30 March 2008

Victoria Cross: Congreve, Roberts, Nurse, Reed and Schofield


Captain, The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own)

Born: 20 November 1862, Congreve, Staffordshire
Died: 26 February 1927, Malta

Citation: At Colenso on the 15th December, 1899, the detachments serving the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery, had all been either killed, wounded, or driven from their guns by Infantry fire at close range, and the guns were deserted.
About 500 yards behind the guns was a donga in which some of the few horses and drivers left alive were sheltered. The intervening space was swept with shell and rifle fire.
Captain Congreve, Rifle Brigade, who was in the donga, assisted to hook a team into a limber, went out, and assisted to limber up a gun. Being wounded, he took shelter; but, seeing Lieutenant Roberts fall, badly wounded, he went out again and brought him in. Captain Congreve was shot through the leg, through the toe of his boot, grazed on the elbow and the shoulder, and his horse shot in three places.

(London Gazette Issue 27160 dated 2 Feb 1900, published 2 Feb 1900.)


Lieutenant, King's Royal Rifle Corps

Born: 8 January 1872, Umballa, India
Died: 17 December 1899, Chieveley, Natal, South Africa

Citation: Lieutenant Roberts assisted Captain Congreve. He was wounded in three places.

(London Gazette Issue 27160 dated 2 Feb 1900, published 2 Feb 1900.)


Corporal, 66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery

Born: 14 April 1873, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland
Died: 25 November 1945, Liverpool, Lancashire

Citation: Corporal Nurse also assisted.

(London Gazette Issue 27160 dated 2 Feb 1900, published 2 Feb 1900.)


Captain, 7th Battery, Royal Field Artillery

Born: 23 May 1869, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 7 March 1931, London

Citation: Captain Reed, who had heard of the difficulty, shortly afterwards brought down three teams from his battery to see if he could be of any use. He was wounded, as were five of the thirteen men who rode with him, one was killed; and thirteen out of twenty-one horses were killed before he got half-way to the guns, and he was obliged to retire.

(London Gazette Issue 27160 dated 2 Feb 1900, published 2 Feb 1900.)


Captain, Royal Field Artillery

Born: 29 January 1865, Audenshaw, Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire
Died: 10 October 1931, London

Citation: At Colenso, on the 15th December, 1899, when the detachments serving the guns of the 14th and 66th batteries, Royal Field Artillery, had all been killed, wounded, or driven from them by Infantry fire at close range, Captain Schofield went out when the first attempt was made to extricate the guns, and assisted in withdrawing the two that were saved.


In consequence of the above the appointment of this Officer to the Distinguished Service Order, which was notified in the London Gazette of the 19th April, 1901, is cancelled.

(London Gazette Issue 27350 dated 30 Aug 1901, published 30 Aug 1901.)

Note: Captain Congreve (later General Sir Walter Norris Congreve VC KCB MVO DL) was the father of William La Touche Congreve VC DSO MC, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his services as a major on the Western Front in 1916. Lieutenant Roberts - who died two days later of his wounds - was the son of Field Marshal The Earl Roberts of Kandahar VC KG KP GCB OM GCSI GCIE PC, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his services as a lieutenant in India in 1858. Only one other father/son pair (C J S Gough and J E Gough) has been awarded the Victoria Cross.
Major William Babtie, RAMC, was awarded the Victoria Cross for helping rescue Lieutenant Roberts.

Medal of Honor: W. Young


Boatswain's Mate, US Navy; USS Cayuga

Born: 1835, New York

Citation: On board the [steam gunboat] U.S.S. Cayuga during the capture of Forts St. Philip and Jackson and the taking of New Orleans, 24 and 25 April 1862. As his ship led the advance column toward the barrier and both forts opened fire simultaneously, striking the vessel from stem to stern, Young calmly manned a Parrot gun throughout the action in which attempts by three rebel steamers to butt and board were thwarted and the ships driven off or captured, 11 gunboats were successfully engaged and garrisons forced to surrender. During the battle, the Cayuga sustained 46 hits.

28 March 2008

"The Miracle"

Spring is here, Suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and....

No, wait - that's not what I want to talk about!

I ran across the following poem last fall, whilst following up a post at Language Log. It (the poem, that is) was written by a Canadian woman named Isabel Ecclestone Mackay (1875-1928); the poem comes from a book called Fires of Driftwood, which is available on-line from Gutenberg.

The Miracle

There's not a leaf upon the tree
To show the sap is leaping,
There's not a blade and not an ear
Escaped from winter's keeping--
But there's a something in the air
A something here, a something there,
A restless something everywhere--
A stirring in the sleeping!

A robin's sudden, thrilling note!
And see--the sky is bluer!
The world, so ancient yesterday,
To-day seems strangely newer;
All that was wearisome and stale
Has wrapped itself in rosy veil--
The wraith of winter, grown so pale
That smiling spring peeps through her!

(Fires of Driftwood, by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay; McClelland & Stewart, Limited, Toronto, 1922.)

(I'd meant to post this last week - the first day of spring - but the library closed for Good Friday. I still think that sounds like a church-and-state violation....)

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

26 March 2008

Fire extinguishers are ‘fire risk’

ZUI this article from The Times:
Fire extinguishers may be removed from blocks of flats across Britain after they were deemed dangerous by buildings risk assessors at two blocks on the South Coast.

Many residents regard the distinctive red extinguishers as the first response to fire, giving vital time until professional firefighters arrive.

But a review of two residential blocks in Bournemouth has raised concerns that householders could delay their escape to tackle a blaze. There is also concern that the use of extinguishers by untrained people could add to the danger.


Residents described the ban as ridiculous. Mike Edwards, a 61-year-old retired printer who lives in Avon House, said: “I was absolutely staggered to discover the fire extinguishers were to be taken out. How can removing fire extinguishers be a safe decision?

“The risk assessor said an extinguisher could cause a hazard if the person using it has not been trained. They are worried they will point it in the wrong direction or use the wrong extinguishers on a certain type of fire but if you are trapped in a burning building, you will certainly work out how to use an extinguisher.

“Our eldest resident is 103 but even she said she could quickly work out how to use an extinguisher in an emergency.”

What will they think of next? Don't tell me - I don't think I want to know....

H/T to Tam.

24 March 2008

RIP: Arbella Ewing

Arbella Perkins Ewing
13 Mar 1894 – 22 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from Fox Television, Dallas:
A North Texas woman, who was Texas' oldest living person and the third oldest American, died Saturday, just a few weeks after turning 114 years old.


