905:

“Referees during the season were Mr.W.T.Ryles, Mr.R.E.Yates, Mr.M.R.Hughes and Mr.A.G.Onion. F.C.Mahin and K.M.Brace also performed as linesmen.”

Frank was perhaps a better cricketer than footballer, and he was, in actual fact, the regular captain of the Second XI at cricket.

cricket team

This photograph shows the First XI cricket team, in an unrecorded year, probably 1905. The individuals are thought to be on the back row, Mr.A.G.Onion, (Groundsman and Coach), S.D.M.Horner, R.G.Cairns, C.F.R.Fryer, unknown and F.C.Mahin.  In the middle row are P.G.Richards, L.W.Peters, W.G.Emmett (Captain), M.J.Hogan and R.B.Wray. Seated on the grass are J.P.K.Groves, H.E.Mills, and an unknown player.
In his time at the High School, Frank played for the First XI cricket team only sporadically. We know that he batted once in the 1904 season, and scored five runs, and then batted once more in 1905, and obtained the same score.
In addition, we also know that, on Saturday, June 24th 1905, which was School Sports Day, Frank dead-heated for first place in the Open Long Jump, managing a jump of fifteen feet nine inches, exactly the same distance as C.F.R.Fryer.
In the academic world, Frank won the Mayor’s Prize for Modern Languages, and, most significant of all, perhaps, he reached the rank of sergeant in the newly formed Officer Training Corps.

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Frank left the High School in July 1905, and returned to the United States where he was in the Class of 1909 at Harvard University.

The university’s proud boast nowadays is that they produce the most highly paid university alumni in the United States:

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Frank’s close contemporaries included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and two sons of the current President of the time, Theodore Roosevelt. They were called Theodore and Kermit.

Both of these men had the same interest in the military as Frank.  In 1917, Kermit Roosevelt, although he was obviously an American, joined the British Army to fight in Mesopotamia during the Great War. He was awarded a Military Cross on August 26, 1918. Theodore Roosevelt served as a Brigadier General in the United States Army during the Second World War. He died in France in 1944, a month after leading the first wave of troops onto Utah Beach during the Normandy landings.  This brave act was to earn him the Medal of Honor. To me, it would seem ludicrous to suggest that they were not, at the very least, among Frank’s acquaintances at Harvard, if not friends.

Hopefully, Frank had little or no association with another famous member of the Class of 1909. This was Ernst Hanfstaengl, a prominent member of the German Nazi party in the 1920s and early 1930s. A close personal friend of the Führer, Hanfstaengl provided part of the finance for the publication of “Mein Kampf”  and the Nazi Party’s official newspaper, the “Völkischer Beobachter“. Using his experience of Harvard football songs, he composed many Brownshirt and Hitler Youth marches and also claimed to have invented the “Sieg Heil” chant. Eventually, “Putzi” was to defect to the Allies and to work as part of President Roosevelt’s “S-Project”, providing information on some 400 prominent Nazis.

During his time at Harvard, according to the Secretary’s Second Report on the Harvard College Class of 1909, Frank married Miss Carrie Knight Whitmore on December 10th 1906. Alas, the poor lady was to die on February 11th 1907. Details are lacking, unfortunately, but this was an era where women could die not only giving birth to a child, but even of morning sickness in the early part of a pregnancy. The same source reveals that Frank remarried on August 18th 1908 in New York, New York State. The lucky lady was called Miss Sasie Avice Seon.

Frank represented the University at football on a number of occasions. Here is one of them:

in goal 1908
On November 30th 1906, Frank was selected as a goalkeeper against Columbia University:

“Tonight at 6 o’clock the University association football team will leave on the Fall River boat for New York, where they will play Columbia tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. While in New York the team will stay at the Murray Hill Hotel. On Sunday, they will leave for Ithaca, play Cornell on Monday afternoon, and return to Cambridge that night. The following men, accompanied by Manager E. B. Stern ’07 and Assistant Manager P. Woodman ’08, will be taken: G. W. Biddle ’08, W. M. Bird ’08, P. Brooks ’09, E. N. Fales ’08, W. A. Forbush ’07, H. Green ’08, O. B. Harriman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09, C. G. Osborne ’07, A. N. Reggio ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, L. B. Robinson ’07, W. T. S. Thackara ’08.”

Further details followed in “The Crimson Banner

The association football team will play its first game of the season with Columbia this afternoon at 2 o’clock on Alumni Field, New York. Individually the team is strong; but, as several of the men have only recently joined the squad, the team work is not well developed. Captain Thackara will be in the line-up today for the first team this year. Columbia finished second in the intercollegiate league last year and defeated Yale last week in a well-played game by the score of 4 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  COLUMBIA. Mahin, g.  g., Graybill Green, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Voskamp Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Fairchild Biddle, l.h.b.,  r.h.b., deGarmendia A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dickson Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Rocour Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Billingsley Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f. Simpson Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Hartog A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Dwyer Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Cutler
Tomorrow the team will leave for Ithaca, and will play Cornell on Monday afternoon, returning to Cambridge that night.

