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Posts Tagged ‘WW2

They’re almost all gone

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The veterans of World War 2 that is.

Just a few hours ago marked the time on a Sunday morning eighty years past when Japan launched her attack on the United States at Pearl Harbour, smashing much of the US Pacific Fleet, and bringing the USA into the war.

For decades now the US veterans of that attack have gathered for the annual memorial. Soon they will be no more as age takes its toll, but there can still be heartwarming stories like this one, Crowdfunding sends 101-year-old Pearl Harbor hero to 80th anniversary ceremony:

An Oregon family has turned to crowdfunding to send their 101-year-old Navy veteran dad back to Pearl Harbor…“Lacking organizations with bigger pockets, I can’t afford to get my Pop over there,” Heinrichs writes on the GoFundMe page. “This fundraiser will cover flights, hotel, car, food for Ike and two family caregivers to keep him safe and be honored at the Pearl Harbor Anniversary ceremonies.”

They got the $10,000 they needed and a bit more. One of the many interesting aspects of this story is that Ira has been more willing to talk about the events of that day than earlier in his life. It’s well known that veterans of wars talk very little about their experiences, unless they’re funny stories, but it also seems to be true that as they get very old they’re willing to talk more.

The estimable historian Victor Davis Hanson reflects on the day

Most Americans once were mostly in agreement about what happened on December 7, 1941, 80 years ago this year. But not so much now, given either the neglect of America’s past in the schools or woke revisionism at odds with the truth.

The Pacific war that followed Pearl Harbor was not a result of America egging on the Japanese, not about starting a race war, and not about much other than a confident and cruel Japanese empire falsely assuming that its stronger American rival either would not or could not stop its transoceanic ambitions. . .

The whole essay is worth a read as Hanson explodes a few myths, which likely won’t die even so, although he doesn’t address the famous quote from Yamamoto:

In fact that’s quite the paraphrasing of something Yamamoto wrote and it was crafted for the 1970 movie, Tora, Tora, Tora. The screenwriter claimed he got it from a letter written by Yamamoto but nobody has ever found such. But like many such movie lines it’s just too good to ignore and has been repeated in other movies such as the execrable Pearl Harbour (2000) and the superb Midway (2019). I’m reminded of the line from the movie Apollo 13“Failure is not an option” – uttered by Mission Controller Gene Kranz as acted by Ed Harris. Kranz never said that but laughingly acknowledged that he wished he had and loved it so much it became the title of his autobiography.

Hanson points out that Yamamoto, “often romantically portrayed as a mythical almost reluctant warrior”, who feared sleeping giants and felt he’d only run wild for six months, was actually the primary force behind the attack:

Yamamoto himself agitated for the surprise Pearl Harbor attack. And he even threatened to resign if a skeptical General Tojo and Emperor Hirohito did not grant him a blank check to bomb the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Hawaii, a diversion of resources many in the Japanese military felt was unjustified, especially with the ongoing and increasingly expensive quagmire in China.

Big mistake as we all know now. Hanson suggests that there was an alternative strategy:

Both France and the Netherlands had been under occupation by the victorious Germans since June 1940. Had the Japanese simply expanded their newly acquired Indochina concessions—appropriated from the Vichy French in 1940—grabbed the equally orphaned oil-rich Dutch East Indies, and been content with conquering resource-rich, British-held Malaysia and its fortress port at Singapore—while bypassing Pearl Harbor and the Philippines—there would have been little likelihood even then of the United States entering the conflict.

Thank goodness they weren’t strategically smart!

In sum, it was largely Yamamoto’s enormous ego, his tactical genius, and his strategic ineptitude, along with Japanese hubris, that explain the strategic idiocy of a brilliant but short-lived victory at Pearl Harbor.

But to be fair, no student of military preparedness, economic resources, or social organization could have ever believed that a relatively vulnerable and isolationist United States, still reeling from recurring cycles of depression, in less than four years would have fought simultaneously across the Pacific and Europe with a 12 million person military, the largest economy in history, and the world’s most formidable weapons such Essex class fleet carriers, Balao submarines, B-29 long-range bombers, Hellcat and Mustang fighters and the world’s first atomic bombs.

