31 October 2008

George Cross presented to RM reservist

ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News:
Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, the first reservist to receive either a Victoria Cross or a George Cross since operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan received his George Cross from Her Majesty The Queen today, Thursday 30 October 2008.

The Royal Marine reservist was awarded the nation's highest honour after he dived on a live grenade to save his comrades in Afghanistan.


LCpl Croucher was part of the Commando Reconnaissance Force tasked on 9 February 2008 to conduct reconnaissance of a compound in which it was suspected that Taliban fighters manufactured Improvised Explosive Devices.

LCpl Croucher was at the head of the team as they moved silently through the darkened compound when he felt a wire go tight against his legs. This was a trip-wire connected to a grenade booby-trap, positioned to kill or maim intruders in the compound. He heard the fly-off lever eject and the grenade, now armed, fell onto the ground immediately beside him.

He quickly acted on instinct and threw himself beside the grenade, pinning it between his day-sack and the ground to absorb the explosion. Amazingly, he survived virtually unscathed when his body armour and the rucksack on his back absorbed most of the explosion.

His commanding officer at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Birrell, said:
"The award of the George Cross is a fantastic achievement for Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher who demonstrated quite exceptional courage and selflessness to protect his comrades. The 40 Commando deployment was a challenging and difficult operation which brought out the very best in all the men and women within the battle group; nowhere was this more apparent than in the actions of Matthew Croucher who accepted great personal risk to save his fellow marines. This was a magnificent act which absolutely typified the highest traditions of commando service."


LCpl Croucher served with the regular Royal Marines between November 2000 and September 2005. He has served as a reservist ever since. In addition to his tour in Helmand, he has also completed three operational tours of Iraq. Outside his role as a reservist he is a director of security company Pinnacle Risk Management.

The George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as the nation's highest award for gallantry and was instituted in 1940 to recognise actions of supreme gallantry in circumstances for which the Victoria Cross was not appropriate. Thus, it may be awarded to civilians, as well as members of the Armed Forces for acts of gallantry not in the presence of the enemy, including, for example, military explosive ordnance disposal personnel.

The Queen also presented a Distinguished Flying Cross to RN helicopter pilot Lieutenant Nichol Benzie, for saving the lives of British troops wounded in Afghanistan.

Update 1237 5 Nov: ZUI also this article from the Daily Mail.

MOD photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008


ZUI this NASA press release:
A NASA spacecraft gliding over the battered surface of Mercury for the second time this year has revealed more previously unseen real estate on the innermost planet. The probe also has produced several science firsts and is returning hundreds of new photos and measurements of the planet's surface, atmosphere and magnetic field.

The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, or MESSENGER, spacecraft flew by Mercury shortly after 4:40 a.m. EDT, on Oct. 6. It completed a critical gravity assist to keep it on course to orbit Mercury in 2011 and unveiled 30 percent of Mercury's surface never before seen by a spacecraft.

"The region of Mercury's surface that we viewed at close range for the first time this month is bigger than the land area of South America," said Sean Solomon, principal investigator and director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "When combined with data from our first flyby and from Mariner 10, our latest coverage means that we have now seen about 95 percent of the planet."


"The previous flybys by MESSENGER and Mariner 10 provided data only about Mercury's eastern hemisphere," explains Brian Anderson of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, known as APL, in Laurel, Md. "The most recent flyby gave us our first measurements on Mercury's western hemisphere, and with them we discovered that the planet's magnetic field is highly symmetric."


"Now that MESSENGER's cameras have imaged more than 80 percent of Mercury, it is clear that, unlike the moon and Mars, Mercury's surface is more homogeneously ancient and heavily cratered, with large extents of younger volcanic plains lying within and between giant impact basins," said co-investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University in Tempe.

The project is the seventh in NASA's Discovery Program of lower-cost, scientifically focused missions. APL designed, built and operates the spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science instruments were built by APL; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and the University of Colorado, Boulder. GenCorp Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., and Composite Optics Inc. of San Diego, provided the propulsion system and composite structure.

For more on MESSENGER, see here.

Fall colours II

More autumn foliage, for your viewing pleasure. Bubbleheads may recognise Rock Lake, which used to be the enlisted men's swimming hole at the Groton submarine base.

29 October 2008

RIP: Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman
27 May 1925 - 26 Oct 2008

ZUI this article from the New York Times:
Tony Hillerman, a former newspaperman whose evocative mystery novels set among the Navajos of the Southwest took the American detective story in new directions and made him a best-selling author, died Sunday in Albuquerque, where he lived. He was 83.

The cause was pulmonary failure, his family said. A daughter, Anne Hillerman, said her father had survived two heart attacks and operations for prostate and bladder cancer, The Associated Press reported.

In the world of mystery fiction, Mr. Hillerman was that rare figure: a best-selling author who was adored by fans, admired by fellow authors and respected by critics. Though the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with an avowed purpose: to instill in his readers a respect for Native American culture.


Mr. Hillerman was not the first mystery writer to set a story on Indian land or to introduce a Native American detective to crime literature. (Manly Wade Wellman, for one, had done so.) But beginning with “The Blessing Way” in 1970, the 18 novels that Mr. Hillerman set on Southwest Indian reservations, featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police, gave the traditional genre hero a new dimension.

