However, the process of getting people to these homes could be long and drawn out so why not stage an “Operation Nightingale’’ for the refugees? We did it in Covid so why not now?
The Ukrainian refugee crisis is an emergency, and it requires emergency action. The UK needs an ‘Operation Nightingale’ approach to helping these victims of Mr Putin’s aggression. The UK Government should use its emergency powers to commandeer empty buildings which could be used to house refugees whilst better accommodation is being sought. Here in Lewes District, there are examples of empty buildings such as the former NHS building in Friars Walk, Lewes (feature photo above) and the UTC building in Newhaven. Such buildings already have toilet facilities, and it wouldn’t take much to kit them out with temporary shower units and kitchens.
There is a big role also for the Lewes District Council and the East Sussex County Council. We already know that the District Council are intending to rehouse themselves at the County Hall building taking up already vacant office space at County Hall. The District Council could delay the leasing of their building to Charleston House Trust and turn over their officies for emergency accommodation.
This approach could be repeated across the UK. In England alone, there are 333 district, county and borough councils. Each of these should be asked to review publicly owned property with a view to setting up a ‘Ukrainian Refugees Operation Nightingale’
This should be linked with one important, but simple step, the British Government needs to bring down the barriers and allow Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK visa free. The rest of Europe has taken such a measure so why not the UK?
My teenage 1960s hitch-hike to Weymouth – a magical journey to a magical place!
I hope you enjoy this look back to the 1960s in this short blog which is also available as this podcast on YouTube:
Weymouth to me, back in the 1960s when I was a teenager was a magical place. I was in love with it and the people and especially everything about the Wyke House Hotel! My elder brother George met June, his wife to be, in the September of 1960 in Aldershot which was our family home whilst he was convalescing following a vehicle accident whilst in the Army. Even though George was not to leave the Army until December 1961 Wyke House Hotel became the centre of June and George’s world from 1961 onward. They were were married in February 1962 at Wyke parish church which was next to the hotel. Very soon after George’s move to Weymouth I began my visits there meeting June’s family and getting to know them and their friends at this wonderful place!
One day George said come down and help with at the hotel. I decided to hitch hike. Dad insisted on taking me to the A30. I think it was Hartley Wintney. In those days, the A30 ran straight through the village. There were no motorways, and I don’t remember any bypasses or dual carriageways. The A30 would take me to Salisbury and then via another A road, high up across over Salisbury Plain and Cranborne Chase – offering wonderful vistas across the rolling countryside. I could then get to Dorchester with a short hop to Weymouth. I hitched a lift to just before Winchester, where the A33 used to divide off to Winchester and Southampton. I was heading westward towards Stockbridge and Salisbury. It was just a fork in the road in those times. No motorways in those days.
Sitting on a bank overlooking the fork in the road on a lovely sunny day, I hadn’t even started hitching when a car pulled up. More than a car – this was a Ford Mustang!
An open top car and the engine was throbbing way! An exceedingly rare car in those days in England. It was straight out of a Hollywood movie, red, a beautiful looking car. The guy shouted to me, “do you want a lift”? “Yes please” I yelled and scrambled down the grassy bank. As I got in, I almost stepped on a massive, great dog sitting in the footwell of the passenger seat. It was a red setter or something similar and luckily it paid no heed to me.
So off we went – and did we go! The guy took off at a rate of knots, accelerating. I watched the speedometer needle rise rapidly until we were going at over 70 mph at times. I had never been in a car at that speed before! He sped along the A30. For much of the time it was dead straight. We were on an old Roman road as I found out later.
At each crest of the hill the wheels left the ground! I had my heart in my mouth. We eventually got to Salisbury where I was dropped off. I was grateful for his lift, but also grateful to get out of the car!
I found myself by the bus station. I think part of the open area was also a cattle market. To one side was a brick built rather plain building and it served as a cafe and a pub. I went in and got myself a cup of tea and a very plain sandwich, – the only type available! very typical of cafes in those days. Just a choice of ham or cheese. I had cheese. Soon after I boarded a bus to Blandford Forum. I’d always liked trips on buses especially on those old-fashioned buses with their very comfortable seats. It was a Wilts and Dorset district bus painted red.
