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Churchill Visits Bombed Plymouth

WINSTON CHURCHILL DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE UNITED KINGDOM (H 9265) Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb damaged Plymouth on 2 May 1941. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Lady Nancy Astor, Lord Mayoress of Plymouth, on this visit, who can be seen behind Churchill. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196631
Winston Churchill is cheered by workers during a visit to bomb-damaged Plymouth on 2 May 1941. This was one of many morale-boosting visits he made across Britain. Public opinion polls, then in their infancy, show that between July 1940 and May 1945, never less than 78 per cent of those polled said they approved of Churchill as prime minister. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Lady Nancy Astor, Lord Mayoress of Plymouth, on this visit, who can be seen behind Churchill. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196631  

Comments Charles McCain: Nancy Astor, shown in the photograph, was an arch appeaser of the Nazis. The unofficial name for the powerful appeasers of Hitler in Great Britain was “the Cliveden Set.” Cliveden was her country home.

She was, however, the first women elected to the British Parliament and she was actually an American citizen till she married Vincent Astor, subsequently Lord Astor. She and Churchill disliked each other greatly.

Supposedly she is the person who was subjected to Churchill’s withering put-down after she accused him at a dinner party (not in Parliament) of being drunk:

“Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk.”

“My dear you are ugly, but tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.”

However, like some of the best quotes in history, there is a disagreement over whether he actually said this and to whom he said it. According to this story in the Independent, Churchill may have said this Nancy Astor or to Bessie Braddock, a Labour member of Parliament or never actually said it at all. Details in this story from the Independent.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/my-dear-you-are-ugly-but-tomorrow-i-shall-be-sober-and-you-will-still-be-ugly-winston-churchill-tops-8878622.html

 

 

 

 

RN Ships Sunk Java Sea WW2 destroyed by illegal scavenging

HMS Exeter one of the heroes of the Battle of the Rio Plata coming dockside at Plymouth in February 1940. The ship was badly damaged during the engagement in December of 1939.

The ships which have been destroyed by salvage are war graves and this is an international crime. All naval ships mentioned were sunk in February/March 1942 during the Battle of the Java Sea or the following Battle of the Sundra Strait.

Ten allied ships were sunk in these engagements and more than 3,000 Allied sailors perished. Those who were captured by the Japanese were tortured, starved, beaten and some beheaded. These ships formed the naval arm of the combined ABDA Command–American, British, Dutch, Australian–led by Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Operating with limited intelligence on Japanese fleet movements, without air cover, outnumbered and outgunned, Doorman and the allied ships under his command fought with great bravery and ferocity against the Japanese invaders.

Three of the sunken ships–all sunk at the Battle of the Sundra Straits— are HMS Exeter, one of the trio of ships which had thrashed the Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the Rio Plata in December of 1939, USS Houston, an American  treaty cruiser which was a favorite ship of President Roosevelt and one he used on several occasions, and HMAS Perth, an Australian light cruiser who went down at the side of the USS Houston in a point blank duel with Japanese warships.

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Admiral Karel Doorman, seen here as a Lt. Commander in an official photo taken in 1930,  was killed on 28 February 1942, aboard his flagship De Ruyter, which was sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea. He was a brave man and a gallant naval warrior.

These war graves were disturbed and the ships salvaged and sold for scrap with the full knowledge of the different levels of the Indonesian government, either provincial or national. It is outrageous and offensive that the government of Indonesia has allowed this to happen and has done nothing.

Thank you to my special correspondent in New Orleans, Bob Warren, for bringing this to my attention.

From the Guardian of London

Source: British second world war ships in Java Sea destroyed by illegal scavenging

Exclusive: 3D mapping report of sea off Indonesia, seen by the Guardian, shows large holes in the seabed where ships used to be

Watch Out for Minefield!

