Saturday, January 31, 2015

⚓️Previously unpublished letter casts new light on mutiny aboard HMSWager⚓️


Previously unpublished letter casts new light on mutiny aboard HMS Wager

Letter, written by captain in 1744, reveals new details of one of Royal Navy’s most barbaric catastrophes


Captain Cheap of the HMS Wager.
 Captain Cheap of the HMS Wager. Photograph: Guardian

It was one of the most barbarous catastrophes in the Royal Navy’s history, but the story of the shipwreck of HMS Wager in 1741 and her crew’s mutiny is largely forgotten and far less known about than the mutiny on the Bounty, which occurred almost half a century later.
Now the shocking tale is recalled in a previously unpublished letter written by the Wager’s captain and included in a  new book by Rear Admiral CH  Layman, a naval historian.
The Wager was wrecked off the inhospitable coastline of what is now Chilean Patagonia, in 1741, an episode involving murder, starvation slavery, and almost unimaginable adversity for the survivors.
In 1741 Britain and Spain were at war and Wager, a 160-man Admiralty vessel, captained by David Cheap, right, was in a small squadron dispatched to “annoy and distress” Spanish interests in the South Seas.
The convoy was so ill-equipped it included, despite the commander’s objections, 500 soldiers from the Corps of Invalids. Wager’s crew included midshipman John Byron, the poet’s grandfather, who later gave substantial evidence criticising Cheap’s captaincy, though he was not one of the mutineers.
Wager was driven on to rocks by hurricanes near an uninhabited island. There were 140 survivors, many of whom later died from starvation, drowning, hypothermia and violent ends. Only 36 people made it back home.
Writing in 1744, while a prisoner, Cheap described events, from the beginning: “My ship’s company at that unhappy juncture [when shipwrecked] were almost all sick, having not more than six or seven seamen, and three or four marines, that were able to keep the deck.”
They were so fatigued by the voyage that they could scarcely “do their duty”.
He claimed that, having fallen and injured himself, he was drugged by the ship’s surgeon, and that orders he gave were disobeyed.
For some months on the island he prepared several open boats for a perilous voyage home, trying to keep order, including shooting a drunken midshipman – “I even proceeded to extremities”.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Monuments Men During January 1945

