Archive for the ‘British History’ Category

70th Anniversary of the Dambuster Raid.

The famous dog whose name can no longer be uttered in polite society, or public.

Some of the Members of 617 Squadron with dog who cannot be named

At 9.28pm on 16 May 1943, the first of 19 Lancaster heavy bombers lifted off the runway into a clear, still early summer night.  This was the start of Operation

Chastise:the raids on the Dams in the German Ruhr Valley.

Using a specially developed bouncing bomb, the squadron managed to breach two dams in Germany. The attack caused widespread flooding, disrupting industry in the Ruhr valley and was viewed as a great success in Britain. The mission was a dangerous one,133 men set out but only 77 returned.

Alas, one of the code words is one which can no longer be named.  A hint for those who didn’t see my previous post on this topic is that the code word was the name of Guy Gibson’s Black Labrador. Never mind that the dog in question’s grave is there for the public to see.  Alas, the dog has been renamed in the up coming remake.

So, cue the original version of film and remember the flight crews of Operation Chastise.

Peter Jackson takes on the Dambusters

OK, saying that I learned about Peter Jackson by seeing Bad Taste at Melbourne’s Valhalla Cinema pretty much dates me (and another blogger who would say this was some serious name dropping as well).  Anyway, I should also add that films like the Dambusters were normal Sunday fare as well, which also places me in another time and place.  Anyway, it seems that Peter is about to embark on the Old Classic Film, The Dambusters, about Operation Chastise, which was the Operation that destroyed the Dams on Germany’s Ruhr Valley and resulted in some serious civilian casualties.  Of course,  Such activity has been stopped by the addition of Article 56 of the Protocol I amendment to the Geneva Conventions in 1977 which outlawed attacks on dams “if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the civilian population”.

But, that was a serious aside.

The famous dog whose name can no longer be uttered in polite society, or public.

The famous dog whose name can no longer be uttered in polite society, or public.

Although, not only is bombing dams démodée, but so is a certain word used in the classic film which was the name for Wingco Gibson’s dog and the code word that the Möhne Dam was breached.  It’s a stereotype that the RAF crowd still name their black labs this, although I think this is a dangerous act in urban areas, or even just public places.  I wouldn’t have the bad taste (fitting) to call my dog this.  Although, I did call my black lab the name of the Cream of Wheat man when we were deep in forests or otherwise extremely far from civilisation (his real name was Andy for Andropolus Hercules DeBaskervilles) [1].

That said, it’s interesting how remakes come out.  I was seriously disappointed by the recent remake of Terry Nation’s Survivors (which also sets me in Time and Place).  I would have liked to see the series updated, but the remake missed a lot of the more important issues raised in the first series.  Also, remakes of foreign films can often miss the important cultural aspects, but that’s another point.

In this case, the original Dambusters reflected post-War British culture in a time when many of those who fought it were still alive.  In some ways the original is dated by being a product of its time, but that is a very important aspect to the originals importance.  Even if it uses words which are now taboo.

Addendum:
This news story sounds interesting.  It also seems that the dog’s name will be changed in the remake.  Of course, You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave and there he is with his name, and it’s an important part of both the actual Operation and the classic film.
It also appears that Stephen Fry is writing the updated film script.  While I admit to being a fan, I am not sure how well he could handle this task.  Although, the one area where he is being taken out of cultural and historic context is due more to political correctness than Fry’s intelligence.

[1] I learned this bit of information when we were in an antique store.

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained by C G P Grey

I first saw this on MikeB’s blog. Since then, I’ve wanted to post it since it is pretty accurate in my opinion.

OK, the British don’t really want to ignore the Northern Irish, it’s just that we aren’t sure what to do about them. For the folks who wander around with stickers that say “26 + 6 =32”, they need to get it straight that that is the case through the European Union. To some extent, that was true prior to 1992, but European Unification has turned that into a moot point. That’s why the hard liners on both sides disliked the European Union.

The Sources of US history

The United States, and the Western Hemisphere for that matter, did not spring up tabula rasa, but have roots in European History. In the Case of the United States and Canada, that history is closely tied to English, Scottish, and to some extent French History. The two strongest roots being English and Scottish in the US (Canada and Louisiana have closer ties to the French history). The problem is that Scottish history is pretty much neglected in the US, which is a shame.

Not that I wasn’t somewhat aware of Scottish contributions to North American History. My friend, Neil Oliver, forced this into my attention with his excellent works on Scottish history. What is really hammering the point home though is that I am reading Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Herman’s book is an enjoyable read and a very edifying work on Scottish history from the Reformation forward. What I particularly like about it is how he links Scottish and World history, with an emphasis on North American.

Of course, there is a comment about John Witherspoon moving to New Jersey to take the job at Princeton that I found quite amusing:

Reading the handwriting on the wall, Witherspoon accepted an offer from the American Colonies he had declined befor: to become president of the College of New Jersey in Princeton. In that guise, he will reappear in the next chapter…But in 1768, his departure marked the final triumph of the Moderates and their vision for an enlightened Church of Scotland.

Of course, the Next chapter would be the American War for Independence and John Witherspoon was a fundamentalist of the extreme right wing variety who was highly influential in the Independence movement. Naturally, I thought that Scotland did not have much of a loss when it sent Witherspoon to the Colonies. That move was far more detrimental to North American politics in many different ways. Of course, Witherspoon, as were others in the North American Independence movement were far more influenced by Scottish than English history. One commentor has mentioned that the rebellious nature of US politics comes from the Scots, Scots/Irish, Irish, and Border Country than English politics. This would be because of the unsettled nature of those people during this period. After all, the last actual battles on British soil took place during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Whether I am totally in agreement with that last comment needs to be seen.

But, it stands for certain that many of the concepts that are present in US history have roots in the history of Britain, whether English or Scottish. In my opinion, Scottish history is far too neglected in the North American curriculum. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in this topic read the books below.

See:
Neil Oliver, A History of Scotland
Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World