Sir Christopher Lee

Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee. 27 May 1922 ~ 7 June 2015

Christopher LeeFor the late Sir Christopher Lee, horror was not just something he portrayed so memorably in the movies, it was something that he had repeatedly witnessed in real life.

During the filming of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, the action called for the character of Saruman, the wizard played by Lee, to be stabbed in the back. The director, Peter Jackson, wanted Lee to scream out, but the legendary actor told him that when people are wounded in such a way, they are unable to scream. 

‘Peter,’ said Lee, in his magnificently rich, authoritative voice. ‘Have you ever heard the sound a man makes when he’s stabbed in the back?’ Jackson admitted that he hadn’t. ‘Well, I have,’ Lee continued, ‘and I know what to do.’ The lungs are punctured, Lee explained, meaning that the victim cannot cry out and instead just emits a quiet groan. With this gory revelation, Jackson and the crew went silent. They all knew that Lee had served in World War II, but here was a sign that he had witnessed true horror.2989503400000578-3120781-image-m-29_1434063506651

It was that sense of a dark, concealed past that helped to make Lee, who died on Sunday 7th June 2015 in a London hospital of heart failure, one of the finest and most distinctive actors of his generation. Although he will always be best remembered for his defining role as Dracula, Lee’s rich experiences of life before he became an actor equipped him to play a far broader range of genres than simply horror. Although he will always be best remembered for his defining role as Dracula, Lee’s rich experiences of life before he became an actor equipped him to play a far broader range of genres than simply horror.

Sir Christopher Lee was the epitome of a true Englishmen who served his country in its hour of need. As an actor he was the polar opposite of the shallow, self-regarding, limited-attention-span celebrities of today. He was also a traditional British Conservative, who like so many with family links to the continent was also a Eurosceptic. He was deeply attached to our democracy, and deeply suspicious of what he saw as the anti-democratic tide of European integration. I will now forgive this good man for ruining past family holidays to Whitby.      Yours Aye.

Victory in Europe Day – 70 years on

2876694200000578-3073506-image-a-72_1431095615951We shall remember them: 70 years after VE Day marked the end of World War Two, veterans lead silent tribute to their fallen comrades… Veterans led the nation in a silent tribute remembering the sacrifices made to win the Second World War on the 70th anniversary of VE Day.LOND-2015-053 RBL TAXI-067

Seven decades after the country broke out in jubilant celebration at the end of the Second World War, more than 100 former servicemen and women watched as the Duke of York, representing the Queen, joined politicians and military leaders to lay wreaths in Whitehall.

London celebratesThe tribute at the Cenotaph started three days of festivities to mark the anniversary of the announcement that Germany had offered the unconditional surrender to the Allies bringing about the end of the war in Europe.

Artillery guns were fired from the Tower of London and Wellington Barracks Parade Square starting a national two-minute silence at 3pm. To mark the moment Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast the news of the German surrender to the nation. Today marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day when Germany surrendered to the Allies

I have the greatest respect and deepest admiration for those of the allied forces who chose to fight, and defeat Fascism to ensure our own Democracy would survive. They will always be remembered…      Yours Aye.


Courage Is Contagious ~ When A Brave Man Takes A Stand ~ The Spines Of Others Are Often StiffenedVeterans-Day

‘Grateful Thanks From This Side Of The Pond For Always Being There’

And Very Many Thanks For The Loan Of Your Big Military Toys When We needed To Play With Them… Yours Aye!

President Reagan. Point-du-Hoc 6/6/84.

President Ronald Reagan Normandy

President Reagan’s Address at the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, D-day at Point-du-Hoc – 6/6/84.

Just because…    Thirteen poignant minutes from the heart.      Yours Aye.

Bob Noody D-Day Veteran ready to go again

D-Day veteran from the real Band of Brothers returns to his wartime billet In England during trip to his former embarkation point, and on to his battlegrounds.1401380877153_Image_galleryImage_Mandatory_Credit_Photo_byBob Noody in the Blue Boar pub of Aldbourne, where he was stationed before D-Day 1401380679035_Image_galleryImage_Mandatory_Credit_Photo_byA former American soldier who took part in the D-Day landings has returned to Europe for the last time to visit the English village where he was stationed before the historic mission. Bob Noody was captured in a historic photograph on his way to the front in Normandy, showing him as a young man overburdened with armour and weaponry. Now the 90-year-old is set to return to the beaches of northern France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Mr Noody has spent this week in the village of Aldbourne in Wiltshire, where he was stationed with Fox Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. D-Day-Veteran-real-Band-of-Brothers-Bob Noody-returns-to-visit-wartime-billet

Bob Noody we owe a great debt of gratitude to you and yours. You also look as though your up for it once more; fighting fit and looking good with a pint pot in your hand.       Yours Aye.

