Sunday, 7 January 2018

A World War I Tank Called Deborah.

British Mark IV Female Tank WWI

The Dreadful Deadlock.

By the year of 1917, the Great War in Europe was three years old. Neither side could find an advantage. Trench systems zigzagged from Belgium into France. This wall of dugouts stretched all the way south. Two opposing forces facing one another in a stalemate with a twisted and tortured landscape separating them. The battle line continued to the borders of neutral Switzerland.
France, Belgium and the British Empire had been fighting against Germany. All along this war front, either side had sent men into the pockmarked and defiled landscape to try and push the enemy back. To overwhelm and defeat was the intention of either side as offensive, followed by counteroffensive neutered the dreadful deadlock. Neither armies had won more than a few miles of ground. When a new offensive happened, one nation or another would lose multiple thousands of men again. Perhaps conceding a few miles of ground previously won.
The colossal cost of the bitter struggle saw millions perish. Hordes of men charging across the bomb craters and barbed wire enchantments of No-man’s-land. Some regiments would spend months training fresh troops. These patriotic and idyllic minded men could often be pulverised in a few minutes. Shot to pieces as they tried in vain to cross the quagmire of mud and barbed wire stumbling blocks. And so the deadlock had continued into the late autumn of November 1917.

A Replica Mark IV British Tank of WWI.

A New Plan of Action.

The British had been trying to adapt the tank design for an all-out offensive. They had used such armoured vehicles before in small numbers. They had not been successful. The machines were cumbersome and often broke down. However, there were engineers and designers that persevered with the tank concept. With improved adaptations, some of the inventors realised that the craters, barbed wire walls and various other obstacles of No-man’s-land could be overcome by the giant steel beasts on tracks. A mark IV presentation of the armoured tank was designed. They had been secretly mass produced in a factory in Lincolnshire, England. Most of the workforce were women. These big armoured iron vehicles were comprised of two variants. One was a male tank. These had the revolving cannon on each side of the vehicle. The other type was female. The female tank had forward and back machine guns on either side of the tank. 375 of these tanks were built for a new experimental offensive. An attack that would crash through the barbed wire obstructions and easily traverse the trench systems. Advancing infantry could take cover behind the metal monsters. This was a new innovative idea that had never been tried before. Something that might break the deadlock.
The British high command chose an area along the Hindenburg line. This was a heavily fortified point and had seen little action compared to some parts of the front line. There were tremendous walls of barbed wire fencing and also three lines of German trenches. The particular area of the front line was more heavily fortified than most areas. It may have been a reason why there had been little action in the area compared to the Somme or other places. The ground was hard and this made the area more suitable for the tanks. In secret, the 375 tanks were brought close to front-line positions via train transportation. Everything was done under a cloak of secrecy. The closest major town was Cambrai. This was on the German side of the line. Along an eight-mile stretch of the British line, the British Empire forces assembled their 375 tanks. The assault was scheduled to begin at 06.20 am on the 20th of November. Shortly before the designated time, the first of the mark IV tanks started to roll forward on their screeching tracks, over the uneven earth towards the German positions. It would still be dusk. The morning light was yet to come. The cumbersome looking metal beasts could only move at around four miles an hour, but the uneven landscape was unable to prevent the advance of these newly designed tanks.

Authentic Film of British Mark IV Tanks.

The Metal Monsters Slowly Advance.

At the right moment, the British Empire forces unleashed a horrendous artillery barrage upon the German trenches. The mark IV tanks moved doggedly forward with the bombardment raining down upon the German positions. As the giant steel contraptions smashed through one barbed wire barricade after another, the horrified German soldiers began to panic. Their machine gun fire that had previously scythed through the walls of enemy infantry were of little effect upon the tanks. Some of the German artillery pieces managed to score hits upon the advancing metal monsters, but many of these were taken out in turn by the barrage of enemy artillery fire or the tanks shooting back with forward moving cannon or machine gun fire. Some British tanks were stopped but not enough. The Germans had a tidal wave of iron monsters coming at them. Nothing like this had ever happened before. On this late autumn morning, many of the German soldiers must have thought they were witnessing some sort of apocalyptic event. The steel mechanisms continued to approach ominously. All the while firing cannon and machine guns at their entrenched positions. The tanks ripped through the barbed wire entanglements as though they were nothing but cotton and once upon the trenches, the female tanks with their machine guns would have an evil harvest upon any enemy soldier courageous enough to try and stand.
The German enemy fought hard, but could not immediately frustrate this new type of warfare. At this point of the battle, the British Empire forces were advancing with limited casualties. The offensive had taken the Germans by surprise. However, the speed and ease of the encroachment had also taken the British by surprise. The success had been beyond their expectations. Of the 375 tanks, 179 were put out of action. Most of these were because of breakdowns, but around 60 were destroyed by enemy fire. Some of the metal contrivances advanced too far. They were unable to consolidate the ground they overrun because back up infantry forces were too far behind.

The Area of the Tank Action 20th November 1917.

Deborah the Female Mark IV British Tank.

