13.2.10

FRASER ISLAND QLD AUSTRALIA

Named after shipwreck victim Eliza Fraser It was formed during the ice age when the prevailing winds transported vast quantities of sand from New South Wales and deposited it along the coast of Queensland forming Fraser Island as we know it today. Fraser Island is also home to over 200 species of birds along with a variety of mammals, wallabies, snakes, possums,dingoes, turtles and flying foxes. Fraser Island stretches over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point. With an area of 184 000 hectares it is the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island ranks with Australia's Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is a precious part of Australia's natural and cultural heritage, it is protected for all to appreciate and enjoy. Fraser island is a place of exceptional beauty, with its long uninterrupted white beaches flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs, and over freshwater lakes, some tea-coloured and others clear and blue all ringed by white sandy beaches. Ancient rainforests grow in sand along the banks of fast-flowing, crystal-clear creeks. Fraser Island is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres. The low "wallum" heaths on the island are of particular evolutionary and ecological significance, and provide magnificent wildflower displays in spring and summer. The immense sand blows and cliffs of coloured sands are part of the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world and they are still evolving. They are a continuous record of climatic and sea level changes over the last 700 000 years. The highest dunes on the island reach up to 240 metres above sea level. The Great Sandy Strait, separating Fraser Island from the mainland, is listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention). The wetlands include: rare patterned ferns; mangrove colonies; sea-grass beds; and up to 40,000 migratory shorebirds. Rare, vulnerable or endangered species include dugongs, turtles, Illidge's ant-blue butterflies and eastern curlews. Dingoes have killed humans here but it was believed the animals were annoyed by two legged animals; no action was taken

12.2.10

Life as an Ancient Egyptian

My daily life in ancient Egypt revolved around the Nile and the fertile land along its banks. The yearly flooding of the Nile enriched the soil and brought good harvests and wealth to the land. It was not an easy life yet it was not so bad, we built mud brick homes in villages and in the country. We grew a lot of our own food grew some food and traded in the villages for the food and goods they could not produce. I was a field worker but we had farmers and craftsmen; we also had what was termed a scribe for people who could not read or write. Very few if any of us could read or write me amongst them, our noblemen of course were treated very well compared to us; it was a much harder life for us particularly our wives. When I arose I simply washed and shaved dressed and had a meal prepared by my wife; usually bread and fruit then toddled off to work in the nearby fields. These noblemen had a life of Reilly by comparison; linen sheets plus a servant, this guy helped him to wash and shave. His good lady supervised preparations for a banquet she was hosting later whilst hubby had a bit of tucker with his overseer plus grog, beer was plentiful in ancient Egypt at that time. Thinking about it now life was not too bad, we had no distractions way back then. On the other hand It wasn’t an easy living either; I usually walked or bummed a ride on ferries to go somewhere Much of my life was coping with the annual flood of the Nile River no schooling but this kept us ignorant. We did have a clock though, run by water or the sundial and we barbequed in the evening so we did have entertainment. I was responsible for providing for my family. My wife stayed home and raised the children. Small children and other female relatives lived in a special part of the house. Much of the children's time was spent in training for their adulthood. By the age of four my children would help my wife or me in the field or train as craftsmen; this was not so easy to do. Most of us usually had black hair and dark eyes. My skin was tanned we all wore very simple clothing. The clothes were made of linen. Linen was made from the flax that grew in the fields. It was woven into cloth. The rich wore finely woven linen while the workers wore a more durable material. I usually wore a loincloth. Many times I wore no clothing at all. Don’t laugh but we all wore eye make up. I do believe my wife called to say supper is ready so goodbye for now

