Dunkirk-The Great Escape 70 years ago

May 29, 2010

The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.               Sir Winston Churchill Hansard, June 10, 1941

World War II veterans have begun a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

It’s just about the last hurrah for the 3% of evacuees still alive. Fifty small vessels have just headed to France to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Dynamo in a poignant pilgrimage, as old soldiers remember the ‘miracle of deliverance’  when 338,000 British and French troops were snatched off the beach at Dunkirk under the noses of the stalled German blitzkrieg by a flotilla of little ships which sailed from Kent to the French coast, often several times, between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

 On the day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, Germany had invaded Holland and Belgium. Churchill was not his keeper’s  brother:  “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” 

The Phoney War had finished abruptly; this was the real thing. Unlike the stationary war a generation earlier, which bogged down in the trenches of France, Hitler’s powerful Panzer divisions had quickly punched their way through to the French coast.  On May 26  the order for total evacuation was given.

 For the retreating British Expeditionary Force and its allies, Dunkirk was the only practical point of departure, but its beach was on a shallow slope. No large boat could get near to the actual beaches  so smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. 800 of these legendary “little ships” crossed the channel, the smallest being the 18 foot open fishing boat Tamzine.

Despite attacks from German fighter and bomber planes the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler but it never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war.

One of the reasons put forward for Hitler not ordering an attack was that he believed the BEF debacle would cause Britain to come to peace terms with Hitler and join in fighting the real foe, Communist Russia.

Dunkirk was certainly a humiliation for British forces but thousands of people cheered the bedraggled returnees and  belated preparations were going on apace for the expected invasion. The Battle of Britain was about to begin.  New Zealander Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park  was to be in tactical command during the most significant air battles in the European theatre in the Second World War.

The “Spirit of Dunkirk” became a powerful  morale booster at a critical historical juncture. The episode, which relied on the “quiet heroism” of many civilian volunteers, was later described by Winston Churchill as “A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity.”

 That famous “Dunkirk spirit” has entered Britain’s national mythology and has often been invoked since.  A current newspaper poll is asking whether Britons, potentially at least, still have the Dunkirk spirit in the different society of 21st-century Britain, though victory in something really important like the Football World Cup is probably more top of  the collective mind.

 At least they have finally sorted a permanent memorial to the long unsung Kiwi hero of the war in the air. Sir Keith Park commanded Number 11 Group of Fighter Command, responsible for the defence of London and the South East of England. These were the squadrons which bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain.

The failure to defeat the RAF in 1940 is seen as Germany’s first major setback in the Second World War, culminating in the abandonment of the planned invasion of Britain, though the missed opportunity of Dunkirk was a huge factor and Hitler’s eyes had already turned eastwards:  to Russia, with hate.

The belated memorial statue of Sir Keith, who the Germans rather than the British called, at the time, “the Defender of London” was removed from Trafalgar Square earlier this month. A permanent bronze statue will be unveiled in Waterloo Place on Battle of Britain Day, 15 September 2010.

 #Lyall Lukey 29 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS   Pr-print    Vid-Video  Mus-Music   Mm-multimedia

 News for Dunkirk 70th anniversary Pr

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/dunkirk.htm Mm

Winston Churchill and the Dunkirk Evacuation  Vid 2.22

Dramatic Dunkirk evacuation anniversary Vid 1.04

The German Blunder At Dunkirk (Part 1/3) Vid 7.03

Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE  Vincent Orange   Pr

Gracie Fields – Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye) Mus 3.01

 

 

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ANZAC Day-We’ll Meet Again?

April 25, 2010

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”  Ross Parker and Hughie Charles—as sung by Vera Lynn 

The poignant truth, remembered today on ANZAC day, is that too many didn’t meet again.

This morning I joined the huge crowd who turned out at the dawn service  in Cathedral Square, Christchurch  to remember fallen New Zealand servicemen and women and  to mark the 95th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.

After the ANZACs were landed on the wrong beach New Zealand lost 2,721 dead out of a total 130,784 dead on both sides at Gallipoli in what turned out to be a disastrous sideshow to the main theatres of war in Europe.

Later this morning there was an extra sombre atmosphere after the breaking news of the military helicopter crash north of Wellington, which claimed the lives of three service personnel en route to an ANZAC day parade flyover in the capital.  Military service can be hazardous in war and peace.

It is just over 70 years since Dame Vera Lynn, then 22, visited the Decca studios in London and first recorded We’ll Meet Again. The nostalgic lyrics became one of the best loved sing-along morale boosters during the grim days of World War II.

Voted the original “Forces Sweetheart” she travelled thousands of miles, often at great personal risk, to entertain the Allied troops.