The Monuments Men During January 1945

by  on January 29, 2015


Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park. 
As December 1944 ended and January 1945 began, the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) was two weeks old and the Allied forces had stopped the German effort to cross the Meuse River and capture Antwerp. But the German forces were not defeated and were not withdrawing back to the Siegfried Line in Germany, from whence the attack had been initiated on December 16. On January 3, 1945, the First U.S. Army attacking from the north of Belgium and the Third U.S. Army attacking from the south of Belgium, from the Bastogne area, started their own counterattack to push the Germans out of the salient they had created in Belgium. During the fighting around Stavelot and Malmedy in mid-January further destruction was visited upon these towns. Both had already faced devastation in mid-December.
At the end of January the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) specialist officers with the First U.S. Army, Captain Walker K. Hancock and Captain Everett P. Lesley, Jr., who spent the whole month in Belgium, visited both Stavelot and Malmedy to inspect damage to cultural property. They found, as they would note in their monthly report, that the center of Malmedy had been completely destroyed by artillery fire and that they were told looting had been prevalent. As for Stavelot, they noted that looting and wanton damage took place, but they had found it impossible to ascertain by what troops, at what time. In their report, dated February 1, 1945, Hancock and Lesley observed that the post-occupational situation at Stavelot and Malmedy, had brought into sharper focus more than ever before certain very basic problems common to MFA&A work: it was geographically and chronologically impossible for the officers working in the field to cover, prior to, during, and after operations, all the monuments [e.g., historic buildings] falling within their jurisdiction. Certain responsibilities had, they wrote, devolved upon Corps and Division G-5 (Civil Affairs) Sections, and Civil Affairs Detachments assigned to given localities, but that the fulfillment of the responsibilities in an emergency, or during rapid movement, must often wait upon other, more urgent matters, such as public health, public safety, food and transportation. Yet, by the time a given military situation has subsided sufficiently to make possible the posting of “off-limit” signs to buildings, writing of reports, and other duties required by handbooks and instructions, much irreparable damage may have been done.
They observed that it would not be advantageous to increase the dissemination of printed matter regarding MFA&A activities to the Civil Affairs Detachments, which already had more printed matter than was convenient to handle, and it was manifestly impossible for a single officer attached to an entire Army to prepare breakdown lists of monuments to cover all the constantly changing unit areas. They added:
There remains only one means by which the MFA&A Specialist Officer in the field can, in a measure, prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents as those of Stavelot and Malmedy. He must be free to work, for longer periods at a time, with the commanders of Corps, Divisions, and Regimental Combat teams, in advance of and during operations. There he could make preliminary pinpointing, in conjunction with tactical commanders at lower echelons, of monuments within their areas and accompanying, if feasible, the commander of these echelons during operations, in order to post, protect, appraise, or inventory monuments. As an answer to the problem of covering an entire Army area during a rapid operation we further suggested the feasibility of designating a particular member of the Corps G-5 Staff to consult with the MFA&AA office to pinpoint monuments in the anticipated corridor of operations.
In order to accomplish this, they added, more latitude of movement was absolutely necessary, and observed that:
 The MFA&A officers represent a service both unparalleled and unprecedented in the U.S. Army, one which cannot easily be processed through traditional channels. It is unrealistic to assume that the duties so uniquely theirs will or can be carried out by others. The need for the MFA&A Specialist Officers is to be on the spot at the time danger to monuments is imminent, or damage is taking place. All tactical commanders with whom the undersigned have conferred are unanimous in agreeing that the place for the MFA&A Specialist Officer is in the advance, not rear, of tactical operations.
Several days after writing their report, the commanding general of the First U.S. Army, gave Hancock and Lesley the latitude of movement they had urged be given.
In his report on the work of the Monuments Men during January 1945, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, in charge of the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) MFA&A operations, wrote that “The most insistent problem facing this Section [G-5, SHAEF] in January had been the billeting question-especially in Belgium.” He observed that the reports of First U.S. Army, especially those dealing with conditions in Malmedy, Stavelot and at the Chateau de Modave, showed the nature of the military use and billeting problems in its most aggravated form. Webb noted that Hancock and Lesley had come to the very natural conclusion that little help could be expected from non-specialist Civil Affairs officers dealing with the conditions such as those which prevailed in Malmedy and Stavelot and, that in such circumstances, the only course was for the MFA&A officers to be well forward themselves. He added that the directives, under which the MFA&A officers with Armies worked were formed to give wide scope for such adjustments, and the officers with First U.S. Army availed themselves of this latitude to initiate a practice [i.e., being on the spot to take corrective action with respect to unauthorized billeting in historic buildings] which it was hoped would go far to prevent such unfortunate occurrences in the future.
At the end of January, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, head of the 12thArmy Group, wrote the G-5s of his four Armies (First, Third, Ninth, and Fifteenth) regarding the MFA&A Specialist Officers. After referring to the various handbooks, directives, and instructions, and mentioning their attachment to G-5s for MFA&A work, he instructed that G-5s would utilize these officers to the best advantage in the areas for which they were responsible. These officers, he wrote, to be informed, would need to make inspections of the listed and other important monuments and collections in the areas of the commands to which they were assigned or attached, and to keep acquainted with conditions in such areas from the time of occupation by elements of such commands. These officers, he instructed, would advise the G-5s, concerning monuments and collections not on the Official List of Protected Monuments which need to be exempted from military use or to have special protection.
Bradley also wrote that as a measure contributing to the eventual restitution of works of art and objects of a scientific or historical importance which may have been looted from United Nations governments or nations, the MFA&A officers would investigate all information of such nature and inspect all repositories of such works falling within the area of the command to which they were assigned or attached, and report their findings. Of course, in January, the Monuments Men were not, with the exception of the Aachen area, in a physical position to seek out looted cultural property, nor German cultural treasures that had been evacuated eastward for protection. That would change in February 1945, as the Allies began their drive to the Rhine River, and cross it in March.

