Posts Tagged ‘Show’

Hull ‘snubbed’ by BBC Blitz show due to ‘lack of local celebs’

September 8th, 2015

Records show 82 bombing raids on Hull during the height of the carnage, leaving 152,000 homeless. The city was targetted again later in the war by V1 rockets.

Although more bombs fell on London, the devastation was said to be worse in Hull because it was much smaller.

The cities were chosen because of the celebrities’ association with them.


But the BBC1 decided not to include Hull in this week’s Blitz Cities, which started on Monday, because of the lack of a suitable celebrity to front the programme.

A spokesman said: “To mark the Anniversary of the Blitz, the series sends famous faces on a trip around – and above – their home city to meet the people who lived through the bombing.

Myleene Klass investigates the bombing of Norwich

“As such, the cities were chosen because of the celebrities’ association with them.

“With only five episodes in total, we finally settled on London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool and Norwich.

“Although focusing on these particular cities, however, we hope the series as a whole does reflect the country’s experience during these years.”

Shane Ritchie presented the opening segment about the bombing of London while Ricky Tomlinson will highlight Liverpool’s suffering, followed by TV presenter Myleene Klass doing the same for Norwich.

Aerial photograph showing Hull, Hull City FC and the Humber Bridge

Other episodes will feature John Humphrys in Cardiff and actor David Harewood in Birmingham.

But Hull has been forgotten, according to locals who have highlighted the city’s links with celebs such as Tom Courtenay and Maureen Lipman.

For propaganda reasons, Hull was usually referred to in press reports of the bombings as “a northern coastal town” during the war years.

Alan Canvess, 58, secretary of the Hull-based National Civilian World War Two Memorial Trust, said: “Ninety five percent of houses in Hull were damaged in some way. So this has obviously raised the hackles of the people of Hull.

Maureen Lipman for Daily Telegraph Features section. Maureen Lipman, UK actress, picture taken at her home in North London with her dog called 'Diva'.

“We don’t know how the BBC have arrived at the other four towns and thought it might be celebrity led rather than look at the statistics for bombing suffering.

“We obviously feel they should have chosen Hull and thought Tom Courtenay and Maureen Lipman would be very suitable as presenters.

“People are saying it is a disgrace. In many ways it does not surprise us because we have been the forgotten city.”

Not to include Hull is outrageous. They have made a gross error.

National Civilian World War Two Memorial Trust

When asked whether the BBC had done more to damage local morale than the Luftwaffe, he added: “In this particular case they have. Not to include Hull is outrageous. They have made a gross error.”

Alan Brigham, 59, Chairman of Hull People’s Memorial, trying to raise money to build a memorial to civilian bombing victims, said: “We are disgusted.

“Yet again the BBC has yet again totally ignored the fact Hull was the most devastated place in the UK.

“There are countless celebrities from Hull they could have chosen. We have been bombarded with complaints. It is astonishing Coventry has not been included either.”

According to the project’s research, there were 192,660 habitable houses in Hull at the start of the war. Only 5,939 escaped damaged by the end.

Of the 240,000 people, 152,000 were rendered homeless and rehoused by the council. Many went to stay with friends or family, who were not recorded. Some were rendered homeless as many as 13 times. The figures do not include soldiers fighting in the war or evacuees.

More than half the city centre was wiped out. Over 3 million square feet of factory space was obliterated, and 27 churches destroyed, along with14 schools.

Mr Brigham added: “People are really annoyed with the BBC and the companies that make programmes for them.

“Something like this is supposed to commemorate the blitz. In the whole of the commonwealth, only Malta received more devastation.

“It was reported when the governor of Malta came to Hull after the war he was shocked how badly the city had been devastated and said Hull needed a medal as well as Malta.”

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Dresden: The wounds have healed but the scars still show

February 8th, 2015

The city was quickly rebuilt. On Feb 13 1955, the restored Church of the Holy Cross (Kreuzkirche) was packed for its reconsecration. Thirty years later, a crowd of 200,000 gathered for the inauguration of the rebuilt opera house. And, 60 years after its ruins had become an icon of the city’s destruction, in 2005, the Frauenkirche reopened.

