Archive for March, 2014

Kevin Spacey to play Winston Churchill

March 31st, 2014

Kevin Spacey has enraptured thousands of House of Cards viewers with his portrayal of machiavellian congressman Frank Underwood, and now the American Oscar winner is going to take on Winston Churchill in a new film.

Captain of the Gate will follow the former Prime Minister ahead of his first term, as he campaigned in Parliament to defend Britain from Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich in the run-up to the Second World War.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film will have a budget of around $ 20 million and will be produced by StudioCanal, the producers behind films such as JFK, Frost/Nixon and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Although the project is yet to find a director, it has been written by Ben Kaplan, who wrote the screenplay for a History Channel biopic of the late President Ronald Reagan.

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The grief that inspired Jennifer Lawrence’s upcoming film

March 30th, 2014

My father and I were sitting in a bar in the Czech city of Olomouc, drinking beer and trading stories, when the room suddenly tilted. I look back at this moment and I’m never quite sure what it was exactly: the light, the air, the glass in my hand. Whatever it was caused everything to fall away, like curtains parting on a stage, and suddenly there was my father, this man whom I had known my entire life, but somehow never seen before.

It was my mother to whom I’d gravitated all my life. Her beauty, her messy adventures and unpredictable mood swings. She was magnetic and enchanting, the planet around which my father and I orbited. My father had been absorbed into the background, existing to help with maths homework or to teach me to drive, his stories about the war always paling in comparison to my mother’s whimsical reminiscences about love and New York.

But suddenly there we were, sitting across from each other in the living-room in the weeks after she died. Slowly we began to get to know each other. When I woke up crying in the middle of the night, missing my mother more than I’d ever imagined, I would tip-toe into his bedroom and he would turn on the light, blinking his eyes and rubbing my back. He would tell me stories about her until I was sleepy again.

Eventually we started moving forward with our lives. I moved to New York, a half-hearted attempt to find both my mother and myself. He moved to California. We talked on the phone every night and little by little I began to hear him in a way I never had, see him, perhaps for the first time.

When I was 20 we took a trip to the Czech Republic. With the advent of the internet my father had rediscovered his Second World War history, connecting with men who had flown in his same squadron, and uncovered a wealth of newly documented research about the fatal air wars in 1944 that had resulted in his time as a POW in Germany. He wanted to visit the place where he’d been shot down, pay homage to that time in his life, and I went with him.

So there we were, sitting in a bar in Olomouc, drinking beer and discussing our day walking the very ground upon which he had landed after he parachuted out of his burning B-24 Liberator in his early twenties – and suddenly I saw him, really saw my father. I saw him, not as my father, not as the man who had been at the dinner table all those years, or the man who taught me how to ride a bike, but as the incredibly brave and loving man he had been in this lifetime.

And in that moment I realised that had my mother not died, I might never have known him, my brilliant and impossibly grand father. He would die a few years after that trip, and even though my mother’s death still haunts me, I have nothing but gratitude for the time I was allotted with my father as a result.

“The Rules of Inheritance” (Headline), by Claire Bidwell Smith, is available from Telegraph Books

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Bletchley Park code-breaker Jerry Roberts dies

March 29th, 2014

The spokeswoman said: “Jerry came to Bletchley Park straight from university but they were all in unchartered territory. It was new ground for everybody.”

The intelligence gathered at Bletchley Park is buy cialis 20mg credited with providing strategic information that was passing between top-level enemy commanders. It is believed to have shortened the war by two years and helped save millions of lives.

The spokeswoman said: “In the last six years of his life he campaigned absolutely tirelessly for awareness and the achievements made at Bletchley Park.

“During the war, people in one room did not know what people were doing in the next room, never mind another department. It’s still a jigsaw puzzle even now.”

Describing Capt Roberts as “lovely” and “absolutely charming”, she said: “He was passionate about what he and his colleagues achieved.

“He did not want to blow his own trumpet but to have the work of his colleagues recognised.”

Reminiscing years after the war, when he was finally free to talk about his work, Capt Roberts said he had taken delight in reading Hitler’s messages, sometimes even before the German leader.