Frank did well:

“The association football team defeated Columbia on Saturday at Alumni Field, New York, by the score of 1 to 0. With only ten men in the line-up, Columbia was unable to block the clever attack of the University team, and was on the defensive during most of the game. The single goal was scored in the first half after a series of speedy passes by the forwards to A. N. Reggio, who sent the ball into the net. Osborne, the University team’s centre forward, played an excellent game, and continually broke up the Columbia attack before it was fairly started. Two 30-minute halves were played.
Harvard vs. Cornell at Ithaca Today.
This afternoon, the team plays Cornell on Percy Field, Ithaca. Last month Cornell defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, and has a fast, aggressive team.
The teams will line-up as follows: HARVARD  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f.  r.f.b., Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Biddle, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.i.f.  r.o.f., Van Bylevelt Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Deleasse Osborne, c.f.  e.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy ”

On December 4th, Frank appeared against Cornell University:

“ITHACA, N. Y., Dec. 3.–On a field covered with snow the association football team defeated Cornell this afternoon on Percy Field, by the score of 5 to 1. In spite of the unfavorable conditions, the University team played well and showed a marked improvement in team work over the form in the Columbia game. Cornell’s defense was unable to check the hard attack of the University forwards, and but for the snow which made accurate shooting impossible, the score would have been larger. Of the five goals, Osborne made three, and Biddle and A. N. Reggio one each. Cornell’s goal came after a hard scrimmage in front of the net, following a kick out from the corner of the field. Two thirty-minute halves were played.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f. r.f.b.,  Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.o.f.  r.e.f., Van Bylevelt Biddle, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Delcasse Osborne, c.f.  c.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy
Score–Harvard, 5; Cornell, 1. Goals –Osborne, 3; Biddle, A. N. Reggio, Dragoshanoff. Time–30-minute halves.”

This is the Harvard team for an unknown match in the 1906-1907 season:

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On December 8th, news came of an important game:

“The University association football team will play Haverford this afternoon at 2.30 o’clock in the Stadium. As neither team has been defeated this fall, the game today will decide the intercollegiate league championship.
The University team has improved steadily during the season and has developed an effective attack, as shown in the Cornell game last Monday. Haverford has a well-balanced, team of experienced players, many of whom played on last year’s championship team. Last month they defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, while the University team defeated Columbia, 1 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Kidder, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Green, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Thackara, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Brooks, l.o.f  r.o.f. Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, e.f.  e.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f, Strode
The privileges of the Union are extended today to all Haverford men.
D. J. Pryer has been elected captain of the Brown University football team for next year.
The novice revolver shoot, finished last night, was won by M. R. Giddings ’08 with a score of 329 out of a possible 500.”

Frank duly appeared as the goalkeeper for Harvard on December 10th:

“The University association football team was defeated by Haverford on Saturday in the intercollegiate championship game by the score of 2 to 1. Haverford’s light forwards were very fast and displayed better team work than the University players, who depended almost entirely on individual work. On the defense, the University backs were not given enough assistance by the forwards.
For the University team, Brooks and A. N. Reggio played especially well. In spite of a constant guard of two Haverford players, Osborne played his usual good game. In the second half, several opportunities to score were lost by the University forwards through inaccurate kicking. Baker, Haverford’s centre forward, played brilliantly and was the most untiring player on the field.
Haverford won the toss and chose to defend the north goal with a strong wind behind them. During the first half, Baker made two goals, aided by fast team work on the part of the other forwards. Shortly after the beginning of the second period, A. N. Reggio scored Harvard’s only goal.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Thackara, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Kidder, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Strode
Score–Haverford, 2; Harvard, 1. Goals–Baker 2, A. N. Reggio. Referee–J. H. Fairfax-Luey. Linesmen–D. V. Leland ’10 and F. R. Leland ’10. Time–25-minute halves.”

On October 25th of that year, Frank had taken part in the university rowing:

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This was in the “first bumping races” and Frank rowed for a crew called “Brentford”. The latter were classified as fifth out of six, in the third division out of three:

“Brentford–Stroke, C. L. Hathaway ’10; 7, J. F. Frye ’09; 6, J. A. Curtis ’10; 5, W. F. Doake ’09; 4, P. N. Case ’09; 3, I. E. Willis ’09; 2, F. C. Mahin ’09; bow, H. F. Bingham ’10; coxswain, E. B. Gillette ’10.

