Colour blind

Yesterday I noticed the above coloured banner across the top of the main page of my blog. I didn’t order it to be placed there, nor did I have anything to do with its appearance and have written to WordPress requesting its removal.

I am colour blind as far as race, sexual orientation, religion and politics, and I am not in favour of any symbols being shown on my blog, for or against anything, unless I make the post.

I pay WordPress for the blog, so being the ultimate customer I consider that I have the right to post / remove what ever I want.

The various WordPress blogs that I follow also have the same coloured banner included on their main page, and I wonder how many have agreed to such an intrusive inclusion.

My original idea was to post a blog about 11.00 am on Sunday the 3rd of September seventy eight years ago, because today is also Sunday the 3rd of September, but in 2017.

0111709WW2TimelineI spoke to a lady this morning in church and asked her if she knew what was special about today. She thought for a minute and looked at me and said ‘I was eleven when Mr Chamberlain  spoke, and we were all gathered around the wireless.’ My friend was ninety earlier this year.

NevilleNeville Chamberlain.
I believe it is peace in our time.

king_george_viKing George VI during the speech he made on the 3rd September 1939.
The highest of distinction is service to others.

Australia declared war on the 3rd of September 1939.
Robert Menzies was Prime Minister

Canada declared war on the 10th September 1939.
William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister.

New Zealand declared war on the 3rd September 1939
Michael Joseph Savage was Prime Minister

South Africa declared war on the 4th September 1939.
The day Jan Smuts became Prime Minister.

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge on the River Kwai

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bridge1In 1945 the Americans bombed the real bridge on the river Kwai. The centre parts of the bridge (the flat bits) are new, and the original part of the bridge has the curved sides.
We could walk on the bridge; it is a rail bridge only, and not available for road transport.

imgp1899rThere was a wooden bridge built about one hundred meters up river from this bridge, and that bridge was used while the prisoners built the metal bridge, which was #277 of over 600 bridges built to accommodate the railway. Later the wooden bridge was used again after the bombing of this bridge.

Before we caught the train to Numtok, which is now the end of the line, we visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery – a very emotional place as you walk passed thousands of plaques, which list the name, rank, regiment, age and date of death.

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Lest we forget the 6,982 Australian, British and Dutch prisoners.

imgp1845rThere is another cemetery a couple of kilometers away with a further 1693 prisoners.

One hundred and thirty three Americans also died on the railways, but their bodies were repatriated back to the US.

It is estimated that half of the 180,000 Asians, (Malays, Burmese, Thais, Chinese etc) who were forced to help build the railway, also died, but they are not buried in these cemeteries.

Our destination, by train, is Numtok – the line used to go to the Burmese / Thai border, but after the war the line from Numtok to Burma was ripped up. I have heard that there is a very small possibility that the missing line might be reconstructed.

imgp2890r The notice tells us that the station is the River Kwai Bridge, but it is Kanchanaburi, with a thriving market on the platform area to keep the tourists happy.

imgp2893rOur train has arrive.

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Open windows, open doors and ineffective fans trying to keep us all cool. On looking down I was able see the sleepers and track through cracks in the floor. Not something I was used to on European or Australian trains, but all part of the ‘adventure’.imgp2909rThe line is a single line track so if you miss the train you have to wait for it to do the round trip.

imgp2913rWe are about to cross the viaduct, which was built by the prisoners in seventeen days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the end of the line – Numtok.

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imgp1887rThe Wang Pho viaduct – hand made . . . in 2016 it is 73 years old . .

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One dead prisoner for every sleeper of the 415 km railway –

They only had elephants to help, because they didn’t have any earth moving equipment.

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Along side the viaduct was a large cave. This cave was used by the POWs as a ‘hospital’ it is now a Buddhist Temple in remembrance.

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The correct name for the River Kwai is Khwae Noi, meaning small tributary, which merges with Khwae Yai River to create the Mae Kong River.

