27 January 2008

Victoria Cross: F. S. Roberts


Lieutenant, Bengal Artillery

Born: 30 September 1832, Cawnpore, India
Died: 14 November 1914, St Omer, France

Citation: Lieutenant Roberts' gallantry has on every occasion been most marked.
On following up the retreating enemy on the 2nd January, 1858, at Khodagunge [India], he saw in the distance two Sepoys going away with a standard. Lieutenant Roberts put spur to his horse, and overtook them just as they were about to enter a village. They immediately turned round, and presented their muskets at him, and one of the men pulled the trigger, but fortunately the caps snapped, and the standard-bearer was cut down by this gallant young officer, and the standard taken possession of by him. He also, on the same day, cut down another Sepoy who was standing at bay, with musket and bayonet, keeping off a Sowar. Lieutenant Roberts rode to the assistance of the horseman, and, rushing at the Sepoy, with one blow of his sword cut him across the face, killing him on the spot.

(London Gazette Issue 22212 dated 24 Dec 1858, published 24 Dec 1858.)

Note: A sowar was a mounted soldier, equivalent to a private, in the Indian Army.
Roberts's son, Lt the Hon Frederick H S Roberts, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of Colenso, on 15 Dec 1899.

Medal of Honor: B. E. Brown


Captain, US Army; commanding Company C, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division

Born: 2 September 1903, Dublin, Ga.

Citation: He commanded Company C, 18th Infantry Regiment, on 8 October 1944, when it, with the Ranger Platoon of the 1st Battalion, attacked Crucifix Hill, a key point in the enemy's defense of Aachen, Germany. As the leading rifle platoon assaulted the first of many pillboxes studding the rising ground, heavy fire from a flanking emplacement raked it. An intense artillery barrage fell on the American troops which had been pinned down in an exposed position. Seeing that the pillboxes must be neutralized to prevent the slaughter of his men, Capt. Brown obtained a pole charge and started forward alone toward the first pillbox, about 100 yards away. Hugging the ground while enemy bullets whipped around him, he crawled and then ran toward the aperture of the fortification, rammed his explosive inside and jumped back as the pillbox and its occupants were blown up. He rejoined the assault platoon, secured another pole charge, and led the way toward the next pillbox under continuous artillery mortar, automatic, and small-arms fire. He again ran forward and placed his charge in the enemy fortification, knocking it out. He then found that fire from a third pillbox was pinning down his company; so he returned to his men, secured another charge, and began to creep and crawl toward the hostile emplacement. With heroic bravery he disregarded opposing fire and worked ahead in the face of bullets streaming from the pillbox. Finally reaching his objective, he stood up and inserted his explosive, silencing the enemy. He was wounded by a mortar shell but refused medical attention and, despite heavy hostile fire, moved swiftly among his troops exhorting and instructing them in subduing powerful opposition. Later, realizing the need for information of enemy activity beyond the hill, Capt. Brown went out alone to reconnoiter. He observed possible routes of enemy approach and several times deliberately drew enemy fire to locate gun emplacements. Twice more, on this self-imposed mission, he was wounded; but he succeeded in securing information which led to the destruction of several enemy guns and enabled his company to throw back 2 powerful counterattacks with heavy losses. Only when Company C's position was completely secure did he permit treatment of his 3 wounds. By his indomitable courage, fearless leadership, and outstanding skill as a soldier, Capt. Brown contributed in great measure to the taking of Crucifix Hill, a vital link in the American line encircling Aachen.

24 January 2008

This day in history: 24 Jan

1679: The Cavalier Parliament, sitting since 8 May 1661, was dissolved by Charles II.

1848: James W Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill, near Sacramento, California.

1865: Captain Hugh Shaw, 18th Regiment, was ordered to occupy a forward position about a half mile from camp near Nukumaru, New Zealand. After two men were wounded in an attack by the Maoris, Shaw ordered a withdrawal to a palisade about sixty yards from the enemy. One of the wounded, however, was unable to move, and Shaw, with four privates, advanced under heavy fire to within thirty yards of the enemy to rescue him. Shaw was awarded the Victoria Cross.

1945: C Company, 161st Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, encountered intense enemy fire whilst crossing an open field near San Manuel, on Luzon, and was ordered to withdraw to cover. Technician 4th Grade Laverne Parrish, a medic, was treating the casualties when he noticed two men still lying in the field. He crawled out into the field twice, to rescue both men, then made several more trips to tend to other casualties, bringing three more of them back to cover, ignoring enemy fire. He managed to tend to almost all of the company's 37 casualties before being hit by mortar fire and killed. Parrish was awarded the Medal of Honor.

1972: Sgt Shoichi Yokoi was found hiding in the jungle on Guam, where he had been since the end of World War II.

1986: Voyager 2, launched on 20 August 1977, passed within 50,680 miles (81,500 km) of Uranus. It would continue on to a flyby of Neptune in 1989, and then head out into interstellar space.

C Caesar Augustus Germanicus (12-41), Ira Hayes (1923–1955), Elsa (1956-1961), Sir Winston Churchill KG OM CH TD FRS (1874–1965), Bill Wilson (1895-1971), Larry Fine (1902–1975) and L Ron Hubbard (1911–1986) died on this date.

And happy birthday to P Aelius Hadrianus (76–138), Frederick II the Great (1712–1786), Ernst Heinkel (1888–1958), Ernest Borgnine (1917-TBD), Desmond Morris (1928-TBD), Doug Kershaw (1936-TBD), Ray Stevens (1939-TBD), Neil Diamond (1941-TBD) and Mary Lou Retton (1968-TBD).

23 January 2008

SpaceShipTwo design unveiled

ZUI this article from Flightglobal.com:
Virgin Galactic has unveiled a SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, created by Scaled Composites, that harks back to the NASA/USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar glider of the 1960s, while Scaled's carrier aircraft, White Knight II (WK2) has been given a twin-fuselage configuration.

To be launched on a Lockheed Martin Titan III rocket, Dyna-Soar was for hypersonic flight research but the programme was cancelled before the first vehicle was completed. Some of its subsystems were used in later X-15 flight research and Dyna-Soar became a testbed for advanced technologies that contributed to projects, including the Space Shuttle.


The SS2 is 18.3m (60ft) long, has a wingspan of 12.8m, a tail height of 4.5m with a passenger cabin that is 3.66m long and 2.28m in diameter. Despite being so much larger than SS1, SS2 will still use a front nose skid, and not nose gear. Released at 50,000ft (15,200m) by WK2, the rocket glider's apogee is expected to be up to 110km (68 miles).

