Saturday, 4 June 2005
Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During World War II
?Jump or Die? - A Personal Recollection from 1939-1945
Topic: My Web Pages
If any of you have visited my web site, you will know that my aunt, Marthe Janssen-Leyder
was a member of the Belgian Secret Army during World War II. I met her once when I was four years and ten months old. She came over to London in 1946 to see my father and stayed with us for a couple of days. She was planning to arrange a meeting with some of the airmen who had been helped by her group but it was not to be. A few days later, she died from a stroke - the strain of the war years had taken its toll. I had some papers my father had kept, some 'stories
' she had typed out for us and some family memories. Then, a couple of years' ago, I was contacted by a Canadian Historian, Michael Moores LeBlanc, who told me how to get a copy of her 'Award File' from the US Archives in Washington DC. I now had some names - three Airmen she had helped, one USAAF and two RAF. I found one of them, Douglas Jennings
, living about twenty miles away from my home. He was the same airman pictured in the Belgian Newspaper
cutting I had.
At the time, Doug gave me a copy of his unpublished manuscript, "Jump or Die". It describes his two years of training with the RAF as an "Air Bomber", the initial 'crewing up' process and the crew's eventual posting to No. 57 Squadron at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire in April 1944 after a final two months at No. 5 Lancaster Finishing School. It tells how, on the night of 21st June 1944, (the crew's 18th operation), Lancaster III, LM580 DX-L, took off to bomb an oil plant in Wesseling, German. On the outbound journey, the bomber was shot by FLAK and went down in flames. All the crew
, except for Pilot Gwylin 'Ginger' Guy, who sadly went down with his aeroplane, bailed out. Doug was lucky not to be arrested by the Gestapo. He successfully evaded through Belgium and returned to England in September 1944. One of the first things he did was to visit my father's office to give him news of his sister! After "Survivors' Leave", Doug was posted to an Operational Training Unit at Abingdon - not what he wanted! After some 'drastic action' on his part, Doug finally succeeded in getting another posting to No 9 Squadron where he flew a further eight operations dropping the famous Tallboy Bombs.
I was enthralled with his book. So, I am absolutely delighted to announce that it has just been published through Tucann Books. The book is an A5 sized paperback of 141 pages and well illustrated throughout. Purchase price is #10 + #1.50 post and packing. Copies may be obtained from Doug (who will be pleased to sign them) or from the Publisher, full details here
Lord of the Rings
Topic: Films and TV
We finally got round to watching the video recording of "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". It is such a long film, I prepared our Friday supper, my version of "Cod Provençal", earlier than usual to give us a longer evening to fit it all in!
I had actually recorded it on 30th April but it was worth the wait! What a brilliant film! Ian McKellen was excellent as Gandalf and the trick photography making the Hobbits smaller was very clever and really impressive. Elijah Wood was very, very good as Frodo Baggins - the only minor distraction was noticing his chewed fingernails!
We are both looking forward to the next two films in the trilogy. Might have to get the DVD as it will probably be a while before anything appears on terrestrial TV!
Friday, 3 June 2005
Driving Me Mad!
Is my driving getting worse? Twice recently, I have had people wag their finger at me when I have been at the wheel. Now, I happen to think that doing that is extremely rude, demeaning and insulting, especially when I hadn't done anything particularly wrong or dangerous.
The first time was a week ago; I was in Tesco's car park looking for an empty space. Near the store entrance, there is a 'pedestrian walkway' with white stripes, similar to a Zebra Crossing. My eyes moved left to an elderly lady who had just crossed and then, I spotted the young woman on my right waiting to cross. I admit I stopped a bit sharply but I was clear of the 'crossing' - so why did she wag her finger at me! I felt quite miffed!
The second occasion was yesterday and, this time, I was really furious with 'steam coming out of my ears'! We look after the grandchildren every Thursday and usually collect them from school at ten past three. But this week is half-term week so we had to get to my son-in-law's house by half-past two so that he could leave for work. Well, we were a little late partly because our neighbour for many years was moving and the giant removal van had been parked across our driveway since ten past eight. "Won't be a minute", the driver called out but it was a bit more than that!
