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Germany could send troops into streets for first time since war

November 20th, 2015

20.20

The first explosion went off near the Stade de France, where president Francois Hollande was at a football match between France and Germany. One person was killed in the blast. The body of a terrorist was found at the scene wearing a suicide belt filled with shrapnel.

20.25

Shortly after the first explosion at the Stade de France, gunmen with Kalashnikovs launched an attack at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant on Rue Bichat, in the city’s 10th arrondissement, killing 15 people and injuring 10.

20.30

The attackers drove about 500 yards to the Casa Nostra pizzeria in Rue de la Fontaine au Roi and opened fire on diners on the terrace of the restaurant, killing at least five people and injuring eight.

20.30

Another explosion went off outside the Stade de France when a second suicide bomber blew himself up.

20.35

Militants launch an attack on La Belle Equipe in Rue de Charonne, spraying the terrace bar with bullets and killing 19 people in gunfire which witnesses say lasted “two, three minutes”.

20.50

Three black-clad gunmen wielding AK-47s and wearing suicide vests stormed Le Bataclan during a concert by American rock band Eagles Of Death Metal. At least 89 were killed and more than 100 others injured during the shooting. The attackers were heard mentioning Syria and Iraq during the massacre.

20.53

A third suicide bomber blew himself up on Rue de la Coquerie, near the Stade de France.

21.00

The first reports came in of the Bataclan massacre and within 10 minutes there was confirmation that a hostage crisis had developed at the theatre.

21.57

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: “I am shocked by events in Paris tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with the French people. We will do whatever we can to help.”

22.00

An emotional French president Francois Hollande, who was earlier evacuated from the Stade de France, closed the borders and declared a state of national emergency. The French military were called into the centre of Paris.

22.16

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: “My thoughts are with the people of Paris tonight. We stand in solidarity with the French. Such acts are heinous and immoral.”

22.28

French emergency services activate Plan Rouge to tackle the large numbers of casualties.

22.30

Parisians used the #PorteOuverte hashtag to search for or offer safe places for those fleeing the violence. The hashtag was soon trending.

22.43

A new toll of at least 35 dead.

22.46

President Obama delivered a speech at the White House, expressing solidarity with the people of Paris and calling the attacks terrorist acts. “Those who think that they can terrorise the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.”We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberte, egalite, fraternite, are not just the values French people share, but we share.”Those go far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.”

23.30

Reports emerge of French taxi drivers turning off their meters and offering passengers free rides home. A citywide curfew was put in place, the first since 1944.

23.30

Police storm the Bataclan, ending the siege. Two terrorists die after activating their suicide vests and a third is shot dead by officers.

Midnight

The death toll reached at least 120.

Saturday, November 14

00.46

At least 1,500 soldiers have been called upon to patrol the streets of Paris.

03.30

Schools, markets, museums and major tourist sites in the Paris area are closed and sporting fixtures cancelled.

09.50

Hollande calls the attacks “an act of war… committed by a terrorist army, the Islamic State, against France, against… what we are, a free country”. He declares three days of national mourning.

09.50

Isil claimed responsibility, saying in a statement issued in Arabic and French that the attackers had targeted “the capital of abominations and perversions and those who carry the crusader banner in Europe”.

10.30

Gatwick Airport north terminal was evacuated after a suspected firearm was discovered. A 41-year-old French national was taken into custody for questioning. He was later charged with possession of an air rifle and a knife.

11.00

David Cameron warned the UK “must be prepared for a number of British casualties”, and condemned the “brutal and callous murderers. The Queen also sent a message of condolence to Mr Hollande, saying she and the Duke of Edinburgh had been “deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible loss of life in Paris”.

12.00

By noon on Saturday French officials had put the provisional death toll at 127 people from the combined attacks, with 180 injured and 99 people in hospital in critical condition.

13.30

One of the bombers was identified by his fingerprints as a young Frenchman flagged for links with Islamic extremism. He is later named as Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, 29.

17.00

A number of people are arrested in Brussels in relation to the Paris attack. Belgian prosecutors later confirmed they have opened an anti-terrorist investigation based on a car that was hired in Belgium and was found near the Bataclan concert hall.

18.00

One Briton is confirmed to have died and “a handful” of others are feared to have been killed. The British victim was later named as Nick Alexander, who was selling band merchandise at the Bataclan.

18.23

Francois Molins, the Paris prosecutor, said 129 people were confirmed dead and 352 people were injured, with 99 in a critical condition.

Sunday, November 15

10.30

Home Secretary Theresa May indicated the British death toll in the Paris attacks may rise as she said the government has concerns about a “handful” of UK citizens. She said that British police and intelligence agencies were “working day and night to keep people secure”.


World War Two

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‘We felt as if we were being let into the future’

September 6th, 2014

The restoration at Langham comes at a time when the British public are being treated to a host of activities to commemorate the country’s time at war. Last month, the UK joined the rest of the world in marking the outbreak of the First World War; and thousands are expected to turn out on Sunday in Preston, Windermere, Morecambe and Holmfirth in Yorkshire to watch a fly-past of the last two Lancaster bomber planes in existence. The bombers were the legendary stars of the Dambusters raids, in which 19 Lancasters attacked German dams with Sir Barnes Wallis’s “bouncing bombs” during the Second World War in 1943.

