Saturday, October 24, 2015

Two men arrested following reported theft from sunken Royal Navy warship off Dover


TWO men have been arrested by officers investigating the reported theft of items from a sunken Royal Navy warship off Dover.

HMS Hermes was a protected cruiser built in the 1890s and converted into an aircraft ferry and depot ship ready for the start of the First World War in 1914.

It was sunk by a German submarine in the Dover Strait in October of that year with the loss of 44 lives.

Earlier this year Kent Police's Rural Task Force was informed that a number of historical artefacts had been reported stolen from the wreck. Following an investigation in partnership with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Marine Management Organisation, the Receiver of Wreck, Sussex Police, Historic England and the French authorities, officers executed warrants at two separate addresses in Teynham, near Faversham, and Rye in East Sussex, on Monday 19 October.

A 56-year-old man from Winchelsea in East Sussex was arrested on suspicion of theft and fraud and released on bail pending further enquiries until 22 February 2016.

A 55-year-old man from Teynham was arrested on suspicion of theft and released on bail pending further enquiries until 22 February 2016.

Officers also seized a number of historical artefacts they believed to have been stolen from HMS Hermes and other underwater locations.

PC Preston Frost of the Rural Task Force said: "We are proud of our close working relationship with our partner agencies and take a robust approach to ensuring important historical artefacts do not end up in the hands of people who are not entitled to them.

"We will continue to investigate anyone suspected of stealing items from sunken wrecks and will bring prosecutions against them when appropriate."

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Albert McKenzie: Statue honours WW1 Victoria Cross winner

A teenage sailor whose bravery during the World War One Zeebrugge Raidearned him a Victoria Cross has been honoured with a statue and 48-gun salute.

Albert McKenzie took part in a mission to block German boats in the Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge.

He was one of the few members of his landing party who survived the raid on 23 April 1918 and was the first London sailor to receive the Victoria Cross.

The statue stands off Tower Bridge Road in Bermondsey, south London.

A stone's throw from his childhood home, the memorial sits atop a concrete plinth made from a section of the Zeebrugge harbour wall donated by the people of Flanders

The statue was unveiled at noon as HMS Belfast, anchored in the Thames, performed a gun salute in his honour.

Able Seaman McKenzie, 19, was onboard HMS Vindictive when it entered the Bruges-Zeebrugge canal shortly after midnight on St George's Day in 1918.

The British had planned to sink three old warships, blocking the canal entrance, while detonating two old submarines to damage the port of Bruges-Zeebrugge. The idea was to prevent German submarines from leaving the port and attacking the Allies.

Albert McKenzie receives the Victoria Cross from King George V, left, and is greeted as a hero in SouthwarkImage copyrightMckenzie/British Pathe News
Image captionAble Seaman Albert McKenzie received a hero's welcome when he returned home but died in November 1918 after contracting flu

HMS Vindictive led the raid and was meant to land a storming party to create a diversion and take out the German gun positions, enabling the three British warships to get into position.

However, an ill-fated wind blew Vindictive's smoke-screen away and the Germans gunners inflicted heavy casualties and forced the vessel off course.

Without the smoke-screen, Vindictive's crew suffered many casualties even before it pulled alongside the harbour wall to engage the German gunners.

Excerpt from a letter Albert McKenzie wrote to one of his brothers, reproduced with permission from his family

"Well we got within 15 minutes' run of the Mole [harbour wall] when some marines got excited and fired their rifles. Up went four big star shells and they spotted us. That caused it. They hit us with the first two shells and killed seven marines. They were still hitting us when we got alongside.

There was a heavy swell on which smashed all our gangways but two, one aft [towards the stern and the rear of the ship] and one forward. I tucked the old Lewis gun under my arm and nipped over the gangway aft. There were two of my gun's crew killed inboard and I only had two left, with myself three.

I turned to my left and advanced about 50 yards then lay down. There was a spiral staircase which led down into the Mole and Commander Brock fired his revolver down and threw a Mills bomb. You ought to have seen them nip out and try to get across to the destroyer tied up against the Mole, but this little chicken met them half way with the box of tricks, and I ticked about a dozen off before I clicked.

My Lewis gun was shot spinning out of my hands and all I had left was the stock and pistol grip which I kindly took a bloke's photo with it, who looked too business-like for me, with a rifle and bayonet.

