30 December 2010

RIP: Agathe von Trapp

Agathe von Trapp
12 Mar 1913 - 28 Dec 2010

ZUI this article from the Daily Mail:
Agathe von Trapp, a member of the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for The Sound of Music, has died in the U.S., a longtime friend said yesterday.

Miss von Trapp, 97, died at a hospice in Baltimore, Mary Louise Kane said.


Agathe von Trapp was the oldest daughter of Austrian naval Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp. His seven children by his first wife, Agathe, were the basis for the singing family in the 1959 play and 1965 film, which won the Oscar for best picture.

Miss von Trapp was played by Charmian Carr, who sang ‘16 Going On 17’ in the film and whose character was called Liesl.


Her father had three more children with his second wife, Maria Augusta Kutschera. They performed together as the Trapp Family Singers

Agathe's death leaves four surviving members of the Trapp Family Singers: Maria von Trapp, 96; Rosmarie von Trapp, 81; Elenore 'Lorli' von Trapp Campbell, 79; and Johannes, 71.

I loved The Sound of Music, despite the many historical inaccuracies. I recommend Maria's book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which I read once long, long ago, for those interested in an account of the actual events.

I was surprised to see that any of the children were still alive. Captain von Trapp, of course, was Austria's top submarine captain commander in World War I. Agathe and Maria were the second and third, respectively, of the children born to him and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead; Rosmarie, Elenore and Johannes were Maria Kutschera's three children.

26 December 2010

Victoria Cross: R. H. Cain


Captain (temporary Major), The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (attached The South Staffordshire Regiment) (I Airborne Division)

Born: 2 January 1909, Shanghai, China
Died: 2 May 1974, Crowborough, Sussex

Citation: In Holland on 19th September, 1944, Major Cain was commanding a rifle company of the South Staffordshire Regiment during the Battle of Arnhem when his company was cut off from the rest of the battalion and during the next six days was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. The Germans made repeated attempts to break into the company position by infiltration and had they succeeded in doing so the whole situation of the Airborne Troops would have been jeopardised.
Major Cain, by his outstanding devotion to duty and remarkable powers of leadership, was to a large extent personally responsible for saving a vital sector from falling into the hands of the enemy.
On 20th September a Tiger tank approached the area held by his company and Major Cain went out alone to deal with it armed with a Piat. Taking up a position he held his fire until the tank was only 20 yards away when he opened up. The tank immediately halted and turned its guns on him, shooting away a corner of the house near where this officer was lying. Although wounded by machine gun bullets and falling masonry, Major Cain continued firing until he had scored several direct hits, immobilised the tank and supervised the bringing up of a 75 mm. howitzer which completely destroyed it. Only then would he consent to have his wounds dressed.
The next morning this officer drove off three more tanks by the fearless use of his Piat, on each occasion leaving cover and taking up position in open ground with complete disregard for his personal safety.
During the following days, Major Cain was everywhere where danger threatened, moving amongst his men and encouraging them by his fearless example to hold out. He refused rest and medical attention in spite of the fact that his hearing had been seriously impaired because of a perforated eardrum and he was suffering from multiple wounds.
On the 25th September the enemy made a concerted attack on Major Cain's position, using self-propelled guns, flame throwers and infantry. By this time the last Piat had been put out of action and Major Cain was armed with only a light 2" mortar. However, by a skilful use of this weapon and his daring leadership of the few men still under his command, he completely demoralized the enemy who, after an engagement lasting more than three hours, withdrew in disorder.
Throughout the whole course of the Battle of Arnhem, Major Cain showed superb gallantry. His powers of endurance and leadership were the admiration of all his fellow officers and stories of his valour were being constantly exchanged amongst the troops. His coolness and courage under incessant fire could not be surpassed.

[London Gazette issue 36774, dated 2 Nov 1944, published 31 Oct 1944.]

Medal of Honor: W. Halford


Coxswain, US Navy; USS Saginaw

Born: 18 August 1841, Gloucester, England
Died: 7 February 1919, Oakland, California

Citation: Halford was sole survivor of the boat's crew sent to the Sandwich Islands for assistance after the wreck of the Saginaw, October 1870. Promoted to acting gunner.

Notes: USS Halford (DD 480) was named in his honour.