One British tank crew advanced towards a small village called Flequieres. This small hamlet was French but was on the German side of the lines. The lone British vehicle had briefly lost sight of other advancing British tanks and seemed to be driving rouge. As the crew of the female mark IV tank, named Deborah, went close to the enemy held French village, they experienced a hail of machine gun fire hitting the armoured plating of their tank. The eight men inside had been proceeding under enemy fire and fighting back all day. This situation had persisted for almost five hours. It would have been approaching the afternoon. Their own machine guns returned fire and a brief gun battle ensued. The tank driver, Lance Corporal Marsden, steered the mark IV slowly south of the village. Away from the buildings and back into the torn and smashed landscape of No-man’s-land.
The officer commanding the tank crew was twenty-three-year Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap. He ordered the crew to stop the tank. They were in No-man’s-land and the rugged mounds of soil may have offered some security. For a few moments the tank crew would take a breather, perhaps get their bearings. The young officer decided to step out and stretch his legs. Maybe urinate while the opportunity was there. Who knows? He had stepped outside the iron contraption for mere seconds and walked a few steps away from the tank into the torn and abandoned backdrop. He was suddenly startled by the impact of an enemy shell smashing into the stationary tank – Deborah. The point of impact left a hole in one side of the tank and exploded inside ripping out a bigger hole on the other side of the vehicle. The young officer had missed death by a matter of seconds.
The tank exploded as more shells hit the stationary frame. The tank driver David Marsden had miraculously survived the impact. He had got up from the driving seat and moved to the back of the vehicle to do some required chore. Somehow he got out of the burning wreckage with one other crew member. The other five crewmen were killed in the violent explosions resulting in the destruction of Deborah – the Mark IV tank.
Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap, Lance Corporal Marsden and one other unknown tank crew member had to leave their five dead comrades in the burning tank and make their way back towards their own positions. This they managed to accomplish.

Deborah in the Barn Museum.

Finding Deborah - The Old Mark IV Tank.

There was a later German counter-offensive and much of the ground overrun by the British tanks was recaptured by the German forces. However, some sections of the advance were held. Including the village of Flequieres. The village was actually on the new front line for a time. The wrecked tank Deborah was found by a group of Scottish soldiers. The five corpses of the British armoured crew were taken from the vehicle. The wreckage was pushed into a trench and used as a gun position according to some. A young French girl living in the village observed this from a distance. Her scrutiny would become very useful in later decades when she was an old lady. For she witnessed the tank as it was being buried.
In 1918, the Great War ended after much horror and more killing on both sides. Twenty years later, there was a second war. The long periods of peace in this part of Europe that followed saw the tortured land return to its normal agricultural splendour. The meadows returned to the former ways of farming and French national prosperity settled upon this farming area. The children knew of the land’s dreadful history and sometimes the young boys would find things from the bygone war in the fields. One such youngster was called Philippe Gorczynski. He developed an interest in the history of the area and became an amateur historian. He acquired a hotel and become a hotelier by trade. One member of the village told him about a British tank buried out in the field. She had seen such an event when she was a child. The lady was the very person mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Philippe Gorczynski searched in vain for six years but could not pinpoint the location of the wrecked British tank named Deborah. He was certain it was there and never doubted the old lady who told the story. Eventually, he hired a private light aircraft to fly over the field. Philippe went up with the pilot and he was able to see things from above with an amateur archaeologists’ eye. With his new and improved aerial opinion, he hired a mechanical digger and got permission from a farmer who owned the field he wanted to dig. At his chosen location, the digger came upon something metal after digging for about two meters. He then called in an archaeology team to help dig out the discovery. In a short time, they were convinced of their find. It was a destroyed female mark IV British tank from the First World War. It was the tank known as Deborah. The very armoured vehicle that Second-Lieutenant Frank Gustav Heap and two of his crew had escaped from back in 1917.
The tank was brought up from its muddy preservation. It was then taken into the village of Flequieres and put on display in a barn come museum. There are photos of the crewman and a general description of how the tank came upon its fate. One of the people that came from Britain to pay homage was Frank Gustav’s Grandson Tim. He was able to elaborate on the story of what happened to Deborah. His Grandfather who escaped from the dreadful ordeal with his two surviving crewmen lived to be sixty-four and died in 1956. Lance Corporal Marsden, the tank driver, lived to be almost 82. The event with the tank happened five days before his thirtieth birthday. He died in 1969. The other survivor remains unknown.
The men that are buried from the tank Deborah are in a cemetery at Flequieres. Their names are as follows; Private W.G. Robinson, Gunner William Galway, Lance Corporal G.C. Foot, Gunner Joseph Cheverton and Gunner F.W. Tipping.
© 2017 colin powell

Monday, 1 January 2018

Two Queens of Roman Britain.

Boudicca and Cartimandua

Two Queens of Roman Britain.