It half stunned him and gave me time to get my pistol out and finish him off. Then I found a rifle and bayonet and joined up our crowd who had just come off the destroyer. All I remember was pushing kicking and kneeing every German who got in the way.

When I was finished I couldn't climb the ladder so a mate of mine lifted me up and carried me up the ladder and then I crawled on my hands and knees inboard."

Media captHow did a young boy from the East End become a national hero?

Able Seaman Mackenzie, armed with a Lewis gun and 400 rounds of ammunition, followed his officer onto the harbour wall to fight the German forces, his family said.

He killed many German fighters and forced some of the enemy to abandon their post but by the time he was ordered to withdraw, his Lewis gun had been blown out of his hands. The talented boxer had to fight his way back to safety using a pistol, bayonet and his wit.

Speaking at the unveiling of the statue, his great-nephew Colin McKenzie said: "It's is such a huge honour for Albert to be recognised in this way.

"We've always known about Albert. We've been brought up with the stories about him, but to share that with a much wider audience in this way, is almost overwhelming.

"I've got cousins here today who were in tears earlier."

A statue in honour of Able Seaman Albert McKenzie
Image captionThe steel statue of Able Seaman Albert McKenzie stands on a concrete plinth made from a section of the Zeebrugge harbour wall donated by the mayor and people of Flanders

During the raid Able Seaman McKenzie was wounded in the back and foot. On returning to the UK he was nominated by his shipmates to receive the Victoria Cross for bravery, presented by King George V.

A few weeks later the celebrated sailor caught Spanish flu during a global pandemic and died of pneumonia, aged 20, on 3 November 1918, days before the war officially ended.

He was buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery and a letter signed by "their Majesties" was read out at his funeral.

It read: "In the special circumstances of A.B. Albert E McKenzie's lamentable death and the fact of his being a VC, and the first London sailor to receive that most honourable reward, you are authorised to express at the public funeral the sympathy of their Majesties with the widowed mother and family.

"Their Majesties were grieved to hear of his untimely death and to think that he had been spared so short a time to wear the proud decoration which he so nobly won."



U.S. Navy and the Arms Race, 1915 - Anecdotes from the Archive - Scientific American Blog Network

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Dervock lays claim to Trafalgar hero Captain Charles Adair

The British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 meant history would never forget Admiral Lord Nelson.

But while columns and squares are named after the commander of the fleet other senior officers who died alongside Nelson have been largely forgotten.

One such officer who led the contingent of Royal Marines on HMS Victory was Captain Charles Adair.

He's been described as acting with great gallantry encouraging his men to fight off those trying to board from the French ship Redoubtable.

Nelson's said "England expects every man to do his duty" and Adair certainly did - he was shot and killed during the battle.

This military hero may not make the history curriculum but he is remembered in a quiet corner of County Antrim.

The Allen and Adair memorial hall in Dervock, which belongs to Derrykeighan Parish Church, was built in 1936 and it features a stained glass window depicting Nelson and Adair on the HMS Victory shortly before their deaths.

Adair was not directly linked to Dervock, but his family would later be joined by marriage to the Allen family who made their fortune in the linen industry and bought a large estate near the County Antrim village.

Once the families were linked, the Allens had a claim on an ancestor who fought and died at Trafalgar and it is something of which they were very proud.

So much so that one of the last of the Allen line gifted a hall to the local parish church on the proviso that its interior would tell the story of the Allen and Adair families.

Historian Alex Blair said the building of the hall was all about legacy.

"When Captain Samuel Allen built this hall he decided to have all sorts of things in the hall from important moments in the history of his family," he said.

"I suppose he wanted a sort of shrine to the Allen family to perpetuate the name as he had no successors and died unmarried. Also of course it was his present to the church and to the people of Dervock."

Peter Thompson has admired the windows since he was a boy in Sunday school and with the anniversary of Waterloo he decided it was time that Dervock informed a wider audience about its connection to the Napoleonic wars.

As evening autumn light penetrated the colourful panes of glass, he told me that when Adair was shot he fell at Nelson's feet and the great admiral is said to have remarked "young Adair is done for".

"We are the only place in Ireland with a memorial to Lord Nelson and we are the only place in the world with a memorial to Captain Charles Adair," he said.