In a BBC interview last year, he described the intelligence the team had gathered as “gold dust” because it was “top level stuff” that referred to the movement of entire armies.

The stream of intelligence from his unit at Bletchley Park proved vital in the Allied D-Day invasion and helped save many lives. “We were breaking 90 per cent of the German traffic through ’41 to ’45″,” Capt Roberts said.

“We worked for three years on Tunny material and were breaking – at a conservative estimate – just under 64,000 top-line messages.”

He added it had been “an exciting time” whenever the team “started getting a break on a message and seeing it through”.

Capt Roberts later received an MBE in recognition of his service and he became a tireless ambassador for the memory of those who had served this country in secret during the war.

He spent years campaigning for greater acknowledgement of his colleagues, including Alan Turing, who broke the naval Enigma code.

Capt Robert also called for the entire Testery group to be honoured, including Bill Tutte, who broke the Tunny system, and Tommy Flowers, who designed and built the Colossus, which sped up some stages of the breaking of Tunny traffic.

Capt Roberts said the work done at Bletchley Park had been “unique” and was unlikely to happen again.

He said: “It was a war where we knew comprehensively what the other side were doing, and that was thanks to Alan Turing, who basically saved the country by breaking Enigma in 1941.”

Capt Roberts, of Liphook, Hampshire, worked at Bletchley Park until the end of the war before spending two years at the War Crimes Investigation Unit, and then moving on to a 50-year career in marketing and research.

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The works of art stolen by the Nazis

March 29th, 2014

Mr Gurlitt was found to have hoarded more than 1,500 works of art for more than half a century. Investigators believe that others in the collection may have also been stolen by the Nazis.

Among the other paintings to be found in his collection was a painting of Waterloo Bridge in London by Claude Monet. Other paintings of a similar scene by Monet have sold for more than £5 million.

Woman in a Blue Dress in front of a Fireplace by Henri Matisse

Painted in 1937, Woman in a Blues Dress was purchased by art collector, Paul Rosenberg.

Rosenberg abandoned his collection when he fled France in 1940 following the Nazi invasion.

It was one of 162 works taken from his collection in 1941 by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the Nazi organisation dedicated to appropriating cultural properly during the Second World War.

Art dealer Gustav Rochlitz, later acquired it and in 1947, he was convicted in France for dealing in Nazi looted art.

In 1950, a gallery in Paris sold the painting to shipping magnate Niels Onstad.

He has displayed it in his art centre near Oslo, the Henie Onstad Art Centre, since 1968, but recently agreed to return it to Rosenberg’s descendants.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I


The 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt was appropriated by the Nazis. It was commissioned by Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer.

His wife asked Ferdinand in her will for her husband to donate Klimt’s portrait of her to be donated to the Austrian State Gallery. She died from meningitis in 1925.

Her husband fled to Switzerland once the Nazis occupied Austria, and advancing German forces seized the painting.

Bloch-Bauer designated his nephew and nieces, as the inheritors of his estate.

However, the Austrian government retained ownership of the painting. It was eventually returned to the Altmann family in 2006, following a protracted legal battle.

It was then sold at auction for $ 135 million. This was the highest price of a painting sold at auction at the time. It is currently on display at Neue Art Gallery in New York.

The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer


The 1668 painting by Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer passed through several owners, before being eventually sold to the banker and art collector, Alphonse James de Rothschild.

After his death, his son Édouard inherited the painting. Nazis seized the painting from his hotel following the German invasion of France.

The painting was returned to the Rothschilds family after the war and was acquired by the French state in 1983. It has been exhibited at the Louvre ever since.

Amber Room, designed by Andreas Schlüter


Andreas Schlüter was German baroque sculptor and architect that lived at the end of the 17th century.

He began construction of the Amber Room in 1701, in partnership with Danish craftsman, Gottfried Wolfram. It was installed in the first King of Prussia, Friedlich I’s home, the Charlottenburg Palace.

The room was sculpted out of amber, and contained jewels, paintings, and gold.

As it passed through owners, several renovations took place on the Amber Room, and it eventually measured 55 square meters and contained over six tonnes of amber.