USS Saginaw was a sidewheel steamer, first commissioned in 1859. On 29 October 1870 the ship
ran aground on an outlying reef at Kure Atoll. Saginaw's executive officer, Lieutenant John G Talbot, set out for Honolulu in the ship's gig on 18 November with Halford and three other men. As they neared the coast of Kauai, 31 days and some 1500 mi later, their boat was upset by breakers. Talbot and two others drowned; Halford pulled the other man ashore, but he died on the beach. Halford departed Kauai for Honolulu the next day, and the steamer Kilauea was dispatched on 26 December, reaching Kure on 3 January 1871. The remaining Saginaw crew members were brought safely to Honolulu 11 days later.

25 December 2010

King William's College General Knowledge Paper, 2010

Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est

1. In the year 1910:
1 who was the victim of al-Wardani?
2 who began with Helen's letters to her sister?
3 what activity, where, was banned as a potential cause of delays?
4 which vessels were involved in a collision in la Manche costing 27 lives?
5 who ordered a large quantity of a muscarine antagonist from a shop at 2 Bucknall Street?
6 whose death in the stationmaster's house led to the station taking his name some years later?
7 who, having ruled which principality for 50 years, declared himself King?
8 whose memorial was placed behind the National Portrait Gallery?
9 which two unaccountable freaks went out together?
10 what was set alight on the Parisian stage?

2. Who or what:
1 blew hot and cool?
2 was Mad Jack's spouse?
3 was the stuff that Smith was made of?
4 is an expression of surprise or indignation?
5 did the Emperor reward with the Yellow Jacket?
6 started as the 100th, but became the 92nd and was later joined by the 75th?
7 is marked by the rarest dish in all the land?
8 did a wartime treble on a solar vehicle?
9 was Raymond's creation?
10 merged with Osborne?

3. Going out, what (numerically), where, suggests:
1 a clutch of curlew's eggs?
2 a beverage "Faithful to the original"?
3 an encounter on 13 September 1882?
4 an annual event initiated by James Stanley?
5 an earlier connection with the Morning Post?
And coming in:
6 is there a geographical misplacement from South Uist?
7 sounds like a resident of Puddleby-on-the Marsh?
8 is an apparent refuge for the bald?
9 follows Calamity?
10 finishes on time?

1 Who demonstrated phonetic pronunciation?
2 Whose notes were worth one hundred crowns?
3 Who footed it in Italy, Spain, Japan and Holland?
4 Who sold Estonia and took a Baltic Island instead?
5 Who was first to cross the North-West Passage by dog-sled?
6 Who died during the wedding celebrations of Tove and Gythe?
7 Who was decorated for valour following the Amiens push?
8 Whose tale about a sixth daughter inspired Eriksen?
9 Who is especially associated with a supernova?
10 Who was cuckolded by the Royal physician?

5. Which independent school:
1 started in the Depot?
2 favours Malvolian hosiery?
3 is approached by the Hundred?
4 sold the site to Merchant Taylors'?
5 possesses a relic of an epic crossing of the Scotia Sea?
6 had in its statutes a cryptic acknowledgement of the final chapter of St John's Gospel?
7 owes its foundation to Salmonella typhi?
8 has a boomer in the chapel tower?
9 was pictured by a little canal?
10 replaced a lofty hermitage?

1 What was updated by HG Wells?
2 What might be perceived as an apiary?
3 Which island is doubly recognised on 198?
4 Who left great designs in the Gulf and New South Wales?
5 Who, aided by wizardry, cuckolded his rival by impersonating him?
6 Who, being the son of Suzanne, changed his name through the benevolence of her friend Miguel?
7 What did hateful and rough weeds lose apart from beauty?
8 What was the native city of a unique pontiff?
9 What can be used instead of mahogany?
10 Who recruited Hare for Dad's Army?

1 Who began with 7-43?
2 What excluded Hall in 1856?
3 What did Virginia adopt instead of Jones?
4 Who gained valuable experience from Gillespie?
5 Who knocked out Jackie to become undisputed flyweight champion?
6 Who looked into the disappearance of his West African GP's daughter?
7 What was judged to be a considerable distance from the Strand?
8 Which minstrel finished with Danny Boy?
9 Where is St James the highest of all?
10 What is a funny five-liner?

1 Who benefited from projectile vomiting?
2 Who likened the messenger to fullers' soap?
3 Who was a fruiterer specialising in Ficus sycomorus?
4 Who placed the caterpillar at the end of the food chain?
5 Whose wife, a lady of ill-repute, bore him two sons and a daughter?
6 Whose narratives both start during the second year of the monarch's reign?
7 Who dreamed of a bear-like beast with three ribs between its teeth?
8 Whose broken yoke was replaced by one made of iron?
9 Who alluded twice to Leo becoming a vegetarian?
10 Who found himself in an open-air ossuary?