Irish crew

So passionate is Peter about the story, that he organised an evening of music and verse featuring tunes and instruments that would have been familiar around the time of the battle.

An evening of music and verse was held that included tunes and instruments that would have been familiar to those fighting at Trafalgar.
Image captionAn evening of music and verse was held that included tunes and instruments that would have been familiar to those fighting at Trafalgar.

Alex Blair believes that Irish connections to the Trafalgar are often forgotten.

"There were lots of Irish men on board the ship. It's amazing, maybe a quarter of the crew would have been Irish and the doctor who attended to Nelson was from Derry so there was quite a local link," he said.

Peter Thompson said he is determined that Captain Adair won't be forgotten going forward.

"I made contact with the marines and they sent me a list of the artefacts they had belonging to him but they were unaware of this window," he said

"I'm hoping the seeds are planted now and I'm hoping it will open gates for the village."


Jutland Centenary - UK navy museum to mark 'defining naval battle' of First World War

Britain's museum dedicated to the Royal Navy has announced plans for a major exhibition marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland in 2016.

"36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle that Won the War" is described as a 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity to bring together material from across the UK and Germany.

The exhibition will open at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), Portsmouth, in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of Jutland at the end of May.

Together with the restored HMS Caroline* in Belfast, also opening next year, the exhibition aims to make a 'massive contribution' to public understanding of the battle.

NMRN's Head of Heritage Development, Nick Hewitt, said: "The Battle of Jutland is the Royal Navy's defining moment in the Great War, and perhaps the largest sea battle in history.

"It’s the only event in the (UK) national First World War centenary programme which is wholly naval in character, and at the NMRN we’ve pulled out all the stops to put together a comprehensive and exciting programme of activity to mark it."

The National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth's historic dockyard (Photo: Centenary News)

More than 100,000 sailors and 250 warships from the British and German navies were involved in the clash in the North Sea on May 31st/June 1st 1916.

NMRN says its exhibition will explore the personalities involved, the men who served and the impact it had on a war-torn Britain.

"The story will be told in real-time and draw upon the latest exhibition design to engage and stimulate visitors of all ages," the museum explains.

Ensigns flown by Royal Navy warships, some bearing the scars of battle, are among the historic exhibits being prepared for display.

More than 6,000 British sailors and 2,500 German crewmen lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland. Although the Royal Navy suffered greater losses of men and ships, the German High Seas Fleet didn't again mount a major challenge.

'Incredible sacrifice'

NMRN Director General, Professor Dominic Tweddle, said: "One hundred years after the fleets of the Imperial German and Royal Navies fought the defining naval battle of the First World War it is essential that we mark and commemorate the incredible sacrifice made.

"Our Great War at Sea 1914-1918 programme of exhibitions and events is succeeding in demonstrating that the First World War was also fought at sea around the world and that our naval supremacy ensured that the war was won."

'36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle that Won the War' will formally open on May 24th 2016 at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The exhibition is being produced in partnership with the Imperial War Museum.

*HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship of the Battle of Jutland, is in the care of NMRN. Visitors will see the bridge with its original compasses and telegraphs, the engine rooms with four Parsons turbines still in position and many other aspects of the ship’s living quarters which have remained unchanged in 100 years. HMS Caroline is being restored in Belfast with an £11.5 million grant from the UK heritage Lottery Fund.

Also in Centenary News:

UK Government announces Jutland Centenary commemorations.

Source: National Museum of the Royal Navy

Images courtesy of NMRN (Dreadnoughts); Centenary News (NMRN building)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary


Chinese ambassador urges Japan to expedite destruction of abandoned chemical weapons in China

This article was produced by the Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China. Xinhua describes itself as the "information organ of the central government." Given China’s size and importance, GlobalPost publishes Xinhua’s press feed as a resource for its readers and makes no claims as to journalistic accuracy.

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- China's Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs Fu Cong on Thursday urged Japan to expedite destruction of abandoned chemical weapons in China during World War II.

Fu made the call at the thematic discussion on chemical and biological weapons at the First Committee of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly.

During World War II, the Japanese invaders systematically developed and used biological and chemical weapons in China in blatant violation of international law, massacring Chinese people in the most inhumane manner, said Fu, noting "this has become a page of utmost barbarism and cruelty in the history of humanity."

