Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Postblogging June, 1939, II: Safety Turned Out to be a Hollow Promise

A Handley Page Gugnunc demonstrates the Handley Page automatic slot. Per Wikipedia, the name comes via the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred "newspaper comic strip."

And now we're elucidated. Via Retro Stu's Flickr page.

My Dear Mrs. C.:

I am happy to write that I have separate confirmation that Reggie is on the mend, although I still have to ask you to forward Reggie's mail via channels. In the matter of being wary of being drawn into Reggie's paranoia, I am  appropriately chastised. Of course you know your husband as well as I, and I have only exacerbated things. I apologise for failing to make clear the identity of the persons in the photograph that I sent your son. You are, of course, astute to notice from the society pages that the girl in the photograph is "Miss J. C.," and you are right that no cousin of ours' across the divide of 1824 is to be trusted in matters concerning your son's imminent, shall we say, rebirthFortunately, no such foolish step is contemplated. The young man pictured with her is not your, shall we say, stepson, but rather our Cousin Easton, who bears him a considerable likeness, especially when made up and bespectacled, shall we say. It is Cousin Easton who will take charge of your son in San Francisco. He has been attending to Grandfather's arrangements discretely, but, that said, I share your concern with Easton's obvious familiarity with Miss J. C. in the news clippings you forward. Grandfather will put a stop to things before they go too far. In the meantime, I cannot say whether you are wise to send your new retainers with your son.


Flight 22 June 1939

Leader: Air raid precautions are a real matter of concern for all.

Service Aviation:

 The first tranche of 200 North American Harvards has completed delivery. Rumours of a new purchase of "Seversky Red Bricks" to train pilots directly commissioned from the ranks are to be deprecated by the Ministry. Dewoitine has almost finished its “speed” 530, intended for an attack on the world record, probably with an Hispano 12-4 giving 1800hp near the ground, or a special Rolls-Royce Merlin. Your son adds that "At least they left the H.P. slot off this one," and adds that, given that the Germans have put it on their fighters, if we can only arrange that our Allies don't, Dr. Handley Page will have actually accomplished something towards winning the war. I asked him, when a mechanical engineer began worrying about aerodynamics, and he gave me some blathercock about turbulent fluid flows through orifices. Make of that what you want, you old scoundrel.

The USN exhibits first deck-landing monoplane torpedo bomber, which has actually been in service for 18 months now.

Article: “Guidonia on show.” The Italian air force's research centre puts on a stellar show for Il Duce. Francis Chichester, “The Modern Aircraft Compass.” This matter of telling directions from an aircraft is as vexingly complicated as it turned out to be on ships. It seems as though this is something that ought to be worked out before we propose to crush Germany into obedience with massive waves of bombers.

“World’s Most Powerful Air-Cooled Engine:” the Wright Duplex Cyclone 18 cylinder, giving 2000hp+ is shown to the Press. Your son points out how hard it is to parse the technical news some times. He has it from sources in America that the Vought torpedo bomber has been in service since January of last year, yet scoffs openly at the idea of the Duplex Cyclone being ready to fly next year. I envy the historian who will be able to sort these things out. Although, to be fair, a history that sorts everything out will be too thick to be read, and too unflattering of some to be published. 

To wit, an article on Handley Page's corporate history. For a change, I have insight from someone other than your son. Specifically, an elderly gentleman who seemed ready to have at me right there in the reading room of the club  until I agreed that the good doctor was a scoundrel and a bounder. Though rather than making off with his fiancee, it turns out that H.P.'s sins have more to do with arcane shenanigans over surplus spare parts after the last war. An appended mini-article on the automatic slot, not to beat a dead horse, gives those interested in gadgets that make good places worse and bad planes better.

Engineering 23 June 1939

Article on Callendar-Hamilton modular bridges, which apparently can be quickly and conveniently set up anywhere. Your son is quite excited. Remember him playing with his Meccano sets? It's like that, but for "grownups."

The Engineer, 23 June 1939

Leader: A French submarine has followed USS Squamus and HMS Thetis to disaster. It is a 1379t boat of the Redoutable-class called, le Ph√©nix, of all things. Kingsley Wood says in Parliament that we are currently spending almost 2 million a week on armaments production. We await the summer supplementary estimates. But will they simply follow the original estimates and be an authorisation to spend even more? Is that even possible?

The Economist, 24 June 1939

Leaders: The paper turns 5000 (numbers, for it is only Engineering that reads as though it were older than Methusaleh) today! The big celebration is deferred to the centennial on 2 September, 1943, but it is worth celebrating all the same. Especially given that the crops will be in by that time, freeing the young men and horses of Europe for other duties.

“The Meaning of Tientsin” is that Japan means to humiliate Great Britain. Am I unpatriotic to hope that it tries, and that we will give them a thorough trashing? “The Armaments Profit Duty:” is introduced; “Reconstruction in Spain.”

Notes of the Week:

Delays in Moscow; Supply Bill advances to the floor of the House; 230,000 men are now registered under the Militia Training Act, and those who supposed that a “serious lack of physique and good health” would be discovered are confounded, for only 2.3% were rejected on these grounds. The British working class proves disappointingly robust for some. They should have asked me, and, no, I will bear no ribbing about common tastes. 