9. Who or what:
1 is Hazel's cousin?
2 was crowned in Dublin Cathedral?
3 eponymous water bird has long been bedded down?
4 gained the GC for heroism on the Ely-Newmarket line?
5 died in legal captivity of coronary thrombosis on 16 November, 1952?
6 wrote a risqué novel, which saw him tried but acquitted for irreligion and immorality?
7 carried on with George, regardless of Caroline, and later Frances?
8 put his name to a Top Secret Management Handbook?
9 tragically completed his fourth, but not his eighth?
10 created William and Maudie?

10. Which musician might have been:
1 in SW3?
2 a mongrel?
3 an ottoman?
4 a hurried exit?
5 a plumbous abdomen?
6 more specifically, Atropos?
7 emulsified by bile?
8 a fit of pique?
9 coniferous?
10 lignified?

1 What was izzard?
2 When did Neptune begin?
3 What gave way to 18 in 83?
4 What is a feature of aerial punctuation?
5 Which food substance can adversely affect the embryo?
6 What convinced Benedict of the suitability of the Florentine master?
7 Where did Jane lodge for two guineas a week?
8 What, symbolically, melts at 3410ºC?
9 Who is a sharp know-all?
10 What is a zoonotic?

1 What is perhaps the equal of roly-poly?
2 What epidemic was survived by Sarah and Emily?
3 What is made from hog's lard, mutton suet and quicksilver?
4 Upon whom had the captain's steward poured boiling jam juice?
5 Which ancient bibulous Dane with pale red-rimmed eyes, was presented with a case of Priorato?
6 Where, more than once, was a dead orphan child brought back for dissection and kept in a cupboard?
7 Where did the small apothecary display the skeleton of an aardvark in his window?
8 Translate 'Les bouts-dehors des bonnettes du petit perroquet'.
9 What was the ultimate fate of the Armenian polyglot?
10 Who found a Frenchman's ring finger in his bowl?

1 Who rescued John Galt?
2 Who was No 1, of No 1 Company of the XIVth Army?
3 What entitles Mrs Magnusson to add R af E after her name?
4 Who chased Ran Bagha and caused a bridge of boats over the Jumna to collapse?
5 Whose son had served the Indian government in every way for47 years?
6 Who was the favourite, and the only one of the 37, to survive the conflict with Scipio?
7 Who, being the gift of a Mesopotamian ruler, was to perish on Lüneburger Heide?
8 Who was presented to a Habsburg Prince by the King of Portugal?
9 Who was presented to a Pope by the King of Portugal?
10 Who set off for their honeymoon in a yellow balloon?

14. Which elevated conduit:
1 rotates for tall vessels?
2 might suggest marzipan?
3 is suspended from two open-web ribs?
4 is well seen 20 minutes after leaving Piccadilly?
5 features at the V&A museum, without its taller and younger companion?
6 although a few weeks younger than Holmes, proved greatly more durable?
7 took its name from the Honourable Member for Berkshire?
8 bears the inscription "To Public Prosperity"?
9 provides an outlet for Trevor?
10 straddles Watling Street?

15. Where:
1 does one come off the rails?
2 might there be a quarryman's shelter?
3 does the hairpin recall Loch and his successors?
4 must one look in vain for Noble's Peel and Derby?
5 does a dwelling at barely 30m seem seriously misplaced?
6 might one be excused for wrongly supposing a link with Camilla's great grandmother?
7 is there a possible source for the winner's garland?
8 did a party from Grange Hill cause a disturbance?
9 is there a suggestion of a subterranean spirit?
10 is there a fraction over the glass?

16. Where:
1 did Robinson settle for the elder sister?
2 was the master tailor interrupted in his reading of The Divine Comedy?
3 did apparent Benedictine hatred change, with assistance from friends, to love?
4 did the seemingly simple sister of the Hungarian Captain end up marrying his landlord?
5 did the beloved offspring of opposing feuding families commit suicide following the Friar's ruse?
6 did a Sicilian knight defeat the Duke in a duel and learn from the Saracen that his loved one was innocent?
7 did the rejected hunchback reveal the identity of his wife's real lover to the troupe leader?
8 did the dragoon gain the innkeeper's daughter in spite of a diabolical intrusion?
9 did the accursed jester unexpectedly find that his daughter had been bagged?
10 did the General's wife stab herself after being ravished by the Prince?