Ewing grew up in Streetman, Texas, located 89 miles south of Dallas, during Grover Cleveland's term in the White House. She moved to Dallas with her late husband Frank Ewing in 1936.


Ewing lived without assistance until she turned 113. She was a resident at Grace Presbyterian Village in Dallas at the time of her death.

According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Mrs Ewing was actually the third-oldest person in the world, and the second-oldest person in the US, at the time of her death.

Mrs Ewing is the fifth supercentenarian to die since the death of Tsuneyo Toyonaga on 22 Feb 08. The others were B Ethel Darby of England (6 Jan 1898-25 Feb 2008), Tatsuno Ioda of Japan (2 Jan 1897-4 Mar 2008), Lazare Ponticelli of France (7 Dec 1897-12 Mar 2008) and Blanche Chevrier of Maine (20 Feb 1898-20 Mar 2008).

The GRG's list of validated living supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 77 people (11 men and 66 women), ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Charlessa Wiggins of Illinois (born 9 Feb 1898). Only one of them, 111-year-old Eunice Sanborn (born 20 Jul 1896), lives in Texas; she is the 13th-oldest person in the US and the 26th-oldest in the world.

23 March 2008

Victoria Cross: J. Cook


Captain, Bengal Staff Corps

Born: 28 August 1843, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 19 December 1879, Sherpur, Afghanistan

Citation: For a signal act of valour at the action of the Peiwar Kotal on the 2nd December, 1878, in having, during a very heavy fire, charged out of the entrenchments with such impetuosity that the enemy broke and fled, when, perceiving, at the close of the mêlée, the danger of Major Galbraith, Assistant Adjutant-General, Kurum Column Field Force, who was in personal conflict with an Afghan soldier, Captain Cook distracted his attention to himself, and aiming a sword cut which the Douranee avoided, sprang upon him, and, grasping his throat, grappled with him.
They both fell to the ground. The Douranee, a most powerful man, still endeavouring to use his rifle, seized Captain Cook's arm in his teeth, until the struggle was ended by the man being shot through the head.

(London Gazette Issue 24697 dated 18 Mar 1879, published 18 Mar 1879.)

Medal of Honor: F. W. Zabitosky


Sergeant First Class (then Staff Sergeant), US Army; 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

Born: 27 October 1942, Trenton, N.J.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sfc. Zabitosky, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as an assistant team leader of a 9-man Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrol [in the Republic of Vietnam, 19 February 1968]. Sfc. Zabitosky's patrol was operating deep within enemy-controlled territory when they were attacked by a numerically superior North Vietnamese Army unit. Sfc. Zabitosky rallied his team members, deployed them into defensive positions, and, exposing himself to concentrated enemy automatic weapons fire, directed their return fire. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sfc. Zabitosky ordered his patrol to move to a landing zone for helicopter extraction while he covered their withdrawal with rifle fire and grenades. Rejoining the patrol under increasing enemy pressure, he positioned each man in a tight perimeter defense and continually moved from man to man, encouraging them and controlling their defensive fire. Mainly due to his example, the outnumbered patrol maintained its precarious position until the arrival of tactical air support and a helicopter extraction team. As the rescue helicopters arrived, the determined North Vietnamese pressed their attack. Sfc. Zabitosky repeatedly exposed himself to their fire to adjust suppressive helicopter gunship fire around the landing zone. After boarding 1 of the rescue helicopters, he positioned himself in the door delivering fire on the enemy as the ship took off. The helicopter was engulfed in a hail of bullets and Sfc. Zabitosky was thrown from the craft as it spun out of control and crashed. Recovering consciousness, he ignored his extremely painful injuries and moved to the flaming wreckage. Heedless of the danger of exploding ordnance and fuel, he pulled the severely wounded pilot from the searing blaze and made repeated attempts to rescue his patrol members but was driven back by the intense heat. Despite his serious burns and crushed ribs, he carried and dragged the unconscious pilot through a curtain of enemy fire to within 10 feet of a hovering rescue helicopter before collapsing. Sfc. Zabitosky's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

20 March 2008

U-boat factory for sale

ZUI this article from The Times:
Dank and dark, built by slave labourers, the vast concrete complex known as Valentin on the north German coast is not exactly a des res.

Germany's notorious submarine factory is, however, up for sale to anyone interested in a building with 7m-thick walls, the largest surviving bunker from the Third Reich.

The asking price is vague but government officials say that they could be accommodating for any serious bidder. The place has become a millstone, its upkeep swallowing up to €800,000 (£630,000) a year from the Defence Ministry budget. “And that's just the absolutely essential investments needed to stop the place crumbling,” says commandant Wolfgang zu Putlitz, who is in charge of guarding and maintaining the site.


The factory, codenamed Valentin, was Hitler's last chance to stop the Allies ferrying supplies and reinforcements by sea. It was to be shielded from bombing raids by a bunker with a thick pre-stressed concrete roof.

The result was a silo with the dimensions of a cathedral: 426m (1,400ft) long, 97m wide, 25m high. At one end was a diving basin for the last tests on the U-boats before they would slide into the Weser river and head for the North Sea.

In the event, no submarine left the factory. By March 1945 the factory, begun 18 months earlier, was 80 per cent complete. Then a British Bomber Command raid succeeded in penetrating the roof. Barely a month later, before repairs were complete, the war was over.


“This bunker should not be sold,” the Mayor of Bremen, Jens Böhrnsen, says, “for both financial and moral reasons.” The new owner would have to commit himself to making at least part of the site into a memorial centre for Nazi slave labour. At least 12,000 concentration camp inmates, forced labourers and prisoners of war were involved in the almost pharaonic project: a million tonnes of gravel and sand had to be dug up and 1,232,000 tonnes of cement was mixed.

19 March 2008

RIP: Ivan Dixon

Ivan Dixon
6 Apr 1931 - 16 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal:
Actor, director and producer Ivan Dixon, best known for his role as Kinchloe in the television series "Hogan's Heroes," has died in Charlotte at the age of 76.

Dixon died Sunday at a Charlotte hospital after suffering a hemorrhage, said Whitney Stauffer of Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles.

ZUI also this article from Variety:
Born in New York City, Dixon graduated North Carolina Central U. and studied drama at Western Reserve U., Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio and the American Theater Wing in New York.

He began his career on Broadway in such plays as "The Cave Dwellers" and "A Raisin in the Sun." In addition to roles in feature films "Something of Value" and "Nothing But a Man," he appeared on TV shows such as "Perry Mason," "The Twilight Zone," "Outer Limits" and "The Mod Squad."