Joe Leaphorn, grizzled and a bit cynical, has a logical mind and a passion for order that reflects his upbringing in the Navajo Way. His code of behavior is dictated by a belief in the harmonious patterns of life that link man to the natural world. But he is not a religious fundamentalist; he is a skeptic who holds a master’s degree in anthropology.

Jim Chee, younger and more idealistic than Leaphorn, seeks a more spiritual connection to Navajo tradition. Over several books he studies to become a hataalii, or singing medicine man. This ambition creates friction between the religious faith he professes and the secular rules of criminal justice he is sworn to uphold. Chee first appears in “People of Darkness” (1980), Mr. Hillerman’s fourth novel in the series.


Anthony Grove Hillerman was born on May 27, 1925, in Sacred Heart, Okla., to August Alfred Hillerman, a farmer and shopkeeper, and his wife, Lucy Grove. The town was in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, and the family’s circumstances were so mean that Mr. Hillerman would later joke that “the Joads were the ones who had enough money to move to California.”


After attending Oklahoma A&M College, Mr. Hillerman enlisted in the Army in World War II. During two years of combat in Europe, he said, his company of 212 riflemen shrank to 8 as its members fought their way through France. In 1945, in a raid behind German lines, he stepped on a mine. His left leg was shattered, and he was severely burned. He never regained full vision in his left eye.

He returned from Europe in 1945 with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where he met and married Marie Unzner, a Phi Beta Kappa student in bacteriology, and took up journalism. He went on to find jobs as a crime reporter for The Borger News-Herald in the Texas Panhandle; city editor of The Morning Press-Constitution in Lawton, Okla.; a political reporter in Oklahoma City; bureau manager in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for United Press International; and executive editor of The Santa Fe New Mexican.

The Leaphorn and Chee novels are one of my favourite mystery series.

Fall colours I

Been wandering around with my camera the last couple of weeks. Probably should have started a week or two earlier, but on the other hand there are still a lot of green trees out there.

28 October 2008

RIP: Delfino Borroni

Delfino Borroni
23 Aug 1898 - 26 Oct 2008

The last Italian veteran of World War I has died. This article from The Australian is the only English-language news article I've found thus far. Those who read Italian can check these brief articles from La Stampa and Varese News, and this longer piece from Corriere Della Sera.

Borroni's death comes after the deaths earlier this year of the last German, Austrian, Turkish, French* and female veterans of the Great War.

* Ponticelli was an Italian who served in the French Foreign Legion. The last surviving actual Frenchman who served in World War I also died earlier this year. The Wikipedia article (for which the usual caveats apply) currently lists two other French veterans, but they are not officially recognised by the French govertnment as WWI veterans.

26 October 2008

Victoria Cross: Forrest, Raynor and Buckley


Captain (then Lieutenant), Bengal Veteran Establishment

Born: 1800, St Michael's, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 3 November 1859, Dehra Dun, India

Citation: For gallant conduct in the defence of the Delhi Magazine, on the 11th May, 1857.

(London Gazette Issue 22154 dated 18 Jun 1858, published 18 Jun 1858.)


Captain (then Lieutenant), Bengal Veteran Establishment

Born: July 1795, Plumtree, Nottinghamshire
Died: 13 December 1860, Ferozepore, India

Citation: For gallant conduct in the defence of the Magazine at Delhi, on 11th May, 1857.

(London Gazette Issue 22154 dated 18 Jun 1858, published 18 Jun 1858.)


Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance, Commissariat Department (Bengal Establishment)

Born: 24 May 1813, Cockerhill, Stalybridge, Cheshire
Died: 14 July 1876, Poplar, East London

Citation: For gallant conduct in the defence of the Magazine at Delhi, on the 11th May, 1857.

(London Gazette Issue 22154 dated 18 Jun 1858, published 18 Jun 1858.)

Note: Gazette Issue 22050 (13 Oct 1857) included a report from the Governor-General in Council, and also a letter from Lt Forrest to Colonel A Abbott CB, Inspector-General of Ordnance and Magazines, giving details of the mutineers' attack on the Magazine. Large numbers of mutineers were involved in the attack; the native garrison of the Magazine deserted, leaving only nine men to defend it. The battle lasted for more than five hours, until, after the wall had been scaled and there was no hope of help, the defenders blew up the Magazine. Five of the defenders (Conductors Shaw and Scully, Sub-Conductor Crow, and Serjeants Edwards and Stewart) died in the explosion, and another (Lieutenant Willoughby) shortly afterwards, but many of the enemy were killed. At that time, posthumous awards of the Victoria Cross were not made, so only the three survivors - Forrest, Raynor and Buckley - were awarded the medal.
Lt Raynor is the oldest person to have been awarded the Victoria Cross, at the age of 61 years and 10 months.