17. Which author concluded what with these words?
1 "Assist."
2 "All the papers on the subject are there in my safe."
3 "As soon as they had strength they arose, joined hands again, and went on."
4 "At any moment, it seemed, there could be surprises, huge upsets, even the end of small lizard worlds."
5 "The sun dipped down from the great tower on to the upturned face, and his eyes were glistening through their tears."
6 "He remembered how Marie had said he was a man whom women loved easily, and he felt uncomfortable at being reminded of her."
7 "I can't reconcile my mind to their taking up with kanakas, and I'd like to know where I'm to find them whites."
8 "And I began to curse and swear under my breath, because I'd left my shoes in the Mayni Tunnel"
9 "Very lightly she slipped up into bed, and very soon she was asleep."
10 "'Steer north,' said he."

18. During 2010:
1 where did Joy uncover Fletch?
2 which city honoured a 1945 hero with its Große Siegel?
3 which Wizard Rose wilted towards the end of summer?
4 who finally achieved a victory by 417 days over Sinclair?
5 who was finally ousted by a Scottish philosopher and economist on 30 June?
6 which joint, showing a philatelic fracture, required a proper replacement before release?
7 where did Schadow's figure receive a multicoloured multiplication?
8 which leo-aquiline promoter missed out on afternoon tea?
9 who found that three coppers did not fool two coppers?
10 where did the tallest last the longest?

Xmas at sea

The 1986-87 deployment was the first of two times I was ever under way on Xmas Day. The nuc ET chief donned one of the white coveralls from the Otto fuel spill kit, trimmed with EB Red, and then added a red drill-monitor ball cap and an incredibly cheesy fake beard. He and the COB set out through berthing just after midnight local time, waking people up and passing out (if I recall correctly) candy.

Inevitably, someone objected to having his valuable rack time intruded upon. This may be the only time in the history of the world that Santa was ever heard to exclaim, "It's Christmas, you f**k - wake up!"

24 December 2010


You've probably already seen this 13 Nov performance by Chorus Niagara - done at a mall in Welland, Ontario - a few times, but here it is again:

One of the best pieces of music ever written, in my opinion....

Xmas carols - sort of....

333: "Here comes Azathoth"

698: "I'm dreaming of a hideously non-Euclidean Christmas"

1063: "Silent night, eldritch night"

1428: "It came upon a midnight clear"

1793: "Oh! You better watch out"

2159: "'Thulhu, the dread great old one"

2524: "Oh, the weather outside is frightful"

2889: "Church bells ring / like an omen"

22 December 2010

RIP: Melvin Biddle

Melvin Earl Biddle
28 Nov 1923 - 16 Dec 2010

ZUI this article from the Indianapolis Star:
Melvin E. Biddle, the last surviving Hoosier to receive the Medal of Honor during World War II, died Thursday at his home in Anderson.

He was 87.

Friends said Biddle, a Daleville native, was a humble man who rarely talked about the two days in 1944 when he single-handedly killed more than a dozen German soldiers.

"He didn't want to be publicized too much," said Lew Goodwin, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 266 in Anderson. "He told us he did it to help his buddies out. He got tired of being shot at. He got tired of everyone being pinned down."


Pfc. Biddle was a scout with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment when his unit was sent to attack German soldiers encircling the town of Hotton, Belgium, on Dec. 23 and 24, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

Biddle pushed through dense forest and used his rifle and grenades to kill more than a dozen German snipers and machine gunners, according to his award citation.


Biddle is survived by his wife, Leona, and other family members. Funeral services were pending.

Biddle's death leaves 86 surviving Medal of Honor recipients.*

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


Private First Class, US Army; Company B, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Born: 28 November 1923, Daleville, Indiana
Died: 16 December 2010, Anderson, Indiana

Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy near Soy, Belgium, on 23 and 24 December 1944. Serving as lead scout during an attack to relieve the enemy-encircled town of Hotton, he aggressively penetrated a densely wooded area, advanced 400 yards until he came within range of intense enemy rifle fire, and within 20 yards of enemy positions killed 3 snipers with unerring marksmanship. Courageously continuing his advance an additional 200 yards, he discovered a hostile machinegun position and dispatched its 2 occupants. He then located the approximate position of a well-concealed enemy machinegun nest, and crawling forward threw hand grenades which killed two Germans and fatally wounded a third. After signaling his company to advance, he entered a determined line of enemy defense, coolly and deliberately shifted his position, and shot 3 more enemy soldiers. Undaunted by enemy fire, he crawled within 20 yards of a machinegun nest, tossed his last hand grenade into the position, and after the explosion charged the emplacement firing his rifle. When night fell, he scouted enemy positions alone for several hours and returned with valuable information which enabled our attacking infantry and armor to knock out 2 enemy tanks. At daybreak he again led the advance and, when flanking elements were pinned down by enemy fire, without hesitation made his way toward a hostile machinegun position and from a distance of 50 yards killed the crew and 2 supporting riflemen. The remainder of the enemy, finding themselves without automatic weapon support, fled panic stricken. Pfc. Biddle's intrepid courage and superb daring during his 20-hour action enabled his battalion to break the enemy grasp on Hotton with a minimum of casualties.