After taking control of Leningrad, the Nazis reached the Amber Room, and they dismantled it into 27 separate crates and sent it to Königsberg in East Prussia.

The area was heavily bombed by the Royal Air Force and the Soviet military. It has never resurfaced.

Some claim that it survived the war, while others believe that it was destroyed, or hidden in a lost bunker. In 2008, German treasure hunters claimed to have found the

Amber Room, but this could not be confirmed because of limited access to the site. A spokesperson for the Amber Room Organisation believes the treasure was transported to Saalfeld and hidden in an underground mining chamber.

Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo


The marble sculpture of Mary with a baby Jesus was the only sculpture by Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime, after being bought by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni in Bruges.

Nazis soldiers looted the sculpture, smuggling it to Germany hidden in mattresses in a Red Cross truck. It was found two years later in Austria and returned. Today, it is in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges.

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What it was like to watch Mount Vesuvius erupt in 1944

March 28th, 2014

I’m not sure about the height of Vesuvius, but I think it is about 4,500 feet. It has two peaks, Vesuvius being the highest by about 200 feet or so, while the other ends abruptly in a jagged edge. This was the volcano which caused such devastation to Pompeii and the neighbourhood in AD79. The whole thing is a perfect cone shape rising straight out of the great dead-flat plain of Naples. (We were located in Caserta Palace, about 15 miles away.)

For the greater part of the winter the upper half is covered in snow, and from the crater came a varying amount of smoke, not much more than from a factory chimney. One afternoon, when Jeff and I were out for a walk, we noticed a greater amount of smoke than usual, but thought no more about it. After dark, however, we noticed a deep red glow on the peak, and could see molten lava being thrown high in the sky and cascading down over the sides. It was a most amazing sight, and we watched it for some time. We still didn’t realise quite what was happening until we read in the morning papers that Vesuvius had given its most spectacular display for 15 years.

It got more and more spectacular as the days went by, and we saw millions of tons of molten rock slithering down the sides. The papers were saying this was the worst eruption for over two hundred years. Unfortunately, it was rather misty on many days, and all we could see was the steam and smoke from the streams of lava, which, by the fifth day, were almost down to the plain. It was much better at night as we could clearly see the lava being thrown high into the sky every few seconds, to fall back in a great cascade on the mass already moving down the mountain. All we could see of the stream lower down was the glow from burning trees and the face of the thirty-foot wall of lava advancing on the towns of San Sebastiano and Cercola, at 300 yards an hour. These were soon evacuated.

The slopes of Vesuvius are covered by some of the best vineyards in the country, and the whole area is very heavily cultivated. Hundreds of acres of this valuable land were being swallowed up never to see the light of day again. The uncanny part of this is that this was nature in action, and no one could do anything about it.

Ray Small, working in a special communications unit in Calcutta around a year after the eruption

San Sebastiano was the first town to get it. One evening I was listening to Advanced Press Headquarters where correspondents broadcast their reports to England and the States. None of the reporters mentioned the war – it was Vesuvius and nothing else. They broadcast a recording by two National Broadcasting Company commentators. They had spent a day with a portable up on the slopes, and they seemed to be having a hot time of it.

These guys had gone up so far that you could clearly hear the terrific roar as the lava shot out almost continually. Later they went into San Sebastiano and watched it slowly disappear. They said that in all their experience as war reporters, they had never seen such systematic and complete destruction. When 2,000 bombers wrecked Cassino, there were still skeletons of buildings, rubble and the rough outlines of the town to be seen, and the noise had been terrific.

In San Sebastiano they said there was a deathlike quiet except for a faint gurgle as the black crust of the lava broke and a mass of white-hot rock oozed out to advance a few more yards. About a third of the town had already gone; where it had stood was nothing but a big slag heap of lava, and a memory. Of the houses and shops that were there, neither stick nor stone remained in sight and would perhaps never see the light of day again. Bombs make a terrific row and leave ruins. Lava makes no sound and leaves – nothing.