“We came up by train to Holt,” Martin remembers of his first journey to Langham seven decades ago. “I was in ground-to-air command on the signals side at RAF Debden in Essex. There must have been 20 or 30 of us brought in. We stayed in a Nissen Hut. I can still taste how terrible the food was. We spent some time in a classroom, learning how to assemble and disassemble a Browning, and some time on the beach at Weybourne [just along the coast from Langham], firing at a flag of material towed behind a radio-controlled plane. From memory, there were only three bullet holes in it when we’d finished, and probably more than that in the plane itself. Then we came in here to the dome. We were very excited. We felt as if we were being let into the future. It was a wonderful thing.”

In 1939 Henry Stephens of the Royal Navy’s School of Gunnery in Portsmouth had first come up with the new fangled concept of the “dome-trainer”. A film projector stood in the centre of a rounded concrete structure and, by ingenious use of moveable mirrors, beamed up an image of an attacking aircraft onto the curves of the ceiling. The trainee stood behind the projector, as Martin is now, with a dummy Browning, and fired at the target, all accompanied by realistic sound effects. An instructor would mark each effort hit or miss, and give advice on how to improve your aim.

“We all lined up along there,” Martin recalls. He points to the partition wall – restored to its original form – that carves out a small entrance hall to the Dome. “We stepped forward one by one and were all told that the thing to do was to fire in front of the plane, so it flew on to the bullets.”

Can he remember how well he scored back then? He laughs. The passage of time has apparently wiped away the tally. “All I can say is that I hope we all did better than on the beach. What it is making me remember, though, is how you always felt like you were on the front line here on these East Anglian bases. There were always planes flying off on missions and enemy plans flying overhead.”

It is that wartime atmosphere that the gleaming white semi-circular displays in the Tardis-like interior of the restored Langham Dome seek to capture. It is helped by three specially-commissioned short films that are shown on the role the region played in the battle for air supremacy, narrated by local resident, the actor Stephen Fry.

The extent to which East Anglia became one enormous airbase in those years quickly becomes apparent from the maps on show. There was a proliferation of RAF runways in just this one small, flat corner of Norfolk, a stone’s throw across the North Sea to Germany: Little Snoring, Bircham Newton, Docking, North Creake and Sculthorpe, all cheek-by-jowl with Langham.

Only Sculthorpe remains operational today, albeit in mothballs. The concrete runway that replaced Langham’s original grass strip was sold off after the base closed in 1958 to Bernard Matthews and still accommodates his turkey sheds. All around, trees have been planted and fields farmed. The old control tower remains – used today by the Bernard Matthews’ caretakers – but the distinctive shape once made on the landscape by RAF Langham is slowly but surely being eroded. “In another 20 years,” says Patrick Allen, local farmer and chairman of the Friends of Langham Dome, “you won’t even know there was ever an airfield here. That’s why we have fought so hard to preserve the Dome and open it.” In the grassy area behind it stands a memorial to all those who served and lost their lives at the base.

Not all signs of the site’s airborne past have been quite obliterated, however. Tucked away behind the turkey sheds, and next stop for Douglas Martin once he’s finished in the Dome, is a hanger that still contains two Tiger Moths, lovingly preserved by local resident Henry Labouchere, who is also vice-chairman of the Friends of Langham Dome.

Langham’s RAF past still has a resonance locally, he says, and that was part of the push to save the Dome. It really started gathering speed, Labouchere explains, back in 1986 when it was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage. “Until then the Dome had been more or less abandoned. A lot of people driving past had no idea at all what it was. And if you did ever get the chance to look inside, as local youths occasionally managed to do, all you would have seen was a block and an old car.”

“I think the first push,” Allen adds, “came from another local resident, Air Commodore Bertie Wootten, who flew his Spitfire in the Battle of Britain. His wife was a district councillor and, every time they drove past the Dome, he’d say, ‘what are you going to do about that building?’ Once it had been declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the youngest, we believe, in the whole county – the parish council took up the challenge.”

With the help of local conservation charities, the Friends of Langham Dome was established, Bernard Mathews signed the building over, plans were drawn up and funding secured, not just for the restoration and the high-tech refit, but also for three years of running it as a visitor attraction.

Plans are well underway to arrange school visits in the autumn, and holidaymakers on the way to the beaches dropped in during the summer. Once Douglas Martin relinquishes his seat at Browning gun, there are plenty of youngsters, and dads, only too eager to try their hand at the recreated simulator and shoot down the procession of aircraft that looms up on the roof.

His return has put Douglas Martin reflective mood. “You know, I never actually got to use whatever skills I leaned here, “ he says. “I don’t think I ever fired an anti-aircraft gun again.”

His wartime service was spent in signals, latterly in Burma with the 14th Army as it liberated the country in a radar unit. “I have always feel ashamed at my service. So many people had it so much worse. The bomber crews in those planes” – he gestures up towards the images flying across the ceiling – “they had the worst job in the war. Fifty per cent of them didn’t survive. We should remember them.”

For more information visit langhamdome.org or contact development manager Kate Faire ?at kate@friendsoflanghamdome.org


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