Monday, September 30, 2013

Old Europe: The Young Ones

And now for a short photoessay about life today.


Atmosphere is next to Fuel. It is around the corner from Tractor, which isn't far from Wind. Atmosphere used to be called Coast Mountain, when it wasn't far from the Mountain Equipment Co-op, which was where hippies bought their camping gear, when there were hippies. It is a good place to buy kayaks, which you need if you want to go kayaking.


Anyone want to take on a 28 hour full time  minimum wage job? Anyone? Yes, we know that you can't pay rent in this neighbourhood at that wage, but that's the going rate. It's not like we can afford to pay more. Anyone? I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that people who take these jobs will have to give up on their kayaking-related activities, and perhaps shop at stores that do not have one-word noun names. 

In 269 or in 271, or perhaps in both years, since surviving fragments of Publius Herennius Dexippus clearly identify a "return" to Italy, the Emperor Aurelian encountered the army of a German nation called the "Juthungi," and allies who may or may not have included Swabians, Marcomanni, Alamanni, Vandals and/or Goths, on the loose in northern Italy. Either in both years or in only one, he chased them around the Pianura Padana (I'm opting for the Italian to shake readers out of using "Po Valley" to label a more complex geography, and specifically to highlight the northeastern extension into Friuli that is also typical river valley terrain but which has no association with the Po). Perhaps on the first occasion he overawed the Juthungi with a spectacular embassy, or, perhaps it was in the second invasion, after he defeated them in three battles, chasing them as far as a crossing of the Danube, or of the Po. It could be either. In any case, he conscripted 40,000 cavalry and 80,000 infantry from the Juthungi, whom he then took east to defeat Zenobia. Or, possibly, which he assembled at Aquiliea in anticipation of the Persian war he never fought. It depends on timing. 

It is the same confused story when Galerius, son of legendary Valerian, pursued and defeated "Alamanni" barbarians near Milan. The story of this incursion is continued in a Roman inscription recovered at Augsburg in 1992, which tells us that Marcus Simplicinius Genialis defeated these same "Juthungi" on the north slope of the Alps in April of 261. Probably. Argument continues about whether this happened before, after, or at the same time that Valerian, his army, and his court were captured by the Persians.

Okay. Wait a minute. Dates have meaning. War in April? Now, that link is not going to mean very much to you if you haven't seen Little Big Man. If you have, you know what comes next. Sheridan's Winter Campaign was a more traditional winter campaign than the one that it is implied here, fought in December on the last standing forage. An army that takes the field in late winter or early spring does so out of magazines, usually aiming to besiege and take a particularly exposed or ill-defended place. Only the most powerful and overbearing state can take the field when there is no grass, and even then  it is a reckless thing to do unless a quick end is guaranteed. Suddenly the Juthungi appear to us in a more desperate light, as victims rather than as perpetrators, however the Roman historians wish to spin this.

"Juthungi" has a number of suggested etymologies. As should by now be clear, I am going with the argument that the word references a "youth sodality." Or, to put it more bluntly, it means "The Young Ones." By which I do not mean these guys.

I mean this.

Little Joe the wrangler he'll wrangle never more
His days with the remuda they're all done
It was long about last April he rode into our camp
Just a little Texas stray and all alone

Said he'd try to do the best he could if we'd only give him work
Though he didn't know straight up about a cow
So the boss he cut him out a mount and kinda put him on
And we knew he liked our little stray somehow
Well he taught him how to heard the horses and learned to know 'em all
And to get 'em in by daylight if he could
And to follow the chuck wagon and to always hitch the team
And to help the carsonaro rustle wood

We had driven to Red River and the weather it was fine
We were camped down on the south side of the bend
When a Norther started blowin' we called the extra guard
Cause it took all hands to hold the cattle in
Now little Joe the wrangler was called out like the rest

Between the streaks of lightnin' we could see a horse ahead
It was little Joe the wrangler in the lead
He was riding old Blue Rocket with a slicker o'er his head
And he's trying to check the leaders in their speed.
We finally got'em millin' and they sort of quieted down
The extra guard back to the camp did go
But one of them was missing and we all knew at a glance
Twas our little Texas strayboy wrangler Joe

"Cowboy historian" Don Edwards manages to make a long song even more prolix, and the bowdlerisation of  Hispanicisisms in the Marty Robbins version is suggestive of subtexts in a song that is, ultimately, the same old story of a desperate kid dying in an industrial accident while trying to do the best he could in a job that he knew he was very lucky to get. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Postblogging 1939, August, II: Technical Appendix and Wrap-up

ThĂ©odore GĂ©ricault has one little thing to say about  navies neglecting navigation. Also, about how cannibalism is sexy. (Look, it's not my kink, but I think we've come to the point where we need to acknowledge that, short of taking certain  nonsense at face value, we need to acknowledge that 'vores drive this stuff.)

