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Man on the Moon

The Moon landings were faked up on a Hollywood backlot, right?

What a load of utter tosh!

It astounds me that anyone would prefer to believe that something which would have had to be kept secret for so long by quite a large number of people (people moreover, cinema technicians etc, not truly invested in the “deceit”) would not have leaked by now. But it hasn’t leaked.

And why hasn’t it leaked?

Because it would need proof of such a conspiracy to fake.

And there is none.

And why the desire to deny the endeavour and the expertise which went in to the making of man’s greatest adventure, not to mention the sheer bravery of the men who made the voyages? Buzz Aldrin was quite right to take exception to the guy who accosted him, a guy who has not one thousandth of the guts and integrity. What is it about some folk that they cannnot rejoice in others’ achievements but must find some way to denigrate them?

And the Soviet Union did not claim that the US Moon landings did not happen – which as a propaganda coup they most certainly would have – because they knew perfectly well that they did. (Compare that to now, when Russia does claim that things that happened didn’t and things that didn’t, have. And so, too, does POTUS, T Ronald Dump.)

Besides, some of the experiments the astronauts placed on the Moon are still sending back data, even fifty years on.

So, raise a glass and drink a toast to a magnificent accomplishment, a demonstration of humans’ ability to perform amazing feats of focus, cooperation and enterprise.

It’s just a pity we gave up on that enterprise so soon.

Beauly Priory

Beauly in Inverness-shire (see three posts ago) is home to the ruins of a mediæval Priory and apparently French monks who lived there are responsible for Beauly’s name (from beau lieu, beautiful place.)

Beauly Priory Remains

Beauly Priory Gable End Wall

Beauly Priory Ruins

Beauly Priory

Ruins, Beauly Priory

Oldhamstocks Kirk

Part of Oldhamstocks Kirk (see previous post) is very old:-

Part of Kirk, Oldhamstocks

This cartouche on the end wall is dated 1381, or is it 1581?

Cartouche 1, Oldhamstocks Kirk

It’s balanced on the other side of the window by a cartouche containing a coat of arms. Probably the local laird’s in mediæval times:-

Cartouche 2, Oldhamstocks Kirk

One of the graves in the Kirkyard is of a Polish Cavalry Officer, Henry Teofil Kosinski, Major, Polish Cavalry, and farmer, died 12/9/1957, aged 65:-

Polish Grave, Oldhamstocks Kirkyard

And We Shall Shock Them by David Fraser

The British Army in the Second World War.

Sceptre, 1983, 431 p, plus ii p Contents, iii p Author’s Preface, i p Acnowledgements, i p List of maps.

 And We Shall Shock Them cover

The essence of this book is that it was written by a military historian who was an army man. It leans more towards a reader who has a similar background than to a wider readership.

Fraser starts on November 11th, 1918, at the end of a previous war for which the British Army had been totally unprepared (at least in terms of numbers of men) when it broke out. Yet by the Armistice the Army had turned itself into the best in the world at that time, surpassing even the Germans, who still remained formidable opponents until the last shots were fired. But during the peace all that expertise was lost, the military lessons of the Great War forgotten, and the Army became a kind of Cinderella organisation, unloved, underfunded, underequipped, and – crucially – undertrained. (That there were understandable reasons for this in a lack of public willingness to contemplate the horrors of war again so soon after what was such a massive disruption affecting so many, not to mention a political realm not keen to go against the prevailing mood, Fraser seems to discount.) It should be noted, though, that in Germany and Japan no such considerations obtained.

Seen in that context, however, the defeats the British Army endured in all theatres of war in World War 2’s early stages are not at all surprising. The mild alarm the Germans experienced at Arras in 1940, the triumphs in Somalia and Abyssinia and at Beda Fomm against the Italians (far from the fight-shy caricature of British popular myth,) speak well of the Army’s efforts to overcome its disadvantages, as does the initial victory over Rommel of Operation Crusader in the Western Desert before that instinctive military gambler turned things round again and pushed the Desert Army all the way back to El Alamein. Yet here Rommel was stopped – and could not force a way through. The less said about Malaya the better, a catalogue of bad administration, bad decisions and faulty deployments.

The book’s subtitle is The British Army in the Second World War and deals exclusively with what was called the British Army yet brought out the curious fact that for four years between mid-1940 and mid-1944 very few actual British soldiers fought the Germans or Japanese. The campaigns in Greece, Crete, the Western Desert and subsequently Italy were conducted mainly by Australian, New Zealand, South African but above all Indian, Divisions. While there were some British and Australian soldiers involved this last is especially true, with the addition of Burmese troops, of the war against the Japanese in the Far East.

The book is relentlessly focused on the military aspects of the war – wider strategic or political considerations are totally absent – and suffused with the usual military jargon and alphabet soup of Corps, Divisions, Brigades etc. If a little too concentrated on the war’s early phases, as an overview of the “British” Army from 1939-1945 it serves well.