It seemed to match the fingerpost road signs they had in those days throughout Dorset which were painted red. They were distinctive but, sadly, there aren’t many left today. It was a relaxing and very pleasant journey looking out the window onto the gently rolling green hills of the Wiltshire and Dorset countryside. I drifted off into dreamy thoughts without a care in the world.
At Blandford Forum I thought, well, I’ll have another go at hitching. And literally just then a hay lorry came along, a low-backed lorry, partly loaded. As instructed, I climbed up on the back of the lorry. It was a slow, old vehicle which trudged along towards Dorchester, and I thought I was never going to get there! I felt I had gone back in time. However, it was a pleasant afternoon so no worries – the last stage of the journey was a Morris Minor. As you come into Weymouth from the Dorchester direction you get to a hilltop and a gap in the hills when you look over the whole of Weymouth and towards Portland.
I always remember the first time I saw that view, – it’s still in my mind today, you see for miles across the curving edge of Weymouth Bay and over toward the island of Portland rising out of the sea connected via a narrow ismuth to the mainland alongside Weymouth Harbour.
After being dropped off on the bustling seafront in Weymouth I walked up to the Wyke House Hotel. A white Georgian manor house set in its own grounds surrounded by a high wall next to Wyke church.
You couldn’t see the house from the road as not only was there a wall but also there were evergreen bushes like rhododendrons which gave it that secluded feeling. Entering the gateway, you are in another world away from this modern world. There were large ancient trees in the grounds. I recall a Lebanon cedar tree to the left other trees with the outbuildings to the right. In the centre was this white Georgian building comfortably standing in its own grounds. The central portico had columns to either side with the house extended on both sides. It wasn’t a large building but nevertheless an impressive two-storey with the large Georgian windows and a fine grey slate roof.
I’d arrived at one of my favourite places in the world!
Lockdown – I’ve always listened to audiobooks and podcasts and during the Covid 19 lockdown I’m listening to more. I like the ‘History Extra’ podcast. It’s made by the same people who produce the BBC History magazine. The one that caught my attention recently was entitled Hunting down the Portland Spy Ring. I thought ah! a spy story! – one of my favourite subjects. I clicked on also because it said ‘Portland’ – and that means the Weymouth area to me. As soon as I started listening and heard the names of Harry Houghton and Ethel Gee it brought back memories of a major news story which came out in 1961 when this spy and a few others were sentenced in court for stealing secrets from the Admiralty Navy base at Portland.
This story transports me straight back to Weymouth in the 1960s. Back then the British Navy still had the second largest navy in the world. I can remember seeing aircraft carriers and other British warships anchored in Portland Harbour. The base employed 1,400 people directly. The influence of the naval base even extended to the Wyke House Hotel. I remember one day in the bar being introduced by George to some pilots and navigators from the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service. They were stationed for a time in Portland. One of them even gave me a whole bunch of James Bond books. That probably started my interest in spies! Looking out towards Portland today it is hard to imagine that there was ever a major naval base there! The book also stirs memories of working with George clearing out the wine cellar of the Wyke House hotel so he could turn it into a club bar. Great fun but that’s another story. What I did get from the Canadian Navy pilots was that they had known that the Wyke House hotel cellar was where their radio station was based during WWII. I have to check the validity of this story but it all adds to the magic of the place!
The podcast was fascinating! The guy who was stealing the secrets from the Navy base at Portland was Harry Houghton. He lived in Weymouth. The story tells of the meticulous work of MI5 in tracking him and the other spies down.