And also this article from the Associated Press:
His honors include four NAACP Image Awards, the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society. He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild of America and the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

In addition to his daughter [Doris Nomathande Dixon], survivors include his wife of 53 years, Berlie Dixon of Charlotte, and a son, Alan Kimara Dixon of Oakland, Calif. Two sons, Ivan Nathaniel Dixon IV and N'Gai Christopher Dixon, died previously.

Dixon's filmography can be found at IMDb.

RIP: Arthur C Clarke

Sir Arthur C Clarke CBE
16 Dec 1917 – 19 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from the BBC:
British science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90.

The Somerset-born author came to fame in 1968 when short story The Sentinel was made into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey by director Stanley Kubrick.

His visions of space travel and computing sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute, hailing the writer as a "great visionary".

Since 1995, the author had been largely confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome.

He died at 0130 local time (2000 GMT) of respiratory complications and heart failure, according to his aide, Rohan De Silva.

ZUI also this article from the Boston Globe:
The visionary author won worldwide acclaim with more than 100 books on space, science and the future. The 1968 story "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- written simultaneously as a novel and screenplay with director Stanley Kubrick -- was a frightening prophecy of artificial intelligence run amok.

One year after it made Clarke a household name in fiction, the scientist entered the homes of millions of Americans alongside Walter Cronkite anchoring television coverage of the Apollo mission to the moon.

Clarke also was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.


Planetary scientist Torrence Johnson said Clarke's work was a major influence on many in the field.

more stories like thisJohnson, who has been exploring the solar system through the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions in his 35 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recalled a meeting of planetary scientists and rocket engineers where talk turned to the author.

"All of us around the table said we read Arthur C. Clarke," Johnson said. "That was the thing that got us there."


Clarke, a British citizen, won a host of science fiction awards, and was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1989. Clarke was officially given a knighthood in 1998, but he delayed accepting it for two years after a London tabloid accused him of being a child molester. The allegation was never proved.

I've read several of Clarke's books, of course, including Against the Fall of Night, The City and the Stars and, most recently, Tales from the White Hart. My favourites by him are Rendezvous with Rama (though I didn't care for its sequels) and "The Sentinel" (the short story which was expanded into 2001: A Space Odyssey).

A bibliography of Clarke's works can be found at Fantastic Fiction.

18 March 2008

Medal of Honor to be awarded for Iraq

ZUI this article from Navy Times:
A California-based SEAL who threw his body on a grenade to save his comrades in Iraq will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, a Defense Department official has confirmed.

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor, of Garden Grove, Calif., was holed up on the roof of a Ramadi house with three other SEALs on Sept. 29, 2006, when an insurgent grenade landed nearby.

Monsoor, a 25-year old with SEAL Team 3, grabbed the grenade and clutched it to his chest. The blast killed him, but his actions, officials said at the time, saved the men on the rooftop.

Monsoor will be the second member of the Navy to receive the Medal of Honor since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, and the first sailor to receive it for combat in Iraq.


A Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the award had been approved.

“We understand the decision has been made to give that award,” the official said Monday. However, it’s not clear when the medal would be presented by President Bush, as is tradition, and the White House hasn’t yet made any announcement.

“[The date is] very likely to change,” the Pentagon official said.

The article includes a photo of MA2(SEAL) Monsoor, taken in Iraq in '06.

16 March 2008

Victoria Cross: R. W. and E. H. Sartorius


Major, 6th Bengal Cavalry, Indian Army

Born: 8 May 1841, Portugal
Died: 7 August 1907, Cowes, Isle of Wight

Citation: For having during the attack on Abogoo [in Ashanti, West Africa], on the 17th January last [1874], removed from under a heavy fire Serjeant-Major Braimah Doctor, a Houssa Non-Commissioned Officer, who was mortally wounded, and placed him under cover.

(London Gazette issue 24145 dated 27 Oct 1874, published 27 Oct 1874.)


Captain, 59th Foot

Born: 6 June 1844, Cintra, Portugal
Died: 19 February 1925, Chelsea, London

Citation: For conspicuous bravery during the action at Shah-jui, on the 24th October, 1879, in leading a party of five or six men of the 59th Regiment against a body of the enemy, of unknown strength, occupying an almost inaccessible position on the top of a precipitous hill.
The nature of the ground made any sort of regular formation impossible, and Captain Sartorius had to bear the first brunt of the attack from the whole body of the enemy, who fell upon him and his men as they gained the top of the precipitous pathway; but the gallant and determined bearing of this Officer, emulated as it was by his men, led to the most perfect success, and the surviving occupants of the hill top, seven in number, were all killed.
In this encounter Captain Sartorius was wounded by sword cuts in both hands, and one of his men was killed.

(London Gazette issue 24973 dated 17 May 1881, published 17 May 1871.)

Note: A pair of brothers who were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Major Sartorius (later Major General R W Sartorius VC CMG) received his medal for gallantry during the First Ashanti Expedition. Abogu is now in south-central Ghana.
Captain Sartorius (later Major General E H Sartorius VC CB) received his medal for gallantry during the Second Afghan War. Shahjui is now in southern Afghanistan.

Medal of Honor: F. T. Vosler


Technical Sergeant, US Army Air Corps; 358th Bomber Squadron, 303d Bomber Group

Born: 29 July 1923, Lyndonville, N.Y.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a radio operator-air gunner on a heavy bombardment aircraft in a mission over Bremen, Germany, on 20 December 1943. After bombing the target, the aircraft in which T/Sgt. Vosler was serving was severely damaged by antiaircraft fire, forced out of formation, and immediately subjected to repeated vicious attacks by enemy fighters. Early in the engagement a 20-mm. cannon shell exploded in the radio compartment, painfully wounding T/Sgt. Vosler in the legs and thighs. At about the same time a direct hit on the tail of the ship seriously wounded the tail gunner and rendered the tail guns inoperative. Realizing the great need for firepower in protecting the vulnerable tail of the ship, T/Sgt. Vosler, with grim determination, kept up a steady stream of deadly fire. Shortly thereafter another 20-mm. enemy shell exploded, wounding T/Sgt. Vosler in the chest and about the face. Pieces of metal lodged in both eyes, impairing his vision to such an extent that he could only distinguish blurred shapes. Displaying remarkable tenacity and courage, he kept firing his guns and declined to take first-aid treatment. The radio equipment had been rendered inoperative during the battle, and when the pilot announced that he would have to ditch, although unable to see and working entirely by touch, T/Sgt. Vosler finally got the set operating and sent out distress signals despite several lapses into unconsciousness. When the ship ditched, T/Sgt. Vosler managed to get out on the wing by himself and hold the wounded tail gunner from slipping off until the other crewmembers could help them into the dinghy. T/Sgt. Vosler's actions on this occasion were an inspiration to all serving with him. The extraordinary courage, coolness, and skill he displayed in the face of great odds, when handicapped by injuries that would have incapacitated the average crewmember, were outstanding.

