The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

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.

View all my reviews

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

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Great Michael Made Scotland a Super Power.

Scotland's Super League Battleship - The Great Michael
For a short time in history, Scotland was a superpower with a state of the art battleship. It did not last long. The nation was allied with a powerful country that won the war against the Papal States and allies. Scotland was victorious, but she lost everything. The historic alliance was to be a tale of monumental bad luck. The nation had been on the winning side of its war but lost the one battle it fought. If ever there was an agony to victory, Scotland paid such a price during the War of the League of Cambrai. The part of the conflict that lasted from 1513 to 1516.
Why Are Some Great Ships Hidden in History?
The Great Michael. A wonderful battleship. The most formidable for its day. Why is it that hardly anyone knows of this galleon? This splendid wooden giant of the sea is obscure. It was state of the art technology back in 1507 when plans were first laid and construction began. This was ordered by Scotland’s successful King James IV. Through honour of a treaty with France, Scotland would go to war. This campaign would see all of the upcoming nation's achievements taken. So many rapid gains lost in a devastating miscalculation. The wonderful ship would be among such losses.
This period of time is often overlooked by many casual history buffs. However, stumbling upon such snippets of information is what makes the offhand reading of such shadowy history a delight. Especially where this great ship is concerned. The construction of the Great Michael was an achievement of envious recognition. Especially from England. In this nation, the twenty-year-old King Henry VIII had come to power a couple of years prior. The young English king wanted a ship of equal worth or better. For he knew the Great Michael was a super league ship of the time. The ship was revolutionary and caused an arms race. All European Monarchs were jealous of the ship. It was no superpower that had built such a vessel. It was Scotland.
All of a sudden, the Great King of Scotland, James IV was a rising star who had been a steadfast and strong leader of his nation. Finally, after previous decades and constant effectiveness of rule, James IV's nation was beginning to show promise. The National influence was the notable development. The improvement and successful economic growth were pursued with shipbuilding to compliment the King's prospering Scotland.
The Scottish king had set a precedent in naval supremacy. The up and coming Stewarts of Scotland had invested wisely in their future. Under King James IV’s rule, the Scots had climbed to the pinnacle. For a brief moment in history, they touched the stars. Scotland would become a naval powerhouse. Their jewel in the crown would be the Great Michael. A ship to behold when launched in 1511. This magnificent galleon had twice the displacement of England’s The Mary Rose. The young and grand English King Henry VIII’s pride and joy. Suddenly, the ship was not good enough. Henry VIII wanted a ship to equal The Great Michael.
For the young English monarch, this was a circumstance that would not do. He brought in all of his shipbuilders and put them to the task of building a battleship to match. This would take three years from the date when the Great Michael was launched. Much would happen between the times of building the Henry Grace à Dieu nicknamed the Great Harry.

The Great Harry of England.