Pierre Boulle, a Frenchman, who had experienced great hardship after being captured by the Vichy French on the Mekong River, wrote a novel called ‘Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï’ – The Bridge of the River Kwai, which was later made in to a film, which became a great success.

poster-bridge-on-the-river-kwai-the_02It was such a success that people flocked to Thailand in an effort to find the Bridge of the River Kwai. The river didn’t exist, but the Khwae Noi did . . . .so in 1960 the river was renamed Kwai, which helped the Thai economy considerably.

The other small detail is that the film Bridge on the River Kwai was made in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) not Thailand.

It’s an odd world – on checking a few facts for this blog I came across Lt Col Philip Toosey, who was the real Colonel in the camp that built this part of the railway.
He was nothing like the Alec Guinness character who collaborated with the Japanese – I believe Alec Guinness was not happy portraying this type of character.
Col Toosey had his men commit as much sabotage as possible, and I heard that he even collected termites and spread them around the wooden bridges in the hope that they would start eating  . . . .

At the end of the war, during the war trials in Japan, Col Toosey spoke up for Sgt Major Saito, who was second in command, (he was portrayed as a Colonel in the film), because he treated the POWs better than many of the guards. Saito respected the Colonel and later they corresponded.

Over two hundred Japanese were hanged for war crimes, and a large number of others spent many years in gaol.

Saito said that Col Toosey showed him what a human being should be, and this changed his life. On the Colonel’s death in 1975 (he was 71), Sgt Major Saito travelled from Japan to pay his respects at the Colonel’s grave side. Not until Sgt Major Saito’s death in 1990 did his family realise that he had become a Christian, because of Colonel Toosey.

After the war the Colonel returned home and worked in Liverpool, UK.

The odd bit for me is that Col Toosey came from Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool. He lived in Upton Road and went to school at Birkenhead Park High School.

I lived about a hundred yards or so from this school, and between 1956 and 1960 I used to deliver newspapers for the news agency in Upton Village. My delivery area included all of Upton Road to Bidston hill, I just wondered if I used to deliver to the Colonel’s house.

Quit ye like men and they did . . .

 

From the beginning the ship attracted a certain type of boy.

1860 Mathew Webb captain_matthew_webbwent on to be the first man to swim the English Channel.

1861 Warrington Baden Powell  later in life was the founder of the Sea Scouts.

1868 Admiral Sir  Sackville Carden Carden KCMG RN sir_sackville_carden was asked by Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty, to produce a strategy to knock Turkey out of the First World War. His plan was accepted and he was in charge of the initial landings, which were successful. He was replaced when he became ill and his plan was altered, which included landing troops further south than the original plan – this alteration became the Gallipoli failure.

1871 Sir Hamilton Gould Adams hamilton_goold-adams commanded the troops that defeated the Matabele 1893 and was in command of Mafeking through out the siege. As Governor of Queensland he laid the foundation stone for Brisbane town hall in 1917.

In 1889 The Cadet was started – I had the whole magazine in 1960.I can not remember what happened the-cadet-frontback-cover

to the innards. Above is the front & back of the same edition.

herbert-haddockOn a different note Capt. Herbert Haddock (Conway 1875- 77) was the first Captain of the Titanic. He delivered the vessel to the White Star Line, (from the builders) at which time, even though he was one of the Company’s most experienced captains, he was removed and posted to the Olympic as commander, and Captain Smith of the Olympic was given command of the Titanic.

james-moodyJames Moody (1902-03) was the sixth officer on the Titanic and had only been at sea for six years. He stayed with the ship making sure the lifeboats got away until the end, he didn’t survive the sinking. There is memorial to him Woodland Cemetery Scarborough.

capt-_arthur_h-_rostron_r-d-_r-n-r 1885 Sir Arthur Henry Rostron – he was thirteen when he joined Conway and in 1895 he joined Cunard Line. He was Captain of the Carpathia in 1912, and rescued nearly 700 survivors of the Titanic. Later he commanded the Mauritania and was Commodore of the Cunard Line.