14 March 2008

Tornado Magnet Extraordinaire


H/T to Tam at View from the Porch.

Eighth Harry Potter movie confirmed

ZUI this article from the Los Angeles Times:
Warner Bros. Pictures and the producers behind the $4.5-billion film franchise featuring the beloved boy wizard will split the seventh and final novel in the J.K. Rowling series into two films.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" will hit theaters in November 2010, followed by "Part II" in May 2011, a decision that is being met around the world with fans' cheers but also plenty of cynical smirks. The publishing industry is learning to live without new "Potter" releases, but Hollywood just pulled off a trick that will keep its profitable hero on his broom into the next decade.


Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the franchise, said it was the dense action of the final novel that made the decision, not any executive or ledger.

"I think it's the only way you can do it, without cutting out a huge portion of the book," Radcliffe said. "There have been compartmentalized subplots in the other books that have made them easier to cut -- although those cuts were still to the horror of some fans -- but the seventh book doesn't really have any subplots. It's one driving, pounding story from the word go."

H/T to Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page.

122 down, 123 up

One of the problems with having to use the public library's computers for Internet access is that I'm running so far behind. One thing I failed to note was that space shuttle Atlantis and its crew, launched on 7 February, had successfully completed their mission (STS-122) and landed at the Kennedy Space Center on 20 Feb.

Atlantis was followed into space on the morning of 11 March by space shuttle Endeavour (mission STS-123). ZUI this NASA press release, dated 11 Mar 08:
Space shuttle Endeavour brought an early sunrise to the East Coast Tuesday, launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 2:28 a.m. EDT and beginning the STS-123 mission to the International Space Station.

During the 16-day flight, Endeavour's seven astronauts will work with the three-member space station crew and ground teams around the world to install the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed robotic system, known as Dextre. STS-123 is the longest shuttle mission to the station and will include a record five shuttle spacewalks at the orbiting laboratory, delivery of a new crew member to the complex and the return of another astronaut after nearly seven weeks aboard the station.

Endeavour's crew consists of commander Capt Dominic L Gorie (USN, ret), pilot Col Gregory H Johnson (USAF) and mission specialists Maj Robert L Behnken (USAF), Capt Michael J Foreman (USN), Dr Richard M Linnehan and Takao Doi. The shuttle also ferried astronaut Garrett E Reisman up to replace station crew member Gen Léopold Eyharts (French AF), who went up with STS-122; Reisman will return to Earth on shuttle Discovery (mission STS-124), which is targeted for launch on 25 May.

Left to right: Foreman, Reisman, Behnken, Doi, Linnehan, Johnson and Gorie

In other news from NASA, the Cassini spacecraft performed a flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus on 12 March, passing within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the surface at closest approach.

RIP: Lazare Ponticelli

Lazare Ponticelli
7 Dec 1897 - 12 Mar 2008

The last French veteran of World War I is gone.

ZUI this article from The Times:
With the death of Louis de Cazenave in January, Lazare Ponticelli assumed the mantle of le dernier poilu. Now, less than two months later, Ponticelli too is dead, the last of the French Army veterans of the Great War of 1914-18.

He was in fact born Lazarro Ponticelli in northern Italy in 1897 in a small mountain hamlet near Bettola in Piacenza province. He was one of seven children in a desperately poor family: his father was a jobbing carpenter and cobbler, his mother tried to scratch a living from the family vegetable plot and three times a year left home to go down to the Po valley to work on the seasonal rice harvest.


When war came in August 1914 he lied about his age and joined the 1st Régiment de Marche of the French Foreign Legion, where he found himself a comrade in arms with one of his brothers.

But in 1915, with the entry of Italy into the war on the Allied side he was told he must join the Italian Army and was discharged. Refusing at first to be parted from his French uniform, he was firmly escorted by two gendarmes to Turin, where he joined a regiment of Alpinieri for service on the Austrian front.


Ponticelli held both the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Interalliée for his services in 1914-18. More recently, like all surviving veterans of the First World war, he had been appointed a Chevalier, Légion d'honneur.

Those who read French can find more here. (Those who don't can look at the pictures.)

According to Wikipedia, M Ponticelli is the sixth WWI veteran to die this year; there are thirteen still living. Germany's last veteran died on 1 Jan 08, but the Central Powers are still represented by two men, one from Turkey and one from the Austro-Hungarian Army. From the Allied forces, there are six British (including the last known female veteran of the war), two Italian, one Australian, one Canadian, and one American.

The Gerontology Research Group's list of validated supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 79 people - 69 women and 10 men - ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Charlessa Wiggins of Illinois (born 9 Feb 1898). 24 of them live in Japan. Only one of them, Clementine Solignac (born 7 Sep 1894, and the world's fifth-oldest person), lives in France proper, though another lives in Guadeloupe, a Caribbean island which is an overseas département (state) of France.

12 March 2008

RIP: Richard M McCool

Richard M McCool
4 Jan 1922 - 5 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from the Kitsap (WA) Sun:
Richard McCool Jr., a World War II hero and Kitsap Democratic Party leader, passed away last week.

The longtime Bainbridge Island resident died of natural causes Wednesday morning at Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton with his wife and three children by his side, according to an online obituary at Cook Family Funeral Home. He was 86.

McCool and his wife, Carole Elaine, moved to Bainbridge Island in 1974 after a 30-year Navy career. Most of the couple's Kitsap friends never learned that on Dec. 18, 1945, President Harry S. Truman had pinned McCool with the military's highest honor — the Medal of Honor.


After moving to Bainbridge, McCool became involved in politics, serving as chairman of the Kitsap County Democrats for two terms. He was a big supporter of the arts on Bainbridge and in Seattle. He received a Maggie Award as one of the state's top Democrats and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kitsap Democrats. He was open-minded and easygoing, his friends said.


McCool is survived by his wife of 63 years, Carol Elaine, daughter Carolyn McCool of Vancouver, British Columbia, and sons Rick (Cindy) of Gig Harbor and John (Mary) of Indianola.

ZUI also this article from Military.com:
He received an appointment to the Naval Academy as a member of the class of 1945, but because of the war the course was compressed into three years, and the class of 1945 graduated early.