Even viewed from this distance in time it’s a staggering effort. I was saddened by one comment on this day, especially since I find it hard to deny:

Now 80 years later, America is at best a nation divided and at worst a nation that no longer exists. We have no borders, we have no equal justice under a just and stable law and most dangerously, we are split into two camps that not only disagree on issues but disagree on the legitimacy and nature of the nation itself. While that is happening, China and to a lesser extent Russia are making geopolitical and technological moves that threaten to leave us in the dust.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 8, 2021 at 10:59 am

Posted in History, Military, USA

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September the 3rd, 1939

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The day the greatest slaughter in history began for New Zealand and Australia.


The Allies and Axis powers at the dawn of the German/Soviet invasion of Poland1:

The Republic of China and the Empire of Japan are involved in the early stages of the third year of armed conflict between them during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The war is in what will be known as the “Second Period”, which starts after the fall of Wuhan in October 1938 and ends in December 1941 with Pearl Harbor. This conflict will eventually be swept up into World War II when Japan joins the Axis and China joins the Allies.[1]1:

The invasion of Poland by Germany starts at 4:45 a.m. when the KriegsmarinebattleshipSchleswig-Holstein opens fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea, but the attack is repulsed.[2] At the same time the Luftwaffeattacks several targets in Poland, among them Wieluń, the first town in the war to be carpet bombed by the Germans.[3] Shortly before 6:00 a.m., the German Army passes the Polish border in great numbers from north and south, together with Slovak units.[4][5] In the same day, the Free City of Danzig is annexed by Germany.[6] Resisters entrenched in the city’s Polish Post Office are overwhelmed.[2]1:

The Italian government announces that it will maintain a condition of “non-belligerence” in the conflict.

[7]1: NorwaySwedenDenmarkFinlandLatvia and Estonia as well as Romania immediately declare their neutrality.[8]

[9]1: The House of Commons of the United Kingdom passes an emergency military budget.[10]1:

The BritishWar SecretaryLeslie Hore-Belisha orders the War Office to begin the general mobilization of the British Armed Forces.[11]1: 

In a mass evacuation effort (code named “operation Pied Piper”) the British authorities relocate 1,473,000 children and adults from the cities to the countryside. The adults involved were teachers, people with disabilities and their helpers, mothers with preschool children.[12]1:

Acting on account of their governments, the ambassadors of France and Britain demand the German government to cease all hostile activities and to withdraw its troops from Poland.[6]1:

The President of the United StatesFranklin Delano Roosevelt sends an appeal to all European powers involved in the crisis asking them to abstain from bombing civilian and unfortified cities. Germany’s FührerAdolf Hitler, answers immediately assuring the Americanchargé d’affairesAlexander C. Kirk that the Luftwaffe will only attack military targets. The British Prime MinisterNeville Chamberlain also promises to abide to the request, as does Poland’s ambassador to the US Jerzy Antoni Potocki.[13]2:

Right after Britain, the French Parliament also approves an emergency war budget.[14]2:

The British and French governments agree on issuing an ultimatum to Germany the following day.[15]2:

The Swiss government orders a general mobilization of its forces.2:

The Irish State’s Dáil Éireann approves a state of emergency, paving the way to legislation that vastly enhances the government‘s powers.[16]2:

The French Army begins its general mobilization.[17]3:

At 9:00 a.m. the British ambassador to Berlin Nevile Henderson is instructed by the Cabinet to deliver an ultimatum to Germany which expired without answer at 11:00 a.m.[18] As a result at 11:15 a.m. British Standard Time (BST) the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces that Britain is at war with Germany.[19]3:

The National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 is approved and enforces full conscription in the British Armed Forces on all able-bodied males between 18 and 41 resident in the UK.[20][21]3:

In Britain, Chamberlain forms a new war ministry with a smaller and more powerful war cabinet within composed of nine ministers (Chamberlain, Sir Samuel HoareSir John SimonLord HalifaxLeslie Hore-Belisha, Sir Kingsley WoodLord ChatfieldLord Hankey and Winston Churchill).[22] During its first meeting, the cabinet appoints general Sir Edmund Ironside as head of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and general Viscount Gort head of the British Expeditionary Force.[23]3:

The British Viceroy of IndiaLord Linlithgow also declares war on Germany without consulting Indian nationalists.[24]3:

The Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies declares that the country is at war with Germany due to Britain’s choice, and a similar war declaration against Germany is made by New Zealand‘s government.[25]3:

