Biggest Airlift of WWII – The Hump — from Pacific Paratrooper

In April 1942, the Allied Forces initiated an airborne supply line that crossed the Eastern Himalaya Mountain Range. This airlift supplied the Chinese War effort against Japan from India and Burma to the Kunming area and beyond. The C-46 Curtiss Commando and the DC-3/ C-47 Douglas Skytrain in the China- Burma- India Theater of War […]

via Intermission Story (2) – Biggest Airlift of WWII – The Hump — Pacific Paratrooper

“One of the best books I have ever read”

Writers work hard in their little office, or at a desk on the end of their bed, or in a coffee shop, or wherever they have space and time to work…

They write about subjects they enjoy to research, stories they want to tell; and they hope it will connect with readers… Readers they don’t know and will never meet. People who enjoy a good story, like they do.

Like I do.

That’s why reFarewell-Leicester-Square1 - Copyviews mean so much to them. Writers really appreciate the readers who take a few moments to write a few lines on Amazon.

I’ve just received the following message on this site. It means so much that someone got to the end of ‘Farewell Leicester Square’ and then took the time to contact me.

Many thanks, Alistair. And to all of you who take the time to write a short review on Amazon.

Hello Jon.
Just read Farewell Leicester Square. One of the best books I have ever read. And that is not said lightly. I am a fan of all historical fiction especially WWII. The attention to detail was remarkable. Well done.
Yours sincerely,
Mr Alistair Nash.

“The best TV series you’ve never heard of”

The Sandbaggers
                 The Sandbaggers

Trawling through You Tube one day (as writers do when they are “thinking”) I discovered ‘The Sandbaggers’.

The story of an elite, covert (fictional) UK government agency, ‘The Sandbaggers’ contains few car chases or shoot-outs.

But the drama is intense, particularly towards the end of the first series and beyond. It centres on internal security service issues and on the relationship between the British and the London CIA bureau.

Roy Marsden
                                      Roy Marsden

The unit is led by Neil Burnside (played by Roy Marsden), a most complex central character, who puts country before self at all times – sometimes with the most shocking consequences.

Made on a modest budget by Yorkshire Television, the series was broadcast in the UK between 1978 and 1980. A fourth series was due to be made but was abandoned following the disappearance of Ian Mackintosh, the show’s creator.

All twenty episodes of ‘The Sandbaggers’ are on You Tube. As one reviewer remarks: this is the “best TV series you have never heard of”.

I urge you to give it a go.

 

From the Bomb to the Surrender

 

US Marines on Okinawa
                             US Marines on Okinawa

When the Allies declared Victory in Europe the war in the Far East was still raging.

On June 22, 1945, American forces took the Japanese island of Okinawa after three months of bloody fighting. Fifty thousand Americans had been killed, wounded or become missing in action. Around 110,000 Japanese soldiers had died.

On August 6, 1945, the atom bomb was used on the city of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima
                                         Hiroshima

It was followed by a second bomb, which was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. It was a plutonium bomb and it exploded at 11.02am local time.

That same day the Japanese Supreme War Direction Council met to discuss the proposal for unconditional surrender which had been made by the Allies in the Potsdam agreement. The council could not agree on a decision.

Emperor Hirohito then met in private with Prime Minister Suzuki and his Foreign Minister Togo, before gathering together his generals. It was now the early hours of August 10. The Emperor tried to persuade his generals to accept the terms of the surrender.

Eventually during the day the Japanese informed the Allies that they would give in.

On August 14 it was announced that the Emperor would made a proclamation to his people. This angered some Japanese soldiers who marched on the Imperial Palace to prevent transmission of the speech.

They failed. The following day Hirohito spoke to the people of Japan. In light of the two atomic bombs he used remarkable understatement when he said: “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

Emperor Hirohito
                                Emperor Hirohito

He added that if they continued to fight it would cause the “obliteration of the Japanese nation”.

On September 2, 1945, the Japanese Foreign Minister and Chief of Staff signed the nation’s capitulation. They were standing on board the United States battleship Missouri, which was anchored in Tokyo Bay.

The Japanese delegation arrives to sign the surrender on board the USS Missouri
The Japanese delegation arrives to sign the surrender on board the USS Missouri

The document was then signed by General Douglas MacArthur and representatives of all the Allied states.

The war was over. The task of rebuilding a peace had begun.

 

A small object from history poses questions about a bravery medal

DSC_0178What stories could simple objects tell? What have they seen? What hands have held them?

