International

“Greetings Pop Pickers”: those words were the weekly introduction to Pick of the Pops as spoken by the legendary Disc Jockey (DJ), Alan “Fluff” Freeman, over the airwaves of BBC Radio’s Light Programme, throughout the 1960’s. On Sunday afternoons, between 4 & 5pm, he would give a weekly update of the British Hit Parade, with chart movements, new entries into the Top Twenty, new releases and as a “finale” he would play each of the Top Ten Singles in ascending order.

If you thought climate change was still a debatable issue, look at the way the World Heritage Committee, the body responsible for international policy pertaining to heritage, is beginning to warn on the threat of climate change to heritage around the world. The World Heritage Committee, part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is responsible for establishing World Heritage Sites, which are sites with legal protection for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance.

From the very beginning of the formal establishment of Dundee in 1882, the town was remarkable for the calibre of its inhabitants. Perhaps none more so than a young doctor and a young surveyor, who set off in 1884 for the unexplored “sea of land – land of water”.

The initiative was their own – without sponsorship from Government, the Royal Missionary Societies or the Royal Navy - they made and paid their own way. They were Dr Aurel Schulz MD and Mr August Hammar CE.

In November 2010, I had the unfortunate task of packing up my uncle’s (John Harvey’s) house of 17 years in Watamu, Kenya. In doing so, I came across this most amazing story that he had never mentioned to any of us of the younger generation. I fear that there are very few people left who do remember the events that I shall attempt to recount using documents I found at the bottom of a dusty drawer. It certainly makes for a good story of those early days in East Africa.

Word association is where you give me a word and I respond with the first thought that comes to mind; for instance you say “London Bridge” and I would reply “Station” (although most would say “is falling down”). Again you would say “Paddington” and my reply would be “Station” (although “Bear” is the usual response). Likewise “Waterloo” would elicit the same response from me, “Station”, thus the psychoanalyst would say that I have a one track mind, not that I need therapy as I am well aware of my condition which I have controlled since childhood.

The iconic bright red double-decker bus is part of London’s “persona”, an instantly recognisable part of London life, however it would come as a surprise to many to know that on the outskirts of the capital, buses were once painted Lincoln Green. The reason for this goes back to before the Second World War, when the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) was formed on the 1st July 1933.

I recently watched a documentary, originally screened on the BBC in 2007, entitled “Ian Hislop Goes Off the Rails” presented by Ian Hislop, the editor of “Private Eye” and also a resident panellist on the long running TV show “Have I Got News for You”. It was Mr Hislop’s very informative “Take” on the controversial findings of Dr. Richard Beeching’s  report on “The Reshaping of British Railways” and in his commentary he said “I’m asking whether Beeching’s actions were a necessary evil or one of the great acts of vandalism of the 20th century?

It is unusual for a middle-class British couple to be celebrated for their respective achievements over half a century. The female partner in this relationship, Dame Agatha Christie, Britain’s bestselling author since Shakespeare requires little introduction. Her husband, the late Sir Max Mallowan, an eminent archaeologist who excavated several important sites in the Middle East, may be somewhat less familiar.

In the desolate reaches of the Canadian Arctic Circle, a mystery that has long baffled archaeologists and historians alike, is slowly unravelling. This is the fate of the lost Franklin Expedition. But to follow the full story, we must return to 1845.

The Expedition

For anyone who has read the epic fantasy novels in the “A Song of Fire and Ice” series  by George R.R. Martin or watched the TV series “Game of Thrones” (based on his books), they will surely know that nothing cuts like Valyrian Steel. Swords made from Valarian Steel never dulled and their edges remained as sharp as the day they were forged, unfortunately the knowledge to make the steel was lost and the swords that were made from the metal became the prized possessions of the noble families of Westeros and were passed down from father to son.

A Namibian story has it that one morning during the early 1950s two men glided their light aircraft onto a diamond-strewn beach in the Namibian Sperrgebiet (German for no-go or forbidden zone) with the intention of collecting a large amount of diamonds hidden by one of them in rocky outcrops near the beach. On take-off from the beach the aircraft however nose-dived after one of the aircraft’s wheels struck a rock. They were subsequently spotted by the restricted diamond areas’ security personnel and arrested.

Should you search on the internet for Shildon, a small town in County Durham in the North East corner of England, you will find out that it has house prices one-tenth of those in London, but that is not the town’s major claim to fame. Shildon is world famous for being the cradle of the Railways (a.k.a. Rail Roads), which were launched in the first quarter of the 19th century.

July is mid-summer and warm in New York. But in this world city, July 1965, Nat felt cold, miserable, depressed and missing his country, his people.

