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Monthly Archives: March 2008

This basically speaks to the aesthetic of a lot of old AFN commericials: voice over, elevator music, banal topic.

Bermuda is often seen as a tranquil place, especially in ads on American television. Of course, those ads are meant to lure tourists to a place of pink beaches, clear water, and blue skies. Bermuda is a gorgeous place, after all. However, certain things are never aired internationally in public. Bermuda has had a crime problem, and the history of the island chain hasn’t always been peaceful. There’s also the issue of race, which, for the 1970’s, made for a rough decade. 1977, for example, saw race riots. They also saw the existence of “The Black Berets,” a militant organization patterned after Stokely Carmichael and the American Black Panther Parter. It’s recently been the subject of a book I’ve been thinking of buying. According to Mel Ayton’s The Black Panthers: Their Dangerous Bermudian Legacy:

The role the Black Berets played in the assassinations has been whitewashed by consecutive Bermudian Governments for three decades and the truth has remained buried – until now. The UK’s Foreign Office and Scotland Yard files show how the tragic events of the early seventies had been viewed by many Bermudian politicians as a stain upon Bermuda’s reputation as a haven for travellers and an island of tranquillity. This attitude prompted them to ignore the Black Beret connection to the assassinations lest further investigations stir up trouble between the races and provoke island – wide riots. Political leaders were also afraid that the truth about the murders and the instability of its political system, which the killings exposed, would damage Bermuda’s tourist industry which was its principle source of income. They were also embarrassed that an organization like the Black Berets, which had been widely supported by many Bermudians, was connected to the killings. Although two black Bermudians were tried and executed for the murders the weak response of the Government in establishing a wider conspiracy effectively swept the whole affair under the carpet.

During the late 1960s the American Black Panther Party’s influence and example extended far beyond the shores of the United States. It was the trial of Panther leader Huey Newton and the travels abroad by members of the party to raise money for his defence that provoked worldwide attention to the black-clad, shotgun-toting black revolutionaries. The Panthers became a role model for various radical political movements throughout the world, including the Black Panther Movement in the United Kingdom, the Black Panther Parties in Australia and Israel, the Dalit Panthers in India as well as the Black Berets in Bermuda.

As with any source, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s always bias. I’m quoting this particular website — which is absolutely anti-police — just for the informational purposes, like I’ve done in the past and will likely do again in the future.

A month or so back, I posted a Chuck Mangione YouTube video here, stating that for me, it’s what I instantly identify as the “1970’s” and living in Germany.

Well, for my time in the UK, I’d have to say the definitive song had to be Madness’ “Our House.”  When I was young, that song got heavy rotation, and it was the first record I ever owned.  So, call me cheesy, but every time I hear “Our House,” it gives me a strong sense of nostalgia.

Literally, it makes me think of family’s home in the UK.  It was the only one my parents ever owned.  In the time that they left the UK and returned a decade later, they rented out it to Americans serving aboard the nearby RAF Daws Lea.  In the late 1990s, my father and mother returned to this house.  My father had received a principalship at London Central, and he planned to finish out his DODDS career and sell the place.  They did, and bough a place in North Carolina, thus ending the 3+ decades of working for the federal government.

So, it seems that, despite Belgian neutrality, the Germans in WW1 invaded, partly because it was in the way.  Going through Belgium was a frontier, and a way to get to France.  Over at WW1, there’s this description on how the German’s comported themselves:

Official Report by U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Brand Whitlock, to the U.S. Secretary of State, 12 September 1917

Over all this area, that is in the country lying about Vise, Liege, Dinant, Namur, Louvain, Vilverde, Malines, and Aerschot, a rich agricultural region dotted with innumerable towns, villages and hamlets, a land of contented peace and plenty, during all that month of August there were inflicted on the civilian population by the hordes that overran it deeds of such ruthless cruelty and unspeakable outrage that one must search history in vain for others like them committed on such a prodigious scale.