In this time England and Scotland were firm and old enemies. England’s inferior ship The Mary Rose was launched at the same time of 1511. In many ways, it might have been an arms race. The Great Harry was still a few years away from construction.
It is sad and strange how The Great Michael faded into obscurity in such a short space of time. She would be about longer than England's The Mary Rose. The English ship had over thirty-three years of service. The Mary Rose would fight in conflicts with France and Scotland. She may have faded into obscurity too, like The Great Michael.
However, a catastrophic accident made The Mary Rose iconic. The galleon capsized during the Battle of the Solent in 1545. Those last few dreadful moments of the ship’s life would immortalise her. By this point in time, the English king was old. King Henry VIII was watching from the shore when this event happened. It was a moment of dreadful disaster coupled with sensationalism. The King was watching with his entourage. The whole shocking event before their eyes. The disaster that would win huge merit in historical memory. Especially when it was salvaged from the seabed hundreds of years later and put into a museum. So much would be known of the Mary Rose and her life as a galleon in the Royal English Navy. This ship's life and service were magnified to history because of the disaster that befell her.
Perhaps such dreadful things are right to be remembered. However, I can’t help feeling that this great Scottish galleon The Great Michael does not get the recognition she rightly deserves. I think it is simply that her service and fate were not sensational enough. Only a few historians and ship enthusiasts know of her. Yet within the French Navy as The Great Nave of Scotland, this galleon must have seen service.
The Great Michael was sent by King James IV to ally with the French Navy in 1513. The War of the League of Cambrai was in full swing. France was at war with the Papal States and other European powers began to join sides to honour alliances and treaties. Scotland joined with France, Venice and the Duchy of Ferrara.
England joined with the Papal States, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Duchy of Milan and the Swiss Mercenaries. Young King Henry VIII of England went to France and fought with the Holy Roman Empire. Scotland, in support of France, led an ill-fated invasion of England. With the English King absent, the country was under the regency control of Queen Catherine of Aragon.
The Great Michael had been hired by French King Louis XII along with two other Scottish galleons. The Margaret and the James. The battleships were very expensive to run and the loan to an old ally was a sure way of the bankrolling ships from another nation’s purse. The huge ship would never return to Scotland because King James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden in England. Also, the cream of Scotland’s nobility fell at the furious confrontation. Though Scotland was on the winning side of the war, she was left bankrupt with many of her nobles and king dead.
Scotland’s financial situation had become desperate overnight. The late James IV left his kingdom in the hands of his baby son and wife, Queen Mary Tudor (Elder sister of English King Henry VIII.) She had to be regent with help of the remaining Scottish nobility while the infant king grew up. The Great Michael was sold to the French Navy in the following year of 1514 for a pittance of what the galleon was worth.
The Great Michael was renamed The Great Nave of Scotland and some say she was left in ports and hardly ever put to sea. I doubt this is true and would assume the ship would see service over the decades that would pass. There were rumours that TheGreat Nave of Scotland took part in the Battle of the Solent. This was thirty-one years after being sold to France. This is feasible, but there is no concrete proof that the ship was with the French fleet. She would still have been a formidable vessel thirty years later. I can’t see why such a galleon would not have been used in the French fleet. No one knows what became of her in later years. There are no records to date about The Great Michael's or The Great Nave of Scotland's fate. Scotland’s great galleon of the seas faded from history.

Royal Scots Navy

How could such a thing be?

The War of the League of Cambrai was a bittersweet victory for Scotland.The disastrous battle of Flodden took everything from them. They were on the winning side but lost everything. The King and much of the nation's gentry were gone. A victory that left a winning nation bankrupt.

Scotland's Huge Battleship.

The Galleon that Faded from History

The Great Michael. A ship worthy of any superpower's navy. This colossal battleship of the day belonged to King James IV of Scotland. His navy could boast the finest ship in the world during the year was 1511.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Knights Are No More - Formula One 1958

Mike Hawthorn.

The 1958 Formula One Season.

During the 1958 Formula one Championship there were three men who indulged in a tremendous rivalry for the competition’s winning prize money. All three raced for the car designer kingpin named Enzo Ferrari. As most people will know, the Ferrari reputation is legendary around the world for super performance cars. The name is a brand beyond comparison. By the 1950s, Enzo Ferrari had become an entrepreneur. He had founded the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team. His cars would scream and echo their remarkable quality throughout the oncoming decades.
Enzo Ferrari always needed young men who lived on the edge of life. Glory Hunters and Dream Chasers. These were the calibre of young men who dared to race in the 1950’s decade. There was a wealth of such men to choose from. Risk-takers with a dash of recklessness. Brave show-offs who would race Ferrari’s constantly evolving racing cars. Many young men in the motor racing world would come and go. Some would perish in the fireball of flames and the burnt out wreckage of his super-fast cars.
To the spectator looking in at this world, it has a vivacity of manly glory. But then so does the era of gladiator fighting in ancient Rome. But how many of us would want to participate in such a thing? So too, does heavyweight boxing. I would never get into the ring with anyone. I could never drive such beasts of cars. Yet many of us enjoy watching those that would take a chance on such things.
The adulation of the masses must be intoxicating when the sportsperson wins. While in the background, are the impresarios. The silent kingmakers. Men that will no longer die in the fireball of reckless glory hunting. But men who will profit bit by bit from the enhancing reputation of their evolving dream machines. The little gods will come and go. There will always be a pool to choose from. Enzo Ferrari knew this. He encouraged the dash and rivalry among his racers. It was good for his brand.