There were two queens of Roman Britain. One was infamous and became a worldwide name. She was a glorious failure, but her terrible legacy was spectacular. Her name was Boudicca, queen of the Iceni. She is also known as The Warrior Queen.
Across the world, most people have heard of this late Chieftain’s wife. A woman from a wicker walled hut that was rendered with mud mixed with cow dung. A cone shape thatched roof would sit upon such abodes. Perhaps it was a big hut. Bigger than most humble Britons had. But it was basic by most civilized standards. This woman who led an army of many thousand warriors. Her reign was short and bloody and her testimonial was paid for with multiple thousands of lives. Her shrine came at a disgusting price of mass human slaughter. Yet still, she remains the persistent darling of the British Isles.
The other queen would have a long and successful reign. She remained living after being deposed. This more mysterious woman faded from memory. Her name was Cartimandua. She was Queen of the Brigantes from 43 AD to 69 AD
These queens were in Roman Britain and ruled at the same time. Cartimandua was the queen of her Brigante before, during and after Boudicca's short-lived reign of the Iceni. The two queens would have known of one another. I wonder if they ever crossed paths. Maybe when they were younger at some huge tribal gathering. Perhaps some Celtic festival.
I can't help wondering what these two queens would have said to one another If Boudicca had won and driven the Romans from the British Isles. Would the warrior queen have marched upon the Brigante queen for her lack of support? Would the warrior queen have wanted to bring Cartimandua to justice?

A large section of the 9th Legion was wiped out by Boudicca's forces.

The Warrior Queen

Boudicca remains the most revered of the two women. The famous queen of the Iceni. The ancient British warrior queen who went to war with the Roman Empire. The time was 61 AD and the Emperor of Rome was Nero. The famous leader who fiddled while Rome burnt.
Roman historians loved their enigmatic enemies. They always told tales of such ferocious opponents. Especially if they had the good grace to fight and then die in defeat. The Romans got to write their history unchallenged as the illiterate Britons had no text. The Britons' records were told via their bards and their priests who were Druids.
Boudicca would become a monument of fear to the Roman historians. And this edifice of terror killed in excess of eighty thousand people. The warrior queen went on a killing rampage after she and her two daughters were violated by Roman militiamen. These rapists were the protective escort of a tax collector. The revenge of the Iceni would be swift and cruel. The murder and mayhem that followed would spread extreme terror among the Roman colonists. The occupying authorities almost abandoned the British Isles. Today's towns of Colchester, London and St Albans would all be burnt to the ground. The inhabitants put to the sword. A section of the Roman 9th Legion would be wiped out as they marched to the aid of the wretched colonists of Colchester.
Boudicca’s turbulent reign lasted for a little more than one year. The last few months would have been the rebellion. In the end, her uprising was disastrous for her people and Rome would exact a heavy price for such defiance. Queen Boudicca would be defeated at the Battle of Watling Street. Historians think it was somewhere in the midlands between Leicester and Coventry. No one knows for sure. Her corpse was not found on the battlefield after the Roman victory. The warrior queen left the field and went into hiding. She was never heard of again. Only the memory of her dreadful killing spree remained. It is most likely that she committed suicide in some wooded sanctuary. Perhaps Druids disposed of the corpse so that the Romans could not desecrate her body. They liked to parade their enemies before Rome and its mob of citizens. This had been done to Vercingetorix the Gaul. No such thing could be allowed to happen to the warrior queen.
Boudicca had an everlasting platform of fearful approval because her enemies recorded her rebellion. Today she echoes throughout history. Courtesy of the Roman Empire. And most Britons, are not displeased by such accolades.

The demise of the warrior queen.

Client Queen Cartimandua Allied with Rome.

Cartimandua the less known queen of the Brigantes.

