Friday, June 7, 2019

Bomber Command Museum, Nanton, Alberta

Since today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy, this seems to fit right in. I spent two weeks in Alberta, visiting my son, my sister and a bunch of friends and relatives I had not seen for years. One of the days, my son took off work and we went to Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, about an hour south of Calgary.

The Avro Lancaster on display does not fly but the engines run.  My son was there two years ago when they fired them up. The first part of the museum is made up of posters describing various bombers, various bombing runs including the dam busters, various pilots and crew, etc.  There are several examples of radios, bomb sights, and navigation equipment, uniforms, etc.

The main part of the museum has as its centre-piece a Lancaster from the Dam Buster squadron. The top gun turret is removed as are the bomb bay doors. There is also a front end of a Lanc from a movie set that one can crawl into, which I did. They were not meant for guys my size, I can tell you that, though the last chapter of "Only the Stars Know" by DA MacMillan tells the story of a Moose Jaw farm boy they nicknamed Jumbo.  The only position he could fit on a Lanc was pilot.

The first two pictures are from the museum website, the rest are my own.  I could not get back far enough from the bomber to get a good front view.

Lanc bell with bomb bay doors removed

Looking backward from the front of bomb bay towards dambuster bomb

Tail gunner position

Tall Boy bunker buster bomb
Cheeta IX powered the Avro Anson

Curtiss Wright R2600 powered the B25 Mitchell

Cutaway view of the mighty Merlin

the Merlin engine powered the Spitfire and the Lanc 
The posters about bombing raids talked about the "sad inevitability of civilian deaths", referred to as collateral damage. In the main, this was true as the raids were supposedly intended for military targets. However, there were three raids that were not mentioned: Hamberg, Cologne, and Dresden. These were firebombing raids that deliberately targeted civilians, killing tens of thousands. There should have been posters acknowledging the raids with whatever rationale was given at the time. Then people can make up their own minds.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

More Garden Pictures

Tanya had a busy day today.  Worked in the garden all day, then went in and wrote to the Veterinary Administration in Dnipro, the City Council in Zhovti Vody, and the village office in Mar'yanivka. The large pig operation about 1 km SE of us is spreading liquid manure on top of the fields instead of injecting it into the ground.  the wind is from the SE and the smell is atrocious. She can't open windows or dry clothes outside. Made me laugh.  That poor pig farmer has no idea what has been turned loose on him.

About 5 years ago, her Irises were taking over the flower beds so she dug them up and planted a single row in the garden, on each side of the path and then across at about 1/3 the way up the garden. She plants most vegetables in the front part of the garden and in back, all the vines, and the corn patch.  The iris all bloomed at once two days ago. They have gone from a single row to several plants wide. She is threatening to dig them up again.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Winter War 30/11/1939-13/03/1940

This post is a continuation of my previous post "Soviet/Russian Mythology about WWII- Who started the war?" The Winter War against Finland was a continuation of Russian military conquest of Eastern Europe as divided up under the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, including the secret agreement to divide Eastern Europe into "spheres of interest" between Germany and Russia.

Finland had been ruled by Sweden for 600 years and by the Russian empire for 100 years. The country had become independent in 1917 and fought and won a civil war against Soviet-backed Communists to maintain its independence. A former General of the Russian Empire, Carl Mannerheim was appointed Field Marshall of the Finnish Military. He understood the only threat to Finland was from Russia and through the Karelian peninsula. A line of strongly fortified casements, fronted by several kilometers of defensive obstacles was built across the peninsula from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, about 40 km back from the Finnish border.

Having taken half of Poland and militarily occupied the Baltic States, Stalin next turned his attention to Finland.  The problem, according to Stalin, was the Finnish border was too close to Leningrad and he needed a buffer zone, the Karelian Isthmus, offering to trade a much larger piece of Russia farther North which had little or no value for anything. The Finns refused and Stalin had "no choice" but to invade Finland. This documentary tells most of the story of The Winter War.

The Finns fought the Red Army to a standstill, destroying 10s (if not 100s) of thousands of Soviet soldiers until simply through overwhelming force the Red Army broke through the Mannerheim Line and they were forced to sue for peace. Finland lost 11% of its land area and 30% of its economy, Ceding most of Karelia including all of the Karelian peninsula, including Vyborg, the capital but kept their pride and their independence.

Russian death losses were incredibly high with estimates ranging from 50,000 killed to 250,000 killed and 400,000 missing. The Soviet Union was humiliated and their army revealed as weak and virtually useless at waging war. They were forced to stop short of taking all of Finland.

Suvorov devoted an entire chapter of The Chief Culprit to the Winter War and raises some interesting issues. Why were Soviet losses so high? Yes, the Red Army was abysmally led, poorly equipped, poorly fed, poorly everything but it was the first time in history that a military endeavour of that magnitude was ever undertaken in the far north under winter conditions.

Yes, the tactics of 18th-century massed full frontal assault into 20th-century machine guns didn't work any better than in WWII and the Red Army cared no more for high losses to gain an objective than did the Tsar's army before them but the terrain totally supported the defenders. Roads were few, narrow, heavily mined on both sides. Intense cold, long hours of darkness and deep snow favoured the Finns, camouflaged in white and very mobile on skis.

Suvorov goes into detail about the fortified Mannerheim Line and the number of direct hits it took to destroy them, one at a time. According to him, the casements or pillboxes were 1.5 to 2 meters thick concrete, covered on top with thick steel plate and then with boulders and earth for total camouflage.

Destroying one such position, Pillbox 31, took1043 shells from a 203 MM howitzer and 116 from a 280 mm howitzer, a total of 133 tons of shells plus tons of gunpowder in silk bags. All of which had to be hauled in and handled to the guns, all under fire.  These guns weighed 18 tons and 19 tons respectively, had to be hauled in in pieces and then set up and sighted, all under fire. Stalin asked the Red Army to do the impossible and they did it, but no one gave them credit.

Stalin had achieved his objective which was not Finland but a clear path to the iron mines in Northern Sweden. He stopped when he did (protecting Leningrad) because the Germans had threatened a military response if they thought those iron mines were in danger.

When the Russian Press makes nasty remarks about the incompetence of the Red Army and someone is not immediately shot, perhaps one should question why.  Hitler was ecstatic and believed the Russian army would fold in a matter of a few months. So Barbarossa was launched without preparing for a lengthy war.  Hitler's Hubris cost him the war.

Note: I have not read sufficient books on The Winter War to feel totally comfortable with anyone's version yet. This book is available on Kindle: Finland at War: The Winter War 1939–40 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Tanya's Garden

I talked to Tanya at 4:00 am this morning (1 pm her time). She had just come back from the market and transplanted tomatoes, peppers, and more flowers before it started to rain again. Zhovti Vody has been getting good rains all week. She said the ground was so soft in the garden she just stuck her hand down to make a hole for the transplant. Corn, beans, beets, peas are all about 10 cm (4") tall. The onions are about 30 cm tall.
Yuri cut the grass in the back yard and around the outside of the garden fence as it was about 1 meter tall. I said we needed to buy a cow.
The tulip pictures she posted on Facebook in early May. They are done now and she will be cutting the tops back and digging them up once it dries out enough.
She had to buy petunia bedding plants this year as she was not home to start them.