Aside:-
In the Author’s Preface he says, “the taking of Rangoon redeemed Singapore, as Dunkirk was avenged by the crossing of the Rhine.” This may be true in a purely military sense (the sight of a Japanese army streaming back in defeat in dribs and drabs through the jungles of Burma represented an undoubted victory over notoriously tenacious opponents) but politically, strategically, and in terms of prestige nothing could redeem Singapore. Its fall in 1941 signalled the end of Britain as a world power – and the end of Empire – even if that was not fully confirmed until the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Pedant’s corner:- “against one of the most efficient and competently led war machines that have ever taken the field” (that has ever taken the field,) “the raiding party parachuted in, achieved their objective” (its objective.) “Men began to believe, in Britain, that the ultimate challenge was not going to be thrown down after all – that England would not be trod by the foot of the invader.” (England? In a narrow sense I suppose so, but it is still irritating,) “while the Italian were well furnished with pack companies” (Italians,) “a large number of anti-tank guns were deployed” (a large number of anti-tank guns was deployed,) lefthand (left hand,) Corps’ (this varied with Corps’s throughout the book, though the former usually prevailed,) “the whole of 11th Division were behind the Perak River” (the whole was behind.) “This was the route the enemy were to take” (the route the enemy was to take,) “in the most important equipments” (equipments? Normal usage sees “equipment” as encompassing plural items,) “armed with 75mm gun” (with a 75 mm gun.) “A number of small German counter-attacks were defeated” (strictly; a number was,) Scoones’ (Scoones’s,) “the British Army’s contribution to the great adventure – thirteen divisions – were being blooded for the first time,” (the British Army’s contribution to the great adventure – thirteen divisions – was being blooded,) Horrocks’ (Horrocks’s.) “Facing Second Army, as far as was known, were a hotchpotch of” (was a hotchpotch,) “25th Division were only secure at Kangaw” (25th Division was only secure at Kangaw.)

Shiloh by Shelby Foote

Vintage, 1991, 235 p.

 Shiloh cover

I first became aware of Shelby Foote through Ken Burns’s TV documentary on the US Civil War where his knowledge of the conflict in all its aspects seemed encyclopædic, his recall of incidents from it almost as if he had been there to witness the events himself. Then I found his three-volume narrative history of the war gracing the shelves of bookshops. I hadn’t really realised till I picked this book up that Foote had been a novelist before embarking on that historical venture. Five others of his fictional works are listed herein. It may indeed be fiction but this book could be read as a historical account of the battle of Shiloh with added humanising narrative touches giving personal perspectives on the battle. The tale is told via six points of view (three Confederate, three Yankee) spread over seven chapters, topped and tailed by the account of Lieutenant Palmer Metcalfe, aide de camp to General Sidney Johnston at the start of the battle.
One of the characters quotes an acquaintance as saying, “He said books about war were written to be read by God Almighty, because no one but God ever saw it that way. A book about war, to be read by men, ought to tell what each of the twelve of us saw in our own little corner. Then it would be the way it was – not to God but to us.
I saw what he meant but it was useless talking. Nobody would do it that way. It would be too jumbled. People when they read, and people when they write, want to be looking out of that big Eye in the sky, playing God.”

Foote does do it that way though, and it isn’t too jumbled.

He also brings out the contrast between how the Confederate soldiers thought about the war – as a crusade to build a new country – and the Yankee, simply doing what had to be done, fighting against something rather than for something.

Metcalfe tells us his father, a one-armed veteran of the Mexican War, was of the opinion the South always bore within itself the seeds of defeat, the Confederacy being conceived already moribund, sick from an old malady, incurable romanticism and misplaced chivalry, in love with the past, in love with death and also once told him, ‘War is more shovelry than chivalry.’

Foote voiced a similar sentiment in the Civil War series saying the South could never have won as the North always fought with one hand behind its back. He does, however, show Metcalfe thinking that pluck, élan, sheer force of will, as exemplified here, and in reality, in the person of Nathan Bedford Forrest can weigh more in the balance of fighting. Well, perhaps in one battle but not in a long war.

As far as Shiloh itself goes Metcalfe realizes the battle was lost through its orderly plan which he was so proud of helping create, that the way the Confederate lines were fed into each other resulted in their hopeless intermingling.

This is a superb book, bringing to life a time past and an experience of war which those of us who never had can appreciate and give thanks for missing.

Pedant’s corner:- verbal contractions are routinely given without apostrophes, wouldnt, couldnt, theyd, Ive, thats, its, youd, weren’t, etc, no matter who the narrator is. Exceptions are ‘I’m’, ‘We’ll’ and ‘I’d’. Prentiss’ (Prentiss’s,) Amighty (Almighty.)