Pictures are available at the link.

Victoria Cross: 22-23 Jan 1879


Lieutenant, Corps of Royal Engineers

Born: 21 December 1847, Pathe, Bridgewater, Somerset
Died: 1 November 1897, The Rectory, Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset


Lieutenant, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 29 August 1845, Versailles, France
Died: 9 February 1891, Allahabad, India

Joint Citation: For their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke's Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January, 1879.
The Lieutenant-General commanding the troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and excellent behaviour of these two Officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of Rorke's Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it.
The Lieutenant-General adds, that its success must, in a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who excercised the Chief Command on the occasion in question.

(London Gazette issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)


Private, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 24 May 1857, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Died: 25 November 1932, Cwmbran, Monmouthshire

Citation: Private John Williams was posted with Private Joseph Williams, and Private William Horrigan, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, in a distant room of the hospital, which they held for more than an hour, so long as they had a round of ammunition left: as communication was for the time cut off, the Zulus were enabled to advance and burst open the door; they dragged out Private Joseph Williams and two of the patients, and assegaied them. Whilst the Zulus were occupied with the slaughter of these men a lull took place, during which Private John Williams, who, with two patients, were the only men now left alive in this ward, succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition, and in taking the two patients into the next ward, where he found Private Hook.

(London Gazette issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)


Private, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 6 August 1850, St Andrew's Church Yard, Churcham, Gloucestershire
Died: 12 March 1905, Osborne Villas, Roseberry Ave, Gloucester

Citation: These two men together, one man working whilst the other fought and held the enemy at bay with his bayonet, broke through three more partitions, and were thus enabled to bring eight patients through a small window into the inner line of defence.

(London Gazette issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)


Private, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 1840, Evesham, Worcestershire
Died: 15 April 1913, Ardwick, Lancashire


Private, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 19 August 1857, Raglan, Monmouthshire
Died: 6 September 1898, Madley, Herefordshire

Joint Citation: In another ward, facing the hill, Private William Jones and Private Robert Jones defended the post to the last, until six out of the seven patients it contained had been removed. The seventh, Sergeant Maxfield, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, was delirious from fever. Although they had previously dressed him, they were unable to induce him to move. When Private Robert Jones returned to endeavour to carry him away, he found him being stabbed by the Zulus as he lay on his bed.

(London Gazette issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)


Corporal, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: ca 1844, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland
Died: 12 March 1890, Monmouth, Monmouthshire


Private, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment

Born: 28 November 1856, Edmonton, London
Died: 7 January 1913, Ealing, London

Joint Citation: It was chiefly due to the courageous conduct of these men that communication with the hospital was kept up at all. Holding together at all costs a most dangerous post, raked in reverse by the enemy's fire from the hill, they were both severely wounded, but their determined conduct enabled the patients to be withdrawn from the hospital, and when incapacitated by their wounds from fighting, they continued, as soon as their wounds had been dressed, to serve out ammunition to their comrades during the night.

(London Gazette issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)


Surgeon-Major, Army Medical Department

Born: 3 February 1844, Kingsdown, Dublin
Died: 4 March 1932, London

Citation: For the conspicuous bravery, during the attack at Rorke's Drift on the 22nd and 23rd January, 1879, which he exhibited in his constant attention to the wounded under fire, and in his voluntarily conveying ammunition from the store to the defenders of the Hospital, whereby he exposed himself to a cross-fire from the enemy both in going and returning.

(London Gazette issue 24734 dated 17 Jun 1879, published 17 Jun 1879.)


Acting Assistant Commissary, Commissariat and Transport Department

Born: December 1832, London
Died: 8 January 1887, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Citation: For his conspicuous gallantry during the attack on Rorke's Drift Post by the Zulus on the night of the 22nd January, 1879, when he actively superintended the work of defence, and was amongst the foremost of those who received the first attack at the corner of the hospital, where the deadliness of his fire did great execution, and the mad rush of the Zulus met its first check, and where by his cool courage he saved the life of a man of the Army Hospital Corps by shooting the Zulu, who, having seized the muzzle of the man's rifle, was in the act of assegaing him.
This Officer, to whose energy much of the defence of the place was due, was severely wounded during the contest, but still continued to give the same example of cool courage.

(London Gazette issue 24784 dated 18 Nov 1879, published 18 Nov 1879.)


Corporal, Natal Native Contingent, South African Forces

Born: 7 April 1856, Bergedorf, Berne, Switzerland
Died: 14th December 1884, on board HMS Serapis off the coast of Angola

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry in the defence of Rorke's Drift Post on the night of the 22nd January, 1879, when, in spite of his having been wounded in the foot a few days previously, he greatly distinguished himself when the Garrison were repulsing, with the bayonet, a series of desperate assaults made by the Zulus, and displayed great activity and devoted gallantry throughout the defence. On one occasion when the Garrison had retired to the inner line of defence, and the Zulus occupied the wall of mealie bags which had been abandoned, he crept along the wall, without any order, to dislodge a Zulu who was shooting better than usual and succeeded in killing him, and two others, before he, the Corporal, returned to the inner defence.

(London Gazette Issue 24788 dated 2 Dec 1879, published 2 Dec 1879.)

************ ******* ************


Private, 80th Regiment

Born: 28 July 1856, Aston, Warwickshire
Died: 31 January 1927, Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire

Citation: For his gallant conduct in having, at the imminent risk of his own life, saved that of Private Westwood, of the same regiment.
On the 22nd January, 1879, when the camp at Isandhlwana was taken by the enemy, Private Wassall retreated towards the Buffalo River, in which he saw a comrade struggling, and apparently drowning. He rode to the bank, dismounted, leaving his horse on the Zulu side, rescued the man from the stream, and again mounted his horse, dragging Private Westwood across the river under a heavy shower of bullets.

(London Gazette issue 24734 dated 17 Jun 1879, published 17 Jun 1879.)


Lieutenant, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

Born: 8 September 1842, Marylebone, London
Died: 22 January 1879, Buffalo River, Zululand


Lieutenant, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot

Born: 20 January 1852, Drumcondra, County Dublin, Ireland
Died: 22 January 1879, Buffalo River, Zululand

Lieutenant Melvill, of the 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of the gallant efforts made by him to save the Queen's Colour of his Regiment after the disaster at Isandlwanha [sic], and also Lieutenant Coghill, 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of his heroic conduct in endeavouring to save his brother officer's life, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived.