The Admiralty based at Portland was the same place where George later worked. As you probably know he went on to work in London in the MOD Navy Department telecoms group. I remember meeting him one day in Whitehall and we discussed John le Carréstories about spies working from a non-descript address in the Whitehall area and the process of arriving and departing and reporting to the night manager who managed the telephone switchboard. It was clear from our discussions that George had been to this location regarding his work on secret telecoms. George went on to work at the Navy bases in Gibraltar, Bermuda and Hong Kong. He was obviously a trusted party!
The book is called Dead Doubles by Trevor Barnes so I am now going to buy it!
We are out of the European Union and I hope we can now start repairing all the damage which has been done to our trading and social relationship with our partners in Europe over the last 4 years but it not a question of who wins – it is question of damage limitation for both the UK and EU. Both parties will lose benefits.
Hopefully, we can now move away from isolationism and division and start working with people rather than against them. Hopefully we can concentrate on building a global sustainable economy meeting the climate change challenge where peace, humanity and the health of communities are given high priority.
It is with great sadness that I write in remembrance of my dear older brother John who passed away peacefully on March 30, aged 85. John Ient, who was born in Malta on 2nd September 1934. He is much loved and will always be remembered. (see below for a link to tributes)
John had a successful long career as a soldier in the Royal Signals before his retirement as a Major Quartermaster, some years ago. Born in 1934 in Malta where our father was serving in the Royal Signals, the family soon moved back to England on a new Army posting and ultimately the family moved to Hong Kong where dad had been posted in 1938. With the war in the Far East
getting closer and closer mum and brothers John and George were firstly evacuated to the Philippines and then on to Australia where they spent the war. The family was separated from our dad from 1940 to 1945. In July 1945 mum and my brothers returned to England and by this time John was nearly 11 years old. When he was 15 he joined the Army Boys’ Service rising to the rank of Boy Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).
After transferring to the regular army he joined the Royal Signals and his army service included postings to Egypt, NATO/SHAPE headquarters at Fontainebleau France, Germany Singapore and Northern Ireland. John finished his career as a Major Quartermaster and lived many happy years in Richmond, Yorkshire with his wife Dorothy, who sadly died a few years ago.
My condolences to his son Gary and his family who live at Northallerton. With a heavy heart and fond memories from many decades ago,
John’s brother, Victor Ient
Click on the images below to go to specific tributes:
This autumn I had a DNA test and uploaded this to Ancestry.co.uk which resulted in some wonderful news – I am now in touch with cousins in North Wales who are related to my Welsh grandfather and grandmother. I will now have to update my Ient family web site! It is really exciting to be able to work with these ‘new’ cousins and piece together the family tree in Wales! My interest in history continues – and I have some good news, – my book about my dad and his fellow POWs in WWII is published! It’s an ebook and is on Amazon!
Carol and I have had enjoyable and busy year including attending my nephew Adam’s, wedding in July. It was wonderful occasion! It was great to see my son James and my granddaughter Mia over from Singapore in the summer. Next summer I am hoping to see them all (Emma and Mia with mum and dad, Niki and James). It has been good to see my son Adrian and grandsons (Edward, William and Thomas) down from Cambridge at various times during the year. I recently met them for a Christmas lunch in Cambridge. My, they are growing up fast – Thomas the eldest is 18 at Christmas! Also, I am lucky to have two step-grandchildren (Roscoe & Theodora) here in Lewes. They call me ‘Oggie’ so there is no confusion!
I have managed to squeeze into 2019 two great bike rides – one in Brittany/Normandy and the other to Spain cycling 600 miles along the Camino Santiago !
Seasons Greeting! and best wishes for the New Year!
These Valiant Men – The Story of Eight British Servicemen in World War II in the Far East – by Victor S. Ient
At last my book is published! For more info click HERE
It wasn’t until my father died, in 1988, that it dawned on me that I actually knew very little about his life as a soldier and more especially about his life as a POW. I had clues and snippets but I needed more if I were to write his story. My mother outlived my father by 11 years so I accumulated more little stories which were like briefly opening a ‘window on the past.’ I went on the hunt for dad’s fellow servicemen and POWs who were still alive. Luckily I actually met four of them and gathered the information about the other three with the help of contacts and descendants including Adrian Batty whose father was in the same POW camp as my dad. Adrian wrote the chapter about his father. I was also helped by an experienced WWII historian who has kindly written the forward, – Dr Tony Banham. The experiences of the other POWs has enabled me to fill the gaps in my childhood memories to make a full (well almost) account of what it was like for them from 1941 until 1945.
