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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: War

Monday April 14 2014

This evening I visited New Zealand House, for an ASI do.  On the way out, I passed this bust, with “FREYBERG V.C.” on its plinth:

image

Inevitably, when you stick up a photo of such a notable, you do some googling.  Not only was Freyberg awarded the VC.  He also scored four DSOs.  My Uncle Jack got three of these, but this is the first time I ever heard of anyone getting four.  It seems that sixteen men have won four DSOs, with just two of these (Freyberg and Frederick Lumsden (who died towards the end of WW1)) getting four DSOs and a VC.

Blog and learn.

I see that another of the DSO four-timers - but no VC, although he was recommended for one - was Group Captain Tait, who succeeded Cheshire (VC) as commander of 617 Squadron (aka the Dam Busters).  Tait lead them when they flew from Lossiemouth to Norway and sank the Tirpitz.  I remember reading about Tait when I was a kid, because the book I read about the Dambusters wasn’t just about the dams raid but recounted their whole war.

Tuesday April 01 2014

Two photos of signs, taken on the south side of the river between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge, about a fortnight ago.

On the left, some of the verbiage on this statue.  My reason for showing it here is simply that I think this writing photographs so very well:

image image

And on the right, snapped moments later, another sign, on the side of a coffee stall.  It must be a very old joke indeed, but I was encountering it for the first time.

In general, signs make very good photos, I think.

Friday March 07 2014

Incoming from 6000, aware of my Feline Friday habit, about a 16th century plan to use cats and doves as weapons of war:

image

Asking for trouble, I’d say.

Thus encouraged on the cat front, I went looking for other weird stuff, in the cat category.

I found this, which is a camera decorated with a logo that is part Hello Kitty and part Playboy Bunny.  Weird:

image

I guess the Kitty is wearing those big pretend rabbit ears.

And weirdest of all, beauty bloggers are decorating cat claws:

image

It seems that doing crazy things with cats is a permanent part of the human condition.  Although to be fair, the excuse for the pink claws above is that they stop your cat from scratching the furniture.  And I suppose making them brightly coloured means you can see at once if the cat is wearing them, or has managed to get rid of some of them.

In the latest manifestation of the original Friday ephemera, there are no cats.  Not this time.  But 6000 included the weaponised cat notion in an ephemeral collection of his own.  His final ephemeron was an octopus photo.  That also just about qualifies as feline, if you focus on the final three letters.

Saturday February 22 2014

One of the things I did today was copy, from one TV hard disc to another, a documentary (fronted by Richard Hammond) about the D-Day fighting that took place on Omaha Beach.

One of the shots at the end of the programme looked a lot like this:

image

That is one of the photos at the bottom of this page.

I recall flying over the Normandy Beaches, on the way to the South of France.  Later in the journey, I took snaps like this one, of the Millau Viaduct, but I don’t recall seeing anything like that cemetery.

Wednesday January 08 2014

I just watched a tv show about hydrogen bombs.  One of the things I never, until now, got around to finding out about was how hydrogen bombs work.  What I had not realised was that hydrogen bombs include atom bombs inside them, to trigger the “hydrogen” bit.

Basically, they sick a stash of other stuff next to an atom bomb.  When the atom bomb goes off, it turns the other stuff into an explosion that is even more spectacular than the original atom bomb explosion.  I did not know this.  Now I do.  Tremble, world.  Well no, I still couldn’t make a hydrogen bomb.  But I now understand a bit better how others make them.

The funniest moment was when a bloke said that there comes a time when shoving more and more stuff next to the atom bomb to make a bigger and bigger hydrogen bomb stops being worth doing, because the blast is just so huge it disappears out of the earth’s atmosphere.  This means, he said, that a bomb this big, when compared to a slightly smaller one, “does no good”.

You can just hear those bomber pilots, setting out for Dresden in 1945, saying: “Come on guys, let’s go do some more good.”

Thursday December 19 2013

I am, as noted in the previous posting, reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity.  At the join between page 350 and page 351, I learn this:

The second sons of British aristocrats, such as Richard Howe, had long joined even the technically demanding and bourgeois navy.  They stood on the quarterdecks facing enemy fire, as aristocrats should, but their fellow offers were the sons of lawyers or of clergymen (such as Sir Frances William Austen, Admiral of the Fleet in 1863 and Jane Austen’s brother; and Sir Charles Austen, another brother and another admiral).

I did not know this, that is to say, I did not know (in particular) the bit in the brackets.  That explains a great deal about the novel Persuasion, in which the best men are navy men, and the biggest arse is an aristocrat.