(London Gazette Issue 24717 dated 2 May 1879, published 2 May 1879.)

Joint Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the Decoration of the Victoria Cross being delivered to the representatives of the undermentioned Officers and men who fell in the performance of acts of valour, and with reference to whom it was notified in the London Gazette that they would have been recommended to Her late Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived:–
London Gazette, 2nd May, 1879.
Lieutenant Teignmouth Melvill, 24th Foot.
Lieutenant Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill, 24th Foot.
"Lieutenant Melvill, of the 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of the gallant efforts made by him to save the Queen's Colour of his Regiment after the disaster at Isandlwanha [sic], and also Lieutenant Coghill, 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of his heroic conduct in endeavouring to save his brother officer's life, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived."

(London Gazette Issue 27986 dated 15 Jan 1907, published 15 Jan 1907.)

Note: As originally established in 1856, the Victoria Cross was only awarded to living recipients. This rule was changed in 1905 by King Edward VII, and in January of 1907 the medal was awarded posthumously to Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill, and to four other men.

22 January 2008

This day in history: 22 Jan

1506: The first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards, commanded by Captain Kaspar von Silenen, arrived at the Vatican.

1879: Some 1400 soldiers from the centre column of Lord Chelmsford's army were attacked in camp at Isandlwana by 20,000 Zulu warriors under Ntshingwayo. The camp was overrun, and there were very few British survivors. Three of them (two posthumously) were awarded the Victoria Cross.*

That same day, Chelmsford's righthand column, commanded by Colonel Pearson, fought off a fierce Zulu attack at Nyezane.

And later that day, some 4500 Zulus led by Dabulamanzi attacked - unsuccessfully - a small garrison of the 24th Regiment at Rorke's Drift. 17 of the 139 defenders were killed in the battle, which lasted almost until dawn; eleven of the survivors were awarded the Victoria Cross.**

1901: Edward VII became King of the United Kingdom on the death of his mother.

1941: Australian forces captured Tobruk.

1944: Operation SHINGLE (the Allied landings at Anzio, Italy) began.

1952: The de Havilland Comet, the world's first jet airliner, entered service with BOAC.

1957: Israeli forces withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which they had occupied since 29 October 1956. (They would return in ten years.)

1968: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was aired for the first time, on NBC.

1992: Space Shuttle Discovery (mission STS-42) was launched from Cape Canaveral with commander Ronald J Grabe, pilot Stephen S Oswald, mission specialists Norman E Thagard, David C Hilmers and William F Readdy, and payload specialists Roberta L Bondar and Ulf Merbold. Dr Bondar became the first Canadian woman in space; Merbold, Germany's first astronaut, was making his second space flight.

2004: NASA's Mars Expedition Rover A (Spirit) ceased communication with mission control. The problem, a memory-management issue, was fixed remotely from Earth on 6 February.

In addition to Queen Victoria (1819-1901), Shah Jahan (1592–1666), Lyndon Johnson (1908–1973), Telly Savalas (1922–1994) and Bill Mauldin (1921-2003) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Sir Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561–1626), Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), Robert E Howard (1906–1936), Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan (1907–1995), Ann Sothern (1909–2001), Piper Laurie (1932-TBD), Bill Bixby (1934–1993), Graham Kerr (1934-TBD) and John Hurt CBE (1940-TBD).

* One of those killed at Isandlwana was Sergeant William Griffiths VC, 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross in 1867 for his actions in the Andaman Islands.

** The movie
Zulu Dawn (Burt Lancaster and Peter O'Toole, 1979) is about the Battle of Isandlwana. The movie Zulu (Michael Caine and Stanley Baker, 1964) is about the Battle of Rorke's Drift.

21 January 2008

This day in history: 21 Jan

1643: Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered Tonga.

1793: Having been found guilty of treason, Louis XVI of France went to the guillotine. (His queen, Marie Antoinette, would follow him on 16 October.)

1861: Jefferson Davis (D-MS) resigned from the United States Senate.

1925: Albania declared itself a republic. This would last until 1928, when President Ahmed Zogu declared himself King Zog.

1950: Alger Hiss was convicted on two counts of perjury.

1954: USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear-powered submarine, was launched in Groton, Connecticut, by Mamie Eisenhower, then First Lady of the United States. Nautilus would be commissioned on 30 September, and remain in service until 1980.

1968: The siege of Khe Sanh began.

In addition to Louis XVI (1754-1793), Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), George Washington Goethals (1858-1928), George Orwell (1903–1950), Cecil B DeMille (1881–1959), Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (1927–1959), James Beard (1903–1985), Jack Lord (1920–1998) and Peggy Lee (1920–2002) died on this date.

And happy birthday to John C Frémont (1813–1890), "Stonewall" Jackson (1824–1863), Karl Wallenda (1905-1978), Richard Winters (1918-TBD), Telly Savalas (1924–1994), Steve Reeves (1926–2000), Wolfman Jack (1939-1995), Mac Davis (1942-TBD) and Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway (2004-TBD).

100 books every child should read

The Telegraph have published a list of said books, together with an editorial by author Michael Morpurgo: "Children's books: 'If children are to become readers for life, they must first love stories.'"

The list (which includes a couple of sets, so there are actually more than 100 books) is divided into three sections, by age group, and there is a brief description of each.

Early Years:
The Twits, by Roald Dahl
Burglar Bill, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Tiger Who Came To Tea, by Judith Kerr
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak *
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter
Yertle the Turtle, by Dr Seuss *
Fungus the Bogeyman, by Raymond Briggs
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business, by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch
Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle *
The Cat in the Hat, by Dr Seuss *
Charlotte's Web, by E B White *
The Story of Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A A Milne, illustrated by E H Shepard *

