Category Archives: History

For Bimble

I have visited the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. I found it interesting but misplaced. The IWM would be the place for a temporary exhibition but it seems to have become a permanent home.

I think that it would be better to have a museum dedicated to genocide through history. It would include such things as the destruction of indigenous peoples of empire (not just the British); the Turkish massacre of the Armenians; Bosnia (and the rest of former Yugoslavia); Cambodia; Rawanda; and of course the Former Soviet Union.

I am not trying to belittle the Holocaust. If you’d seen my bookshelves you’d know how much it interests me. I have also visited several sites associated with it – including the Wannsee Villa where the bureaucrats met to discuss what a Jew was defined as. This was not the meeting that decided on the Final Solution, contrary to accepted wisdom.

It was the greatest ever attempt at the systematic destruction of an entire racial group. Being only one eigth Jewish was enough to consign you to a gas chamber or a bullet in your neck.

What was done here was murder on an industrial scale, something that had never before been done. Genocide has happened throughout history, even in the Bible, yet this was something never seen before. It involved people in every occupied country and territory in Europe, with the exception of Denmark. People knew what was happening but chose to ignore it.

Yet the IWM is not the place for a permanent home and the Holocaust deserves a home of its own. It is out of place in the home of our nation’s military history. It doesn’t fit in with the over-riding theme. It was a New Labour answer to a bigger question.

French Lessons ( and Others)

As I write this I am watching Monsignor Renard, the series with John Thaw as a priest in occupied France. It is odd becuase all the French seem to come from the north of England, while the Germans speak in German or with German accents. Maybe John Thaw couldn’t speak in a French accent!! Then again it could be seen as being to Allo! Allo!

The series is good but it lacks a sense of reality. It is a British view on a French tradegy and that it is the problem. There is a lack of depth to the story and the underlying tensions between the Petainists, the Communists, those who were patriotic to France and the vast majority who wished to live life as best they could.

This ties in well with the current “heavy” book I’m reading – The Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Julian Jackson. Some of you may actually know him, as I believe he worked in a 3rd rate educational facility somewhere to the west of here ūüôā

This is a heavy academic styled history book. It covers the years of occupation but also the background to what helped to weaken France; how French society was lost and unsure of its own identity. That it had been lost since the fall of the Third Empire, the Dreyfuss Trial and the disappointment with the Third Republic.

I’m also reading Kristallnacht: Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert. I have already read his The Holocaust; Israel: A History and his 3 volume work on the History of the 20th Century. He is one of my favourite historians as he writes in an open and accessible way. His histories flow with a sense of personal involvement and a desire to share his interest in the subject he is writing about.

His book on the Holocaust brings this subject to life in a different way. He shows us how the persecution grew by telling us the story from the ground up. He tells the stories of the people who died each day and in each village, town and city. How a death here and several there, soon mount up into the hundreds, thousands and millions.

Almost no village, town or city in occupied Europe was unaffected by Hitler’s Final Solution. There were many acts of resistance to the policy but most, whether German or otherwise, chose to ignore what was happening, or actively took part.

It is funny how so many Germans, Poles, Russians, Balts, French or Belgians had no idea that all this was happening.

Lever Arch History

There is an article on the BBC website today regarding the current controversy in Russia regarding the way in which Western historians are manipulating Russian history. President Medvedev is incensed that there is a plot to destroy Russia’s reputation and to belittle its past. He says that this is becoming “severe, evil and agressive”.

What seems to get Eussians extremely worked up is that they feel that the West is belittling its achievement in beating the Nazis during World War II. They do not like the fact that other countries see the Soviet Union not as liberators but one oppressor replacing another. They don’t believe that this is what actually happened. Neither do they like the fact that the Eastern European and Baltic states also bring the Soviet atrocities to light.

To Russian they were heroic liberators who brought light into the darkness. They don’t mention things like the Katyn massacre, Stalin’s decision to halt the Soviet advance in 1944 and allowed the Poilsh nationalist resistance to be destroyed by the Germans in Warsaw that August. They could have helped the resistors but chose to have them eliminated instead. In addition the Soviets were quite ruthless in overthrowing non Communist governments and parties as they asserted control over post war Eastern Europe.

I remember my history teacher telling us about the Lever Arch History practised by the Stalin regime, where people were airbrushed from pictures and events retold. This is also a major theme of Otwell’s 1984 as the regime rewrite history to fit with current policy.