Medal of Honor: C. H. Coolidge


Technical Sergeant, US Army; Company M, 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division

Born: 1921, Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Died: TBD

Citation: Leading a section of heavy machineguns supported by 1 platoon of Company K, he took a position near Hill 623, east of Belmont sur Buttant, France, on 24 October 1944, with the mission of covering the right flank of the 3d Battalion and supporting its action. T/Sgt. Coolidge went forward with a sergeant of Company K to reconnoiter positions for coordinating the fires of the light and heavy machineguns. They ran into an enemy force in the woods estimated to be an infantry company. T/Sgt. Coolidge, attempting to bluff the Germans by a show of assurance and boldness called upon them to surrender, whereupon the enemy opened fire. With his carbine, T/Sgt. Coolidge wounded 2 of them. There being no officer present with the force, T/Sgt. Coolidge at once assumed command. Many of the men were replacements recently arrived; this was their first experience under fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge, unmindful of the enemy fire delivered at close range, walked along the position, calming and encouraging his men and directing their fire. The attack was thrown back. Through 25 and 26 October the enemy launched repeated attacks against the position of this combat group but each was repulsed due to T/Sgt. Coolidge's able leadership. On 27 October, German infantry, supported by 2 tanks, made a determined attack on the position. The area was swept by enemy small arms, machinegun, and tank fire. T/Sgt. Coolidge armed himself with a bazooka and advanced to within 25 yards of the tanks. His bazooka failed to function and he threw it aside. Securing all the hand grenades he could carry, he crawled forward and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing enemy. Finally it became apparent that the enemy, in greatly superior force, supported by tanks, would overrun the position. T/Sgt. Coolidge, displaying great coolness and courage, directed and conducted an orderly withdrawal, being himself the last to leave the position. As a result of T/Sgt. Coolidge's heroic and superior leadership, the mission of this combat group was accomplished throughout 4 days of continuous fighting against numerically superior enemy troops in rain and cold and amid dense woods.

Note: T/Sgt Coolidge received a somewhat belated Legion of Honor from the French government on 15 Sep 2006.

25 October 2008

Victoria Cross: 25 Oct 1854


Serjeant-Major, 2nd Dragoons

Born: 3 May 1822, Musselburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Died: 1 December 1863, Inveresk, Lothian, Scotland

Citation: Saved the life of an Officer, in the Heavy Cavalry Charge at Balaklava, who was surrounded by Russian Cavalry, by his gallant conduct in riding up to his rescue and cutting off the head of one Russian, disabling and dispersing the others.

(London Gazette issue 21971 dated 24 Feb 1857, published 24 Feb 1857.)


Private, 4th Light Dragoons

Born: 1813, Stafford, Staffordshire
Died: 15 November 1864, Hyde Park, London

Citation: In the Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at Balaklava, Trumpet-Major Crawford's horse fell, and dismounted him, and he lost his sword; he was attacked by two Cossacks, when Private Samuel Parkes (whose horse had been shot) saved his life, by placing himself between them and the Trumpet-Major, and drove them away by his sword. In attempting to follow the Light Cavalry Brigade in the retreat, they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay, and retired slowly, fighting, and defending the Trumpet-Major for some time, until deprived of his sword by a shot.

(London Gazette issue 21971 dated 24 Feb 1857, published 24 Feb 1857.)


Lieutenant, 11th Hussars

Born: 15 September 1833, Dunstable, York, Canada
Died: 25 January 1865, Senafe, Abyssinia

Citation: For having in the Light Cavalry charge on the 25th October, 1854, saved the life of Serjeant Bentley, 11th Hussars, by cutting down two or three Russian Lancers who were attacking him from the rear, and afterwards cutting down a Russian Hussar, who was attacking Private Levett, 11th Hussars.

(London Gazette issue 21971 dated 24 Feb 1857, published 24 Feb 1857.)


Troop Serjeant-Major, 17th Lancers

Born: 18 July 1825, Dudley, Worcestershire
Died: 17 June 1896, Woldingham, Surrey

Citation: Served with his Regiment the whole of the war, was present at the Battle of the Alma, and also engaged in the pursuit at Mackenzie's Farm, where he succeeded in capturing thrtee Russian prisoners, when they were within reach of their own guns.
Was present and charged at the Battle of Balaklava, where, his horse being shot under him, he stopped on the field with a wounded Officer (Captain Webb) amidst a shower of shot and shell, although repeatedly told by that Officer to consult his own safety, and leave him, but he refused to do so, and on Serjeant John Farrall coming by, with his assistance, carried Captain Webb out of range of the guns.
He has also a clasp for Inkerman.

(London Gazette issue 21971 dated 24 Feb 1857, published 24 Feb 1857.)


Serjeant, 13th Light Dragoons

Born: 11 January 1833, Eccles, Manchester, Lancashire
Died: 28 June 1883, Pinetown, Natal

Citation: For having stopped under a very heavy fire to take charge of Captain Webb, 17th Lancers, until others arrived to assist him in removing that Officer, who was (as it afterwards proved) mortally wounded. Serjeant Malone performed this act of bravery while returning on foot from the charge at the Battle of Balaklava, in which his horse had been shot.

(London Gazette issue 22043 dated 25 Sep 1857, published 25 Sep 1857.)