Middle Years:
Stig of the Dump, by Clive King
Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfield
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones *
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling *
The Borrowers, by Mary Norton *
Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffman
The Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton
Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
George's Marvellous Medicine, by Roald Dahl
Underwater Adventure, by Willard Price
Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé
The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
Erik the Viking, by Terry Jones, illustrated by Michael Foreman
When the Wind Blows, by Raymond Briggs
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by T S Eliot
The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes
The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame *
The Worst Witch Collection, by Jill Murphy
Peter Pan, by J M Barrie
Mr Majeika, by Humphrey Carpenter
The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley *
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
I'm The King of the Castle, by Susan Hill
The Wave, by Morton Rhue
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren *
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl *
Bambert's Book of Missing Stories, by Reinhardt Jung
The Firework-maker's Daughter, by Philip Pullman
Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster *
The Silver Sword (aka Escape from Warsaw), by Ian Serrallier *
Cue for Treason, by Geoffrey Trease
The Sword in the Stone, by T H White
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K LeGuin *
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J K Rowling *
The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C S Lewis *
His Dark Materials series, by Philip Pullman *
The BFG, by Roald Dahl
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome *
Clarice Bean, Don't Look Now, by Lauren Child
The Railway Children, by E Nesbit
The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde *
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell *
Just William, by Richmal Crompton
Jennings Goes to School, by Anthony Buckeridge
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket

Early Teens:
Call of the Wild, by Jack London *
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll *
The Outsiders, by S E Hinton *
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle *
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred D Taylor *
A Kestrel for a Knave, by Barry Hines
The Hobbit, by J R R Tolkien *
War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo
Beowulf, by Michael Morpurgo
King Solomon's Mines, by H Rider Haggard *
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling *
The Road of Bones, by Anne Fine
Frenchman's Creek, by Daphne Du Maurier
Treasure Island, by R L Stevenson
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott *
Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery
Junk, by Melvin Burgess
Cider With Rosie, by Laurie Lee
The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes
The Song of Hiawatha, by H W Longfellow
Watership Down, by Richard Adams *
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain *
True Grit, by Charles Portis *
Holes, by Louis Sachar *
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding *
My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
Carrie's War, by Nina Bawden
The Story of Tracy Beaker, by Jacqueline Wilson
The Lantern Bearers, by Rosemary Sutcliffe

Asterisks mark the books I've read. 36 of them; there are four or five others that I'm not sure of - for instance, I've read a couple of books by Durrell, but I can't say for certain whether My Family and Other Animals was one of them. (And yes, I've read Little Women but I haven't read Treasure Island - got a problem with that?)

H/T to Kelly, at Big A little a.

RIP: Louis de Cazenave

Louis de Cazenave
16 Oct 1897 - 20 Jan 2008

ZUI this article from Google News:
World War I veteran Louis de Cazenave died Sunday at age 110, his son said, leaving just one known French survivor of the 1914-1918 conflict.

De Cazenave, who took part in the Battle of the Somme, died in his home in Brioude in central France, said his son, also named Louis de Cazenave.


Born Oct. 16, 1897, de Cazenave was called up to fight in 1916 and served in different infantry regiments before joining an artillery unit in January 1918, according to a statement from the French president's office.

And also this article:
Born on October 16, 1897, de Cazenave signed up in 1916 and served with the fifth Senegalese battalion, seeing active service from December 1916 to September 1917.

He took part in the Second Battle of the Aisne, the so-called Chemin des Dames, part of an offensive launched by General Robert Nivelle that ended in disaster for the French army.

On returning to civilian life in 1919 he became a railwayman. He married and raised three sons before returning to his native region where he spent his days with his family, indulging his love of the famed local salmon fishing.

That article also says:
At 110 years old, an Italian-born Foreign Legionnaire who wants nothing to do with the state funeral proposed by former president Jacques Chirac is the last man standing in France from World War I.

"The first men to fall in the trenches deserve to be honoured as much as the last," Lazare Ponticelli said, according to his daughter Janine Desbaucheron, upon learning of fellow veteran Louis de Cazenave's death on Sunday.


Ponticelli's role has an extra dimension of course: he was born in Italy. And when France's neighbour turned against its previous allies in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian bloc of that era, he also fought in Italian colours.

Ponticelli, who had enlisted in the famed French Foreign Legion at 16 in 1914 and was already active in the trenches, was called up by his homeland. He transferred to an Italian regiment the following year.

20 January 2008

Victoria Cross: C. C. Foss


Captain, 2nd Battalion the Bedfordshire Regiment

Born: 9 March 1885, Kobe, Japan
Died: 9 April 1953, London

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle [France] on 12th March, 1915.
After the enemy had captured a part of one of our trenches, and our counter-attack made with one Officer and 20 men having failed (all but two of the party being killed or wounded in the attempt), Captain Foss, on his own initiative, dashed forward with eight men, under heavy fire, attacked the enemy with bombs, and captured the position, including the 52 Germans occupying it.
The capture of this position from the enemy was of the greatest importance, and the utmost bravery was displayed in essaying the task with so very few men.

(London Gazette Issue 29272 dated 23 Aug 1915, published 20 Aug 1915.)

Medal of Honor: J. J. Foss


Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve; Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

Born: 17 April 1915, Sioux Falls, S. Dak.

Citation: For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, at Guadalcanal. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Capt. Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing, and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On 15 January 1943, he added 3 more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on 25 January, Capt. Foss led his 8 F-4F Marine planes and 4 Army P-38's into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that 4 Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.

18 January 2008

RIP: Sqn Ldr "Jimmy" James MC, RAF

Sqn Ldr Bertram Arthur James MC, RAF
17 Apr 1915 - 18 Jan 2008

ZUI this article from The Times:
“Jimmy” James was one of 76 officers who escaped from Stalag Luft III on the night of March 24, 1944, and was fortunate not to be among the 50 executed on Hitler’s order on recapture. He was sent instead to Sachsenhausen concentration camp from where he tunnelled his way out, only to be caught again after 14 days on the run.

He was the second pilot of a Wellington bomber shot down south of Rotterdam in June 1940. Initially hopeful that German security would not be too tight, the Netherlands having been overrun only in May, he planned to acquire a boat to sail back to England, or at least get him far enough from the coast to be picked up. A Dutch farmer gave him food and shelter but for one night only as his presence was certain to become known: the local police arrested him before he could move on.


The first 30 [Stalag Luft III escapees] were chosen by the escape committee because they spoke fluent German and so had the best chance of making a “home run”. The next 70 were chosen from those who had worked on the tunnel, and the final 100 were names taken from a hat of 500 volunteers.

James was allocated place number 39. His plan was to join a group of 12 who, with papers indicating they were foreign workers at a local wood mill going home on leave, would travel the first leg of their journey by train, heading for Czechoslovakia where they hoped to make contact with the local resistance. All went well for them until, having made one successful train journey, they attempted another only to be arrested at the station by police alerted by the mass escape. A sentry had stumbled on the mouth of the escape shaft at 5am on March 25, by when 76 officers had got away. At first Hitler ordered all those recaptured to be shot but allegedly due to pressure from Goering, who feared reprisals against Luftwaffe prisoners in Allied hands, the order was changed to “more than half to be shot”.