And now for some  porn I can get behind:

The Antarctic Peninsula, as it may or may not have been walked by one John Davis, the New England sealing captain who may or may not have commanded the first ship to make landfall, in the same year that two separate expeditions discovered the peninsula from the sea. We don't know for sure, but given the number of sealers making first landfall in the rookeries of the south in this year of grace 1820, we'll give him all credit due. Twenty-three year old captains commanding ships full of teenagers, discovering the most desperately dangerous lands on Earth to meet the demand for train oil. Or, more accurately, to make a living and earn the money to have a life in these desperate days after the withdrawal of public finance at the end of the Napoleonic wars. As a meditation piece for today's post: "Little Joe the wrangler will wrangle never more."

Okay, enough of the maudlin. As it turns out, Gericault's has more to do with an age when young men's hopes are being dashed against postwar austerity than the wreck of the Meduse frigate directly. It turns out that the wreck of the Meduse, is somehow Louis XVIII's fault, mainly, I think because "the Generation of 1820" is growing up into an unexpectedly opportunity-deprived adulthood due to post-Napoleonic austerity. The conjunction I see between the wreck of the Meduse frigate and Antarctic exploration is that  incredibly green crews are sailing  inconceivably remote and inaccessible places while still having shipwrecks is that navigation is actually very hard. Our attention is being drawn to a particular shipwreck because the young men of France are pissed that they don't have jobs. Historians of technology are not necessarily called upon to revise our understanding of particular historical episodes. I have no idea whether there is even a revision to be made in the history of the Meduse. Perhaps its captain and navigator really were as incompetent as the anti-Bourbon press presents them as being. 

This is a thing about the history of technology. Not only is it hard to do properly, we have a motive for doing it wrong. In talking about patent trolls, I've had occasion to mention Elihu Yale, whose patent "Yale lock" has a prototype discovered in ruins from the Uruk expansion, and Henry Sibley, who got a patent for inventing the wigwam. It may be because I've had too much coffee, but I find it hard not to look at the smug, Civil War-era smile on the face of the Wikipedia photograph and not want to climb through a convenient time portal and punch him. Except that the real villains of this story lie hidden at the Patent and War Offices, and the real victims are only the US taxpayers. The residue of old-time historians of technology who count American Nineteenth Century patents to conclude that American society was especially innovative? They just need to be corrected. Because here is a place where the historiography needs to be pushed forward to serve policy and the larger project of historical research. Technological progress does not  happen of itself, nor does it fail to happen anywhere near as often as we suppose.

Now try this as a Google Search Item:

"The RAF had neglected. . . "

Monday, September 16, 2013

Postblogging 1939 Technology News, September, II: Crisis Long Deferred

My Dearest Reggie:

Pardon my unseemly scrawl annotating your usual. No typist, no matter how well trusted, can be allowed to see this.
Catastrophe. Horror to the pit of our stomachs as we wait for the other shoe to drop. In Moscow, in Berlin, now at home. I have a phone call from Greenwich. Your son and his fiancee are overdue in the College's Lysander. I try to take hold of myself. The whole world faces crisis as we hold our breath, waiting for the Ministry to fold or for Berlin to act.

Aeroplane 16 August 1939

Leader: the Lufthansa Ju 90 intercepted last week in the prohibited area over the Isle of Thanet was not spying, because the nice Germans do not do such things.  

Manston, at some times RAF Manston, From Thanetonline

The Japanese do such things. (A ludicrous story about supposed Japanese spies follows.) Yet Mr. Grey is not entirely mad, and follows up with the observation that British aircraft production capacity is certainly greater than Germany’s, at least potentially. Yet after all that he has said about the “artificial war scare,” who is going to listen to him? I ask Cousin Easton, who was aboard. He only smiles and points out that everyone aboard could take photos.


The odious Noel Pemberton Billing, who, as you will recall, nearly did the same to me as was done to you, says that the Yankee Clipper is a quite extraordinary aeroplane. As with the leader, the choice of reporters almost makes me doubt the commonplace. 