There was another queen living in Ancient Britain at the same time. She has no monument except that of a little-known collaborator. A Roman historian called Tacitus describes the Brigante queen as treacherous. Even though she was loyal to Rome. Cartimandua had been the queen of the Brigante in 43 AD when Emperor Claudius ordered his legions to invade the Isle. Rome held her in high regard. Therefore, Tacitus begrudgingly recognises the queen's rank in his written historical account. Cartimandua was caught up in immoral scandals and rejected her husband. Yet she ruled for more than twenty-five years and is believed to have continued her life after being usurped of power in 69 AD.
Among her many infamous deeds was the betrayal of Caractacus. He was a Catuvellauni Chieftain who tried to resist the advancing Romans. His kingdom was overrun. He retreated but kept fighting. The fugitive chieftain ran from one feudal kingdom to another. The Romans followed and overrun these areas of Ancient Britain too. Eventually, Caractacus went before Cartimandua of the Brigante. He wanted sanctuary and help against the Romans. The Brigante queen had him bound in chains and delivered to his enemy. The British chieftain was paraded through Rome and presented before Roman delegates. Caractacus made a bold and defiant speech which won admiration. He was sent to a comfortable sanctuary and spared execution. Cartimandua had made an important ally in Rome and secured her rule over the Brigante as a client queen.
Cartimandua’s reign seems to have been predominantly successful. Her Brigante kingdom was not overrun by the new invaders. While Cartimandua remained queen, the Romans left the Brigante alone. Roman historians do not revere her. So not much was recorded about her. She was uninteresting because she never rebelled. Although she remains the subject of scandalous gossip. When Boudicca the warrior queen rebelled against Rome, many British tribes started to flock to her cause. The Brigantes never. Cartimandua stayed true. She kept her alliance with Rome.
I’ve seen documentaries where historians have said that Rome never accepted female rulers and it was a reason why they would not recognise Boudicca as queen. Yet Rome accepted Cartimandua over her husband, a Brigante Chieftain they called Venutius (Latin name. Celtic name unknown.) Cleopatra of Egypt was preferred over her young brother. Rome preferred anyone who could aid them.
Cartimandua divorced her undesirable husband and with Roman aid, Venutius was driven north to the Caledonian tribes. The Brigante queen took her husband’s man at arms as her lover. The cuckold and displaced chieftain would wait patiently for many years in exile. He never forgot and never gave up his claim to the Brigante lands. Cartimandua's eventual fall would be sown during the reign of Emperor Claudius. It would take more than two decades to reap the ill harvest of fortune. In that twenty-five years, the Brigante queen would enjoy her power. Until the year of the four emperors.
The Roman Empire in the Year of the Four Emperors
In the year of 68 AD, the Roman Emperor Nero died. He committed suicide amid civil unrest. What followed was a period of time known as the year of the Four Emperors. Across the Roman Empire, powerful men tried to proclaim themselves as Emperors. There followed a succession of power grabs followed by murder. First came Emperor Galba, the man who conspired to displace Nero. He was removed and killed by the Praetorian Guard. New Emperor Otho was proclaimed. This did not last long as another man named Vitellius marched on Rome to proclaim himself Emperor. Emperor Otho lost a battle with Vitellius’ forces. Although Otho retreated from the battle uncaptured, he committed suicide soon after. Vitellius quickly got himself into trouble and began a killing spree. Anyone remotely suspected of challenging him was killed including citizens and money lenders. Vespasian in Judea went to Egypt and was accepted as Emperor in waiting where the huge grain supplies were.
In Rome forces loyal to Vespasian entered the city. They captured and murdered Vitellius as he tried to get back to his palace. He had been desperately trying to broker peace deals and win support beforehand. It was to no avail. Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor by the end of 69 AD
During this turbulent time in the Empire, Britain was under a Roman Governor called Marcus Vettius Bolanus who would be receiving all sorts of strange news. Various Emperors coming and going. Various allegiances. Cartimandua would almost become a victim too. Her banished ex-husband Venutius invaded the Brigante from the north. He had Caledonian and Brigante warriors to aid him. It was also the old cliche of, 'when the cat is away the mice will play.' There was no organised Roman authority because the empire was in political turmoil.
The Roman governor of Britain, Marcus Vettius Bolanus, managed to dispatch some help for Cartimandua. She was rescued and brought south as Venutius and his followers took the Brigante lands. Cartimandua went into exile. Some believe it was in mainland Europe. Here she faded from history.

Cartimandua's Brigante in yellow.

Roman Britain Quiz

Question 1/3
What Emperor ordered the invasion of Roman Britain?

What if the two queens of Roman Britain met?

Perhaps they did meet?

Indulge the thought of these two different queens. Boudicca's army is destroyed by Roman forces and the defeated warrior queen flees northward. She is intent on suicide. The Brigante southern borders would not be far. What if there was a meeting. The two queens of Roman Britain. One a rebel, the other a collaborator. Cartimandua's enemies were to the north, in Caledonia. Boudicca's were the Romans to the south. It would not be in the interests of Cartimandua to join the rebellion. She may have been worried that the warrior queen would be successful.
But what if, just for a moment, the two might have met under a neutral circumstance. What would they have said to one another?

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Splendid German War Movie.

When I saw this movie on Amazon Prime, I could not resist downloading it. I was not disappointed. It was an in-depth movie – a good German production. I liked Das Boat, Downfall and the original 1950s version of The Bridge. I suppose my choice of Rommel was upon the good merit of these previously watched German made war movies I had seen. I suppose I could add Stalingrad, but it was dubbed in English. I’m a Brit but dubbed English really does not work for me. Therefore, I was pleased when I realised this was still in German. I prefer to read subtitles and get a real feel for the nation speaking its native tongue.

The Rommel movie concentrates on the last seven months of Field Marshal’s life. We see him just prior to the Normandy invasion force and during the botched assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life. The movie makes for a splendid historical drama and I would highly recommend watching this superb war film. If you are on Amazon Prime, you can rent it for 30 days at .99p. A bargain by any stretch of the imagination.

The Ominous Origin of an Austrian Folk Song - Ach du Lieber Augustin

Marx Augustin

Augustin's Casual Way of Life.

