Posts Tagged ‘last’

The Last Stand: Abandoned World War II structures, in pictures

November 2nd, 2015
Wissant I, Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France

A photographer has captured a series of striking photos of abandoned World War Two military buildings and the surrounding landscapes. British photographer Marc Wilson has been travelling around Northern Europe’s coastlines for the past few years, capturing stunning photos of the eerie, abandoned structures built by Hitler during the Second world War.

Above: Wissant I, Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France

Picture: Marc Wilson/REX


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Friend tells of tragic last meeting with Anne Frank

March 10th, 2015

Years later, at Bergen-Belsen, the emaciated Frank told her she was hoping to use the diary to write a book about her experiences after the war. “If she was still alive, I am convinced that she would have become an excellent writer,” Mrs Konig said.

Mrs Konig, who appears in the diary under the false initials ES, spoke out about her childhood friend ahead of a new documentary on what happened to Frank and her family after the diary abruptly ends with her capture.

The two girls met in 1941 at a Jewish school in Amsterdam, where the Franks had fled in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany, only to find themselves trapped when the Germans occupied the Netherlands.

In 1942, the Franks went into hiding. They survived in secrecy for two years, but were captured and taken to Auschwitz in 1944. Mrs Konig did not see her friend again until she spotted her in Bergen-Belsen, where Frank was transferred in late 1944. “I saw Anne walking on the other side of some barbed wire. I couldn’t go near it, though, I would have been tortured or killed,” she said.

Later the wire was taken down and the two girls were able to talk. “She was depleted, wrapped in blankets because her clothes were full of lice,” Mrs Konig said. “It was from Anne that I learnt what was happening in Auschwitz.”

Anne Frank: The Nazi Capture premieres Tuesday 10th March at 8pm on National Geographic Channel


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Last surviving Dambusters pilot sells gallantry medals for upkeep of Bomber Command Memorial

March 2nd, 2015

The 95-year-old visited the monument in London’s Green Park in 2013 and said he was inspired to make the sacrifice “out of comradeship” to his fellow servicemen who did not made it back.

Sq Ldr Munro said it was important for the memorial to maintain its condition for the relatives of the thousands of men listed on it and future generations.

The monument was built 67 years after the end of the war to commemorate the RAF aircrew and groundstaff from Britain and Commonwealth countries who died on bombing operations in the war.

The charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund, has the duty to pay for its maintenance and upkeep at a cost of £50,000 a year.

Out of the 19 commanding officers who flew on the famous 1943 raid to destroy three dams in Germany’s industrial heartland, Sq Ldr Munro is the last one alive today.

Eight them were killed during the mission, making up the total of 53 out of 133 crew killed.

Despite the losses, the raid – codenamed Operation Chastise – was a success with two dams breached by Dr Barnes Wallis’ ingenious bouncing bombs, wiping out scores of armament factories in the Ruhr Valley.

Sq Ldr Munro’s Lancaster bomber was struck by an anti-aircraft flak shell on the raid over Holland, knocking a gaping hole in the fuselage and putting all communications out of use, forcing the crew to turn back still carrying its mine.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for the raid. Sq Ldr Guy Gibson, who led the mission, received the Victoria Cross.

Sq Ldr Munro was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery shown during 58 sorties over Europe.

Squadron Leader Les Munro in the cockpit of a Lancaster (BNPS)

Serving with 97 and then 617 Squadron, he bombed German aircraft and armament factories, V1, V2 and V3 rocket sites, E and U-Boats pens and tunnels all over Europe.

On the eve of D Day in 1944, he dropped aluminium strips in the English Channel to trick German radar operators into thinking the invasion was taking place at Calais rather than Normandy to the south.

The £50,000 expected from the sale of his medals and log books will be enough to pay for the maintenance of the memorial for a whole year.

Sq Ldr Munro, from New Zealand, said: “The memorial is a magnificent tribute to Bomber Command’s fallen. It was a travesty it took 67 years before the loss of 55,573 lives was finally recognised.

