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The Sinking of the Laconia: two old friends reunited

Back in early 2011, I covered a fantastic Docu-Drama entitled The Sinking of the Laconia, the story of a liner-cum-troopship sunk by a German U-Boat in the South Atlantic in 1942. Not only is it a remarkable story, but my great-uncle Leading Stoker Thomas Daly was onboard. He survived the sinking, but later died of Dysentery contracted in captivity in Vichy North Africa.

When I reviewed the TV series, the response was incredible. I had more hits in an hour than I normally have in a week. Even in the 18 months since, I’ve had hundreds of comments and emails regarding the Laconia, it really is a story that has captured the imagination of so many people. I can tell when it has been screened somewhere in the world, as hit ratings for the search term ‘Sinking of the Laconia’ go through the roof!

Yet even as incredible as the story of the Laconia is, it never ceases to amaze me that the incident is still able throw up surprises today. Two of the men who visited my blog in the days after the programme screened were John Royal and Tony Large. Both had been sailors onboard HMS Enterprise – by a huge coincidence, my great-uncle had been on the Enteprise too – and were coming home to Britain onboard the Laconia. They were in the Canteen on the Laconia when the ship was torpedoed. Separated in the chaos, they never saw each other again. They never even knew if the other had survived. Yet having both found my blog, they were reunited some 70 years later, with the assistance of Neil Pendleton who runs the Laconia page on Facebook. Even more remarkably, both had emigrated to Australia, and were living not a million miles from each other down under!

They recently met up, accompanied by many of their respective families. I share this photo with their blessing.

I can’t think of anything that I have done as a historian that has humbled me as much as being able to play a small part in reuniting these two fine gentleman, so long after they were separated by war. As I have often said about the effects of war, my grandad and great-uncle might have suffered terrible, but all of the other people affected by war were also somebody elses grandad or great-uncle, or father or son or brother. To be able to contribute to something¬† positive, through the history of war, is so inspiring.

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Filed under maritime history, Navy

1,000 posts

Well, apparently this is my thousandth post on my blog! How the hell did that happen?

I’ve been making a few calculations. If, for example, I’ve written a couple of hundred words in each of my posts, say, 250 – then thats around a quarter of a million words written on Daly History since July 2009. And a thousand posts divided by three years works out at just under one post a day. One wonders where I’ve found the time for it all, in amongst writing my first book, a day job, a home life and by no means least a partner!

I would like to thank you all for your support over the past three years. My brother Scott for suggesting that I start a blog in the first place. Honestly, it started out as something to do and a way of expressing myself, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would end up winning awards and getting a book published off the back of it. My publishers for taking a chance on me that I hope has paid dividends, and also the various other publishers who very kindly let me review their wares. Also the various friends I have made here over the years, and other social media historians who have helped to create what is a thriving online community for military and other kinds of history.

A few years ago, nobody would have imagined the amount of history that would be created online. Even now, some of the more sniffy ‘professionals’ might doubt the importance of social media. But I’m sure the past three years here have shown that it is THE way forward when it comes to breaking down barriers in history, heritage and all other kinds of allied fields. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, and indeed WordPress are just as valuable tools as the humble pen and paper. bJust like the internet has broken down doors for music artists, it’s done the same for historians, and it’s time that people woke up to it. Just as nowadays somebody can record an album in their bedroom, and put it online, a budding historian can circumvent all of the chicanery, and get their work noticed. Why beaver away on writing dusty journal articles that maybe four people will read? Blogging is accessible, it’s dynamic, and it is – I’m sure – here to stay.

Heres to the next thousand!

 

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Filed under site news

The Sinking of the Laconia: the verdict

Well now we’ve finally seen the two-part Drama ‘The Sinking of the Laconia‘. If you haven’t already seen it, you can catch it on BBC iplayer here.

My impressions? I found it very gripping and very moving. I don’t mind admitting that I was choked in a few places. Historically, it seems to have captured the essence of the story and with no major embellishments or historical licence. From what I can tell, the writers used real events quite well, albeit changing some names and circumstances slightly. Perhaps there was a little too much time given to romance and flirting, but hey that’s just TV I guess. I’m not althogether sure that the character of Hilda Smith existed, perhaps someone can enlighten me.

I have a feeling that the actions of the American B-24 Liberator crew may come in for criticism now. The drama’s portrayal of them was as hapless, inexperienced trigger-happy young men. I have to say that from what I know, their actions were irresponsible and sadly added to the loss of life and suffering from the sinking. But on the other hand, they were by no means the only men in wartime to make a bad call in a difficult situation. It would be nice to think that it was simply a mistake.

Overall I’m glad that such a heart-rendering story of humanity amongst war has finally got the recognition that it deserved. For too long the Laconia has been virtually forgotten in the annals of history, quite why is hard to explain. Hopefully that will change now.

Thank you to everyone who has visited here in the past few days, visits to my blog have gone through the roof. My record for daily visits was smashed by three times the old record, and today’s total will be even more too.

Finally, to anyone who was on the Laconia, or has a family story connected with it, please keep in touch, I will try and write about the story from time to time here. I’ve really enjoyed all of your contributions. There is also a Laconia group on Facebook that is a great way to keep in touch and exchange news and stories. Let’s make sure that the story of the Laconia is remembered.

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Filed under Family History, merchant navy, Navy, On TV, World War Two