The above is the title of an old Austrian folk song that is often sung. One might imagine it in a beer Keller or something similar. It is usually played to one of the handheld accordion instruments. These are common among the German-speaking peoples of Europe. Sometimes a rum little tune can capture the imagination of the multitude. It might develop a fascination with viral quality. In the days of no computers, a song was a strong way of spreading across the land. Sometimes songs came about by strange and unexpected events.
Ach, du Lieber Augustin is such a song. The man it refers to was real. He lived in Austria between 1643 and 1685. He was a wandering minstrel who sang ballads. He was also a player of bagpipes. The taverns or alehouses of Vienna were the favourite haunts for the minstrel Marx Augustin. By all accounts, he was a jolly man who enjoyed a beer and was able to entertain with his bagpipe playing and Ballard singing. He may have been quick-witted and humorous. In such establishments frequented by inebriated and happy people, Marx Augustin may have accepted many a free stein of beer.
One might imagine a portly and jovial man who had found his vocation in life. Beer drinking and making people happy. In return, the appreciation was motivational for the happy go lucky minstrel. Perhaps a quick wit and warm camaraderie helped common folk escape the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Such ordeals and sufferings were extreme in 1679 Vienna. The city and nation were being ravaged by an epidemic. Some say it was bubonic plague.

Collecting the Dead During the Plague.

Oh, Dear Augustin.

At the time, the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity was trying to treat the many victims of the plague. They had opened a number of hospitals in Vienna. There were helpers leading carts around the city and gathering people that were ill. Some went to the makeshift hospitals. Others that died were taken to the outskirts of the city. There were open pits where the deceased were unceremoniously tipped. After so many days, when the hole became full of dead, it was filled in. Many thousands of people perished from 1679 to the early 1680s. During this time, the workers for the Brotherhood of the Trinity were a common sight around the city.
One night Augustin had been playing his bagpipes and singing his ballads in one of the many taverns. He had had an extreme amount to drink. Even by his standards. As the inebriated minstrel staggered home, he collapsed in a drunken stupor. He lay unconscious in the gutter. Around the block came the horse and cart. The workers for the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity were on their rounds. They were gathering the dead. This had become normal. Each day people perished from the epidemic. They stopped by the prostrate figure of Augustine. With ill-deserved confidence, he was pronounced dead. His limp form was cast onto the cart with his bagpipes. Off went the gatherers following the trundling cart through the streets. Once full, the cart went to the outskirts of the city, where the large pits were dug.
When Marx Augustine woke, he must have been rather perplexed and then horrified. He was lying beneath the multitude of plague-ridden dead people. How long before the pit was filled in? He tried to get himself out but could not move the weight of the dead bodies. So folk legend says he began to play his bagpipes beneath the corpses. When the gathers heard the tune, they pulled the diseased bodies aside and were able to rescue Marx Augustine from the giant grave.

Ach du Lieber Augustin

Who Knows the Origin of the Melody for Sure?

The story spread and so the song came about. Ach, du Lieber Augustin. No one is sure if Marx Augustin wrote it himself or whether another minstrel did. This is because written documents of the song can only be proved back to 1800. Over one hundred years after the event.
There was a fiery German preacher named Abraham a Sancta Clara who told the story of Marx Augustin in the time of 1679 onwards. His religious platform attracted many people from far and wide. He also moved to Vienna. Perhaps having something to do with the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity? Who can say for sure?
The song may have come about from an inspired listener of the monk. Perhaps encouraged by the elaborate tale. The holy man was as popular as the minstrel. It would have certainly been a yarn of great wonder. Abraham a Santa Clara was the religious name taken by Johann Ulrich Megerle before becoming a monk of his sacred order. He lived from 1644 to 1709.
No one knows for sure if Marx Augustine ever sang or wrote the Ballard about himself. As a wandering minstrel, it is feasible. He was a humorous man and he enjoyed the company of other comical people. One can imagine him singing such a song to amuse his audience. However, the truth is, that no one knows for sure because the written work of the song can only be traced back to 1800. One would need a copy of such a script from before 1685. We only know of a preacher who told the story at religious gatherings.
Ach, du Lieber Augustin translated into English reads; Oh, you dear Augustin. The Ballard keeps returning to how all is lost for Augustin. As the verses go on, each mentions something that is gone for poor Augustin. His girlfriend, his money, his coat and staff. One verse speaks of feasting being replaced by the plague. The tune sounds rather jovial and humorous. Yet the jolly words have a more ominous meaning. I think the melody sounds like something to present to a packed tavern of people. Happy soul’s intent upon life’s trials being twisted and presented in a more light-hearted fashion. In my mind’s eye, I can see the harmony touching intoxicated revellers with big cherub faces and glowing red noses. How the rudely drawn folk would relish the light-hearted escape of Ach, du Lieber Augustin.
Yet, I imagine today, it is sung in infant schools. It is, after all, a very jolly tune.

Oh, du Lieber Augustin-Remix (The Modern Day Bad Boy Version)

© 2017 colin powell

Friday, 22 December 2017

A British Actor's Narrow Escape During World War I - A Red Baron Story.

Actor Ronald Adam

A Little Known Event of a Person's Past Life.