Fu pointed out that the huge amount of Japanese Abandoned Chemical Weapons (ACWs) on Chinese soil is still posing a grave threat to people's lives and health, as well as environmental security.

"So far, Japanese ACWs have been discovered in over 90 locations in 18 provinces or municipalities. The largest burial site is located in Harbaling, Jilin Province. In Harbaling alone, it is estimated that over 330,000 pieces of Japanese ACWs are buried," said Fu. "To our disappointment, to date, only around 50,000 Japanese ACW items have been retrieved safely, only 38,000 of which were destroyed."

The Chinese diplomat stressed it's a binding international obligation under the Chemical Weapon Convention for Japan to destroy chemical weapons it abandoned in China.

"It is disconcerting to note that Japan has failed to meet the deadline for the destruction of its ACWs as prescribed by the Convention, and the current pace of destruction has repeatedly fallen behind the schedule of the Destruction Plan," he said. "We urge Japan to expedite work on implementation of its obligations and decontaminate all the affected land in China as soon as possible."

The Chinese ambassador also recalled the history that during the World War II, the Japanese army established bases for biological warfare troops and waged large scale germ warfare in China.

"China stands firm in upholding the victorious outcomes of the WWII and the post-war international order, and firmly opposes any devious act aimed at denying or distorting history," said Fu. "China urges Japan to face up to the history and genuinely reflect on its war responsibilities, and take concrete steps to win the trust of the neighboring countries and the international community at large."

Buildings in red to remember World War One



A COLOURFUL initiative to commemorate the First World War across Leicestershire is once again encouraging organisations to illuminate their buildings in red.

The initiative, by Leicestershire’s WW1 centenary reference group and the Leicestershire and Rutland Royal British Legion (RBL), will run during the RBL’s Poppy Appeal until Armistice Day on November 11.

The following buildings have already signed up: Loughborough Carillon, Queen’s Park; Loughborough Town Hall; Charnwood Borough Council offices; Loughborough Grammar School; Leicester Town Hall; City Hall in Leicester; St Philips’s Centre; Uppingham Parish Church; County Hall; Sturgess showroom, Narborough Road; KRIII Visitor Centre; Leicester Cathedral; De Montfort Hall; De Montfort University, Trinity House; St Mary Magdalen Church, Knighton; and Ibstock Junior School.

The event is led by the Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Lady Gretton, and Colonel Robert Martin, County RBL president.

Lady Gretton said: “It was very moving to see parts of Leicestershire’s skyline lit up in remembrance and support of the Poppy Appeal last year.”

Colonel Martin said: “As the custodians of Remembrance, the RBL is delighted to be supporting this collective appreciation for the men and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces who have selflessly and courageously served our country and continue to do so.”

David Snartt, chairman of the county council, said: “We are delighted that such an eye-catching way of promoting the RBL Poppy Appeal will continue this year and would encourage other organisations to join us in showing their support for this initiative.”

Other organisations wishing to join the initiative should email


USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) - Yokosuka Japan

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Oct. 20, 2015) Sailors attached to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) conduct repairs to the starboard bow of the ship. Blue Ridge is currently moored at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka undergoing a Selected Restricted Availability maintenance period, which will allow the ship to undertake future patrols, ensuring the safety and security of Pacific sea-lanes. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin A. Flinn/Released)


Hanford makes space for 2 million gallons of waste



  • Enough space to hold almost 2 million gallons of radioactive waste has been freed up in Hanford’s underground tanks through a series of successful runs of the nuclear reservation’s evaporation plant.

    The 242-A Evaporator has completed four successful runs since returning to service a year ago after being shut down for four years for improvements.

    The evaporator plant is central to DOE’s plans to meet its court-enforced consent decree obligations to empty 19 of Hanford’s leak-prone underground tanks. Waste is transferred into the 27 usable, newer double-shell tanks at the site until the waste can be treated for disposal at the yet-to-be-finished vitrification plant.

    The Department of Energy has argued in federal court that the evaporator plant can provide enough space in the double-shell tanks that it will not need to build additional waste storage tanks.

    But the state of Washington is not convinced the plant can be operated with the efficiency and frequency that would be required to continue emptying single-shell tanks. It has asked the court to order DOE to build four new million-gallon storage tanks by 2022 and possibly more by later deadlines.

