Can Hamas rocket attacks on Israel really be compared to the Blitz?

July 25th, 2014

A building falls during World War II, London (Rex)

The Blitz was launched in September 1940 following the failure of the Luftwaffe to destroy the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. Wave after wave of German bombers – up to 40,000 sorties were flown – defied British defences to drop 35,000 tons of explosives, including 18,800 tons of high explosives plus incendiaries and parachute bombs.

King George Vi visits a wreckage in Bristol where there had been severe bomb damage, December 1940 (Rex)

Later in the war, as many as 9,000 V1s and 1,000 V2s hit Britain as the German army retreated following the Normandy invasion.

Number of deaths

Three Israeli citizens have been killed and more than a dozen injured in the attacks, while 32 troops have died in the military operation targeting Hamas.

Palestinian’s sit on a building damaged by Israeli bombardment in the Jabalia district of the northern Gaza Strip (Eyevine)

The death toll in Gaza has risen to 746, according to local sources.

During the German wartime campaign on Britain an estimated 40,000 died and 90,000 suffered serious injuries. About 2 million homes were destroyed.

Weapons

The Hamas arsenal has five variants of rockets and missiles. Its basic weapon is the Qassam rocket with a range of less than ten miles but it also has a large stockpile of the 122mm Katyushas which boast a range of up to 30 miles. The introduction of the M-75 and M0302 missiles means Hamas boast offensive weapons with a longer range of up to 100 miles and a much greater explosive impact.

An Israeli 155mm cannon fires a shell toward Gaza Strip at an army deployment area in southern Israel near the border with Gaza (Rex)

Towards the end of the war the German high command authorised attacks using the newly developed V1 and V2 rockets both capable of carrying one ton of high explosive. Between June 1944 and March 1945 the so-called “Hitler’s revenge” weapon killed 8,938 people.

Who are Hamas? In 60 seconds


World War Two

War veteran who fled care home to attend D day celebrations honoured by home city

July 23rd, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.


World War Two

And they all came home from the world wars…

July 22nd, 2014

But in a few weeks, a plaque presented to each Doubly Thankful village will be officially unveiled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Only now are they coming together to celebrate.

Tony Collett, 83, the son of Sgt Major Collett, who has lived in Upper Slaughter his entire life, remembers painting the names of those who had returned on a roll of honour with his father in 1945. It is still hanging in the village hall, alongside one from the First World War. “I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what it all meant,” he says. “That’s only really come about in recent years. My father served in Mesopotamia [Iraq] and never really spoke about the First World War. On Remembrance Day we would always go to the memorial in Lower Slaughter (it lost 15 men in the Great War). Even though our village never lost anybody, it has always been important to remember those who did.”

There are some 16,000 villages across England and Wales and each gave their sons to the Great War. The formation of Pals’ Battalions, to supplement Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army, meant whole villages signed up to serve together. As a result, a generation from a single place could be laid to waste in a burst of machine gun fire.

But at the end of the war, when news came in censored bulletins and communication was limited, the extent of sacrifice among individual, often deeply rural, communities was not clear. It was only in the Thirties, when the author and staunch patriot Arthur Mee travelled the country to compile his King’s England Volumes, that he identified what he called the “thankful villages”, 32 places where everybody came home from the Great War, a figure that has now been upgraded to 51. Of these, according to the Royal British Legion and historians Norman Thorpe, Rod Morris and Tom Morgan who have conducted extensive research, just 13 were also spared any losses in the Second World War.

Some, such as Herodsfoot in Cornwall, have a memorial honouring the dozen or so names of those who served and returned, including Private Herbert Medland, whose daughter Vera Sandercock still lives in the village. But the evidence is not always set in stone. In Catwick in East Yorkshire, 30 men left to fight in the First World War but, before departing, each nailed a coin on to the wall inside the blacksmith’s forge, near a lucky horseshoe. During the Second World War another 30 coins were nailed on. None ever needed to be taken down and the mementos have stayed in the village ever since.

With interest piqued by centenary celebrations, more communities without war memorials are coming forward and the number of Doubly Thankful villages could end up being higher.

One recent claim comes from Holywell Lake in Somerset, a county that boasts two doubly thankful villages, despite the Somerset Light Infantry losing 4,756 soldiers in the Great War. “In Somerset we’ve always been very proud of king and country and when the war broke out we wanted to go and fight,” says Roger Duddridge, county chairman of the Royal British Legion. “On some memorials I’ve seen the names of whole families that were killed: three or four brothers at a time. It’s only recently that these villages where everybody survived have started to come to attention and it’s so gratifying when you find one. This is something that has taken 100 years to piece together.”