Nataniël Nakzana Nakasa, popularly known as Nat, could not ever return to his country of birth. The premier placing this restriction on his passport which prevented him from returning to South Africa, was none other than the architect of apartheid, Dr Verwoerd. Verwoerd, as Nat once commented, was himself not even born in South Africa (Dutch), while Nat was.

Ninety-nine years ago, on 22 May 1921, a young corporal in the 3rd South African Infantry Regiment died. What distinguished him was that he was a Chacma baboon. The story of Jackie the baboon has often been told and forgive me if you have heard it before. The reason for making it a Magalies Memoir is that Jackie was born in the Magaliesberg. Some details have become confused during a century of re-telling, but essentially the story is as follows:

 

The SA dagger was the service dagger of the Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment) formed under Adolf Hitler and Ernst Röhm’s authority in 1921. Otherwise known as the Brown Shirts, the SA was a paramilitary group named after elite German forces from the Western Front in the First World War (1914-1918). Their primary role was to provide muscle at Nazi rallies and to counter the actions of opposition paramilitary groups. The SA soldiers were also used to violently intimidate civilians.

 

My eye has been on international news about the Corona Virus since the story of this mysterious illness that was changing life in Wuhan China first hit the news. It all seemed a little distant in  January. We were concerned and curious but it was not a personal threat - China seemed (mistakenly) a long way away. I now look back on our celebrating Christmas 2019 as a time of innocence and a time free of worry.

A 1:48 scale model of the Type VIIC German U-boat “U-96” was donated to the Museum in September 2019. The model is a true representation of the original submarine used in the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and was constructed by the donor, Mr Brian Echstein (see image above).

The Importance of the Donation

During the reign of Queen Victoria the then British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once told the House of Commons, ‘More men have been knocked off balance by gold than by love” but to be fair to the man he also said on another occasion “We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end”.

I had been in South Africa for four years after being transferred from the company I had been working for in London. I spent 1968 in Johannesburg and was now working in Durban.

I was twenty-six years old and was in a position where I needed to make some decisions about my future. I was in love with South Africa but at the same time needed some adventure before I put my roots down. Travel was the obvious answer.

If I was to ask that question, 9 times out of 10, the respondent would not know and would take a stab and say perhaps a railway station in London. If it was the last question on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” to win £1 000 000 (that’s Pounds not Rands) would you phone a friend, ask the audience or take a 50:50? (supposing in the unlikely event those options were still available to you).

On June 19, 1566 at Edinburgh Castle a son was born to Mary Queen of Scots and her husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, the baby was christened James and he would become the sixth of his name to be King of Scotland when he was barely 13 months old. His mother was forced by the Lairds to abdicate the Scottish throne and she fled south to England for her own safety and he would never see her again.

The year of 1812 is mainly remembered for Napoleon Bonaparte’s ruinous retreat from Moscow, when his “Grande Armee” was forced to evacuate the city or face starvation with the Russian winter impending. It was the beginning of the end for “Boney” and his defeat would eventually lead him to abdicate as emperor of France in 1814. Napoleon’s failed “Russian Campaign” would be known as the “Patriotic War of 1812” by the Russians and seventy years later would be celebrated by the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” in Moscow.

Professor Lipmann Kessel MC, MBE, FRCS (1914-1986) was an eminent surgeon and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who wrote several important works on orthopaedic surgery, but rather like another well-known doctor, Roger Bannister (1929-2018), Kessel is best remembered for what he did as a young man. In the case of Bannister it was breaking the four minute mile barrier (in 1954) and with Kessel it was his medical role during the famous Battle of Arnhem, in late September 1944.

There are not many South Africans who have been honoured by having a statue of themselves erected in London. Only two come readily to mind and they are Jan Smuts and Nelson Mandela, whose statues stand proudly in Parliament Square, Westminster. However, there is a lesser known South African who has a statue which stands outside Bank Station; he is James Henry Greathead (1844-1896), the grandson of an 1820 Settler of the same name. So why is it that a boy from Grahamstown should be so honoured and what was his achievement?

Many commentators have written about the guns falling silent in Europe on 11 November 1918 and the reasons we should be remembering 100 years on. For South Africa and other African countries though, the war continued until 25 November 1918 when the Germans finally lay down their arms at Abercorn, today’s Mbala.

Below is the epilogue of Mel Baker's remarkable story. It covers his return to Wernersdorf on two occasions and his reunions with fellow POWs over the years. It also highlights the powerful commemorative events that he has been part of.

Mel Baker was a crew member of the HMS Gloucester which sank near Crete in 1941. He was one of only a handful of survivors picked up by the Germans. Below is Part 1 of his powerful account of being a Prisoner of War for most of World War II. He was 21 when he was taken prisoner and returned to Port Elizabeth in 1945 aged 25.