Quartermaster Serjeant, 17th Lancers

Born: March 1826, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 31 August 1865, Secunderabad, India

Citation: For having remained, amidst a shower of shot and shell, with Captain Webb, who was severely wounded, and whom he and Serjeant-Major Berryman had carried as far as the pain of his wounds would allow, until a stretcher was procured, when he assisted the Serjeant-Major and a private of the 13th Dragoons (Malone), to carry that officer off the field. This took place on the 25th October, 1854, after the charge at the battle of Balaklava, in which Farrell's horse was killed under him.

(London Gazette issue 22065 dated 20 Nov 1857, published 20 Nov 1857.)


Serjeant, 2nd Dragoons

Born: 1827, Morningside, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 29 December 1859, Newbridge, Co Kildare, Ireland

Citation: For having, at the battle of Balaklava, galloped out to the assistance of Private McPherson, of the same Regiment, on perceiving him surrounded by seven Russians, when by his gallantry he dispersed the enemy, and saved his comrade's life.
For having, on the same day, when the Heavy Brigade was rallying, and the enemy retiring, finding his horse would not leave the ranks, dismounted and brought in a prisoner from the Russian lines.
Also for having dismounted on the same day, when the Heavy Cavalry was covering the retreat of the Light Cavalry, and lifted from his horse Private Gardiner, who was disabled from a severe fracture of the leg by a round shot. Serjeant Ramage then carried him to the rear from under a very heavy cross fire, thereby saving his life, the spot where he must inevitably have fallen having been immediately afterwards covered by the Russian cavalry.

(London Gazette issue 22149 dated 4 Jun 1858, published 4 Jun 1858.)


Surgeon, 6th Dragoons

Born: 14 April 1815, Chatham, Kent
Died: 4 January 1899, Kensington, West London

Citation: For having voluntarily proceeded to the assistance of Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, C.B., 17th Lancers, who was lying dangerously wounded in an exposed situation after the retreat of the Light Cavalry at the battle of Balaklava, and having dressed that officer's wounds in presence of, and under a heavy fire from the enemy. Thus, by stopping a serious hemorrhage, he assisted in saving that officer's life.

(London Gazette issue 22149 dated 4 Jun 1858, published 4 Jun 1858.)


Serjeant-Major, 17th Lancers

Born: 24 March 1827, Germany
Died: 24 April 1876, Dover, Kent

Citation: For having, after the retreat of the Light Cavalry, at the Battle of Balaclava, been instrumental, together with Dr. James Mouat, C.B., in saving the life of Lieut.-Col. Morris, C.B., of the 17th Lancers, by proceeding, under a heavy fire, to his assistance, when he was lying very dangerously wounded, in an exposed situation.

(London Gazette issue 22194 dated 26 Oct 1858, published 26 Oct 1858.)

Notes: Serjeant-Major (later Lieutenant) Grieve was the great-uncle of Captain Robert C Grieve VC, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his service on the Western Front in 1917.
Lieutenant Dunn was the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 26 Jun 1857, Grieve, Parkes, Dunn and Berryman, in that order, became the first four members of the British Army to be presented the Victoria Cross.
The Gazette incorrectly gave the dates of Ramage's and Mouat's acts of bravery as 26 Oct 1854.

24 October 2008

Pizza burgers

My old shipmate Mega Munch and two of his friends had a contest recently to see who could make the best-looking pizza burger.

Wild Bill's open-faced burger was the winner, with 14 votes. I was one of those who voted for it - the insalata caprese on the side looked too good to resist.

This burger by Mega Munch himself came in second, with six votes. (It actually looked the least appetizing of the three to me.)

This burger, by Skinnyboy, only got four votes. I do like the idea of using frozen mini-pizzas for the bun.

Their first challenge involved peanut butter burgers. The next one is really going to be something else....

Balaclava, 1854

Tomorrow being the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava, I thought I'd post these two poems about it.

The Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan, was composed of two brigades. The Heavy Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Major General the Hon James Scarlett, was made up of the 1st Dragoons (Lieut-Col John Yorke), the 2nd Dragoons (Lieut-Col Henry Griffith), the 4th Dragoon Guards (Lieut-Col Edward Hodge), the 5th Dragoon Guards (Maj Adolphus Burton) and the 6th Dragoons (Lieut-Col Henry White).

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava
Alfred, Lord Tennyson*

The charge of the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade!
Down the hill, down the hill, thousands of Russians,
Thousands of horsemen, drew to the valley – and stay’d;
For Scarlett and Scarlett’s three hundred were riding by
When the points of the Russian lances arose in the sky;
And he call’d, ‘Left wheel into line!’ and they wheel’d and obey’d.
Then he look’d at the host that had halted he knew not why,
And he turn’d half round, and he bade his trumpeter sound
To the charge, and he rode on ahead, as he waved his blade
To the gallant three hundred whose glory will never die –
‘Follow,’ and up the hill, up the hill, up the hill,
Follow’d the Heavy Brigade.

The trumpet, the gallop, the charge, and the might of the fight!
Thousands of horsemen had gather’d there on the height,
With a wing push’d out to the left and a wing to the right,
And who shall escape if they close? but he dash’d up alone
Thro’ the great gray slope of men,
Sway’d his sabre, and held his own
Like an Englishman there and then.
All in a moment follow’d with force
Three that were next in their fiery course,
Wedged themselves in between horse and horse,
Fought for their lives in the narrow gap they had made –
Four amid thousands! and up the hill, up the hill,
Gallopt the gallant three hundred, the Heavy Brigade.