philip_bent1912 Lt Colonel Philip Bent VC, DSO gained his 2nd Mates ticket after leaving Conway, but volunteered for the army in 1914 as a private solider, and was posted to the Leicestershire Regiment. His regiment was sent to the Western Front.
Losses were so great that within three year this 23 year old had been promoted from the ranks through various positions to become Lt Colonel of his regiment. His battalion attacked Polygon Wood in Belgium. The attack was unsuccessful and the Germans counter attacked the British lines. The situation became critical, so Colonel Bent collected a platoon that was in reserve and a number of other soldiers and lead them in to a counter attack. He lead from the front shouting ‘Come on Tigers’ – unfortunately he was killed, but the attack was successful. For his bravery he was awarded the VC.

In WW1 Conway cadets were awarded 3 VC,(Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the British military, it has only been award to 1358 times since 1856) 42 DSO, (awarded to officers in the army above Captain – it was considered that the individual had just missed out on a VC), 48 DSC (a navy medal), 21 MC, (Military Cross usually given for bravery on land), 2 AFC, 4 DFC (the AFC stands for Air Force Cross and the DFC is Distinguished Flying Cross) unusual awards for cadets of a naval college.

During WW2 the Commander (2nd in charge) of HMS Ajax at the battle of the River Plate was Douglas Everett 1911-13. Rear Admiral Everett, as he was to become, was Chief Staff Officer for the planning of the invasion of Sicily, and later Commander in Chief Hong Kong amongst other senior appointments.

ian-fraser

Ian Fraser 1936 – 38 – commanded a midget submarine against the Japanese. During his approach to the Japanese cruiser Takao, he deliberately left the safe channel and entered a minefield to avoid being detected by hydrophones. The target was in very low water and only the midship section was where the water was deep enough for him to place his mines. After forty minutes approaching the cruiser he forced his own craft under the centre of the target. He placed limpet mines and dropped his main charges, which were attached to his midget sub. He had great difficulty in extracting his midget sub from under the cruiser, but eventually he was clear and made his way out to sea through mined waters. he was awarded the VC and the Legion of Merit by the USA. When the mines exploded they blew a hole in the cruiser 20 x 10 mt (66 ft x 33 ft)

Beneath the waves – lionel_crabbBuster Crabb  1922 – 23 – in WW2 he volunteered for mine and bomb disposal and was posted to Gibraltar in 1942. The Italians, using human torpedoes, attacked Gibraltar from Algeciras in neutral Spain. Crabb scouted the harbour at night looking for unexploded under water bombs. For his work and courage he was awarded the George medal, which is the second highest award for a civilian. In 1948 he spent time checking the hulls of ships for mines in Haifa in Israel.In 1956 he disappeared while diving near a Russian warship in Portsmouth harbour. Officially he was reported drowned, but rumors have it that he was working for MI6 Some say he was captured and taken aboard the Russian vessel. A corpse was found later that year, but it was badly decomposed and its head was missing along with its hands  . . . . .

On the literary side for Conway we havejohn_masefield John Masefield (1891-94) the poet laureate, who wrote many poems linked to the sea. Sea Fever being one of his most popular along with  Cargos

This short poem was found after his ashes had ben interned in the poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey.

 

Let no religious rite be done or read
In any place for me when I am dead,
But burn my body into ash, and scatter
The ash in secret into running water,
Or on the windy down, and let none see;
And then thank God that there’s an end of me.

duffdoug Douglas V Duff  (1914 – 15) – author of over one hundred novels after an exciting ‘Boys Own’ real life. His ship was torpedoed in 1917 (he was sixteen at the time)  and was one of only two survivors. He went back to sea and was torpedoed again when he was eighteen. After the war he joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary and tried to arrest Michael Collins, who told him not to be daft because he was surrounded by body guards and they would shoot him. Later he joined the Palestine Police Force. The photo is of him in the Palestine Police uniform. In WW2 he joined the Dover patrol, set submarine nets in the Suez Canal and sailed a schooner called ‘Eskimo Nell’ through the German blockade in to Tobruk. He later became involved in broadcasting and TV work until his death in 1978.