Shortly before graduation, McCool attended a presentation given by a captain recruiting officers for amphibious craft. This kind of duty didn't have the tradition or romance of the deep-water navy, but the midshipmen were offered the possibility of commanding their own ship instead of being junior officers on a large vessel. Midshipman McCool signed up. After graduation, he picked up his ship in Boston. It was an LCS, similar in looks to the landing craft that brought soldiers ashore in invasions, but instead of a blunt bow with troop ramps, it had a sharp bow and was heavily armed with 40 mm and 20 mm guns, .50-caliber machine guns, and 120 preloaded 4.5-inch rockets. It carried a crew of seventy, including six officers.

McCool sailed for San Diego through the Panama Canal in December 1944. By June 1945, his ship was in Okinawa, part of a unit made up of four LCS ships and three destroyers patrolling for Japanese kamikazes. Behind the LCS picket line, the destroyers picked up enemy aircraft on their radar and radioed the information to McCool and the other LCS commanders, who attempted to shoot down the planes as they passed overhead.

On June 10, one of the Japanese planes got through and hit one of the destroyers. McCool's ship was the closest and rushed to help the sinking ship. Along with another LCS, McCool picked up its surviving crew members and transferred them to another American ship.

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


Lieutenant, US Navy; commanding USS LSC(L)(3) 122

Born: 4 January 1922, Tishomingo, Okla.
Died: 5 March 2008, Bremerton, Wash.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. LSC(L)(3) 122 during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Ryukyu chain, 10 and 11 June 1945. Sharply vigilant during hostile air raids against Allied ships on radar picket duty off Okinawa on 10 June, Lt. McCool aided materially in evacuating all survivors from a sinking destroyer which had sustained mortal damage under the devastating attacks. When his own craft was attacked simultaneously by 2 of the enemy's suicide squadron early in the evening of 11 June, he instantly hurled the full power of his gun batteries against the plunging aircraft, shooting down the first and damaging the second before it crashed his station in the conning tower and engulfed the immediate area in a mass of flames. Although suffering from shrapnel wounds and painful burns, he rallied his concussion-shocked crew and initiated vigorous firefighting measures and then proceeded to the rescue of several trapped in a blazing compartment, subsequently carrying 1 man to safety despite the excruciating pain of additional severe burns. Unmindful of all personal danger, he continued his efforts without respite until aid arrived from other ships and he was evacuated. By his staunch leadership, capable direction, and indomitable determination throughout the crisis, Lt. McCool saved the lives of many who otherwise might have perished and contributed materially to the saving of his ship for further combat service. His valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of extreme peril sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Note: The destroyer mentioned was USS William D Porter (DD 579).

09 March 2008

This day in history: 9 Mar

1796: Napoléon Bonaparte married his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

1831: The French Foreign Legion was founded.*

1847: US forces under General Winfield Scott invaded Mexico near Vera Cruz.

1858: At Lucknow, India, Lieutenant Thomnas A Butler, 1st Bengal European Fusiliers, swam across the Gomti River and took up a position where he could observe and report on rebel positions, remaining in view of the enemy and under heavy fire for a considerable time. That same day, Lieutenant Francis E H Farquharson, 42nd Regiment (the Black Watch), led a portion of his company against a rebel bastion at Lucknow and spiked both of the enemy guns, preventing them from firing on the 42nd's advanced positions. Butler and Farquharson were awarded the Victoria Cross.

1862: The first battle between two ironclad warships, near Norfolk, Virginia, resulted in a draw after five and a half hours. The two participants, of course, were USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.

1863: John Singleton Mosby, with 29 fellow cavalrymen, paid a very-early-morning visit to Yankee-occupied Fairfax Court House, Virginia. When they departed, having suffered no casualties, they took with them 33 prisoners (including Brigadier General Edwin H Stoughton), 58 horses and "a considerable number of arms."

1925: Pink's War, in Waziristan - the first RAF operation conducted independently of the Army or Navy - began.

1945: Over 100,000 people died when American B-29 Superfortress bombers attacked Tokyo, Japan, with incendiary bombs.

1961: Sputnik 9, carrying a dummy cosmonaut, a dog named Chernushka, mice and a guinea pig, was launched from Baikonur. It landed an hour and 41 minutes later, and was successfully recovered.

1986: US Navy divers found the heavily damaged crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger, with the bodies of all seven astronauts (commander Dick Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Judith Resnik, Ellison S Onizuka and Ronald McNair, and payload specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe) still inside.

That same day, the unmanned Soviet spacecraft Vega 2 rendezvoused with Comet Halley.

2006: NASA announced that evidence of liquid water had been discovered on Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn.

David Rizzio (ca 1533–1566), Jules Cardinal Mazarin (1602–1661), Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964), George Burns (1896–1996) and Chris LeDoux (1948–2005) died on this date.

And happy birthday to Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), "Johnnie" Johnson CB CBE DSO** DFC* (1915–2001), Mickey Spillane (1918–2006) and Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934–1968).

* Some sites, such as the first one linked to here, give the date as 10 March. The official Legion website (second link), however, gives it as 9 March; they should know.

Victoria Cross: J. C. Brennan


Bombardier, Royal Regiment of Artillery

Born: August 1836, Probus, Truro, Cornwall
Died: 24 September 1872, Elham, Folkestone, Kent

Citation: For marked gallantry at the assault of Jhansi, on the 3rd of April, 1858, in bringing up two guns of the Hyderabad Contingent, manned by Natives, laying each under a heavy fire from the walls, and directing them so accurately as to compel the Enemy to abandon his battery.

(London Gazette Issue 22324 dated 11 Nov 1859, published 11 Nov 1859.)

Medal of Honor: S. L. Bennett


Captain, US Air Force; 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron

Born: 22 April 1946, Palestine, Texas
Died: 29 June 1972, Gulf of Tonkin

Citation: Capt. Bennett was the pilot of a light aircraft flying an artillery adjustment mission along a heavily defended segment of route structure [near Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, on 29 June 1972]. A large concentration of enemy troops was massing for an attack on a friendly unit. Capt. Bennett requested tactical air support but was advised that none was available. He also requested artillery support but this too was denied due to the close proximity of friendly troops to the target. Capt. Bennett was determined to aid the endangered unit and elected to strafe the hostile positions. After 4 such passes, the enemy force began to retreat. Capt. Bennett continued the attack, but, as he completed his fifth strafing pass, his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which severely damaged the left engine and the left main landing gear. As fire spread in the left engine, Capt. Bennett realized that recovery at a friendly airfield was impossible. He instructed his observer to prepare for an ejection, but was informed by the observer that his parachute had been shredded by the force of the impacting missile. Although Capt. Bennett had a good parachute, he knew that if he ejected, the observer would have no chance of survival. With complete disregard for his own life, Capt. Bennett elected to ditch the aircraft into the Gulf of Tonkin, even though he realized that a pilot of this type aircraft had never survived a ditching. The ensuing impact upon the water caused the aircraft to cartwheel and severely damaged the front cockpit, making escape for Capt. Bennett impossible. The observer successfully made his way out of the aircraft and was rescued. Capt. Bennett's unparalleled concern for his companion, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

Note: USNS Capt Steven L. Bennett (T-AK 4296) was named in his honour.