Russia has always been very insecure about its image, whether controlled by the Tsars, Communists or the current “democracy”. They want to been seen as a strong, confident nation that has a place at the top table of world affairs. Unfortunately they can never carry it off because of that insecurity.

Therefore any criticism by outsiders, or internal opposition, is seen as an attack on the entire nation. Even if the historical record backs up the opposing view, this is not acceptable to the people in power at the time.

Russians do not see themselves as a threat to others but as a benevolent, paternal figure. They fail to see that where they see a big cuddly bear. others see a vicious predator ready to bite.

What may have helped to focus their attention on this is that next month sees the 70th anniversary of the Nazi/Soviet Non Agression Treaty that helped to make WW II possible. Without this Hitler may have had second thoughts on invading Poland.

The Non Agression Treaty is one of those skeletons that Russians would sooner leave in the closet.

Day of Fun

We had some very good news today but someone else will tell you about that.

Today has been “Stroppy Boy’s Day of Fun”. We collected him from swimming and took him into town to buy his belated birthday presents. We had lunch at Frankie & Benny’s and then came home, his choice. He is currently watching From Russia With Love and then Quantum of Solace later.


History Today:

 193: Emperor Pertinax is assassinated by the Praetorian Guard.

1854: France and Britain join the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean War to halt Russian expansion. It was one of those glorious follies that Britain specialises in.

1930: Kemal Attaturk announces that Constantinople is to renamed Istanbul, as part of his campaign to form a secularised Turkish state.

1939: Madrid surrenders to General Franco and brings an end to the Spanish Civil War. The Facsit Falange Party will rule until 1975.

1969: Former president General Dwight D. Eisenhower dies at the age of 78.

1979: Prime Minister James Callaghan loses a vote of confidence in the House of Commons and is forced to call a General Election. Guess who won?

1990: Jesse Owens is posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Bush (the not as dumb as the other one).

Religious Writing?

Today I have been sermonising again. The Little Chapel That Could had asked me to take their morning service for Mother’s Day. Considering the congregation of 5 women over the age of 50 – most over 75 – it is always an enjoyable experience; you come away feeling appreciated.¬† I have already been asked to bring my diary to book up for next year.

Today they asked me how I prepared my sermons, as they enjoy them so much. I had to be honest and say that I sit with my laptop and pray for guidance. So far it works as the words then flow. I sometimes have an idea but not always the bones or flesh until I sit down to write.

I’ve discovered that my writing has returned to the same method as when I was writing stories for my O level English. Then someone would give me a title, or theme,¬†and a few hours later I’d have¬†quite a few pages done. For someone reason the plot and story would all come out in one fluid hit. I never learnt about structure ¬†or preparing a synopsis to work¬†with.

I’m glad about this as it means that I learnt how to right short stories with impact, rather than long, developed¬†fiction. People tell me that, if i put my mind to it, I could probably write a book. PersonallyI know my own limitations and understand that it would not be very good as fiction. Maybe I could write a book about music, film or history but I don’t really have the time or patience to do that. If I did then I know that I’ve to spend a long time researching as I hate “cut and paste” books – any half wit can copy someone else’s interviews and put poor link sentences in to pretend that they have “created” something of their own.¬†

What I am glad about is that writing sermons has reawakened my love of writing. They perform an intellectual exercise that helps awaken my mind. Who knows, when I get some time, I may try the odd short story again, just to see if I can do.


History Today:

1765: The British parliament introduces the Stamp Act, a tax on American documents that ignites revolution. Seems fair to me though. These colonials are so ungrateful.

1895: The Lumiere brothers stage the first public showing of a motion picture usinf film projection in Paris. 2 days later the first porn theatre opened and the sale of dirty macs increased by 500%. (Some of this maybe untrue – I’m not sure as I wasn’t there.)

1945: The League of Arab States is formed. Unfortunately this wasn’t a Pan-Arabic football league but an alliance to with the aim of achieving complete independence from the colonial powers.

1956: Martin Luther King Jr is convicted of organising an illegal boycott by black passengers of buses in Alabama.

1965: Bob Dylan releases Bringing It All Back Home, his first¬†album featuring electric instruments. That worked wonders for his career with everyone but woolly hat wearing, bearded, ale with twigs in drinking, nut jobs. You know who you are…..