“My reasons for donating my medals and flying log books to the fund were prompted by my visit. I could not help but think of the cost of its ongoing maintenance and with the feelings of the descendants of those 55,573 in mind believe that every effort be made to maintain the memorial in the best possible condition.

Squadron Leader Munro’s medals (BNPS)

He added: “My war service moulded me as a man; it gave me the confidence in my own ability and taught me to get on with my fellow men and value comradeship.

“It is because of that sense of comradeship and the equal importance of the act of remembrance that I now part company with my medals for the benefit of the Bomber Command Memorial.”

Mike Neville, director of strategy and fundraising at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “We are enormously grateful to Les for his donation. It was very much his decision and he approached us with it.

“Les will consider it a small sacrifice compared to the sacrifice made by thousands of his comrades in the war but to us it really is a big one because the proceeds of the sale should pay for a whole year’s maintenance.”

The medals, which also include the New Zealand Order of Merit, are to be sold by London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb.

Christopher Hill, a director at the auction house, said: “Les Munro is a remarkable man whose spirit of adventure has never left him.

“It is entirely typical of him that he is selling his medals, log books and other memorabilia to help ensure that the memory of his dead comrades will never fade.”

Les Munro (centre front) with crew before flying on Dambusters raid (Dix Noonan Webb/BNPS)

Sq Ldr Munro’s father was Scottish and emigrated to New Zealand in 1903 and became a shepherd. He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1941 and arrived in Britain the following year, flying with the 97 Squadron.

He was the captain for bombing raids on aircraft and armament factories in Berlin, Essen, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Milan and Turin.

In 1943, he volunteered for the 617 “Dambusters” Squadron and was reportedly chosen by Guy Gibson to take part in the dams raid.

Sq Ldr Munro learned to fly Lancaster bombers at below tree-top height at 200mph in preparation for the raid.

On one such flight over Lincolnshire, he was nearly killed when a seagull hit his cockpit windscreen “like a cannonball” and landed between him and his co-pilot.

He went on to practice for the mission over Derwent Water in the Lake District and the Fleet at Chesil Beach.

Two days after the Allied invasion of Europe, Sq Ldr Munro dropped the first “Tallboy” 12,000lbs bomb on a tunnel in southern France that enemy Panzer tanks were using to reinforce Germany army in Normandy.

The RAF’s Dambusters squadron in action during the Second World War

He then led successful raids to wipe out E-boat and U-boat pens in Le Havre and Boulogne, successful missions that helped the Allied take control of Normandy and France.

After the war he returned to New Zealand, studied agriculture and worked for the State Advances Corporation which managed state-owned farms.

He got into local politics and served as mayor of Waitomo, a town on the northern island of New Zealand. He was appointed to the Queen’s Service Order (Q.S.O.) in 1991.

The men of Bomber Command suffered huge losses in the Second World War, with 45 out of every 100 airmen killed.

A permanent memorial for Bomber Command was not built for 67 years due to the controversy of thousands of German civilians who died during the bombings of its cities.

Painting of Lancaster bombers from the RAF’s No 617 Squadron attacking Moehne dam, Germany (PA)

In 2010, German politicians called for plans for the memorial to be abandoned out of respect for the civilian casualties.

Sq Ldr Munro said: “I consider myself a fortunate survivor, ‘Lady Luck’ having sat on my shoulder on several occasions. Yet I think that I left New Zealand on the basic premise that if I was going to cop it, so be it. What will be, will be.

“When fellow officers that I knew relatively well were lost on operations I would feel a brief period of sadness but that had to be quickly relegated to the background of my thoughts.

“There was a job to do and the loss of a colleague could not be allowed to influence how I carried out that job. My duty was to carry out the next operation without emotional distraction. Grief could not be allowed to distract from duty.”

Sq Ldr Munro’s medals are being sold in London on March 25.