At 12:00 p.m. the French Government delivers a similar final ultimatum to Germany which at 5:00 p.m. also expires unanswered, thus bringing France in the war.[26]3:

Within hours of the British declaration of War, SS Athenia, a British cruise ship en route from Glasgow, UK, to MontrealCanadais torpedoed by the German submarineU-30 250 miles (400 km) Northwest of Ireland. 112 passengers and crew members are killed. The “Battle of the Atlantic” starts.[2

Written by adolffinkensen

September 3, 2021 at 12:59 pm

Posted in History

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Dame Vera Lynn

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Born March 20, 1917. Died June 18, 2020.

One hundred and three years old. What a great life.

It’s just so wonderful that one of the grand ladies of British history could have lived such a full and long life, beloved to the end, as the British people turned to her spirit again in yet another test and trial of their character.

In a televised address in April, the Queen evoked Dame Vera’s wartime message, assuring families and friends who were separated during the coronavirus pandemic: “We will meet again.” 

Just two weeks earlier, Dame Vera herself had sent a message on her 103rd birthday, calling on the British public to find “moments of joy” during these “hard times”. 

Then in May, We’ll Meet Again was used during the finale of the BBC’s coverage of the VE Day anniversary. Dame Vera appeared in a virtual duet with Katherine Jenkins, while key workers also joined in with the song. 

That led an album that had been released for her 100th birthday – featuring contributions from younger singers including Alfie Boe, Alexander Armstrong and Cynthia Erivo – to re-enter the UK top 40.

I’ve included possibly her most well-known song, We’ll Meet Again, in two versions.

The first is the one used at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 Black Comedy, Dr Strangelove. But instead of the Black & White images of the original film this one is updated with video clips from material declassified at the end of the Cold War and used in the brilliant 1995 documentary, Trinity and Beyond.

The second version is from an actual performance in the field for the British troops, which she did many times, and one of the great things from these recordings is the way the men join her in song.

I’m not going to say R.I.P. because to me that implies a life of hardship and pain from which she has now been released, and that was never Vera Lynn’s spirit. Instead I’ll choose this quote from somebody who had almost nothing in common with her:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Written by Tom Hunter

June 18, 2020 at 10:09 pm

Posted in New Zealand

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It’s Time To Kick Back …. and Relax

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Menthol, Eucalyptus…. and Cocaine

More as an amused take on The Great War being turned into WWI by the even bigger Great War that turned up twenty years later, there has been Interwebby Thingy chatter about Great Depression II.

But focusing more on WWII and the sacrifices made caused me to come across this wonderful piece of American wartime art / propaganda below – possibly from one of the same artists who did Rosie The Riveter (they were all already employed by FDR as propaganda artists for the New Deal).

How true could this become? Of course in that situation the idea was to focus all resources on winning a traditional war, whereas a post COVID-19 NZ economy will be screaming for money to be spent in classic Keynesian fashion, so the exact opposite of “Me Travel?” is probably going to be recommended.

Meanwhile, here’s the great Norman Rockwell’s image of “Rosie the Riveter” from the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on Memorial Day, May 29, 1943.


And finally, here’s one of that war’s sweethearts, Gracie Fields, singing about what she’s doing to build the Thingumabob that’s going to win the war.

Perhaps a ska version with Gwen Stefani, set on a vaccine production line is next?

Written by Tom Hunter

April 16, 2020 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Art, History, New Zealand

Tagged with ,

Die MSM, Die – Tingles Bites The Dust

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The year of 2020 just keeps getting better and better with the news that one of the most well known TV journalists, Chris Matthews, better known to the US Right as “Tingles”, has been fired from MSNBC after twenty years of hosting the current affairs show Hardball.

I’m as creepy as hell and I’m not gonna’ take it anymore!

The reason he got the nickname “Tingles” derived from this infamous comment on live TV in 2008:

“I have to tell you, you know, it’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.”

It would be comforting to think that even dedicated Democrat watchers threw up in their mouths a little over that, but it was very much part of the worshipful insanity of Barack that was 2008, although Tingles would repeat the phrase in 2010. Ick!

