Supporter of the ‘underdog’ and fair play, freedom of the individual balanced with responsibility to the community. Supporter of our heritage and countryside. Environmental campaigner for action on climate change, sustainable farming, transport and economy
I’ve just had a very interesting conversation with my brother John. He is 12 years older than me, so he’ll be 84 currently but he’s got a good memory.
He told me about his visit to Hong Kong in the 1960s whilst he was in the army. While he was there, he had a wander round to remember the places that he knew when he was a boy just before he, my brother George and my mum were evacuated from Hong Kong in 1940. John would have been about 5 years old then. He said they lived in two places –The Peak which you access via the Peak railway and near the racecourse in Happy Valley. I think The Peak must have been their 1st home. He says he tried to find out where they lived, and he remembered they had a view down into Repulse Bay. He asked the Chinese workmen where he could see this view and he was taken a short distance and shown a view. He asked the Chinese workmen where the houses had gone and he replied, “look down”. John looked down and saw the outline of foundations of buildings.
John says he remembers being evacuated and has a memory of docking in Singapore as well as Manila in the Philippines. This seems a bit strange to me so I can only assume that in that evacuation of 1940 the ship may have gone to Singapore after the 2nd evacuation from Manila and sailed to Singapore before being redirected to Australia. I can’t be sure but maybe he’s mixing up his memory of a short visit to Singapore when the family went out to join my Dad in Hong Kong in 1938.
I asked John why Dad left the army in 1945/46. He said it was all to do with the POWs being sent to, in Dad’s case, an army camp at Pocklington Yorkshire. The men who had been in POW camp for 4 years were sent there for retraining to get them used to life back in the army. John said there was a sergeant, George Rockall who John met some years later in the mid-1950s when John was in the army serving at NATO headquarters at Fontainebleau in France. George Rockall was in charge of drilling the men on the parade ground at Pocklington in 1945. It was all to do with Dad’s reaction to this overzealous Sgt who John said looked very much like Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army. Apparently, Dad walked off the parade ground in the middle of being drilled as if he was a private soldier having just joined the army and asked for the papers so that he could resign from his service career.
After what Dad went through in the war I’m not surprised. Especially as Dad was a senior warrant officer in Hong Kong before he had been captured. He was an experienced soldier and I believe it was an insult to re-drill such men. However, as John says it was a decision which he believes Dad regretted. If he had stayed in the army, he would almost certainly have been made up to a senior warrant officer very quickly and probably would have got a commission as a major and served out probably another 15 years before leaving the army.
Sadly, Dad left the army and had to find a job. Things weren’t good after the war as there were lots of men looking for jobs as most of the service people had been conscripted into the services just for the war period and they were all on the jobs market as well. Dad had to start all over again in telecommunications. He joined the GPO telephone engineering department and began life all over again as a labourer digging holes and putting up telegraph poles. What must have added insult to injury was that he had to work through one of the worst winters in living memory in 1947 when he spent months repairing the telephone overhead wires and telegraph poles
in the Basingstoke area in freezing weather and deep snow! Dad’s decision meant that our family didn’t have much money and mum had to go out to work. Luckily, being an ex-serviceman, our family was given a council house in Aldershot. In the end Dad did make the grade and became a manager in the GPO Guildford telephone area and was a very well-respected engineer and manager.
Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century’s most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.’ He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and, there, some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. “We were born here,” he said, “and here we will remain.”
Railfuture is the UK’s leading independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for passengers and freight. Railfuture is a voluntary group representing rail users, with 20,000 affiliated and individual members. It is not affiliated to or funded by train companies, political parties or trade unions, and uses one-member one-vote democracy.
This is a fascinating story by Lord Ashdown (Paddy Ashdown). Whilst the story recounts the heroic actions of many SOE and French resistance agents, it focuses primarily on three people – a British secret agent Roger Landes; the Gestapo counter-espionage officer Frederick Dohse; and a French resistance leader André Grandclément who was responsible for most of the controversial betrayal that took place in France from 1942 to 1944. At first, I thought this was going to be documentary recounting the many conflicts between the Gestapo and the resistance and SOE in France. But it’s more than that, – it’s a gripping story that unfolds during World War II from the time the SOE agents are trained in England to the final days of the liberation of the Bordeaux area and the snub given to British agents by General de Gaulle. The book was clearly painstakingly researched – there are literally hundreds of references. Highly recommended!
This 90 minute film, tells the amazing and dramatic story of Gertrude Bell (1868 – 1926) who worked tirelessly to get the British Empire to do the right thing in the Middle East during and following World War I. The two features are the incredible story of her life and the vivid historical photographs. I highly recommend it. The narrator takes you on a journey through Gertrude’s life where she expounds on the critically and globally important issues of the day Whilst painting beautiful word pictures of the magic of the orient and life as it was during the decline of the Ottoman Empire and later in sharp contrast the stark reality of World War I. The film goes on describe the creation of new countries and rulers in the post-war period set against the hard commercialism of the British and American scramble for possession of oil rights.