1974: The Equal Rights Agreement is passed by the US Senate, but in the following years fails to be ratified by all the states. See how liberal these former colonials are? Land of liberty? My a***!

2004: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin , the spiritual leader of Palastinian militant group Hamas, is killed by an Israeli air strike. Sometimes 2 bombs do not make a right – maybe they do in this case though. They who live by the bomb will die by the bomb, to paraphase someone famous.

2006: Basque separatist group ETA, sounds like a female blues/jazz singer, announces a permament ceasefire.

Today in Hysteria

I have begun reading the new No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book. It is the same mix of gentle humour, detective story, social commentary and ¬†walk through Botswanan life as all the others. It is a book that gives you a warm glow of satisfaction that, in soem corner of our modern world, there is somewhere that clings to the “old” values and where life is slower, enjoyed and where globalisation is yet to hit.

This is what Dan Brown, and many other writers, should be forced to read to learn how a story should be written, characters expanded and plot crafted. If we had a few more writers of this calibre literature would be in  much better state.


Hysteria Today:

1831: The first recorded bank robbery in American history takes place at the City Bank in New York. A few hundred years later and it is the Citibank doing the robbing.

1861: The first Taranaki War ends in New Zealand.

1916: The first American air combat mission takes place as aircraft fly in support of troops battling Pancho Villa.

1932: The Sydney Harbour Bridge is formally opened.

1945: General Friedrich Fromm is killed for his part in the July Plot against Hitler.

1949: The People’s Council of the Soviet Zone of Occipation approve a constitution, a precursor to the formation of East Germany – a land where women look and sound like men and men run and hide.

1982: A group of wandering Argentines land on the Falkland Island and plant their country’s flag.

Hysterectomy Today

624 : Mohammed defeats his Meccan opponents at the Battle of Badr.

1762: The first St Patrick’s Day parade is held in New York city by Irish soldiers serving in the British army.

1805: The Kingdom of Italy is founded by Napoleon.

1861: Italy is unified into a single kingdom by a nationalist biscuit, with Victor Emmanuel as king.

1921: Marie Stopes opens the first clinic to advise women about birth control in Holloway, North London.

1984: The annual Varsity Boat Race is postponed by a day after the Cambridge crew sinks after hitting a barge prior to the start.

1992: A car bomb explodes outside the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 people.

2003: Britain and the US abandon their attempts to gain UN backing for the invasion of Iraq. They were only going to do it if the UN agreed – liar, liar, pants on fire.

What Goes Up

may not necessarily come down in the same ondition.

Do you remember the British Airways 777  that landed 1000ft short of the main runway at Heathrow in January 2008? What about the Delta Airline flight that had similar fault occur 32000ft over Atlanta the following November?

You may have read last week’s press coverage of the 2 reports released – one by the Americans and one by the British. What you may have also heard was the difference in tone between the 2 reports. The US report said that another incident could happen at any time. The Brits just said that Rolls Royce had to solve the problems as soon as possible.

The 777 is a replacement for the 747 in terms of range but only requires 2 engines. Therefore it’s routing means that it has to be within 90 minutes of an airport for its entire flight. Many of these aircraft are routed over the Artic – the cold, white bit at the top, inhabited by Polar Bears, Killer Whales, Seals, idiots (sorry Inuits) and idiots on treks to the¬†North Pole in their Y fronts or by party balloons.¬†

It may not have escaped your attention that the Artic is very, very cold – even with global warming – during the winter. So the fault in the Heat Exchange must be a worrying problem for someone. Not for our British Air Accident Board though. They don’t like to make a drama out of a crisis.

The airlines refuse to ground the aircraft until the fault is resolved – at current estimates in 12-18 months time. This would cost them to much money in lost revenue. However what this means is that should another 777 have an “incident” then they leave themselves open to massive compensation claims.

BA have announced that they will not tell passsengers whether or not the 777 they fly will have (un)safe Rolls Royce Trent engines or the uneffected GE90 engines. According to BA this is not possible for them to do – even though which aircraft are and aren’t absolutely safe.

Personally I would play safe and ¬†book with another airline not operating 777’s on that route or can guarantee using only GE90 engines. Is it worth spending another hundred or so knowing that you will have a much better chance of arriving¬†¬† landing safely.