Jane Austen’s books are popular because, despite the way they look on television, they are precisely not unthinking celebrations of aristocratic privilege and excellence.  Upwardly mobile traders are accorded dignity, and aristocrats who despise tradesmen for trading are in their turn despised by Jane Austen.  Yes, Mr Darcy owns half a county, and Elizabeth Bennet falls for him when she first sets eyes on his gigantic stately home.  But his aunt, Lady Catherine de Burgh, who despises Elizabeth for being related to tradespeople, is another pompous aristocratic arse (of the female sort), bested at the end by bourgeois Elizabeth Bennet.

By the way, McCloskey is a cricket fan.

Sunday November 10 2013

Today being Remembrance Sunday, but not having got out and about during it, I instead looked for Remembrance photos past, and came across the archive containing these.

imageI was struck by one in particular, in which we see the phrase “To All Our Heroes” inscribed on a cross with a poppy on it.  That word “heroes” makes me slightly uneasy, especially in the plural.  Were they all heroes?  Similarly, the way all these dead are so often described as having “given” their lives for freedom, or for their country, or whatever.  It must surely be more accurate to say that many of these men were victims, and that their lives were taken from them.  It might be rather insulting to describe them thus in public displays honouring their memory, but maybe more accurate.

The cross on which the word “heroes” is inscribed is surely rather more accurate, as a description of what really happened, to most of these dead.  I do not deny that there were indeed many heroes, in all these wars.  But surely, for most, war, and death in war, were things they endured.  That is a kind of heroism, of course, but is not quite what is usually meant by the word.

I lost an uncle in World War 2, although it happened before I was born.  He was the victim of a training accident.  I respectfully mourned him from time to time throughout my childhood and have gone on doing so ever since.  But there was nothing especially heroic about his death, and that has just seemed to me to be yet further cause for sadness.  Many times I wished that Uncle John had died heroically, if he had to die at all.  But, he did not die heroically.  War is like that.

The cross seems to me to be a somewhat more accurate representation of what happened to these countless men than does the word “hero”.  This was surely more like a catastrophe which swallowed people up, in the manner of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a flood or a fire.  Some who suffer or die in the course of events like that are very properly called heroes, because they did indeed behave, and perhaps die, heroically.  Most, however, are merely described as victims.  No disrespect is intended with that label, and I intend no disrespect in suggesting that many of these war heroes were really just war victims.  Their deaths are no less worthy of being remembered and reflected upon, merely because we describe their deaths that bit more accurately.

A lot hinges on whether you consider the fights and wars that all these dead people died in were worth it.  There is something inherently somewhat unheroic about dying in a fight that could not accomplish anything good.  Part of being a true hero is that you choose the fight in which you will risk and perhaps lose your life, and that you choose it well.

If anything in the above angers you in any way, the chances are that this is because I didn’t say it right.  I’m trying to say something that is somewhat hard to pin down, and maybe said it wrongly.  I am not trying to say anything demeaning or disrespectful, either towards the dead themselves, or towards the feelings of those who still, like me, mourn them.

Monday September 23 2013

Today I did something I very rarely do these days.  I bought a newspaper:

image

It was The Times of May 24th 1940.  Originally it cost 2d, which means two old pennies, from the days of pounds, shillings and pence, which I remember very well, because they lasted into the sixties.  Today, I bought it in the local gay charity shop in Churton Street, for £1.  There were quite a few more copies of The Times from that time still on sale there, most of them from late in 1939.  £1 each.  How long they will last, who can say?

Patrick Crozier, do you want me to get more copies for you, if they are still there?

Patrick Crozier’s talk at my place last month, based on The Times in 1913, was superb.  He turned the talk into six Samizdata postings, which you can find by going to the last one, and following the links back.  Highly recommended if you’ve not read them yet.

LATER: Twenty more copies.

The Times of May 24th 1940
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Crossrail grubbings
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Classical CDs from Gramex
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Remembrance Sunday photos
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
Absolutely not a private navy (except that it probably is)
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Lancaster
Brianmicklethwait Dot Com headline of the day
Links to this and that
Super Galaxy
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
Taranis
Peaceful time in war zone
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
Three Gorges Dam picture
Separating the men from the toys - the future of warfare and of sport?
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
Osprey pictures
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
What-iffing
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Redirect
Wingtipping a V1
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
“Who are you going to sell it to if we don’t buy it?”
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Flypast!
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Probably not right - but definitely written
Remembrance photos
Short posting with short photograph
Did Hitler have a plan to conquer the USA?
A conversation - and another outage
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Cold War winner
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Mean bombers
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
What are the world’s biggest problems?
Another link to a friend and that’s your lot today
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Geoffrey Blainey on Ivan Bloch - the man who predicted World War One
Rubble
Admiral Coward
“Liberty might be defended, after all” - Tom Holland’s account of the Battle of Marathon