Last year, at 92, she made history to become the oldest living artist ever to have a number one album: We’ll Meet Again -The Very Best Of Vera Lynn.

To make this triumph even sweeter, she even trumped the much-vaunted series of remastered Beatles albums to top the official charts. The moptops might have been more popular than Jesus Christ but they couldn’t knock Vera off this top spot. (When Dame Vera first sang of some sunny day 71 years ago John Lennon had not even been born. He died thirty years ago this December).

 Last November the newly annointed Forces Sweetheart at the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall was Christchurch-born Kiwi singer, Hayley Westenra.

Hayley has been a staunch supporter of Forces’ charities since she shot to fame in the UK as a singer seven years ago and she was also recruited by the British Legion to be the face of their annual Poppy Appeal. 

Below is an early and rare video of Hayley Westenra and younger sister Sophie singing Up Where We Belong*  at our SmartNet workshops in 2000 to illustrate the theme of New Zealanders learning faster and working smarter to get Godzone  up the international rankings.

A decade later Hayley has formed a new personal entente cordiale with an unnamed French boyfriend. May the Forces be with her.

 #Lyall Lukey 25 April 2010  

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5uFzwzEVhQ     Letter from Gallipoli
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG48Ftsr3OI&feature=related   And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda 
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn  With WWII  photos
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqsFoKMA1w0   Hayley and Sophie Westenra, SmartNet 2000


Willie Apiata – Afghan Delight and a Minto Moment

February 3, 2010

 “The real heroes of Afghanistan are the three Kiwis who popped the dome two years ago…”  John Minto 

Corporal Willie Apiata won his VC-the first by a New Zealand soldier since World War II- for rescuing a wounded colleague under fire. But according to John Minto, he “was no hero compared to Sam, Adrian and Peter.”  Maybe Minto had been popping something else. VC vs PC is no contest. Declaring that Apiata is no hero compared to the real heroes, the peace activists, was a maladroit Minto moment.

 Historically, especially in World War I, conscientious objectors like Archibald Baxter, father of  James K,  exhibited a lot of courage and were treated incredibly harshly*.  By comparison the trio who deflated the Waihopai surveillance base, run by the Soviet-sounding Government Communication Security Bureau (the GCSB), had a milk run and don’t deserve inflated kudos.

 Meanwhile, as the whole world now knows, Special Air Services trooper Corporal Apiana was back on the streets of Kabul recently joining a counterattack against a Taleban terror strike and looking for all the world like a movie poster pin up. The hirsute still-is warrior looked somewhat different from his medal investiture photos* and women of an uncertain age  obviously thought he was very SASsie .

 Like Prince Harry, whose military tour of duty in Afghanistan was cancelled once the word got out, Apiana would be a high profile kidnap target by the Taleban or Al Queda or any one of a number of dissident cells setting its sights on a high profile target as a negotiating chip. A Willie away movement would be very harrowing.

 The media have got the stick for printing a French freelance photographer’s  military mugshot of the Kiwi hero and told that they should consider what they are doing in these days of instant world wide communication. But of course the corporal was naughty for removing his helmet in the first place. Even sunglasses would have preserved his anonymity though not protected his skull.

 Skulldugery was the accusation that some leveled at the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand military originally went into Afghanistan with an emphasis on civil reconstruction in rural areas. The SAS’s metropolitan adventures are a whole new dimension.

The outing of Apiata led to the announcement by the PM late last week about being more open regarding  SAS movements. This makes political if not military sense. The New York Times, through its Afghan news hounds, seemed to know more than Kiwis about the SAS being involved in urban guerilla warfare in downtown Kabul, replacing the withdrawing Norwegians. As John Lennon might have sung, Norwegians would.

In the meantime, as far as Willie was concerned, this bird had indeed flown for a well deserved furlough.

 The reasons why the antipodean ant has been so assiduously helping the global elephant are largely to do with diplomacy and potential free trade agreements.  If, as Chou En-Lai had it, all diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means, in this case for this country war is a continuation of diplomacy by other means.  New Zealand’s involvement has helped to paper over the cracks of past differences, especially New Zealand’s unwillingness to be part of the military nuclear family, despite Ernest Rutherford’s pioneering scientific efforts.

 In political circles in America New Zealand stands to gain more kudos from  being open about its Afghanistan engagement than conforming to strict military secrecy.  Not all the PR is good, of course. One tricky bit is the SAS’s involvement in the arrests of alleged terrorists and passing over the prisoners to the tender ministrations of the Afghan authorities. This is a new rendition of the old number “Guantanamo Bay” and the guano may stick if Amnesty International has its way.

