Saturday, August 16, 2014

World War One: Soldiers' near riot at Colwyn Bay theatre

BBC News - World War One: Soldiers' near riot at Colwyn Bay theatre

World War One: Soldiers' near riot at Colwyn Bay theatre

Harry Reynolds's minstrel show in Colwyn BayA more peaceful show for Harry Reynolds's minstrels in Colwyn Bay

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A north Wales theatre had to be put under armed military guard after soldiers threatened to riot in a seaside town, according to uncovered archives.
Military police had to stand guard outside a pavilion theatre in Colwyn Bay in 1915, after soldiers on leave threatened to smash it up.
They were angry that performers had not signed up to fight in the Great War.
The story was discovered during research into Theatr Colwyn's history.
Trouble began during the Whitsun weekend when impresario Harry Reynolds had his troupe of minstrels The Serenaders performing in a wooden pavilion on the promenade in Colwyn Bay.
Soldiers were on leave watching the show but started shouting at the performers "Why don't you join the Army?," "Come and serve your country" and "Try khaki on".
Reynolds stepped forward and tried to explain that his performers were not eligible for military service but the soldiers became so rowdy he had to close the show and refund the rest of the audience.
The soldiers then ran along the prom to Catlin's Pierrot's Pavilion and shouted at the performers there, this time throwing lumps of soil.
'Having fun'

Manager W.A. Pryce-Davies told the soldiers that his performers were also ineligible or had been turned down for service.
A rendition of God Save the King failed to calm things down and armed military police escorted Pryce-Davies to a police station for his own safety.
Reynolds was also manager of The Public Hall, now renamed Theatr Colwyn, and military police protected the building for two days after further threats were made.
A theatre spokeswoman said the story's discovery came as a complete surprise.
"It must have been extremely hard for soldiers to come from the front line to Colwyn Bay and see men, the same age as them, on stage in costumes, singing and dancing and having fun," she said.
Research has found that many of Reynolds' performers did in fact join up, while the theatre offered reduced ticket prices to the forces as well as showing newsreel footage from the front.
Theatre historian Roy Schofield has also found there were patriotic concerts and fund-raising events.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Leadership: Battling Bad Behavior

Colour portrait of William Bligh, British nava...
Colour portrait of William Bligh, British naval officer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Leadership: Battling Bad Behavior

August 14, 2014: The British Royal Navy, like the U.S. Navy, began allowing women on warships several decades ago and now they have a few warships commanded by women. One of those captains was recently relieved of command for carrying on a shipboard sexual affair with a junior officer (number three in the frigate’s chain of command, after the captain and the executive officer). While it’s not unusual for a British warship commander to get relieved for a sexual relationship with a subordinate, this was the first time the commander in question was a woman.
Unlike the Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy rarely releases details of why the officers were relieved although the facts nearly always eventually become public. The usual reasons for relief are character flaws of one kind or another. Running the ship aground is seen as a rather obvious failing, but it is not the most common one. Rather more common are cases involving "zipper control" (adultery with another officers' spouse, or a subordinate). The British also relieve a lot of commanders and are more forthcoming with the reasons. For example one British skipper got the sack in 2009 for "bullying." In 2010 a similar relief occurred on the USS Cowpens but in that case the captain was a woman. The official reason was described as abusive treatment of the crew, and the captains' generally bad demeanor and temperament. Complaints from the crew had been coming in for some time, and the captain was relieved as she was at the end of her tour of duty on the Cowpens, and in the process of turning over command to another officer. The dismissed captain went off to her next assignment, as a staff officer.
In another ironic twist to all this is that a recent (June, 2014) captain of the USS Cowpens was relieved for having a sexual liaison with a female subordinate. It gets even stranger. For most of three months (January-March) the captain (rank O-6) was incapacitated and stayed in his cabin. He appointed his lover (an O-4) as acting XO (executive officer) and had her running the ship. When the ship was later inspected it was found to be in bad shape and the senior chief (NCO) was relieved for not making more noise about that. These incidents are not unusual but part of a trend.
The relief rate for U.S. Navy ship captains has more than doubled since the 1990s. Only a small percentage of reliefs have to do with professional failings (a collision or serious accident, failing a major inspection or just continued poor performance.) Most reliefs were, and still are, for adultery, drunkenness or theft. With more women aboard warships, there have been more reliefs for, as sailors like to put it, "zipper failure." There may have been more than are indicated, as sexual misconduct is often difficult to prove, and a captain who is having zipper control problems often has other shortcomings as well. Senior commanders traditionally act prudently and relieve a ship commander who demonstrates a pattern of minor problems and who they "lack confidence in." Britain is having similar problems.
There are also other ways of getting relieved of your command. Take the situation the original captain Bligh encountered. William Bligh was a British naval officer who, while commanding the Bounty, a ship conducting a scientific mission in the Pacific, had to deal with a mutiny in 1789. After twelve months at sea (and five at Tahiti to pick up breadfruit plants), 18 of the 42 man crew mutinied, and put Bligh, and 18 of sailors loyal to him, in a 10.5 meter (23 foot) launch and sailed away. Bligh then navigated the launch, for 47 days, some 6,700 kilometers to the island of Timor. Bligh eventually returned to Britain, and the Royal Navy. He served with distinction until 1817, achieving the rank of Vice Admiral.
Bligh was long believed to have caused the mutiny because of cruel treatment of his crew. But over the years, more and more evidence was uncovered showing that Bligh was not a seagoing tyrant, but did have some personality clashes with members of what was, in effect, a civilian crew serving on a Royal Navy ship. While armed the Bounty was not considered a warship. In fact, most of the crew remained loyal to Bligh, who was well liked by crews of the ten warships (including ships-of-the-line) he commanded after the Bounty. Alas, folk tales are persistent, and tough captains are often referred to as "Captain Blighs."
There has never been a mutiny aboard a U.S. Navy warship, although there have been some close calls. And there have been many captains who were not liked by their crews, but never to the extent where there was any risk of mutiny. Captains are expected to do whatever it takes to keep their ships safe and capable of performing their assigned missions. Keeping everyone happy is optional. That’s the main reason why ship commanders are held to a higher standard and while social customs are changing (especially when it comes to breaking the rules and generally accepted social mores) the navy realizes that misbehavior in a ship commander is not just bad behavior, but potentially fatal.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dow Chemical Co's top-secret World War I mustard gas program topic ofnew book by Bay City author