The dockers, Churchill and the war's most shameful secret: Second WorldWar strikes reveal disgusting lack of patriotism

This was one of the most poignant moments in modern history. On a bleak January day in 1965, the cranes along the Thames dipped as the launch carrying Winston Churchill’s body passed the giant metal structures on the wharves on its journey from St Paul’s Cathedral.
Commentating for the BBC, Richard Dimbleby described the scene. ‘Across the river, even the jibs of the cranes of Hay’s Wharf are being lowered in a final salute, unique, strangely touching, as they bow forward towards the other side of the river where the coffin is going away on its launch upstream.’
Churchill’s grandson and now a Tory MP, Nicholas Soames, was in the family party aboard the launch. He recalled the spectacle of the dipping arms of the cranes, saying it ‘undid us all’.
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The poignant moment the cranes along the Thames dipped during the funeral of Winston Churchill. However, it has now been claimed workers had to be paid to do it due to their anti-Churchill sentiments
The poignant moment the cranes along the Thames dipped during the funeral of Winston Churchill. However, it has now been claimed workers had to be paid to do it due to their anti-Churchill sentiments
The Daily Mail reported: ‘For a week, every detail of the procession arrangements had been written about. And so it was that one gesture, with the added element of surprise, held for many watchers the strongest jolt to unbraced emotions.
‘As the launch carrying the coffin moved upstream, the jibs of cranes dipped in ragged salute. London’s dockers, the last men usually associated with sentimental gestures, expressed their feelings for one who also had a reputation for tough, uncompromising directness.’
But in Wednesday night’s BBC1 documentary, Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell, a docker cast doubt on the spontaneity of the occasion by claiming the workers had to be paid.
John Lynch, who was working in 1965, said: ‘They [the dockers] didn’t like Churchill. I think I can speak for most, they didn’t like him. When they were asked to do it, the atmosphere was “no”. They were paid to do it. We didn’t work Saturday afternoon [the day of the funeral], we wouldn’t have been there.
‘There was a lot of arguments and rows about it. The atmosphere was that Churchill wasn’t a working class person. You’d see him with a cigar in one hand and sometimes a drink in the other, he just didn’t associate with us at all.’
Jeremy Paxman, who presented the programme, said he watched the funeral as a schoolboy on television. He said he was conscious of the comment of his mother (who had driven ambulances in the war) about Churchill: ‘We were so lucky to have him, you know.’
He added: ‘As a child I didn’t question the ritual that marked his death.’
But although the lowering of the cranes was universally seen as a ‘spontaneous bowing in respect’ by dockers in recognition of the great man’s role in saving the country from Nazi tyranny, Paxman said it ‘wasn’t anything of the kind’.
The flag-draped coffin of Churchill on board the Havengore during his funeral in 1965
The flag-draped coffin of Churchill on board the Havengore during his funeral in 1965
This revelation is a reminder of one of the most shameful aspects of both World War I and World War II: the disgraceful lack of patriotism of many in the Labour movement.
Indeed, even in 1965, there were trades unionists who considered Churchill as a class enemy.
Some of that hatred dated back to 1910, when Churchill was Home Secretary and he sent troops into Tonypandy to control striking miners.
For many trades unionists, the two world wars offered the perfect opportunity to blackmail their employers and the government into giving them better terms and conditions of service, and for expanding union power, with the threat that the country would suffer if the government and their employers didn’t give in. All too often the government did surrender, or pressured private sector employers to do so.
This cave-in was partly down to Churchill’s Minister of Labour, Ernie Bevin, who insisted that — with the Nazis about to put their jackboot on Britain’s throat — there must not be a repeat of the havoc wrought during the Great War by militant strikers.
Indeed, the Left has a shameful history of unpatriotic and self-interested behaviour during war-time and which was often directed at our war leaders.
At the height of World War I, in February 1915, workers in munitions factories on the Clyde had walked out, with industrial unrest spreading to factories in Sheffield and Birmingham.
Later in the year, 15,000 Clyde shipyard workers went on strike again in protest at the compulsory deduction of rent arrears from their pay packets.
Then, in 1917, 200,000 workers in 48 different towns walked out, mainly over wages, but also over food prices, exemptions from military service and what they termed ‘war profiteering’.
Even in 1965 there were trade unionists who considered Churchill (pictured) a class enemy
Even in 1965 there were trade unionists who considered Churchill (pictured) a class enemy
And so when war came in again in 1939, the many Communists in the Labour movement felt no urge to support the war effort. Their views were articulated by the late Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, a friend of Ed Miliband’s father Ralph, and then a naïve 22-year-old, that since there was a non-aggression pact between Hitler and their hero, Josef Stalin, it was wrong to attack Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile, rising to prominence in the union movement at the time was Jack Jones, who went on, as Transport and General Workers’ Union leader, to lead his members out on a series of strikes and who was, after his death, exposed as a paid agent for the Soviet Union.
In 1939, he became a full-time union organiser in the car factories of the West Midlands which were being used for the full-time production of tanks, planes and armoured vehicles.
Although Jones had been a Territorial soldier, he was a fervent Communist and fought in the Spanish Civil War.
While men were dying for their country, Jones was establishing a Communist-approved organisation of shop stewards in the factories of his West Midlands bailiwick.
Pathetically, the bosses rolled over and allowed the unions to establish enormous power in their factories — which would linger on after the war and, by the Seventies, effectively kill the British car industry.
Overt Communists went further — and refused to abstain from strike action until 1941 and the Nazi invasion of Russia and their beloved Stalin. Even though strikes had been made illegal in wartime, there were at least 900 in the first few months of the war.
In May 1940, as Hitler launched his attack on the Low Countries and France, the Stalinist Daily Worker — the newspaper of organised Communists in Britain — described the war effort as ‘the Anglo-French Imperialist War Machine’.