The full details were:

“This afternoon at 3.45 o’clock the first division of the Dormitory crews will race upstream over a one and three-eighths mile course, starting at the Boylston street bridge, and rowing up the river to the beginning of the long stretch, leading up to the Brighton bridge. A stake boat will be placed at this point and all the crews will finish at the same place. Immediately after, the second division will row over the same course, and as soon as the shells are returned, the third division will start. The divisions of the crews and the order in which they will start follows:
Division I–1, Claverly; 2, Mt. Auburn street; 3, Dunster-Dana-Drayton; 4, Randolph; 5, Westmorly; 6, Craigie-Waverley; 7, Russell.
Division II–1, Thayer; 2, First Holyoke; 3, Hampden; 4, Holworthy; 5, Perkins; 6, Matthews; 7, Weld.
Division III–1, Foxcroft-Divinity; 2, Grays; 3, Second Holyoke; 4, Hollis-Stoughton; 5, Brentford; 6, College House.
On the two days’ racing, which will follow, the order of the crews in the divisions will change; the crews securing a bump advancing in position, while the crews against which a bump is scored, will be put in the rear, one place for each bump.”

On March 17th 1906, Frank had volunteered to play cricket:

“At the meeting of candidates for the cricket team last night, the following handed in their names: W. P. Phillips 2L., R. M. Gummere 3G., N. L. Tilney ’06, C. G. Mayer 2L., C. G. Osborn ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, R. N. Wilson 1G., A. N. Reggio ’06, H. R. Waters ’07, N. B. Groton ’07, T. E. Hambleton ’07, L. C. Josephs ’08, E. M. B. Roche ’09, A. E. Newbolt ’09, A. L. Hoffman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09.
For the present the men will be divided into two squads, which will practice in the old baseball cage in the Gymnasium on alternate afternoons between 3.30 and 5 o’clock. Outdoor practice will begin as soon as the condition of the ground on Soldiers Field permits.”

Frank was really quite bored with life at Harvard though. He wanted to be a soldier. After two years of university life, he left Harvard to join the Regular Army, not as an officer, but as a private soldier. I will take up his fascinating tale in another blog post.

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Filed under Football, History, Nottingham, The High School

Schweinfurt One: sixty B-17s downed, 559 airmen killed

I am sure that most people would understand the difference between “hot courage” and “cold courage”. During a robbery, the person who suddenly confronts the would-be robber and tries, as the English say, to “have a go” is showing hot courage. The same would be true of the person who tries to drag an unconscious victim out of a burning car crash. In the context of war, it may be the man who solves the sudden problem of an enemy tank by jumping onto the top of it and throwing a hand grenade in through the hatch.
All of these acts show great heroism, but as far as I am concerned, “cold courage” takes it all into a different dimension. “Cold courage” is the person who faces a painful terminal disease without losing his dignity. “Cold courage” is the person who sets off to walk along a highwire stretched hundreds of feet off the ground between two skyscrapers. “Cold courage” is the fireman who looks up at that staircase in the North or South Tower, and starts climbing, because he knows that it is his duty to try and save people, even if it may be at the expense of his own life. In the context of war, “cold courage” is the man who sits on his bunk for a whole afternoon, waiting for the chance to get into a bomber at nine o’clock and then fly off into the night skies over Germany, not only risking death, but knowing that, statistically, death is a very likely outcome. The only thing more difficult than doing this as far as I’m concerned, would be the chance to fly over Germany in broad daylight, when you have the opportunity to see exactly what is happening to everybody else, and may well happen to you.
Early on in the Second World War, the RAF tried to place their tiny bombs accurately on exclusively military targets during the hours of daylight when, theoretically, it should have been relatively easy to do so. The only problem was that the German fighters of the day were all easily capable of shooting down these poorly armed bombers without any real problems. Between May 10th-May 28th 1940, losses of the Bristol Blenheim bomber, for example, were almost unbelievable. (Search for “Known Individual Aircraft Records”)

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For that reason, the RAF soon turned to night bombing. Equally swiftly, they found that it was virtually impossible to hit relatively small military targets with any accuracy at night. They would be better employed in bombing the areas of the city around the enemy factories, in an effort to kill or injure the workers who worked there. This new tactic carried out the directive that had been agreed on at the Casablanca Conference.

“Your Primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.”

When the United States came into the war in Europe, effectively in 1942, their bombers were equipped with the famous Norden bombsight, which was supposedly capable of dropping a bomb into a pickle barrel from 30,000 feet up. Putting their faith into the bombing accuracy achievable with their marvellous bombsight, the Eighth Air Force ignored British advice that, because of the very high standards of Luftwaffe fighter pilots, bombing at night was the only sustainable method of carrying on the struggle against the Germans. The Americans, therefore, persisted with their daylight raids.

