Holocaust Reminder

In 2023, there are still many deniers of the mass killing of millions of Jews and other prisoners by Germany during WW2. Even faced with overwhelming evidence and personal testimony, some still refuse to believe the events ever happened.

So I am posting this short film clip to remind the rest of us, the sane ones, that it did.

An Alphabet Of My Life: I

I=India

I have never been to India, but that country featured significantly during two very different periods in my life.

My father was a regular soldier. He had joined the British Army in 1936, and served in the Royal Artillery. When war broke out in 1939, he spent some time with coastal defence artillery. Then when Japan entered the war in late 1941, he was transferred to India. It was believed that Japan would try to invade India, and my dad’s job was to train Indian Army soldiers to use combat artillery weapons.

As we know, India was not invaded. As a result, my dad enjoyed a happy war. With the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major, he lived a comfortable life as a Warrant Officer. He travelled around many parts of India, living in style in his own bungalow with servants looking after him. He played Cricket and Football for the Army teams there, and went on many hunting trips, shooting almost every known animal in that country.

When Japan surrendered, he stayed on in India becuase he was a regular, not returning to England until after the partition of India in 1947.

Once I was old enough to understand, he would talk to me about India constantly. He taught me about the different cultures and religions, gave me his opinions on the soldierly qualities of Sikhs, Punjabis, and other ethnic groups. He spoke about the wonders of the ancient temples, the extremes of weather, and also the poverty and caste system. Using the big map in my atlas of the world, he traced his travels around India, describing each different region to me in great detail. He also spoke highly of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and how he would dearly loved to have settled down there.

To accompany his talks, he used four albums of black and white photos he had taken whilst living there. They were small prints, carefully attached into the albums using ‘photo-corners’. They showed snake charmers, temples, dancers, festivals, numerous animals, and photos of my dad and his comrades doing all kinds of things. He also gave me some of his souvenirs, including a Gurkha Kukri battle knife in its leather case. Other souvenirs were animal skins from Antelopes of some kind, and a deerskin. They served as rugs for many years.

Pride of place was for a stuffed leopard’s head, and its full skin. That trophy was in front of the fireplace. I am talking about the 1950s here, so at the time such things were admired, and there was no talk of how bad hunting was or how cruel it was.

Because of those years being enthralled by his descriptions of this exotic land, I resolved to visit India as soon as I was able.

Fast forward to late 1984. I had been married for 7 years, and I was living in Wimbledon. I was an EMT in London, and my wife was a University Lecturer in Biology and Ecological Sciences. She came home from work one day and told me she had been asked to go on a trip for the British Council For Overseas Aid, leaving in a few months. She would spend six months in India as part of a group of lecturers, taking along a large amount of used school scientific equipment, including microscopes and soil analysers. The team would tour India helping trainee teachers learn how to use the equipment in schools, later donating it to them. She added that she had accepted.

I was excited. The destinations reminded me of many places my dad had told me about. Bangalore, Lucknow, Kashmir, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur.

For the next few weeks, I spent all my free time doing research. I bought detailed maps of India, checked on necessary vaccinations, purchased travel guides for each region,and even bought a large zoom lens for my camera. I went to my Area Headquarters and asked my Ambulance Service manager for time off. I was told I could use all my paid leave, then be unpaid for the remainder. But I could come back to my job as long as I was not away for longer than six months.

My wife was aware of all of my research, and she also knew about my dad spending all those years in India, and my lifelong anticipation of visiting that country. We were quite well-off financially, and a few months unpaid leave would not affect our situation. Besides, she would be getting paid by the British Council, in addition to her University pay. It was considered to be something of an honour that she had been asked to go.

One evening as I sat surrounded by maps of India, she told me that it was not considered to be ‘appropriate’ for spouses or partners to go. Hotel accommodation and flights had already been arranged, and she would be working up to 10 hours a day. I saw no problem in that. Hotels were cheap, we could easily afford my return flight, and I would not need much money while I was there. I could get a hotel nearby, and meet up with her when she was free. Meanwhile, I could explore the area, and take photos.

When I explained that, she seemed exasperated. She said she did not want me to go, adding that it would be ’embarrassing’ for her husband to keep appearing. I was surprised that she had not mentioned that from the start, saving me the preparation and anticipation. I felt incredibly deflated, and her best answer was “I knew you wanted to go there, and didn’t know how to tell you that you couldn’t come”.

So I never made it to India, and we split up in 1985 just before she was due to leave England.

I suppose I could have gone on my own later in life, but my heart was no longer in it.

Slum London: My Mum’s Youth

The districts of South London where my parents grew up were once considered to be little better than slums. Dwellings not really suitable for the large families that lived in them, lacking most facilities we would take for granted by the 1960s.

They had outside toilets, hot water heated on a stove or cooker, and were back-to-back small terraced houses with poor ventilation and little light getting into them.

In 1924, the year my mum was born, a national newspaper published an article about the lack of living space in those houses.

Two nearby streets, Sultan Street and Sultan Terrace, are shown here in 1939, the year WW2 broke out. Nothing had changed in those fifteen years.

Ironically, despite the loss of life caused by the German bombing of London, it was the devastation left behind that created the space for the gradual rebuilding. This allowed for much better living conditions in working class areas after 1960.

Some More London Nostalgia In Photos

Alma School, Bermondsey. This photo was taken near the end of WW2. A bomb-damaged area is being cleared. On the left you can see some new prefabricated asbestos-sheet houses. We called them ‘Prefabs’, and they were supposed to be temporary. But the people loved them, and over 100 still exist in London today.
I went to that school from 1957 until 1963.

Children playing in a bombed-out building in Bermondsey, 1953. By the time I was old enough to be out playing in 1958, I was playing in the same building.

