Tag Archives: Terror

This is a story that perhaps we wish had not happened

It was on this day – Monday 16th July 1945 – that the first atomic bomb was detonated at a desert site in New Mexico, close to the Los Alamos laboratory where the device had been built.

Three weeks later, on Monday 6th August 1945, a similar device was used on Hiroshima.

Quoted in the New York Times on Saturday 25th May 1946 Albert Einstein commented:
‘The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.’

Plane spotting can be a crime

On Saturday 4th June 1977, five young British men – all members of the West London Aviation Group – were released from jail in Athens. They were accused of spying and had spent ten weeks in prison for plane-spotting. Their original sentence was ten months but they were released after ten weeks on the condition that they would pay heavy fines. The men were simply interested in planes. The Greek police and courts did not understand that collecting serial numbers of aeroplanes was a hobby.

The Greek authorities could not understand what these young men – all in their twenties – were doing. Each had to pay a fine of £555 to obtain their release. Other plane spotters have had similar experiences.

Apparently Greek agents had tailed the spotters’ rented car as it travelled from airbase to airbase, parking on public highways as the occupants noted down aircraft numbers.  When they swooped on the departing Britons, the security police accused the men of taking notes which might describe the layout and features of the military runways they had visited. The five were immediately taken for interrogation by the Greek central intelligence agency.

“It was good cop, bad cop, just like you see on TV. One interrogator would be quite nice and then the other one would turn nasty.”

After 48 hours of questioning, the five were put on trial.
“We were very nervous. We had no idea if they were going to release us or put us away for 20 years.”

During their brief court appearance, the spotters attempted to convince Judge Stephanos Matthias that the taking of aircraft serial numbers was a genuine hobby in the UK (likening it to the Greek passion for football) and that it was not a cover for espionage.
“How can this silly, tasteless and costly game be a hobby?” retorted the judge.
While even Wing Commander Ioannis Marinakis – chief of air force intelligence and a prosecution witness – said the group acted “amateurishly”, all of the defendants were found guilty of violating security regulations under article 149 of the Greek penal code.

“They wanted to make an example of us. They didn’t want us going home and telling other plane-spotters about all the great numbers we had collected. That would have opened the flood gates.”

Buster Crabb and a note of his past

It is interesting how one thing can lead to another – and that the ‘other’ can be in the past rather than the present.

On Wednesday 19th April I posted the first part of the Buster Crabb story and promised that the next step would appear on Saturday 29th April.  That promise remains – however I’ve found a few bits about his past that we may find significant in the present.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Buster was an army gunner.  However, in 1941 he joined the Royal Navy and went to Gibraltar where he worked in a mine and bomb disposal unit.  This involved the removal of Italian limpet mines that enemy divers had attached to the hulls of Allied ships!

On Tuesday 8th December 1942, during one attack, two of the Italian frogmen died, probably killed by depth charges. Their bodies were recovered, and their swim-fins and Scuba sets were taken and used by Commander Lionel Crabb and a colleague. Lionel was awarded the George Medal for his efforts and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander.

In 1943 he became the Principal Diving Officer for Northern Italy and was assigned to clear mines in the ports of Livorno and Venice.  He was later given an OBE for these services. By this time he had gained the nickname “Buster”, after an American actor and swimmer Buster Crabbe.

After the war Buster was stationed in Palestine leading an underwater explosives disposal team removing mines placed by Jewish divers during the years of Mandatory Palestine. (see note below)

Buster was demobbed in 1947 and moved to a civilian job where he could use his wartime skills. He explored the wreck of a Spanish Armada galleon near the Isle of Mull and then located a suitable site for a discharge pipe for the Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. He later returned to work for the Royal Navy and twice dived to investigate sunken Royal Navy submarines.

In early 1955 he and frogman Sydney Knowles went to investigate the hull of the Soviet cruiser ‘Sverdlov’.  They were going to evaluate its superior manoeuvrability and, according to Knowles, they found a circular opening at the ship’s bow and inside it a large propeller that could be directed to give thrust to the bow. In March 1955 Buster was made to retire due to his age.

By this point his heavy drinking and smoking had taken its toll on his health, and he was not the diver that he had been in World War II. But a year later he was recruited by MI6!

NOTE
This was an area that was treated as a geopolitical entity under British administration having been carved out of Ottoman Southern Syria after the First World War.  The British civil administration in Palestine operated from 1920 to 1948. During its existence the territory was known simply as Palestine, but, in later years, a variety of other names and descriptors have been used, including Mandatory or Mandate Palestine, the British Mandate of Palestine and British Palestine.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – 2016 style

In the year 1812 the Brothers Grimm published the first edition of their collection ‘Grimms’ Fairy Tales’ .  In it, among others, was the story of Snow White.

This story is based on that classic of times gone by.

At the beginning of that story, a humble queen sits sewing at an open window during a winter snowfall when she pricks her finger with her needle, causing three drops of red blood to drip onto the freshly fallen white snow on the black windowsill.

Then, she says to herself: “How I wish that I had a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.” Sometime later, the Good Queen gives birth to a baby daughter whom she names Snow White.  Unfortunately the Queen dies shortly after.

A year later, Snow White’s father, the King, takes a second wife, who is very beautiful, but a wicked and vain woman. The new queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother, possesses a Magic Mirror, which she asks every morning:

“mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

The mirror always answers: “My Queen, you are the fairest one of all.”

The Queen is always pleased with that, because the magic mirror never lies. But as Snow White grows up, she becomes more beautiful each day and even more beautiful than the Queen, and when the Queen asks her mirror, it says;

“My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White is a thousand times more beautiful than you.”

As if by magic, there have been some changes over the years: this one is mine.

The ghost walk story begins …. and ends

This is the last posting for these Hallowe’en stories and dates back to late 2001 when a letter arrived addressed to ‘The Museum Ghost Hunter’.

It read:
‘Some time ago I read in the Evening Telegraph that you were looking for accounts of ‘spooky’ goings-on in Peterborough. If it’s not too late, please let me add to your collection of cathedral stories.
‘About 40 years ago, my mother (now long dead) came to stay with us. I took her to Peterborough Cathedral, expecting to hear many exclamations of surprise and admiration. She loved old buildings.
‘Instead, she sat beside me in one of the seats for a while after we had looked all around the place, and was very quiet and withdrawn, though she was if anything anti-religion, and would certainly not have been praying.’

When we emerged she asked: “Does the Cathedral have any history of violence?”
“You bet it does” said I, and gave a brief résumé of its early, turbulent history.
“That explains it then”, she said.
She had seen a man in monk’s habit pick up his skirts and run at top speed from one end of the nave to the other with a look of terror on his face. I certainly hadn’t seen him and no one else in the building had reacted in any way whatsoever, so we concluded that it was visible only to her.’

This story is still one that your scribe uses to this day – though not on every tour.
What the lady was seeing was quite probably the arrival of the Vikings in the 9th century destroying the first church here and murdering all present.