Towns were sacked and burned, homes were pillaged; in many places portions of the population, men, women, and children, were massed in public squares and mowed down by mitrailleuses, and there were countless individual instances of an amazing and shameless brutality.

[Snip]

Take, for example, the following cases: Battice, in the province of Liege, is about five kilometres from Bligny.  It was pillaged and burned on the 6th of August by Germans who had been repulsed before the forts of Liege.  Thirty-six persons, including three women, were massacred, the village methodically burned, and the church destroyed.

The Germans entered Aerschot on August 19th.  The greater part of the inhabitants who had remained in the town were shut up in the church for several days, receiving hardly any nourishment.  On August 28th they were marched to Louvain.  Upon their arrival there they were let loose and were fired upon by German soldiers.  The following day they were marched back to Aerschot, the men being again shut up in the church and the women were put in a building belonging to a Mr. Fontaine.  Many women and young girls, it is said, were raped by the German soldiers.  Upon one occasion seventy-eight men were taken outside the town and were made to pass before German gendarmes who struck them with the butts of their revolvers.  Of these seventy-eight men only three escaped death.

At another time a number of men were put in rows of three, the Germans shooting the third man in each row.  The Germans killed over one hundred and fifty of the inhabitants of Aerschot, and among this number were eight women and several children.  The pillage and firing of houses continued for several days, and a great quantity of furniture and objects of art were sent to Germany.  On the 6th of September, three hundred of the inhabitants were carted off in wagons to Germany.

There, is, of course, more detail to be had.  However, I didn’t want to copy and paste all of it.

 

The History of The Great War comprises 28 volumes, with the narrative drawn from official sources.   Military Operations: France and Belgium, 1914 is the first volume, as put together by Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds.  It’s from that one finds the following description of the town and geography:

The ground on which the British Army had taken up its Map position was a narrow belt of coalfield which extends roughly for rather more than twenty miles westwards from Maurage (6 miles east of Mons) along the Mons canal, and has an average breadth, from the canal southward, of two miles. South of this belt the country gradually rises to a great tract of rolling chalk downs, cut into by many streams and with numerous outlying spurs. Every inch of this territory has in bygone days seen the passage of British armies; name after name is found upon British colours, or is familiar in British military history.

On the ground occupied by the I. Corps, that is to say, roughly from Givry northward to Spiennes, thence westward almost to Paturages and thence southward again to Quévy le Petit, the chalk comes to the surface; and there is even a little outcrop of it within the salient or loop of the canal around Mons. This small area is cut up by wire fences, market gardens, and the usual artificial features which form the outskirts of a provincial town ; and it is noteworthy that across this tangle of enclosures no fewer than seven different roads diverge from Mons north-east and north-west to as many bridges. At the base of the salient the ground rises gradually from north to south, for fifteen hundred to two thousand yards, till it culminates in three well-marked features. The first of these is Mount Erebus, a round hill immediately to the south of Mons; the second is a great whale-backed hump, about a thousand yards long from north to south, very steep upon every side except the eastern, and crowned by two summits, Mont Panisel on the north and Bois la Haut on the south, the whole called by the latter name. The third is the height known as Hill 93, which lies south-east of Bois la Haut and is divided from it by a shallow valley. This last hill was of considerable tactical importance, since from it and from Bois la Haut observation and cross-fire could be brought to bear upon the ground eastward about St. Symphorien. But Bois la Haut was in parts thickly wooded, and consequently from its northern end, where there were hospital buildings, there was little field of fire.

West of Mons the line of the canal is straight, and the actual borders are clear; the ground on both sides of it is cut up by a network of artificial water-courses, chequered by osier-beds, for a breadth of a mile or more. But the opening up of the coal-measures has turned much of the country immediately south of this watery land into the hideous confusion of a mining district. The space occupied by the II. Corps in particular, within the quadrangle Mons-Frameries-Dour-Boussu, was practically one huge unsightly village, traversed by a vast number of devious cobbled roads which lead from no particular starting-point to no particular destination, and broken by pit-heads and great slag-heaps, often over a hundred feet high. It is, in fact, a close and blind country, such as no army had yet been called upon to fight in against a civilised enemy in a great campaign.