Among my collection I have this RAF mug from the years before World War 2.

It features an engraved message: “Presented to Officers Mess, Calshot, by Squadron Leader The Rev. R.N Shapley, March 1936”.

In truth, when I first bought it I knew nothing about Ronald Norman Calshot or Shapley. I’ve done a little research, but am always meaning to do a lot more. I’m quite sure there will be people reading this article who know more about them than me.

Inscription: to the Officers' Mess at RAF Calshot
Inscription: to the Officers’ Mess at RAF Calshot

Calshot, which is situated near Southampton, in England, was initially established as a Royal Flying Corps base in 1913. It was taken over by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) during the First World War and became an RAF station on the formation of the service in 1918.

It was a seaplane and flying boat station, and was officially renamed as RAF Calshot in February 1922.

Calshot was home to the High Speed Flight as it prepared for the Schneider Trophy competitions in 1927, 1929 and finally 1931. Wikipedia states that Aircraftsman Shaw, also known as T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, was detached to Calshot to help with the 1929 Schneider races.

During the 1930s, Calshot continued its development and training role. It featured a Navigation School (until January 1936). Squadrons based there included 201, which flew Supermarine Southampton flying boats and later Saro Londons. 201 Sq would have been there when the RAF mug was presented.

But what of Shapley? I found the following references in Flight Magazine:

December 15, 1927: Rev. R. N. Shapley is granted short service commn. as Chaplain, with relative rank of Sqdn.-Ldr. (November 11). To RAF depot Uxbridge.

April 24, 1931: The Rev. R. N.Shapley, M.C., A.K.C., is granted a permanent comm. (March 19).

December 25, 1931: Revd. R. N. Shapley, M.C. A.K.C., to No. 5 Flying Training School, Sealand ; 6.12.31.

October 19, 1933: vice Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C. Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C., to Station H.Q., Boscombe Down, 9.10.33, for duty as Chaplain (C. of E.) at Boscombe Down and Netheravon.

May 24, 1934: Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C. Rev. R. N. Shapley, M.C., to R.A.F. Base, Calshot,9.5.34 for duty as Chaplain (C. of E.)

January 13, 1938: N. Shapley, M.C., to Headquarters, R.A.F., Palestine and Transjordan, Jerusalem, 22.11.37.

The mug is dated March 1936, a couple of months before Shapley took up his role as chaplain to Calshot. And he was gone from Calshot at the end of 1937. What then?

The website of the Gordonians, an association for former pupils of The Gordon Boys’ Home, The Gordon Boys’ School and Gordon’s School, in Surrey, lists Shapley as being twice chaplain to the school: between 1923 and 1927 and between 1947 and 1949. It says he was later Bishop of Windward Islands. That sounds like another interesting posting!

I am, of course, intrigued by the reference to the Military Cross in the Flight Magazine listings.

What did he get this for? And when?

Wikipedia gives some biographical information but not about the medal. Its link to The Times says Shapley died on St Lucia and left £13,743. He died in December 1964.

But, again, nothing about the medal.

Wikipedia says he served with the London Regiment during the First World War. I am certain this when he won his Military Cross. But was he a chaplain then? He was not ordained until 1920.

It’s just a mug, I know. An inanimate object which, although it cannot speak, poses so many questions.

What is the story behind Shapley's Military Cross?
What is the story behind Shapley’s Military Cross?

 

Quarry Boys at Gallipoli

This weekend marks the start of commemorations around the world for those who died in the fight for the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli. Between April 1915 and the Allied withdrawal in January 1916, more than 140,000 men were killed on the two sides.

It is a little known fact that among the many nations represented in the campaign was my home nation of Wales. Thousands of Welsh soldiers served in Gallipoli.

This weekend Radio Wales will broadcast ‘Quarry Boys: The Welsh at Gallipoli’, a programme to commemorate the men who fought and died in the Dardanelles.

Among the men who served in the campaign was William John Jones, of the Penmaenmawr Company of the 6th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

The company was composed of men who worked at the quarry in the town of Penmaenmawr, near Llandudno.

William Jones’ grandson, Dennis Roberts, said: “When he was an early teenager he joined a fife and drum band which was part of the local [army] volunteers.

“He moved from the little cadet band to be an active soldier in the volunteers.

“War broke out and they wondered what was going to happen to them. As volunteers they didn’t have to go abroad – they had to be asked nicely. I am sure most in 1914 said they were happy to go – they daren’t say no.”