Some people survive incredible encounters and stay modestly quiet about such things. I don’t mean that the event is kept secret, but sometimes old war veterans keep silent about moments of interest. If asked they may speak of such things. Yet if one does not know; interesting questions are not asked in the first place. The following person is a man I would love to have had a coffee or tea with. This is because he achieved many things. Yet one of his remarkable achievements was a fluke as opposed to design. The rest of his life seemed to be well planned and coordinated. He seemed to be good at controlling events. I wonder if the fluke event was dismissed by actor Ronald Adam or kept in an alcove of his memory. Perhaps it played a minor part in shaping his life.
During the late 1920s and through the 1930s Ronald George Hinings Adams was making a name for himself in the world of theatre. He managed several theatres and began to act in many of the stage productions. After the First World War, he trained as an accountant but found the lure of the stage far more compelling. His organisational skills in the theatre industry must have been considerable because he was employed by numerous playhouses at the same time. Like many people in the industry of acting and production, he changed his name. He chose to be called Ronald Adam. He dropped his two middle names and the S on the end of Adams.
In 1938 he made his screen debut. The acting and production of plays and film entertainment was the passion of life for Ronald Adam. He seems to have been a very enthusiastic man who devoted himself to his profession. A way of life he also enjoyed. When the Second World War began he was back in uniform. He had done so in the First Great War. He had been a pilot in Sopwith Camels during this time. Therefore he was back in the Air force. He was the Flight Controller at Hornchurch Airfield in Essex during the Battle of Britain.
My Grandparents’ house was the last house before one entered the old airfield of Hornchurch. It closed in about 1964. During the Battle of Britain, it was a hive of activity as the squadron scrambled for the conflict of 1940.
After the Second World War ended, Ronald Adam resumed his career in the world of entertainment. He would be in numerous plays and a multitude of films and TV productions. He had diverse skills in this industry. Most of his acting in movies was supporting minor parts and I assume he was more into production and direction. Yet his portfolio of movies and TV acting is extraordinary alongside the 'behind scene' things that are integral for a good television or movie production.
I remember seeing him in various screen adaptations. In a movie titled Zeppelin, Ronald Adam played the Prime Minister. It starred Michael York, Elke Sommer, Anton Diffring and Andrew Keir. This movie was made in 1971. I have often seen this war film and I’m sure it may have had some special significance to Ronald Adam.

Actor Ronald Adam as Air ViceMarshal LeighMallory on the left with Kenneth More as Douglas Bader in the Middle.

Hidden Past of WWI.

I’m now going to take the reader on a time trip back to Ronald Adam’s younger life during the First World War and some similar things to what the actor may have had much knowledge on from the movie of Zeppelin. In one episode of the story, our German Zeppelin crew are attacked by home defence biplane fighters. It is a very dramatic moment for the crew who need to gain height to escape the attack of the British Royal Flying Corps’ planes. In real life, Ronald Adams was trained in the RFC home defence group. He actually attacked Zeppelin raiders that came over during the night. I wonder if the story brought back memories of these fearsome times. Much of what was reconstructed in the movie had been witnessed by Ronald Adam for real.
Ronald Adam passed away in 1979. He had lived a long and disguised life. In his obituary, there was another surprise in store for many who would read the article in the papers. It certainly surprised me. Not only did Ronald Adam live a colourful life of theatre and movie production for many decades, he also had another remarkable tale to tell from his younger days of World War One.

Sopwith Camel - the plane Ronald Adam Flew in During WWI

A Number On An Iconic Celebrity's List.

In 1918, he was transferred from the Home Defence. The interception of Zeppelins was to be replaced. Now he would fight over the battlefields of France and Belgium against the German fighter squadrons. The Navel section of the Airforce and the Royal Flying Corps were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force.
The RAF was born on April 1st, 1918. Young Ronald Adam had been one of the new RAF pilots for seven days. He got into a dogfight over the northern part of France. During this encounter, his Sopwith Camel was hit and he was badly wounded. He managed to control and crash land the burning plane behind enemy lines. He was severely injured and pulled out of the wrecked craft by German military personnel.
As the young Ronald Adam was coming around during the evening, in a field hospital, he was visited by a young German aide-de-camp. The visiting officer's presence was for the German pilot credited with shooting Ronald down. The pilot could not be there in person but had politely sent the aide on his behalf. This was to offer respectable condolences for being shot down and congratulations for surviving the crash. The German pilot’s name was Manfred von Richthofen – the infamous Red Baron. In actual fact, another pilot also claimed to have shot Ronald Adam down but Richthofen was credited with the kill. Ronald Adam was the ace's 78th kill.
Ronald Adam had been shot down by the famous Red Baron of Germany and had lived to tell the remarkable tale. Perhaps he did not feel very special at the time. He saw out the last few months of the War in captivity and was realised in December 1918. The Red Barron would die two weeks after shooting Ronald down on 21st April 1918. He would crash land his plane like Ronald Adam. However, Manfred von Richthofen would die seconds later from his wound to become iconic as a famous fighting ace.
The modest Ronald Adam would go on to become a celebrity of the stage and cinema. Hardly anyone would know of his exploits during both world wars until after his death at the age of 82. He seemed to have been a modest man in some ways, but also a man who liked the limelight of stage and cinema.