    The evaporator heats liquid tank waste under vacuum so it will boil at a temperature of about 125 degrees. Water vapor from the boiling waste is captured, condensed, filtered and sent to the Effluent Treatment Facility for treatment and disposal. The concentrated waste is then returned to the double-shell tanks.

    70million gallons of waste evaporated to date

    Since starting operations in 1977, the evaporator plant has reduced the liquid in Hanford tank waste by more than 70 million gallons. Hanford has about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks from the past processing of irradiated fuel to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

    In the first operating run since 2010, the 242-A Evaporator freed up space for almost 800,000 gallons of waste in the double-shell tanks in October 2014. That was followed by smaller runs in June and July that together removed about that much water.

    The last in the series was this fall, with the plant operating nonstop for nine days to remove 375,000 gallons of excess water.

    In total, the evaporation campaigns created almost as much storage space as two double-shell tanks.

    DOE has said in court documents that it plans to conduct 23 more evaporator runs in the next seven years, including three to support emptying double-shell Tank AY-102. The tank has a leak between its shells and will be taken out of service.

    “Although the 23 evaporator campaigns planned over the coming years represent an operational increase in terms of the number of campaigns per year, that increase is still within the facility’s capability,” said Tom Fletcher, DOE assistant manager for the Hanford tank farms, in a court document. “In addition, by increasing the number of campaigns, evaporator operations should become more routine.”

    Operational delays caused by short-term startups and shutdowns should be minimized, he said.

    “DOE anticipates that these more routine operations will allow for better maintenance of the facility, more efficient operations and improved planning of campaigns,” he said.

    DOE has opposed building more tanks, saying the money would be better spent on work toward getting the waste treated. It has estimated that each new tank could cost $85 million to $150 million, which would include costs of permitting and design and acquiring nuclear-quality materials.

    Over the four years the evaporator plant was shut down, DOE contractor Washington River Protection Solutions made improvements to it, including a control room revamp and changes to equipment and operating procedures. Equipment was replaced rather than waiting for it to fail, DOE told the court.

    It acquired spare parts and made improvements recommended by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to help it better withstand a severe earthquake. The contractor also conducted a complete review of how the facility meets safety requirements related to handling nuclear materials.

    “The 242-A Evaporator facility is mechanically sound,” Fletcher said. “Continued integrity assessments and equipment upgrades, along with a proactive maintenance strategy, should keep the evaporator operating for another 30 years.”

    The state told the court that DOE’s plans for operation of the evaporator plant may be overly optimistic. If DOE runs out of space in its double-shell tanks, it will have to stop work to empty its leak-prone single-shell tanks.


    Jeff Lyon, Washington State Department of Ecology

    Trafalgar Day ceremony held on board HMS Victory

    A ceremony was held onboard HMS Victory on Trafalgar Day 2015 — Wednesday 21st October — marking the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

    The ceremony was also an act of remembrance in honour of the country’s greatest ever Naval leader and the lives of men on both sides who perished in the fierce battle, or subsequently, from their injuries.

    Proceedings began with the daily Naval ceremony of ‘Colours’: the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the Union Jack are hauled up, followed by the flag sequence indicating Nelson’s famous message to the fleet that “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

    Nelson’s tactical genius in splitting the line of enemy ships had already set the pre-conditions for victory, when only an hour into the battle, Nelson was hit by a French sharpshooter’s musket ball as he paced HMS Victory’s quarterdeck, directing the battle.

    He fell, fatally wounded, on a spot marked by a lovingly-polished brass plaque, which now forms the centrepiece of the Trafalgar Day Ceremony, when Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE and Second Sea Lord lays a wreath on the Plaque in the ceremony led by the Reverend James Francis RN and Father Charles Bruzon RN.

    HMS Victory Trafalgar Day Ceremony

    Vice Admiral Woodcock said: “The Battle of Trafalgar is a significant part of British maritime history. It is therefore extremely important that the Royal Navy continues to mark the occasion, and remember Admiral Nelson along with the sailors who fought with him.

    “At the same time we must not forget the sailors and marines deployed around the world today protecting our Nation’s interests, defending our home waters and underwriting the security of our Overseas Territories.”

    HMS Victory Trafalgar Day Ceremony

    Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith, HMS Victory’s 101st Commanding Officer, expressed his pride in playing a key role in the ceremony: “Taking over Command of HMS Victory this year is a huge privilege and Trafalgar Day is the most important day in our calendar. Having greatly admired Nelson since childhood it is a great honour to take a lead role in the Trafalgar Day Service.

