I’ve found this rather interesting programme on BBC iplayer showing the training of a group of Royal Marines officer trainees undertaking the Commando Commissioning Course at Lympstone.
It’s quite interesting to note the training for officers compared to men – more focus on initiative, not so many extreme bollockings but the same physical and mental tests. As one of the staff mentions, the idea is that the young officers who if they are comissioned will be commanding a platoon of 30 blokes, many of them older, can stand in front of their men and provide a good example and not be embarrased. It’s always intriguing to see the NCO’s staff berating the ‘young gentlemen’, calling them all kinds of things, suffixed with a ‘sir’. But every green beret in the Royal Marines will have done the same training.
I’ve always found the psychological aspect of military training pretty interesting, as it can apply to other fields and professions. The skills of leadership in particular are fascinating – how do you pick out a leader at 18 or 19, from the thousands of applicants? It’s entirely possible that from those humble beginnings, one of them might end up as a Major-General commanding the Corps.
The lad from Barbados attempting the Commando Course during winter in particular seems to have had a pretty tough time!
Click here to watch (UK only)
Thanks to x for pointing out this video.
You’ll often read in Great War history books about how the regular troops of the British Expeditionary Force at Mons in 1914 managed to put out such a rate of fire that the German’s thought that they were being faced with Battalions of Machine Guns. Watch this video and its easy to see how well trained troops could put out some serious lead with an SMLE! Multiply this rate of fire by 1,000 – the strength 0f a Battalion – and you really wouldn’t want to be in the way.
Historically, British marksmanship has always been pretty good compared to other armies. I can remember reading about how even during the Napoleonic War the British Army was the only one that practised with live rounds, and reading the Sharpe novels you get a real sense of how important massed ranks of volley fire were. When you add in the early interest that the British Army took in the Baker rifle, then you also have a heritage of accuracy too.
All this possibly goes some way to explaining why the establishment feared the Machine Gun – the Generals preferred their soldiers to fire deliberate, well aimed shots, making each one count. But, as any good guitar player will tell you, speed is a by product of accuracy – get it right first, and then get it fast. Read Dan Mill’s ‘Sniper One’ about the insurgency in Iraq in 2004, and you’ll see how apparently the insurgents found it seriously uncool to aim their AK47’s, and simply to blaze away from the hip. No wonder during World War Two the Army feared the sub-machine gun – calling them’gangster guns’ – apprehensive that soldiers would begin blasting away like Al Capone!
This culture might also explain why post-WW2 Britain adopted a rifle like the SLR, rather than something like the M16.
Heres a few video’s I’ve seen recently, covering Rock in Helmand Province, another new Destroyer, a 1950’s american political advert, and some rock from an under-rated band.
Helmand Rock Concert
A rock concert? In Helmand?! yep, thats right… It’s got to be a sign that progress is being made in Afghanistan if events like this are allowed to take place. It’s called freedom. Somehow I think it’s something that the Taliban would not tolerate.
HMS Duncan launched
The last of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers, HMS Duncan, was launched recently in Scotland.
‘I Like Ike‘ advert
I remember watching this advert while studying modern American history for A-level. I’m really not sure what it was about Ike exactly that US voters ‘liked’, but hey ho… I’m British!
Alter Bridge – Open your eyes
My Girlfriend’s made me rediscover this band. Mark Tremonti‘s a great guitarist, and a LOT better than you can hear here!
This is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. In 1964 military authorities tested the effects of LSD on a section of Royal Marines. As you can see the results were startling or hilarious, depending on your point of view!
And not to be outdone, heres Uncle Sam‘s finest undergoing the same kind of test…
Staus Quo – In the Army Now
Status Quo have re-released their single ‘In the Army Now’, with proceeds going to Help for Heroes and the British Forces Federation. Its a pretty cool video too, with some action footage partly shot at the Tank Museum in Bovington. And look out for the chocolate labrador (scale of issue: optional for infantry officers, mandatory for cavalry officers!)
Heres a few vidoes on youtube that I’ve been watching recently. Enjoy!