Bertram Arthur James was born in India where his father was a tea-planter. He was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and worked in British Columbia from 1934 until volunteering for flying training with the RAF in 1939. He was awarded the MC and mentioned in dispatches for his escape attempts.

Granted a regular commission in the RAF he retired as a squadron leader in 1958. He was the general-secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-sponsored Great Britain-USSR Association, until joining the Diplomatic Service in 1964. He held posts in Africa, Western and Eastern Europe and London. He retired in 1975, when he visited Sachsenhausen with Jack Churchill and other survivors. He served as the British representative on the International Sachsenhausen Committee until shortly before his death.

He is survived by his wife, Madge, whom he married in 1946. Their son predeceased him.

Update 1217 1 Feb: ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
Family, friends and members of the RAF gathered in Shropshire yesterday, Thursday 31 January 2008, to honour the memory of retired Squadron Leader 'Jimmy' James MC RAF, famous for his bravery in the WWII 'Great Escape'.

A funeral service, held at St Peter's Catholic Church in Ludlow, Shropshire, and led by Father Jim Robinson, included participation from Service personnel stationed across the UK. The pallbearer party of RAF Regiment Gunners came from RAF Honington in Suffolk, while the route lining party were from the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering in Cosford.


Fittingly, Squadron Leader James, known as 'Jimmy', left the church for the very last time to the theme tune of the Great Escape before being laid to rest in Ludlow's cemetery. His link to No 9 Squadron was re-affirmed by a four ship GR4 Tornado 'Missing Man' formation flypast, the poignant aerial manoeuvre to symbolise the loss of a comrade.

15 January 2008

Bring on the giraffes!

I read somewhere* a few months back that there may be taxonomic changes coming for giraffes - instead of one species (Giraffa camelopardalis) with six subspecies, there are actually at least six separate species, and possibly as many as eleven.

Something led me to "Linnaeus' Legacy # 3," at Greg Laden's Blog, this evening. Amongst other things, he links to two recent posts on this subject: "Now We Are Six," at A Blog Around the Clock, and "There Are More Giraffe Species Than You Think," at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted).


And on the less serious side, Coturnix's post led me to "Those Silly Giraffes -- Humorous Comment Contest," also at Living the Scientific Life:
What do you think Noah's Ark looked like with six (or is it eleven?) species of giraffes on board? Please show us in a picture because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

(Giraffes are clean animals, you know - they have cloven hooves and chew their cuds - so there'd have to be seven pairs of each species....)

And that last post led me to this wonderful post from The Digital Cuttlefish.

* Tet Zoo, I think, but I'm not going to look it up.

Literature nerd

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance, appeal to you? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and its eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, but you can probably be overly critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Gamer/Computer Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Social Nerd
Drama Nerd
Anime Nerd
Artistic Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?

Pick a lout, any lout (round two)

According to this quiz:

68% Mitt Romney
66% Rudy Giuliani
65% Fred Thompson
64% Tom Tancredo
64% John McCain
54% Mike Huckabee
48% Ron Paul
45% Hillary Clinton
44% John Edwards
41% Barack Obama
41% Joe Biden
41% Bill Richardson
40% Chris Dodd
35% Mike Gravel
30% Dennis Kucinich

Still have all of the Republicans above the Democrats, but with a much smaller gap between them. And Hillary has moved up quite a bit....

14 January 2008

Newbery and Caldecott winners announced

The 2007 winner of the John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children is Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and published by Candlewick. The Newbery Honor Books (ie, runners-up) are Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D Schmidt, and Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have it, of course.*

The Randolph Caldecott Medal, for a distinguished American picture book, was awarded to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, written and illustrated by Brian Selznick, and published by Scholastic. The Caldecott Honor Books are Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Ellen Levine, First the Egg, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sís, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, by Mo Willems.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have this one, too.*

(I'll let you do your own searches for the Honor Books.)

The American Library Association (ALA), who give both of the above awards, also announced a few others, including:
The Michael L Printz Award, for excellence in young-adult literature: The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean.

The Coretta Scott King Book Award, recognizing an African-American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults: Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

The Margaret A Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, for contribution to writing for teens: Orson Scott Card

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, for the most distinguished book for beginning readers: There Is a Bird on Your Head!, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

The Robert F Sibert Medal, for the most distinguished informational book for children: The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sís.

The Mildred L Batchelder Award, for the most outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States: Brave Story, by Miyuki Miyabe (translated by Alexander O Smith).

The Book Standard has the complete list of awards, winners, and Honor Books here.

* Patronising your local bookseller is a really good idea, too!

13 January 2008

Victoria Cross: F. W. Palmer


Lance Serjeant, Royal Fusiliers

Born: 11 November 1891, Hammersmith, London
Died: 10 September 1955, Hordle, Hampshire

Citation: His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to No. 731 L./Sjt. (now 2nd Lt.) Frederick William Palmer, R. Fus.
For most conspicuous bravery, control and determination.
During the progress of certain operations [north of Courcelette, France, on 16/17 February 1917], all the Officers of his Company having been shot down, Sjt. Palmer assumed command, and, having cut his way under point blank machine gun fire, through the wire entanglements, he rushed the enemy’s trench with six of his men, dislodged the hostile machine gun which had been hampering our advance, and established a block.
He then collected men detached from other regiments, and held the barricade for nearly three hours against seven determined counter-attacks, under an incessant barrage of bombs and rifle grenades from his flank and front.
During his temporary absence in search of more bombs an eighth counter-attack was delivered by the enemy, who succeeded in driving in his party, and threatened the defences of the whole flank. At this critical moment, although he had been blown off his feet by a bomb and was greatly exhausted, he rallied his men, drove back the enemy and maintained his position.
The very conspicuous bravery displayed by this Non-commissioned Officer cannot be overstated, and his splendid determination and devotion to duty undoubtedly averted what might have proved a serious disaster in this sector of the line.

(London Gazette issue 30008 dated 3 Apr 1917, published 3 Apr 1917.)