Over the years the US Right found plenty of reasons to despise the little prick, as summarised here in a collection of a few TV moments that are The Worst of Chris Matthews, from which I’ll take just two quotes:

“But he [Newt Gingrich] looks like a car bomber. He looks like a car bomber. Clarence, he looks like a car bomber. He’s got that crazy Mephistophelian grin of his. He looks like he loves torturing. Look at the guy! I mean this, this is not the face of a president.”

Big props for getting the word “Mephistophelian” in there. I’m going to miss that.

“Hardball is absolutely non-partisan.”

Sure. Who are you going to believe, Chris Matthews or your lying eyes? And this was the guy that NZ TV hauled up for an interview a year or two ago on US politics. Of course they did. Tucker Carlson of FOX News was probably unavailable and who wants to listen to his Far-Hard-Extreme-Right bias anyway?

Tingles’ claim in his farewell spiel was that he was “retiring”, but nobody believed that for a moment, and he alluded to the reason in his little speech:

After my conversation with MSNBC, I decided tonight will be my last “Hardball.” So let me tell you why. The younger generations out there are ready to take the reigns. We see them in politics, in the media, in fighting for their causes, they are improving the workplace. We’re talking here about better standards than we grew up with—fair standards.
A lot of it has to do with how we talk to each other. Compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were okay, were never okay. Not then and certainly not today, and for making such comments in the past, I’m sorry.

With that he went to an ad-break and when the camera returned he had simply left his chair and somebody else was in it. Hell of a way to leave a show after two decades.

All this followed nine days of escalating demands that he be fired because of various comments he’s made to woman over the years and more recently. This past was wrapped up last Friday in a piece in GQ magazine by freelance journalist Laura Bassett. Bassett had previously made some of the accusations back in 2017 about a “much older, married cable-news host” who flirted with her “inappropriately” before an interview, but she didn’t name the person. This time she did and it was Chris Matthews. She also connected this with other, similar past comments.

As a result The Daily Show put together a “supercuts” look at Chris drooling over various woman through the years: Lookin’ Good With Uncle Chris.


As is usual with Democrats all this was forgiven for a long time, and to be fair this stuff falls far short of the sexual abuse scandals of MSM Lefty heavyweights Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. Still, it’s entirely typical of men who came of age during the Swinging Sixties and have never escaped that era – which also leads to stuff like this:


That is not a good idea in the age of #BelieveAllWoman (except Bill Clinton’s accusers of course).

That exchange with Warren had already resulted in demands that Matthews be fired.

But what actually got the “Fire him NOW” ball rolling in the first place was when Tingles made the terrible mistake of getting on the wrong side of the tidal wave of Berniemania that followed Bernie’s win in the Nevada primary elections.

Tingles had been doin’ some of that readin’ historical an’ stuff, and on his show he decided to free-associate that with the problems facing the Democrat Party in dealing with Bernie.

Big mistake when you’re not that smart:

Prime Minster – not General – Reynaud

“I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” Matthews said during MSNBC’s live coverage of the caucuses on Saturday. “And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over.’ And Churchill says, ‘How can that be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.'”

And just like that, the Bernie Bros exploded with claims that Tingles was basically saying that they were You-Know-What, with Sanders in the lead as You-Know-Who, crushing France. And no, not the Wehrmacht and General Guderian.

An actual General – Guderian

Yes. Really.

I must admit feeling a delicious sense of Schadenfreude, given how often MSNBC hosts and guests make reference to Fascists in relation to Trump and Republicans.

It’s not a surprise that Tingles was so Tollpatschig. He was among his Zeitgenosse in the Zeitgeist and so got a little die Ahnungslosigkeit. But he really should have known better because while he may not have been interested in the Gleichschaltung, the Gleichschaltung was interested in him and….

…. Fuck! You see how easy it is to fall into this world!

Calmer Bernie supporters merely said that it was a terrible analogy to use against a Jewish guy who’d lost family members in the Holocaust. Actually it’s an analogy about things being over before people are willing to acknowledge that. Tingles quickly grovelled out an apology, but the Woke Monster was now on the loose.

If Tingles did want to use WWII history I’d have suggested the DNC as the Japanese government still arguing over surrender in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Admittedly this might have caused Bernie snowflakes to wonder if this meant their guy was being compared to the Enola Gay. To be fair that could also work, given what his policies would do to the USA.