 

crews frantically waved to us, wishing us luck, as we thought

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British fishing trawler Picton Castle converted to a minesweeper in World War Two. (photo courtesy of  tugster.wordpress.com)

Fishing trawlers made ideal minesweepers since streaming parvanes to cut mine cables was similar to deploying fishing nets. This type of minesweeping only worked on sea mines attached to cables which were attached to weights which kept the mines at a certain depth.

Life aboard the converted fishing trawlers wasn’t easy. The trawlers were part of the Royal Navy Patrol Service and except for a handful of Royal Navy sailors, the rest of the men were the original fishing crew who wouldn’t wear uniforms or salute and couldn’t read RN signals.

“Once, in Falmouth, after a raid, it was feared the entrance to the harbour had been mined, with a type which were difficult to sweep. After two days we were given special permission to leave, providing we kept to a very precise channel. As we got under way, other ships sounded their sirens, and crews frantically waved to us, wishing us luck, as we thought. On reaching Fowey, we had to explain why we had steamed right through the danger area. So that was what the other ships were trying to tell us.”

from “Death of a Minesweeper” by A.H. Archer   BBC World War Two archive

 

AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6293) A look-out on the after gun platform of a minesweeping trawler watches other ships of the group moving up to take station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140428

British Royal Navy minesweepers, November 1941. A look-out on the after gun platform of a minesweeping trawler of the Royal Navy’s Dover Command watches other ships of the group moving up to take station for a sweep. Dover Command was one of the operational commands of the Royal Navy assigned to patrol a section of the English Channel as well as to constantly sweep the civilian shipping lanes for mines.

 

AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6299) Minesweeping trawlers line up in readiness to start a sweep. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140434

 

British Royal Navy minesweepers, November 1941. Minesweeping trawlers from Dover Command line up in readiness to start a sweep. 

(Photos Copyright: © IWM and used by courtesy of IWM).

 

Map of Royal Navy Commands covering the English Channel in World War Two http://www.naval-history.net/xDKWW2-4201-40RNShips2Home.htm

The map above shows the southern waters of Great Britain and the four Royal Navy operational commands which had responsibility for keeping the English Channel navigable and contesting German use of the Channel. The commands are: Nore Command , Dover Command, Portsmouth Command and Plymouth Command. (Map courtesy of www.naval-history.net)

 

Germans Built Mine Sweepers for RN

One of the crew makes his way from the bridge down to the main deck of HMT NORTHERN SKY. The trawler is pitching and rolling at slow speed along her patrol lines. There is a slight sea running and she ships water continually, but this is mild weather for trawlers.
One of the crew makes his way from the bridge down to the main deck of HMT NORTHERN SKY. The trawler is pitching and rolling at slow speed along her patrol lines. There is a slight sea running and she ships water continually, but this is mild weather for trawlers. Official Royal Navy photograph by Lt. R.G.G. Coote, courtesy of the Imperial War Musuem. 

 

14 steel hulled, coal fired fishing trawlers were built on order in Germany for a London company which could only get blocked credits out of Nazi Germany by using the money to buy something in Nazi Germany. So the company bought trawlers, each one christened with the first name of ‘”Northern.” Hence they became known as “Northern Class trawlers” although they were not purpose built for the Royal Navy.

Northern Foam, Northern Gem, Northern Pride, Northern Dawn, Northern Sky, Northern Chief, Northern Isles, Northern Princess, Northern Gift, Northern Reward, Northern Rover, Northern Spray, Northern Duke, Northern Sun and Northern Wave.

 

after months at sea, the rough wear on the ship is obvious.
HMT Northern Pride circa toward the end of the war. After many years at sea, the rough wear on the ship is obvious. 

HMT Northern Pride was a built in 1936 by Deschimag, Germany. taken over by the admiralty in August 1939. returned to her owner in November 1945. and scrapped at Gateshead in 1964. Photo and caption courtesy of  harwichanddovercourt.co.uk/warships/trawlers/

 

All 14 were requisitioned by the Admiralty and refitted as mine sweepers and later several were refitted as convoy rescue ships. After being taken-over by the Royal Navy, each was designated with the prefix HMT–His Majesty’s Trawler. These were robust ships and many served as rescue and escort ships on the Murmansk run through the Arctic Sea as well as in the North Atlantic. They swept for mines, rescued people and had enough armaments to give a respectable account of themselves.