HMS Hermes returns from the Falklands
This is a pretty historic piece of footage. Not only does it show the Flagship of the Falklands Task Force returning to Portsmouth, my mum and dad were on one of the black and buff Navy tugs escorting her in! Presented by Michael Buerk and Brian Hanrahan, we see thousands of people gathered on the waterfront at Portsmouth, and there are interviews with Margaret Thatcher, and the Captain Lin Middleton. There are interviews with the crews families at the quayside.
The Somme: From Defeat to Victory
A pretty good documentary about the Battle of the Somme that I’ve just found. It’s refreshingly non ‘Janet and John’ style, which makes a nice change!
Royal Navy Sea Wolf Missile firing
I’ve been having a look at clips of missile firings on youtube, because it occured to me that I write about them a lot, but have never really seen what they look like in evidence! Heres a clip of a Sea Wolf missile firing from a Type 22 Frigate.
Black Label Society – Parade of the Dead (Live)
From the new album, Order of the Black. Zakk Wylde is back to his best!
Royal welcome home for 11 Light Brigade
Members of the British Army’s 11 Light Brigade marched through Westminster recently, in front of HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. The Brigade recently returned from a 6 month tour of Afghanistan, where 64 soldiers were killed in action. The march through Winchester was followed by a service at the Cathedral.
The Altmark Incident
Richard Noyce of the National Museum of the Royal Navy tells us about the Altmark incident, and shows us an artefact from the Museum’s collections.
Muse featuring The Edge – Where the Streets Have No Name
I’m not normally a fan of the whole Glastonbury thing – more performers off the stage than there are on it – but this clip is amazing. Even though U2 couldn’t headline the Friday as planned, The Edge still turned up and joined Muse to play Where The Streets Have No Name, one of U2’s most epic songs.
This is the second DVD I have had the pleasure of reviewing from the partnership of Battlefield History TV and Pen and Sword Digital. Whilst the first DVD I reviewed focussed very much on family military history, this release looks at two very different men, on opposing sides of one of the most famous battles of the Second World War.
Michael Wittman was the most renowned German Tank Ace of the Second World War. By the time he arrived in Normandy with his elite Waffen SS Tank Battalion, he had seen extensive service on the Eastern Front and had been decorated for bravery. By contrast Trooper Joe Ekins was a shoemaker in civilian life who had volunteered for the Norhamptonshire Yeomanry, a territorial armoured unit. These two very different men came to be facing each other in August 1944 during Operation Totalize – Montgomery’s attempt to break out of the bridgehead or tie down German reinforcements, depending on which side of the historiography you sit!
Many books and programmes have attempted to pinpoint exactly who killed Michael Wittman. Where I think this DVD is spot on is in its conclusion that while it is almost possible to pinpoint who exactly killed Wittman, but it is very possible that it was Trooper Ekins. My take on it having watched the DVD, is why have people become so fixated with finding out who exactly killed Wittman? Lots of men and tanks were fighting each other in the summer of 1944, is it really possible or indeed wise to try and isolate individuals from the bigger picture? But I guess if people are interested in it, its always going to be the subject of speculation.
I found this a vey enjoyable DVD indeed. The balace between battlefield visits, the interviews with Joe Ekins and the expert analysis was just about right. In particular I enjoyed Richard Hone’s look at the German and Allied Tanks. The use of battlefield maps, overlaid with graphics and used in conjunction with battlefield views, really brings the story of life. But best of all, the interviews with Trooper Joe Ekin ensure that his memories and experiences are recorded for posterity.
This kind of focussed, battlefield interpretation lends itself very well to the DVD format. Its very well produced, and with a nice soundtrack. Whereas Tracing Great War Ancestors was a good effort, this seems a more confident offering. The ability to talk to veterans, walk the battlefields and present graphics paints a picture far more accesible than even the most vivid book. And I think there is a demand for these kinds of studies. I can think of plenty of stories associated with Arnhem that could be told very lucidly using this approach – fingers crossed we will see many more like this in the future.
Wittman v Ekins: The Death of a Panzer Ace is available from Pen and Sword Digital
David Beckham visits troops in Afghanistan
Now, lots of harsh words are spoken about footballers – some of it true (yes you, Ashley Cole!) and some of it not so true. But David Beckham’s recent visit to Afghanistan showed what a true gent he is. He’s always struck me as more grounded than people seem to think, and he certainly comes across like that here.
