Friday, January 31, 2014

World War 2: Recommended Reading 4

SIEGE: MALTA 1940 - 1943
by Ernle Bradford

I've been collecting and reading books concerning World War 2 for the last few years and because significant anniversaries related to war events* will occur this year I'll likely be reminded of the topics covered in several of my book choices.

While speaking with a WW2 veteran on the phone recently, I was told informed that the veteran was wounded during the invasion of Italy (Sept. 1943) and was hospitalized in Malta. I recalled my father was hospitalized there as well for dysentery. And I was also reminded of one book in my small WW2 collection about that island and recommend it today, for two reasons.

First, SEIGE: MALTA 1940 - 1943 by Ernle Bradford tells the story of a Mediterranean island that played a strategic role in the outcome of WW2. Both Allied and Axis forces wanted Malta in their possession because it served as key to controlling its region and beyond. One can measure Malta's importance by comparing the number of bombs dropped upon its head - and tonnage of war materials delivered to and through its ports - to any other island, other than England perhaps.

Second, some of the language strikes me as riveting and prose-like. I underlined or high-lighted several such sentences or paragraphs:

     it was Winston Churchill who now
     maintained that Malta must be held
     at all costs or the road to the east
     would be open to the Axis forces.

     In this view he was fully supported
     by his admiral, for Cunningham 
     had never had the slightest doubt
     about the small island's importance
     in any conflict that might take place
     in the Mediterranean.

     Fortunately for Malta, Hitler
     was considerably less percipient
     than his predecessor Napoleon. 

     An early German strike with their
     immense preponderance of air power
     against the poorly-equipped island
     might well have succeeded, and
     the face of history would indeed
     have been changed.   

I found my copy in a used-book store in Gananoque. I hedged for a few seconds because of the $6 price tag. I'm just a toot. It is definitely worth the price. It was worth the trip!

I now recommend you tramp through a favourite book store for your own copy.

* very significant anniversaries of WWI and WW2 events occur this year. WWI began in 1914, 100 years ago. WWII in 1939, 75 years ago.

Photos by GH

More WW2 Recommended Reading

Modern Messaging: "we will support our war veterans?" 4

Government respects war veterans

"My government respects and will support our war veterans."

What do you hear?

Photos by GH

Photo Study: "ice scraper needed" 3

The photo captures either the January night sky just 15 minutes after sunset...

or, some artsy fartsy version of ice on the inside of my workshop window.

Wanna see outside? Bring your own ice scraper.

Photos by GH

More Photo Study

Photo Study: "ice scraper needed" 2

Look at the colour, the contract, the texture.

Why, if these photos were hanging in a well-heeled art shop I bet they'd be worth some dough.

Bread dough. Cookie dough. Something like that, eh.

Photos GH

More Photo Study

The Workshop: "good while it lasted"

On this last day of January I declare I enjoyed a good break while it lasted. Not one birdhouse did I make during the month.

However, a fellow Wortley Village resident spotted me putting a half-dozen-or-so finished birdhouses - from a very busy 2013 - into the trunk of my car last week and ordered one.

When I do get to it I know I'll have fun w the BH building process once again. The side porch alone will get the juices flowing.

Paper Sketches by GH

More from The Workshop 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Photo Study: "ice scraper needed"

Thanks to the recent cold snap, I would need a really sharp ice scraper to clear my workshop window.

["Taken from outside the shop"]

Forget the scraper. I'm going inside to stand next to the heater.

Photos by GH

More Photo Study

Zoom w a View: "look up"

When I step out of my workshop in the evening I occasionally hear birds flurrying toward two nearby spruce trees.

When I look up at the feeder it is empty and silent - until I reach the back door to the house.

Photo GH

More Zoom w a View

Photo Posers 27

These three items gather dust in my workshop. Charming.

1. Birdhouse
2. Black something-or-others
3. A brown whats-it

Any ideas?

Spoiler Alert!

If you say...

2. black hockey gloves, circa 1964
3. brown hockey helmet, same era are correct.