If you don’t believe that¬†Trents are a problem then let me just say that Rolls have issued at least 3 notices for part changes in the past few months – these are circulated to the airlines and made known in the trade press. As I much as I believe in supporting British industry, for something this serious I would sooner buy foreign.


History What Did ‘appen:

1190: People in York celebrate a special event – St. Pogrom’s Day – by massacring 150 Jews.

1660: The Long Parliament dissolves itself.

1802: The military academy at West Point, New York is founded.

1872: The first FA Cup Final is played between Wanderers and Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval. Wanderers are the winners.

1926: Robert H. Goddard successfully launches the world’s first liquid fuelled rocket at Auburn, Massachusetts. This helped to give reality to man’s dreams of reaching the stars – though¬†Charlie Chaplin¬†did complain at this intrusion on his privvy.

1953: Marshal Tito, of Yugoslavia, becomes the first Communist head of state to visit Britain.

1968: US troops slaughter between 200 & 500 unarmed villages at My Lai in South Vietnam.

1976: Harold Wilson unexpectedly resigns as Prime Minister. It may have been to do with Alzheimers  Рor because of his holidays on the Sciliy Isles every year.

1978: Aldo Moro, a former Italian Prime Minister, is kidnapped by the Red Brigade in Rome. He is later murdered.

1988: Sadaam Hussein’s forces mount a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing about 5000 people.

Summer Whine

This week I have mainly been rewatching Last of The Summer Wine. Paramount Comedy 2 have temporarily removed Third Rock From The Sun so I have had to search for alternative viewing to help me recover from a day of work (or lack of).

For those who are not of these islands Рit is a gentle, somewhat repetitive sitcom following the lives of 3 Yorkshire pensioners and their meanderings around the local area. It has been going for almost 40 years  and survived the retirement and death of several actors and actresses. Think of it as a rest home for elderly thespians who are awaiting the great audition in the sky.

It is ideal viewing for those needing to de-stress as the storylines are structured very similarly, are well acted, predictable but still enjoyable.


Today In History:

1781: Youranus Uranus is discovered by William Herschel. Wonder if he used both hands to find it!

1865: The Confederate States of America reluctantly decide to use African American troops.

1884: The siege of Khartoum begins in Sudan as the British¬†troops, led by General Gordon, are beseiged by the Mad Mahdi’s army.

1900: British troops occupy Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, during the Boer War. Many exciting wars occured before and after this one!

1943: The Nazis carry out the final liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto and transport the Jews to labour and concentration camps; they murder those not deported. This is a the “Girl in a Red Dress” moment in Schindler’s List.

1954: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu begins in Vietnam. The death knell for French colonisation of the north of the country.

1979: A coup takes place in Grenada overthrowing Sir Eric Gairy, the Prime Minister. Ronnie Raygun orders an American invasion soon after to retake the island from Communist forces.

Time Is (Not) On My Side

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to pack so much into a week. These days I have a struggle trying to find a way to fit everything that I’d like to do in and find time for FW and myself.

I don’t think it helps that I get home from work some nights feeling worn out and don’t want to interact with anyone until I’ve had chance to chill out. By the time¬†I finish and eat my tea it feels to late. Also, because of my earlyish starts I need to sleep by 10:00-10:30. This can hard on FW as I head to bed at 9, well I need sometime to read!

It also means that I sometimes find it hard to juggle weekends. There is so much that I want to do and need to do that I can’t always fit it in. The 6 Nations doesn’t help this; it is my annual occasion for blocking off entire weekends to watch the rugby. Very little interrupts¬†my time then.


History Today:

1801: Czar Paul I is assasinated and succeeded by his son Alexander I.

1861: During the American Civil War, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas adopt the permanent constitution of the Confederate States of America. That ended well!!

1941: The US government passes the Lend Lease Act to allow the to make huge war loans to Britain, and later the Soviet Union.

1942: General MacArthur finally abandons the island fortress of Corregidor as the Japanese conquer the Phillipines. However he does promise: “I will return!” He does deliever¬†his promise.¬†

1985: Mikhail Gorbachev, a reformer, becomes the new, and final, leader of the Soviet Union.

1990: Lithuania becomes the first republic to declare independence from the USSR. To show their appreciation the Soviet Union sends in troops. It wasn’t until September 1991, as the Soviet Union crumbled, that it was finally granted.

2004: Ten bombs planted on rush hour trains in Madrid kill 191 and injure 1800.