Ronald Adam Talks about his Days as The Flight Controller During WWII Battle of Britain.

In this radio narrative, Ronald Adam speaks of his days during the Battle of Britain. I wonder if he spoke of his experience with the Red Barron on occasion. Perhaps he did among selected friends. I wonder what went through his mind when he received the news from the German messenger. Did he know he was shot down by the Red Baron's distinct looking red aircraft? Or did he find out in the hospital?

The opening credits for Ronald Adam in his first movie as Major Gregoff in The Drum (1938)
© 2017 colin powell

Techno-Warriors and Enemies of Economic Truth!

The Hidden Truth: A Science Fiction Techno-ThrillerThe Hidden Truth: A Science Fiction Techno-Thriller by Hans G. Schantz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A young budding scientist student and his IT know-how friend enthusiastically decided to compare a multitude of public domain books against original copies of titles written pre 1923. The world they live in is very similar to the USA we know, except it seems President Gore won the election and not President Bush. At least this is the way I interpreted the backdrop of the story. I’m assuming some of the other political characters, mentioned at the start, are people that may have held such office if the Gore candidacy won the election. The dreadful historical events of 9/11/ have all happened but the response is from the alternative politicians. Being a Brit, it took a moment or two for this to register. But it did – eventually. This intrigued me. Plus the story is written in first person singular from the young scientist’s perspective.

With help from an IT proficient friend and an encouraging/positive father, our student science graduate takes the reader into a conspiracy world of economic truths. The story has an up close and personal feel. Especially with omitted scientific discovery. Much of the science was above my head, but the crux of withheld information certainly was not. The new online versions of many scientific books have been altered. The young explorers begin to go through books in a proficient yet independently founded town library. They discover hidden things when compared to the newly written digital versions. They open a Pandora’s book. That is when the story begins to get more interesting. The two techno warriors have already assumed they are going to be tracked before they embark upon their adventure. They have done some prep work to evade. However, government anonymity is a double-edged sword as the techno-thriller starts to role.

Splendidly written, especially from the first person singular angle. I felt as though I was there all the way. If you are a conspiracy theory fan, then I would recommend this story. Also if you like government rouge style thrillers.

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British Witchcraft Thwarts Nazi Invasion of 1940

Gerald Gardner.

The Strange Bird Comes Home to Roost.

Imagine Britain in 1940. France has fallen and what remains of the British army as managed to escape across the channel from Dunkirk. The nation is nervously poised. Winston Churchill is trying to bolster the nation for the expected invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. In the air, the RAF is in a desperate conflict to thwart the ambitions of a ruthless enemy. The Royal Navy is fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic against the submarine Wolf Packs. On the ground, the Army is trying desperately to re-arm itself. In the New Forest on the South Coast of England, a patriotic and loyal group of Witches are preparing a devastating spell to thwart the Nazis too.
The world is a strange place. There are so many different beliefs and religions. Some of us call them cults. What is the difference between an ideology, a cult, or a religion? Who gets to decide such things?
During the mid-1930s, England was full of many eccentric people. I don’t suppose much has changed on this basis. It was a time when many Brits were asking searching questions of themselves. In the New Forrest area of Hampshire, England, an eccentric middle-aged man named Gerald Gardner began to attend a local gathering of occult-inspired people. This man was regarded by many in society as an oddball character. He looked strange with his wild and thick white hair. It stood up like a whipped ice-cream on a cone. His goat white beard and moustache were also very striking.
He was born in 1884. A time of Empire. As a young man, he had travelled and worked in Ceylon and Malaysia. During his pastime, he often attended tribal gatherings of the local population. He enjoyed watching extraordinary things. Tribal ritual and customs were his passion. He found inspiration from the many meanings behind all pageantries. He kept notes of the many peculiar things he witnessed.

A clip of Gerald Gardner on TV

How Do They View the World.

When I say peculiar things, I mean from the average perspective of a western educated person’s perception. Gerald Gardner was a searcher. A seeker of strange religious beliefs. Especially old and obscure faiths. He was a person of a romantic disposition. He was a man on a quest.
Please try to imagine the world order from the viewpoint of a person wanting to resurrect an old pagan belief. Visionaries, fantasists or, perhaps dreamers, who were trying to find answers from a different stance. Mister Gerald Gardner had found such a group in Hampshire, England. Perhaps the answer to his quest?
He was 52 when he bought his house and began strange practices within the confines of his grounds. He gained a reputation for running an enclosed nudist colony. He had a large back garden that was well fenced off and isolated. However, the town’s folk of conservative-minded England knew of these activities. Visiting tradesmen gossiped about such things. The local authorities had taken an interest. Public nudity was illegal.

Dorothy Clutterbuck

From One Group to Another.