The hamlet of Woolley, near Bath, reached by narrow hedgerow-flanked roads and sheltered by Solsbury Hill, contributed 13 young men to the First World War and 13 to the Second. Here too, the magnitude of everybody surviving both never truly sunk in. “When I was growing up we just didn’t appreciate the significance of it,” says Margaret Foster, 71, who still lives in the house where she was born.

Five of her cousins – all brothers – fought in the Second World War. One, Dennis Kurle, is still alive, aged 92. “This village is so small that you didn’t really appreciate the rarity that everybody returned alive. Families knew their own had come back from the war and so were a bit removed from the true scale of it all.”

Some of the survivors of the trenches bore hidden scars; many more suffered all too visible wounds. Of those who returned, 1.75 million had suffered some disability and half were permanently disabled.

Mrs Foster says the residents of Woolley tried to help its sons to forget their experience of the horror – apart from a plaque put up in All Saints’ Church, there was no mention of war. “All the soldiers who returned were marked by what they had seen,” she says, “especially the First World War veterans. When war broke out and they signed up, they just thought they were tough boys, but they had no idea what they were going to face.”

The village, which has never hosted a Remembrance Day, will join the centenary commemorations in the first week of August with a small ceremony alongside the other Doubly Thankful villages to honour their good fortune. But for the grace of God, they too would have had a stone cross to bear of their own.

THE FORTUNATE FEW VILLAGES

Cornwall: Herodsfoot

Gloucestershire: Upper Slaughter

Herefordshire: Middleton-on-the-Hill

Lancashire: Nether Kellet

Lincolnshire: Flixborough

Lincolnshire: High Toynton

Nottinghamshire: Cromwell

Pembrokeshire: Herbrandston

Somerset: Stocklinch

Somerset: Woolley

Suffolk South: Elmham St Michael

East Yorkshire: Catwick

Cardiganshire: Llanfihangel y Creuddyn


World War Two

Watch: the first trailer for The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

July 21st, 2014

The first trailer for the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Second World War code-breaker, has been released. Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s film, based on Andrew Hodges’s book Alan Turing: The Enigma, has been selected to open this year’s London Film Festival on October 8.

Turing was a pioneer of modern computing whose work at Bletchley Park’s Government Code and Cypher School involved deciphering coded communications sent through the Nazis’ Enigma machine. Winston Churchill credited Turing with helping the Allies to win several significant battles and saving thousands of lives. He was nonetheless prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 and chemically castrated; he died two years later from cyanide poisoning, aged 41. After a lengthy campaign Turing was given a royal pardon in 2013.

Joining Cumberbatch in the cast are Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Keira Knightley, as Turing’s colleague and former fiancée Joan Clarke. At one point Leonardo DiCaprio was due to play Turing, but he pulled out shortly before production began.

The Imitation Game is released in the UK on November 14, and in the US on November 21


World War Two

Grandson of Hitler assassination plotter in bid to reclaim estate confiscated by Nazis

July 20th, 2014

The prince, 50, says his grandfather was imprisoned, tortured and forced by the Gestapo to sign a legal declaration ultimately handing over control to his land to Heinrich Himmler. Despite the circumstances in which the document was signed its legal standing is accepted by officials today and treated like “a document signed today in a lawyer’s office”.

He said: “They are saying well the wording in this document is okay, he signed it, so what’s the problem?

“If my grandfather hadn’t signed they would have murdered his entire family, so there was no option.”

The July 20 plot involved a series of high ranking Germany army officers, including Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, who was played by Cruise in Valkyrie. Prince Friedrich III hosted meetings of the conspirators on his estates.

On July 20 1944 Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a suitcase under a table in Hitler’s headquarters, known as the “wolf’s lair”, in what is now Poland. The bomb exploded, but Hitler escaped with little more than a burst eardrum.

Stauffenberg and about 5,000 other people were executed in the following days. Prince Friedrich believes his grandfather was kept alive by chance – because he was the uncle of the Swedish crown princess and Himmler was attempting to negotiate a truce with the Allies with the help of Sweden’s royal family.

He says that his father fought for the land and property from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 until his death in 2006. The family bought back Castle Baruth, its seat in the state of Brandenburg in eastern Germany, shortly after the wall came down.

In 2003 the family reached a settlement with German authorities to reclaim a large part of his grandfather’s estate.