 

THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18410) De-ammunitioning ship. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151161
THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18410) De-ammunitioning ship. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151161

Depending on their operational schedule, they would “de-ammunition” the ship before a boiler clean or a refit since the navy did not want the ship filled with live ammunition while it was being worked on.

 

THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18413) 'Stand Easy' study of the men of HMT NORTHERN GEM. In the background is another of the Northern Class trawlers leaving base for a further duty spell. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151164
THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18413) ‘Stand Easy’ study of the men of HMT NORTHERN GEM. In the background is another of the Northern Class trawlers leaving base for a further duty spell. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151164

 

 

THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18411) HMT NORTHERN GEM's crew. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151162
THE BRITISH TRAWLER NORTHERN GEM. 29 AND 30 JULY 1943, WALLASEY TRAWLER BASE. HMT NORTHERN GEM, A CONVERTED FISHING TRAWLER, HAS SERVED AS AN ESCORT FOR MANY CONVOYS, AND HAS RESCUED MANY SURVIVORS FROM SUNKEN CONVOY SHIPS. (A 18411) HMT NORTHERN GEM’s crew. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205151162

 

AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6293) A look-out on the after gun platform of a minesweeping trawler watches other ships of the group moving up to take station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140428
AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6293) A look-out on the after gun platform of a minesweeping trawler watches other ships of the group moving up to take station. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140428

 

AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6304) Minesweeping trawlers in line ahead on patrol off the South coast. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140438
AT SEA WITH BRITISH MINESWEEPERS. NOVEMBER 1941, ON BOARD A MINESWEEPING TRAWLER OF THE DOVER COMMAND DURING A SWEEP WITH OTHER MINESWEEPING TRAWLERS OF THE COMMAND. (A 6304) Minesweeping trawlers in line ahead on patrol off the South coast. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205140438

 

Why Is the Gay Symbol of the Red Poppy Used on Veterans Day?

 

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred Eighteen, the armistice which ended the killing of the First World War went into effect .

Ten million young men perished in that war, never to write the poetry of their lives.

 

Cenotaph_London

The Cenotaph on Whitehall, London, in November 2004 (with wreaths laid down on Remembrance Day). Photo Chris Nyborg.

The British Legion, a veterans organization created after World War One, known then as the ‘Great War’, began the tradition of selling red poppies once a year to assist veterans. The first British Legion Poppy Day was held in Great Britain on 11 November – Armistice Day – 1921. Several organizations for veterans in the US including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars quickly adopted the symbol as did veterans’ groups throughout the British Empire.

The red poppy came to symbolize youthful death in battle because of the haunting poem, In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by Surgeon-Major John McCrae, MD, First Field Artillery Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

 

John_McCrae_in_uniform_circa_1914

Surgeon-Major John McCrae, 1st Brigade CFA, Canadian Field Artillery, Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  

McCrae had been operating on wounded soldiers for seventeen days in a row during the terrible slaughter of the Second Battle of Ypres, which took place between 22 April and 25 May 1915 near the Belgium city of Ypres in the province of West Flanders. This furious struggle, now long forgotten, was fought between the French Army, with their British allies, against their common enemy, Imperial Germany.

GasCorbisHultonDeutsch460

German storm troopers, led by an officer, emerge from a thick cloud of phosgene poison gas laid by German forces as they attack British trench lines. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Courtesy of the Guardian of London.

This battle was fought over control of the Belgium city of Ypres and lasted for thirty-three days. It merits a footnote in history because it was the first battle on the Western Front where the Germans used poison gas. The use of such gas is a war crime and had been forbidden by the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare. Germany was a signatory to both treaties.

poppy-field in France

Red poppies blew across the battlefield during the slaughter.