Medal of Honor: Cox, Monssen and Schepke


Chief Gunner's Mate, U.S. Navy; USS Missouri (BB 11)

Born: 22 December 1855, St. Albans, W. Va.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism on U.S.S. Missouri 13 April, 1904. While at target practice off Pensacola, Fla., an accident occurred in the after turret of the Missouri whereby the lives of 5 officers and 28 men were lost. The ship was in imminent danger of destruction by explosion, and the prompt action of C.G. Cox and 2 gunners' mates caused the fire to be brought under control, and the loss of the Missouri, together with her crew, was averted.


Chief Gunner's Mate, US Navy; USS Missouri (BB 11)

Born: 20 January 1867, Norway

Citation: Serving on board the U.S.S. Missouri, for extraordinary heroism in entering a burning magazine through the scuttle and endeavoring to extinguish the fire by throwing water with his hands until a hose was passed to him, 13 April 1904.


Gunner's Mate First Class, US Navy; USS Missouri (BB 11)

Born: 26 December 1878, New York, N.Y.

Citation: For extraordinary heroism while serving on the U.S.S. Missouri in remaining by a burning magazine and assisting to extinguish the fire, 13 April 1904.

Note: USS Monssen (DD 436) and USS Monssen (DD 798) were named in honour of Chief Monssen.

12 January 2008

Shuttle (and other) news from NASA

First, launch dates for the next two shuttle missions (STS-122 and STS-123) have been announced. ZUI this press release dated 11 Jan:
NASA Friday announced Feb. 7 as the target launch date for shuttle Atlantis' STS-122 mission to the International Space Station and mid-March for the launch of Endeavour on STS-123. Liftoff of Atlantis from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will be at 2:47 p.m. EST.

A decision by the Russian Federal Space Agency to move up its Progress launch from Feb. 7 to Feb. 5 enables both STS-122 and STS-123 to launch before the next Russian Soyuz mission in early April. This allows astronauts assigned to the space station's Expedition 16 crew to complete the tasks they have trained for, including support of the launch and docking of Jules Verne, the first European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle. Targeting Feb. 7 also allows time to complete modifications to the engine cutoff sensor system that postponed two shuttle launch attempts in December.

Atlantis' main objective during its STS-122 mission to the station is to install and activate the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory, which will provide scientists around the world the ability to conduct a variety of experiments in life, physical, and materials science, Earth observation and solar physics.

Shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 mission will deliver Kibo, the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's laboratory module, and Dextre, Canada's new robotics system to the space station.

NASA have also updated ISS crew assignments. ZUI this press release dated 11 Jan:
NASA has updated assignments for International Space Station expedition crews. The updates reflect changes in the launch schedule for space shuttle missions that will transport rotating crew members.

Astronaut Garrett E. Reisman, a member of the Expedition 16 and 17 crews, now is scheduled to return to Earth on the STS-124 shuttle mission, which is targeted to launch April 24, 2008. He originally was slated to return on STS-126. As planned, Reisman will fly to the station on STS-123, which is targeted to launch in March. He is a native of New Jersey and has a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

Astronaut Gregory E. Chamitoff is scheduled to fly to the station as a mission specialist on STS-124. He will take Reisman's place as an Expedition 17 flight engineer and return to Earth on shuttle mission STS-126, which is targeted to launch Sept. 18, 2008. Chamitoff, who was born in Montreal, Canada, grew up in San Jose, Calif. He has a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Astronaut Sandra H. Magnus will fly to the station on STS-126 to replace Chamitoff. Magnus, a native of Illinois with a doctorate in material science and engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, will serve as a flight engineer and NASA science officer for part of Expedition 17 and part of Expedition 18. Magnus will return to Earth on shuttle mission STS-119 in the fall of 2008.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata will launch on STS-119 and become the first resident station crew member from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, replacing Magnus on Expedition 18. Wakata will serve as a flight engineer on Expedition 18 and return on STS-127.

And finally (for the purposes of this blog post, anyway), MESSENGER will make a close flyby of Mercury next week - the first such visit since Mariner 10's last pass on 16 Mar 1975. ZUI this press release dated 10 Jan:
On Monday, Jan. 14, a pioneering NASA spacecraft will be the first to visit Mercury in almost 33 years when it soars over the planet to explore and snap close-up images of never-before-seen terrain. These findings could open new theories and answer old questions in the study of the solar system.

The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft, called MESSENGER, is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to our sun. Before that orbit begins in 2011, the probe will make three flights past the small planet, skimming as close as 124 miles above Mercury's cratered, rocky surface. MESSENGER's cameras and other sophisticated, high-technology instruments will collect more than 1,200 images and make other observations during this approach, encounter and departure. It will make the first up-close measurements since Mariner 10 spacecraft's third and final flyby on March 16, 1975. When Mariner 10 flew by Mercury in the mid-1970s, it surveyed only one hemisphere.

"This is raw scientific exploration and the suspense is building by the day," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "What will MESSENGER see? Monday will tell the tale."

This encounter will provide a critical gravity assist needed to keep the spacecraft on track for its March 2011 orbit insertion, beginning an unprecedented yearlong study of Mercury. The flyby also will gather essential data for mission planning.

"During this flyby we will begin to image the hemisphere that has never been seen by a spacecraft and Mercury at resolutions better than those acquired by Mariner 10," said Sean C. Solomon, MESSENGER principal investigator, Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Images will be in a number of different color filters so that we can start to get an idea of the composition of the surface."

One site of great interest is the Caloris basin, an impact crater about 800 miles in diameter, which is one of the largest impact basins in the solar system.

"Caloris is huge, about a quarter of the diameter of Mercury, with rings of mountains within it that are up to two miles high," said Louise Prockter, the instrument scientist for the Mercury Dual Imaging System at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel. "Mariner 10 saw a little less than half of the basin. During this first flyby, we will image the other side."

Note that, as usual, I have not completely quoted any of these press releases. Clicking on the links will provide further information.

10 January 2008

RIP: Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary KG ONZ KBE
20 Jul 1919 - 11 Jan 2008

ZUI this article from Yahoo! News:
Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest to win renown as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday. He was 88.

The gangling New Zealander devoted much of his life to aiding the mountain people of Nepal and took his fame in stride, preferring to be called "Ed" and considering himself just an ordinary beekeeper.


Hillary's life was marked by grand achievements, high adventure, discovery, excitement — and by his personal humility. Humble to the point that he only admitted being the first man atop Everest long after the death of climbing companion Tenzing Norgay.

He had pride in his feats. Returning to base camp as the man who took the first step onto the top of the world's highest peak, he declared: "We knocked the bastard off."