Now Prince Friedrich is fighting to win back the remaining properties and land, which he says amounts to up to around 19,000 acres. The estate mainly comprises forestry and includes two manor houses currently under the ownership of local authorities.

The estate falls within the remit of two separate local authorities within Brandenburg – Cottbus and Potsdam, just outside Berlin.

Last month at a hearing at an administrative court in Cottbus, Prince Friedrich was told that evidence about the prince’s grandfather including expert testimony from Antony Beevor, the Second World War historian, would not be admitted because it was for the court to judge the historical circumstances of the case.

Last week the court rejected the claim. The prince said he had expected the result because the court refused to accept “any of the evidence we submitted.”

Separately Prince Friedrich’s claim in Potsdam was rejected by the county’s administrative court, which ruled that his grandfather had handed over control of his estate in a legal transaction and denied that he was a victim of Nazi persecution. Instead it said that the measures taken against his grandfather, including imprisonment, were simply of an “investigative nature”.

He has now lodged an appeal at Germany’s federal constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

Meanwhile, Natascha Engel, a German-born MP who chairs the backbench business committee, has written to Lord Astor, the defence minister, asking if he can aid the prince’s efforts.

Lord Goldsmith also urged the Foreign Office to provide “every assistance possible” to help locate evidence which might satisfy the court and “help settle this case once and for all.”

Prince Friedrich said: “What is being done here flies in the face of the constitution – not [allowing us] to present evidence and disregarding the historical circumstances blatantly. We have protested that we have been denied a fair hearing, which is the minimum we can say.

“We are confident the judges at the constitutional court will have the wisdom to recognise this and correct the mistakes made by the lower courts. If not, Germany will – after 70 years – still not have learnt the lessons from its troubled past.”

The claims are being defended in court by the Federal Office for Central Services and Unresolved Property Issues. A spokesman declined to comment.


World War Two

War veteran who fled care home to Normandy D Day celebrations honoured

July 17th, 2014

Asked why he travelled across to Normandy, Mr Jordan, a former local borough councillor and mayor of Hove, said: ”My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed.

”I was going across to pay my respects. I was a bit off course but I got there.”

He added: ”Britain is a smashing country and the people are smashing, and if you have to do something a bit special then they are worth every effort.”

Brighton and Hove City Council officials said the honorary alderman title is a mark of respect for the work and commitment given by a former councillor.

Mr Jordan’s honour was to mark his ”exceptional contribution to the work of the newly-formed Brighton and Hove Council and the former Hove Borough Council and to the community”.

Mr Fitch described Mr Jordan – affectionately known as Bernie – as ”a hero and an inspiration to all ages”.

He said: ”It’s grey power. What it shows is that where you have commitment and where you are determined, you can find a way, and that’s what Bernie has done.”

Mr Jordan hit headlines globally when he disappeared from his care home to embark on his cross-Channel trip to the D-Day anniversary events in Normandy wearing his war medals under his grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search on June 5 and his whereabouts was only uncovered when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Last month he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world following his adventure to Normandy.


World War Two

Japan complained over ‘Tenko’ BBC television series

July 16th, 2014

The idea for the programme emerged from research into Evelyn Turner, a British military nurse, for an episode of “This is your Life”. Ms Turner was aboard one of the last transport ships to leave Singapore while it was under attack from Japanese forces in early 1942, but was captured after the vessel was sunk.

She endured regular beatings, malnutrition, disease and the death of many of her friends in a succession of camps in Sumatra.

The initial approach to the Foreign Office stated that while the Japanese Embassy was “not trying to deny the historical fact”, according to Kyodo News, the embassy nevertheless suggest there was “a danger that the association of past Japanese violence, and its gratuitous screening at this moment, with the cultural manifestations of the exhibition, would create a bad impression”.

The embassy also felt it had received a “deliberate brush-off” when it previously contacted the BBC and asked the Foreign Office to intervene.

Louise Jamieson as Blanche Simmons in Tenko (BAND Photo)

An official “expressed anxieties” to the BBC, while another Foreign Office official criticised the BBC’s “complete lack of feeling over timing” in correspondence to a colleague.

He also pointed out that the BBC had broadcast a documentary about Japanese atrocities in Malaya earlier in the year, when Zenko Suzuki, the then-Japanese prime minister, was paying an official visit to Britain.

The files also show that Julian Ridsdale, the chairman of the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group, asked George Howard, the chairman of the BBC, to edit the programme.

Mr Ridsdale allegedly asked the BBC to make “cuts in the future [programmes] to remove some of the more brutal scenes”. It is not clear whether the BBC acted on the request.