4.2.10

Finland’s civil war a very brief account

In 1917 the Russian revolution was whistling along to supposedly free Russian citizens from the Tsar’s yoke; this did not happen in fact it was worse for the poor Russian citizens; however the Russian fleet, which was in Helsinki Finland at the time mutinied; in my day military personnel do not mutiny. The provisional government of the day in Helsinki cancelled most if not all of the Tsar’s government policies in regard to its neighbour Finland; to be blunt they wanted independence and frankly I don’t blame them. Both the Tsar’s and the new communist regime were both degrading and shocking. In these troubled times Finland was not ruled by a government per se, most of the power came from what was known as strike committees, breaking that down middle class and working class; this happened once before in 1905; same rules applied, they even had their own private armies or militias, police were replaced; that sort of thing, in fact things were sticky all round. Unease set in, arguments, violence; and then the so called power act was passed which led to the making of decisions highly unpopular. Finland’s government was then dissolved (and we think we have problems) murders were committed, in fact a highly unpleasant atmosphere was abroad. Cutting to the chase non socialists won, in fact socialists had 92 seats out of 200. Man being the beast he is (still can be at times) made the socialists royally pissed off, in fact Finnish society was gradually splitting up into two camps; both armed and damned dangerous and I bet you thought they were gentle people; they were not at that time I assure you. Then along came the Bolshevik takeover in Russia; middle class Finns quite naturally dreaded this; not so the workers who thought quite differently. However in November a middle class government of Finland was established; run efficiently by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, on December 6 1917 Finland was declared independent. Bolshie Lenin (and to think he lived in London once, relax he was in gaol there) recognised Finland’s independence; December 6 has been known to Finns as their independence day; it is still celebrated as such. Finland’s point of no return came when Svinhufvud’s government authorised the white guard to be the security force, and try and establish law and order, as by this time it had all but broken down. Returned German guards transformed this white guard into a very credible fighting force; run by a former fighting Tsarist General, named Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, this General was a Finn but a Swedish speaking one; he also had a number of professional Swedish Military officers to aid and abet his cause Military action was called for on Jan 27-28 1918; foreign intervention helped a little in this struggle After the Brest-Litovsk treaty was signed artillery troops were withdrawn, the conflict was finally resolved; General Mannerheim entered Helsinki on May 16 1918 just to end the conflict on a formal note. Strangely every year until WWll was celebrated as a kind of second Independence Day. This tragedy was really because of the horrific terror released by reds and whites. In hindsight it should have been nipped in the bud; I have never met anyone with hindsight; it could well have prevented many wars Finland’s civil war was a catastrophe, in a few months around 30,000 were wiped out, society was divided; I won’t go into the fine details, I would never finish (excuse the pun) this blog

1.2.10

The Yangtse Incident

At the time of this incident the 20th of April 1949 there was civil war raging in China between the Reds and the Kuomintang...which in the end was won by the communists, with the support of the Soviets, yes they were good old buddy’s way back then...the Kuomintang under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek pictured below fled to the Island of Formosa (now called Taiwan) MANY foreign nations were in China at the time, including US and British. HMS Amethyst at the time a frigate was doing the job of a gunboat steaming down the Yangtse River trying to rejoin the British fleet and was under fire; she was the last foreign warship in inland Chinese waters without permission of the Chinese government. Further downriver on her way from Shanghai to Nanjing she came under heavy sustained shelling, the wheelhouse and bridge was hit rather badly; the result was a grounding of the ship by the injured coxswain; the skipper was mortally wounded, the first Lieutenant ( known as the Executive officer in US Navy jargon) was injured also. Sadly the sick bay, port engine room and generator were hit very badly; Amethyst was now a sitting duck and paid heavily, 22 killed, 31 wounded; she received more than 50 hits from the PLA or people’s liberation army, HMS Consort was steaming from Nanjing to her aid and silenced the shore batteries and attempted a tow; it never worked indeed Consort lost 10 of her crew some were injured. The first Lieutenant although injured finally re floated old Amethyst, moved her out of range of any more artillery fire whilst the British Naval attaché to China assumed command. Two other ships came to Amethysts aid or tried to, they lost men too, meanwhile she remained under guard by the PLA; supplies were denied to her for ten weeks. Finally on the 30th of July, she slipped her chain and headed downriver; a 104 mile run running gauntlets at 0500 on July 31 she broke through the boom, made contact with HMS Concord, passed through to the mouth of the river and sent the time-honoured signal. "Have rejoined the fleet off Woosung...God save the King." arriving in Hong Kong on the 11th August 1949, so it took nearly four months, here is a news bulletin heralding the ship's arrival in Hong Kong A strange ending to this was that the ships cat was awarded the Dickin Medal known as the animal Victoria Cross. This is just a brief account of my readings on this; in fact there are many websites devoted to this all slightly different. Medals were awarded of course to the crews of the four ships involved, highly prized ones at that. Three Distinguished Service orders were awarded, along with one MBE, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Flying Cross, seven Distinguished Service Medals, and many "Mentioned in Dispatches." Simon the ships cat also received the Blue Cross Medal of the Dumb Friends League, and of 53 Dickin Medals issued, his was the only one ever awarded to a cat One medal in particular was the Naval General Service medal with the bar Yangtse 1949, the ones awarded to the ships Company of HMS Amethyst fetched up to almost £700 pictured below