Archive for January, 2015

Imperial War Museum: Fashion on the ration

January 31st, 2015

“But fashion survives and even flourishes during wartime. People found different ways to dress given their very limited circumstances. And they would recycle, renovate and create things too.”

The exhibition is split into six sections — Into Uniform, Functional Fashion, Rationing and Make Do and Mend, Utility Clothing, Beauty as Duty and finally, Peace and the New Look. It was the imperative to keep up appearances, no matter what roles women had taken up.

A member of Air Raid Precautions staff applies her lipstick between emergency calls (IWM)

“There was a genuine concern that if people didn’t care about their appearance it was a sign of low morale, and that it could have a detrimental effect on the war effort,” said Ms Clouting.

The government allowed the production of cosmetics to continue throughout the war, although in reduced quantities, and together with the media it encouraged women to keep chic.

Julie Summers, the author of the accompanying book Fashion on the Ration, argues that women genuinely wanted to be stylish. “They wanted to be feminine because they had to hold on to that,” she said. “And of course they were extraordinarily inventive.”

At work, practicality was key for the hundreds of thousands of women working in industry and there is a multitude of their overalls at the exhibition. Headscarves offered women the opportunity to be creative and individual. One of the most evocative exhibits is a painting of factory worker Ruby Loftus – a model pin-up for factory safety — wearing her colourful turban. The look would become one of the most iconic trends of the 1940s.

Even those in uniform were not immune from the imperative to look their best; the exhibition flags up the jealousies and rivalries between branches of the services.

“The Wrens officer’s uniform was a lovely dark navy and it was the most coveted uniform by a mile,” says Ms Clouting. “A lot of women wanted to join the Wrens purely to get that uniform. The ATS uniform was not quite so loved, despite Princess Elizabeth being its most famous member.”

1943: A model leans on a large globe as she shows off her black woollen Utility Atrima dress, costing 11 coupons (IWM)

Joan Osborne, 91, who went straight into the forces from school, first working in teleprinting in Liverpool and later in codes and ciphers as an officer in the WAAF, remembers being issued with her first uniform. “If you were a size 12 in clothes you were just given anything. I took my uniform to a tailor and tried to tidy it up a bit as it was too large and that made me feel better.”

The dramatically shifting lives of women would also dictate new trends. Blackouts lead to a huge increase in road traffic accidents, prompting a trend for luminous buttons, brooches and handbags sold at shops including Selfridges. Elegant leather handbags were created which incorporated space for a gas mask.

“These accessories were made in direct response to the dangers of wartime life,” said Ms Clouting. “But they are really lovely things. They are stylish and put a very fashionable twist on functional items.”

Rationing from 1941 brought even more shortages — allowing the equivalent of one new outfit each year — and the government’s Make Do and Mend scheme encouraged women to recycle what they had, creating tailored suits from their husbands’ wardrobes or fashioning clothes from blankets.

A model shows off her scarlet and white spot-printed utility rayon shirt dress with front-buttoning. The dress cost 7 coupons and 53/- (IWM)

“If you look in Vogue and other magazines, they are full of ideas of how to turn old things into new and it was absolutely all the rage,” says Ms Clouting, citing Countess Mountbatten, who charged her dressmaker with making underwear from surplus RAF silk navigation maps. “You can see Milan on one [bra] cup and Trieste on another — it’s a wonderful item.”

When, later in the war, the government needed to encourage women to cut their hair short — principally for safety at work — they needed the help of magazines to do it. “Vogue ran a big piece about the sense and beauty of short hair,” said Summers. “When Vogue was trying to push women to do something the government wanted them to do they would emphasise both the utilitarian aspect and the glamour.”

Women would go to great lengths to stay glamorous. Beetroot juice was used as a stain for lips and creams were applied to legs to give the effect of silk stockings. Even something as dull-sounding as the Utility Clothing scheme brought with it a dash of glamour as couturiers including Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell worked on designs. The Imperial War Museum shows 15 key Utility looks.

A lady models a jacket from a cyclamen Utility suit, bought from Dickins and Jones Ltd., for 18 coupons and 82/2d with a black skirt from another suit (IWM)

“What’s really striking is how lovely it was,” says Ms Clouting. “Yes, they are pared down in the amount of pockets they can have or the number of pleats but they are so stylish and very classic. There are fantastic jackets and coats that are so sleek and we have some fabulous photographs of models on rooftops in Bloomsbury wearing utility clothing.”

The end of the war brought peace but austerity remained. When Joan Osborne married her boyfriend, an RAF pilot, in December 1947 he wore his demob suit while she wore a pale turquoise suit bought with coupons and a hat home-sewn with feathers.

Fashion on the Ration runs from March 5 until August 31 ( Fashion on the Ration is published on March 3 by Profile Books.