    “It is a poignant and significant event when we remember the courage of Nelson, our greatest naval hero but also remember the sacrifice of many hundreds of men on both sides.

    “Trafalgar Day remains relevant today to the modern Royal Navy as we continue to maintain Nelson’s legacy to this maritime nation, protecting our interests across the globe. As we honour Nelson and the heroes of Trafalgar, we also remember our fellow servicemen and women serving in today’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines.”

    HMS Victory Trafalgar Day Ceremony


    Three sunken ships from PQ-17 Arctic convoy found on Barents Sea floor


    © ITAR-TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

    OSLO, October 21. /TASS/. Wrecks of three ships that were part of the Arctic convoy PQ-17, which the forces of the Third Reich destroyed on high seas in July 1942, have been found on the seafloor in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) said.

    The wrecks were traced by the staff members of the national cartographical office who were researching the seafloor close to the Norwegian-Russian border.

    Sonars helped the mappers to identify the shipwrecks up to 140 meters long and 21 meters wide at the depth of 200 to 300 meters. The ships were identified as The Honomu and The Carlton, both of the U.S., and the Earlston of Britain.

    The wrecks lie inside the former so-called ‘gray zone’ of the Barents Sea that was opened for research only after 2010 when Norway and the USSR settled the decades-old dispute regarding the sovereign rights to that area.

    PQ 17 makes up one of the most heroic and tragic chapters in the history of the Arctic Convoys, which delivered vital supplies from the U.S. and Britain to the USSR at the height of World War II.

    Of the 35 ships that left the Icelandic port of Hvalfjord on June 27, only ten hips reached the Soviet port of Arkhangelsk. PQ 17 suffered the biggest losses of all the Artic Convoys.

    The Honomu, The Carlton and The Earlston were sunk by Nazi bombers and submarines.

    All in all, the Allies consigned 42 convoys to the Soviet Union totaling 1,444 ships under the flags of different countries. They delivered, among other cargoes, more than 5,000 tanks and 7,000 warplanes to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

    The British merchant marine alone lost 85 ships under the strikes of the Kriegsmarine /Nazi navy/ and Luftwaffe /the Air Force/ while escorting the deliveries. The Royal Navy lost two cruisers, six destroyers and eight ships of other types.

    Naval history experts say that, on the whole, the Nazis sank one ship in eight.

    Many British, American and Canadian war veterans who are alive today have received the Admiral Ushakov medals a special award the Russian government has established to mark combat valor in international naval cooperation.

    A monument to participants in the Arctic Convoys was unveiled in Arckhangelsk on August 31, 2015.

    The Monuments Men in September and October 1945: Restitutions by Netisha


    Today's post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park

    On September 13, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower (the Military Governor of the American Zone of Germany and Commander of U.S. Forces European Theater (USFET)) as part of his program to get the restitution program moving, although there was no formal restitution policies and procedures, directed the sending to Paris by United States vehicles as soon as possible 50 selected paintings from easily identified private French looted works of art. At the Munich Central Collecting Point, its director Lt. Craig Hugh Smyth, USNR, selected 71 masterpieces looted from French private collections. The group included works by Fragonard, Chardin, Lancret, Rubens, Van Dyck, Hals, and a large number of seventeenth century Dutch masters. Lt. J. H. Coulter, USNR, who worked with Smyth at the collecting point, was the emissary appointed to accompany the paintings to Paris. On September 20 two U.S. Army trucks left Munich for Paris and the works of art were delivered to the Musee du Jeu de Paume; making this the first formal restitution to the French.