Mister Gerald Gardner had retired to this way of life in 1936. His interest in the occult caused him to try all manner of things. Armed and enriched by the tribal ceremonies he had witnessed in remote areas of the planet. He continued his studies and devoted much of his time to writing about the occult.
He seems to have been tolerated by the local authorities with his nudist community because it was practised in the confines of his home and out of sight from the British public. Therefore, only the odd postal worker or milkman might accidentally see such mildly humorous things. Perhaps the amusing distractions were later related in a public house to the local folk. Word spread and the strange and eccentric figure of Mister Gerald Gardner was privately mocked with glee as he went about town.
Witchcraft was ruthlessly put down throughout Europe in the past. People had been tortured and persecuted for being suspected of such things. By 1936 some of the old witchcraft laws still remained. Though extreme measures of policing such things had long gone. The old laws remained because many had not bothered to change them. Old nations have such ancient laws that linger in obscurity because no one needs to use them anymore. Pre-Christianity periods had many myths and legends of all kinds of natural spirits. As Mister Gerald Gardner began to develop his interest from home, he had come across many likeminded people. His past travels had taken him to so many interesting places and he often gave seminars on ancient weaponry. He was a keen amateur anthropologist and archaeologist.
His strange endeavours had attracted the interest of a witches cavern close by. This came about via a knock on effect. He had joined another strange group and within this party were an inner circle that would present a more gratifying fruit. He had first joined the Rosicrucian Theatre group who believed in many strange and fanciful things. Most of the fanciful doctrines amused Gerald Gardner. He was very sceptical of the speakers at this strange theatre group. The Rosicrucian sect believed their founder to be the reincarnation of several people from history. Such people, the founder was believed to have been, were; Pythagoras, Cornelius Agrippa and Francis Bacon.
Gerald Gardner was a romantic searcher, but not a gullible man. However, he did notice another and more interesting occurrence among the strange theatre group. Within the ranks were some less engaged members. Ones not so loud but more followers than leaders. Gerald Gardner developed an affection for them. Or perhaps they were more likely to listen to his ideas and beliefs. One member of this happy little marginal group was named Edith Woodford-Grimes. She would introduce Gerald Gardner to another mysterious lady named Dorothy Clutterbuck.

The Attraction Wicca Grows.

The Every Day Lady.

To all about her, Dorothy Clutterbuck was a practising Christian. She attended church and looked the part of an English country lady of good morality. She was from a well to do family and lived in a large house. Her father had served in India, where the wealthy Dorothy was born in 1880. Gerald Gardner went through an initiation ceremony before the lady and her gathering. He was made to strip naked as the initiation proceeded. He heard the word ‘Wicca’ and knew he was in the presence of a witch’s coven.
On this occasion, Gerald Gardner was taken in by the gathering. He had knowledge of the dark art and firmly believed that those about him were a small group of descendants. Surviving relations from the persecuted witches of old. Kin of those that had escaped the Witch Finder Generals and all manner of Christian oppression from the past. The people before him were the off-spring who had secretly continued the knowledge of Wicca or Witch Craft. In reality, the group was most probably founded when Dorothy returned to England with her father from India.
And so, Gerald Gardner became a Witch under the head of the New Forrest Witch’s Coven led by the high Witch, Dorothy Clutterbuck. It was good timing for in September of 1939 Britain had just started the war with Nazi Germany. The nation was in crisis and the New Forrest Witches Coven would be needed to help the War effort in any way conceivable. Gerald Gardner, Dorothy Clutterbuck and the fringe elements of the Rosicrucian Theatre group would not be found wanting. Their secret craven would cast a spell against the Nazi War Machine.
Gerald Gardner had already given his services to a section of the Home Guard. He loaned some of the ‘Dad’s Army’ soldiers some of the old style weaponry from his archaeological collection and he showed them how to make petrol bombs. However, the more secret devotion to the cause would exclude the Home Guard. Only the witch’s craven could help in the more secretive weaponry reserved for the enemy across the channel.
As Spitfires and Hurricanes spat their bile at the enemy air force in the skies above the gallant British Isle, and while Bletchley Park had its devoted code breakers deciphering the German Enigma codes, Operation Cone of Power also put forth a war effort of devoted intent. In the darkness of night in 1940 and deep in the New Forrest, our patriotic witches marked out a magical circle. Then the attendants of the ritual began to dance about singing and chanting magical spells towards Berlin and the Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
Towards the end of the evoked spell, the Wiccan dancers began to chant, “You cannot cross the sea, you cannot cross the sea, you cannot come, you cannot come.”
This spell was meant to enter the mind of Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler. The seed of hesitation would force him to postpone his plan of invasion. Such spells, according to Gerald Gardner were evoked on two previous occasions. In 1805 against Napoleon Bonaparte and in 1588 against the Spanish Armada. Like the last two planned invasions, the 1940 spell was a dazzling success. If you believe in Gerald Gardner’s Wiccan ideology.
From this patriotic effort, Gerald Gardner would bring the Wiccan belief forward into the mainstream public’s view. He would move to London when certain old witch laws were annulled. He was even interviewed by the well-known Panorama TV programme in 1958. His writings and doctrines would spread across the globe. He would die in 1964 just shy of his 80th birthday.

Wicca Story.

© 2017 colin powell