Gertrude was a contemporary of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) but far more influential. Sadly she has been almost completely written out of history. In large part, this film tells her story by the narrator reading from Gertrude’s letters set against a backcloth of original photographic and film footage from the period. Just seeing these Edwardian and wartime images and films is an historic feast in itself. If you want to see what Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and the amazing ruins at places like Babylon & Palmyra were like just watch this film. The real Orient Express is also depicted with scenes at Istanbul and Baghdad. Despite the black-and-white imagery the desert scenes are stunning! There is also amazing footage from scenes in London and Paris. It’s an historians delight!
I was particularly struck by her very clear understanding of the circumstances and future challenges of the period. Much of what she says still rings true today! Here are a few quotes from her letters:
Talking about what would eventually become Iraq she said, “The first thing we should do in this country is to understand what is going on at the bottom of the Shia mind.”
As Britain began to occupy the new country of Iraq she said “The real difficulty under which we labour is that we don’t know exactly what we intend to do with this country. We rushed into this business with our usual disregard for a comprehensive political scheme.”
During World War I she said, “Can you persuade people to take your side when you are not sure if you will be there to take theirs?”
The film is currently available via BBC iPlayer, (also available to buy through other sources)
Last month George and I made our last journey together….. up to Aldershot crematorium from Portsmouth. I know this sounds a bit crazy since George’s funeral was in March but I had agreed that rather than have his ashes buried at the crematorium at Porchester, I would take them to Aldershot for them to be placed next to our mum and dad.
George was born in Aldershot in 1937. After dad’s army posting to Hong Kong, mum and brothers George, Tommy & John joined him there in 1938.
In July 1940 mum and my brothers wereevacuated to Australia where they spent the rest of WWII. Finally they returned to Britain in 1945 and following a brief spell staying with relations in South Wales and with Granny in Hounslow, Middlesex, George returned to Aldershot as an eight-year-old.
I spent many happy hours with George exploring the countryside, near our house, when I was four or five years old, until George, at the age of 15, joined the Army Boys Service. So I thought it most appropriate that he and I go on one last journey through those beautiful Surrey Hills, including Crooksbury Hill, which was the first place he took me on these explorations. Earlier this month, George and I went on that journey to his final resting place at Aldershot crematorium, just a few hundred yards from our home in Gloucester Road.
It is my sad duty to inform you that my brother George passed away last week. The family, friends and I will miss him very much. Right now however I would like to share with you some photos in memory of him and give you details of the funeral:
The funeral will take place at 11.15am, 29th March at: Portchester Crematorium, Upper Cornaway Lane, Portchester, Hampshire. PO16 8NE. 01329 822533. In addition you may visit the chapel of rest at the funeral directors’ premises. You must call them first to let them know you are coming: Lee Fletcher Funeral Services, 95 High St, Portsmouth PO6 3AZ tel: 023 9238 4455 Floral tributes should be sent to Lee Fletcher on the day For those that want to make donations rather than floral tributes please donate to the charity WaterAid which George supported. There will be a reception after the funeral. Please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to come. Or tel: 01273 251964
Here is a link to the photo album (I hope to add more as time goes by):
Yes, some are more complex than others. Cost vary as well. I like this one, which is probably relatively inexpensive:
We seem to have very few renewable energy projects in the seas around the UK which seem crazy since we are surrounded by the stuff! However this one (see below) started development in about 2008 seems to have got off the ground with funding commitment by the then Lib Dem Energy Secretary, Ed Davey in 2011. This was before the renewable energy funding cutbacks by the Conservative government elected in 2015: (click the image to go to the Guardian article). Lib Dem policy would bring renewable energy project to forefront!
Theoretically the turbine will be the first of four to be installed underwater, each with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW), in the initial phase of the project. It is ironic that just before the UK Brexit vote in June the EU awarded just over €3.9 million (£3.1 m) to support further tidal energy testing and demonstration in Orkney waters.
What happens now? Now we are coming out of the EU the other 3 turbines may not get conservative government support, – more than a pity!
We can only hope that many of the projects in the planning and testing stage do get planning consent and government backing. Here are some examples of current projects:
It is often the consenting process that takes a long time and is hugely costly to the developers and their backers because of the potential impacts on marine mammals and wildlife, benthic ecology etc with all sites being located in sensitive marine habitats. In addition, the long term testing of new devices is extremely costly and requires consenting in its own right, like the one off Anglesey. The testing programme could run for 7 years before it becomes fully commercial!
Stop marine plastic pollution by introducing a small, refundable deposit on all plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans to recycle the 16 million plastic bottles thrown away every day.
Why is this important?
In the UK we use a staggering 38.5 million single-use plastic bottles and a further 58 million cans every day! Only half of these are recycled, so it’s no surprise that many of these end up on our beaches and in our oceans.
Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down, killing marine life, harming the coastal ecosystem and ruining our beaches.
Placing a small deposit on plastic bottles and cans would dramatically increase recycling and reduce marine plastic pollution.
BT have commenced a programme of removing some little used telephone boxes around the country and this will include our much beloved, but sadly neglected by BT, red telephone boxes. Sussex Heritage Trust have put out an appeal to communities and villages to try an save these iconic telephone boxes.
It may be possible to adopt an existing in-situ boxes from BT. Click on the image on the right to go to BT’s Adopt a Kiosk Guide