Monthly Archives: July 2015

Thank Goodness For Hitler…..What?

 

the_lancaster_bomber_by_dazecoop

The headline above is not something you see very often, I suppose.

No, this isn’t going to be an apologetic for Mr Hitler, so stick with me if you can.

I caught a glimpse of my father yesterday even though he died almost three years ago. I was walking past a shop window when thought I saw him. But it wasn’t. It was my own reflection. We have always looked very similar. What was more of a shock was I looked old. That wasn’t me, surely? I don’t look like that in my mind. I’m not a man of my age… I’m a man of well..someone much younger’s age.

This week is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain (July to October 1940) and  I am always in awe of the courage and skill of those pilots and crew. My dad would have been 93 on July 15th.  During WW2 he operated as an electrician (a Sparks) on Lancaster bombers. He told me many tales about the R.A.F. and things he and his mates got up to but I suppose the fact that remained with me most is that rear gunners in the tail of a bomber usually had a life expectancy of only three weeks, or five operations, in his experience. He said that the R.A.F. attracted new recruits by offering a Sergeant’s pay straight away. You would think that applicants would have been wary of such ‘high’ pay and made enquiries of how dangerous the job was but men applied, served and died regardless. Obviously the R.A.F. kept under wraps how fragile a rear gunner’s existence was, or many men were just really courageous. According to Yorkshire Air Museum,  20,000 rear gunners lost their lives during WWII. (The mention of Yorkshire links in again later in this article.)

The danger came from the fact that enemy planes always swept in from the rear when attacking a bomber to take out the main gun displacements first. The bombers did not have the manoeuvrability of fighter planes so relied a lot on the swivelling glass turrets containing the guns placed on top of the fuselage and in the tail. Once they were gone the bomber was virtually helpless. The bomber might still survive the mission but usually one of the gunners was dead or injured. On the other hand, a lot of the rear gunners survived the war. Perhaps they were the really good shots or just lucky.

So, why thank goodness for Hitler? Let me tell you a story.

It was in the city of Sarajevo, in June 28, 1914, that a chain of events happened  that started World War One. On that day, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria attended a military review – but during the visit a group of Serbian terrorists had lined the proposed car route with the intention of assassinating the Archduke and other officials.

The group were stationed at various intervals along the roads so that if one attempt failed another could be made. What happened almost bordered on farce because after several failed attempts the Archduke was still alive but one bomb thrown by man called Čabrinović had damaged the car behind Franz Ferdinand’s vehicle, resulting in his chief security advisor, Erik von Merizzi becoming injured by shrapnel. He was taken to hospital.

Leaving the damaged car behind, the convoy sped up to reach City Hall, where the next assassination event was planned. As the two cars drove past them, with Franz Ferdinand in plain sight, the three remaining assassins, including nineteen year-old Gavrilo Princip, failed to react and missed their chance again. Princip was a nationalist that wanted the Austro-Hungarian Empire out of Bosnia.

Subsequently, Franz Ferdinand wished to check on the wounded Merizzi but the Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn on the way to the hospital. When he tried to correct his error, he drove up another street and once again inadvertently placed Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, directly in front of  Princip, who was dispirited about missing his chance before to make history. With his quarry suddenly before him, the teenager closed his eyes and fired two shots with his Browning 9 mm pistol: both fatal. One felled Franz Ferdinand while the other killed Sophie. Within minutes both victims were dead. Princip was grabbed by police immediately, while five of the six assassins were in custody within hours.

While the murder of Ferdinand was the immediate catalyst for the declarations of war that followed, a patchwork of mutual defence alliances made throughout Europe meant that if one country was attacked, another was likely to defend them. Britain was allied to Belgium by an old treaty and so when Germany made war with  Belgium, a reluctant Britain was drawn in. Within a month and a half, Europe’s five major powers were at war.

From the ruins of WW1, Germany was ripe for transformation as their economy had collapsed. Hitler gained power through his National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) and as we all know eventually went to war with Europe in 1939. If WW1 had not occurred, WW2 would probably never have happened because Hitler would not have had a platform on which to mount his claim for power.

I mentioned Yorkshire above. Well, if WW2 had not happened my father would not have joined the RAF and been called to do his training in Yorkshire. There, he was billeted near my grandmother’s house and met my mother when returning their lost dog.

So, like many others I suspect, I owe my life to a driver who took a wrong turning and Adolf Hitler’s ruthless evil. Additionally, so do my children and grandchildren.The irony of many people losing their lives so we might have ours  is not lost on me.

I don’t know whether a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the world can cause a hurricane some weeks later or not but one thing is certainly true; whatever actions we take today can linger in eternity.

