Sunday, 16 August 2009

One Place I've Not Been To........Yet

For as long as I can recall, Ian has been going on about what was still in his father's attic. Having moved out over 20 years ago, his father announced that he was having his lagging replaced and everything had to be removed from its storage space. Various boxes found their way into his old bedroom for a while, then Ian's sister's family were coming up to Nottingham for a few days, so boxes were ousted to Ian's shed and eventually arrived at Ted Towers a few weeks ago.

Several things of interest saw the light of day for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, including this publication. There has been the usual "what were you doing on the day when...." on local radio and I assume in the press as well.

Forty years ago, a young pre acned Ian was spending the school summer holiday period with his sister in Melton Mowbray with relations. From this period he gained a loathing of luncheon meat and sandwich spread.
During the summer of '69, Bryan Adams seems to have been too involved in starting a band that he overlooked a small piece of history, the moon landing, 20th July 1969. Back then the local press were always a little slow to cash in on such an event, the Nottingham Evening Post being no exception.

In early August for the extortionate price of 6d (two and a half new pence!), a 20 page souvenir paper could be purchased. The photos have been seen many times since the landing and is a good thing they have as now the paper is getting somewhat fragile.
Inside there are articles on the moon landing,

the Lunar Logbook, not quite up to Captain's Log, Star date ... standard but interesting nonetheless.
There is also a small piece on the Lunar module

and the three astronauts.
A smiling President gets in on the act before a watery gate took away some of his glory.

Some of the advertisements had a space theme about them.

The advertisement for Two Three Four Motors shows they certainly did not put all their eggs in one basket, dealing with British, Japanese and Italian transport!
I somehow doubt that the Fresh Fish 'N' Seafood from Mason & Clarke Ltd of Reading would have been caught in the Sea of Tranquility.

Friday, 14 August 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Paws For Thought

While I have been reminiscing on our trip, my friend Affer has been busy on his blog On The Road To Who-Knows-Where... on his travels around the Somme Battlefield area. I recommend that you pop over and have a read. Also there is BBE's Video Snapshot, where the Belgium Based Englishman has been concentrating on various small film clips of war memorials.

Last but not least, one blog that has become a living history is WWI:Experiences Of An English Soldier. This blog is compiled by Bill Lamin and the posts are copies of his grandfather's letters that were written 90 years ago to the day they were written. Willimam Henry Bonser Lamin was born in Awsworth, Nottinghamshire, about 15 miles from where we live, so there is some local interest for us.

It feels quite poignant that as I was putting the finishing touches to the Verdun Battlefield Tour that the news of Harry Patch's death was announced. Harry was the last surviving veteran from the trenches of WWI, having fought during the Battle of Passchendaele.
He returned to Passchendaele in 2007 for the 90th anniversary of the battle, laying a wreath, not only on a memorial for the British dead, but also at a cemetery for the German victims of the offensive.
In 2007 he became the UK's oldest author when he collaborated with Richard van Emden to write The Last Fighting Tommy, a detailed account of his life.

Mr Patch's friend Lesley Ross said she felt great affection towards him.

"Extremely modest, dignified gentleman, with a slightly wicked sense of humour and considerate to everybody he met. Very polite and I would sum him up as a true gentleman," she said.

Finally it is all quiet on the Western Front. Sleep well Harry. You have earned it.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - History Lesson (Part 4)

By now we were beginning to feel like sheep as our tour guide was behaving like shepherd and dog combined. After disembarking from the coach at the next stop, Douaumont Ossuary,

the three of us left the flock to take a few photos and film in peace, only for the shep, er, tour guide to come running after us crying 'Mes anglais. J'ai perdu mes Anglais!'
Harmony was restored as we rejoined the flock and headed into the cinema to watch a 20 minute film, complete with headphones, entitled 'The life of Poilu'.

The Douaumont Ossuary was inaugurated on August 7th 1932 by the French President, Albert Lebrun, having been suggested by the Bishop of Verdun, His Grace Ginisty.
During the 300 days of battle for Verdun, over 300,000 French and German soldiers lost their lives. The Ossuary lives to join the unidentified remains, some 130,000 French and German fighters in one final resting place.

The building's tower overlooks the entire battlefield. We were unable to climb to the top due to lack of time on our mini tour, maybe another visit will be required in future. The Ossuary's facade is 137m in length and displays the shield of every town or city that helped to fund the building. The cloister consists of 22 cavities each containing 46 granite graves. Each grave represents a sector of the battlefield and contains the remains of soldiers found in the relevant area. At the ends of the cloister there are 350 cubic metre vaults to contain the excess remains found from sectors that had received heavy losses. In front of the Ossuary there is the Douaumont military cemetery containing the graves of 15,000 identified French soldiers.

There are many war cemeteries throughout France, for both wars and it is not until one of these is visited that one can comprehend the human loss endured in such battles. With no time to ponder or pay our respects to the fallen, we were back on the coach for our last stop.

The Verdun Memorial is located in the heart of the battlefields and is amongst the principal European Great War museums.

Built in 1967, it houses planes, vehicles, heavy arms and weapons alongside uniforms, personal belongings and handicrafts from the trenches.
Due to the time limit of the tour, we were allocated only half an hour inside this museum. So little that Guzzisue only managed to take a few photos of the weapons outside and I managed a little filming (to be posted soon). Guzzisue was not able to take photos inside the museum, as was also the case inside the Ossuary.

The photo below shows a 170mm minewerfer that was buried in the clay during the fierce battle for Hill 304 in 1916. It was saved with the help of "L'Office National Des Forets" and technical assistance of the army in June 1976.

Next is a French cannon that was used as fortification artillery during the battle for Verdun. Its total weight was 6 tonnes and had the ability to fire shells between 40 - 43kgs up to a distance of 12kms.

Finally, two views of a 1913 Schneider cannon. This had a range of 12.7kms and could fire shells at a rate of 6 - 8 per minute. The tyred wheels were not added until after 1918.

We arrived back in Verdun just after 17:00 and headed off to the centre for some refreshment before returning to the hotel to prepare for the journey home over the next couple of days. The tour, although short, was good value for the money. Trying to fit four visits in and traipsing around on a warm day with motorcycle gear is not always easy, Let the coach take the strain I say.