Much of the non-Communist union movement, believing their employers were getting enormously rich on the back of the huge armaments programme, saw more and more reason to strike to try to get a bigger share of the money.
In truth, however, their employers were having to pay massively increased income tax, corporation tax and taxes on dividends to help finance the war, so the idea of them profiteering was largely illusory.
That didn’t stop local union organisers demanding more.
During the rest of the war, there were strikes all across the country — in engineering factories, the coal mines, aircraft manufacturers, shipyards, and by bus drivers and conductors.
In 1943, workers at a factory in London making tail-fins for Halifax bombers went on strike and more than 16,000 women and some men walked out of the Rolls-Royce factory in Glasgow — where they should have been making engines for fighter planes.
A key area of industrial unrest during the Second World War was centered around the docks. Pictured here are strikers at Albert Dock in 1945
A key area of industrial unrest during the Second World War was centered around the docks. Pictured here are strikers at Albert Dock in 1945
Another key area of industrial unrest was the docks. In December 1943, 1,000 dockers went on strike in Middlesbrough and 1944 was considered to be an annus horribilis in terms of strike action, with lightning walk-outs in many ports at full stretch preparing for the invasion of Europe.
There were strikes at docks in the west of England, including Plymouth, in January, over the suspension of 11 men who refused to move to another port and work for less pay. No interest was too selfish to put before the good of the country.
And so, it was against this background that the behaviour of the London dockers on January 30, 1965, should be seen and the revelation that they had to be be given money to pay Churchill tribute.
To be fair, many trades unionists were disgusted by the way some of their number behaved during the war, and many unions disowned the unpatriotic extremism of some of their brethren.
But when one realises the full extent of union militancy in Britain’s darkest hour, bolshy London dockers demanding money to show respect to the great leader who took the country through that grave ordeal is, I’m afraid, all too.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers surprises children of fallen service members