 

K. L. Freeman.

IF FOOD WON’T BE THE BEE’S KNEES, WILL WE NEED TO WORM OUR WAY THROUGH SPACE?

 

If you have ever moaned about the food you eat, its taste or texture, then consider the plight of astronauts and maybe even Earth’s inhabitants in a few decades time.

The problem for astronauts as far as our technology goes at the moment, is that long distance space craft don’t have much room for freezers set aside for food on journeys of months or years. There are freezers for other things like medical supplies and samples but not for storing joints of meat, frozen ready made meals or ice cream. The ice cream they did experiment with is just too crumbly. It’s not a case of freezer a jolly good fellow.

Of course, the Shuttle and International Space Station occupants have it much better. They have food prepared here on Earth and the type available in our Supermarkets. In fact, the astronauts can choose their own menus pretty much. Diets are designed to supply each Shuttle crew member with all the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of vitamins and minerals necessary to perform in the environment of Space. Caloric requirements are determined by the National Research Council formula for basal energy expenditure (BEE).

Since the Apollo programme. the quality and variety of food has increased greatly. They can now have hot water with which to rehydrate food and also can use the ‘spoon bowl’, a plastic container that can be opened and its contents eaten with a spoon. So, all in all, current Space adventurers are not too badly served for eating.

However, it will be a lot different for long space flights over years or months. NASA won’t allow frozen food or real  foods. For them it’s a case of the dark side of the spoon and that’s not a reference to the side of a spoon that’s heated to dissolve heroin.

I saw a magnificent Sci-Fi film recently called Interstellar. It was really thought provoking and dealt with the issue of what happens when the Earth cannot sustain all the humans on the planet. It had become a dust bowl. Nothing grew. There was not enough food for everyone. The worst fears of Climate Change had materialised. The perceived solution was to try to find another planet on which to live in another galaxy.

Therefore, a spaceship, named ‘Endurance’, travels through a wormhole near Saturn to enter another galaxy to gather data left by the astronauts previously flown out a decade earlier. Whether this is technically possible is still a mystery as we have a limited understanding of infinite Space, Dark Matter and the intricacies involving Wormholes.

Owing to the alteration of the Space-time Continuum, when they land on a planet near the Wormhole they realise that for every hour they spend on the planet, seven years have elapsed on Earth. Consequently, just after three hours later when the hero, Cooper, returns to the main spaceship, he receives twenty-three years of messages from his family. Distressed, he realises that he has missed all the years of his children growing and now has a grandchild. He has, in effect, sacrificed his present for his children’s future by undertaking the mission to save the Human Race. Cooper has faced up to his own world’s problems and done something about it. Well, I won’t say any more as it would spoil the ending. Suffice to say that there a few more twists and turns in the plot which comes to a satisfactory, if not a little confusing, ending.

The film never dealt with the problem of food on a space flight but it set me considering the problems of having enough to eat in space and also here on Earth. Mars and Galaxy chocolate bars etc might be lovely to eat but you probably won’t get any in Space, despite their astronomical sounding names. I mentioned earlier the acronym BEE regarding energy expenditure and that links nicely with an imminent problem today facing our world.

Bees are essential for our plants and crops to grow yet not only are they dwindling through disease but our government, no doubt pressed by multi-national chemical companies,  is thinking of  ending the ban on pesticides which can harm them. It’s sheer lunacy. As Bob Dylan sang in It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding),  ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’. If the bee dies out, so probably will we, or at least it will make life very difficult. It doesn’t matter if the link from pesticides to bees cannot be accurately scientifically proven, surely it’s enough that there is circumstantial evidence or even a casual link? Who wants to take the risk? I don’t. Once those clever and beautiful creatures are gone, they will be gone forever. They were created for a purpose!

With the Earth’s resources gradually dwindling is the scenario in Interstellar what our descendants face? Is that what our children’s children have to look forward to? The Genesis parable of Eden should not be dismissed in this age where people place their faith in science and not in Creation. The Earth is one large beautiful garden but just who is doing the gardening? If it’s us, then  with the way we do it I think we might just need help from the Head Gardener.

When commissioning Peter and the disciples, Jesus didn’t just say ‘Feed my astronauts’ he said ‘Lambs’ which means everyone. Yes, I know the quote is out of context and not a literal command but the point is we have a responsibility to future generations to ensure they can still live on this planet. Like the astronaut in the movie we need to be motivated to do something in the immediate future for our descendants. We don’t own this planet. We borrow its resources which sometimes need to be replaced. It is possible that our great, great  grandchildren won’t survive without our help now in this age. As the advertising slogan for Interstellar says, ‘Mankind was born on Earth; it was never meant to die here.’

This is always where our roots will be. We are all part of something rooted in eternity.

 

 

 

(The picture above is courtesy of the film Interstellar.)