B-17G%20Flying%20FortresszzzzzzzzAfter a few months of daylight bombing, much of it over France rather than the Reich itself, the idea was mooted that enormous and significant damage could be inflicted by bombing the German factories which produced ball-bearings, as they were vitally important to the entire German war machine. Virtually every single military vehicle and aircraft depended on them. The Mighty Eighth, therefore, exactly a year to the day after their first gentle raid, Mission 1 on August 17, 1942 against the Sotteville Marshalling Yard at Rouen in France, decided to attack these important factories . This would be Mission 84, scheduled for August 17, 1943, a complex two-pronged attack on the ball-bearing works at Schweinfurt and the Messerschmitt aircraft works at Regensburg. The raid would be the furthest penetration into German territory to date, some 800 miles from the coast. What happened is the most wonderful example of “cold courage” that anybody could wish to meet.
The greatest problem for the Eighth Air Force was that none of their own fighters, nor those of the RAF, had anywhere near the range required to escort the slow, heavily laden B-17s to their targets. The main defensive tactic, therefore, was to form up the Flying Fortress bombers into huge boxes, where, theoretically, every single aircraft could protect, and could be protected by, all the other aircraft.

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This procedure took a very long time to organise with hundreds of bombers to be fitted into the formation. And this was the first problem: all this activity was completely visible to the German radar. I can remember my own father telling me how he had watched these brave young men get ready to go into battle…

“ On a number of occasions, Fred had stood on a long forgotten airfield in East Anglia and watched the American Eighth Air Force prepare to depart on a daylight raid over Germany. Their B-17 Flying Fortresses would circle seemingly for hours over their bases, as they slowly and precisely formed up into their famous defensive boxes, intricate arrangements of, perhaps, up to a thousand heavily armed bombers whose almost countless machine guns, in theory, were capable of offering covering fire to all of their fellow aircraft. Once the B-17s were ready, it was as if somebody blew a bugle unheard far below on the ground and all the bombers would then suddenly set off to war, tracing their gleaming contrails across the blue sky, eastwards in the sunshine towards the Third Reich.”

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The Eighth Air Force raid caused a 34 per cent loss of production at Schweinfurt but this was soon made up for by surplus supplies of ball bearings from all over Germany. The industry’s infrastructure, while vulnerable to a sustained campaign, was not vulnerable to destruction by a single raid.
The Nazi Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer , later wrote that the Eighth Air Force’s major error was to attempt a second attack on Regensburg at the same time as the main attack on Schweinfurt, and not to continue with further raids on Schweinfurt after the first one.
Some of the B-17s were over Germany for a period in excess of two hours with no fighter protection whatsoever, and the Luftwaffe were quick to take advantage of the situation. Given the fact that they had picked them up on radar over East Anglia, the Germans were able to call up extra fighters from all of their bases, stretching from southern France to Norway in the north. Many fighters were able to expend their ammunition in massed attacks on the American bombers, land again for fresh supplies of fuel and weapons and then rejoin the battle.

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The German fighters were well aware of the B-17s’ inadequate forward armament and their vulnerability to head-on attack. Against the 0.50 calibre Browning machine guns of the Flying Fortresses, the German fighters were all equipped with cannon which fired explosive shells. In theory, just one hit could bring down a bomber. Much longer ranged than the machine guns, this enabled the Germans to fly well out of the range of the B-17s’ machine guns and fire off short bursts of cannon shells at intervals. Some fighters carried sophisticated rocket weapons, including mortars propelled by rockets, all of them capable of wiping out a B-17 in just one shot.

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Tales are also told of the Germans using either obsolete combat aircraft or training aircraft to fly high above the American formation and drop air-to-air bombs.
This account from  Archie J.Old Junior, a thirty seven year old Texan,  is quoted in “The Mighty Eighth” by Gerald Astor

“The fighters were all over us. They really got interested in me. German fighters came up from every point of the compass after our fighters turned around. (Just before the German frontier). And they were already throwing flak at us when we were five to ten minutes away from the target.” (Some thirty or forty miles)

In “Eighth Air Force”, Donald L.Miller describes pretty much the same situation, once the P-47s had been forced to turn back…

“…a hailstorm of fighter assaults that continued almost all the way to the target. (Beirne Lay, Jr) wrote, “I knew that I was going to die, and so were a lot of others.”

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Overall, American casualties were way beyond the sustainable. For Bomber Command that most basic of figures had been set at 4%. On this raid 230 bombers had taken part, and sixty of these were destroyed. A tiny number finished up in Switzerland, and “thanks to the luck and the skill of the RAF Air-Sea rescue teams”, everybody who went into the icy waters of the North Sea (yes, even in August) was rescued. Five hundred and fifty two men were killed in the air, and seven poor souls made it back home, but, alas, were to succumb to their injuries. Twenty one men were badly wounded.
Beyond the sixty B-17s shot down, between 55-95 further aircraft were badly damaged. Of these, many were too severely damaged ever to be repaired.