Flight 17 August 1940

Leader: “Crisis Long Deferred.” On 9 August, Imperial ceased to accept new bookings for Empire routes. It only has lift for air mail. The British system has broken down. Part of this has to do with the failure of the Ensigns and the Empire boat accidents, but it is mostly due to the weight of air mail, which has increased in weight by 50% in the last twelvemonth. The ideal load of mail for an Empire boat is 2200lbs, but the contract is forcing them to fly with as much as 5500lbs, squeezing out most paying passengers, something which the paper forcefully suggests could be readily foreseen. Desperate, they wish to buy American planes, but they also need more personnel.  

Is there a remedy? The paper thinks so, because of course it does. The same outlandish scheme that, apparently, it has pressed for many years: a separation of the passenger and postal service. But this is already accomplished. Passengers fly KLM! The paper goes on to point out that by early next year, the Ensigns will be back in service, the ‘G” boats will be in service, and the first Flamingos may be arriving. But this will be just in time to face the Christmas mail loads. Meanwhile, Caribou and Cabot have made the first British commercial Atlantic crossings. Will there be air mail to Canada by next year? Meanwhile again, another “C” boat, Australia, has been damaged at Basra. Intended for the Tasman Sea service, it was on regular flights because of the crisis.

Now, look. I am only a part-owner of a shipping line, but I would be happy to be facing a "crisis" that involved my line having more cargo to carry than it could handle. I would charter my rivals, and deliver it all! The problem here is only that there are not the rivals to charter. And how is that a problem for a business? 


“The Air Exercises." And with reason. Last year, 900 aircraft took part. This year, the number was 1300. I find it almost impossible to imagine such a staggering number of war planes. “Westland” had 800 machines, of which almost 500 were fighters, and the remainder mostly General Reconnaissance types, although “friendly” bombers were included to test intercepting pilots’ ability to distinguish friend from foe. Under the overall command of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, it also had control of numerous barrage balloon groups and antiaircraft units. “Eastland,” under Air Chief Marshal Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, disposed of 500 bombers of modern types. The highlight of the exercise, for me, at least, was the blackout out of the London metropolitan area on Friday. The old girl was eerie in the dark, Reggie, and engines droned overhead all night, and far out into the sleeping countryside! Bombers were coming in at any height between 100 feet and 20,000, and fighters patrolled at all heights. The paper notes several successful interceptions, but offers specific details of only two, both featuring Fairey Battles, leading me to think that the firm might do better to focus on naval needs. 

V.P. Hurricanes, on the other hand, were stirring sights, springing from the ground like Furies of old.

Francis Chichester, “Raiding by Celestial Navigation.” You will know Chichester from his series of books covering his solo flights to Sydney, Auckland and Tokyo, using his patent(?) kneeboard navigational technique to find and land at tiny Pacific islands along the way.

Chichester tells us that it is currently possible, with celestial navigation, to know the location of an aeroplane within 3 miles, or, in ideal conditions, 2. The author believes that in the near future it will be possible, with the right training, equipment and preparation for an aircraft to know its location within a mile. The implications of this is that a raid of 240 bombers, each dropping 25 250lb bombs  at an interval of 50 yards square, will obliterate 4.5 square miles of a chosen target, and that any target of known location can be destroyed with “pin-prick” accuracy. The “pin-prick” in this case being the target and the four square miles surrounding it. This is rather a large pin. You know what else is larger than a pin? An aircraft that can lift 6,250lbs. The weight, although not precise details of armament, are barely within the remit of an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, although it seems to fit well various rumoured replacements [1,2,3,4].

Our author proceeds to put  into the mouth of a modern Simplicissimus the  fairly obvious point that a ‘plane flying at 300mph(!) is travelling twelve miles a minute, which makes the whole matter of “within a mile” suspect. Not so! The author now stipulates a chosen plane carrying 8 trained navigators. This plane will guide another, loaded with bombs, on a true pinprick raid next week. That is, it will demolish only as much masonry as 6,000lbs of high explosive bombs can demolish. Which is still a lot of masonry.

Article: Latvia has an aeroplane, which exhibits Latvia’s much vaunted efficiency, which had previously escaped my attention. Though they are, after all, related to the Finns, and as you are always telling me, Reggie, Finns make good timber men.