Fell like a cannon-shot,
Burst like a thunderbolt,
Crash’d like a hurricane,
Broke thro’ the mass from below,
Drove thro’ the midst of the foe,
Plunged up and down, to and fro,
Rode flashing blow upon blow,
Brave Inniskillens and Greys
Whirling their sabres in circles of light!
And some of us, all in amaze,
Who were held for a while from the fight,
And were only standing at gaze,
When the dark-muffled Russian crowd
Folded its wings from the left and the right,
And roll’d them around like a cloud, –
O, mad for the charge and the battle were we,
When our own good redcoats sank from sight,
Like drops of blood in a dark-gray sea,
And we turn’d to each other, whispering, all dismay’d,
‘Lost are the gallant three hundred of Scarlett’s Brigade!’

‘Lost one and all’ were the words
Mutter’d in our dismay;
But they rode like victors and lords
Thro’ the forest of lances and swords
In the heart of the Russian hordes,
They rode, or they stood at bay –
Struck with the sword-hand and slew,
Down with the bridle-hand drew
The foe from the saddle and threw
Underfoot there in the fray –
Ranged like a storm or stood like a rock
In the wave of a stormy day;
Till suddenly shock upon shock
Stagger’d the mass from without,
Drove it in wild disarray,
For our men gallopt up with a cheer and a shout,
And the foeman surged, and waver’d, and reel’d
Up the hill, up the hill, up the hill, out of the field,
And over the brow and away.

Glory to each and to all, and the charge that they made!
Glory to all the three hundred, and all the Brigade!

Note: The "three hundred" were the men of the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) and the 2nd Squadron of the Inniskillings (6th Dragoons), who made the initial charge backed by the rest of the brigade.

The Light Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Major General the Earl of Cardigan, was made up of the 4th Light Dragoons (Lieut-Col Lord George Paget), the 8th Hussars (Lieut-Col Frederick Shewell), the 11th Hussars (Lieut-Col John Douglas), the 13th Light Dragoons (Capt John Oldman) and the 17th Lancers (Capt William Morris).

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Nine men - three from the Heavy Cavalry Brigade and six from the Light - were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action:
Serjeant-Major John Grieve, 2nd Dragoons
Surgeon James Mouat CB, 6th Dragoons
Serjeant Henry Ramage, 2nd Dragoons

Troop Serjeant-Major John Berryman, 17th Lancers
Lieutenant Alexander Dunn, 11th Hussars
Quartermaster Serjeant John Farrell, 17th Lancers
Serjeant Joseph Malone, 13th Light Dragoons
Private Samuel Parkes, 4th Light Dragoons
Serjeant-Major Charles Wooden, 17th Lancers

* Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 Aug 1809–6 Oct 1892)

Click on the "Poetry Friday" button at left for this week's round-up, which is hosted by Kelly at Big A little a. (Susan, of Susan Writes, has done a round-up of previous round-ups here.)

22 October 2008

The BangBang Book Challenge

I'm going to try another reading challenge - The BangBang Book Challenge.
The Rules:
- To participate you must choose 5 fiction books and sign up using the Mr. Linky link below.
- The challenge lasts from Sept. 1 2008 through Feb. 28, 2009.
- There will be monthly Mr. Linkys for your reviews.
- You may overlap with other challenges.
- When you sign up, please leave a comment as well! I want to make sure there are no glitches and I am able to include everyone in the participants area over on the right.
- Also, when you comment after signing up, please include a list of the books you intend to read. The list can change along the way, of course, but it’s always nice to see what’s in your heads.

I've picked five books I've never read before:
Savage Wilderness (Harold Coyle) - French & Indian War
Master & Commander (Patrick O'Brian) - Napoleonic Wars
Fire on the Waters (David Poyer) - US Civil War
The Horizon (Douglas Reeman) - World War I
Torpedo Run (Douglas Reeman) - World War II

Though I may substitute another WWII book, so as to have five different authors represented.

Dive! Dive!

Nice picture of USS Hampton (SSN 767) beginning a dive.

H/T to Joel.

Chandrayaan-1 launch successful

ZUI this article from The Globe and Mail:
India launched its first unmanned moon mission on Wednesday following in the footsteps of rival China, as the emerging Asian power celebrated its space ambitions and scientific prowess.

Chandrayaan-1 (Moon vehicle), a cuboid spacecraft built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) blasted off from a southern Indian space centre shortly after dawn in a boost for the country's ambitions to gain more global space business.


Barring any technical failure, the spacecraft will reach the lunar orbit and spend two years scanning the moon for any evidence of water and precious metals.

A gadget called the Moon Impactor Probe will detach and land on the moon to kick up some dust, while instruments in the craft analyze the particles, ISRO says.

A principal objective is to look for Helium 3, an isotope which is very rare on earth but is sought to power nuclear fusion and could be a valuable source of energy in the future, some scientists believe.

It is thought to be more plentiful on the moon, but still rare and very difficult to extract.


In April, India sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket, and ISRO says it is plans more launches before a proposed manned mission to space and then onto Mars in four years time.