* This list, less Biddle (WW II) and McNerney (Vietnam), plus Giunta (Afghanistan).

19 December 2010

Victoria Cross: E. Jotham


Captain, 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force)

Born: 28 November 1883, Kidderminster, Worcestershire
Died: 7 January 1915, Tochi Valley, North West Frontier

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery on 7th January, 1915, at Spina Khaisora (Tochi Valley).
During operations against the Khostwal tribesmen, Captain Jotham, who was commanding a party of about a dozen of the North Waziristan Militia, was attacked in a nullah and almost surrounded by an overwhelming force of some 1,500 tribesmen. He gave the order to retire, and could have himself escaped, but most gallantly sacrificed his own life by attempting to effect the rescue of one of his men who had lost his horse.

[London Gazette issue 29240 dated 24 Jul 1915, published 23 Jul 1915.]

Note: The Tochi Valley is located in what is now northern Pakistan.

Medal of Honor: J. L. Smith


Major, US Marine Corps; commanding Marine Fighter Squadron 223

Born: 26 December 1914, Lexington, Oklahoma
Died: 10 June 1972, Encino, California

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and heroic achievement in aerial combat above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 223 during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area, August-September 1942. Repeatedly risking his life in aggressive and daring attacks, Maj. Smith led his squadron against a determined force, greatly superior in numbers, personally shooting down 16 Japanese planes between 21 August and 15 September 1942. In spite of the limited combat experience of many of the pilots of this squadron, they achieved the notable record of a total of 83 enemy aircraft destroyed in this period, mainly attributable to the thorough training under Maj. Smith and to his intrepid and inspiring leadership. His bold tactics and indomitable fighting spirit, and the valiant and zealous fortitude of the men of his command not only rendered the enemy's attacks ineffective and costly to Japan, but contributed to the security of our advance base. His loyal and courageous devotion to duty sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

14 December 2010

RIP: Lachhiman Gurung VC

Lachhiman Gurung VC
30 Dec 1917 – 12 Dec 2010

ZUI this article from The Telegraph:
Havildar Lachhiman Gurung, who died on December 12 aged 92, won the Victoria Cross while serving with the Gurkha Rifles in Burma in 1945; in recent years he had been a prominent figure in the campaign led by the actress Joanna Lumley to allow former Gurkhas to settle in Britain.

At the end of April 1945, the 89th Indian Brigade of 7th Division was ordered to cross the Irrawaddy and destroy the enemy north of the Prome-Taungup road. By May 9 the Japanese, after a series of desperate attacks, had broken off contact and were withdrawing towards the Taungdaw Valley. “B” and “C” companies of the 4th/8th Gurkha Rifles were positioned to block their route at the village of Taungdaw, on the west bank of the river.

When the Japanese arrived, the two Gurkha companies were surrounded and their lines of communication cut. On the night of May 12, Rifleman Gurung was manning the forward post of his platoon almost 100 yards ahead of the main company.

At 1.20am, more than 200 Japanese attacked the company position. The brunt of the assault fell on Gurung’s section and, in particular, on his post, which dominated a jungle track leading up to his platoon’s position. Had the enemy been able to overrun it and occupy Gurung’s trench, they would have secured control over the whole of the field before them.


For four hours Gurung remained alone at his post, calmly waiting for each new onslaught, firing into his attackers at point blank range, determined not to yield an inch of ground. His comrades could hear him shouting: “Come and fight a Gurkha!”

The following morning, of the 87 enemy dead found in the company’s immediate locality, 31 lay in front of Gurung’s section. The Japanese made repeated attempts to break through, but the 4th/8th held out until May 15, when they were relieved.

Gurung later said: “I had to fight because there was no other way. I felt I was going to die anyway, so I might as well die standing on my feet. All I knew was that I had to go on and hold them back. I am glad that helped the other soldiers in my platoon, but they would have all done the same thing.”


Lachhiman Gurung was born on December 30 1917 at Dakhani village in the Tanhu district of Nepal. He enlisted in December 1940 and after completing basic training was recruited into the 8th Gurkha Rifles. Of small build (he stood just 4ft 11in tall), he was under the minimum height and would not have been accepted in peacetime.