Tenko – which translates as “roll call” – regularly attracted 15 million viewers and was largely filmed in Dorset.


World War Two

Girl whose piano playing melted PoW hearts

July 13th, 2014

Mrs Koshida also enlisted the help of The Telegraph, which – following its own investigations – can now reveal what became of the prisoners to whom her music brought such comfort.

The incredible story began in March 1945, after Yoko and her family left their home in Tokyo, where the firestorms unleashed by American bombing raids on the city killed between 80,000 and 130,000 civilians.

The camp (LEE SOMERVILLE)

The family found refuge in the city of Yokohama, in a house overlooking prisoner of war camp 14B. This held around 120 POW’s from Britain, the United States, Australia and the Netherlands captured by the Japanese.

Now a widow, Mrs Koshida, said: “I was very frightened when the prisoners were first brought here because they were all very tall and I had never seen a foreigner before. They were not aggressive at all; they were very quiet”

She recalls that the men, who were forced to work in factories, spent their spare time growing vegetables, though they were not above stealing from her father’s crop of cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines.

“My father said they were starving, just like us, so he didn’t make a fuss,” she said.

Mrs Koshida, who hoped to go to music college, would practice every day, the pieces she played drifting through her open windows and down over the prison blocks. “One day, I noticed from the window that there were three men sitting on the roof of the barracks,” she said “The next day, there were a few more people with them – and the day after that there were dozens of them.”

Forbidden to communicate with the prisoners, Mrs Koshida did not wave or make eye contact with the men, but after a while she began to recognise a few of her regular listeners.

Former British prisoner of war Harry Hines before his capture (JULIAN SIMMONDS)

Within days of Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender on August 15, Allied aircraft began dropping food and medicine onto the camps, and one evening the men brought round tins of food as gifts for her family. Mrs Koshida said: “The bell rang and my father went down to the door. He came back with some cans of food. The prisoners wanted to give them to me because of my piano playing and they told my father that we were all friends now.”

When Allied forces arrived on August 30 to take away their men, the men made a point of returning to her home with more gifts, handing over sugar, soap and more tins of food. “They were excited,” Seized by a sudden impulse she grabbed her autograph book and asked the men to write their names and addresses.

The yellowing pages of her notebook still clearly show the names of Harry Hines, of Luton; a T. Taylor, of Ponders End in Middlesex, and Leonard Patrick Sheaf, of Enfield, Middlesex; along with that of an American from Georgia and an Australian POW from Tasmania. Mr Sheaf and Mr Taylor penned brief messages for the teenager.

“Thank you for a very nice evening. I hope to see you again. Hope England and Japan [can] be friends,” wrote Mr Sheaf. Beneath Mr Taylor’s name was written August 30, the date of their departure, and the message: “This war was a very bad thing for everyone. I would very much like them to come back and to see them again.”

Mrs Koshida said. “The war was over, they had survived and they were going home now.” Sitting at the same Mason & Hamlin grand piano she played all those years ago – still positioned by a window overlooking the site of the camp – Mrs Koshida added. “I hope they have survived all these years and, after the terrible time they had, that they are all well now. I still think I could play them some Chopin if they were able to return.”

Inspired by her wish, the Sunday Telegraph set out to discover what became of the three British PoWs who signed that autograph book and their story of capture, imprisonment and liberation is as inspiring as her own.

Records show that Mr Hines, who was born in 1917, served in the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, having joined as a reservist before enlisting as a Sargeant in 1939, on the outbreak of war. The regiment has been expecting to be posted to the Middle East, but when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Mr Hines and his comrades were redirected to the defence of Singapore.

It was here, in February 1942, in what was one of the worst defeats inflicted on the British Army, that Mr Hines was captured by the invading Japanese.

Mr Hines’s daughter Janice recalls: “He had become separated from his regiment and at first my mother believed he was killed when Singapore fell.”

In fact Mr Hines had been taken to Omari POW camp, near Tokyo, before being transferred to Yokohama’s camp 14B. The ordeal left its scars. He was frequently beaten by guards and the poor prison diet, consisting mainly of rice, left him with lifelong stomach problems.

But Mr Hines managed to rebuild his life after the war, marrying his childhood sweetheart Irene Seabrook on his return and returning to his job as a lathe operator for an engineering firm in Dunstable, eventually rising to the position of company buyer.

In 1946 Harry and Irene had Janice, but for several years Mr Hines was haunted by his wartime experiences.