I turned briskly into the little cul-de-sac road in Westergate. There was a parked car about thirty yards in front and a car coming towards me. I stopped, again a bit sharply. I had not cut the corner and I was stopped entirely in my lane but the sneering, puerile nitwit at the wheel of the on-coming car just had to wag his finger at me! He mouthed something, too, and drew up beside me. I wound down the window. "You came round that corner a bit fast, didn't you", said Mr Superior Driver. "You could have bumped into me!" Bumped into him
! I had stopped a good few feet from the parked car before he was even level with it. I never think of the right thing to say. "Well, I didn't and I stopped, didn't I", I glared at him. He didn't move, just sat there with an inane grin on his face. My husband, dear soul that he is, kept very quiet. "I am
in a hurry", I said a bit peevishly. So what does Mr Superior Driver do? Well, the asshole goes into reverse and stops level with the parked car smirking at me like a stupid schoolboy!
Well, I can quite understand how road rage incidents happen! I was really mad! What did I do? The only thing I could think of... I leant on my horn! After about 30 seconds, he decided to move off but not before giving me two fingers up and a verbal insult on the way. I probably shouldn't have - but I retaliated with similar. I only wish I had thought to take his number because I would definitely have reported him!
Tuesday, 31 May 2005
World No Tobacco Day
Topic: Health Issues
We are horrified when we hear of yet another death in Iraq; since the start of military operations, the total number of British troops killed has risen to 88. Eighty-eight young lives destroyed, eighty-eight families torn apart.
Yet, there is a greater killer in our midst. Did you know that smoking tobacco
is the principal avoidable cause of premature death in the UK, killing more than 120,000 a year
. Yes, one hundred and twenty thousand! That is a terrible and completely unnecessary waste of human life. In fact, tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world. It is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). If current smoking patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020. Half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people- will eventually be killed by tobacco.
[World Health Organisation
]World No Tobacco Day
(WNTD), observed globally on 31st May each year, is designed to inform people of the dangers of smoking and to tell them what they can do to stop. If you are a smoker, you know that you are endangering your own life - and risking the lives of the people around you who breathe in the smoke you exhale. TODAY is a good time to give up
Many people try to say that they were seduced by tobacco advertising, that they were not told of the health dangers
when they starting smoking thirty, forty or fifty years ago. This is utter nonsense; my husband was well aware of the dangers when he started his National Service in 1951. In fact, the medical fraternity has been aware of the dangerous side effects of smoking for over 120 years
. This article is taken from The Boy's Own Paper
, Issue No. 187 Vol. IV, for Saturday, August 12 1882.
|What Smoking Does For Boys|
A medical man, struck with the large number of boys under fifteen years of age he observed smoking, was led to inquire into the effect the habit had upon the general health. He took for his purpose, thirty-eight, aged from nine to fifteen, and carefully examined them. In twenty-seven he discovered injurious traces of the habit; in twenty-two there were various disorders of the circulation and digestion, palpitation of the heart and a more or less taste for strong drink. In twelve there were frequent bleedings of the nose, ten had disturbed sleep, and twelve had slight ulceration of the mucous membrane of the mouth, which disappeared on ceasing the use of tobacco for some days. — British Medical Monthly.
Yes, his survey was amongst boys of nine to fifteen years old. Shocking, isn't it - but children around that age are smoking today
. There has also been a rise in drinking alcohol and drug taking
amongst school children. Perhaps your child or your teenager is one of them! Is this what you want for your children? Teach them by example - stop NOW. So-called 'peer pressure' may start youngsters on this dangerous habit. Teach your children that it is NOT COOL to smoke or to drink. Tell them that it is the ones who do, who are the weak-willed, immature, foolish people, not the ones who refuse to join in.
Smoking and drinking alcohol at the same time increases the risk of cancers - cancer of the mouth, throat and larynx, stomach cancer, bowel cancer and kidney cancer. Although, a glass of wine a day may be good for the heart, smokers younger than 50 are five times
more likely than non-smokers to die of coronary heart disease. Without doubt, smoking adversely affects the lungs, heart, vascular systems and
brain tissue. If you become alcohol dependent and smoke, or know someone who is, be aware that smoking compounds alcohol-induced brain damage
. Don't take the risk!