Luigi Musso

Three Rivals Want Glory.

In the 1958 Formula one championship, Ferrari had recruited three glory hunting young men who coveted the grand prize of the championship. Two were Britons. Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. The other was Luigi Musso – an Italian man from Rome.
In the 1950s, Formula one had many fatalities. The dead were mounting statistics. The sport was tremendously dangerous. Every year there were multiple fatalities. Big names perished. But some young men will always push themselves to the limit. Just to get a sniff of glory. Some attained the grandeur only to perish at a later date trying to re-fulfil the dream. These were the sort of men that Enzo Ferrari liked to recruit. Some argue that Ferrari’s dream machines were his cars first and foremost. Perhaps the young men that took up the challenge of Formula one motor racing were mere pawns? This risky sport was not for the faint-hearted. The entrepreneur has to have a ruthless streak to be successful. The driver must too. But the driver is below the pecking order against the business mogul.
Young men love the thrill and it is said, that when one reaches a certain limit, a driver enters the zone. A zone where everything becomes sublime for a few moments. A tussle with something ultimately daring. Every racer wants to achieve this. If one is at the head of the pack where the chancers or the glory hunters are; then one is in a zone of fleeting perfection. Cross the finish line in such a state of excellence. Stand upon the podium of performance. Then, for a glorious moment in eternity, that chancer is held in awe. Supreme and glorious veneration.
However, this is just one race win. One must collect the performance points over a serious of races throughout the racing season for the ultimate accolade. A good driver needs to keep this daring venture up for many races to become the Formula One Champion. With such an achievement comes money, glory and adulation beyond belief. The lure of the challenge is like an intoxicating drug for some racers. Many of the reckless men were burnt out living in the fast lane. Yet still, they continued.
Mike Hawthorn had been racing in the Formula One Championship since the early 1950s. He had won many podium places and had finished fourth in other Formula One competitions. He did win the 1955 Le Mans race, though it was amid much controversy when a racer named Pierre Levegh collided with a racing car that had swerved to avoid Mike Hawthorn’s Jaguar. The resulting crash also killed 84 spectators in one of the most horrific crashes of all time. The victory for Mike Hawthorn was bittersweet. He wanted the Formula One Championship and in 1958, he returned to the Ferrari team. He had raced for them before.
Peter Collins was also in the Ferrari team for this championship competition. He was a good friend of Mike Hawthorn and they had an agreement. If either of them won the Formula one competition, they would share the prize money. Peter Collins was a rising star and many expected him to be the first British Formula One champion. He had been in a team with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. He had given his car over to the Argentine during the 1956 season. This sacrifice dropped him to third place behind Stirling Moss. However, Fangio (Collins teammate) went on to win the competition because of Peter Collins grand gesture. He married an American actress and moved to a yacht in Monaco. Thus he was able to escape doing national service.
Luigi Musso was a seasoned racer of 33 years. He was the oldest of the three Ferrari racers in this 1958 season. He had gained some important podium places and was also looking good to take an overall Formula one championship. He had been racing for the Maserati team before joining the Ferrari team. Musso owed a great deal of money to creditors. He needed wins and to collect the prize money to pay off such loan men. He had confined such to Peter Collins. In turn, Collins relayed the news to Mike Hawthorn. Perhaps Collins was to attempting to allow Musso in on a third-way share of the prize money. Whatever the reason, Hawthorn refused to help Musso.
Hawthorn needed prize money for a love child. A young lady had borne him a son. He had met the woman in 1953 after winning the French Grand Prix. Maybe, he thought Musso was reckless to get into such financial debt in the first place. It is not known for sure.

Peter Collins British Grand Prix 1958

Outside the Ferrari Bubble Are Other Glory Hunters.