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Of the fighter escort, two P-47s of the 56th Fighter Group were destroyed and so too were two Spitfires from the RAF. The fighters claimed more than 30 kills, but the gunners on the B-17s were very optimistic with their claim of 288 German fighters destroyed. After the war, Luftwaffe records showed just 27 aircraft had been lost.
The very biggest problem of daylight raids by the Eighth Air Force deep into enemy territory was the lack of adequate long-range fighter escort. Some of the Schweinfurt Flying Fortresses were over German-occupied territory for three hours and thirty minutes. Of this period of time, there was no fighter support whatsoever for two hours and ten minutes, which included all of the time spent over Germany itself.

By one of those extraordinary coincidences which are sometimes thrown up, the night of August 17th-18th 1943, saw the British RAF engaged in “Operation Hydra”, which turned out to be one of the more significant raids of the war. Using 324 Avro Lancasters, 218 Handley Page Halifaxes and 54 Short Stirlings, attacks were made on the V-Weapon rocket testing grounds at Peenemünde in the Baltic to the east of Denmark.

Clearly, rocket weapons of the calibre of the V-1 and the V-2 quite simply had to be destroyed, certainly with the Allies envisaging a landing on the coast of France within less than a year.

Indeed, the bomber crews were actually told at their briefings that unless they were successful that particular night, they would be going back to Peenemünde again on the 18th, the 19th, the 20th, and, indeed, they would keep returning until the target was completely destroyed. This certainly concentrated their minds enormously, and, with  operations directed for the first time by a “Master Bomber”, namely  Group Captain John Searby, the Commanding Officer of 83 Squadron, they achieved great success.
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, himself said that the raid had cost the German efforts “six to eight weeks”, a figure agreed by the RAF who wrote in their official history that the attack “may well have caused a delay of two months.”

Although there were those who judged that the raid was “not effective”, an important figure, Chief Engineer Walther, was killed, but most significantly perhaps, so too was the hugely influential Doctor Walter Thiel who had provided the key ideas for the A4 rocket engine, later used to power the horrendous V-2 and indeed, in its developed form, NASA’s rockets into space.
The protection of the darkness was obvious in the casualty figures. Bomber Command lost 6.7% of their bombers and a total of 215 men were killed out of an approximate total of just over four thousand participants. Focke-Wulf Fw 190 night fighters claimed 29 of the 40 bombers shot down. Coincidentally again, the German night forces had employed for the first time ever, three twin engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters with the deadly combination of radar and Schräge Musik upward firing cannons.

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To make their night fighters even more formidable, the Luftwaffe taught  all their crews exactly where a Lancaster’s most vulnerable spots were…the enormous fuel tanks.

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In another blog post, I will look at what the Eighth Air Force did next after the Schweinfurt raid, and their continuing “cold courage”, as they regrouped their strength after what must surely be considered, despite the immense resolution and extraordinary bravery of the Americans, one of the great catastrophes of the Allied air war.

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This sepulchre of crime

Today is the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a date which, in this country is celebrated, if that is the right word, as Remembrance Day. In the United States I believe that it used to be called Armistice Day but is now renamed as the more inclusive Veterans Day. I always feel rather guilty at this time of year because I have never been able to see the “First World War”, or what we used to be able to call,  unfortunately, “The Great War”, in any really positive light. I am now of such an age that in earlier years I was able to speak personally to at least two veterans of the Great War, both of whom were able to give me their highly critical points of view.
It is not my intention to offend anybody by what I say in this blogpost, but it has always been my firm conviction that there are fundamental truths about the Great War which are always quite simply ignored because they are so unpalatable, and it is far more convenient just to forget them. Because of this, I would fully concur with the writer whose article I read in a newspaper recently, who called “The Great War”, “ineptitude followed by annihilation”.
I have never been able to see The Great War as anything other than the story of, literally, millions of well intentioned, patriotic young men whose idealism was taken advantage of by older men of a supposedly better social class, but who were in reality buffoons who signed treaties, and then declared wars which other people had to fight. And when the conflict itself was fought, the way in which it was carried out guaranteed unbelievable levels of casualties, most of which as far as I can see, were considered as merely inevitable by the top brass as they enjoyed constant  five star cuisine in their châteaux five or six miles behind the lines. In the trenches the average life expectancy of the ordinary soldier was about six weeks. An average of at least 6,000 men were killed every day, as the two sides fought over an area about the size of Lincolnshire, or Delaware, or half the size of Connecticut.
You may think that I am being appallingly cynical, but I have always seen these young men as having been robbed of their lives for little real purpose, victims who, if they had been given the choice, would have ultimately rejected a government gravestone in France or Belgium in favour of an ordinary life in their own home town or village, with a wife and children and all the usual cares and happiness which we now, a hundred years later, see as a basic right. Most of all, I would not take particularly kindly to criticism of my point of view from anybody who has not been to visit the cemeteries of the Great War which are scattered in great profusion across the areas where the battles took place.