    In September Maj. Bancel LaFarge, Chief, MFA&A [Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives] Subsection, USFET, decided that Lt. Thomas C. Howe, Jr., USNR, would return from his cultural property evacuation activities, to USFET Headquarters at Frankfurt as Deputy Chief and that Lieutenants Lamont Moore, Stephen Kovalyak, and another officer, new to MFAA work, were to resume the evacuation of the salt mine at Alt Aussee, Austria. About this time, before Moore and Kovalyak left, there was another important shipment to be made to Belgium. It was to include the Michelangelo Madonna, the eleven paintings stolen from the church in Bruges when the statue was taken, and the panels by Dirk Bouts from the famous altarpiece in the church of St. Pierre at Louvain. These panels, which formed the wings of the altarpiece, had been removed by the Germans in August 1942. This shipment to Belgium was the first restitution where the recipient nation came to the Munich Central Collecting Point to collect its property. Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak loaded it into the truck on September 22, and it was soon on its way. The Belgians had no sooner left when the French and Dutch representatives arrived. On September 27, Lt. Col. Alphonse Petrus Antonius Vorenkamp, Royal Netherland Forces (and former professor of art history at Smith College), arrived at the Munich Central Collecting Point to begin his stay as official representative of the Netherlands Government to facilitate restitutions. Also arriving that day was Capt. Hubert de Brye, a French Army officer, who was to be in charge of arranging transport for future shipments to France, both from Munich and from Füssen/Neuschwanstein.

    At the end of September General Eisenhower directed the preparation of the air delivery to the Netherlands, approximately 25 looted Dutch works of art of highest quality. LaFarge told Howe about the token restitution to the Netherlands, that the Dutch were then selecting items, and that the United States would provide a plane to fly them to Amsterdam. He wanted Howe to be present for the transfer. Howe departed Frankfurt for Amsterdam the second week of October to arrange for the transfer. On October 10, 27 paintings held by the Munich Central Collecting Point, including works by Rubens, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt, that had been liberated by the Third U.S. Army from Hitler and Goering Collections, were flown in a special U.S. Army air transport to the Netherlands, accompanied by Vorenkamp. There they were transported immediately to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and turned over to the Dutch authorities. On October 19 the second load for the Netherlands left Munich, transported in Dutch trucks.

    During the first week in October Eisenhower authorized and requested as soon as possible a token restitution to Czechoslovakia of stolen cultural objects. Already, on September 29 USFET had made plans when instructions were issued that a token restitution of stolen cultural materials to Czechoslovakia be made on or about October 9, at Schloss Banz. The famous fourteenth century altarpiece by the Master of Hohenfurt, found in the Alt Aussee saltmine and moved to the Munich Central Collecting Point, and approximately 18 cases of objects from the Army Museum, Prague, then at Schloss Banz, were to be assembled by October 9 ready for transfer to the Czechs. Within a few days 1st Lt. Walter Horn , Chief, Intelligence Unit, MFA&A USFET, left for Schloss Banz to effect the transfer of the looted works to accredited representatives of the Czechoslovakian government. When two military officers from the Czech Ministry of National Defense came to USFET Headquarters the MFA&A officers arranged for them to proceed to Schloss Banz, where they were met by Horn. While the Czech officers were en route, Capt. Edwin C. Rae, Regional, MFA&A Officer, Office of Military Government for Bavaria, was directed to arrange for the delivery of the Hohenfurth panels to Schloss Banz. He designated Lt. Cmdr. Coulter to transport them from Munich, which he did on October 8. This joint operation was carried out successfully.

    In early October the American military authorities pretty much determined that many items at the Neuschwanstein castle could be returned directly by rail to France from Füssen, 2.5 miles west of the castle. In preparation for the move, at Munich Capt. Edward E. Adams, director of the MFA&A Evaluation Team for Upper Bavaria wrote LaFarge and Rae, that based on interviews with people at Füssen and other places, the road leading to the castle was a narrow winding road but appeared to be passable except in extremely snowy or freezing weather. Adams wrote that the court yard could accommodate four trucks and still provide a turn-around space. He indicated that loading facilities at the castle were very poor. The crates for the pictures and furniture provided adequate protection against breakage but would offer little protection against rain or snow. He believed that extremely large crates may require special trailer trucks to move them all the way to Paris. He also indicated that a large number of did not bear the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg) marking and that a fairly large book collection and a considerable quantity of ceramics, statuary, glass, furniture and carpets were not clearly marked. The crates, he wrote, were scattered throughout the building on several floors, and that all were not clearly marked and many were stacked in deep piles in narrow rooms. These conditions, Adams warned, would cause considerable time to be spent in checking identification marks and arranging the crates in an orderly manner for prompt loading in the trucks.

    Adams estimated that approximately 25 railway cars would be required to transport the crated material and approximately 8 additional cars would be required for the uncrated items. Shipments, he suggested, should be made in full trains of 10 cars each, the first movement to depart about October 15. He expressed the need to complete the operation before the bad weather began and therefore he indicated that it was imperative that all phases of the work be executed in the shortest possible time.