Photo GH

Photo Posers 26

Gord's Journal 4: "a new man"

Do you own a laugh track?

Insert it after "a new man."

Gord's Journal 3

World War 2: Connecting w a Veteran (6)

A day or two after connecting with Lloyd Evans by phone he emailed the first of two sets of black and white photographs mentioned in an earlier post. I imagined Lloyd and his son had worked together on a computer and scanner at Lloyd's house - near 401 highway, two hours east of my house in London - and hoped they got along okay.

I thought, they've never laid eyes on me, so this is a great kindness. Lloyd is connected to my father by similar stints in the RCNVR and time in Combined Ops but they might only have crossed paths briefly here or there, e.g., over a sip of rum inside a protective cave in Sicily, July, 1943. Men on the barges were oft-times on long shifts, anywhere from 12 - 96 hours, so learning the names of some of the men in flotilla crews had likely been a difficult task.

And what are the odds that two young Navy boys - who were not supposed to be carrying cameras during WW2 - appear in one another's photos? Slim, I say. Very slim. But still I hoped.

I looked at the first photo:

["Someone in Lloyd's crew picked up a pet in Freetown, Africa"]

Both Lloyd and my father tell stories about monkeys in their memoirs. I mentioned E. P. Murphy and his monkey to Lloyd during the phone call we shared but he didn't jump at the name. 'Different men on different ships' came to mind as I looked at the scene from May or June, 1943. Lloyd had told me he'd gone around Africa like my father, on their way to the invasion of Sicily, but there had been a lot of ships, a lot of flotilla crews. A complete record likely doesn't exist of the ships and crews and where they stopped along the way, but if there is one the above photo is a part of it.

["Lloyd wears an officer's cap at a later date.
East coast, Canada"]

Two other photos followed of officers, Lloyd included, and I'll need to get to work to see if they appear in other pictures and books I have. By 'work' I also mean 'road trip', to visit Lloyd and have a helpful chat when possible.

The last photo in the set almost knocked me off my chair.

["Chuck Rose, Al Kirby (?), and Don Westbrook.
My father's buddies!"]

I surmised the following:

Time - 1942 or 1943
Location - Training on barges off the southern coast of England, 1942. Or, relaxing after some delivery work was done off the northern coast of Africa, 1942 or south-eastern Sicily, 1943
Who - Three members of Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve and Combined Operations, from Chippewa, Woodstock and Hamilton respectively
Assignment - Deliver tank mesh to the beaches (so tanks could drive out of the water and onto the sand). Pose w machine guns, take pot shots!

This is without a doubt a great, authentic, rare photograph of a Combined Ops crew! If a Canadian museum ever opens a wing dedicated to the contribution of RCNVR and Combined Operations to World War II, this photo should be up on the wall. "Men of the Barges. You need it and we deliver!"

Chuck, Al and Don are mentioned several times in my father's Navy memoirs, and Chuck and Don (and their families) visited at my family's home on many occasions after the war. Friends in war are friends forever, my father later said. To see the fellows aboard a landing craft is a very rare sight indeed, especially in such a situation, i.e., up close, relaxed, guns in hand.

I was a bit disappointed my father wasn't part of the crew but another batch of photos has been mentioned. So I'll write back to Lloyd and wait to see what happens next.

Photos courtesy of Lloyd Evans

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Zoom w a View: London bridge, not falling down 4

Photos by GH

London bridge, not falling down 3

The Workshop: "slow and steady progress" 3

My latest project comes from a rough-looking pile of western cedar and sketchy sketches.

That being said, I think it's coming along nicely.

Photos GH

See "slow and steady progress" 2

Bird Watching: "flying solo"

A mourning dove has been a regular visitor lately to my backyard feeder. I don't know if it has lost its mate or just isn't hooked up yet.

I do know it's flying solo and watching me closely while I'm doing the same to it.

Photos by GH

More Bird Watching

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dad's Navy Days: January 1944 - Heading West (25)

Dressed to the nines, Navy boys headed west to Vancouver Island in January, 1944. My father wrote several pages about his time on the island, but not one line about the train rides from Halifax to SW Ontario and then finally to Vancouver.