Monday, 30 May 2005
Cruelty to Animals
Topic: Nature and Our World
I believe all other creatures have as much right to live as we do. Last Thursday evening, as we left my daughter's house; I saw a frog in the middle of the road I was about to turn into. Along came a car - oh, no - straight over it. Amazingly it hopped again so, disregarding the pouring rain, I leapt out of the car, scooped up my prince in disguise and carried him to safety. This afternoon, I spotted a large bird in the garden, a baby rook! There is a nest in the huge walnut tree in next door's garden. The rooks had been dive-bombing a cat earlier in the morning so, that was the reason, a fledgling in distress. Out I went. He fluttered up and down the garden and cowered in a corner. I picked him up easily; he felt cold and a bit thin. Nevertheless, I tried my best and threw it up into the air - if he landed on a branch, he could be fed by his anxious parents and might succeed in flying properly.
So, you can imagine my indignation when I read what had happened to a poor cat
. Shot in the chest with an airgun and severely kicked! What harm had that animal ever done to the thug who attacked her! Earlier in the year, there was a spate of attacks against cats in Bognor Regis and Chichester. One poor creature even had its tail cut off. What makes people do such cruel things to trusting and friendly animals? I can understand, but not condone, a young child pulling off a spider's legs or throwing stones at squirrels and birds; they need to be taught to respect nature. But an adult or sub-adult shooting a pet cat for no reason at all is the lowest of the low!
Saturday, 28 May 2005
Leopold III, King of the Belgians - Belgian Bid to Restore His Honour
Topic: In the News
At the start of World War II, Belgium was neutral. However, the Germans, who had guaranteed Belgian neutrality in 1937, broke their word and, without warning, invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. The Belgian Army fought very bravely for eighteen days but, all the time, they were being pushed further and further back. By the 25th May, the Allies could see that the crumbling Belgian defence was becoming hopeless and on the 26th the French army drew up plans to withdraw to the coast. By 1 p.m. on the 27th, the War Office had issued orders "to evacuate the maximum force possible". In the early hours of 28th May 1940
, Leopold III, commander-in-chief of the Belgian Army, took the final decision to surrender to the German Army, despite the opposition of his cabinet. The King wished to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering - but his action provoked accusations of treason.
Retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes
(1972-1945), who had been recalled to serve as liaison officer to the Belgian King Leopold in 1939, was appointed Director of Combined Operations from 1940-41. He closely observed the King's conduct at the time of the capitulation and expressed his thoughts in his diaries. Later his son, Lord Keyes, 2nd Baron, naval officer and author (14th March 1919-4th March 2005) [see TimesOnLine Obituaries
] believed, as did his father, that historians had treated King Leopold III most unfairly and that he had been made a scapegoat for the defeat of France and the British Army in 1940
. He wrote a book, Outrageous Fortune
, published in 1984, in which he set out to exonerate Leopold, whom he regarded as having been traduced by France and Britain for having ordered the Belgian Army to lay down its arms on May 28, 1940, after it had courageously fought the Wehrmacht for 18 days
Recently, [18th March 2005], Belgian Monarchists, urged Tony Blair to "restore the honour" of King Leopold III
; see Belgian bid to restore honour of their king
. Lt. Col. Louis Van Leemputhe, the president of the Royal League of Veterans of Leopold III, is asking the Prime Minister to repudiate harsh comments directed at King Leopold by Sir Winston Churchill and other British officials, both during the war and afterwards.
"We are not asking for an apology but a letter from Mr Blair, simply stating that the British Government regrets the position taken by Sir Winston Churchill, which caused internal problems in Belgium that led to the abdication of the King," he said.
The league has also written to Belgium's prime minister to ask him to rehabilitate Leopold, who died in 1983, and "lift the veil of lies which covers this black page in our history
I am not an historian but, as an outsider, my sympathies are with the late King (who died on 25th September 1983). Leopold III continued his defiance of the Germans right through the occupation. He rejected cooperation with the Nazis and refused to administer Belgium in accordance with their dictates. The King did meet with Hitler and successfully negotiated the release of thousands of Belgian prisoners-of-war - an event which resulted in some regarding him as a 'collaborator'. Although he was exonerated after the war, he was never forgiven by the Belgium people as a whole and, eventually, was forced to abdicate in 1951. The reasons for this are diverse due in part to old divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. The reasons probably also extend to Leopold's private life - his behaviour during the war, particularly his re-marriage, incurring the violent disapproval of the Belgian people.