    Captain Adams recommend that an experienced evacuation team be put in charge of checking the crates with the Munich Central Collecting Point records, spot checking the crates, supervising the loadings, and arranging the order of shipment. He indicated that the loading list, which would be an itemized list attached to the final receipt, needed to be prepared at the castle as the trucks were loaded. Additionally, he recommended that the present movement include only the crated items that were readily identifiable. This, he estimated, would amount to approximately three-quarters of the collection. Questionable items and those requiring crating should be prepared at the castle immediately after the main shipment was made and then forwarded as soon as possible to the proper owners as shipping conditions permit. He recommended that the evacuation team proceed at once to the castle to check the markings on the crates and prepare a list which could be coordinated with the collecting point records. This list could then be used for reference in preparing the loading list and final receipt at the castle.

    On October 8 General Eisenhower authorized the Commanding General, Eastern Military District to start the immediate evacuation and restitution direct to France of crated works of art from Schloss Neuschwanstein. Cases readily identifiable by marking as of French origin were to be loaded without inspection of their contents. Schedule “A” of authorized receipt form would comprise shipping list of cases numbered in sequence without description of their contents. Additionally, the remaining not easily identifiable cases would be shipped only with concurrence of the three foreign art representatives attached to Office of Military Government (OMG) for Bavaria.

    Special evacuation personnel, dispatched to Neuschwanstein by OMG for Bavaria, were charged with the responsibility of crating the remainder and evacuating all objects by railway to France. The evacuation team consisted of Capt. Edward Adams, Lt.( jg) Charles Parkhurst, USNR, and Capt. Brye, the French Army officer at Munich. The latter left Munich on October 19 to Füssen to be present at the evacuation. On October 16, 2nd Lt. John D. Skilton, Jr. was sent from Würzburg to Füssen to help with the move. He returned to Würzburg on October 26. During October, a curator from the Munich Central Collecting Point was sent to Neuschwanstein to assist in making a spot check of the crates to determine the accuracy of the records that were being used to identify the property.

    At Schloss Neuschwanstein the loading began October 17 and was completed on October 24. Fifty-two truckloads consisting of 634 crates of art objects were moved from the castle - over a steep narrow winding mountain road - to the railroad siding at Füssen 4.2 miles away. The first trainload left Füssen for Paris on October 25. The train consisted of 2 personnel cars, a utility emergency car, 17 fully loaded closed cars, and one flat car. The latter car was required to carry one extremely large picture which was packed in a weather proof crate attached to a special scaffold nailed to the floor of the car. A second shipment, consisting of paintings, small statuary, glass, porcelain, furniture, tapestries, and carpets were then prepared for transport. Forty-one truck loads, with 446 crates, were moved from the castle to the railroad siding. The second trainload left Füssen for Paris on November 24, with 15 car trains. Thirteen cars were fully loaded freight cars and 2 cars for personnel of the French security guard. At the end of November, nine truckloads of 141 crates of cultural property were moved from the castle to Füssen. From there, the third and last shipment of ERR looted French art objects stored at the castle, left for Paris on December 3, with four fully loaded freight cars and one personnel car for the French security escort. In all 1,221 cases were returned from Füssen directly to France.

    Restitution efforts continued in the American Zone of Occupation. It was a mammoth undertaking. By the end of November 1948, the Americans had restituted nearly 1.7 million items to countries outside of Germany and had returned over 1.7 million items to Germans. At that point there were still hundreds of thousands of pieces to be returned or restituted. Undoubtedly, the Monuments Men looked back at their work with a sense of accomplishing much, but desiring that they could have done more.

    Now, seventy years after the end of World War II, the Monuments Men and their work are being recognized by the United States Congress, when, on October 22, 2015, the Monuments Men will be presented with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor the United States Congress can bestow. On September 29 Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a press release stating: “On Thursday, October 22, leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will present a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the Monuments Men, a group of men and women who protected and recovered historical sites and cultural artifacts during World War II.” He added that “without their efforts, thousands of works of art and monuments of history that created the rich cultural history in Europe would have been lost forever.” The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. in Emancipation Hall and will be live streamed. Please click here for the press release.


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