BAY CITY, MI— A top-secret weapon that resulted in death on a massive scale during World War I was produced and transported in mid-Michigan without the public ever being aware of it, and it remained that way for a century, until now.
Dave Rogers  (1 of 2).jpgD. Laurence "Dave" Rogers 
In a new well-researched book authored by D. Laurence "Dave" Rogers, a long-time Bay City news reporter, editor, and author of local histories, he reveals the secrets of Dow Chemical Co.'s colossal program of manufacturing mustard oil which became the toxic and deadly mustard gas when exploded in an artillery shell.
"The people just weren't aware of what Dow was doing," Rogers said. Although Dow chemists had developed ingredients for numerous helpful products from antacids to light metal, the benign-sounding mustard oil was a departure.
In his book, "The G-34 Paradox," Rogers delves into what he calls the U.S. Army's secret mustard gas project inside Midland's Dow plants.
Rogers, who has authored local histories of the James G. Birney family and the legend of Paul Bunyan, said he stumbled across the information about the secret project as he researched the personal papers of scientist Albert W. Smith, a professor at Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland. Rogers was attempting to find information about contributors to industries during World War II, but found some references to the earlier wartime poison gas project.
"It was a top-secret program," he said. "However, there was little or no security at the Midland plant until a farmer from Clare, upset with Dow, caused an explosion in 1916 at the plant. After that, there were a couple of guards assigned. Still, there was very little security throughout production."
He said the secret program's product was dubbed "G-34" among other code names at various times.
It was a certainty that the people living in a 20-mile radius of the plant didn't know that in a little more than a year, more than 100 tons of the death-producing mustard oil was being concocted in the lab and mass produced in the plant.
Nor did people know, Rogers points out, that the multi-ton railroad carloads of the deadly substance were being shipped from Midland to a storage facility in Maryland, virtually unguarded and unmarked. If a car derailed and the barrels of oil spilled, the volume of death could have been tremendous.
Instead, once in Maryland, some of the gas was shipped to Europe but the war ended before all of it was sent, so most had to be dumped in the Atlantic Ocean, Rogers said.
The way Dow-founder Herbert H. Dow got involved in the top-secret program is researched and Rogers notes that Dow and Smith were college associates and friends, and Smith needed a science-based facility to work on developing his ideas so he came to Midland.
Rogers points out that the Dow project was set up because the U.S. Army generals in the field demanded it for use in retaliation for the Germans gassing Allied troops. The British and French did have mustard gas development programs but it was a slow and time-consuming process and it was thought the Americans could develop it in greater volume and much faster.
The mustard oil that is loaded into artillery shells and exploded over an enemy, creates a deadly aerosol in which just a drop or two of the oil hitting the human skin or inhaled causes excruciating burns, blistering and possibly death in many cases.
Rogers said the Germans first used the gas in warfare after it was created by German chemists in some of the biggest chemical plants in Germany. At the time it seemed ludicrous that a small plant in Midland, Michigan, could have produced enough to compete with the Germans.
However, Dow produced a massive amount of the oil and would have made more had the war gone on.
The book also looks at some of the intrigue that went on inside the plant, the deaths of two men exposed to the oil, and a malevolent pair of scientists who provoked a nurse into sabotage.
The $19.95 soft-cover book is available through, at the Bay County Historical Museum shop at 321 Washington Avenue, and from Rogers at Historical Press L.L.C., 4659 Dale Court, Bay City, MI, 48706.

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