As the 1958 season progressed, the three Ferrari racers battled between one another. Also, the Vanwall team of Tony Brooks and Sterling Moss were picking up wins. It is hard to work out how the points system works for the 1958 season. This is because Stirling Moss won most first places in the races. Tony Brooks had more wins than Mike Hawthorn too. In fact, Mike Hawthorn only won one race at Reims, the French Grand Prix. If one looks at the wins during the 1958 season, Stirling Moss wins four races, Tony Brooks wins three races and Mike Hawthorn wins one. Yet Mike Hawthorn amassed 42 points against Stirling Moss’ 41 points and Tony Brooks’ 24 points.
At Reims, Luigi Musso tried recklessly to gain on Mike Hawthorn. The rivalry had developed over the competition. On the 10th lap of the 50 lap race, he tried to chase and catch his leading teammate. He took a particular curve at an angle that was too wide. His racing car struck a ditch. His car somersaulted and smashed to pieces. The injured Luigi Musso was pulled from the burning wreckage and airlifted to a hospital. He died of his injuries shortly after.
It was another race where the price of victory was bittersweet for Mike Hawthorn. The French Grand Prix was the largest monetary prize of all the races. Hawthorn would give his part to the lady who had borne him a son. As he and Peter Collins left the hospital in Reims, Mike Hawthorn was deeply affected by his team mate’s death. There was a beer can in the road and he kicked it nonchalantly as he left the hospital. Peter Collins kicked it back. This was seen by the late Luigi Musso’s girlfriend. Her name was Fiamma Breschi and she understandably saw this as a mark of contempt. It was not intended, but this was not a good thing to do in front of a dead friend’s lover. Perhaps they did not think they were being watched. Whatever the reason, the two British racing drivers were forever held in contempt by Fiamma Breschi.
The next race was the British Grand Prix. Here, Peter Collins would win and Mike Hawthorn would come second. Peter Collins victory would be his penultimate race. For he would perish under the same type of circumstances as Musso, at the next Grand Prix in Germany. He was 26 years of age. His teammate Mike Hawthorn retired from the race. He would finish second in the next three races. The steady gathering of points from these overall second positions were enough to clip the championship by one point.
Despite the championship win, Mike Hawthorn had had enough of the Formula One motor racing world. He had seen a lot of good friends die. Death was always a companion for these racing drivers of the age. It would continue to be for the coming decades. Le Mans had been a diabolical triumph for Mike Hawthorn. So had the 1958 Formula one championship. Collins and Musso had perished.
Hawthorn collected his prize and announced his retirement. He had lived through the testing times. Finally, with the coveted achievement, he could leave the sport. It was October 1958. He had endured and survived. Many had not. Enzo Ferrari would find other daring young men.
Tragically, Mike Hawthorn would live for three months after his retirement. He was killed in a car crash driving on a public road. The date was 22nd January 1959. He was believed to have been racing his Jaguar car against a Mercedes that was being driven by Rob Walker. Perhaps a little foolhardy camaraderie with the 'Johnny Walker Whisky' related man. It was a little ironic, to say the least. Luigi Musso’s girlfriend Fiamma Breschi might have thought poetic justice had been served. Who knows for sure?
The great entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari would move on. There would be other names to come. He would live to be 90 years of age. His brand name cars still go on to this day. The sport is less dangerous in this day and age.
But as Jan Struther, a lady famous for her children’s hymn, once wrote; ‘And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.’

Mike Hawthorn

Mike Hawthorn Shortly Before His Tragic Demise.

One of Mike Hawthorn's Last Speeches.

Just prior to his tragic death, Mike Hawthorn made a small speech. There was a little humour, as one might expect. It gave thanks to all his fans and supporters during his racing career.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (My Goodreads Review)

The Midwich Cuckoos

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favourite of all the John Wyndham novels that I have read. When compared to the excellent other titles he wrote like, The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids; this is a BIG plus from my point of view. The strange thing about my experience of John Wyndham novels is that I read The Day of the Triffids first, and it blew my mind. I thought it was marvellous. Then I read The Chrysalids and thought that was even better. Surely he could not surpass two such grand reads? Happily, I was wrong! The Midwich Cuckoos was an absolute triumph of science fiction for me. It has a wonderful 1950s retro British feel about it, but in essence, it could be set in any small village anywhere in the world and in anytime today.

If you enjoy good science fiction and excellent writing, then John Wyndham is a must. Every title he wrote had me gripped from start to finish.

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