The beach hut is a familiar sight along the sand and shingle beaches of seaside towns in the UK. The first beach huts were converted wheeled bathing machines, fisherman’s huts and sheds set up for the benefit of the working classes. Where might you find the first purpose built beach huts? Why, you’d find them here in Bournemouth. Continue reading
There are several Victorian era arcades in my area. The nicest one of the lot, in my opinion, is also my local. Filled with coffee shops, restaurants, clothes stores, art galleries, an old newsagent and the smallest cinema in the world. Well, probably the smallest cinema in the world. Continue reading
In the 1950s, Britain decided they needed some shiny new planes to deliver the country’s nuclear bombs to carefully chosen locations east of Berlin. Britain was still a world superpower of sorts. In the air, she was still the superpower. So in keeping wih that status, the decision was made to put in orders for three different aircraft. The Victor, the Valiant and the Vulcan. The V Force. At ridiculous expense, hundreds of planes were built and put into the air, just in time to coincide with the development of effective anti-aircraft missiles. The decision was made to house the nuclear deterrent inside submarines instead.
To understand why the decision was made at all, you’d do worse that watch the recent two part television series, Cold War Hot Jets – two hours of aviation history from a British perspective. One things that becomes quickly apparent – of the three types of bomber, there was one that represented the cutting edge of technology. It was the riskiest of the three projects. Ultimately, it was the most successful. Once anti-aircraft missiles had become an established and unmitigated threat, there was just one that was capable of switching from high altitude high speed flight, to speeding along just metres off of the ground, under the radar.
Luckily, it was also the most beautiful of the three planes. It was, of course, the Vulcan. If you’ve seen it in the flesh, you’ll never forget it. It’ll appear in silence. Then the noise from the four engines catches up. It won’t just deafen you. The ground will vibrate and numb your senses. Only the Concorde compares. Although Concorde had a slightly less deadly job to do. Not that a Vulcan was ever called upon to fulfil a nuclear raid. Indeed, for all the money spent on the V Force bombers, only one ever supplied an explosive delivery in anger.
Ironically, in 1981, the Argentines wanted to buy some Vulcans. The British government initially agreed to sell them a single bomber. A few months later, the Falkland Islands were invaded, and a Vulcan was duly sent to Argentina’s military forces. Albeit in a different manner to how they had originally planned to take delivery. One Vulcan and a fleet of refuelling aircraft flew from the UK to the Falklands, dropped some bombs on the runway and then returned home. It was the longest bombing raid in history until relatively recently, an there’s a documentary on YouTube that tells the story. Despite the successful sortie, the Vulcans were retired just a couple of years later.
There is just one Vulcan still flying these days, making appearances at airshows around the country. It is everyone’s favourite. Every year, there are fears that the Vulcan may not return next year. It is costly to keep airworthy, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep this 50 year old plane in the sky. But every year the money is found for another tour of air show duty. However, the end is now nigh, it seems. The owners have announced that this year is the final year of the Vulcan.
My home town of Bournemouth has one of the largest free air shows in Europe. I go every year. I pick my day carefully – which day does the Vulcan fly? I got a decent viewing point this year and snapped away with my camera at what was, possibly, the Vulcan’s final display over the golden sands of Bournemouth. Farewell old chap. We will miss you. Click here for the full photo set from last weekends show.
On the 12th March, one hundred years ago, a young fellow from Bournemouth, Cecil Noble, rushed head first into German machine gun fire to cut through a mass of wire that was holding up his battalion. Noble by name, noble by nature. He succeeded, and so did his battalion when they eventually got to Jerry’s trenches. Cecil was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour in the face of the enemy. Like most recipients of the highest military award that this country has to offer, he didn’t get to see his medal. His comrade that day, who accompanied him to the wire and was also awarded the VC, was more fortunate and lived to tell the tale. The photo below is of Cecil. And a Victoria Cross.
Bournemouth provided the British Army of World War 1 with two men of sufficient calibre to earn themselves a Victoria Cross. These aren’t medals that are handed out willy nilly. To date, 1358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to 1355 men. The numbers don’t add up, obviously. Three men share the distinction of receiving the award twice. One can only assume that their balls must have been bigger and brassier than the ones shot at them by enemy cannon.