The contrast between the blackened original stones and their fresh, white counterparts serves as a permanent memorial. “Its wounds have healed,” says Rev Sebastian Feydt, pastor of the church. “But the scars still show.”

Wounded pride takes longer to heal. The flames that skipped through Dresden have long since died out, but the passions sparked that night burn on. As the city prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the raid on Friday, official talk is of reconciliation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, will deliver a sermon in the Frauenkirche, and the Duke of Kent will be presented with a prize for his efforts to reunite the old enemies.

Away from the town hall, some Dresdeners recoil from these overtures. Where once February 13 was a day of quiet contemplation, it has now become a violent clash of historical interpretations. Thousands of neo-Nazis march across the city, hijacking the anniversary to claim moral equivalence between the bombing and the worst crimes of the Third Reich. Even larger crowds of Left-wing activists throng the streets in turn, trying to blockade the fascists’ advance.

“We will sit down in the street to stop them demonstrating,” says Frank Kohler, a 19-year-old student who will take part in this week’s blockade for the third year running. “They can’t be allowed to abuse this date.”

Ursula Elsner at home in Comenius Strasse, Dresden with her husband Helmut (Craig Stennett/The Telegraph)

The commemorations have become so charged that editors of a local newspaper supplement charting the raids have spent days debating their choice of pictures. “Everything is political,” says Oliver Reinhard, heritage correspondent of the paper, Sächsische Zeitung. “If we just used pictures of the bombing, some people would ask ‘why don’t you show what the Nazis did, too?’?”

Dresden was never intended to become such a contested chapter of the Second World War. Many more civilians had died during a raid on Hamburg in July 1943, and by the time Dresden was bombed, most other German cities had already been targeted.

For Harry Irons, a rear gunner who flew 60 raids, the city was “just another target”. “It was nothing out of the ordinary,” says WO Irons, now 91, who lives in Romford. “I was used to seeing German cities going up in flames and losing my comrades night after night. What went through our minds was just to get there and to get back – we couldn’t have any feelings about it.”

Dresden bomber Harry Irons remembers raid 70 years on

Listening as I read out his comments, Mrs Elsner, who is now 84 but has never moved from Dresden, stays silent. At last, she nods. “From his perspective, of course,” she says. “But for me, that was the worst night of my life. The whole city became one enormous morgue.”

She and her seven-year-old brother, Dieter, had been celebrating Shrove Tuesday, and Dieter was still in fancy dress as a tomahawk-toting cowboy when the air-raid sirens began to sound. They sheltered in their cellar but when they began to be sprinkled with ash, they leapt over a burning timber to hurtle outside, Dieter still clutching his teddy bear.

In the street, sparks singed their hair and hands, but they survived: the families who remained in the cellar all succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Everywhere around me was death and destruction,” says Mrs Elsner. “I most recall seeing the prams – the babies weren’t moving any more.”

Yet, even though she remembers that night every day, she is happy to forgive WO Irons and the rest of Bomber Command. “It was war,” she says. “We can’t talk about blame.”

The British veteran plans to fly to the city for the first time since 1945 later this year, and Mrs Elsner says she would happily invite him in for a cup of tea: there they might sit, with the Frauenkirche between them, the bomber and the bombed. “It’s difficult to be angry,” she says. “What good does it do to hold a grudge?”

Mrs Elsner is typical of many of the remaining survivors, who have reconciled themselves with their former enemy.

Warrant Officer Harry Irons, DFC, joined the RAF in 1940 at the age of 16 as a rear gunner, flying in Lancasters with No. 9 Squadron (Geoff Pugh/The Telegraph)

But their efforts to make peace with the past are being threatened by a younger generation determined to exploit the legacy of that night. The neo-Nazi march has been an annual fixture of the commemorations since the Nineties, so that the city that was destroyed in the battle against fascism is now the epicentre of its revival.

“They’re young and they don’t know what fascism is really like,” says Mrs Elsner. “The day is becoming more and more political. There’s the Right-wing here and the Left-wing there: the idea of remembrance is getting lost.”