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the impact professional athletes can have on young lives.
Take Aaron Rodgers, starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. The former National Football league most valuable player is one of hundreds of NFL players who partner with a variety of charities, making appearances, raising funds and helping spread awareness for various causes.
This year, Rodgers is lending his considerable star power to Camp Hometown Heroes, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that brings together children of fallen servicemembers for a week of bonding, support and healing. Now in its third year, Camp Hometown Heroes has helped nearly 200 children in their long, difficult healing process.
Rodgers has partnered with the charity, promoting it on his  it's aaron website, talking about it with the media and even making surprise appearances. A video of Rodgers catching up with a group of children who lost a parent in the current wars was posted to YouTube on Wednesday. By Thursday afternoon, the video had been viewed nearly 250,000 times, and the charity’s web site says it has raised more than $7,000 in donations since the video’s release.
For more information, visit Camp Hometown Heroes.

⚓️U.S. Navy Concert Band⚓️

U.S. Navy Concert Band

The United States Navy Concert Band, the premier wind ensemble of the U.S. Navy, presents a wide array of marches, patriotic selections, orchestral transcriptions and modern wind ensemble repertoire. As the original ensemble of the Navy Band, the Concert Band has been performing public concerts and participating in high-profile events for over 85 years.
On Monday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m., the Pensacola State College Performing Arts Department is bringing the famous band to the Pensacola Saenger Theater.
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Recognized as one of the finest wind ensembles in the world, the Concert Band is in constant demand by the nation’s foremost musical education organizations, such as the American Bandmasters Association and The Midwest Clinic. 
For ticket information call 850-484-1847,
or email rmoya@pensacolastate.edu.
U.S. Navy Concert Band Monday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Pensacola Saenger Theater 

Brit Books: Requisitioned – The British Country House in the Second World War

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I’m continually fascinated by Britain during World War II. I also have a particular interest in Britain’s stately homes. One of the greatest untold stories of World War II was how the great stately homes were affected by World War II. For some it was a happy story as they were taken over for the war effort. For others, it signaled their doom as many did not survive long after the war.
Requisitioned – The British Country House in the Second World War by John Martin Robinson is an exploration of some of Britain’s greatest houses and how they spent the war. They book explores their role in the war, who occupied them and what happened to them after the war. It’s a cautionary tale for how to protect art and heritage during the fog of war.
There’s an introduction that lays out the world building of the second world war and how it affected the houses. It gives a broad overview of the issues faced by various houses along with giving interesting anecdotes about eccentric owners. During the First World War, many great houses were used as hospitals for soldiers on an ad hoc basis. That was not the case with the houses during World War II – they made other use of them.
As the British government suspected the Second World War was coming, they had a plan in advance on how they were going to make the best use of each great house. They even created a list of each house, what government department would take it and what its function would be. It was a wonder of planning and forethought. As a result, many houses did not serve as hospitals in WWII – they also didn’t have the volume of casualties that WWI caused.
After the introduction, the remaining book focuses on specific houses in each chapter. Each one is structured with a basic introduction on the history of the house, how it came to be used by the government during the war, how it was treated during the war and then what happened to the house afterwards. After the war, houses had many different fates. Sometimes the government refused to hand the house back. Sometimes it went back to being a sleepy family home. In other instances, the houses were so damaged by the war that they ended up being demolished. Some houses became some of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions by opening to the public – something they had to do just to fix war time damage.
World War II was the final nail in the coffin to many stately homes and the aristocratic life their owners led. They simply could not continue on in the new world order after the war. I did not find the book as depressing as England’s Lost Houses, as many of the houses they talk about in this book are still around. Still there is the sad story of the unloved or damaged house that was lost to time.
I particularly enjoyed the sections on Tyneham House, Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Castle Howard. Castle Howard suffered a devastating fire which is still hasn’t completely recovered from. Tyneham was demolished and the area is still restricted to this day.
The saddest story was about Wentworth Woodhouse, which was massively damaged due to open cast mining on its grounds. The house has gone through various owners and it’s still considered at risk. Right now there’s a campaign to raise funds to turn it into a charity to open the house to the public.
The book is filled with beautiful black and white pictures of the great houses and it was a great joy to read. This book will take pride of place in my Anglophile library.