Solidarity Poland 1981
This is a section of the BBC Documentary series The Cold War that looks at the Solidarity Movement in 1980’s Poland. It also focuses on Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa. I can remember watching this in College for A-Level History. There has always been something tragic about Polish history that has fascinated me.
Black Label Society – In This River (Live)
I spent many years of my youth listening to this band. Zakk Wylde has to be the greatest heavy metal guitarist out there, and this is his tribute to Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, who was murdered onstage in 2005. Its a very emotional song and means a lot to me too.
Filed under Music, videos
The RAF Museum have just released this video on Youtube showing their plans for a Battle of Britain Beacon.
This really is quite an innovative idea, and I think its exactly the kind of thing that Museums should be doing to bring history and heritage into the 21st Century. A Beacon is a great idea, giving the building exactly the right kind of image – of light, and hope. I really like how its a museum building, but it has a real purpose from the outside too. The planned new building is part of the Museum’s broader modernisation programme. It will allow wider public access to to the Museums Collections, something I always support.
Of course its very fitting to be focussing on the Battle of Britain, in the year of its 70th anniversary. The provision of suitable funding, and the agreement with interested parties and authorities with whom the Museum is consulting widely, will dictate when the Trustees of the Museum will take the final decision to proceed with construction.
Click here for more information about the Battle of Britain Beacon
Portsmouth vs. Liverpool – FA Cup Semi Final 1992
Before the Taylor report, SkyTV and Bosman. When football was football, and when Pompey were Pompey and there really was an atmosphere. I was there, in the very far bottom corner of the clock end – you can almost make me out when the ball goes out at 5:31! Just look at how good the atmosphere was. What I find incredible is that my Grandad watched Pompey in a Semi-Final at Highbury in 1949, and was back there 43 years later.
Katyn – Trailer (English subtitles)
After the sad events that led to the death of the President of Poland and many others, its impossible to not realise the cruel twist of fate that they were travelling to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. This Polish drama series deals with what was a tragic event in a country that during the twentieth century new more tragedy than most.
Oral History – the Luftwaffe Bomb Portsmouth
I’ve found this wonderful clip of a ladies memories of living in Portsmouth during the war, where she talks about a close encounter with a German bomber. My Grandad has a very similar memory, of seeing a Heinkel so low that he could see the Pilots face and the colour of his hair.
Biffy Clyro – Bubbles
Heres my latest selection of interesting clips, courtesy of youtube:
Sailor – The 1976 TV series on the old HMS Ark Royal
The Tank Museum featured on BBC’s The One Show
Archive footage of The Battle of the Somme
Bruce Springsteen (featuring Tom Morello) – The Ghost of Tom Joad
Its been a while since I’ve shared some of my favourite videos from YouTube… so here are some recent videos I think you might like!
German Newsreel footage of Operation Market Garden
I’ve found this fascinating German newsreel covering the battle of Arnhem. Whats really interesting about it is that part of the footage was filmed when my Granddad was jumping at Ginkel Heath – those Germans are firing at my Granddad. Its also fascinating to see the Nazi Propaganda Machine at work.
HMS Invincible 1982
There is a pretty ridiculous conspiracy theory out there that HMS Invincible was either sunk or damaged during the Falklands. War. As this video shows, any sane human being will be able to work out that its ludicrous.
Grenadier Guards Band in 1940
Heres a British Pathe clip of the Grenadier Guards Band playing in Trafalgar Square in 1940. Fittingly, they’re playing ‘British Grenadiers’.
Biffy Clyro – Many of Horror live
And finally, something from the best band in Britain today…
Dimebag Darrell, the guitarist with heavy metal band Pantera, was murdered on stage 5 years ago today. Maybe not a historical news item itself, but the story is similar to many others I have covered – good people should not die young.
Heres a video of perhaps Pantera’s best known song, Walk, and Zakk Wylde’s emotional tribute In this River.
Pantera – Walk
Black Label Society – In this River
Filed under Music, videos