From Shakespeare’s Henry V, 1598: One of the well-known lines from his St. Crispin’s Day Speech.

‘This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.’

American, Jack English 93-years-young

American Jack English, a sprightly 93 year old whose home is his castle in woodlandJack EnglishJack English, log cabinJack English could teach the youth of today a thing or two about lifestyle, the great majority of which will not even see retirement age; through ill health attributed to modern day living. I would love to end my days as Jack will.            Yours Aye.

Photographic history of VIETNAM

article-0-186F6A9B00000578-921_964x903A spectacular new book entitled ‘Vietnam The Real War’ containing images taken by Associated Press war photographers has been released to remember 50 years since the conflict began, it also serves as a photographic record of the Vietnam War. The book’s publication will coincide with an exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Manhattan, that will run from October 24 to November 26 2013.article-2441235-1873798B00000578-644_636x382 The above main picture, by Henri Huet, shows U.S. Marines nest to their foxholes after a third night of fighting against North Vietnamese troops in September 1966. The image on the right, also by Huet, shows U.S. paratroopers hold their automatic weapons above water as they cross a river in the rain during a search for Viet Cong positions in the jungle area of Ben Cat on September 25, 1965.low res TIM PAGE Out with the P.R.U

As a young teen I went to an exhibition by self-taught British photographer Tim Page, who operated in theatre, as well as worked around various units within Vietnam. Page was wounded several times at various intervals of the war, each time returning for more. Throughout his exhibition he gave commentary on each photograph displayed. All fascinating stuff, non political, just told it as it was. As I was hopeless at art, It inspired me to take up ‘click and pray’ photography as a (very expensive) hobby.  A great big Hallelujah for the coming of the digital camera.      Yours Aye.

Nick Newell, Motivator

Service members returning from combat with serious injuries sometimes face the terrible news of amputation. And the military is getting better with providing them mentors with insight into their condition:

Nick Newell, a World Series of Fighting lightweight star, visited with members of “Operation Warrior Reconnect,” the Los Angeles Times reported. He met with the troops last Wednesday in Camp Pendleton, Calif., and was humbled by their appreciation of him.

Nick Newell is an one-arm MMA fighter. Go to the link to see Nick fighting Keon Caldwell.

Climbing like home-sick angels

My usual Friday early morning routine is set in granite. It finds me sat atop the felled tree logs with my tin mug toppers with red-hot tea, observing my two Staffies as they mount a canine clearing patrol around the fields. Nothing can ever fault such a start to the day, no matter what the weather may be. Except this morning was different, a first even, because from behind my rosy position of solace, I could hear a ‘whine’ in the far distance (as I’m not married, and don’t have a wife, I instantly wrote that one off as the possible source)! The pitch grew louder causing me to look over my shoulder; just then two Typhoon FGR4 fighter-bombers flying ultra low level, screamed directly overhead, upon which they hit their after burners and powered into a vertical climb, like two home-sick angels.800px-Eurofighter_typhoon_2

The whine turned into a deafening roar of jet turbine engines, from which their super heated wash created a visible swirling turbulence. The canine clearing patrol appeared at the gallop from the long grass seeking refuge upon me, spilling the contents of my tin mug into the crutch of my rugby shorts. Bloody RAF. Bloody Staffies. Bloody hot tea… I watched the jets ride on until they were black dots, chuckling to myself whilst holding the material of my shorts away from my bare skin. The noise will have at least wound up ‘Mr. Angry’ from the village, which reminded me of a previous evolution…

One early morning last summer I received a caller at the door, it turned out to be the local busy body from the small village nearest to me (an ex-civil servant who I shall refer to as ‘Major Blunder’, due to his dated pompous arrogance, colonial attire, abrupt clipped speech, and walrus moustache).dm A neatly printed form attached to a clipboard was thrust in front of me, with an order (not a polite request) to read & sign the petition; with his finger tapping on the spot next to my address, with ‘name unknown’ next to it. I can also do rude and bad manners when required, which I did, on my doorstep. A full blistering barrage, that brought the devil to attention, and stopped the horses grazing in the adjoining field. Major Blunder left with a flea in each ear… that probably irritated him for the rest of his day. <— Similar version of Major Blunder.

Major Blunder’s petition was an action being passed around the villages within the Parish boundary. It was aimed at stopping the RAF from conducting early morning, and late evening training flights, both by fast jets as well as choppers. When I checked my mail later, I also found a flier full of bureaucratic procedure that only an ex-uncivil servant could have put together, though it did contain details for a planned meeting in the local village hall covering the same issue. Three days later I attended the meeting early, and landed a seat in the front row. All who dwell within a country village worth their salt will attend such a meeting, as it is the done thing and expected, it’s English, it’s traditional. Bah~Humbug to those who decline!