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D-Day ‘Great Escaper’ Bernard Jordan makes his final journey as he’s laid to rest with his wife

January 30th, 2015

Around 150 mourners gathered as Mr Jordan’s coffin, draped in the Union flag and topped with his medals and a wreath of poppies, arrived at church in front of his wife’s.

Assistant curate Father Mark Lyon, who led the service, said: “It’s a great privilege to give thanks for the lives of Bernie and Rene.

“Although Bernie made the headlines, it’s a testament to the depth of her that Rene would not allow him to make this final journey alone.

“In this we can take comfort, knowing that they make their journey into eternity together, hand in hand.”

Bernard Jordan and his wife Irene on their wedding day

Mr and Mrs Jordan, who did not have children, had been married for 59 years and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2005.

As a former mayor of Hove, the service was told Mr Jordan had been a long-serving community stalwart before his trip to last year’s D-Day commemorations.

Paying tribute, Mr Fitch said Mr Jordan “had a flare for being outrageous” and that Brighton and Hove had “lost two of its dearest souls”.

He said: “Bernie, in what were to be the last few months of his life, became a national and international figure due to his trip to France and his desire to participate in the Normandy Landings commemorations.

“What really captured the public’s imagination was not his own scheduled flit from the Pines (care home) but the character of the man – a person determined to honour and value his comrades despite his increasing age and less than perfect health.”

Mr Fitch also paid tribute to Mrs Jordan as “demure and quiet”, adding that “she was the perfect foil for her gregarious and big-hearted husband”.

Dennis Smith, the husband of one of the couple’s nieces, told the service that the Jordans were “different characters” who complemented each other.

Mr Smith said Mrs Jordan took a great interest in the Royal Family, particularly the younger generation.

And she acted as an “assertive” figure, often keeping her husband grounded during his “flights of fancy”.

He added that her death, just days after her husband, came as she “saw little prospect of a life without him”.

After the Last Post sounded, Royal British Legion standard bearers lowered their flags before mourners filed out of the church ahead of a private committal.

Mr Jordan’s disappearance to Normandy last June 5 sparked a police search that led to him being catapulted to international attention.

His whereabouts emerged only when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Royal Navy veteran Mr Jordan told reporters on his return that his aim was to remember his fallen “mates”.

Bernard Jordan

He had decided to join British veterans, most making their final pilgrimage to revisit the scene of their momentous invasion, to remember the heroes of the liberation of Europe.

Some 156,000 Allied troops landed on the five invasion beaches on June 6 1944, sparking an 80-day campaign to liberate Normandy involving three million troops and costing 250,000 lives.

Mr Jordan had hoped to return to Normandy this June. Brittany Ferries, which carried him across the Channel last summer, offered him free crossings to D-Day events for the rest of his life.

Following his death, the Royal British Legion said Mr Jordan’s decision to go to France highlighted “the spirit that epitomises the Second World War generation”.

On his 90th birthday, days after he returned from his escapade, he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world.

Mr Jordan was later made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove in a special ceremony at Brighton Town Hall.

He joined an elite list to receive the honour, including Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, former Olympic champion Steve Ovett, and First World War hero Henry Allingham, who became the world’s oldest man before his death aged 113 in 2009.

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Pictures of the day: 30 January 2015

January 30th, 2015

Hunter, a seven-week-old tiger, plays with Chelsea, a ten-week-old German Pointer puppy, at The Farm Inn in Pretoria, South AfricaPicture: Greatstock/Barcroft Media

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Pictures of the day: 29 January 2015

January 29th, 2015

Ice dance pair Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin of Ukraine perform their short dance programme during the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, SwedenPicture: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

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Churchill: the Nation’s Farewell, BBC One review: ‘bland’

January 28th, 2015

Jeremy Paxman’s regular commute to totemic moments of British history continues. He’s done the British Empire and the Great War, and for this trip in the time machine, he journeyed back half a century to the state funeral of Winston Churchill.

Churchill: the Nation’s Farewell (BBC One) was part reconstruction of the big day, part tour of a gigantic personality. But it also attempted to measure his lingering relevance to notions of nationhood, and wondered what Churchill might have made of the modern Britain in defence of whose future freedoms he stood alone in 1940.

Beyond bromides about the symbolic passing of an older Britain, there were rather more questions than answers. Could this be because Paxman has had quite enough of listening to other people’s opinions? Or is it becauseit’s difficult for us to stomach the new nice post-Newsnight Paxman? Among those he blandly quizzed were participants in the funeral – trumpeters, pall-bearers, a bell ringer, the verger where Churchill is buried in Oxfordshire. For some reason Paxman seemed keen to know whether everyone had cried (yes, though knees also knocked).