07 March 2008

Operational Honours and Awards List

The Ministry of Defence have announced that 181 members of the British armed forces, along with three MoD civilians, have been awarded medals for their service. ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
Five Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, five Distinguished Service Orders, 28 Military Crosses, and three Distinguished Flying Crosses have been awarded in the honours list for the period 1 April 2007 to 30 September 2007.


Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said:
"The Service personnel that we honour today have all distinguished themselves - many in the face of great danger - and some have risked their own lives to save others. They have all earned the nation's thanks and respect, and I pay tribute to their outstanding achievements in the face of most difficult and dangerous circumstances."

Amongst the recipients was Flt Lt Michelle Goodman, RAF, the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. ZUI this article, also from the MoD Defence News:
Flight Lieutenant Goodman was awarded the DFC today, Friday 7 March 2008, for an act of courage during her deployment to Iraq in June 2007, when as Aircraft Captain of an Incident Reaction Team (IRT) Merlin Helicopter she flew into an extremely dangerous area of Basra City to rescue a casualty.

Flying on night goggles and under very heavy fire she landed next to the casualty and extracted him, despite mortar rounds landing nearby. Without the IRT, the casualty would have died within 15 minutes.

Other awards included a posthumous Military Cross for Captain David Hicks, The Royal Anglian Regiment, who was killed in Afghanistan, and an MC for service in Iraq by Corporal David Hayden, the RAF Regiment, the first airman to receive this award. A third Defence News article, about medals awarded for Afghanistan, is here.

The complete list can be found here.

Flt Lt Michelle Goodman DFC

Note: A flight lieutenant is the RAF equivalent of a USAF captain.

Royal Air Force photograph © Crown Copyright/MOD 2008.

05 March 2008

Eight at the Thatch

Last year, a Royal Marine chef named Jeremy Hooper was selected as the winner of a "reality TV" show called The Restaurant. The BBC is currently looking for contestants for a second season of the show. In the meantime, ZUI this article from the MoD Defence News:
Jeremy and Jane Hooper's Thame restaurant Eight at the Thatch has been doing quite well since it opened four months ago in a blaze of publicity. Their success in the BBC TV show, which pitted nine couples against each other, all with a chance of running their very own restaurant with Blanc, came as a surprise to the couple.

But winning the show was just the beginning. Now, with over 14,000 guests already having sampled Jeremy's cooking and every weekend fully booked for the foreseeable future, the couple are unsurprisingly very busy.


The restaurant itself, which also includes a friendly bar, is tucked inside a 16th century half-timbered thatched cottage in the heart of the beautiful market town of Thame, 10 miles (16km) from Oxford. A mixture of the old and the new, all the dishes are made with seasonal ingredients, many of which are free range, local and sourced from small producers.

The restaurant's home page is here.

Sounds great. Now if only they were a little bit closer to Connecticut....

RIP: E Gary Gygax

E Gary Gygax
27 Jul 1938 - 4 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from the New York Times:
Gary Gygax, a pioneer of the imagination who transported a fantasy realm of wizards, goblins and elves onto millions of kitchen tables around the world through the game he helped create, Dungeons & Dragons, died Tuesday at his home in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Gail Gygax, who said he had been ailing and had recently suffered an abdominal aneurysm, The Associated Press reported.


In addition to his wife, Mr. Gygax is survived by six children: three sons, Ernest G. Jr., Lucion Paul and Alexander; and three daughters, Mary Elise, Heidi Jo and Cindy Lee.

These days, pen-and-paper role-playing games have largely been supplanted by online computer games. Dungeons & Dragons itself has been translated into electronic games, including Dungeons & Dragons Online. Mr. Gygax recognized the shift, but he never fully approved. To him, all of the graphics of a computer dulled what he considered one of the major human faculties: the imagination.

ZUI also this article from the Toronto Star:
Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.


Born Ernest Gary Gygax, he grew up in Chicago and moved to Lake Geneva at the age of 8. Gygax's father, a Swiss immigrant who played violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, read fantasy books to his only son and hooked him on the genre, Gail Gygax said.

Gygax dropped out of high school but took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago for a while, she said. He was working as an insurance underwriter in the 1960s, when he began playing war-themed board games.

But Gygax wanted to create a game that involved more fantasy. To free up time to work on that, he left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman, she said.

Gygax also was a prolific writer and wrote dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.

And this article from The Globe and Mail:
Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson originally came up with the concept for Dungeons & Dragons - played with graph paper, pencils, polyhedral dice and a lot of imagination - for a small community of like-minded gamers after playing war games with miniature figurines. But the game caught on and they went on to sell millions of copies.

"Everyone knows about the game he created - whether they play it and love it or whether they point and laugh and say, 'Oh, that's for geeks,' " said Steve Jackson, himself a popular games designer in Austin, Tex., and considered by some in the online gaming community as the Gary Gygax of the eighties.

Mr. Jackson said it's thanks to Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson that popular cultural icons such as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series are now household names.

I first heard of D&D back around '79 or '80, though it wasn't until the fall of '81 that I started playing. A friend from Mensa invited me to join the game he was playing in; it was fun, but it was about a 30-minute drive each way, so I started looking at the cards on the bulletin board at the local gaming shop. The first one I called turned out to be only a mile or so away, so I made my apologies and switched groups.

The new group were playing AD&D, a similar but more complex game. I played with them - and took my first turn as DM - for several months, right up until I left for boot camp. And I kept on playing and DMing for the next decade. Along the way I tried other games, too - GURPS, Traveller, 2300, &c - and enjoyed most of them.

My favourite RPG now is Traveller (especially the MegaTraveller version), and it's been 15 years since I last did any face-to-face gaming at all, but I still have all of my AD&D characters and books somewhere....