WO Irons is also depressed by the sloganising that surrounds Dresden. The far-Right’s claim that the raid was a “bombing Holocaust”, an Allied war crime on a par with the Final Solution, used to trouble him.

“I had second thoughts about Dresden for years,” he says. “But last year I went to visit Auschwitz myself. Now I’ve seen it, my conscience is clear. We killed many civilians but we lost many men too. That was war – but Auschwitz was something else.”

The neo-Nazis are far from the only group seeking to exploit the sense of loss that pervades Dresden. Pegida, a far-Right movement of “patriotic Europeans” that began to target disenchanted Germans last year, has shied away from overt references to the bombing, but few think the choice of Dresden for its regular marches is coincidental.

“It ties in with the victimhood running through the city,” says Frederick Taylor, the historian and author of Dresden. “The unresolved trauma of 1945 provides a fertile ground for those kinds of feelings.”

This exploitation began even as the embers glowed. Nazi propagandists seized on the raid to paint a dark picture of the bombing campaign. Helped by its self-styled image as a “Florence on the Elbe”, they claimed the city as an innocent victim of a war crime, omitting to mention the 70,000 workers there who toiled in factories supplying the war effort, or the city’s significance as a centre of the railway network and a sizeable barracks.

This fiction continued under the communist regime of East Germany, which used the raid as a useful shorthand for Western aggression, and branded the bombers “air-raid gangsters”.

Such blatant propaganda fooled few, but some of the misinformation it generated has proved far more pervasive. Seven decades on, the death toll is still disputed, after years in which Nazi and GDR politicians, helped by revisionist British historians such as David Irving, claimed that as many as 500,000 Dresdeners died that night.

Even after an official commission of historians settled on the far lower figure of 25,000, the number is still contested, and government press releases about the commemorations explain their workings in lengthy footnotes.

“There are still a lot of people who say it must have been higher – it must have been 100,000,” says Matthias Rogg, of the Dresden Military History Museum. When he quoted the true figure in a newspaper interview to publicise a new exhibition about the bombing, he received hundreds of furious letters.

“I don’t think this will ever become just history,” he says, detailing the emotions still stirred by any reference to the raid. “The debate will never end.”

One uncomfortable truth is sometimes overlooked in all the furore.

“You have to ask the question of responsibility,” says Col Rogg, pointing to a skyline that once again resembles the landscape in Ursula Elsner’s apartment. “The war started in Germany. And, that night, it came back to us.”

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D-Day air show over Arromanches

June 7th, 2014

Crowds lined the beach and cliffs of Arromanches on Saturday as French and British aircraft took part in an air show to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Several British Royal Airforce (RAF) World War II planes and a French Airforce display team flew over the cliff tops of Gold Beach in Normandy to the delight of onlookers.

“You could feel the adrenaline rush. It was spectacular,” said one local resident.

Gold beach was one of the five code-named landings for the secretly planned Operation Overlord.

Others were Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah.

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Lessons from the Thirties show us why we can’t appease Vladimir Putin

May 16th, 2014

Dictators are not like you, me, Norman Tebbit or Geoffrey Dawson. They are liars. They do not believe in the rule of law inside their own country or internationally. They hate the honest expression of opinion. They never trust the leaders of other countries. All they care about is their power, which they see in a binary way: they can only win by others losing. “I know my enemies,” said one particularly famous dictator, “I met them at Munich. They are little worms.” They seemed wormlike to him because they refused to recognise his true nature. The worms crawled to him, and he despised them for it. Let us resist any temptation to crawl to Mr Putin.

Here are a few tricks that dictators play:

1. Sudden plebiscites. In November 1933, Germany called a referendum on its own foreign policy. Lo and behold, it won 90 per cent support. In March this year, with Russian backing, a referendum was rushed through in Crimea. Ninety-six per cent of those voting said they wanted Crimea to join Russia, although in the Nineties, they had voted to be part of an independent Ukraine. Comically, in 2003, rebellious Chechnya was reintegrated into Russia with an alleged 95.5 per cent vote in favour.