Tingles’ real sin was that he clearly represented the non-Kool-Aid-drinking part of the Democrat Party and that was not acceptable to the Sanders-Warren-AOC wing which is the wave of the future that MSNBC wants to surf on. His bosses knew he had to go and as usual in a Social Media shitstorm the reasons didn’t really matter and the crime sheet could simply be pulled from the bottomless drawer of past transgressions that the NKVD hold for such moments.

One regret I have about his fall is that I had been looking forward to his defence of Joe Biden. Anyway, it will be some time – years perhaps – before Tingles can be replaced with someone of equal gravitas and seriousness.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 4, 2020 at 10:13 pm

Posted in New Zealand

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Starting 2020 with a Bang

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With some luck we may see something of Auckland’s fireworks tonight, but I doubt it will be as spectacular as the annual Big Sandy Nightshoot near Wikeup in Arizona.

More interesting to me was the following stand at Big Sandy where – for a price – you get a turn controlling a Ball Turret from a B17/B24 bomber with the original twin 50Cal machine guns.

Oh well. Beloved wife and I will see in the 20’s at a friend’s place and abandon our house to the teenagers. If you think this is risky I can assure you that teenagers – at least the crowd we know of – are a very different bunch to what I was like and what I suspect most readers here were like. Online multi-player gaming around the TV seems to be the order of the day – and it’s not even stuff like Halo or Dawn of War!

Written by Tom Hunter

December 31, 2019 at 8:17 am

Posted in New Zealand

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The Strangeness of History

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I’d had our trip to Italy planned for over a year, and mostly booked for two months, before I realised that there was one possible side-trip we could do almost purely by accident.

On one day we would be driving between the coastal towns of Riomaggiore and Portofino, passing through a larger town called Chiavari, which is on the blue line in the upper left of this picture.

And it just so happens that near Chiavari in 1941/42 my Dad was a POW in PG52: Campo di concentramento per Prigionieri di Guerra no. 52. Perhaps I’d be able to visit whatever memorial existed for the camp, if any. Investigations began and produced the following website sub-section, Camp52, Chiavari.

Modern day site of Campo PG52 

And that in turn produced many interesting snippets of information, including where the camp had been located, a few miles inland from the town.

But most important was the information that a small museum dedicated to the POW camp had been set up in Chiavari. It was part of a larger military museum located in the base of the Scuola Telecomunicazioni Forze Armate – the School of Telecommunications Armed Forces.

But even more important was the information provided by one commentator who visited the original site in 2007:

The camp was beside the bridge and bordered the river. Believe it or not we met the Italian Camp Commandant (then 92 – in 2007), he struck us as being a nice man. He, nor his 2 sons could speak english, and my italian is limited, however, he had the original books, in pristine condition, recording all the names of the PG52 POW’s.

Campo PG52 as it was in 1942.

And later in the thread came the information that some years later, after the old man died, his sons had passed all those books and other memorabilia to the little museum, and that this included the original POW index cards, according to another poster writing twelve years later.

Lt. Zavatteri, the adjutant at the time of the armistice, took away what I have always understood to be the entire collection of prisoner of war records on 9/10 September 1943 or thereabouts – before the Germans arrived to take over the camp. When Lt. Zavatteri died his son gave the material to the Communications Museum.

I had to see if Dad’s was one of them. I’d made the whole day available for the drive anyway, to allow time for photostops, lunch and so forth. An unhurried day of some 94kms driving narrow, coastal roads: three hours if we did not stop at all. I had the time and finding the place would be easy in these days of Siri and Google Maps.

We arrived at about 1pm and there was the base as advertised. We pulled straight in and a guard opened the gate and let us park. Some confusion followed as he looked at my hand-written notes, then made a phone call. A few minutes later a bloke in his fifties, wearing the uniform of an Italian Naval Officer, turned up on a bicycle and explained in fairly good English that visitors were allowed to see the museum only with a letter of invitation.

My heart fell for a second.

Then he smiled and told me that since we had come all the way from “Nuova Zelanda”, he would allow us in, at which point we were introduced to Warrant Officer Venuto who would be our escort, since it’s still an active military base.

A few minutes and many keys later, we were inside. The museum, which is predictably enough dedicated to the history of Italian military telecommunications, occupies an entire building. Warrant Officer Venuto was very proud of the place and enjoyed showing us around the other sections as well. All very cool – but I was keen to get to my real objective: the PG52 archives, built into a bedroom-sized annex.