Can you imagine a 10 to 30 foot mass of molten rock slowly engulfing Wembley High Street, and, when it is all over, not a stone was left in sight? Sounds crazy, but that’s the way it is. The lava slowly approaches a building, the heat setting it on fire, and starts seeping through doors and windows like a lot of thick treacle. The lava continues to flow in as into a mould, until the pressure of thousands of tons of molten rock becomes too much, and the building collapses, sinking through the thin crust and disappearing for ever.

The first stage of the eruption, when the lava was being thrown out, lasted about eight days. During this period, unknown millions of tons had been thrown out over the side, converting the mountain into a giant shifting slag heap. The main stream coming down the “Valley of the Inferno” had, at different times, caused the evacuation of three or four towns and several smaller places. San Sebastiano, along with scattered farms, was the only town obliterated and there had been no casualties.

The second, most amazing, awe-inspiring and fantastic stage followed. The lava stopped coming up, and in its place came smoke and volcanic ash. These came in such quantities as to be impossible to imagine. Gigantic, dense billows of smoke gushed up to 9,000 feet and more, before the wind could deviate it from the vertical. It was an amazing sight, and impossible to describe. It wasn’t just a vast plume, it was a dense, billowy, purple mass against the bright blue sky. The second day of this stage produced the most amazing sight of the whole eruption. The whole quivering, white-hot top of Vesuvius blew off with a terrific roar and a colossal, billowing mass of smoke and ash shot up to a height of three miles. It was really a most ridiculous and fantastic sight, this massive purple, black and pink mass soaring up into the sky.

It was the day after this that several of us decided to go and have a closer look at all this. It was another swell day, and as we drove the fifteen miles, we could see everything to perfection. As we got nearer and nearer, the gigantic mass of smoke towered higher and higher above us. It was continually billowing in and out, and the sun gave it every colour from black, grey and white to purple, blue, red etc.

Towering thousands of feet above us like that made us feel very tiny indeed, believe me. There was this colossal mass of smoke towering up into the heavens and merging to the right with a dense brownish fog. As we entered this fog, the sun vanished and it became very gloomy. We were rather puzzled at first to see that everyone was using some sort of head covering – umbrellas, saucepans and such like. We also noticed that everything was covered with what looked like rust-coloured snow, and the noise from the car on the road subsided into a quiet hiss. We therefore stopped and got out to see what all this was about.

Imagine our surprise when we were stung by millions of minute particles of rock. They were small, but they stung, and were thick enough to cause a fog. We got back in the car and went in search of a road up. We passed through a number of villages, and they were all strangely deserted. What with that, the gloom, the ash on the road silencing everything, and the great mass of smoke above us, it made us feel very queer. We went as far as we could in the car and then went on foot to look for the lava. Tons of ash were still coming down and I rearranged my cap to stop it going down my neck. Instead, I got it in my hair, and it took me three days to get it all out.

Unfortunately, we could not get very close to the lava as barricades were in place, but we got fairly near a great wall of it which was coming over a ridge towards us. We had a wonderful view where we were, however. We were only at the base of it, of course, but the smoke was going straight over the top of us, and was the most awe-inspiring sight I have ever seen.

The second phase of smoke and ash lasted for about two weeks, gradually dropping off the whole time. No one had been hurt in the lava, but about twenty people died in the ash, either through houses collapsing under the weight of it, or, in some cases, from asphyxiation. That will give you some idea how thickly the ash came down at some stages. Needless to say, this ash has ruined crops over a vast area. Places as far away as Salerno and the Isle of Capri received it. Long term, however, the areas of ash become very productive agricultural land. The smoke was so immense at one time that chickens went to roost in Bari on the east coast, and it continued across the Adriatic to Yugoslavia.

It’s all over now and, except for its new shape, Vesuvius is back to normal. It was swell while it lasted, and I am tickled to death that I was lucky enough to see so much of it from beginning to end.

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'No withdrawal': WW2 scrapbook reveals defiance of real-life Dad's Army

March 27th, 2014

Experts said the soldiers would have had a “cat in hells chance” of repelling an invading force from the tiny New Forest village of Beaulieu, with a population of around 500.