2. Inspire local militias that can be disowned when necessary. This was a favourite of the Serb dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, made a mistake recently when he said that Putin was losing control of extremist trouble-makers in eastern Ukraine. It is no problem for the dictator if his local supporters “go too far”. It just gives him a stronger role when outsiders beg him to help calm things down.

3. The sudden change of tack. Rage is unexpectedly replaced by pacific noises, and vice versa. After regaining the Saar in 1935, Germany said that it was “prepared absolutely to renounce war” and was happy with its treaty with Poland. Milosevic used, from time to time, to offer to raise “peace-keeping forces” in the Balkans. Just now, the Russians have been saying that there is “civil war” in eastern Ukraine, thus justifying violence. But at the same time, as the Ukrainian presidential election tomorrow week approaches, Putin turns conciliatory. As I was watching its mouthpiece TV station, Russia Today, yesterday, a bar ran along the bottom saying: “PUTIN: establishing dialogue is more important than recognising republics in Ukraine.” This was classic of the genre – saying how nice and gentle he was while at the same time claiming the existence of pro-Russian republics within a sovereign country.

4. The propaganda of the deed. Do something utterly outrageous (invade Abyssinia: Mussolini; take over the Crimea: Putin), and then watch the world flounder. This does not always work (see Galtieri: Falklands, Saddam Hussein: Kuwait), but the able dictator understands the weakness of his opponents. Although what happened in Crimea is wholly illegal, the West protested limply and the Ukrainian government allowed its military presence there to collapse. Having achieved so much so easily, Putin knows he can now toy with the next mouse before killing it.

5. Never stopping. Power hunger cannot be satisfied. As the world gloomily contemplates Ukraine, Putin is starting to coerce the neighbours in his Eurasian union – Belarus, Kazakhstan – towards his military will. He is ignoring his obligation to inform the government of Lithuania what he is doing in the Russian naval enclave of Kaliningrad. He is on the march.

6. An obsessive dislike of homosexuals combined with a curious taste for being photographed in manly and warlike poses, sometimes stripped to the waist. Often linked to an emotional ethno-political endorsement of religion but a conspicuous contempt for that religion’s morality and love of peace.

Modern Russia is less totalitarian than its Communist predecessor, but, unlike the Soviet Union, it has a great deal of our money and is paying us with it. Its TV stations are fronted by Westerners. Its oligarchs are the toast of London estate agents and Riviera yacht salesmen. Our banks have lent to its billionaires and enterprises on terms that were not duly diligent. The West buys its gas. The former chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, is closely linked with Russian gas and oil business and recently celebrated his 70th birthday in St Petersburg with V Putin as his honoured guest (can we not apply sanctions to the Schroeder bank account?). Preposterous think tanks pump out Putinolatry. (Do look up the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, whose symbol is the bridge there named after the reactionary Tsar Alexander III.) And I doubt whether Lord Mandelson’s Global Counsel consultancy is urging measures against Russian associates of Mr Putin with large piles of loot.

The essential appeaser’s error is to say, “Let’s be reasonable”, to a person to whom reason is anathema and so ends up, by mistake, endorsing tyranny. In January 1939, The Times’s leading article declared that, “Certain grievances in Europe which threatened war have now been adjusted without war, even though…the adjustment has been hasty and crude, and bears the marks of force.” War came less than nine months later. Putin seems to be sorting out “certain grievances” in this spirit.

It is not easy to see what the West can do about this, since it plainly lacks the will.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2014: promise of peace in war-inspired gardens

April 25th, 2014

“I had the idea in October 2012 at the Imperial War Museum,” Rowe says. “Standing in front of John Nash’s painting Over the Top, I had a eureka moment to do a garden to mark the centenary.”

The idea had a personal resonance for Rowe. Her paternal grandfather went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was wounded. He returned to the fighting, and also saw action in the Second World War, landing in Normandy on D-Day. On the other side, her maternal grandmother left a box of papers in which she revealed that she had served as a nurse behind the front line, and been awarded a Military Medal for gallantry.