Guest star was Boris Johnson, Churchill’s latest hagiographer, who attested that Winston would be “a terrific blogger and a self-Googler of epic proportions”. Various descendants remembered the day – “We were swept along on this tidal wave of splendour,” blubbed Nicholas Soames – but they weren’t interviewed by Paxman.

In the end, Paxman nailed his colours to the mast and said what no one else could (or, in the case of Johnson, would): that for all Churchill’s flaws, “in this age of political miniatures there is no one who can hold a candle to him”. After an entire career grilling “lying b——-” (Paxman’s famous words), he should know.

Not that everyone revered the saviour of the nation. The programme’s coup was an interview with one of the Port of London dockers who dipped the jibs of the cranes as the coffin was taken up the Thames. It remains a moving image 50 years on. But the dockers wanted no part of it, and had to be paid to make this spontaneous gesture. The only union rep at the funeral was from the National Union of Bricklayers.

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Russia confirms North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to visit Moscow in May

January 28th, 2015

If Kim does make Moscow his first foreign trip since taking power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, it would reflect a desire to reduce his country’s dependence on China, which remains Pyongyang’s main ally, diplomatic protector and economic buttress.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is also expected to attend the Moscow ceremonies.

Xi and Kim have kept their distance since each assumed power and the Chinese president’s first visit as head of state to the Korean peninsula was to the capitalist South last year, rather than the North.

Park Geun-Hye, the South Korean president, has also been invited to the Moscow event, but has yet to announce whether she will attend.

Both Russia and China have opposed the UN call for Pyongyang to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over its human rights record.

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il ( Kim Jong-un’s father) in 2001 (AP)

The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited Russia in August 2011 in his armoured train for a rare meeting with then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Russia is seeking to expand economic ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about $ 25 billion (£16.4 billion) to overhaul the country’s railway network in return for access to mineral resources.

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Holocaust Memorial Day: How Auschwitz was remembered

January 27th, 2015

Remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

Participants also included the presidents of Germany and Austria, the perpetrator nations that have spent decades atoning for their sins, as well as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, a sign of Poland’s strong support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

Auschwitz survivor Halina Birenbaum sounded a warning to all present, saying: “If nobody stops it, this Auschwitz Birkenau evil, it lingers and its re-born into growing terror, in anti-semitism and racism.”

Another survivor, Roman Kent, became emotional as he issued a plea to world leaders to remember the atrocities and fight for tolerance.

“We do not want our past to be our children’s future,” he said to applause, fighting back tears.

And president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder warned of a new wave of anti-semitism, saying: “Jews are targeted in Europe once again because they are Jews.”

Holocaust survivors recall life in death camps

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Holocaust Memorial Day: remembering the horror of Auschwitz 70 years on

January 26th, 2015

The site was also the death place for many people who did not fit into the Nazis’ view of their world. Poles, lesbians, homosexuals and the disabled were amongst those also killed here.

Over one and a half million people were killed at Auschwitz, including women and children

The infamous sign, made by a prisoner, was erected by the Nazis after the Auschwitz barracks were converted into a labour camp to house Polish resistance fighters in 1940. Auschwitz was later expanded into a vast death camp

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Watch: Holocaust survivor recalls life after Auschwitz

January 26th, 2015

70 years later, as the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Radil is among the dwindling population of survivors who was actually at Auschwitz, the most vivid symbol of Nazi cruelty, when the terror finally ended.

He said that he got through the nightmare thanks to a tremendous will to survive and an intense focus on returning home.

“Everyone wanted to survive and those who did asked themselves, ‘what do we do now?’ Your main and only goal was survival, so you had to look for another one,” he said.

“For me, it was to go home. But I didn’t know what or who I would find there. I knew that most of the people were murdered.

“So what really is home? It’s not a city, it is a family, but I knew the family would not be complete.”

In fact, only his father was still alive.

Radil, who has written a book about his life called “All Alone in Auschwitz at 14,” has also warned of a repetition of the kind of horror the Holocaust brought.

“It might be somewhere else, it may not concern Jews,” he said.

“It might be some different type of holocaust but when you have people that are unsatisfied, frustrated, who lack a lot and have no goal, and someone comes and provides them with a goal, some sort of goal, they can unite in hatred.”

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Westminster Abbey to honour music of the Nazi camps

January 25th, 2015

Sir Andrew told The Telegraph his poem, Finis (see below), was an attempt to recognise both the difficulty and necessity of creating art in the face of the Holocaust.

“I tried to convey the struggle of adequately expressing one’s feelings about what happened, to make sure we don’t forget and to honour the lives that were lost there,” he said. “Adorno [German sociologist] said that after Auschwitz poetry was impossible, but you have to try, because if nothing gets said it increases the chances it will happen again.”

