Posts Tagged ‘War’s’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens ‘like Europe in 1944′

December 3rd, 2014

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be the darkest Star Wars film yet, with a LucasFilm insider comparing the galaxy’s situation to “the European theatre of 1944″, with the Empire being Germany and the Republic the Allies in a war of attrition.

The rumours come from a substantial leak of information from a 4Chan user called Spoiler Man, who claims to be a LucasFilm employee. Around 3,000 words of character information, plotlines and even parts of the script emerged online during the weekend and have since been posted on the Star Wars Reddit feed.

Given the source, the information is being treated cautiously by fans, however some of it corroborates with leaked concept art and other already reported spoilers about The Force Awakens.

Although there are potentially big giveaways about the character and plotlines of the characters played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Lupita N’yongo, the leak suggests JJ Abrams’ film will lack the levity and humour of the original trilogy. Instead, the script, which is described as being “too good for Abrams”, is far more dystopian, with people bunkering down and keeping a low profile for safety in the war-torn universe.

Notably, Luke is among those who have exiled themselves for his own safety and “a handful” of future Jedi trainees who must also never appear in the open.

Spoiler Man added that, despite ongoing rumours, Benedict Cumberbatch will not be making an appearance in the film, and that all rumours will be confirmed in February when the contracts of those who worked on the film in the UK will end – allowing them to let on more information.

Read the full post on Reddit at your peril. Here’s our rundown of Star Wars news, rumours and spoilers so far.

World War Two

And they all came home from the world wars…

July 22nd, 2014

But in a few weeks, a plaque presented to each Doubly Thankful village will be officially unveiled to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Only now are they coming together to celebrate.

Tony Collett, 83, the son of Sgt Major Collett, who has lived in Upper Slaughter his entire life, remembers painting the names of those who had returned on a roll of honour with his father in 1945. It is still hanging in the village hall, alongside one from the First World War. “I didn’t really appreciate the magnitude of what it all meant,” he says. “That’s only really come about in recent years. My father served in Mesopotamia [Iraq] and never really spoke about the First World War. On Remembrance Day we would always go to the memorial in Lower Slaughter (it lost 15 men in the Great War). Even though our village never lost anybody, it has always been important to remember those who did.”

There are some 16,000 villages across England and Wales and each gave their sons to the Great War. The formation of Pals’ Battalions, to supplement Lord Kitchener’s volunteer army, meant whole villages signed up to serve together. As a result, a generation from a single place could be laid to waste in a burst of machine gun fire.

But at the end of the war, when news came in censored bulletins and communication was limited, the extent of sacrifice among individual, often deeply rural, communities was not clear. It was only in the Thirties, when the author and staunch patriot Arthur Mee travelled the country to compile his King’s England Volumes, that he identified what he called the “thankful villages”, 32 places where everybody came home from the Great War, a figure that has now been upgraded to 51. Of these, according to the Royal British Legion and historians Norman Thorpe, Rod Morris and Tom Morgan who have conducted extensive research, just 13 were also spared any losses in the Second World War.

Some, such as Herodsfoot in Cornwall, have a memorial honouring the dozen or so names of those who served and returned, including Private Herbert Medland, whose daughter Vera Sandercock still lives in the village. But the evidence is not always set in stone. In Catwick in East Yorkshire, 30 men left to fight in the First World War but, before departing, each nailed a coin on to the wall inside the blacksmith’s forge, near a lucky horseshoe. During the Second World War another 30 coins were nailed on. None ever needed to be taken down and the mementos have stayed in the village ever since.

With interest piqued by centenary celebrations, more communities without war memorials are coming forward and the number of Doubly Thankful villages could end up being higher.

One recent claim comes from Holywell Lake in Somerset, a county that boasts two doubly thankful villages, despite the Somerset Light Infantry losing 4,756 soldiers in the Great War. “In Somerset we’ve always been very proud of king and country and when the war broke out we wanted to go and fight,” says Roger Duddridge, county chairman of the Royal British Legion. “On some memorials I’ve seen the names of whole families that were killed: three or four brothers at a time. It’s only recently that these villages where everybody survived have started to come to attention and it’s so gratifying when you find one. This is something that has taken 100 years to piece together.”

The hamlet of Woolley, near Bath, reached by narrow hedgerow-flanked roads and sheltered by Solsbury Hill, contributed 13 young men to the First World War and 13 to the Second. Here too, the magnitude of everybody surviving both never truly sunk in. “When I was growing up we just didn’t appreciate the significance of it,” says Margaret Foster, 71, who still lives in the house where she was born.

Five of her cousins – all brothers – fought in the Second World War. One, Dennis Kurle, is still alive, aged 92. “This village is so small that you didn’t really appreciate the rarity that everybody returned alive. Families knew their own had come back from the war and so were a bit removed from the true scale of it all.”

Some of the survivors of the trenches bore hidden scars; many more suffered all too visible wounds. Of those who returned, 1.75 million had suffered some disability and half were permanently disabled.

Mrs Foster says the residents of Woolley tried to help its sons to forget their experience of the horror – apart from a plaque put up in All Saints’ Church, there was no mention of war. “All the soldiers who returned were marked by what they had seen,” she says, “especially the First World War veterans. When war broke out and they signed up, they just thought they were tough boys, but they had no idea what they were going to face.”