A veritable host of bribes refreshments had been laid on, which someone had taken their time presenting, it also included fresh tea and coffee, with plain digestive, and milk chocolate biscuits! Major Blunder I presume? The great man appeared and called the meeting to order, with a small committee aside him presiding on an elevated platform, looking over the great unwashed below. After much discussion to and fro, the eventual consensus of opinion of the gathering appeared to be that although the noise from the aircraft could be loud when the weather was over cast, it was also bearable. It was obvious from the flight patterns that the sorties also changed quite frequently, switching their aerobatic dogfights from land, to the heavens over the North Sea. I waited until the very end to have my say, and fired one barrel over the heads of the gathered crowd as a safety shot. Not many, if any know of my past, of which I prefer

As I addressed the multitude, I obviously spoke against the petition. Jet-powered aircraft create intense noise from aerodynamics, which is affected greatly by atmospheric pressure and weather conditions, etc, etc. I spoke of the importance of pilot training throughout the military, and how others and I had required the assistance of fast jets as well as choppers throughout my previous life as a Bootneck. In addition I asked them to think of those serving now, who, when in contact with the enemy close up and personal, could end up severely maimed or badly wounded casualties. 115020551_endofyear_367815bTheir chances of survival required skilled pilots flying the blood chariots with medics to extract them. Or they may well require ordnance from fast jets, delivered danger close to their own positions to stave of attacks. I purposely kept the controlled rant short and sweet, which must have hit a raw nerve, as several couples asked for their names to be withdrawn from the petition.

I saved the second barrel for Major Blunder and his rag tag committee, which I blatantly aimed at his outmoded heart, and gently, squeezed the trigger. I asked them not to take my words for granted, and mentioned that I could arrange a visit to HEADLEY COURT, The Defence Medical Rehabilitation service from where they could hear first hand accounts of the bravery of such pilots flying blind in medevac dust off’s, or pilots conducting strafing runs danger close. This from those whose lives had been saved through the same selfless commendable action’s. I waited for a response, which was met by a wall of silence, and ‘eyes to the floor’ embarrassment. Thought not!

At the end of the meeting, I declined the proffered 30 pieces of silver cup of tea and biscuits, as well as the social banter that would normally follow. Shortly after I heard that the whole petition formulated by Major Blunder had crashed and burned. A feeling I knew well, as my tin mug of tea had been quite fresh and hot when it was doused over my lap, through the sheer panic fighting withdrawal action conducted by Hannah & Joss as they made their way back to my position. C’est la guerre…            Yours Aye.

A warrior respectfully seated

In Fijian culture it is thought that good things come through the head and are passed down to the feet. It is important to make sure that one’s head is not above others in the room. To this end Sgt Rusiate Bolavucu, 32, of the 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster Regiment, was following an ancient tradition from his Fijian homeland when the Queen visited Kendal, Cumbriaarticle-2368172-1ADDC062000005DC-96_634x955Fijian soldier SAT DOWN when he met the Queen  Well wishers cheering the Queen were startled when the soldier she’d just spoken to suddenly sat himself down in the road. Many thought he’d collapsed with heat exhaustion during the royal tour of Kendal, Cumbria. But Her Majesty knew exactly what was going on and didn’t bat an eyelid.

Fijians have served within the UK’s Armed Forces for several generations, which started in WWII in the fight against the Japanese. They are a Nation of unsung heroes. Many have served as SAS ‘blades’ with distinction, they continue to do so.DownloadedFile

If you have time and the inclination, I would ask you to search upon the heroic action of SAS Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, 30, a Fijian known to his com­rades-in-arms as “Laba”. It took place in a small sea port town called Mirbat, OmanAwards for Bravery 

Yours Aye.

Sun-dodger Rodney ‘Vic’ Silvester RN

article-2366651-1ADA3028000005DC-970_634x408Ex-submariner, 67 year-old Rodney ‘Vic’ Silvester of Porchester, Portsmouth, was laid to rest with dignity, surrounded by mourners unknown to him, as ‘Vic’ had no immediate family and only one distant relative. The word soon quickly spread around the British Legion, the Submariner’s Association, as well as the Royal Marine Association. Scores of strangers turn up to veteran’s funeral after care home’s Facebook plea for mourners They answered the call and stood-too for this veteran ‘sun-dodger’ who was laid to rest with full military honours, with the last post played by a Royal Marine Bugler.

Rest In Peace ship-mate.                                                                                      Yours Aye.