The accomplishment as part of a British climbing expedition even added luster to the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II four days later, and she knighted Hillary as one of her first act [sic].

And this article from infonews.co.nz:
Hillary, who came to characterise the typical "rugged Kiwi individual", was born in Auckland on July 20, 1919.

Educated at Auckland Grammar School, where he admitted he was "no great shakes", Hillary eventually became a beekeeper, like his father.

During World War 2 he trained as a navigator in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and flew anti-submarine patrols in the Pacific on Catalina flying boats. During his training he began climbing with his long time friend, George Lowe from Hawke's Bay, honing his skills on the Kaikoura Ranges.

After the war he returned to beekeeping and began to climb extensively, including three Himalayan expeditions.

His chance to make his mark in history came when selected for the 1953 British expedition to climb Mt Everest, led by former commando Colonel John Hunt, later Lord Hunt.

On the mountain, the first assault team that tried to reach the 8848m summit was driven back by altitude sickness. Hillary, who was renowned for his fitness and speed, was chosen along with Sherpa Tenzing to try next.


Meanwhile the honours continued, among them one of the inaugural awards of the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand's highest award given in recognition of outstanding civil or military service.

In 1992, Sir Edmund became the first living New Zealander to feature on a banknote, when his well-known craggy face graced the new $5 bill. He remained one of the most popular New Zealand celebrities and a poll in March 1994 voted him the most popular choice for Governor-General.

In June 1995 he was installed as a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter, the most senior order of chivalry, at a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle. He was only the third New Zealander to be given the honour, limited to 24 living members.

Tenzing Norgay GM died 9 May 1986 in Darjeeling, India.

Hillary and Tenzing

The right tool for the job

My first boat was under construction when I reported in. In fact, it didn't even have a name when I got my orders - I was to report to Commanding Officer, PCU SSN 717. By the time I rang my sponsor a few days later, though, he was able to tell me that I would be serving on USS Olympia. (My reaction: "Just what I wanted. A boat named after a can of beer....")

Oly was built at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company (now Northrop Grumman Newport News). Being on a new-construction boat had its good and bad sides. To begin with, it made qualifying interesting - "Okay, that component is going to be right here, and this component will be over there." Or, "Picture, if you will, a valve right here." It also meant going places where most people wouldn't be able to go on a normal boat; all four hatches were choked with ventilation ducts, power cords, air lines, &c, so access to the boat was through either a hull cut over the CO's stateroom (a ladder right where his desk would eventually be), a hull cut over the Nucleonics lab, or a hull cut over the reactor compartment (a ladder leading down to the top of the reactor vessel). On the other hand, I'd just finished nine months of schools designed to teach me how to operate, troubleshoot and repair equipment that wouldn't even be on the boat until several months after I got there*, so I managed to forget quite a bit.

NNSB&DDCo didn't just build boats; they repaired them, too. This meant that there were a lot of techs on shipyard payroll, and their duties included installing and testing the equipment. As I was an HF tech, I dealt with the shipyard's Great God of HF (whose name, of course, I have totally forgotten in the intervening 23 years). He came down to the boat one day to do a little testing of some sort. Unfortunately, I was off the boat at the time, so I missed all the fun....

At the aft end of the shack was a fuse panel. It was labeled as holding six fuses, but as this was three-phase power, there were actually six sets of three, with each set holding one fuse for each phase. These fuses are nothing like the fuses you have in your house, mind you; each one was around four inches long, and close to a half-inch thick. Due to the current they carried, we radiomen weren't even allowed to touch them - we had to call an electrician's mate forward from nukeland to pull or replace them for us, and he had to take all sorts of precautions when doing so.

I returned to the boat that day to find that the Great God of HF had decided that he needed to secure power to something, and had started to pull the fuses himself. (Great Gods, of course, do not need the assistance of mere electrician's mates - right?) Whilst pulling one fuse, though, he'd accidentally turned it slightly so it made contact with the neighbouring fuses - thus shorting across the phases. I recall being told that A Gang had been snorkeling at the time, but the resulting power surge caused the diesel to shut down.

This caused plenty of excitement, of course. The Great God of HF explained what had happened, and there didn't seem to be any permanent damage. Someone did ask a potentially embarassing question, though: What had happened to the Great God's fusepullers? Had he been using proper fusepullers? Of course, he said. So where were they? Well, he said, naturally he had been startled by the arcing and sparking and had jerked his hand back from the fuse panel; the fusepullers must have flown out of his hand and - ah - gone outboard?** There were a few dubious looks, but no-one called him on it.

And life went on, and life was good.

Fast-forward five or six months. My LPO decided we needed to inventory and restow the contents of the toolbox at the aft end of Radio one day, and drafted me to help him. He knelt by the toolbox and, starting with the top drawer, pulled everything out and handed it over his shoulder to me. After we finished restowing the top drawer, he proceeded to the next, and so on, until we reached the bottom drawer. The LPO started pulling stuff out, and there, amidst all the rest of the junk in the bottom drawer, was a shiny new pair of channel-locks. The kind with bare metal handles, sans insulation.

He picked up the channel-locks and held them out for me, but I didn't take them. He waggled them to get my attention, but I still didn't take them. "Y'know, I think we just found that idiot's fusepullers," I said.

"Huh?" He turned to see what I was looking at. Shiny new channel-locks? Yeah, the side that had been facing up while they were lying in the bottom of the toolbox was nice and shiny-new, but when he'd held the channel-locks out to me, he'd rotated his hand so the other side of them was facing up. And that side wasn't shiny - it was black. Scorched. Partially melted, in fact.

Fusepullers, my arse.

The channel-locks went up the chain of command, LPO to RMC to Commo to Nav, but there wasn't anything officially to be done. There was talk of mounting the channel-locks on a plaque and presenting them to the shipyard HF shop, but I don't know if they actually did that....

* There wasn't even a Radio Room door - just a rectangular hole in the bulkhead - the first few months I was on board.

** Behind the equipment racks.

08 January 2008

RIP: Erich Kästner

Erich Kästner
10 Mar 1900-1 Jan 2008

It seems the last remaining German veteran of World War I has died.

ZUI this announcement from the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung. My translation:
After a long, full life our beloved father, father-in-law and grandfather has passed away.