Since 2001 the American propensity to lump the Taliban and Al Qaeda together is the equivalent of the old red scare and smear approach by the Americans after World War II. Reds under the bed have been replaced by mullahs under the loofahs. (There have been some strange alleged bedfellows: at once stage, before he was deposed, Saddam Hussein was lumped in with Moslem radicals despite his rather secular background).  

 The Allies in Afghanistan (though most non-Americans nations, apart from New Zealand, have disengaged) are looking down the barrel of a deteriorating military and civil situation in a country which in the last two centuries has dispatched the armies of the imperial British and the communist Soviets.

 Meanwhile American soldiers in Afghanistan and elsewhere, together with their allies, including New Zealand, have been setting their sights on higher things.

 Sadly there will be a lot more inscriptions to come, in many languages, and they won’t just be on gun sights.

 #Lyall Lukey 3 Feb 2010  

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS

 Corporal Apiata VC-2 photos:

http://kotare.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/07/25/312454.jpg  http://static.stuff.co.nz/1264068651/236/3252236.jpg

Reporter describes SAS encounter

I’m okay, Apiata tells worried family

 archibald Baxter «

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pklr0UD9eSo  Tom Lehrer “So Long, Mom (A Song for WW III)”

 

 

 


Trijicon: Onward Christian Soldiers?

January 23, 2010

 “ We believe that America is great when its people are good.  This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history, and we will strive to follow those morals.”  Trijicon Mission Statement

The trigger happy US gun sights manufacturer Trijicon  adopts the missionary position in its corporate statements. It also includes biblical references  on its Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight in raised lettering, added to the serial numbers.*  The ACOG Tactical Scope has the inscription pointing to John 8:12 “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.

This doubles as a tract and a bit of cute self-promotion for the  day/night sight as demonstrated in a video review by Fun Gun* which shoots the line that the ACOG sight is indubitably A Good Thing in the sight of God.

 We‘re not talking here of religious bumper stickers or personalised ordnance signage but officially issued high tech weaponry used by American troopers and also, among others,  by New Zealand’s SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, who have been in the news recently more than any covert  military organisation would wish.

News of the inscriptions on the “Jesus guns”, for long, apparently, an open soldiers secret,  is just the  right calibre propaganda ammunition for recruiting dissident Moslem youth, with or without Koran-inscribed rifles, to target purported new era Christian crusaders.  As University of Canterbury historian Geoffrey Rice points out, the medieval Crusades are still comparatively fresh in the collective  Moslem memory.

Domestic critics point out that the US is already struggling against the image of a crusade in the Middle East. It is tricky enough to recruit and retain an all-cultures all- faiths American army, as last year’s US military base camp mass slaying demonstrated. The inscribed sights do no favour to the American military by potentially triggering a dissident recruiting backlash, nor to Christianity, as witnessed by the numbers recoiling from  the present proselytising position.     

Further afield, Al-Jazeera correspondent David Chater, says that the references are a “rallying cry for the Taliban. It gives them a propaganda tool. They’ve always tried to paint the US efforts in Afghanistan as a Christian campaign.”*

They reinforce the anti-American perception that religion rather than national security is at the heart of the US military presence abroad.

 The “war on Islam” issue is not confined to American troops.  New Zealand soldiers, also equipped with the ACOG sight, could also be in the gun as “Christian Crusaders”, as Mavis Emberson points out, “…..you are giving a perfect excuse for all those who pretend to feel that the NZ soldiers are “Christian Crusaders” to kill all NZ Armed forces where ever that are..”

 Since the concordance revelation the New Zealand Defence Force has been quick on the draw and ordered the removal of the letters from existing gun sights from its 260 Trijicon sights. I thought that such a hair trigger response would be unlikely to happen in the United States, where large numbers appear to believe that not only is God on their side but he speaks with a mid-Western accent, but just yesterday the issue had obviously become such an embarrassment for the Pentagon that it insisted that Trijicon send ‘removal kits’ that soldiers can use to file off the references.  Only the more muscular military Christians will  describe this as defiling the holy swords of salvation.

 It is hard to imagine the previous American government moving so fast- or even at all- on this issue. There has been a fundamental change at the top.  Is this the start of the War on Error?  Borat has the last word-se vieo clip*.

#Lyall Lukey 24 Jan 2010  

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 *BLINKS

ABC News –Revelations

Video review of  the Trijicon “ACOG” sights-3.43+ refers to the biblical inscriptions.

Al-Jazeera quotes its correspondent

Trijicon sights: How the ‘Jesus gun’ misfired

http://youtube.com/watch?v=F43mN5YilXg&feature=related    Borat Being a Real Man at the Gun Club

 OT and NT verses not used by Trijicon:

Ecclesiastes 9:18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war
1 Samuel 17:47 It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves…
Matthew 26:52 All who take the sword will perish by the sword
   
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers