Archive for October, 2015

Does Jeremy Corbyn have any idea what Poppy Day is about?

October 26th, 2015

One hundred years is a short period in history but a long one in human lives and memories. It marks a point when perspective is gained on tragic events: for one, thing no-one who participated in them is still alive. Perspective changes meaning and alters commemoration. It took, for example, white Southerners that long to stop voting Democrat because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican. Today in Spain we see the quiet rise of memorials for the losses of the Spanish Civil War. Time takes its toll of grievances and opens new avenues of generous remembrance.

  Perhaps that’s it. The very length of time since the original Armistice – the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 – is the reason we still wear red poppies. The conflicting emotions that originally surrounded remembrance – the grief, the survivors’ guilt, the sense of waste and futility, the bitterness of victory – have all washed away. That leaves us with an awareness of a loss we cannot fully feel, and will thankfully never have to. But it’s a loss we can and must acknowledge.

It is a very British thing, the red poppy: a non-militaristic and utterly unexultant commemoration of the need for military force despite the costs. And it has a typically British origin in being multinational; its current form came into being when Earl Haig adopted a French woman’s design that copied an original red silk poppy created by an American woman inspired by a Canadian war poet’s elegy “Flanders Field”.

The poppy has in it the stoicism of the Londoners facing the Blitz – “London can take it”. We wear it to renew our individual and collective belief that Britain can take it.

Let other countries have their marches and parades. The wearing of the red poppy is the ultimate celebration of Britishness. That was the worry at the heart of the Labour MPs questioning Jeremy Corbyn at his first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. They asked whether he would wear a red poppy because they were worried he might not – you never ask for assurances about something you’re sure about.

No-one doubted Michael Foot’s patriotism, just his dress sense. No-one believes Jeremy Corbyn is a pacifist; he supports physical force. The question is, does Corbyn love Britain? Does he know why we wear our red poppies with pride, not regret?

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Prince Harry meets veterans and pays tribute to bomb disposal experts during service at St Pauls

October 26th, 2015

In a poignant address, Mr Kirkpatrick told the congregation: “It is extremely difficult to put into words what Jamie’s loss has meant to us, his family and his many friends.

Prince Harry arrives at St.Pauls (AP)

“We recall many family celebrations and events that would, under normal circumstances, be a source of happiness, but which are now inevitably a source of sadness too.

“We continue to reflect on all the ongoing events that he is now not around to witness and therefore seem somehow incomplete.”

Cpl Kirkpatrick was born in Edinburgh and lived in Llanelli in South Wales. Harry spoke to his family, including his young daughter Polly, at the end of the service.

Wearing a blue civilian suit with three medals pinned to his chest, Harry also spoke to former servicemen badly injured while serving in the forces.

They included Sappers Clive Smith, 30, from Walsall in the West Midlands, and Jack Cummings, 27, from Didcot in Oxfordshire. Both men lost their legs on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Mr Smith said he chatted with Harry about the Prince’s Invictus Games for injured servicemen, having taken part last year in the handcycling events.

“He is always very approachable and interested in what you have to say,” Mr Smith said.

Harry meets former bomb-disposal personnell at St.Pauls (Getty)

Discussing the service, he said: “It was quite emotional. It brings back memories of events you would rather forget but it was a very good service.”

Serving and retired members of the EOD community will deliver accounts of the conflicts and the part played by EOD units.

Officially formed in October 1940, the original Royal Engineers bomb disposal unit played an important role in the Second World War, dealing with tens of thousands of unexploded bombs in the UK and overseas.

Since then, bomb disposal has expanded from the Royal Engineers to function across the armed forces.

Mr Holland, best known for his long-running BBC Two music programme, has been honorary Colonel of the 101 Engineer Regiment since 2012.

Prince Harry leaves St.Pauls (PA)

He told the congregation that from its origins in the Second World War “this story of human courage is set in such contrast to the evil of indiscriminate destruction; and of the danger of unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices, and mines that remain such a threat to life and limb.”

He added: “The story of the men and women who have worked in explosive ordnance disposal is the story of teamwork and bravery, and often of great personal cost and the ultimate sacrifice.”

He also said it was important to remember we had once been “on the other side” and offer remembrance for German civilians who “still live with the legacy of our own weapons dropped in towns and cities that we once targeted for destruction in the battle against tyranny.”

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David Cameron launches 2015 Poppy Appeal at Downing Street

October 25th, 2015

Ex-commando Mr Stonelake, who had a leg amputated after being blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008, was one of several beneficiaries of the legion’s work who attended the short ceremony.

This year’s poppy appeal was kicked off with the first ever poppy parade.

A procession made up of people who have benefited from the work of the charity carried the first poppy from its south London HQ to Downing Street, where they were met by the Prime Minister.

The Royal British Legion delivers care and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

The first poppy is carried from the Royal British Legion HQ in south London to Downing Street

The use of poppies as a commemorative symbol for the victims of war began in 1921 and was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields“, by Canadian military surgeon Major John McCrae.