Oberlandesgerichtsrat i R
Dr Erich Kästner
Holder of the Niedersachsen Service Cross, I Class
born 10 Mar 1900 - died 1 Jan 2008

According to Wikipedia (which has this article on Herr Kästner), there are now only two surviving veterans from the Central Powers: Austro-Hungarian soldier Franz Künstler (107), now living in Germany, and Turkish soldier Yakup Satar (109).

Addendum 1637 23 Jan 08: ZUI this article from Der Spiegel:
The last surviving German army veteran of World War I is reported to have died in Hanover, aged 107. No official confirmation was available nor is it ever likely to be. Germany keeps no official records on its veterans from the two world wars.

Dr. Erich Kästner, who was born on March 10, 1900, died on January 1, 2008, according to an announcement posted by his family in the Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper.


Kästner's family could not be reached and the German Defense Ministry in Berlin said it was unable to provide any information on Kästner. The death notice says he was a retired judge and had earned the Lower Saxony Cross of Merit.

The German army's Military Research Institute, which studies German military history of the 20th century, was also unable to provide information.

RIP: Mary Marques

Mary Marques
11 Feb 1896 - 3 Jan 2008

ZUI this article from the Boston Globe:
The memories Mary Marques related to her family were as sharp as they were long. At 5, she dozed while tending goats in the hills of Portugal and, after being spanked, was told to find the lost animals. More than a century later, she remembered dancing a careful waltz for her 105th birthday.

Marques, 111 - and Massachusetts' oldest-known verified resident - died in her sleep Thursday in the Julian J. Leavitt Family Jewish Nursing Home in Longmeadow. She was believed to be the world's 22d-oldest person, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates birthdates of those over 110, who are known as supercentenarians.


Born Feb. 11, 1896, Marques, whose maiden name was Nunes, married Albano Marques in Portugal. There she gave birth to two daughters - Mary Alice Cullers, who died in 1997 - and Mary Rosa, who is 92 and living in a Holyoke nursing home. She followed her husband to the United States in 1936.

After arriving in New Jersey, she soon moved to Holyoke, which had a large Portuguese community at the time. Marques got a job as a seamstress in a hat shop with her eldest daughter, Mary Rosa. The two earned a combined wage of $2 a week and set aside a portion to send Mary Alice to Mount Holyoke College.


In addition to her daughter, [granddaughter Rosemary] Suprenant, and [grandson Robert] Denehy, Marques leaves three other grandchildren, more than a dozen great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren, according to Denehy.

Mrs Marques is the fourth validated supercentenarian to die since Leila Backman Shull (16 Oct 1894-22 Dec 2007); the others were Teresa Ruberto D'Anna of Italy (3 Nov 1896-26 Dec 2007), Marie-Louise L'Huillier of New Caledonia (26 Jun 1895-28 Dec 2007) and Bertha Lilly of Michigan (9 Sep 1896-30 Dec 2007). The GRG list now includes 71 people - 62 women and 9 men - ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Carolina Peretti-Scaramelli of Italy (born 21 Oct 1897).

Pick a lout, any lout

I don't talk about politics much, but there's this little 11-question quiz which compares your stand on selected issues with the opinions of this year's presidential candidates.

Not sure what the maximum possible score, for complete agreement with a candidate, would be, but here's what I came up with:
McCain - 50
Thompson - 49
Hunter - 44
Huckabee - 35
Romney - 33
Giuliani - 31
Paul - 31
Richardson - 21
Edwards - 12
Obama - 7
Kucinich - 7
Clinton - 7
Biden - 7
Dodd - 7
Gravel - 2

Pretty much what I expected, with McCain and Thompson at the top and the Democrats at the bottom. Note the ten-point spread between the bottom two Republicans and the top Democrat - and then the nine-point drop to the next guy.

H/T to bothenook.

07 January 2008

The Cybils: 2007 finalists (part II)

As promised, the remaining four lists of finalists have been announced.

Non-Fiction Picture Books:
Guess What is Growing Inside this Egg - written and illustrated by Mia Posada
Let's Go!: the Story of Getting from There to Here - written by Lizann Flatt, illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Lightship - written and illustrated by Brian Floca
Living Color - written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins
One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II - written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Vulture View - written by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed - written by David Schwartz and Yael Schy, photographs by Dwight Kuhn

Young Adult Fiction:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - by Sherman Alexie
Billie Standish Was Here - by Nancy Crocker
Boy Toy - by Barry Lyga
The Off Season - by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Red Glass - by Laura Resau
Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend - by Carrie Jones
The Wednesday Wars - by Gary D. Schmidt

Middle Grade and YA Non-Fiction:
Marie Curie: Giants of Science #4 - by Kathleen Krull
The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! - written by Adrian Dingle, illustrated by Simon Basher
Smart-Opedia - by Eve Drobot
Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood - by Ibtisam Barakat
Tracking Trash - by Loree Griffin Burns
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain - by Peter Sis
Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas - by Russell Freedman

Graphic Novels (Elementary/Middle Grade):
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel - by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna
Babymouse #6: Camp Babymouse - written and illustrated by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm
The Courageous Princess - written and illustrated by Rod Espinosa
Robot Dreams - written and illustrated by Sara Varon
Yotsuba&! Volume 4 - written and illustrated by Kiyohiko Azuma

Graphic Novels (Teen/YA):
The Arrival - written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
Flight Volume Four - edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Laika - written and illustrated by Nick Abadzis
The Plain Janes - written by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg
The Professor's Daughter - written by Joann Sfar, illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert

06 January 2008

Victoria Cross: W. G. Barker


Captain (Acting Major), Royal Air Force; 201 Squadron

Born: 3 November 1894, Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada
Died: 1 March 1930, near Ottawa, Canada

Citation: On the morning of the 27th October, 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over the Fôret de Mormal. He attacked this machine, and after a short burst it broke up in the air. At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed, despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.
He then found himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers who attacked him from all directions; and was again severely wounded in the left thigh, but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin.
He lost consciousness after that, and his machine fell out of control. On recovery he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine, he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames.
During this fight his left elbow was shattered and he again fainted, and on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but, notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames.
Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met by another formation, which attacked and endeavoured to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.
This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard of danger which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career.
Major Barker was awarded the Military Cross on 10th January, 1917; first Bar on 18th July, 1917; the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February, 1918; second Bar to Military Cross on 16th September, 1918; and Bar to Distinguished Service Order on 2nd November, 1918.

(London Gazette Issue 31042 dated 30 Nov 1918, published 29 Nov 1918.)