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Dunkirk: from Disaster to Deliverance, Testimonies of the Last Survivors by Sinclair McKay, review: 'a new angle'

December 2nd, 2014

McKay’s narrative suggests that it took a cocktail of events to overcome such conflicting views to bring the nation together. He viagra canadian pharmacy cites Churchill’s passionate speeches as one of the crucial ingredients, but he also includes in his list the man in the street’s realisation that the Army had been saved thanks to a remarkable victory masterminded by the Navy.

Arguably the knowledge that ordinary citizens in their little ships had participated played its part, as did the fact that most British families had a friend or relation in the Army whose life had been in jeopardy. Whatever the true causes, McKay describes the spontaneous exhibition of public spiritedness, as more or less the whole country turned out to treat men who had left the French beaches in the depths of despair as though they were conquering heroes.

McKay’s novel way of analysing the crisis makes for interesting reading. However, such an approach has its dangers. When writing my own book on Dunkirk, I quickly realised that octogenarian survivors often had unreliable memories and did not necessarily have interesting stories to tell. Readers thirsting for vivid accounts of events on the beaches may be disappointed by the rather undramatic testimony of most of McKay’s survivors.

Neither does he always contextualise what they tell him. No one would begrudge his quotation of accounts containing incorrect statements about the Dunkirk weather if they were juxtaposed with more reliable data. McKay’s failure here might lead some to wonder whether he has been misled by the very myth he sets out to explore.

However, such minor quibbles do nothing to diminish the value of his central thesis. This is a worthy addition to the Dunkirk literature. Indeed, McKay’s approach may well play an influential role in how more conventional history books are written in future.

The 75th anniversary edition of Hugh Sebag-Montefiore’s Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man is published next year by Penguin

352pp, Aurum, Telegraph offer price: £15 (PLUS £1.95 p&p) (RRP £20, ebook £10.44). Call 0844 871 1515 or see books.telegraph.co.uk


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World’s last airworthy Lancaster Bombers fly over the Lake District

September 8th, 2014

The world’s last two airworthy Lancaster Bombers were filmed flying over Windermere in the Lake District on Sunday.

The flyover was organised in honour of Britain’s last surviving Bomber Command veteran, Archie Johnstone, of Grange-over-Sands, who died in April this year.

Vera and Thumper, the two planes seen in the footage, glided across Thirlmere reservoir in Cumbria before flying the length of Windermere.

The Bombers are famous for their ‘bouncing bombs’ used in Dambusters raids against German dams during World War Two.


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HMS Whimbrel: one week to save last Battle of the Atlantic escort

June 13th, 2014

But after more than a decade of their haggling to buy the Black Swan-class vessel, the Egyptian military has delivered a sudden ultimatum demanding around £200,000 by June 20, or they will offer her to scrap merchants.

The group is now desperately seeking funding to put in a bid and save the ship. As well as the price of the ship, the venture must find up to £1 million for immediate repairs and the use of a heavy-lift vessel to carry Whimbrel back to Liverpool.

Captain Chris Pile, project manager, said: “There is currently no memorial to the Battle of the Atlantic and she is the last one that saw active service.

“She represents great historical value to the nation and it would allow people to see what ships of that era were like and the conditions on board.”

The Battle of the Atlantic as Germany tried to cut of Britain’s sea supply routes was the longest campaign of the Second World War.

More than 30,000 sailors died battling marauding German submarines and trying to keep the sea lanes open and deliver vital supplies.

As well as taking part in the Battle of the Atlantic, Whimbrel was part of the Royal Navy fleet present at the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945.

The sloop served with the Egyptian navy from 1949 and was renamed Tarik.

Capt Pile said: “She went on to serve a full operational career with the Egyptians.

“She is now starting to rust in a few areas. There are holes in her upper deck which are rusted away, but in the Egyptian climate rust does not advance at the same rate it does in the UK.

“The ship as a whole, considering she is 70 years old, is in pretty good nick and the Egyptians have kept her pretty well painted. She’s in pretty good physical shape, but she needs quite a lot of tender loving care.”