In more modern times we have

cyril_abrahamCyril Abrahams (1928 -30) author of the Onedin Line.

There are a large number of Conway authors, some writing text books, others biographies and yet others novels.

In the sporting field we had Sir clive_woodwardClive Woodward Coach / Manager of the British rugby team that won the World Cup 2003.

D.G Chapman represented Great Britain in the Amsterdam Olympics 1928

John Bligh – rugby for England – Walter Elliot Rugby for England – E.A Hamilton-Hill Rugby for England

Jay ‘Birdie’ Hooper – represented Bermuda in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Back to the sea for one family –

The Warwick family –

bil_warwickCaptain Bil Warwick 1926 – 28, Master of the Queen Elizabeth & Queen Mary and he was the first Master of Queen Elizabeth II, and later became the fourth Conway to be come Commodore of the Cunard Line.

His brother was also an old Conway 1948 – 49 and went to sea, and his son Eldon John 1955-56 followed the family to sea and ended up in command of his own ship.

Bill’s youngest son

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Ron Warwick 1956 -57, after a number of years at sea became chief officer of Queen Elizabeth II when she was requisitioned for the Falkland war. In 1990 he was appointed Captain of the Queen Elizabeth II and later became the first Captain of Queen Mary II and in 2003 became the Commodore of Cunard.

Falkland War

The invasion was reported by the British Antarctic Survey Base commander Steve Martin 1970-73.

Later Brian Lockwood 1972-74 reported that the Argentinians had landed on South Georgia.

When the decision to retake the Falkland Islands had been made the Assistant Chief of Defence, Vice Admiral David Brown 1941 – 45, got to work.

He had the help from other Conway cadets – Deputy Chief of Fleet Support Rear Admiral Edwards 1941 – 44.

Preparing the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Captain Butterworth 1941 – 43

Chief of Staff to the Joint Service Commander of the task force Vice Admiral Peter Woodhead 1954 – 57

Passenger ship ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ Chief Officer R. W. Warwick 1956 -57

Chief Officer of the Norland (which was a North Sea ferry fitted out as a troop ship) R. B. Lough 1961 – 63

Geesport a forward support ship – Captian G de Ferry Foster 1954 – 56

Europic Ferry – carrying troops, helicopters and equipment – Master W. Clarke 1959 -62, Chief officer Norman Bamford 1961 – 63, Second officer Alan Burns 1948 – 50 and one of the Staff Sergeants being ferried to war R.L Peacock 1969 – 71

Baltic Ferry – Master E. Harrison 1954 – 56 Second officer Bill Langton 1967 – 69

RFA Fort George Master DGM Averill 1941 – 43

RFA Sir Tristram master Captain G Green 1949 – 51

There were eight other old Conway’s involved  – I don’t think the Argentinians realised what was about to happen to them now that HMS Conway was involved.   :-o)

What ever your politics in the UK Ian Duncan Smith 1969 – 74 used to be the leader of the Tory party in the UK. Currently an MP in the British Parliament.

capt-hewittCaptain Eric Hewitt 1919 – 21 – he joined the RNR (Royal Navy Reserves) on leaving Conway and completed his sea time for 2nd Mates in the merchant navy. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was called up for the RNR, and having served over the years in the RNR held the rank of Lt Commander.

He served in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and took part in the invasion of Sicily. He was mentioned in dispatches for protecting a Mediterranean convoy. He was involved with the Normandy landings and when promoted to Captain he was the youngest serving Captain in the RNR.

He was on Earl Mountbatten’s staff in Singapore responsible for the movement of all ships in the Far East. He followed Mountbatten to India to supervise the withdrawal of British forces from India by sea.