But they planned to “harass” and “hinder” the enemy while obeying their orders to “hold their position to the last man and last round.”

Their sacrificial efforts were meant to give the regular British forces time to manoeuvre into a position where they were better placed to thwart the attack.

Lt Col Crofton, who died in the 1950s, was second in command of the 9th (Forest) Battalion, and later commander of the nearby 28th (Bay) Battalion.

His scrapbook contains dozens of previously unseen official documents – stamped “secret” – that he produced for his troops from September 1943.

It contains defence plans, letters, and orders showing a series of machine gun posts, tank traps, road blocks, snipers and a mine field.

One of the book’s most detailed plans is a hand-drawn map showing how the picturesque village of Beaulieu was turned into a defensive garrison.

In the event of an invasion, a group of 44 men were to be stationed at five pillboxes, roadblocks and numerous firing positions from local buildings.

The firing positions included the Montagu Arms – now a Michelin Star restaurant and hotel – and a wall with firing holes at Beaulieu Abbey.

Some remains can still be seen today, including four of five bunkers which can be seen in the village’s former dairy, mill, and garage.

One typed document – headed New Forest District Defence Scheme and with a red “secret” stamp – outlines the troops’ responsibilities.

It reads: “The task of all tps (troops) under Comd (command) is to prevent enemy seaborne and or airborne raiders damaging vital Installns (installations) or equipment, and to destroy, harass, and delay any enemy who set foot in HAMPSHIRE.

“All tps will be allotted a definite role and will hold their positions to the last man and last round.


The Home Guard were defending Fawley oil refinery, road and rail links, and fuel supply lines through the New Forest National Park.

Major Edward Crofton, Lt Col Crofton’s son, has loaned the scrapbook to the New Forest Remembers World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Gareth Owen, from the project, said: “We’re very grateful to the Crofton family for this unique collection full of top secret orders and maps that probably should have been destroyed once it was read.

“Yet they were kept and they offer a real insight into how the Home Guard operated in the New Forest.

“The image we have of the Home Guard, due largely to Dad’s Army, is of a shambolic if well-intentioned group playing at being soldiers.

“However the documents in the Crofton book show how well-organised and dedicated the Home Guard were and how they were willing to give their lives to delay the advance of any invading German force.”

He added: “They were of a mature age and not suited to jumping in an out of trenches but they were highly skilled individuals.

“It is unlikely they would have been much resistance to an invading force, but they would have harassed them enough to have delayed their progress, and could have given them a black eye.

“That would have been crucial in giving the full time British forces enough time to get into position further back.

“Some of the Home Guard would have known they did not have a cat in hell’s chance of beating the Germans, while others believed they could have sent them packing.

“To say they were like lambs to the slaughter is unfair, but it is likely they would have suffered casualties and were clearly prepared to sacrifice their lives if needed.”

Major Crofton, from Petersfield, Hampshire, said: “A lot of the documents in the book were marked top secret so they probably shouldn’t have been kept.

“But knowing my father I don’t think many would have questioned him hoarding them.

“I’m very glad they were not binned. We’re very lucky.”

In the past two years, the New Forest Remembers World War II Project has unearthed more than 1,300 previously-unseen documents, maps and photos as well as record more than 72 hours of oral histories.

The entire project, including the contents of the Crofton book, has now been digitised into an online archive.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “The project has been a great success.

“Fascinating tales of royal visits, prisoners of war and secret bombing tests have come to light to give us a fuller picture of that time.

“The digital portal will provide a lasting legacy for future generations to discover more about this fascinating period.”

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US Navy veteran in iconic WW2 kissing photo dies

March 16th, 2014

A Texas man thought to be the US Navy sailor kissing a nurse in an iconic end of World War Two photo has died.

Glenn McDuffie died aged 86 at a nursing home in Dallas on Sunday, his daughter said.

McDuffie’s claim to be the man in the famed VJ day photo was supported by a police forensic artist’s analysis.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the image as the news of Japan’s surrender filtered through New York’s Times Square on 14 August 1945.

McDuffie had told US media that he was changing subway trains when he heard that Japan had surrendered.

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