Interior Shakespeare’s House, Stratford-upon-Avon

The rooms in the house are quite small, as was the case at the time.

Dining area:-

Another Room, Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Room in Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

A fireplace:-

Fireplace, Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Tudor-style window:-

Window in Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

There are words etched/written into the glass of this one:-

Window in Shakespeare's House, Straford-upon-Avon

Bedroom:-

Shakespeare's House

Shakespeare’s childhood bedroom:-

Shakespeare's House

Is this like the second-best bed he left to Ann Hathaway?:-

Shakespeare's House

Unfortunately the crib in this one, though cute, isn’t original:-

Shakespeare's House

An upper chamber:-

Upper Room, Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Kitchen storage:-

Kitchen Storage, Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Fire/cooking range:-

Fire, Shakespeare's House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Ironbridge, Bridge and War Memorial

I realised that we would be very near Ironbridge on our trip across England after the game at Oswestry and so couldn’t miss visiting the site of the first iconic construction of the Industrial Revolution.

The eponymous bridge is a beautiful shape. Imagine our disappointment when we found it swathed in plastic. It was undergoing repairs/refurbishment.

Iron Bridge at Ironbridge

So, I have walked over the iron bridge – pedestrian traffic was allowed – but have not actually seen it.

We’ll just need to go back another time.

Still, it wasn’t a completely wasted stop; there was an extensively stocked second-hand bookshop in the village itself near to the bridge and a pleasing War Memorial.

Ironbridge War Memorial

Wolrd War 2 Dedication. “The Church clock was illuminated as a memorial to the followimg men of Ironbridge who lost their lives during the 1939-1945 war”:-

World War 2 Dedication, Ironbridge War Memorial

From south. Great War Names:-

Irondridge War Memorial from South.

From North. Great War dedication. “In grateful and undying memory of the valiant men of Ironbridge who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1919. We thank God upon every remembrance of you.”

Ironbridge War Memorial from North

Wenlock Priory

Wandering about Much Wenlock we saw signs to Wenlock Priory which is also known as St Milburga’s Priory.

It’s a ruin now, in the hands of English Heritage, but still quite impressive.

Wenlock  Priory Board

As you go in you walk past this ruined building. Photo taken looking back:-

Ruined Part of Wenlock Priory

This is the other main ruined building with a more modern structure also in the picture:-

Wenlock Priory

Through the archways seen above:-

Part of Wenlock Priory, Much Wenlock, Shropshire

One of the walls is highly decorative:-

Wenlock Priory

A reverse view:-

Ruined Buildings, Wenlock Priory

To left of above:-

enlock Priory Building

Priory with topiary in front:-

Wenlock Priory

Topiary animals:-

Topiary Animals, Wenlock Priory

Topiary animal:-

MoreTopiary, Wenlock Priory

Shrewsbury

The game at Oswestry not being till the evening we took ourselves off to Shrewsbury on the Saturday afternoon. (I’ve already mentioned Shrewsbury Abbey in a 4/11/2018 post about Wilfred Owen’s Memorial in the Abbey Grounds.)

Since we didn’t know the town we stopped at the first Park and Ride and availed ourselves of the service. That was just as well because the traffic was very busy and the streets quite narrow.

We also asked someone if the pronunciation was “Shrew”- or “Shrow”- sbury and were told it didn’t matter, either would do.

The town’s history is clearly evident in its buildings, with several in the timber-framed Tudor style:-

Shrewsbury Buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Shrewsbury Tudor building

Shrewsbury Building

Older Penrith

Penrith, Cumbria, is remote enough from major population centres to have retained some elements of ye good olde days.

Just look at this Drapers, Costumiers and Milliners. Not to mention Furriers, Dressmakers, Shirt Specialists:-

Old Style Shop Lettering, Penrith

And Carpet, Curtain and Linoleum Furnishing Warehouse:-

Penrith Old Style Shop Lettering

A High Class Drapers no less – and a Silk Mercers, Hosiers and Glovers, Irish Household and Fancy Linen Warehouse:-

Old Style  shop

A real throw-back. Not that most of those trade lines will still be ongoing I’d have thought.

You can see from this the shop front faces on to a square of sorts:-

Old Style  shop front

A bit further on in the town lies this Chemist’s. Cowper’s. 1930s style lettering. I can’t quite decide if the whole is deco or not:-

Cowper Chemist's, Penrith

In St Andrew’s Churchyard lie a good many graves, including the “Giant’s Tombstone”. This is supposedly the grave of Owen Caesarius, king of Cumbria between 900 and 937 AD:-

Giant's Tombstone

Giant’s grave stones:-

Giant's Grave Stones

Giant’s Tombstone in Penrith, Viking hogback stones:-

Giant's Tombstone

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