They were initially used by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that war and were subsequently adopted by veteran’s groups in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Watch the video to see David Cameron receive this year’s first commemorative poppy.

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Nazis defaced portrait with cigar to mock Churchill

October 24th, 2015

During the Second World War, the house was taken over by Nazi officers, with its content left to their mercies.

Research shows one or more used a lighted cigarette to burn a hole through the canvas near to Sir Jesse’s painted mouth, inserting a cigar into the charred hole to mock Sir Winston’s own smoking habits.

Sir Jesse Boot, founder of Boots Company

When they were defeated, the house returned to the family and the picture was returned to the Boots headquarters in Nottingham in the 1950s.

It was only then that the damage was noticed.

The painting, now fully restored, has been loaned to the National Portrait Gallery by the company, where it is on display.

Secret of Winston Churchill’s unpopular Sutherland portrait revealed

Its history has now been pieced together from the Boots archive, and released to the public as part of a new project into the medics of the late Victorian era.

The project is intended to showcase the individuals who “pioneered social reform and made life-saving advances and discoveries in the diagnosis and cure of illness”.

It includes portraits and information on people such as Havelock Ellis, who raised the profile of the scientific study of sexuality, Florence Nightingale, and Frederick Treves, who worked with Joseph Merrill, the ‘Elephant Man’.

• Churchill presented himself as a ‘swashbuckling hero who would rescue any damsels’

Sir Jesse Boot, 1st Baron Trent, was the son of John Boot, the founder of the chemist, and is credited with transforming it into a national retailer.

Dr Peter Funnell , head of research programmes at NPG, said: “The Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue is the result of in-depth and wide ranging scholarship, which provides the first comprehensive pictorial and biographical account of pioneers in the field of medicine and health.”

It is available online now.

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Quiz: ten key battles in British history

October 24th, 2015

The battle of Agincourt between King Henry V and the French was a bloody war fought in northern France 600 years ago on October 25, 1415.

It still remains one of the best known English victories. Ahead of its 600th anniversary this Sunday, test your knowledge of ten key battles in British History.

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians caused the Holocaust is a ludicrous distortion

October 23rd, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu

The seeds of Hitler’s murderous anti-Semitism, which came to their full poisonous fruition in the Holocaust were first planted in his fertile but horribly twisted mind before the First World War when he was living the life of a down and out in Vienna while trying in vain to enter the city’s Fine Art School.

The Mayor of Vienna, Karl Lueger, was an open, if idiosyncratic anti-semite, and the city was awash with gutter literature extolling the Germanic race, and excoriating the “lesser breeds” of the multinational Habsburg empire who had flooded into the cosmopolitan capital – especially the Jews. The future Fuehrer eagerly lapped up these racist pamphlets and newspapers, forming a murderous mindset that was to last for the rest of his life.

Hitler spewed out his hatred of the Jews in speech after speech after founding the Nazi party in Munich in 1919, and set it down in cold print when he was imprisoned for almost a year after the failure of his 1923 Beerhall Putsch, and used his enforced leisure in the fortress prison of Landsberg to dictate his notorious combined autobiography and political manifesto “Mein Kampf”.

“”Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”"

In a chilling prophecy of what actually happened when he achieved the power to put his sick schemes into action, Hitler talked of holding Jews “under gas”, and his writing exudes a physical disgust with Jews deflowering pure Aryan maidens. Later, before his hand-picked Reichstag meeting in Berlin’s Kroll Opera House, Hitler openly predicted that if war broke out in Europe it would end in the extermination of European Jewry. He could hardly have made his hideous intentions clearer.

In ongoing debates about the origins of the Holocaust, historians are still divided between “intentionalists” who hold that it was Hitler’s intention all along to physically wipe out the Jews, and those who claim that the actual circumstances of the war were responsible for the setting up of the Polish death camps – Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Sobibor and Majdanek among others – where most of the industrialised killing took place. None, however, have argued that the Grand Mufti gave Hitler the idea.

German invasion of Poland, 1 September 1939

By the time the two men met in 1941, the mass killing of Jews was already a fact. From the moment that Hitler’s legions invaded Poland in 1939, the Wehrmacht was accompanied by special SS and auxiliary Police battalions tasked with killing Jews. Before the development of chambers where Zyklon B poison gas was used, various other methods were employed, from mass shootings, burnings, batterings, hangings, burial alive and specially adapted vans that pumped carbon monoxide fumes inside to asphyxiate their passengers. These methods were eventually deemed too slow, and the killings escalated inexorably into the millions in the last years of the war with the construction of the gas chambers.

Benjamin Netanyahu, a skilful politician himself, should know enough about the fate of his own people in the Holocaust, and the efforts of Holocaust deniers to twist History, to be able to resist the temptation to indulge in such distortion himself.

Nigel Jones is a historian of Nazi Germany and the author of Hitler’s Heralds and Countdown to Valkyrie. He leads tours of Germany’s Nazi sites for Historical Trips.

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