The village, which has never hosted a Remembrance Day, will join the centenary commemorations in the first week of August with a small ceremony alongside the other Doubly Thankful villages to honour their good fortune. But for the grace of God, they too would have had a stone cross to bear of their own.


Cornwall: Herodsfoot

Gloucestershire: Upper Slaughter

Herefordshire: Middleton-on-the-Hill

Lancashire: Nether Kellet

Lincolnshire: Flixborough

Lincolnshire: High Toynton

Nottinghamshire: Cromwell

Pembrokeshire: Herbrandston

Somerset: Stocklinch

Somerset: Woolley

Suffolk South: Elmham St Michael

East Yorkshire: Catwick

Cardiganshire: Llanfihangel y Creuddyn

World War Two

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The tragic tale behind the Second World War’s silver shipwreck

April 4th, 2014

It steamed around Africa to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where, in January, it joined Convoy SL64 for the perilous voyage across submarine-infested waters to Liverpool.

Then two misfortunes stuck. Heavy storms forced the captain, Gerald Hyland, to burn extra coal to keep up with the convoy. Fearing he would not have enough fuel to reach Liverpool, he was forced to split off and head for Galway, on Ireland’s west coast.

But two days after setting off alone, the crew spotted a German long-range reconnaissance plane, a Focke-Wulf Condor circling above them, and their fate was sealed.

The airmen directed the nearby U-101, captained by Ernst Mengersen, towards the lone, unprotected vessel and in darkness on the evening of 16th February 1941, the submarine attacked, around 300 miles from the Irish coast.

The impact of the torpedo brought down the radio antennae preventing the crew from sending out a distress signal. The submarine then surfaced and sprayed the deck with machine-gun fire, the bullets cutting the ropes of a lifeboat and sending it crashing into the sea.

Silver from the SS Gairsoppa shipwreck, which lies approximately 4700 meters deep in the North Atlantic (AFP)

Thirty one men: eight Europeans and 23 Indian seamen — known as Lascars — leapt overboard and managed to get into the lifeboat and away from the submarine and sinking ship. Second Officer Richard Ayres, 31, took command and set sail eastwards, steering with an oar because the rudder had been lost.

Their food supplies consisted of some tins of condensed milk, some drinking water and dry biscuits. Each man was limited to half a pint of water a day, and half a pint a night. Some of the crew began drinking salt water, which made them go mad and fight each other. Then, after seven days, the water ran out, meaning those left alive had to rely on rain for drinking water.

Towering waves and winter gales battered the boat but finally, 13 days after the sinking, the seven men left alive sighted the Lizard lighthouse on the southernmost tip of Cornwall, 300 miles from where their ship had sunk.

However, as they headed towards a rocky cove to land, a wave capsized the boat drowning all but Ayres, Robert Hampshire, the 18 year old radio operator and Norman Thomas, 20, a gunner.

Another wave righted the boat and the three were able to get back on board, only for another breaker to capsize them again and drown Hampshire. The last two made it to nearby rocks where another wave knocked Thomas back, drowning him only yards from safety.

Ayres only survived after three young girls, evacuees from London, who had been walking along the cliffs, spotted the boat flip over and managed to summon help to recover him from the water.

The vessel was discovered in 2011 after the Department for Transport contracted the US firm Odyssey Marine Exploration to locate it, as well as a second British merchant ship, this one sunk by a German submarine in the First World War, only about 100 miles from the Gairsoppa site, at a depth of one and a half miles.

SS Mantola was travelling from London to Calcutta with 18 tons of silver on-board when it was sent to the bottom in February 1917, 143 miles from Ireland, with the loss of seven lives.

Its wreck was also found in 2011, and the Florida-based firm combined the recovery of its cargo with that from the Gairsoppa.

The wreck of the Gairsoppa – named after a waterfalls in India – was found at a depth of three miles, half a mile deeper than the Titanic. The recovery of its 2,792 silver bars – totalling approximately 3.2 million troy ounces of silver, worth around £38 million at current prices – involved using a remote-controlled robot to cut open the ship’s cargo holds, search inside them and then individually remove each item.

Under the terms of a deal struck with the DfT, Odyssey is entitled to 80 per cent of the value, once it recovers its own costs. The remaining 20 per cent goes to the Treasury. A portion of the haul is being used to make a limited number of 20,000 coins, costing £30 each, available from April 21, aimed at collectors and anyone interested in maritime history. This week, the Royal Mint began striking the coins, which are edged with the name SS Gairsoppa.

It comes more than two decades after the death of Richard Ayres, who died in 1992. Speaking to the Telegraph during the recovery phase, his niece Jane Harbidge, 73, from Old Newton, near Stowmarket, Suffolk, said: “It was a story we knew in the family, but not one that was talked about very much. My uncle seemed to be an upright, maritime sort of person. It is fascinating that they have now found this silver.”

Rev Margaret Mulraine, 90, a cousin of Thomas’, from Broadstone, near Poole, Dorset, said: “He seemed to be viewed as quite a hero in the family because he had kept everyone going in the boat, then died so tragically in sight of land. I can well remember stories being told about him.”

World War Two

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