Former British prisoner of war ‘Joe’ Taylor aboard a ship after the war (JULIAN SIMMONDS)

Janice Schaub, now married and living in Minnesota, said: “My mother said that when he first came back he was an entirely different man. When the first jet planes started to fly overhead he would dive under the table. To him they sounded like the bombers.”

But for all his suffering Mr Hines bore no ill will towards Japan and its people.

“My father lived a life without hatred,” said Mrs Schaub, 68. “He always judged people by their character rather than their nationality. He remembered Japan as a beautiful country and in later years had even planned to go back, because he wanted to see Mount Fuji.”

Unfortunately Mr Hines died at the age of 67, in April 1985, before being able to fulfil his ambition.

His comrade ‘T. Taylor’ was, we discovered, Thomas ‘Joe’ Taylor, who was captured with his regiment, the Royal Engineers, when the Japanese invaded the British colony of Hong Kong, in December 1941.

Mr Taylor later told his family how he suffered terribly from the cold at camp 14B, having been issued with just one blanket. After the war he stayed in the Army until 1957, when he went on to work for the Foreign Office, coordinating security at embassies. This saw him posted around the world, including Cuba, China and Nigeria, with his wife Hazel, who he married in 1953.

But his favourite posting was, surprisingly perhaps, to Japan, where he served at the British embassy from 1976 to 1979. Mrs Taylor, now 92 and living in Hampshire in a house filled with Japanese prints and decorative dolls, said: “He was very fond of Japan in the end. He got on very well with the people. In fact we made more friends there than anywhere else.”

Mr Taylor never told the Japanese he met that he had once been their POW. His widow, who remains in contact with several of the Japanese friends she taught English during their stay in Tokyo, said: “He didn’t hold any resentment against the ordinary Japanese.”

The story of Mr Sheaf, the third Briton in the group, remains more of a mystery. In the autograph book Leonard Patrick Sheaf gives his address as one in Enfield which records show a man with the same name shared with his father Leonard, mother Alice and brother Patrick before the war.

But Mr Sheaf’s son John, 41, said he knew nothing about his father being a Japanese POW. “I’m sure its something he would have said. We always thought he’d been evacuated to Northern Ireland as a teenager and joined the merchant navy after the war. We don’t know anything about him being in Japan” he said, adding however: “Funnily enough he was a great fan of Japanese culture. He liked how respectful and honourable they were.”

The question remains whether any of the men told their loved ones, on their return to Britain, of the girl who played the piano? It seems not. But their families can easily imagine the comfort her playing brought. “It must have been something for them to really look forward to each day,” said Mrs Schaub. “Something as nice as that.”


World War Two

Swimming in Auschwitz, PBS America, review: ‘harrowing’

July 9th, 2014

The antithesis of any notion of care was explored in Swimming in Auschwitz (PBS America) in which six women, all teenagers at the time, spoke of their experiences there. I am glad to say it was more harrowing than the suspiciously jaunty title suggested. (It referred to a hot summer day when one of the women in the camp on the way to her labour jumped into a deserted outdoor pool used by the Nazi guards, without being caught.) I don’t mean that Jon Kean’s film belonged to the horror-voyeuristic genre of concentration camp documentaries. It is simply that there should be no understating the black evil behind the picture built up by the mosaic of the six women’s testimonies. After watching it, my night was broken by a nightmare. It is a film anyone who can should see, but no one should be forced to.

I won’t heap up details – the three-day journey during which children died in a cattle truck with no food, water or lavatories, the lice, the shaven heads, the nakedness, the starvation, the cruelty, the experimentation, the constant fear. With what could these young women resist? Something human was all they could seek, some “purpose”. “To live for my mother,” one said. “That I will tell after,” said another.

Dehumanisation was a word used several times: they had been left numb and friendless. It is hard to be good in a hellish place. “I’m not saying we were angels,” one of the women, Erika Jakoby, said, “but I wouldn’t steal anybody’s food.” This plain statement actually reflects a degree of goodness that I couldn’t imagine emulating.

When another of the survivors spoke briefly of a man who secretly gave her three raw potatoes, I shed tears. Those are the kind of tears that some feel-good film could invite. But other tears welled up too, I found: tears of anguish at the things done there. They were definitely feel-bad. Perhaps it is human to feel very bad about our fellow humans too, sometimes.


World War Two

World War Two’s legendary aircraft take to the skies again

July 8th, 2014

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire thrilled the crowds at the show at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire last year. The display group is back this weekend (Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 July) as part of the annual Flying Legends show which features classic and historic aircraft.

Picture: IWM


World War Two