ZUI also this NASA press release:
Two NASA instruments to map the lunar surface will launch on India's maiden moon voyage. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper will assess mineral resources, and the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar, or Mini-SAR, will map the polar regions and look for ice deposits. The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, is scheduled to launch its robotic Chandrayaan-1 on Oct. 22 from Sriharikota, India.

Data from the two instruments will contribute to NASA's increased understanding of the lunar environment as it implements the nation's space exploration policy, which calls for robotic and human missions to the moon.


The Moon Mineralogy Mapper is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that will provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals that make up the moon's surface. Scientists will use this information to answer questions about the moon's origin and geological development, as well as the evolution of terrestrial planets in the early solar system. The map also may be used by astronauts to locate resources, possibly including water, that can support exploration of the moon and beyond.

The Mini-SAR is a small imaging radar that will map the permanently shadowed lunar polar regions, including large areas never visible from Earth. The Mini-SAR data will be used to determine the location and distribution of water ice deposits on the moon. Data from the instrument will help scientists learn about the history and nature of objects hitting the moon, and the processes that throw material from the outer solar system into the inner planets.

The spacecraft also will carry four instruments and a small lunar impactor provided by ISRO, and four instruments from Europe.

Wikipedia also has an article.

20 October 2008

RIP: Charley Fox DFC

Charles W Fox DFC
1920 - 18 Oct 2008

ZUI this article from the London (ON) Free Press:
The tragic death Saturday of Canadian war hero Charley Fox -- who escaped death many times during a remarkable military career -- has left family and friends reeling and wondering who will take on the huge role Fox filled as an educator of youth and spokesperson for veterans.

Fox, 88, a Second World War Spitfire pilot, was killed in a car crash in Oxford County, shortly after attending a Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association meeting near Tillsonburg.


"He'd want us to continue to remember our veterans. Somebody else (must) pick the torch up and continue those things he started because it was so important to him," said Fox's daughter, Sue Beckett of Thamesford.


Fox is also survived by [a son, Jim,] another daughter, Adrienne Black, who lives in New Jersey, nine grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife Helen died in 1993.



He was credited with injuring German commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, during a July 1944 strafing run over France.

Fought in the battle immortalized by Sir Richard Attenborough's film A Bridge Too Far.

Attacked enemy locomotives and enemy vehicles 153 times during the war, leading to the Distinguished Flying Cross honour and the nickname of Train Buster.

ZUI also this article from the Woodstock (ON) Sentinel-Review:
Fox is credited with helping end the career of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (the Desert Fox) when he fired on his speeding black staff car in France shortly after the invasion of Normandy.

Flight Lt. Fox was piloting one of two Canadian Spitfires from the 412 Squadron when the pair unknowingly encountered Rommel and his driver on July 17, 1944.

Rommel suffered serious head injuries after being thrown against the windshield post.

Soon after, a seriously wounded Rommel was accused of being involved in a bomb plot against Hitler, would commit suicide.

It is believed that Rommel was secretly trying to negotiate an earlier end to the war.

German officials would report his death as the result of injuries from the crash.

In 2004, a war expert confirmed after consulting first-hand accounts and logs, that it was most likely Fox who fired on Rommel, considered the Nazi's greatest field commander.

RIP: Col Robert B. Nett

Robert B Nett
9 Jun 1922 - 19 Oct 2008

ZUI this article from the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer:
A Taps vigil will be held at 10 p.m. tonight outside of the Officer Candidate School on Fort Benning to honor retired Col. Robert B. Nett.

The Medal of Honor recipient and "The father of Officer Candidate School," died Sunday at the age of 86 after a brief illness.

Nett enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard in 1940 and graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1942. His distinguished career included service in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.


The last of five Medal of Honor recipients from Muscogee County, Nett earned the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government on Dec. 14, 1944 for heroic actions during hand-to-hand fighting with Japanese soldiers at their heavily fortified stronghold near Cognon in the Philippines.


Following retirement from the Army after 33 year of service, Nett taught for 17 years in the local school system. He was a frequent lecturer at the Officer Candidate School and speaker at Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning. He is a member of both the Army Ranger Hall of Fame and the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.


Nett is survived by his wife, Frances Nett; His son, Dr. Robert Nett Jr. his wife, Patti Ann Nett, and their children Nicholas and Erica, of San Antonio, Texas; His daughter Frances Anne Randall, of Roswell, New Mexico and her husband Doyle, and his granddaughter Yvonne Michelle Randall of Las Vegas, Nevada.

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


Captain (then Lieutenant), US Army; Company E, 305th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division

Born: 9 June 1922, New Haven, Connecticut
Died: 19 October 2008, Columbus, Georgia

Citation: He commanded Company E in an attack against a reinforced enemy battalion which had held up the American advance for 2 days from its entrenched positions around a 3-story concrete building. With another infantry company and armored vehicles, Company E advanced against heavy machinegun and other automatic weapons fire with Lt. Nett spearheading the assault against the strongpoint. During the fierce hand-to-hand encounter which ensued, he killed 7 deeply entrenched Japanese with his rifle and bayonet and, although seriously wounded, gallantly continued to lead his men forward, refusing to relinquish his command. Again he was severely wounded, but, still unwilling to retire, pressed ahead with his troops to assure the capture of the objective. Wounded once more in the final assault, he calmly made all arrangements for the resumption of the advance, turned over his command to another officer, and then walked unaided to the rear for medical treatment. By his remarkable courage in continuing forward through sheer determination despite successive wounds, Lt. Nett provided an inspiring example for his men and was instrumental in the capture of a vital strongpoint.