If I undertook a street survey and asked passers-by how much they weighed or how tall they were, the answers I would get back would be dependent on what system of weight and measures a person was brought up on and was familiar with. Grandparents would most likely answer in imperial units (pounds, feet & inches), and their grandchildren would reply in metric units (kilograms and metres), the reason for this is that South Africa converted to the metric system in the early 1970’s.

The reason I say this is that the game of football means different things to different people. If I were an Australian, football (or footy) would mean Aussie Rules, to a New Zealander football would be Rugby football and to an American, football is a contact sport where the ball is handled rather than kicked more akin to rugby. Europeans, Africans, Asians and South Americans know football as a predominantly kicking game with the passing of the ball by use of the foot between players: i.e. football played to the rules of Association Football (a.k.a. Soccer).

At 05:30 on the morning of 11 November 1918, in a railway coach standing at a remote railway siding in the heart of the forest of Compiègne, Germany signed the Armistice Agreement that brought the war to an end.

Soon after, telegraph wires were humming with the message: “Hostilities will cease at 11.00 today November 11. Troops will stand fast on the line reached at that hour...”.

This last week brought a spectacular media scoop to Steve Humphrey of the BBC when an anonymous tip off (presumably telephonic) led him to a bell shaped parcel left at the entrance to the Swanage Pier in Dorset, England. The BBC team was on hand to film the careful unwrapping of the parcel to reveal a ship's bell with the word “Mendi” deeply etched in capital letters on the side (main image from Steve Humphrey and BBC TV South). The bell of the SS Mendi, lost in World War 1, had been found. 

 

Ever since the Millennium the buzzword has been “Globalisation”, which paradoxically was given prominence by the anti-globalisation movement; those people who saw the threat of the multinational companies creating a new world order. By definition Globalisation is “the process enabling financial and investment markets to operate internationally, largely as a result of deregulation and improved communications” (Collins). The word came into everyday speech in the 1990’s having been coined first in the 1960’s by economists.

The late Fred Dibnah, although unknown to most South Africans, was a household name in Britain. He was a true English eccentric who had a passion for all sorts of machinery powered by steam and he spent much of his life studying their construction and history.

He was a man born out of his time, as by the time he started work in the 1950’s, steam power in industry was being superseded by newer technology in the form of electric powered machines.

In today’s world, large infrastructure projects such as the state of the art “Gautrain” rapid transit railway between Johannesburg and Pretoria (80 km in length) are constructed using mechanised plant and equipment for better productivity when working to tight project schedules (fast tracking). Occupational Health and Safety on construction sites has become a main concern when it comes to planning and executing large civil engineering projects with hazard operability studies (HAZOPS) and risk assessments being mandatory.

Field Marshal Bernhard Law Montgomery, nicknamed “Monty” by his men, commanded the Allies 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, during the last months of the Second World War. On the 4th May 1945 at Luneburg Heath he accepted the unconditional surrender of the German forces in that theatre of the War. Victory in Europe (VE day) would come four days later on the 8th of May 1945.

Dickie Jeeps who passed away recently aged 84, was one of the greatest scrum halves ever to play the game of Rugby. He came to the fore during the 1955 British Lions tour of South Africa, where he played in all four Tests against the Springboks. He went on tour as a surprise choice as he was uncapped (by England), but he proved, on the hard grounds of the Highveld, to be the ideal partner for the mercurial fly half Cliff Morgan. The Test series would be drawn with two wins apiece.

 

When someone is asked who or what is the Iron Lady, the first thought that comes to mind is usually Margaret Thatcher, but long before she became Prime Minister of Britain there was another Iron Lady. Ask any Parisian and they will tell you that “La Dame de Fer” is the Eiffel Tower.

The Channel Tunnel, nicknamed the “Chunnel” is a 31 mile (50 km) long rail tunnel beneath the English Channel (La Manche) which provides a fixed link between England and France. It is geographically situated at the narrowest crossing – the Strait of Dover (Pas de Calais). The Chunnel has been operational since its official opening on the 6th May 1994 and is run by the company “Eurotunnel” – the concessionaire until 2086.

 

“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place now is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die, but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we are drilling the drill of death. I, a Xhosa, say you are all my brothers, Zulu, Swazis, Pondos, Basutos, we die like brothers, for though, they made us leave our weapons at home, our voices are left with your bodies.”

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that then you’ll do things differently”.  Alas history is littered with instances where his words would have fallen on deaf ears.

The story of the DC-3 really began in tragedy, when a plane crash caused a public outcry across America over the quality of passenger aviation. It took the death of the famous football (grid iron) coach, Knut Rockne of Notre Dame University, who with five other passengers and two crew was lost when Transcontinental & Western Airlines (TWA) Flight 599 went down at Bazaar, Kansas (between Kansas City & Wichita), on 31st March 1931.

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