After the action in which he won the Victoria Cross, Gurung was evacuated to hospital, but lost his right hand and the use of his right eye. He continued to serve with the 8th Gurkha Rifles but transferred to the Indian Army after Independence in 1947. He retired in the rank of havildar (the equivalent of sergeant) in the same year.

Gurung married soon afterwards and had two sons and a daughter. Later, after the death of his wife, he had two sons from a second marriage.


In 2008 Gurung became closely involved in the campaign to allow Gurkhas to settle in Britain. The British government had refused entry to the 2,000 Gurkhas who had retired before July 1997, the date when their base was moved to the UK from Hong Kong.

Five claimants — including a Falklands veteran, Lance-Corporal Gyanendra Rai; a Gulf War veteran, Birendra Man; and a Gurkha widow — launched a legal challenge, supported by Lachhiman Gurung and a fellow winner of the VC, Honorary Lieutenant Tul Bahadur Pun, then aged 87. Both men had been told that they would not be allowed to settle here because they had failed to “demonstrate strong ties” to the UK.

In the High Court in September 2008, however, Mr Justice Blake said that the policy should be reviewed, referring to the “Military Covenant undertaken by every British soldier by which, in return for their pledge to make the ultimate sacrifice, they are promised value and respect”. He added: “Rewarding distinguished service by the grant of residence in the country for which the service was performed would be a vindication of this covenant.”


One of Gurung’s sons subsequently became an officer in the 8th Gurkha Rifles. His second wife, Manmaya, survives him with his five children.

ZUI also this article (with photographs) from The Daily Mail.

There are now eight surviving VC holders:
WO Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 6th Gurkha Rifles - Burma, 1944
Flt Lt John A Cruickshank VC, RAFVR - North Atlantic, 1944
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
Tpr Mark G S Donaldson VC, Australian SAS - Afghanistan, 2008

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


Rifleman, 4th Battalion, 8th Gurkha Rifles

Born: 30 December 1917, Dakhani, Nepal
Died: 12 December 2010, London

Citation: At Taungdaw, in Burma, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy, on the night of 12th/13th May, 1945, Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon. At 0120 hours at least 200 enemy assaulted his Company position. The brunt of the attack was borne by Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's section and by his own post in particular. This post dominated a jungle path leading up into his platoon locality.
Before assaulting, the enemy hurled innumerable grenades at the position from close range. One grenade fell on the lip of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's trench; he at once grasped it and hurled it back at the enemy. Almost immediately another grenade fell directly inside the trench. Again this Rifleman snatched it up and threw it back. A third grenade then fell just in front of the trench. He attempted to throw it back, but it exploded in his hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his right arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded and lay helpless in the bottom of the trench.
The enemy, screaming and shouting, now formed up shoulder to shoulder and attempted to rush the position by sheer weight of numbers. Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung, regardless of his wounds, fired and loaded his rifle with his left hand, maintaining a continuous and steady rate of fire. Wave after wave of fanatical attacks were thrown in by the enemy and all were repulsed with heavy casualties.
For four hours after being severely wounded Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung remained alone at his post, waiting with perfect calm for each attack, which he met with fire at point-blank range from his rifle, determined not to give one inch of ground.
Of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman's section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.
This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last that, although surrounded and cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.
His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy.

[London Gazette issue 37195 dated 27 Jul 1945, published 24 Jul 1945.]

12 December 2010

Victoria Cross: T. Hancock and J. Purcell


Private, 9th Lancers

Born: July 1823, Kensington, West London
Died: 12 March 1871, Westminster Workhouse, London


Private, 9th Lancers

Born: 1814, Kilcommon, County Galway, Ireland
Died: 19 September 1857, Delhi, India

Joint Citation: "The guns, I am happy to say, were saved, but a waggon of Major Scott's battery was blown up. I must not fail to mention the excellent conduct of a Sowar of the 4th Irregular Cavalry, and two men of the 9th Lancers, Privates Thomas Hancock and John Purcell, who, when my horse was shot down [on 19 June 1857, at the siege of Delhi], remained by me throughout. One of these men and the Sowar offered me their horses, and I was dragged out by the Sowar's horse. Private Hancock was severely wounded, and Private Purcell's horse was killed under him. The Sowar's name is Roopur Khan."
(Extract of a letter from Brigadier J. H. Grant, C.B., Commanding Cavalry Brigade of the Field Force, to the Deputy Assistant-Adjutant General of Division. Dated Camp, Delhi, June 22, 1857.)

[London Gazette issue 22083 dtd 15 Jan 1858, published 15 Jan 1858.]