Among the music being performed at the service will be Ani Ma’amin, a religious song attributed to Reb Azriel David Fastag, a Chassidic Jew and renowned singer and composer from Warsaw, who is thought to have composed the melody on the train taking him and thousands of other men, women and children to their deaths at the Treblinka camp, in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Musician Viktor Ullmann (Holocaust music archive, Rome)

Contemporary accounts suggest that as he sang the words, others near him took it up the song and it spread from wagon to wagon. One young man managed to escape from the train, eventually making his way at the end of the war to the newly founded State of Israel, where his memory of Fastag’s tune and words were transcribed. Fastag died at Treblinka in 1942, along with an estimated 700,000 to 900,000 Jews and 2,000 Romani people.

Also being performed is an excerpt from a string quartet composed by Viktor Ullmann in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in the Czech city of Terezín, in 1943. Conditions at the Theresienstadt enabled Ullmann, a composer and conductor, to remain active musically. Here he played piano, organised concerts and carried on composing. writing at the time: “By no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon. Our endeavour with respect to arts was commensurate with our will to live.”

Szymon Laks and his wife in Nice in 1948

Ullmann was later transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he died in the gas chambers on October 18, 1944, aged 46 – three months before its liberation on January 27, 1945.

One of the most moving pieces of music to emerge from the experience of the death camps was a song written by Ullmann’s fellow Auschwitz detainee Szymon Laks.

Laks was only able to survive Auschwitz-Birkenau by serving in, and later conducting, the orchestra of Auschwitz II and after the war wrote the song about his experiences of the camp, where 1.1 million were killed as part of Hitler’s so-called Final Solution, around 90 per cent of them Jewish.

The song was originally composed for voice and piano, and the Westminster Abbey performance will be its first in the UK.

A reworking of an old Yiddish folk-song written by Martin Rosenberg for a secret choir in the Sachsenhausen camp, before his death at Auschwitz, is also being performed. The song was written down from memory after the war by Aleksander Kulisiewicz, a fellow-prisoner in Sachsenhausen, who went on to become a respected scholar and performer of the music of the camps.

The service will also see the singing of the stirring Zog nit Keynmol (Never say this is the final road for you) – often referred to as the Hymn of the Jewish partisans. The melody comes from a Soviet song composed by Dmitri Pokrass, but the words were by written Hirsh Glik, a young Lithuanian Jew who wrote many poems in Yiddish.

Hirsh Glik

He wrote the song’s lyrics while captive in the Vilna ghetto, in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius, where he took part in the 1942 ghetto uprising. The song, inspired by the bravery of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, was adopted by Jewish resistance groups fighting alongside Soviet partisans. Glik himself disappeared – probably killed by German soldiers – following his escape from a concentration camp in Goldpilz, Estonia.

Leading representatives of the Jewish faith and of other groups persecuted at Auschwitz, together with descendants of those who liberated the camp, will form part of the congregation, including Baroness Julia Neuberger, who will be giving the Address, and three survivors of Auschwitz,; Renee Salt, Anita Lassker-Wallfisch and Ziggy Shipper.

Reverend Dr James Hawkey, Minor Canon and Precentor of Westminster Abbey, said: “To create or perform a work of beauty in the context of such unbearable horror, is itself a refusal to allow the victory of death and destruction. It is a testimony that life is stronger than death, and that light will always overcome darkness.”

Finis, by Sir Andrew Motion

Bare facts and staggering multitudes: what hope,

what possible hope left for language with finish?

Light. Knock. Road. Engine. Rail. Truck. Cold. Night.

Whatever these words meant they no longer mean.


A conductor’s baton twitches to the left or right:

this one has been selected to die, this one not yet.

Clothes. Belt. Shoes. Watch. Ring. Gold tooth. Hair.

Silence is singing instead from the corpse of a violin.


Not to go mad, or to go mad and understand madness,

to gaze steadily on the world with the eyes of Lazarus.

Lager. Barracks. Bunks. Kapos. Musselmans. Chimney.

The mind cannot skip the air and mingles with smoke.


Buried in each, the appearance they still remember

but transparent, with no existence in the others near.

Work. Soup. Mud. Work. Snow. Work. Soup. Gone.

The body is murdered over and over devouring itself.


A white plain outside under the flight of the crows

and men standing like a spinney of withered trees.

Sky. Cloud. Earth. Grass. Bird. Field. Hedge. Wheat.

Prayer rising and God’s spittle falling on bare heads.


What hope, what possible hope for finish? My father,

I wanted to tell you something, but I did not know what.

Language, the tip flickering to and fro, threw out a voice.

A wavering flame…like a speaking tongue…So I set forth… .

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