There won’t be too many further recipients in the future. One would hope that we’ll fight fewer wars in the years to come, thereby naturally limiting the opportunities to ‘win’ one. But regardless, the metal used to make the medals is running out. The bronze that is used to make the medals comes from the cascabels (no, I didn’t really know what a cascabel is either) of a pair of Russian cannon captured during the Crimean war. Although upon closer inspection, like so many things, they turned out to be made in China.
Whatever the origin of the cannon, there’s just about enough metal left for another 80 to 85 Victoria Crosses. What next? If I were a betting man, my money would be on a brand new medal, the Elizabeth Cross. Or perhaps, just to wind up the Illuminati conspiracy theorists, the Elizabeth ‘All Seeing Eye’ Triangle. It’s just a thought…
But let’s get back to the point of this post. As part of the centenary commemorations of World War 1, a scheme was launched to mark the bravery of each and every Victoria Cross winner from the war. A commemorative paving slab will be laid in the birthplace of each man, exactly one hundred years from the date of their act of bravery. For most, like Mr Noble, it will also mark a century since their untimely deaths. Cecil was but 23 years of age. That’s his paving slab above.
The slab was laid in the ground next to the Bournemouth War Memorial, an impressive white structure in Bournemouth’s Gardens. Next to the small river Bourne that gives the town it’s name. I couldn’t find it at first. I rather expected it to be laid inside the memorial. It turned out to have been discreetly placed outside, in the corner to left of the steps. Just in case you should ever want to pop along to take a look.
The stretch of lawn leading from the town centre up to the memorial has plenty of other slabs to take note of too. On one side are memorials of a happier nature, such as one to mark the birth of Price Andrew. Each has a tree planted with it to. On the other side are memorials of a more sombre kind. There’s a recent addition, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I took a few more snaps of the memorial and surroundings which can be seen on Flickr by clicking here. You might wonder where lies the paving slab commemorating the second Bournemouth soldier to have received the VC? It doesn’t. Yet. His act of valour occurred in 1918, so we will have to wait 3 more years before his slab is set in the ground.
The Bournemouth Gardens Fire Show seems to be an annual event now. I missed it last year. But I was there this year, armed with my Fuji X-M1 to test its ability to shoot a little video. It’s not the most entertaining video you’ll ever see. I wanted to see how the camera performed in very low light. Fuji doesn’t really shout about the X-M1s video capabilities too much. It’s not its strongest suit. But I think it did ok.
The fire show itself is a rather bizarre event. Surreal even. It comes under the umbrella of the Bournemouth Arts Week something or other. I took a few photos too. You can have a look at those on Flickr by clicking here.
The Bournemouth Air Festival has been and gone once more. As ever, it was a fantastic show. Photographically, this year’s show was not the best for me. Firstly, I haven’t yet received my free telephoto lens from Fuji. And to match the shots I achieved last year with the Fuji X-S1, I really needed a telephoto lens. Secondly, the weather. It wasn’t cold. It didn’t rain. But it was grey. Which always makes photography a little more challenging. And again, I needed blue skies to match what I achieved last year. So. Maybe next year…
But I did get some snaps. The one below for starters. The others are in a single album with all the photos I’ve ever taken at the Bournemouth Festival, from 2011 thru to 2014. click here. This year’s are at the bottom.
Already this year there have been several important dates commemorating the centenary of World War I. Today is the special date for Britain. A hundred years ago today, Britain declared war on Germany. Arguably, it was today in 1914 that a potentially localised European war turned into a full scale global conflict. There are lots of events taking place across the country and on the battlefields in France and Belgium. Lest we forget.
There’s little chance anyone will forget. Every town, village and hamlet has a war memorial with the names of the dead of 1914 to 1918 engraved upon them. Other institutions like train stations and Royal Mail offices have their own plaques. Bournemouth has a rather grand memorial in the gardens, which I cycle past on most days. I cycled past this evening and took a photo.
In the gardens today there were youngsters from all over Europe playing football. On the grass, not across trenches. After school or work, not during a ceasefire. The airship in the background is a balloon to provide tourists with a view, not a Zeppelin dropping bombs on civilians. I came home from the gardens to find a letter from the government. It was about my right to vote, not conscription papers.
I’m glad to be alive in 2014 rather than 1914. The young men of 1914 would probably disagree. Adventure was in the air. The survivors of 1918 would probably come round to my point of view. They were just glad to be alive at all, I’m sure. To be able to join in the annual rituals of remembrance. Alas, around the world today in Ukraine, Israel, great swathes of Africa and elsewhere, the futility of war is forgotten and ignored. But we will be able to remember them next year.