19 October 2008

International Culinary Olympics

The 2008 Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA*), or International Culinary Olympics, began today in Erfurt. In addition to national and regional teams, and individual entries, ten countries - Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US - are sending military teams. Eash of these teams consists of a team captain, four chefs and a p√Ętissier (pastry chef).

Looks like an interesting event to attend (as a spectator, not a competitor!) in 2012....

* The official IKA home page is here, but parts of it are in German.

Victoria Cross: S. J. Bent


Drummer, 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment

Born: 18 March 1891, Stowmarket, Suffolk
Died: 3 May 1977

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry near Le Gheer [Belgium] on the night of the 1st-2nd November [1914] when, after his Officer, Platoon Sergeant, and Section Commander had been struck down, he took command, and with great presence of mind and coolness, succeeded in holding the position.
Drummer Bent had previously distinguished himself on two occasions, 22nd and 24th October, by bringing up ammunition under a heavy shell and rifle fire, and again, on the 3rd November, when he brought into cover some wounded men who were lying exposed in the open.

(London Gazette Issue 29001 dated 9 Dec 1914, published 8 Dec 1914.)

Medal of Honor: M. H. Smith


Sergeant, US Army Air Corps; 423d Bombardment Squadron, 306th Bomber Group

Born: 19 May 1911, Caro, Michigan
Died: 11 May 1984

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty. The aircraft of which Sgt. Smith was a gunner was subjected to intense enemy antiaircraft fire and determined fighter airplane attacks while returning from a mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe on 1 May 1943. The airplane was hit several times by antiaircraft fire and cannon shells of the fighter airplanes, 2 of the crew were seriously wounded, the aircraft's oxygen system shot out, and several vital control cables severed when intense fires were ignited simultaneously in the radio compartment and waist sections. The situation became so acute that 3 of the crew bailed out into the comparative safety of the sea. Sgt. Smith, then on his first combat mission, elected to fight the fire by himself, administered first aid to the wounded tail gunner, manned the waist guns, and fought the intense flames alternately. The escaping oxygen fanned the fire to such intense heat that the ammunition in the radio compartment began to explode, the radio, gun mount, and camera were melted, and the compartment completely gutted. Sgt. Smith threw the exploding ammunition overboard, fought the fire until all the firefighting aids were exhausted, manned the workable guns until the enemy fighters were driven away, further administered first aid to his wounded comrade, and then by wrapping himself in protecting cloth, completely extinguished the fire by hand. This soldier's gallantry in action, undaunted bravery, and loyalty to his aircraft and fellow crewmembers, without regard for his own personal safety, is an inspiration to the U.S. Armed Forces.

17 October 2008

Veterans Day and Veterans Pride

Veterans Day (11 Nov) is only a little over three weeks away. ZUI this page from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, on the Veterans Pride Initiative. To quote from the site's FAQ:
Q. What is the Veterans Pride Initiative?

A. The Veterans Pride Initiative encourages America’s veterans to wear their medals or miniature replicas on civilian attire on patriotic national holidays. It is derived from an Australia and New Zealand tradition of wearing medals at ceremonies and marches on April 25, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day.

Q. On what holidays does this initiative recommend veterans wear their medals?

A. It encourages veterans to wear decorations on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

15 October 2008


ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News:
During the past week the Royal Navy's Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG), whose remit involves deploying a team of people with escape and rescue knowledge to the scene of a submarine in distress, has been training off Gibraltar.

During the training 40 specialists, including three doctors, four medics and members of the Submarine Escape Training Tank, used a 'floating village' of 25-man life rafts to rescue various 'casualties', including the Commander of British Forces in Gibraltar, Commodore Matt Parr, from an imaginary submarine.

The aim was to test the the SPAG's ability to set up the 'floating village', to triage and treat the casualties, and to establish Command and Control procedures with headquarters in the UK. In a previous exercise which took place in 2007, the Group practised the other half of their job - parachuting into the sea with all the necessary equipment.

Atlantis (STS-125) launch delayed

ZUI this article from Aviation Week:
Spaceflight planners at NASA are scrambling to rearrange the space shuttle flight manifest in the wake of last month's electronics failure on the Hubble Space Telescope.


Present planning has the shuttle Atlantis rolling back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) from Pad 39A on Oct. 20. Atlantis had been scheduled to launch on Oct. 14 on the STS-125 Hubble-servicing mission, but now it will wait until sometime after February 2009 for another chance to fly the mission.

Its payload - two new instruments and a supply of replacement batteries, gyros and other hardware designed to keep the Hubble operating at upgraded capability for at least five more years - will be pulled back into the pad's rotating service structure on Oct. 7. It will stay there until it is returned to the Payload Handling and Servicing Facility on Oct. 13.