03 March 2008


RIP: Bhanbhagta Gurung VC

Havildar Bhanbhagta Gurung VC
Sep 1921 - 1 Mar 2008

ZUI this article from The Times:
Bhanbhagta Gurung won his Victoria Cross in Burma in 1945. His action was the culmination of a series of extraordinarily gallant actions by this soldier of quite exceptional courage, yet it occurred while he was in disgrace, albeit unjustly.

Born in the hill village of Phalbu in western Nepal, he was recruited into the old Indian Army soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, and joined 3rd Battalion 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles). He first saw action with Brigadier Orde Wingate’s Chindit expedition into Upper Burma in March 1943, having received early promotion to Lance-Naik (Lance-Corporal).


In the costly but ultimately successful fighting for what was known as the “Tiger” feature in September 1944, he did well while commanding a rifle section but then his luck changed and he was faced with disgrace.

His platoon commander, a Gurkha officer, sent him with his section to establish a picquet position on what turned out to be the wrong hill. The battalion commander was furious when reports reached him that the correct hill had not been secured as he intended. Bhanbhagta was charged with neglect of duty but all he would say in his defence was that he was certain he was on the hill he had been ordered to hold. His platoon commander remained silent and Bhanbhagta was reduced to the ranks and transferred to another company under a cloud.


The action for which he was awarded the VC followed 25th Indian Division’s landing at Ru-ywa on the Burma coast, an operation designed to divert Japanese attention away from General Sir William Slim’s main offensive towards Mandalay in February 1945. 25th Division’s advance to the Irrawaddy through the An pass was fiercely opposed by part of the Japanese 54th Division holding a series of hill features, including one code-named “Snowdon East”, near the village of Tamandu. 3rd/2nd Gurkha Rifles fought for two days to take and hold Snowdon but might have been denied their victory had it not been for Bhanbhagta.


After the war, Bhanbhagta’s company commander tried to persuade him to stay in the regiment, but having only a frail mother and young wife to care for his land and stock at Phalbu, he decided that he must return home. He left the Army in 1946, having regained the rank of Naik, but within a few years his regiment honoured him with the title of Havildar (Sergeant). The King of Nepal awarded him the Medal of the Order of the Star of Nepal. His three sons followed him into the 2nd Gurkha Rifles and are now pensioners.


The young wife whom he left the service to rejoin died before him. He is survived by his three sons.

His death leaves 11 surviving holders of the Victoria Cross.

The 11 surviving VC holders are:
Lt Col Eric C T Wilson VC, East Surrey Regiment - Somaliland, 1940
WO Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 6th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1944
Flt Lt John A Cruickshank VC, RAFVR - North Atlantic, 1944
Hav Lachhiman Gurung VC, 8th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1945
Pte Edward Kenna VC, Australian Imperial Force - New Guinea, 1945
Lt Cdr Ian E Fraser VC DSC, RNR - Johore Strait, 1945
Sgt William Speakman VC, The Black Watch - Korea, 1951
Capt Ram Bahadur Limbu VC MVO, 10th Gurkha Rifles - Borneo, 1965
WO Keith Payne VC OAM, Australian Army - Vietnam, 1969
Pte Johnson G Beharry VC, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment - Iraq, 2004
Cpl Bill H Apiata VC, New Zealand SAS - Afghanistan, 2004

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


Rifleman, 3rd Bn, 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles

Born: September 1921, Phalbu Village, Nepal
Died: 1 March 2008, Dharapani, Gorkha, Nepal

Citation: The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:
No. 10020 Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung, 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.
In Burma, on 5th March, 1945, a Company of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles attacked an enemy position known as Snowden East. On approaching the objective one of the sections was forced to ground by very heavy Light Machine Gun, grenade and mortar fire, and owing to the severity of this fire was unable to move in any direction. While thus pinned, the section came under accurate fire from a tree sniper some 75 yards to the South. As this sniper was inflicting casualties on the section, Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung, being unable to fire from the lying position, stood up fully exposed to the heavy fire and calmly killed the enemy sniper with his rifle, thus saving his section from suffering further casualties.
The section then advanced again, but when within 20 yards of the objective was again attacked by very heavy fire. Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung, without waiting for any orders, dashed forward alone and attacked the first enemy fox-hole. Throwing two grenades, he killed the two occupants and without any hesitation rushed on to the next enemy fox-hole and killed the Japanese in it with his bayonet.
Two further enemy fox-holes were still bringing fire to bear on the section and again Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung dashed forward alone and cleared these with bayonet and grenade. During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy fox-holes, Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung was subjected to almost continuous and point-blank Light Machine Gun fire from a bunker on the North tip of the objective. Realising that this Light Machine Gun would hold up not only his own platoon which was now behind him, but also another platoon which was advancing from the West, Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung for the fifth time went forward alone in the face of heavy enemy fire to knock out this position. He doubled forward and leapt on to the roof of the bunker from where, his hand grenades being finished, he flung two No. 77 smoke grenades into the bunker slit. Two Japanese rushed out of the bunker partially blinded by the smoke. Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung promptly killed them both with his Khukri. A remaining Japanese inside the bunker was still firing the Light Machine Gun and holding up the advance of No. 4 Platoon, so Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung crawled inside the bunker, killed this Japanese gunner and captured the Light Machine Gun.
Most of the objective had now been cleared by the men behind and the enemy driven off were collecting for a counter-attack beneath the North end of the objective. Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung ordered the nearest Bren gunner and two riflemen to take up positions in the captured bunker. The enemy counter-attack followed soon after, but under Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung's command the small party inside the bunker repelled it with heavy loss to the enemy.
Rifleman Bhanbagta Gurung showed outstanding bravery and a complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous clearing of five enemy positions single-handed was in itself decisive in capturing the objective and his inspiring example to the rest of the Company contributed to the speedy consolidation of this success.

(London Gazette issue 37107, dated 5 Jun 1945, published 1 Jun 1945.)