“Those were the inspirations,” she says. “They took me to Flanders and the Somme a couple of months later, in early December 2012. I thought it was amazing that you could still see traces of the trenches, mines and bomb craters that had been created over the course of the war. The lines hardly moved, and the landscape was completely destroyed. The topsoil was removed, trees were stumps and there were crevasses in some areas.

“The tie-in with the ABF charity is this whole idea of no-man’s-land – what today’s soldiers should not have to come back to. I’m trying to bring together ideas of the landscape recovering with the human spirit and body recovering – it’s quite conceptual, really.”

Rowe: ‘I’m trying to bring together ideas of the landscape recovering with the human spirit and body recovering’

This concept will take form in three stages. The front of the garden, inspired by mine craters, has a large water basin as its focal point. This will be surrounded mostly by moisture-loving and waterside plants, such as reeds and irises, and a group of three river birches (Betula nigra).

“They are majestic, and also they are pioneer trees, the kind that come in when an area is disturbed,” Rowe says.

The central part of the garden is a “lost” area, inspired by the village gardens that became overgrown when their populations fled or were killed. There will be peonies, euphorbia and a field maple, among other ornamental plants. Finally, the end of the garden aims to evoke the chalky downland of the Somme, with the kind of woodland that inspired the war poets. Three wild cherries will provide structure, while Wildflower Turf, the firm that made the mound for the Olympic opening ceremony, is providing the mix of flower and grass for the hillocks. Unifying the garden is “quite a long, slightly Brutalist, gently sloping wall” – a reminder of trenches, tunnels and pillboxes. Other details will be made from Portland stone, the material used for many of the First World War headstones.

In contrast to all this period inspiration, Matthew Keightley of landscaping firm Farr & Roberts has designed a garden for the Help the Heroes charity, “Hope on the Horizon”, which addresses the war in Afghanistan. Keightley, 29, has a brother serving in the RAF Regiment who has been deployed for his fifth tour. Last time he was fighting as a helicopter gunner, covering medical evacuations.

Matthew Keightley’s garden for Help the Heroes

“Talking to him got me thinking about how all we hear about is the tragic wounding and then, much later, the soldier who has recovered heroically,” Keightley says. “I wanted to represent the recovery process through a garden.”

Keightley is unusual in never having designed a show garden before. He is more of a hands-on, practical landscape designer. Another unusual aspect of this project, sponsored by The David Brownlow charitable foundation, is that rather than being broken up or sold off, as is often the case with Chelsea show gardens, “Hope on the Horizon” will form part of a larger landscape at the Help for Heroes facility Chavasse, near Colchester.

“The challenge is to adapt it so it doesn’t look like a 15m?x?10m plot plonked in a landscape. The whole thought process has to be positive,” he says. “Not just for people looking at the garden but for the soldiers using it to help with their recovery.”

The garden is arranged along two axes, in the shape of the Military Cross. At one end is a sculpture by the Scottish artist Mary Bourne, depicting the horizon. The hard landscaping is in granite, which becomes more refined as you move through the garden, to represent soldiers growing physically stronger.

The planting, meanwhile, is intended to represent psychological well-being. It becomes more deliberate as you progress through the plot.

It will also be a tactile space, he says. “I am using herbs that will release a scent when the soldiers brush past, and plenty of grasses that can be touched. There is an avenue of large hornbeam trees, to frame the view.” Other plants include acanthus, agapanthus, geraniums and poppies.

Keightley: ‘I am using herbs that will release a scent when the soldiers brush past, and plenty of grasses that can be touched’

Battling this symbolism, of course, are the usual weather issues that affect every Chelsea designer.

“It has been a mild spring, so I have had to make some amendments – some of the digitalis, for example, flowered too early, and I will replace them. But I staggered most of the planting to give myself options,” says Keightley.

He hopes that the garden won’t be seen as gloomy. “It’s obviously poignant that this is the anniversary of the First World War. But the garden is a celebration of the soldiers who have fought in Afghanistan, rather than dwelling too much on the past.”

*Exclusive offer for Telegraph readers: enjoy tickets to Chelsea Flower Show, a Q?&? A with Helen Yemm and one night’s b?&? b, for only £290pp.

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