Panel urges shift away from Tricare, pension plans for military

Alphonso Maldon, Jr., chairman of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, speaks at a Jan. 29, 2015 press conference in Arlington, Va., revealing changes to pensions, health care and other troop benefits following its two-year review.

WASHINGTON — A panel created by Congress recommended sweeping changes Thursday to pensions and health care following its two-year review of the military’s compensation and retirement systems.
The military should auto-enroll about 1 million troops in the Thrift Savings Plan and offer contributions to the accounts throughout their service as an alternative to the current retirement system, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission said.
Tricare health insurance should be replaced with an array of private provider options to save money and improve access, it found.
The long-awaited recommendations came from surveys of 150,000 troops and visits to facilities around the world. The panel said they could eventually save billions of dollars per year as Congress looks at ways to modernize military compensation and rein in personnel costs.
“We’ve listened extensively to what the servicemembers have had to say to us,” said Alphonso Maldon, chairman of he commission. “We’ve based to a great extent a lot of what we have done on what the servicemembers preferred.”
The panel also recommended changes to the commissary and exchange system, more child care on bases, and ensuring servicemembers receive financial assistance to cover nutritional needs.
The retirement reform proposal would entice troops to opt out of the current pension system, which requires 20 years of service, after which regular payments start. Instead, all would be automatically given a Thrift Savings Plan account that would sock away 3 percent of pay along with a contribution from the military, according to the panel.
Those who do not want to participate would be given a chance to opt out every year or be re-enrolled. Troops who continue the contributions could choose to leave before the two-decade mark — or just a few years into service — and keep their accrued savings.
The plan would save money by paying less of the expensive, lifelong pensions to 20-year veterans. Instead, smaller contributions over servicemembers’ careers would grow into larger amounts using the compounding interest of the TSP investments, the panel said.
Commissioners said about 75 percent of troops could get some retirement pay under the proposal. Currently 83 percent of servicemembers separate before the 20-year threshold without any pension.
The panel also proposed the military eliminate the Tricare health insurance program and replace it with more private options.
The military’s insurance program has decreased in quality and become more expensive in recent years, the panel found. Many survey respondents complained about difficulties getting care and a lack of continuity in their health care.
A health insurance system similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program could save money and provide up to 250 alternatives, with a minimum of 11 plans for rural areas and dozens for metropolitan areas, the panel reported.
The recommendations also included:
  • Commissaries and exchanges should be combined to save money. Both perform “similar missions for similar patrons with similar staff.”
  • Expand the availability of day care services on military bases so military parents can work. The panel found that adequate day care is key to readiness, but that 11,000 children were on waiting lists last year.
  • Ensure servicemembers receive financial assistance to cover nutritional needs by providing them cost-effective supplemental benefits.
The panel projected that all its 15 proposals could save nearly $5 billion next year and up to $10.4 billion per year by 2020. That savings was projected to increase in the decades after that.
The Pentagon says the current spending on personnel is unsustainable and Congress, which called for the panel recommendations, must now decide whether to act on the proposed overhauls. 
Lawmakers made other smaller cuts to troop benefits in December but put off any major overhauls. Troop pay raises were capped lower than past years, housing allowances were reduced, and Tricare pharmacy copays were increased.
Congress and the Defense Department are again wrangling over the next budget, with the rising personnel costs and mandatory caps on defense spending front and center.
Still, it is unlikely that troops will see any major reforms to compensation and benefits this year, Ryan Crotty, a fellow and deputy director for defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The White House and DOD are slated to release proposed budgets Monday, so the recommendations will be too late to be included, Crotty said. The Pentagon will probably request time to review the proposals and report back to Congress later.
“I expect there will not be any big proposals, knowing the fight is to come post budget,” he said.
Meanwhile, many lawmakers have resisted DOD proposals to cut personnel costs, saying they fear it could hurt readiness. Republican majorities in the House and Senate have begun a push to instead repeal defense spending caps in the budget to free up more money for personnel, equipment and operations.
Crotty said any big reform proposals for troop pay and benefits may come in 2016.

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