02 March 2008

Victoria Cross: Ram Bahadur Limbu


Lance-Corporal, 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles

Born: July or August 1939, Chyangthapu village, Yangrop Thum, East Nepal
Died: TBD

Citation: On 21st November 1965 in the Bau District of Sarawak, Lance Corporal RAMBAHADUR [sic] LIMBU was with his Company when they discovered and attacked a strong enemy force located in the Border area. The enemy were strongly entrenched in Platoon strength, on top of a sheer sided hill the only approach to which was along a knife edge ridge allowing only three men to move abreast. Leading his support group in the van of the attack he could see the nearest trench and in it a sentry manning a machine gun. Determined to gain first blood he inched himself forward until, still ten yards from his enemy, he was seen and the sentry opened fire, immediately wounding a man to his right, Rushing forward he reached the enemy trench in seconds and killed the sentry, thereby gaining for the attacking force a first but firm foothold on the objective. The enemy were now fully alerted and, from their positions in depth, brought down heavy automatic fire on the attacking force, concentrating this into the area of the trench held alone by Lance Corporal RAMBAHADUR LIMBU.
Appreciating that he could not carry out his task of supporting his platoon from this position he courageously left the comparative safety of his trench and, with a complete disregard for the hail of fire being directed at him, he got together and led his fire group to a better fire position some yards ahead. He now attempted to indicate his intentions to his Platoon Commander by shouting and hand signals but failing to do so in the deafening noise of exploding grenades and continuous automatic fire he again moved out into the open and reported personally, despite the extreme dangers of being hit by the fire not only from the enemy but by his own comrades.
It was at the moment of reporting that he saw both men of his own group seriously wounded. Knowing that their only hope of survival was immediate first aid and that evacuation from their very exposed position so close to the enemy was vital he immediately commenced the first of his three supremely gallant attempts to rescue his comrades. Using what little ground cover he could find he crawled forward, in full view of at least two enemy machine gun posts who concentrated their fire on him and which, at this stage of the battle, could not be effectively subdued by the rest of his platoon. For three full minutes he continued to move forward but when almost able to touch the nearest casualty he was driven back by the accurate and intense weight of fire covering his line of approach. After a pause he again started to crawl forward but he soon realised that only speed would give him the cover which the ground could not.
Rushing forward he hurled himself on the ground beside one of the wounded and calling for support from two light machine guns which had now come up to his right in support he picked up the man and carried him to safety out of the line of fire. Without hesitation he immediately returned to the top of the hill determined to complete his self imposed task of saving those for whom he felt personally responsible. It was now clear from the increased weight of fire being concentrated on the approaches to and in the immediate vicinity of the remaining casualty the enemy were doing all they could to prevent any further attempts at rescue. However, despite this Lance Corporal RAMBAHADUR again moved out into the open for his final effort. In a series of short forward rushes and once being pinned down for some minutes by the intense and accurate automatic fire which could be seen striking the ground all round him he eventually reached the wounded man. Picking him up and unable now to seek cover he carried him back as fast as he could through the hail of enemy bullets. It had taken twenty minutes to complete this gallant action and the events leading up to it. For all but a few seconds this young Non-Commissioned officer had been moving alone in full view of the enemy and under the continuous aimed fire of their automatic weapons. that he was able to achieve what he did against such overwhelming odds without being hit is miraculous. His outstanding personal bravery, selfless conduct, complete contempt of the enemy and determination to save the lives of the men of his fire group set an incomparable example and inspired all who saw him.
Finally rejoining his section on the left flank of the attack Lance Corporal Rambahadur was able to recover the light machine gun abandoned by the wounded and with it won his revenge, initially giving support during the later stages of the prolonged assault and finally being responsible for killing four more enemy as they attempted to escape across the border. This hour long battle which had throughout been fought at point blank range and with the utmost ferocity by both sides was finally won. At least twenty four enemy are known to have died at a cost to the attacking force of three killed and two wounded. In scale and in achievement this engagement stands out as one of the first importance and there is no doubt that, but for the inspired conduct and example set by Lance Corporal Rambahadur at the most vital stage of the battle, much less would have been achieved and greater casualties caused.
He displayed heroism, self sacrifice and a devotion to duty and to his man of the very highest order. His actions on this day reached a zenith of determined, pre-mediated valour which must count amongst the most notable on record and is deserving of the greatest admiration and the highest praise.

(London Gazette issue 43959 dated 22 Apr 1966, published 21 Apr 1966.)

Medal of Honor: R. Binder


Sergeant, US Marine Corps; USS Ticonderoga

Born: 1840, Philadelphia, Pa.

Citation: On board the [screw sloop] U.S.S. Ticonderoga during the attacks on Fort Fisher [near Wilmington, North Carolina], 24 and 25 December 1864, and 13 to 15 January 1865. Despite heavy return fire by the enemy and the explosion of the 100-pounder Parrott rifle which killed 8 men and wounded 12 more, Sgt. Binder, as captain of a gun, performed his duties with skill and courage during the first 2 days of battle. As his ship again took position on the 13th, he remained steadfast as the Ticonderoga maintained a well-placed fire upon the batteries on shore, and thereafter, as she materially lessened the power of guns on the mound which had been turned upon our assaulting columns. During this action the flag was planted on one of the strongest fortifications possessed by the rebels.

01 March 2008

Book list - Feb 08

The Scientists - history of science, by John Gribbin
Ice, Iron and Gold - SF, fantasy and AH (short stories), by S M Stirling
Pee-Wee Harris - children's, by Percy Keese Fitzhugh
Wondrous Beginnings - SF (short stories), edited by Steven H Silver and Martin H Greenberg *
Night Train from Memphis - mystery, by Elizabeth Peters
The Wailing Wind - mystery, by Tony Hillerman *
Village Christmas - fiction, by Miss Read
Killoe - western, by Louis L'Amour *
Dance Hall of the Dead - mystery, by Tony Hillerman
The Fallen Man - mystery, by Tony Hillerman
Hunting Badger - mystery, by Tony Hillerman
The Gemini Contenders - thriller, by Robert Ludlum
The Harem of Aman Akbar - fantasy, by Elizabeth Scarborough
Flight 29 Down: Static - YA adventure, by Walter Sorrells
Betsy-Tacy - children's, by Maud Hart Lovelace
Call It Courage - children's, by Armstrong Sperry (Newbery Medal, 1941)
The Royal Switch - children's, by The Duchess of York
Voyage from Yesteryear - SF, by James P Hogan
The Peking Battles Cape Horn - travel, by Irving Johnson
The Bridge at Dong Ha - Vietnam War, by John Grider Miller
Mairelon the Magician - historical/fantasy, by Patricia C Wrede *
Among the Brave - YA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Dark Heart of Time - adventure, by Philip José Farmer

23 books this month; asterisks mark the four rereads. This brings me up to 34 books for the year, just below target (34.66) for my goal of reading 208 books this year.

Pee-Wee Harris was originally published in 1922, the first in a series. I downloaded it from Gutenberg; I already have the second book downloaded (as well as other old books) and standing by.

The one Newbery Medal winner brings my total thus far up to 44 of 87. Halfway there!