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This piece of land is perhaps as large as a medium-sized house with a medium-sized garden. It contains the remains of just fewer than 25,000 men. They were for the most part killed in the very first few weeks of the war, when, having joined up straightaway so that they didn’t miss any of the excitement or the glory, they were worried in case it was all over by Christmas. A very large number of them are now known to have been university students, who were soon to find that war had its negative side. At least one of these young men is not forgotten, though.Here is a little remembrance offered to his brother, Friedrich Stieme from Halle, who was killed in 1915.

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Here are the names of just some of the young men who are buried in that plot of land.

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Here are the names of some British and Commonwealth troops. They are recorded in enormous number on the Menin Gate in Ypres as the soldiers who were killed in fighting around the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. There are 54,896 of these men and they were killed before August 15th 1917, a date chosen as a cut-off point when the people who designed what Siegfried Sassoon  called this “sepulchre of crime” suddenly realised that they had not built the monument big enough for all the casualties to be recorded. These, of course, are just the men with no known grave. If every death is counted, then the total Allied casualties exceeded 325,000.(the population of Coventry or Leicester). German casualties were in excess of 425,000.(the population of Liverpool)

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This whole area is dotted with cemeteries whose names, like this one, I have now forgotten. Some of them have just twenty or thirty graves, whereas some of them have a number that would take you a very long time indeed to count.

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Too many of these men were unable to be identified because the British Army would not pay for their soldiers to have metal dog tags. The soldiers’ dog tags were made of leather, so that if their bodies remained in the wet ground for very long, the dog tags would rot away. This is why so many of them can be identified only as “A soldier of the Great War”. In addition, the fact that sixty per cent of casualties on the Western Front were caused by shellfire often made identification of casualties difficult. Notice too how nearly all the graves are covered in green slime, almost inevitably, given the rainfall totals in north western Europe.

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These graves are in a cemetery containing 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves which lies at the foot of the Thiepval Memorial.

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More important, though, is the enormous building itself wherein are recorded the names of the fallen who have no known resting place.

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A large inscription on an internal surface of the memorial reads:

“Here are recorded names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”

On the stone piers are engraved the names of more than 72,000 men who were slaughtered in the Somme battles between July 1915 and March 1918. More than 90% of these soldiers died in the first Battle of the Somme between July 1st and November 18th 1916. Here are some of the names.

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Here are some of the graves in another, fairly large cemetery whose name I am afraid I cannot remember …

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It is an insane thought that the Great War still continues to kill people nowadays. I was told by our tour guide that on average usually one person is killed every week as they explore the old battlefields looking for souvenirs.  This shell has been found by the farmer and has been left at the side of a country lane so that the regular patrols by the local council lorries can take it away. Only idiot foreigners, of course, touch these unstable objects. The French and the Belgians leave them alone.

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This graveyard too I am afraid is one whose name I have forgotten. I remember that we went there because one of the other people on the coach had a relative who was buried there and he laid some poppies on his grave.

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This is one of the few places where I saw French graves. France had approximately 1,397,800 men killed in the war, with a further 4,266,000 wounded, giving a total of 5,663,800 casualties. Nowadays there are many areas of the country, particularly in central and southern France, which remain unfarmed wilderness because of this conflict a century ago which left whole provinces chronically short of men. The population of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire added together is approximately 5.7 million.

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This is part of the Tyne Cot Cemetery which is a burial ground for those who were killed in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. It contains 11,956 men, of which 8,369 remain unidentified.

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This is the “Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.” As mentioned above, the builders of the Menin Gate discovered it was not large enough to contain all the names, so the casualties after August 15th 1917 were inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial instead. The memorial contains the names of 34,949 soldiers of the British and Commonwealth armies. The panels on which the names are written stretch away, seemingly  to the horizon.

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Sadly, at Tyne Cot cemetery, there are always relatives looking for members of their family who fell during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

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It is very difficult to find a neat conclusion to all this, but I am happy to leave the last word to His Majesty King George V, speaking in Flanders in 1922…

“I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

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Hallowe’en Nights (3) Black Shuck in Notts

In my first blog post about the cryptic canid, it becomes perfectly obvious that for hundreds of years Black Shuck has been seen fairly frequently throughout all of East Anglia. Not only that, but he can still be seen there right up to the present day. Well known folklorist Ivan Bunn continues even now to find regular examples of Black Shuck’s appearances in our 21st-century world.