A Swedish Navy Vet

I have google alerts that diligently collect any stories on the Navy. I have other alerts set for various other stories that interest me. This one wins the trifecta, the Navy, languages, and veterans:

When police found the unconscious man in a Southern California Motel 6, the IDs on him said he was Michael Thomas Boatwright from Florida.

But when the man awoke at Desert Regional Medical Center a few days later, he said he’d never heard of Boatwright.

He didn’t recall serving in the U.S. Navy. Or of being born in Florida.

When doctors told him he had five tennis rackets in his hotel room, he couldn’t say why.

When they showed him photos of himself with others, he didn’t recognize them, or himself.

And he didn’t speak a word of English.

The man said his name was Johan Ek.

And he said it in Swedish.

That was back in February.

Today, the 61-year-old man says he has come to terms with the name “Michael Boatwright,” but only because doctors told him he should.

He still feels like Johan Ek from Sweden.

An interesting story. Hope Jonah, er Michael, gets his memory back. (FYI, He’d served from 1971 to 1973 in the Navy as an aviation mechanic.)

Shipmate – Departing!

piping aboardNavyOne may not wish folks to know this, but as he may have mentioned it in an earlier post –  I’m going to go ahead and talk a little bit about…

NavyOne and I work together, well, technically, worked together, past tense.  He left today. I’ve spent the last couple of years enjoying his odd and brilliant sense of humor and watching him grow as a Naval Officer and enjoying the effect/affect he’s had on those around him. We work (worked) in a cubicle farm, and there was always lively and entertaining conversation; it was fairly certain that visitors to the cube were immediately gunned down in the constant verbal crossfire.  Of course there was (some amount) of work going on – usually by NavyOne… The running verbal gun battle was routinely interrupted by the armistice of Breakfast burrito Wednesday’s – a ritual demanded by NavyOne to satisfy his insatiable burrito addiction – (factoid: my statistics come out to: NavyOne was averaging at four per day…).

In our time together, I offered what mentorship I could to further his career (only some took…). In fact, I think, when I was wearing a uniform, I may have actually written his performance evaluation once (or twice) – And, I’m happy to report, my musings over his performance had no adverse effect on his career… I think.  He may disagree.

The truth of the matter is that in a career in the Navy, one meets all kinds of Officers. good, bad, effective, knuckleheads, superstars, future Admirals, guys who couldn’t lead themselves out of a wet paper bag – etcetera.

NavyOne happens to solidly land in the category of superstar, in my opinion. He’s a truly patriotic, thoughtful, dedicated, inspired, brilliant, hard-working, caring Officer. The kind of man that every CO prays to have in his wardroom.  The Navy has chosen to remove him from the cubicle farm and send him to Sea – the only proper place for a sailor.  I, for one, am glad he’s going out there to stand the watch for us. I’ll sleep better at night.

NavyOne:  “THEY” are going to LOVE you out there, and – you are going to LOVE life at Sea.  Trust me.

Keep doing amazing work – shipmate. I’ll miss ya.  And, where you are going – you’ll miss the burritos.

SPITFIRE 944. A Hero and a few good men

A few years back I was carrying out some research on a local WWII airfield (now redundant) that was home to a Spitfire Squadron, whose role was to protect York from Nazi bombers. Whilst trawling the net I came across a short film that was produced for the Sundance film festival, which I almost gave up on watching (I am so glad that I persevered). Up until this morning I had forgotten about the remarkable story, until it appeared on the Blog of Theo Spark, ‘Last of the Few’800px-Spitfire_944_fest_poster_a

SPITFIRE 944 – YouTube 22 year old Pilot Lieutenant John S. Blyth, is one of many WWII servicemen who took it in their stride and got the job done. They are all heroes in the true sense of the word. It required a few good men to bring the story of John S Blyth to the screen, which I am thankful for. If you have a few minutes on your hands, you too can share this young American’s amazing story

Yours Aye.

Hooked on Heroes

I very rarely make a plug for money, but I have news of an important organization that is trying to get their feet off the ground. Any help you can offer in the form of monetary donations (small or large) would help tremendously. They are called Hooked on Heroes:

Hooked on Heroes is meant to offer wounded warriors, veterans and disadvantaged youths the opportunity to take break and go fishing. The main goal is to give something back to our heroes and to help our youth appreciate the gifts and lessons offered by mother nature through fishing.

I can personally vouch for the integrity of the org and their mission…

Band Together for a Band of Brothers

Courtesy of reader Lauren: the Veterans of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, actors who portrayed them in the HBO series “Band of Brothers” along with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg all signed this poster which will be auctioned off on eBay starting June 6th. The proceeds will be donated to GallantFew. Do go check it out. This is truly a worthwhile charity…