When I took the train to Vancouver in 2012 I was glued to window, took hundreds of photographs and wrote extensively about the large number of miles covered. Father took only three photos as far as I know, and without commentary.

[Don Linder, Chuck Rose, Buryl McIntyre (back) Joe Watson,
Don Westbrook: Photo from Doug Harrison's wee collection]

When the boys reached Hornepayne, 572.4 Mi. west of Toronto and 635.4 Mi. east of Winnipeg, several hopped off the train to stretch their legs and light up a smoke. Snow covered the ground and the surrounding forests that stretched for miles beyond their limited vision. If they'd been stopping for any length of time they would have placed their canvas packs upon the wooden carts that stood outside the doors on the north end of the two-storey, red-brick train station and then stomped inside to the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Today, the station lies abandoned. Colourful paintings on plywood cover the once stately windows and the welcoming platform and its roof (snow covered in the photograph) are gone. Some thoughts about the five Navy boys remain, however, including warms ones for the young man who snapped the picture with an old box camera.

[Don Westbrook at Edson station, northern Alberta]

The boys didn't likely stay long in Hornepayne, likely just long enough for supplies to be loaded on board.

Then it was 'westward ho' with many more miles to go. (For example, 534.9 Mi. to go after Jasper.)

["Doug Harrison, braving the cold for a minute"]

Digital Photos by GH of Doug's collection

More Dad's Navy Days: January 1944 - Heading West (24)

The Workshop: "slow and steady progress" 2

Two hours per day in a cold workshop. The job will get done.





Big operation today. 

Glue. Clamps. Forceps. Stat!

Photos by GH

More from The Workshop "slow steady progress" 1

Zoom w a View: London bridge, not falling down 3

Photos GH

London bridge, not falling down 2

Bird Watching: "not hooked up?"

Yesterday I remarked on a lone mourning dove that has dominated my bird feeder for the last few days. I thought it might have lost its partner and was therefore in mourning. My wife and partner had another idea.

"Maybe the dove is a teenager and not hooked up yet."

I hadn't thought of that. What do you think?

Photo by GH

More Bird Watching: "dove in mourning?"

Photo Study: "cold weather drives me" 2

Recent snowfalls drove me to think of a road trip to the west coast. Comox, Mount Washington and a cozy hostel in Courtenay - just steps away from the old Riverside Hotel - all came to mind. Sooke was mentioned by a reader, friend and neighbour! Sounds like a great itinerary.

["Link to Mt. Washington Web cam here"]

I just need gas money.

And a larger van.

Photos by GH

Photo Study: "cold weather drives me" 1

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bird Watching: "dove in mourning?"

Is the mourning dove actually in mourning?

For the last few days a dove has been dominating the feeder. Alone. They usually travel in pairs and I've photographed groups of four to eight doves many times in the past while they rested inside the sheltering boughs of my blue spruce.

Today is the third day in a row this solitary mourning dove has visited, and stayed for an hour or more in the middle of the feeder, so I now wonder if its mate has disappeared due to the cold or predation. (A month ago I spotted a cat prowling in the spruce branches outside my window).

I'll keep watch.

Photos by GH

More Bird Watching

Zoom w a View: London bridge, not falling down 2

[Straight as an arrow]

[Cold as shut-tight heart]

He was as straight as an arrow
And as cold as a shut-tight heart.
He'd give the shirt off his back
If you asked him to play a part.

Photos GH

London bridge, not falling down 1

The Workshop: "dive into the stream"

In an earlier workshop post I mentioned the age of some western cedar I am working with on a particular project. 800 to 1,000-years old is my best guess.

Sounds odd, but, while opening up one small piece I wished I was the tiniest of time travellers:

     I would dive into the cedar stream,
     float back in time and witness the birth
     of the tree I had just cut. 

     Then I'd tramp out of the forest
     with the hope of finding
     a decent pub.

What are the odds?!

Photos by GH

More from The Workshop