There are to be no film duties, upon which matter the paper is profoundly ambivalent, since while it is opposed to duties in general, it is also opposed to special favours for individual industries. In the tradition of the paper, I look for a third hand (perhaps that we are currying favour with advanced opinion in America?) but there is no space.

Again, under the heading of “He Only Does it to Annoy. . .” the paper speculates about Herr Hitler's latest (prospective) outrage. How long until the annexation of Danzig to the Reich is announced? Meanwhile, the annual August period of high tensions approaches, and the German manoeuvres will be on an “unprecedented scale in peacetime.” Which would be alarming if that is not how they were cast every year. But does he really only do it to annoy? Speaking of which, there is feverish work on East Prussian fortifications.
 “Future Population:” the imminent decline of the British population needs to be addressed by extraordinary means. Well, there you go. Now, our family has rarely had problems in this matter. Searching back through our history, it seems to me that money is the key. Take a prize off the Carolinas, have a son. Take a Manila galleon, have a daughter. It is only when one speculates on advancing into higher offices that it all goes for naught. To think of only one of our distinguished officers.

So: money. Money is the key. Hmm. Let us see what the article has to say: well, it says that we need to . . . celebrate motherhood more. Yes, quite correct. That is exactly how they are doing it on the continent. More medals for fecund mothers will quite make up for having to raise ones' children in miserable poverty. Gentlemen, I think I see where the problem lies. extending, I am not afraid to suggest, through the entire expanse that lies between one of those ears of yours and the next.

“Agricultural Development:” the ‘drift from the land’ is necessary to secure higher living standards for all, and those who call for increased subsidies to farmers to halt it are guilty of “muddled thinking.”

“The United State’s Flood of Imported Gold—“ is a problem. Gold is entering the United States in various ways from abroad. For Our New York Correspondent, news of cheap gold for the Wall Street masses is, of course, the worst news ever. Government security prices are up, labour unrest is up, the wheat crop forecast is down.It’s all of a piece. Although I do not think that even Our New York Correspondent believes that an influx of gold is crushing the wheat harvest.

“Germany’s Food Supplies.” Are inadequate.

“The Limits of French Resources:” unemployment is falling in a highly satisfactory way. Not only total unemployed going down, but hours worked going up… Our Paris Correspondent adds that monetary expansion has been avoided for fear of a dangerous rise in prices. France, we are told, is far closer than Great Britain to full employment. In this light, a chart purports to show that “French fortunes have paid the bill.” Rentier incomes have been hit much harder than weekly wages.

Let me just pause there, and not just because the next article gives me so much pain. We are told here, in tones of high dudgeon, that the rentier has born the burden of French rearmament, and that the working poor have come off relatively better. Now, as a rentier myself, and one sensitive to that status (founded, after all, on egregious fraud!), I am as eager as any to defend my class. But that does not mean that I cannot notice that Our Paris Correspondent is looking to those "working for weekly wages" for the rapid completion of the warlike armament that will secure his rents from the Hun!

And speaking of aching hearts: “Canton under Japanese Control,” (from our Hongkong correspondent). “Nearly eight months have elapsed since the occupation of the city,” and Japan has still no set policy for the city. Perhaps so, but the grip of the Kempetai gets firmer every passing week. Until, let us hope, Tokyo overreaches. Grandfather, as you will have heard  turns from the optimist to the pessimist in this matter. If his sources in Moscow are right, there will be no alliance. Alarming news. Still, never a menacing cloud without a silver lining. One that you may have seen at Waneta, if you were allowed onto the car.

Flight 29 June 1939

Leader: “Too Many Accidents.” The paper is disappointed with the Empire Boat's tendency to run into logs. And the recent shipwreck of Corsair in a Congo lake, at which words fail even me. First pictures of the Saro Lerwick appear. Apparently it solves all flying boat problems by going even faster. I am doomed to be the garrulous, ignored old man, with my Rattler anecdotes.

Article: Robert C. Morrison, “Bigger and Bigger.” America has huge flying boats coming for Atlantic flying. And fast ones. And huge fast ones. I will be incredible. You’ll see. You’ll all see. The substance of the article is a drawing from Sikorsky and the Consolidated “speed” flying boat recently shown with two Wright Duplex Cyclones, while the phrasing comes from the mad scientist villain of a recent RKO "serial" showing I attended with the Cambridge aethestician for purposes to be inferred, and which certainly had  nothing to do with an art historian's views of American movie making.

Engineering 30 June 1939

University Training of Engineers: the paper is in favour of anything likely to lead to more boring lectures.

The Engineer, 30 June 1939

Leader: The 1940 Machine Tool Exhibition at Olympia has been cancelled, because no-one will have any machines available to show(!) 

M. H. Rungston writes in reply to Mr. J. G. B. Sams' letter on steam cable plowing that the real answer is the diesel plow. Powerful diesels, however, are necessarily fast diesels, and then one requires some kind of transmission that will take the load. Will it not? As an oil man, I am persuaded, however skeptical about the future of high-powered ploughing of more English fields! Which reminds me to mention that it turns out that Captain Acworth's scheme for a coal wharf on our land is entirely his own. Imperial has no intention of using hydrogenated coal oil as a feedstock at the new plant. Whatever rumours you may have heard about this are manufactured by the Captain and his friends.

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