The Quarry Boys did not take part in the initial landings at Gallipoli, although many Welshmen did.

On the first day of the landings at Helles in the south, the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers lost three officers and thirteen men. The battalion would remain at Helles until evacuated in January 1916. They would leave behind more than 500 dead.

After the April landings the invading force was held back at the coast. It dug in and held on to the small amount of territory gained.

By August 1915 a new strategy was needed. A fresh invasion with even more troops.

The 4th battalion of the South Wales Borderers, the 4th and 8th battalions of the Welsh Regiment and four battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers prepared to play their part in the coming battle.

On the Greek island of Lemnos the Quarry Boys of Penmaenmawr were writing final letters home.

They moved onto boats in the early hours of August 9th, 1915. Ahead of them, their target: a rocky stretch of the Turkish coast called Suvla Bay.

Private Richard Jones, a friend of Williams Jones, later wrote in his diary: “I could hear something dropping in the middle of another regiment. I felt rather nervous. Another followed in a few seconds and she fell about 15 to 20 yards the other side of me.

“We all were laying down flat on the ground wondering where the next was going to drop.”

But it was on the following day, August 10th 1915, that the Quarry Boys fought their most terrible battle, charging ahead in full view of the Turkish guns.

Dennis Roberts said: “There was no cover, they had to cross a salt lake which in summer dried up. But the men were struggling to cross this lake, the mud was above their knees.”

Private Richard Jones wrote: “I could see one of the shells dropping in the middle of our boys and knocking about nine of them down.

“A little further on we came to a bush and we attended to some wounded here. Here I saw Sergeant Roberts, of Holyhead, he was shot through the leg. In about two minutes we had a few wounded behind this bush and I was thinking to myself that my last day had come.

“I saw Dick Williams wounded – a very bad wound, too. We put him to lay on one of the stretchers. The poor lad was shouting for his mother. There was poor hopes for him.”

By the end of the day it was clear the attack had not succeeded. But the Quarry Boys were ordered into battle again.

This time they had to make a bayonet charge up a hill.

They did what was asked of them – but the plan was a disaster and they lost their leader, Major Gus Wheeler, who in peacetime had been the quarry manager.

“I get angry,” Dennis Roberts said. “Those who led the lads down in Turkey – well, I don’t know what they were doing.”

Once again, after these initial attacks, the campaign developed into a stalemate.

In the dust and heat of the Turkish summer the soldiers were desperately short of water. In the early stages of the campaign all men could do was risk the local wells – but each of these was covered by a Turkish sniper.

Quarry Boy RJ Davies wrote in his diary: “There are dozens of Turkish snipers. They are painted green all over – the same colour as the trees. We shoot at every tree we see but we cannot get them. Some of them are women. Three or four dropped yesterday, one of them was a woman. They do a lot of damage to our chaps. There are a lot of dead lying close to every well.”

By January 1916, the campaign was over and the Allied soldiers had been evacuated. More than 1,300 men who served with Welsh regiments were dead.

Williams Jones served in Palestine but survived to return to work in the quarry at Penmaenmawr.

Sunday’s programme features a specially recorded ballad, using the poems of soldier WR Williams and an unknown comrade from Suvla Bay. It is sung by Conwy Museums Officer Helen Bradley and the music is composed by Neil Dunsire, of TAPE Community Music and Film, of Old Colwyn.

 * ‘Quarry Boys: The Welsh at Gallipoli’ is due to be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales at 12.30pm on Sunday, April 26, and repeated at 6.30pm on April 27 and 5.30am on April 28.

The Life of a Writer

keep calmIn my various writing guises I currently have (in what I think is descending order):

* one book being prepared by the publisher – proofs due any day now

* one thriller I am ghost-writing half-finished – I’m overdue on this

* one film script with an agent and being touted around now

* one children’s book with an agent

* one e-book version of a former print title ready to go

* another e-book of a print title in development

* two, three, maybe four things just under half-finished

* and other files I’ve tucked away deep in sub-folders on my computer. One day, one day…

And then I have my day job.

The writer’s life. The best life.

Classic paperbacks#7… Navarone revisited…

The Guns of Navarone
      The Guns of Navarone

Could not resist ending on this version of The Guns of Navarone (see also #3).

It made me chuckle.

Great cover. But in the book the raiders don’t climb the cliff on Navarone in German uniform, do they?

And, when they do, there is a storm raging. This German soldier is making the climb in the blazing sunshine.

I wonder if the photo is actually a genuine one from WW2?