Eventually, crews will repack the payload to include a spare Control Unit/Science Data Formatter to replace the one that failed Sept. 27. The backup unit is undergoing testing at Goddard Space Flight Center to ensure that it will restore full redundancy to the telescope's data-handling system (Aerospace DAILY, Oct. 1).


If the Hubble program can get the backup hardware ready and the mission replanned in time, Atlantis will fly the STS-125 servicing mission in February 2009, with the shuttle Discovery acting as rescue vehicle. If it takes longer to prepare the modified Hubble mission, Discovery is tentatively set to fly STS-119 and deliver the final ISS solar array wing to orbit in February.

In that scenario Endeavour, back from the November station-logistics flight, will be processed to replay the role of rescue craft to a Hubble servicing mission before being prepared for the STS-127 mission to the station in May 2009.

Five shuttle missions are currently scheduled for 2009, with three more to follow in 2010 before the last shuttle is decommissioned.

Sixth space tourist arrives at ISS

Richard Garriott

ZUI this article dated 12 October from Spaceflight Now:
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft rocketed into orbit and set off after the international space station Sunday, carrying two fresh crew members and a U.S. computer game designer who paid some $30 million for a chance to follow in his astronaut father's footsteps.

Mounted on the same launch pad Yuri Gagarin used for the first manned spaceflight nearly five decades ago, the Soyuz TMA-13 vehicle took off on time at 3:01:29 a.m. EDT (1:01:29 p.m. local time) and quickly climbed away through a clear afternoon sky at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Nine minutes later, the capsule entered its planned preliminary orbit.

On board are Soyuz commander and Expedition 18 flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke and Richard Garriott, the sixth space tourist to book a flight to the international space station. Garriott, the son of former Skylab and shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott, is the designer of a series of successful multiplayer computer games. He said before launch "this price tag is the majority of my wealth."

ZUI also this article from the International Herald-Tribune:
The sons of a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut met in space Tuesday when spaceman Sergei Volkov welcomed American Richard Garriott on board the International Space Station.

Garriott, a computer game developer who paid $35 million (20 million pounds) for his trip to space, arrived with two crewmates on board a Soyuz capsule, which docked with the space station two days after blasting off from a launch-pad in Kazakhstan.

After the hatches were opened between the capsule and the station at 10:55 a.m. British time, Volkov -- whose cosmonaut father was orbiting the earth when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 -- welcomed Garriott with a hug.


Russian television showed Garriott smiling after taking congratulations from friends and family, including his astronaut father Owen, who joked with Alexander Volkov at mission control in Moscow.

And this article from Space.com:
Aboard the station, Expedition 17 commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineers Oleg Kononenko and Greg Chamitoff welcomed their first human visitors since June. Hatches between the two spacecraft opened at about 5:55 a.m. EDT (0955 GMT).


Chamitoff joined the Expedition 17 crew in June and will stay aboard with Fincke and Lonchakov for the first stage of their six-month Expedition 18 spaceflight. His current crewmates, Volkov and Kononenko, are wrapping up their own six-month mission and will return to Earth on Oct. 23 with Garriott.


Garriott has packed his private spaceflight with a host of science experiments and educational outreach projects. He has about 500 targets to photograph on Earth, many of them identical to those observed by his father — a two-time spaceflyer who flew to the U.S. space station Skylab and aboard a U.S. shuttle — during the Skylab 3 mission in 1973. Owen Garriott is serving as his son's chief scientist for the spaceflight.

The joint Expedition 18 and Expedition 17 crew, meanwhile, will begin an intense handover period as Volkov and Kononenko prepare for their trip home.

Finke and Lonchakov expect to perform one spacewalk during their mission and host two visiting space shuttle missions that will bring new equipment vital to prepare the space station for larger, six-person crews.

Chamitoff is scheduled to return to Earth aboard space shuttle Endeavour (mission STS-126) in late November.

The man scheduled to be the seventh space tourist, in the meantime, has met with a delay. ZUI this article from RIA Novosti:
A Russian space tourist hopeful is to miss out on a trip to the stars in the autumn of 2009, with a Kazakh astronaut likely to take his place, a Russian space agency official said on Tuesday.

Roscosmos announced in 2007 that businessman and politician, Vladimir Gruzdev, would become the country's first Russian space tourist, most likely in November 2009.

"There is not yet an opportunity to send the unqualified Russian citizen, whose name you all know, to the International Space Station," said Alexei Krasnov, head of manned programs at the Roscosmos space agency.

He said talks were underway with Kazakhstan to send one of its professional astronauts into space next fall, adding that, "I have no doubt that this flight will take place, because we have received all the funding from Kazakhstan."

He added that Gruzdev could be sent into space if a decision to build an extra Soyuz spacecraft was made.

I get around

14 October 2008

How British...?

You Are 50% British

Congrats, mate. You're are probably British. (If not, definitely Australian. Or Kiwi. Or Canadian.)

You enjoy most aspects of mainstream British culture, without being stereotypical about it. You also have a typical British temperament. You wouldn't dream of being impolite.

Pennsic XXXVII

Darter the Chronicler's photos from this year's Pennsic War are now available at his website.

Excellent work, as always.