And so too, Black Shuck has been seen throughout the whole of the country. One website details 329 different places in the British Isles where spectral dogs of various size, shape, colour and attitude have cropped up over the centuries.
But has this famous dog ever been seen in our own county of Nottinghamshire? By careful searching on the Internet, I have managed to find just three examples. Read them through very carefully and make sure that you follow all the directions on the maps provided. There will be a test at the end!
The first tale is of a little village which now has the high-speed A631 dual carriageway constructed around it to the south west, allowing the peaceful, quiet community to preserve its rural tranquillity. Centuries ago, though, the main road from Sheffield to Gainsborough went right through the very middle of the village, which, with the frequent passage of mail coaches, it may well have been livelier than it is now….

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Perhaps this is why Beckingham’s most famous phantom, a colossal Black Dog, always keeps faithfully to his old tried and trusted route. The animal is reputed to be up to five feet tall and has dull red eyes that burn with an inner fire like the glowing embers on a coal fire
black_shuck_by_mearcu-d3lgpnd ccccccThe Black Dog invariably leaves from the churchyard of Beckingham’s parish church of “All Saints” which dates mostly from the thirteenth century, although the exterior is apparently fifteenth century.

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The Cryptic Canid leaves the little church with its square tower and makes his way, presumably down Walkeringham Road and then Station Street, before finally leaving the village along the Old Trent Road, walking purposefully out towards the marshy water meadows.
This map shows the church with its square tower and the red arrow points to the Old Trent Road.
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Some of the streets are indicated on this larger scale map. The red arrow points to the church…

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The Black Dog always leaves the Old Trent Road (yellow on the map) near the Old Shipyard and then sets off along the old path to the south, alongside the old River Trent. The red arrow points to the riverside route he invariably uses.

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Black Shuck though, for it is no less than he, is not a dog to mess with.  Anybody who tries to get in his way or to prevent his progress from church to river does so very much at their own risk. A good many years ago a man from Gainsborough attempted to stop Black Shuck by refusing to stand aside and allegedly asking it what it was doing. The dog looked with great anger at this foolish person, who was later found unconscious in the middle of the road. He was paralysed down one side of his body for the rest of his life and never recovered the feelings in his arm or leg.

A second Black Shuck has occurred not too far from Newark-on-Trent. In the Nottingham County Library there is a manuscript dating back to as recently as 1952 which records the words of a Mrs Smalley, who was then about seventy five years old.
Her grandfather, who was born in 1804 and died in 1888, used to have occasion to drive from Southwell to Bathley, a village near North and South Muskham, in a pony and trap. This involved going along Crow Lane, which leaves South Muskham opposite the school and goes to Bathley. Along that lane he frequently, used to see a large Black Dog trotting alongside his trap.
Here is a map of South Muskham, with all the landmarks in the story visible.

better map soujkth muskbhanmThe red arrow points towards Crow Lane, which goes westward  to Bathley. In the other direction, to the east, it runs, typically, past a church with a square tower.

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St. Wilfrid’s Church in South Muskham is medieval but seems to have taken a long time to construct. The square tower, therefore, has its lowest section of thirteenth century construction, the middle section is fourteenth century and the top is fifteenth century. One of the more interesting features are the carved ends of the wooden benches in the chancel, which include a number of “hideous monsters” and one crab.

“Round about 1915, Mrs Smalley’s son Sidney, used to ride out from Newark on a motorcycle to their home at Bathley. He went into Newark to dances and frequently returned at about 11 o’clock at night. He too often saw a black dog in Crow Lane; he sometimes tried to run over it but was never able to. One night Sidney took his father on the back of the motorcycle especially to see the dog, and both of them saw it.”

Overall, South Muskham is an area with a good deal of water in the landscape.

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The third story is considerably more modern. It was 2.14 a.m. on May 11th 1991 and….

“Victoria Rice-Heaps had been visiting her boyfriend in Worksop, and was on her way home when she had her unusual experience. It was a journey she had made “thousands of times”. She wasn’t particularly tired, having slept earlier in the evening. Making her way out along the Blythe Road, she soon left the comforting glow of the streetlights for the dark country roads beyond.
After a mile or so, near to Hodsock Priory, Victoria saw illuminated in the beam of her headlights about 150 yards ahead “two red dots.”

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“I slowed right down to a crawl as I saw a huge black dog. It looks like something from hell! It had very shiny fur and a short coat; the nearest thing I’ve seen to it in size was a Great Dane, but it had a good 18 inches over a dog of that breed. Its ears were erect and it appeared to be dragging something quite large across the road.”