Medal of Honor: J. Ward, I. Payne and P. Factor


Sergeant, 24th US Infantry Indian Scouts

Born: 1848, Arkansas
Died: 24 May 1911

Citation. With 3 other men, he participated in a charge against 25 hostiles while on a scouting patrol [at the Pecos River, Texas, on 25 April 1875].


Trumpeter, Indian Scouts

Born: 1854, Mexico
Died: 12 January 1904

Citation: With 3 other men, he participated in a charge against 25 hostiles while on a scouting patrol [at the Pecos River, Texas, on 25 April 1875].


Private, Indian Scouts

Born: 1849, Arkansas
Died: 29 March 1928

Citation: With 3 other men, he participated in a charge against 25 hostiles while on a scouting patrol [at the Pecos River, Texas, on 25 April 1875].

Note: All three men were Black Seminoles, and are buried at the Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery, Brackettville, Texas.
The name of the fourth man involved in this incident is not known.

07 December 2010

This day in history: 7 Dec

USS Turkey (AM 13)
USS Bobolink (AM 20)
USS Rail (AM 26)
USS Tern (AM 31)
USS Grebe (AM 43)
USS Vireo (AM 52)

USS Cockatoo (AMC 8)
USS Crossbill (AMC 9)
USS Condor (AMC 14)
USS Reedbird (AMC 30)

USS Oglala (CM 4) (ex-Shawmut) *

USS Gamble (DM 15) (ex-DD 123)
USS Ramsay (DM 16) (ex-DD 124)
USS Montgomery (DM 17) (ex-DD 121)
USS Breese (DM 18) (ex-DD 122)
USS Tracy (DM 19) (ex-DD 214)
USS Preble (DM 20) (ex-DD 345)
USS Sicard (DM 21) (ex-DD 346)
USS Pruitt (DM 22) (ex-DD 347)

USS Zane (DMS 14) (ex-DD 337)
USS Wasmuth (DMS 15) (ex-DD 338)
USS Trever (DMS 16) (ex-DD 339)
USS Perry (DMS 17) (ex-DD 340)

USS Dobbin (AD 3)
USS Whitney (AD 4)

USS Pyro (AE 1)

USS Utah (AG 16) (ex-BB 31) **
USS Argonne (AG 31) (ex-AP 4, ex-AS 10)
USS Sumner (AG 32) (ex-Bushnell AS 2)

USS Solace (AH 5)

USS Castor (AKS 1)
USS Antares (AKS 3)

USS Ramapo (AO 12)
USS Neosho (AO 23)

USS Medusa (AR 1)
USS Vestal (AR 4)
USS Rigel (AR 11)

USS Pelias (AS 14)

USS Widgeon (ASR 1)

USS Ontario (AT 13)
USS Sunnadin (AT 28)
USS Keosanqua (AT 38)

USS Curtiss (AV 4)
USS Tangier (AV 8)

USS Hulbert (AVD 6)
USS Thornton (AVD 11) (ex-DD 270)

USS Avocet (AVP 4)
USS Swan (AVP 7)

* Sunk; raised and rebuilt
** Sunk

AM - minesweeper, AMC - coastal minesweeper, CM - minelayer, DM - destroyer minelayer, DMS - destroyer minesweeper
AD - destroyer tender, AE - ammunition ship, AG - miscellaneous auxiliary, AH - hospital ship, AKS - stores issue ship, AO - oiler, AR - repair ship, AS - submarine tender, ASR - submarine rescue ship, AT - ocean tug, AV - seaplane tender, AVD - destroyer seaplane tender, AVP - small seaplane tender

See here for a complete list of commissioned ships and non-commissioned district craft (both self-propelled and non-self-propelled) present at Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941.

05 December 2010

Victoria Cross: Douglas, Murphy, Cooper, Bell and Griffiths


Assistant-Surgeon, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment

Born: 5 August 1840, Quebec City, Canada
Died: 31 December 1909, Wells, Somerset


Private, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment

Born: 1839, Dublin, Ireland
Died: 23 March 1899, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States


Private, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment

Born: September 1940, Birmingham, Warwickshire
Died: 9 August 1889, Birmingham, Warwickshire


Private, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment

Born: 1845, County Down, Ireland
Died: 7 March 1920, Gillingham, Kent


Private, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment

Born: 1841, County Roscommon, Ireland
Died: 22 January 1879, Isandhlwana, South Africa