PG52 Archive Collection

In this photo you can see the boxes of index cards at the bottom of the picture, with a large photo of the camp on the wall above it and shelves of memorabilia like helmets, canteens and boxing gloves. Not seen on the right is a pair of shoes made by the prisoners, which was a pretty sad reflection on the sparse life of a POW.

Having said that, Dad had no real complaints about either of the Italian camps, which were run efficiently but without the edginess of German camps.

The POW Index Cards

A couple of minutes searching through the boxes and there it was: my Dad’s POW card, created when he entered the camp in December 1941. That’s the red one sticking out in the picture to the right.

And below is the card itself.

There’s a lot more information on it than on the German one Dad filched from the Commandant’s office at Stalag IVB in 1945 just after the Germans fled and before the Red Army arrived. The capture date here is likely out by a day, although different groups of 24 Battalion were captured for several days after Nov 30. Dad reckoned his capture was Dec 1st and that’s what’s recorded on the Stalag IVB card.

Also there’s no mention of Sidi Rezegh, just “S. Tobruk“, which is at least reasonably accurate and understandable in the chaos of war. It was also good to get the exact departure date for PG57 nailed down, as I’d had only a range of dates based on the letters he wrote to Mum.

Dad’s POW card for Campo 52


In one respect the card is nothing, and I wondered what Dad would have said about my journey to this place. Probably something along the lines of “Why the hell would you bother doing that?”. To him it was simply a year in one place, not fondly remembered, in a time of vast and terrible events that millions of other ordinary blokes like him experienced.

But to me this small thing meant a great deal. I felt a wave of mixed emotions as I extracted the card and eagerly read the details. A simple piece of cardboard – but touching it, reading it to confirm it was really him, that he had really been there, seemed overwhelmingly important and still does as I write this. Perhaps it’s the fact that history wipes most people from the face of the earth, leaving not a trace, sometimes not even memory. I reflected upon the dialog from the TV mini-series, Chernobyl, where the main scientist involved is threatened by the head of the KGB:

“You will remain so immaterial to the world around you that when you finally do die, it will be exceedingly hard to know that you ever lived at all.”

This card, and other small things, are the answer to that, at least for my Dad.

PG52 living conditions
Warrant Officer Venuto

There were other bits of memorabilia in the place, including the wonderful drawing on the left, of the inside of the huts and the bunks the men lived in, and a large drawing of the camp, probably made by the same artist.

And this photo to the right, is of our escort, Warrant Officer Venuto, in his workaday clothes, who spoke only broken English but was a warm companionable man who could see what I was feeling.

I’m very grateful to him, the base commander and the guard at the gate who did not simply turn us away when they could have, and I must write them a thank-you letter.

Arthur Douglas’s drawing of PG52. Unfortunately the scan is not precise enough to capture the dialog.
Thanks Dad!


I drove away feeling light-headed and light-hearted. A long-shot effort to trace a little piece of family history had come off. That evening, as I sat in an open-air bar just below the Portofino lighthouse, I could see across the way the lights of Chiavari and the hills behind it where PG52 once was, so I raised a glass to Dad and the men who gave so much of their lives for us, sometimes everything they had.

I’d like to think that Dad would be amused that his son would one day travel through the same place in a time of peace and prosperity, but I think he’d say that it made the sacrifices of he and Mum worth it.

And I remembered the words of the historian Simon Schama, in the last episode of his great documentary series, A History of Britain:

But history ought never to be confused with nostalgia. It’s written, not to revere the dead, but to inspire the living. It’s our cultural bloodstream – the secret of who we are.

And it tells us to let go of the past even as we honour it, to lament what ought to be lamented, to celebrate what should be celebrated.

And if in the end that history turns out to reveal itself as a patriot, well, then I think that neither Churchill nor Orwell would have minded that very much.

And, as a matter of fact, neither do I.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 25, 2019 at 3:30 am

Posted in Military, New Zealand

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Have just finished reading Tim Bouverie’s quite excellent tome ‘Appeasing Hitler’. A few tit-bits ….

