Learning a little history

51WCn9OPQaL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_  It came as a really sobering shock. I used to be really good when it came to history. Now I’m really bad, or at least I think I am. I wasn’t bad at twentieth century history. But that was when I was in school, and that was so long ago. When we covered certain subjects they were simply skimmed over. Others weren’t even touched. The above book covers one those subjects were barely touched upon. “Dead Wake” is the title of a book by Erik Larson. It tells you the story of the last voyage of the Royal Mail Ship Lusitania.  I found it very well done. Larson writes in a way where he makes you one of the passengers. The ship was a British passenger ship, and to Germany in World War I that made her fair game.  The Germans also thought she might be smuggling arms, and that made her a military target as well. The British naturally denied there were any arms on board. The ship was the fastest on the sea at that time, fast enough to out run a German U-boat. But when the Germans fired one torpedo, and there were two explosions, it became obvious someone wasn’t telling the truth. Only in 1982 did the British admit there were arms aboard. With 1,266 passengers, and 696 crew members, there were 1,962 on board. She sank in 18 minutes, and most of the passengers were American. What did President Wilson do ?.

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What are BCATP ? Just in case you think you think they’re the British equivalent to the Academy awards you couldn’t be more wrong. When my uncle Jim passed away five years ago all I knew was that he flew Lancaster Bombers. He hardly ever talked about his wartime experiences. And when he did it was just one or two sentences. Behind The Glory tells the story of the politics, the volunteers who flew, the conditions they had to deal with, and the antics the pilots got up to. I didn’t know my uncle Jim, who was a bush pilot when he enlisted, was re-trained by the Royal Air Force in “the British way of flying”. The British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) was interesting, hysterical, funny and sad. This book exposed Canada’s seldom talked about role in World War II. Both Churchill, and FDR called Canada’s contribution to the war “the decisive factor” in winning the second world war. Actor James Cagney made a film about the instructors in the BCATP. “Captains Of The Clouds” showed you what airmen had to work with in WW II, and some real war heroes too. But I suggest reading the book. It’s far more enlightening, and a damn sight more entertaining.


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This tells the story of a truly horrific German bombing raid on London two months before The Battle of Britain. It takes you right there. You feel the searing heat of the firebombs. You feel the concussions of the bombs exploding around you. And you discover for the very first time just how close the world came to losing treasured landmarks. Cathedrals, people you learnt about in school were almost snuffed out of existence. Gavin Mortimer gives you a front row seat in the almost total destruction of one of the worlds most famous cities. It’s gritty. It’s gruesome at times. But it’s all real. It’ll help if you’re familiar with the city, but even if you’re not, you’ll feel for the people and the places.

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One thought on “Learning a little history

  1. Wilson waited a year to enter the war…. but he did everything else he could to support the war effort short of sending troops. He’d been alive to witness the bloodshed of the American Civil War and wan’t cavalier about sending men to their deaths.

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