Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Bay of Pigs, Cuba

Even on a family holiday I can't resist the odd detour to visit a battlefield or two. In Cuba this stretched to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, the naval base in Cienfuegos and the Bay of Pigs. These photographs were taken about six weeks ago. The Bay of Pigs is now a tranquil place frequented by Cubans taking their obligatory two week annual holiday and divers keen to dive on the wrecks which still litter the ocean floor.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Flying Boats

Pembroke Dock was, until 1957, home to many of Britian's stock of seaplanes. One observer recollects seeing 99 planes in Pembroke Sound during the dark days of 1943. There's a fascinating museum in one of the Victorian Seaforts abutting the quayside. Coincidentally my father recently gave me a photograph of a Sunderland taken in 1953. In his words; "The flying boat was a 'Sunderland' and was stationed at RAF Calshot at the foot of Southampton Water. The Met people there had to calll a boat in order to get to work. Once I was asleep at the back of Hamilton Road and a flying boat roared overhead. The pilot had mistaken the lights of South Parade Pier for the flare path at Calshot!".

Friday, 14 September 2007


I'd thought long and hard about visiting Auschwitz. Mo and I were in Krakow and it was just a two hour train journey. But ... the impact of this place of horrors could be too much to bear. Anyway we did it and were moved to tears by what we found. A salutary lesson in where blind prejudice can end.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Mosquito Wreckage


Visiting a garden centre near Wisbech, Cambridgeshire last weekend I chanced upon wreckage from a war time crash. The remains of a Mosquito recovered from a nearby estuary.

The de Havilland Mosquito, serving with 85 Squadron, went missing on 20 March 1945 while being flown by Flight Lieutenant Gabriel Ellis from Norwich and Sergeant William Reidy from Boscombe. For 60 years their fate was a mystery. However, in April of 2004, the harbourmaster at King's Lynn spotted a propeller tip protruding from the mud of the Wash. A team from the Royal Navy's Southern Diving Unit, based at Portsmouth, was tasked to investigate and they were able to identify the aircraft as the missing Mosquito. Given the possibility that the crewmen might still be aboard, and the likely presence of ammunition, the MOD's Marine Salvage Unit was asked to recover the wreckage.

Working with the Royal Navy divers and RAF engineers, the salvage team was able to recover the major metallic parts of the aircraft - the engines, propellers and two of the four Hispano cannon; as is well-known, most of the Mosquito was built from wood and this has perished in the sea. Most importantly, they were also able to bring ashore the remains of the two airmen. The RAF's Personnel and Training Command will work with their surviving relatives to decide the most appropriate burial in accordance with the families wishes.

The undercarriage has yet to be located - the salvage team plans to return to the site in the autumn to conduct another search. 85 Squadron was a night-fighter unit, which in 1945 was serving with Bomber Command's 100 Group, supporting the bomber offensive with patrols over Germany hunting down enemy night-fighters in the air and attacking them on the ground at their airfields.