It is time he was forgiven.
For a brief history of Leopold from my main website, click here to view a Pop Up
for the full-size page.
Petals Around The Rose
'Petals Around The Rose' is a game which is traditionally played with five six-sided dice. I was introduced to it via a link on Joanna's Blog
- AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH! It is a simple game but a really difficult puzzle! I tried it, my husband tried it — we were stumped. Then this evening, my husband tried again and, he got it! It took me a bit longer but eventually an idea dawned as I did some ironing before supper and I got it too. We can sleep soundly tonight.
Have a go here
if you want a running total of your attempts. I can tell you that the name of the game is significant. That the answer will always be zero or an even number. Once you get it, you can tell someone the answer but not how to do it - they have to find that out for themselves. If at first you don't succeed, don't worry, it took Bill Gates
a while too.
Friday, 27 May 2005
Thank you to the person or persons who contributed to my fund-raising today. Grand total is now #15 towards an unwrapped camel!
Thursday, 26 May 2005
Buy Me A Camel - Update
In my recent post, Buy Me A Camel!
, I reported on Oxfam's Unwrapped Gift Catalogue
. This scheme caught my imagination because it allows you to buy a present for someone, a present which is in aid of Oxfam's humanitarian work and which will actually be allocated to a community in need. I was particularly interested in the camel gift
as I had just posted an entry on Amazing Animals: The Camel
'Well, why not try to fund-raise for this purpose?', I asked myself. So, I contacted Oxfam, who pointed me in the direction of bmycharity.com
. Here, I was able to set up a special web page - "Unwrapped Gifts - A Camel for a needy village". From this page, you can access a secure site for donations by credit/debit card and, if you are resident in the United Kingdom and pay tax, you can increase your donation by ticking the box for gift aid. Oxfam tell me that donations through this service help charities to save time and money in administration - so every donation goes further.
If you could afford to donate anything from #1 upwards, I would be most grateful. Wherever you see a 'camel' button, click on it to go to my fund-raising web page, https://www.bmycharity.com/helptessa2give4life
Please ask your family and friends to support this appeal, together we might raise enough for a herd of camels, or a camel and a cow for #75, who knows!
THE CAMELMany grateful thanks to Barbara Dixon for permission to reproduce her late father's poem. Visit John and Barbara Dixon's Website
by Rothwell Bishop (1910-1998)
Though desert life is rigorous
The camel's life is vigorous
In killing heat his master wilts
But he plods on, on padded stilts
At night sometimes his master freezes
But with the cold he never wheezes.
In truth he's learnt a better trick.
Is to lift
His temperature when it is hot
And lower it when it is not.
Plod on, plod on, you surly brute
I wish I had your thermostute
(I know the word is thermostat,
But couldn't find a rhyme for that.)
Monday, 23 May 2005
National Walk to School Week
Topic: In the News
Today is the start of National Walk to School Week. In October, there will be another event, International Walk to School Week. If your children's schools are not taking part in the National initiative then, hopefully, they will promote the International event in the autumn. Why is this important? Well, health for one thing. Children today don't get enough exercise and walking or cycling to school will help to combat child obesity and will keep them fit.
My grandchildren walk the mile or so to their school each day but, nationally, it seems that this is becoming a dying practise
. Part of the reason is that parents worry about road safety or 'stranger danger'. They are 'rushed off their feet' so they take the easy way out and use the car. Did you know that the school run contributes to 1 in 5 of all cars during the morning rush hour
? This increase in road traffic causes congestion and is directly related to the number of car accidents involving school children, which rise during term time. It seems that this accident rate could be dramatically lowered by the implementation of staggered school hours
. This is something which is already happening in the Chichester area with at least one secondary school starting extra early — although I think the real reason was the availability of school buses!
If walking is out of the question, what other action can you take? Well, car sharing is one answer - organise a rota to take your child and your child's friends to school. This simple solution will have an impact on the problem of school gate congestion. Many local schools have already registered with the West Sussex Young TransNet
to formulate School Travel Plans and make school journeys safer. Make sure you support your school by doing your bit as a parent.
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