The poppy is a flower whose seed lies dormant in the ground. It only blooms in warm weather when the soil is rooted up. Because the ground of Flanders had been rooted up by days of artillery fire, there were red poppies blooming in profusion all over the battlefield. There were so many poppies that the wind would often catch the fragile flowers and blow them in waves over the blasted soil.

Hence the first line: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow…” (not ‘grow’ as many seem to write)

Major McCrae was deeply pained by the death of a young friend, killed the previous day by random artillery fire. Sitting outside his field dressing station the next day, McCrae was looking over the cemetery in which his young friend had been buried. He took a pad and wrote what became the most famous poem of the war. The poet himself died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918 and is buried in France.

John_McCrae_grave

Surgeon-Major John McCrae’s grave, Wimereux Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France

“In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Because this poem is often thought to be an anti-war poem, expressing the futility of war, the third stanza is usually left out. You will understand the reason when you read it:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Paul Fussell, the distinguished American scholar and expert on the literature of World War One, writes about this poem in his magisterial work, The Great War and Modern Memory:

“Things fall apart two thirds of the way through…and we suddenly have a recruiting poster rhetoric…We finally see – and with a shock – what the last six lines really are: they are a propaganda argument – words like ‘vicious’ and ‘stupid’ would not seem to go too far – against a negotiated peace.”

Fussell also points out the symbolism in England long associated with the red poppy: homosexuality. In the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, Patience, which opened in 1881, he calls our attention to the following lyrics:

“…if you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your medieval hand,
everyone will say,
As you walk your flowery way,
…what a most particularly pure young man this pure young man must be!”

One need not be a gay man, such as myself, to immediately understand the symbolic reference.

Fussell’s erudition as a scholar of English literature is never more evident than in his parsing of Two Loves, a poem written in 1894 by Lord Alfred Douglas, one time lover of Oscar Wilde. In a dream, the poet discovers in his garden a beautiful naked youth who has lips, ‘red like poppies’. Desperate to know who this lad is, the poet beseeches the youth to tell his name and finally the youth says, “I am the love that dare not speak its name.” This last being the polite way of saying ‘homosexuality’ in decades past.

So decades before the red poppy became the symbol of youthful death in battle, it had long been associated with homosexual love. Professor Fussell suggests the poet unconsciously expresses a certain homoeroticism in connection with his young friend in the poem.

“…Short days ago…We lived…Loved and were loved, and now we lie…”

Professor Fussell was a combat veteran himself. He was drafted into the US Army in 1943, at age 19. In October 1944 he landed in France, as part of the 103rd Infantry Division. He was wounded while fighting in France as a second lieutenant in the infantry, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Veterans Day in the United States take place on 11 November because this is the yearly anniversary of the armistice which ended the actual shooting in World War One. The peace talks and the Controversial Treaty of Versailles came months later.

The armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred Eighteen.

Ten million young men had perished in the war, never to write the poetry of their lives.

Entire Crew Killed When Battlecruiser Exploded

queenmary

Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

(booms to hold anti-torpedo netting are flush against the hull)

Due to the flawed theories of Admiral Sir Jack Fisher, the Royal Navy’s concept of a battlecruiser proved to be a disaster. Theoretically faster than a battleship but less heavily armoured, battlecruisers were meant as scouts for the main battle fleet. The distinction between battleships and battlecruiser was often forgotten.

The ship was coal fired and it required all of her 42 boilers to come on line for the ship to make her design speed of 28 knots.

Launch of battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary at Palmer's Shipbuilding, Jarrow-on-Tyne, England. 1913.
                                    Launch of battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary at Palmer’s Shipbuilding, Jarrow-on-Tyne, England. 20 March 1912

destruction_of_hms_queen_mary

After HMS Queen Mary was hit in the forward magazines the entire ship exploded.

In this explosion, caused by faulty design of flashback protectors in British Navy magazines, 1,266 crewmen died.  Eighteen survived. Two other Royal Navy battlecruisers, HMS Invincible and HMS Indefatigable, also exploded with almost no survivors.