There were numerous meeting between Halifax, Chamberlain and Hitler leading up to the signing of the infamous Munich Agreement.     This from when Halifax met Hitler on 18 November 1937 “… having arrived at the Berghof  he (Halifax) failed to recognise Hitler.   Worse, in a scene which might have come from the pages of P G Wodehouse he assumed the man in black trousers, silk socks and patent leather shoes, waiting to lead him up the snow covered steps to the house was a footman.   Fortunately Neurath (German Foreign Minister) was on hand and and managed to hiss Der Fuhrer, der Fuhrer in the Lord President’s ear before Halifax could hand Hitler his hat and coat.”

The day after Chamberlain, Daladier, Mussolini and Hitler agreed to the dismembering of Czechoslovakia (with the Czechs excluded from the conversation) Chamberlain had a private meeting with Hitler.   He presented Hitler with a proposed joint declaration that he had drawn up in the small hours of the morning.   The crucial passage was the declaration that the two leaders regarded the Munich Agreement ‘as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again’.   The judgement of Schmidt (the German interpreter) was that Hitler appended his signature only to please Chamberlain.   This was borne out in a comment that Hitler made to Ribbentrop that afternoon ‘Oh, don’t take it too seriously … that piece of paper is of no significance whatsoever’.    

Back in the UK ‘they’ saw it differently.      90,000 people collected Daily Sketch coupons for a photograph of the Prime Minister embossed on a plate.    20,000 congratulatory letters were delivered to No. 10 along with fishing rods, umbrellas, flowers, chocolate, salmon flies, slippers, pipes, kippers, cigars, champagne, cider, pictures, beautifully knitted prize winning socks, crates of apples, a saddle of Welsh lamb, grouse, a wedding cake, a grand piano, opera glasses, clocks, watches, a replica Jersey milk can, a four-leafed shamrock, bulbs, gingerbread, tweed, German hock, clotted cream, lucky horse shoes and a pair of Dutch clogs while the people of France contributed half a million francs to buy Chamberlain a house near a trout stream … declined.

Fascinating stuff … highly recommended read.

Written by The Veteran

July 14, 2019 at 1:18 am

Posted in New Zealand

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The Saddest Anniversary In History

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Today marks the seventy ninth anniversary of the start of WW2, September the 3rd, 1939, in which it is estimated that over sixty million people, mostly civilians were killed.  Two days earlier, on September the 1st, Hitler’s Germany sent its tanks and troops into Poland and on September the 3rd, 1939, Britain, France, New Zealand and Australia declared war on Germany.

Five years later, the collapse of Germany and the end of the war in Europe gave rise to an even greater evil – The United Soviet Socialist Republic of Russia which saw the demise of even more tens of millions of people.  Of course the USSR had existed from 1922 but WW2 gave the socialists control over vast territory and millions of people they otherwise never would have gained.

Finally, the USSR collapsed in 1991 with the fall of the Berlin Wall being the most demonstrative event of that collapse.

It’s no wonder the denizens of the political left so hate Reagan and Thatcher.

Written by adolffinkensen

September 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Posted in New Zealand

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Many of you will have been to Hawaii and while there taken the tour to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour.   It is a sobering experience.

Not too many of you would have flown over the South China Sea off Kuantan where the Prince of Wales and the Repulse were sunk by the Japanese on the third day of hostilities.    On a clear day you can see their indistinct shapes through the water and when I flew over the site fuel oil was still making its way to the surface.

Force ‘Z’ which comprised the two capital ships and four destroyers sailed from the Singapore Naval Base to intercept that Japanese invasion fleet that was landing troops in south Thailand and north Malaya.   It was commanded by Admiral Tom (Thumb) Phillips who was one of the dwindling band of Admirals who failed to appreciate the changing dynamic of air power.   As it was the fleet had no air cover even though this could have been provided by the deployment of (albeit obsolescent) Buffaloe fighters from Singapore forward to the Kuantan airfield.

Phillips was a good friend of the later Air Chief Marshal (Bomber) Harris who used to tease him both about his height and his stubborn refusal to believe a battleship could be sunk from the air.  It is recorded that Harris once told Phillips … ‘One day Tom you’ll be standing on a box on your bridge and your ship will be smashed to pieces by bombers and torpedo aircraft and as she sinks your last words will be … that was a f*****g big mine’.

Prophetic words indeed … 840 sailors were killed in the action.  Phillips went down with his ship.


Written by The Veteran

November 12, 2017 at 12:04 am

Posted in Britain, Military

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