A young couple sheltering from the Blitz in an underground station, 1940. My mum was doing the same thing at the time.

Choosing an engagement ring, 1953.

Taking tea in a Lyons Corner House, late 1950s. Despite the elegant surroundings, anyone could afford to have tea there.

Making the most of a hot summer in London. Sunbathing in a basement ‘area’, 1954.

A Skiffle Club in Soho, 1960.

Cards advertising the services of prostitutes in Soho, 1960.

Tales of a Polish Woman – from the History archive

Frank has brought us the thrilling wartime story of an incredibly brave woman. Great reading!

toritto

Christine Granville, nee Krystyna Skarbek, O.B.E., GM, Croix de Guerre, died tragically on June 15, 1952. She was a Special Operations Executive Agent during the war, celebrated for her daring and resourcefulness in intelligence and irregular warfare in Nazi occupied Poland and France. She was one of the longest serving of Britain’s wartime agents and was decorated by the King after the war.  In 1941 she began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville and adopted it with her naturalization as a British citizen in February 1947. She was 37 years old when she died.

Krystyna Skarbek, “Vesper” to her father, was born in 1908. the second child of Count Jerzy Skarbek and Stephania Goldfeder, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. The Skarbeks had influenced Polish history for a thousand years, saving the country from medieval invaders and serving its royal courts’ “Krystyna inherited the self‐assuredness, patriotism and fearlessness…

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December The 7th, 1941

Eighty years ago today, Japan attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour, and brought the United States into WW2.

As a result, a bitter war was fought in the Pacific, and so many soldiers and civilians died. Some years later, American troops and equipment made D-Day possible, and Germany was finally defeated.

Becuase of Japan’s entry into the war, the allies finally had to invent a super-weapon to defeat that country, and the world went into the terrifying nuclear age.

Let us never forget those who died on that day, and always remember the significance of the date in world history.

Some films about WWII

Reblogging another old film post from 2013. I don’t think any current followers have ever seen this one.

beetleypete

There have been a lot of films made about this long war, that took place in so many parts of the world. Many are so well known, that I have deliberately avoided including them here. So, no famous British black and white war films, no ‘Saving Private Ryan’, or ‘Bridge Over The River Kwai’. For those of you who enjoy war films, for whatever reason, I hope you find some new ones here, and that you are intrigued enough to seek them out.

Come and See. This is a Russian film from 1985. It is set during the German invasion of Belarus, and follows a young man, and a girl he meets, on their journey to join a band of partisans. It is not a film of great set piece battles, but does not shrink from depicting the horrors of the German atrocities carried out during this period. Over…

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Local Hero – Captain John Perrin

I am reblogging this from Rich’s site for the interest of all my American readers. You might like to know that your servicemen who died in Britain in WW2 are not forgotten, and they are honoured and respected by this country. Just like this brave man.

Please read the original post to see two photos.

Richard Lakin's Blog

The memorial you can see below is just a few hundred metres from where I grew up. Although it’s close to junction 14 of the M6 there are beautiful farm fields, spinneys and streams nearby. I ran and hid and splashed in these fields, punctured tyres, suffered nettle rashes, all the usual.

What I didn’t know was that on 4 July 1944 a Mustang P-51D had crashed into a wheat-field here, close to Home Farm and the brilliantly named Sleeper’s Spinney.

USAAF pilot Captain Perrin – an ‘ace’ fighter who had shot down five German aircraft – was delivering the Mustang to Cambridgeshire when something went wrong and the plane was seen to catch fire. Heroically Capt. Perrin did not eject and stayed at his controls to avoid crashing into the populated North End of Stafford, avoiding schools, houses and a hospital.

Sadly, the New Jersey-born pilot died in the…

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Sir Tom Moore: Knight of the Realm

Not long after the news media began to tell us about the impact of the Coronavirus pressures on the staff of the NHS, there was a feature about an elderly man who was hoping to raise £1,000 to donate to NHS charities in their honour. Known as Captain Tom Moore, he was a 99 year-old retired man who had served as an Army Captain in WW2, with the famous ‘Forgotten Fourteenth’ Army in Burma. With limited mobility now, and using a wheeled walking frame, he was determined to walk one hundred circuits of his garden, before his 100th birthday.

Using a donation page set up by his family, he quickly raised that money, and much more besides. So much more, that he decided to keep on walking until the actual day of his 100th birthday.

By the time that day dawned, he had raised over £30 MILLION pounds!

That huge amount overloaded the system of the company managing the donations, and forced them to hire extra staff. It is the largest donation ever raised by one person in the history of the organisation, and the largest ever donation to one single charity.

Tom became an overnight celebrity. He made numerous TV appearances, topped every news headline, and received so many cards that his local post office could not cope with the deliveries. His story was taken up all around the world, with foreign TV crews making the trip to his home to report it. He even opened one of the new Nightingale Hospitals, by remote video link, and was made an Honorary Colonel of his old regiment, The Yorkshire Regiment. He also received a ‘Pride of Britain’ award, along with personal messages from the Queen, and other members of the Royal family

In every respect, he became the man whose face embodied the fighting spirit of Britain, as it faced this incurable pandemic. People began to clamour for him to receive official recognition. A petition was started to urge the government to award him a Knighthood. Even I signed it, and I rarely sign such things.

On his 100th birthday, he also celebrated another achievement. A recording he had made with singer Michael Ball went to number one in the record charts, giving Tom the distinction of becoming the oldest person to ever top any record chart. The song was ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Today’s news is that he is to be awarded a knighthood.
He will now be Sir Thomas Moore.
Never has anyone deserved a title more than him.

There is an old old saying, “They don’t make them like him anymore”.
How true, in his case.

Congratulations, Sir Tom.