In the book I present you with the biographies of these eight men. It’s not all doom and gloom, as you will see. Of course, they describe some of the horrors, but their characters are strong. Their factual and sometimes humorous accounts have brought into focus what life was like in those terrible years.
There are many books written about and by great leaders and generals, but what about the ordinary guy? Their story is worthy of the telling as well. These eight were ordinary guys who were caught up in the global war during the 1940s, many of them young men, just finding their way in life who saw a career in the Services as adventure and travel. Little did they know what was to befall them in 1941! Read this book if you’re interested in understanding how, by accident and luck, I was able to piece together the circumstances surrounding my father’s capture and imprisonment. By investigating the lives of other servicemen who ended up in POW camps in Japan I’ve been able to tell my father’s story.
My colleague, Jonathan Gilburt and I have just returned from an amazing 600-mile cycle ride along the Camino Santiago in Spain! Over 16 days I cycled over 550 miles (885Km). Jonathan took an extra day and cycled close on 600 miles. See maps below
2020 Update! My cycling companion, Jonathan has made a short video of the trip:
The video (13 mins) kick off on a lovely sunny day in Plymouth where we spent the day , mainly in the 19th C dockyard before getting the ferry to Santander, Spain The maps below sketch out our cycle ride along the Camino Frances and then the Camino del Norte. It is a great record of the trip, – many thanks Jonathan!
What was amazing was the amount of ascent covered on the journey. The total ascent in my 16 days of cycling was over 41,500 ft. (12, 670 mtrs). Or, put it another way, it was like going up Ben Nevis (from sea level) 10 times in those 16 days, – one and a half times the height of Everest! I must admit I had some help though. At the age of 73 I thought I deserved some ‘power plus’. I had an electric bike, but Jonathan deserves full credit as he powered the whole of the journey under his own steam! Well, he’s 16 years younger than me so I’m very happy with my achievement. For both of us it was tough going in many places. On the level we were equal, – the electric bike cuts out at 15 miles an hour. Much of the time on the first part of the journey I was only on pedal power.
As many will know getting to Spain with your cycle isn’t easy. There are restrictions on the Eurostar and on the TGV. We wanted to go by ferry to Bilbao, but Brittany ferries said they don’t take bicycles, so we decided on Santander. From Santander we took the train south to join the ‘Camino Frances’ just west of Burgos. We then spent 7 days cycling through some beautiful striking and mountainous countryside to Santiago de Compostela. Having rested for a day we took the train north to Corunna and then cycled to Ferrol, another major Spanish seaport. We then took a short journey on the narrow gauge FEVE railway where we joined the north coast of Spain at a small fishing port with a beautiful beach, Covas. We then took 9 days to cycle the ‘Camino del Norte’ back to Santander. A wonderful journey by some truly beautiful beaches and craggy cliffs, – much like Cornwall. We went inland to and skirted beneath the beautiful range of mountains which run along the north coast of Spain, – the Picos de Europa before returning to Santander for the ferry journey home.
Stage 1 of our journey: Camino Frances (click to enlarge of download)
A talk by Peter Owen Jones at Pulborough Village Hall
Thursday 4th April 2019 – 7-9pm
Cost – £10 per person (includes a glass of wine & nibbles)
Peter Owen Jones is a maverick 21st century priest, ecological thinker and champion of ethics who, is an English Anglican priest, author and television presenter,well known from his BBC South programme on the South Downs called ‘In Search of England’s Green and Pleasant Land’.
He will be talking to us about his work, the filming of this documentary and the other fascinating stories that ended up on the cutting room floor, all infused with his love of the South Downs and the British countryside.