 

So this is a photo from the Slobbering Wolfhounds website.  The bowling alley and youth center were on the back side of the school, and considering the location, both were places that didn’t seem to get as much teenage patronage as one might think.   Part of this is just my memory of me and my friends.  (Of course, my friend, Pat Irvine did work in the Bowling Alley for a time).  During my senior year, when seniors enjoyed “off-campus” privileges, some did go here, but many also hit the Pizza Parlor in the quad, in the same building as the Mini Mart.  As for the Youth Center, I remember going there very few times.

Simply put, it’s amazing how ingnorant one can be, when you’re fourteen and more concerned with buying heavy metal records with skulls on the cover. Europe is a place that teems with history, both ancient and recent, which is something that, if one were to exclude the history of native poplulations, America and Canada doesn’t readily have. It’s also interesting that, in the conscious of many, World War 1 has sort of faded in public consciousness. After all, WW2 had the hallochaust, the nuclear bomb, and widespread devastation. That’s not to diminish WW1 at all, but in terms of American memory, “The Greatest Generation,” as coined by Tom Brokaw, seems remembered more today than that generation’s fathers. Perhaps, one might argue, it is because WW2 resulted, basically, from the diplomatic and other failures coming at the end of the previous war.

At anyrate, I just stumbled on on some interesting history I didn’t know before. Mons, Belgium, saw one of the first battles of the first World War:

The first battle fought by the British Army against the Germans came about simply because pre-war plans had placed the British Expeditionary Force in the way of the German advance towards Paris. This position had been agreed during pre-war discussions between the British and French Armies.

 

German troops entered Luxemburg on 2 August and moved into Belgium near Liege next day. The British Government declared war on 4 August 1914, and by 22 August the four infantry divisions and one cavalry division of the BEF had disembarked in France and taken up their positions just across the Belgian border, some miles south of Mons, on the extreme left of the Allied line.

It’s interesting, partly, because Mons, decades later, would be come the home of NATO’s military headquarters, SHAPE.

According to this, the French invented the septic tank.

 

War is often filled with atrocities on both sides, and quite often, the sins of the victorious are forgotten.   That’s pretty much what was on my mind when I visited Dresden in the early 1990’s, in the recently freed East Germany.   The Allies, most notably, American air planes, fire bombed the city.  Kurt Vonnegut was there, and he wrote about it his Slaughterhouse 5.  The cathedral was especially hit hard, and  around 35,000 people died in the raid.  The East Germans decided to leave the cathedral in ruins, as a reminder of the terrible cost of war.  Dresden, however, is not the only WW2 scar left in Europe.  If one looks closely, from the Czech Republic to the Benelux, there are plenty of reminders, both big and subtle.

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On a different note, notice the cars in front of the ruin.  Eastern European cars, the joke went, were hybrids:  that of an automobile and riding lawn mower.

The History of Bermuda Shorts, via The Memory Lab. The Irony is that Bermuda initially only had a glancing influence on the garment. The true root is trusty old British Imperialism:

Contrary to popular belief, Bermuda shorts did not originate in Bermuda. The shorts were a product of sweltering British military officers serving in tropical British colonies (including Bermuda) at the turn of the century. Officers cut off the bottom half of their pant legs in hopes of achieving some relief from the heat, and the cut-off style eventually caught on as local fashion with Bermudians.

Bermudians were so relieved over the new comfortable style that suits were sold with the short pant instead of long pants, and a new local tradition was started. British tourists in Bermuda took to wearing the shorts, which were widely available in stores and tailor shops, and brought the trend back home and to America. They dubbed the new style the ‘Bermuda short.’ The tasteful yet cool style of the Bermuda short left the island in mass exodus and found a new home in suburban America.