Victoria had lived with dogs all her life, but had seen nothing like this creature.
As she waited for the dog to get out of the way of her Fiat Panda, the headlights of another vehicle announced its approach from the opposite direction. The driver of the red Montego estate, evidently seeing her at a standstill, pulled up and wound down his window to ask if anything was wrong. Victoria, having wound down her own window, asked the man if he could see the dog in front of her car.

“At this moment he shouted “Oh Jesus!” and sped off into the night. I looked in front of me again and to my joy and amazement the creature had vanished. I drove home as fast as I could. I did a little research later and found a tumulus nearby, a river and an old boundary as well as the priory”.

There is a lot less exact geographical detail for this particular story and I have therefore made one or two “best guesses”.
Victoria was driving north out of Worksop along the B6045 in the direction of Blyth. This road is fairly straight and leads quickly to the Hodsock area. The very narrow yellow road to the west of the B6045 is the turn off to Hodsock Priory, which is a big country house, rather than anything of particularly religious significance. In Nottinghamshire, it is very famous for its magnificent displays of snowdrops in the very first days of Spring.
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My contention, though, is that Victoria only saw a single snapshot moment of Black Shuck’s usual journey. I believe that the huge dog would have started his journey in the northern section of the B6045.  Here is a map with the middle of Blyth and the old unnamed northern section of the B6045 (see arrow). It leads past a church with the square tower, St Mary and St Martin.
wet blyth

Shuck’s exact point of departure would surely have been the churchyard of this ancient church which dates from as early as 1088, when it was a part of a Benedictine monastery. Clearly, if you are driving down the B6045 in a saloon car at 40-50 m.p.h. in the darkness of the night, you will see Black Shuck for a lot less time than if you are on foot, or in a pony and trap, or even on a slow motorbike back in 1915.

The one thing I would really like to know, though, is what “quite large something”  Black Shuck was dragging across the road. And the driver of the red Montego, how had he not seen the ghostly dog when he first stopped? He was going in the opposite direction to Victoria, and Black Shuck was right in front of her car. The driver of the red Montego must have been parked almost directly next to the “Hound from Hell”. Indeed, she actually asked him if he could see the dog in front of her car.

When he apparently and finally saw this enormous beast, he shouted out in terror and drove off into the night. Why? He left a defenceless young woman behind on her own. Did he see what Black Shuck was dragging? Given the Hell Hound’s connection with the imminent death of those who see it, did the man see his own ghostly corpse?
If you have followed the directions and maps carefully, you will not find my next question a particularly difficult one!

“What is the connection between all three of the Black Dogs seen in Nottinghamshire?”

Well, if you have paid attention, you will have realised the elements which occur and recur throughout all three stories.

There is always a church, and the Ordnance Survey map shows that it is always a church with a square tower. That church of course, will have a graveyard around it. Black Shuck then follows a route which is always a very ancient one, rather than opting for the new bypass or the new dual carriageway. It is always a road which has been there for centuries, almost as if he has been following that path for that same amount of time. And as the road continues away from the church, it will gradually become more and more lonely and isolated. At the same time it will lead through a landscape which contains enormous amounts of water, either in the form of lakes, rivers or streams. In one case, namely that of Beckingham, the road leads to the wettest place of all. This is an area of riverside water meadows, which have now been taken by the RSPB to form an official wetland nature reserve.

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Black Shuck makes his departure from this route not only at an old shipyard, but he also sets off southwards alongside the River Trent itself. As if to prove that this is the strongest manifestation of Black Shuck in the county, the phantom animal will pass an ancient hill which is called “Black Island”. This may have been a tumulus in the dim and distant past. Somewhere as flat and wet as this area is certainly a strange place for a completely natural hill.

Victoria Rice-Heaps mentions a tumulus near the B6045, but I have been unable to trace it, although I have not visited the area personally. This does not mean that it is not there, of course. But there is a “Hodsock Red Bridge”, red with the colour of Black Shuck’s eyes, perhaps? And what is “Black Screed”? Nowadays, a screed is “a levelled layer of material (e.g. cement) applied to a floor or other surface.” Earlier than this, it was “a fragment cut from a main piece”, and then “a torn strip”. Was it called “Black Screed” because it was connected with Black Shuck and being “torn to shreds”?
I was delighted to find all these various connections, because they fit in perfectly with the book “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America” by Linda S Godfrey. She provides a key quotation about the appearance of spectral canids. And this quotation applies not only to North East Nottinghamshire, but also to the state of Wisconsin in the north eastern part of the United States.

I will be looking at all these various connections and trying to explain why they are so important in another blog post in the future.

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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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