In 1948 he accepted the position of Staff Captain at HMS Conway and the following year he was Captain Superintendent. It was Captain Hewitt who interviewed me when I applied to join the Conway.

In 1956 Captain Hewitt was ADC to HM The Queen and later became High Sheriff of Anglesey.

Captain Hewitt was a fine example for hundreds of Conway cadets over the years. He died in 1995 at the age of 91.

The above list of old Conway boys is just a very small sample of the 11,000 cadets that experienced life as a young teenager at HMS Conway between 1859 and 1974.

Conway closed in 1974, so it’ll not be long before we can no longer say ‘You’ll find on the bridge a Conway boy.’

Pacific Islands

In the late 1980’s I used to visit various Pacific Islands on business (someone had to do it!).

On one trip I flew Sydney, Nauru, Tarawa (in Kiribati), Funafuti (Tuvalu), Suva (Fiji).
Kiribati – pronounced Kir-i-bahss – which is the Gilbertese for Gilbert Island, and Tuvalu is the new name of the Ellis Islands, as in Gilbert and Ellis Islands, which used to be a British protectorate until 1974 when they became the independent countries, Kiribati and Tuvalu, after they held a referendum.

I flew from Nauru on Air Nauru to Tarawa.001

The parking of aircraft in Nauru was simple – leave them alongside the main road in a lay-by. The island is so isolated that security was ‘limited’ at that time. The traffic had to stop for the aircraft to cross the road to allow passengers to board.

Tarawa is the name of the main atoll of Kiribati and the capital on Tarawa is Betio. (pronounced ‘bay- she – oh’)

Tarawa is remember for some very heavy fighting by the Americans, against the Japanese during WW2, and the beach on which I walked still showed the remains of landing craft, small tanks or amtracs and pieces of aircraft, along with defensive pillboxes manned by the Japanese.

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As I looked out over the 800 to 1200 yard coral reef, (see picture below) across which the troops had to fight their way ashore under withering machine gun fire, I could feel the ghosts of those brave men who died that November day in 1943.

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The area of the Betio atoll, is three miles long by half a mile wide. 1,115 Americans were killed or listed as missing, and 2,234 were wounded. Of the 4700 Japanese troops defending the island only seventeen were captured, along with 129 Koreans. It was estimated that 4690 Japanese died defending this now forgotten part of the Pacific.

The Americans had to estimate how many troops were defending the atoll. The best guess was about 3100 men, which was reasonably accurate, considering that they were unable to send in reconnaissance units to obtain a more accurate number. The Americans realised from aerial photographs, that the Japanese built their latrines over water, in multi-holed wooden buildings. By counting the number of latrines they worked out the relationship between the number of backsides and to a latrine and estimated 3100 troops!

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Defending the beach I saw eight inch guns still point out to sea. When I visited Betio I was told (not by locals) that the guns had been removed from Singapore, after the fall of that island, and transported to the Pacific to defend Tarawa. Later I read that the Imperial War Museum in London stated that Singapore didn’t have any eight inch guns for the Japanese to capture, so they couldn’t have been transferred to Tarawa from Singapore. They were in fact manufactured in Britain for a 1905 contract to supply eight inch and twelve inch guns to the Japanese navy. The Tarawa defensive guns appear to have been part of the 1905 contract.

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The above pictures show the Japanese HQ building with shell a machine gun damage, which when I visited was being used a simple squash court.

004 Inside another Japanese bunker.

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 The above shows what is left of a captured Japanese bomber strip, which allowed the Americans to carry the war to other islands.
The modern airport is about a twenty minute drive from this area.

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The above picture is to show how shallow the soil is on Tarawa – this is a local grave yard. After the war the American causalities, from this battle, were laid to rest in the war cemetery in Hawaii.
The marking of the grave’s perimeter, in many cases, was often done by using empty glass bottles – beer bottles and soft drink bottles.

 On completion of my business in Kiribati I flew to Funafuti the capital of Tuvalu with  Airline of the Marshall Islands. Quite a noisy trip.001