Daily Archives: 22 December, 2009

Guest Blogging for the Historic Dockyard

I’m very happy to announce that soon I will be beginning a guest spot the blog of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I will be writing about the Dockyard, its buildings, the people who have worked there, its ships, the Royal Navy, events going on there and all manner of things to do with Portsmouth and the Navy. Its difficult to know where to start – there are so many interesting stories and subjects, and loads of little gems that few people know about!

The Historic Dockyard is the largest maritime visitor destination in the UK, in the home of the Royal Navy and the country’s principal Naval Port. Home to HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose, the Royal Naval Museum, Action Stations and the Dockyard Apprentice Museum, it is also one of the south-coasts busiest tourist attractions and a vital part of Portsmouth’s Heritage.

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Filed under Industrial Revolution, Local History, maritime history, Navy, site news

Flying Officer Charles Goble

An RAF Short Stirling Bomber

An RAF Short Stirling Bomber

Aircrew who were lost in the skies over Europe between 1939 and 1947 and have no known grave are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, in Surrey. More than a few Portsmouth men who served in the Royal Air Force are memorialised there.

One of them is Flying Officer Charles Goble, 21 and from Portsmouth. He was serving with 624 Squadron, flying in a Short Stirling Bomber. He was killed on the night of 14 July 1944 and has no known grave.

What makes Goble’s story all the more interesting, is that 624 Squadron’s role was to insert and supply special agents behind the lines of Nazi-occupied Europe. The Special Operations Executive was set up to co-ordinate and support guerilla and underground forces in various countries. Often small and nimble Lysander aircraft would be used to drop off and pick up agents. But Bombers were also used as transport aircraft, to drop men and supplies by parachute. Stirling’s were used as a large number of them were available, having been replaced in Bomber Commanded by the Lancaster and the Halifax. It was a particularly hazardous role – flying low, alone, darkened and facing very serious consequences if captured. It was certainly a job for brave and skilled men.

Where Goble was operating when his plane was shot down, we can only speculate. In July 1944 the battle of Normandy was raging, and the French Maquis further south were certainly active against the Germans. 624 Squadron are also known to have flown missions over Poland. Documented records of 624 Squadron are very limited due to the secrecy of the work involved.

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Filed under portsmouth heroes, Remembrance, Royal Air Force, World War Two

Is Bloody-mindedness British?

I’ve been reading a very interesting article on the BBC News website, by Finlo Rohrer.

It argues that sheer bloody-mindedness, the desire to resist authority and overwhelming odds, is something that is quintessentially British. As much as queuing, in fact (try it when next abroad. Only in Britain do we REALLY know how to queue!).

Why be bloody-minded? It comes from a range of motivations. From simply to annoy, to standing up for what you believe in (there is a risk of nimbyism here), to the extreme of having to resist a foreign invader. It was felt by quite a few in 1940 that Britain simply does not give in to ‘grubby little dictators’. And in 1982, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Henry Leach told Margaret Thatcher that we SHOULD re-take the Falklands, as ‘if we don’t, soon we will be living in a country where words count for very little’. The politicians thought it impossible, as did the Army and the RAF. But Thatcher liked what she heard, and have Leach the order to send a Task Force.

It transcends into Military History. Look at the amount of British battles where men have had to hold on for grim death against the odds – Waterloo, Rorkes Drift, Arhem… it takes bloody mindedness to fight off a superior enemy. Yes, there is something very British about being the underdog.

Polls, or anything that is open to public participation, are game for bloody-mindedness, as the recent Christmas no.1 battle has shown. It is a thread that does seem to run through British society. Cultural Historian Joe Moran has some interesting things to say:

“There is quite a long British tradition of localism and scepticism towards state power, and after World War II this was refuelled by widespread resentments about the survival of wartime red tape and rationing.”

Funnily enough, as a country we do seem to enjoy queuing, and feel comfortable doing what we are told. But we’ll have a good moan while we’re at it. But not to the person who is responsible, oh no. We don’t do complaining…

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