Negotiations with the Egyptian navy have been going on for more than a decade and at one point the venture seemed doomed when the price unexpectedly leapt fourfold. Just as a deal appeared to be back on track the country was overtaken by the turmoil of the Arab spring.


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The last British Dambuster: ‘Don’t call me a hero’

May 10th, 2014

Mr Johnson was the bomb-aimer on one of the Lancasters which damaged the Sorpe Dam. Other crews in the 617 Squadron destroyed the Möhne and Edersee Dams, leading to catastrophic flooding in the valley.

“It was misty on the way out, but we did find the Sorpe,” Mr Johnson remembers in The Last British Dambuster, a book telling the story of the operation told from his own perspective, which is published this week.

“In the totally clear moonlight, it was an incredibly sight…after nine dummy runs, we were satisfied we were on the right track. I pushed the button and called, ‘Bomb gone!’ From the rear of the plane was heard ‘Thank Christ for that!’ The explosion threw up a fountain of water up to about 1,000 feet.”

Bouncing bombs, specially designed for the task by the English engineer Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, were able to breach nets which protected the German constructions from attack.

But, as Mr Johnson recalls, “In the final event, of the eight aircraft in total designated to attack the Sorpe, only two got through. Three were shot down and three returned unsuccessfully.” It would have taken five more bomb blasts to completely destroy that dam.

Despite 53 of Mr Johnson’s 132 comrades losing their lives in the attempt, the mission’s overall success was seized upon by the British propaganda machine and the feat cemented in the public consciousness with Michael Anderson’s 1955 film The Dam Busters.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has expressed an interest in remaking the film, employing Mr Johnson as an advisor, though the project is currently on hold.

Following the 70th anniversary of the raids last year, and realising the interest the younger generation still had in the mission, Mr Johnson decided to act on his three children’s suggestions that he write an autobiography, telling of his role in the raid.

“I think there are a few reasons why it’s so well remembered,” says Mr Johnson, who also has eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. “It proved to Hitler and the German high command that what they thought was impregnable the RAF could get to and destroy.

As a new recruit, aged 19

“It delayed production in the Ruhr quite considerably, though perhaps not as much as we would have liked, and it meant men who were being used to build a defence wall along the Atlantic coast had to be brought back to repair the damage.

“But probably the most important reason is the morale affect it had on the people of this country. It seemed like a turning point in the war; whether it was or not is debatable, but it seemed to give that impression.”

The book also recounts his life before and after the war, including the story of how he came to be involved in the 617 Squadron at the age of 21.

On joining the Air Force he was originally sent to America to train as a pilot but failed to complete the course because of problems with his solo landings. On his return to England he trained as a spare gunner, but soon switched to become a bomb aimer, “since it made a difference between starting at 7am and starting at midday”.

It was in this position that he was asked to join a special squadron to be sent on what was then a top-secret mission. He married his teenage sweetheart Gwyn just weeks before the Dambusters raid, and the pair were together for over 60 years, until Gwyn’s death from cancer eight years ago.

Now Mr Johnson lives in Bristol with his family and is “too lazy to do anything” apart from speak at the memorial events he is invited to.

“I won’t volunteer but if people are interested I’ll always tell them what happened,” he says. “I get a lot of recognition, but it shouldn’t be just for me, because I’m still around. It should be for the whole squadron.” Across the world, only three men who were involved in the mission are still alive: a former pilot in New Zealand and a gunner in Canada.

And Mr Johnson – who worked as a primary school teacher following his retirement from the Air Force in 1962 – is sure that if the need arose today, young people would be able to match the achievements of the Dambusters.

“I think by and large younger people are a good group; the thugs amongst them are few and far between. People say to me, ‘If the same thing happened now as in 1939, what do you think the reaction would be from young people?’

“It sometimes surprises them but I always say: ‘The majority would do what we did. They would want to defend themselves, their country and the lives they wanted to live.’”

The Last British Dambuster by George ‘Johnny’ Johnson (Ebury Press, RRP £17.99) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £15.99 + £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk


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