Joint Citation: THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officer and Private Soldiers of Her Majesty's Army, whose claims to the same have been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, for their gallant conduct at the Little Andaman Island, as recorded against their names, viz.:--
For the very gallant and daring manner in which, on the 7th of May, 1867, they risked their lives in manning a boat and proceeding through a dangerous surf to the rescue of some of their comrades, who formed part of an expedition which had been sent to the Island of Little Andaman, by order of the Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, with the view of ascertaining the fate of the Commander and seven of the crew of the ship "Assam Valley," who had landed there, and were supposed to have been murdered by the natives.
The officer who commanded the troops on the occasion reports: "About an hour later in the day, Dr. Douglas, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, and the four Privates referred to, gallantly manning the second gig, made their way through the surf almost to the shore, but finding their boat was half filled with water, they retired. A second attempt made by Dr. Douglas and party proved successful, five of us being safely passed through the surf to the boats outside. A third and last trip got the whole of the party left on shore safe to the boats."
It is stated that Dr. Douglas accomplished these trips through the surf to the shore by no ordinary exertion. He stood in the bows of the boat, and worked her in an intrepid and seamanlike manner, cool to a degree, as if what he was then doing was an ordinary act of every-day life. The four Privates behaved in an equally cool and collected manner, rowing through the roughest surf when the slightest hesitation or want of pluck on the part of any one of them would have been attended by the gravest results. It is reported that seventeen officers and men were thus saved from what must otherwise have been a fearful risk, if not certainty of death.

[London Gazette issue 23333 dtd 17 Dec 1867, published 17 Dec 1867.]

Note: The Andaman Islands are in the Bay of Bengal, between India and Burma. Most of the islands (including Little Andaman) belong to India, though a few at the northern end of the chain are part of Burma.

Medal of Honor: W. Ahern and A. Wilson


Watertender, US Navy; USS Puritan (BM 1)

Born: 1861, Ireland
Died: Unknown

Citation: On board the U.S.S. Puritan at the time of the collapse of one of the crown sheets of boiler E of that vessel, 1 July 1897. Wrapped in wet cloths to protect his face and arms, Ahern entered the fireroom, crawled over the tops of the boilers and closed the auxiliary stop valve, disconnecting boiler E and removing the danger of disabling the other boilers.

Note: The New York Times articles of 6 Nov 1897 and 6 Feb 1898 describing this incident gave his name as William O'Hearn.


Boilermaker, US Navy; USS Puritan (BM 1)

Born: 1 March 1864, Danzig, Germany
Died: Unknown

Citation: For gallant conduct while serving on board the U.S.S. Puritan and at the time of the collapse of one of the crown sheets of boiler E on that vessel, 1 July 1897. Wrapping wet cloths about his face and arms, Wilson entered the fireroom and opened the safety valve, thus removing the danger of disabling the other boilers.

Note: The New York Times article of 6 Nov 1897 describing this incident gave his name as Augustus Wilson.

01 December 2010

Book list - Nov 10

Can You Trust a Tomato in January?: Everything You Wanted to Know (and a Few Things You Didn't) About Food in the Grocery Store - food, by Vince Staten
Under the Blood-Red Sun - YA historical fiction, by Graham Salisbury
Hitler's Canary - YA historical fiction, by Sandi Toksvig
Future Eden: A Brief History of Next Time - YA SF, by Colin Thompson
Flambards - YA historical fiction, by K M Peyton
The Edge of the Cloud - YA historical fiction, by K M Peyton (Carnegie Medal, 1969)
The Shield of Time - time travel, by Poul Anderson *
Flambards in Summer - YA historical fiction, by K M Peyton
The Vanishing Shadow - children's mystery, by Margaret Sutton *
The Scarecrows - YA, by Robert Westfall (Carnegie Medal, 1981)
Enchanted Ivy - YA modern fantasy, by Sarah Beth Durst
Secret Water - children's, by Arthur Ransome
Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad - US history, by Walter R Borneman
The Wool-pack - children's historical fiction, by Cynthia Harnett (Carnegie Medal, 1951)
Myth-Interpretations - fantasy and SF (short stories), by Robert Lynn Asprin
The Haunted Attic - children's mystery, by Margaret Sutton *
Bearing the Saint - YA historical fiction, by Donna Farley

17 books last month, with three rereads (marked by asterisks). To reach my goal of 210 books this year, I'll have to read 34 in December, and that's not going to happen unless I'm stuck in bed for a week or two. Oh, well....

The three Carnegie Medal winners bring me up to 47 of 71. My thanks to the Wilton Library Association, Wilton CT; the McAlester Public Library, McAlester OK; and the Southern Connecticut State University Library, New Haven CT, for the ILLs.