Commercial Aviation

Apart from the first Imperial/soon-to-be BOAC’s two-way crossing of the Atlantic, by “Caribou,” and news of “Cabot’s” arrival in New York, preliminary word of a Pan-American loss of a Sikorsky S-42 at Rio de Janeiro and of a cabin fire in a British Airways/soon-also-to-be-BOAC Lockheed 14 on its way to Zurich. A bit of the old Schadenfreude is had by our domestic establishment, or at least this is the conclusion I draw from their appearance ahead of notice of hull damage to Empire Boat “Australia” at Basra, which takes another 5500lbs of air mail capacity out of service. The inauguration of a London-Buenos Aires service is put off to 1943. Which, considering that we are just now flying the Atlantic would seem to be a bit of optimistic news, but, on the contrary, the Air Ministry is to being accused of breach of promise by a consortium of British firms doing business in the Argentine.

Service Aviation

Further details of the Fairey Albacore Torpedo/Spotting/Reconnaissance type, a “shipplane” with a Bristol Taurus engine. Said details include physical dimensions, not the point at which an Italian fleet sortieing from Taranto can expect to see Albacores launched from a British fleet sortieing from Alexandria. I would propose that biplanes would be easy meat for fleet fighters, except that the Italian navy has announced that it has no need of fleet fighters.

Breda 88s, intimated in the last number now equip the Regia Aeronautica. They are said to be a new type of a “heavy fighter bomber,” the comparison being with the Breguet 690 now ordered for the army cooperation groupements of the Armee de l'Air, the Potez 690s, ordered as fighters and bombers, or the Bf110 "destroyers" of the Luftwaffe. 

The general impression is that the continental air forces have ordered these splendid aircraft, and are now trying to find uses for them.  Almost more interesting is the picture following, as it presumably emanates from the German Air Ministry, and is captioned, “A New Bomber,” when, in fact, it shows a revised example of the Heinkel 111. The German stud seems to be foundering, although unfortunately it has produced plenty of horses already.

Short Notes

Western Airways has a record for commercial airlines by carrying 4,872 passengers in a single day, most of these on the Weston-Cardiff route, which has now 58 services a day. That cannot be right. Although it is the summer season, and every moment away from London in August is more precious than the next. 

Unfortunately,  my lawyers are here, and quite angry that I met with the cousin without them. Matters, however, became quite sensitive, and, in any case, he is morbidly suspicious of Grandfather's machinations. I had not the heart to tell him that the bete noire of his childhood is a 98 year old man who needs a blanket to sit out in his garden enjoying the California sunshine. More of the same, by the way. The records of the Worshipful Company of Drovers of Rainham were found at the town guildhall

by "Miss G.C." I imagine that our cousin could have had them removed, and left them because they send the very clear message that more compelling evidence of Great-Grandfather's imposture is pending from documents long since removed. The news left me clutching, less sure than ever that we dare force the cousin's hands by trying to close the deal with Imperial. The Earl is convinced that we (and thus Imperial) must wait and negotiate. But "Miss G. C." contemplates something, but "better that we do not know," though, if we wish to, we can go to the Land Registry for ourselves. I am afraid that the Earl burst out in some most unsuitable language at that, but "Miss G. C." was not moved.

Industry News

Mr. Fedan of the Vega Aircraft Company of Burbank, California, leaves the firm for Everell, of Philadelphia, which I mainly note for its advertisement of the British distributor of the “Everell single-bladed propeller,” a thing which apparently exists. (It has a counterweight on the opposite side to the single blade. One cannot imagine the practical use of the thing, but, if wanted, it is available through W. O. Shackleton in this country.)


Various firms want engines, aeroplanes and applications for situations vacant.

The Economist, 19 August 1939

“The State of Civil Defence” Last weekend’s air exercises and practice blackouts in the South and Midlands show that the knockout blow is oversold, but also that ARP precautions are inadequate and that it is all the fault of government.  We need legislation.

“The Paradox of Prices” Under the armaments stimulus, British employment and industrial production has hit new records. However, while the recession of 1937—8 brought a downward movement in wholesale prices and with them the cost of living, so far the vigorous expansion of 1939 has brought no rise in prices.  What is going on? Well, the 1935 Census of Production showed that the total value of British imports was £701 millions, while the value of industrial output of firms employing more than 10 people was £1,576 and that of agriculture 206 millions. These are certainly facts! They do not really explain the lack of inflation, however. The paper goes on. The size of Britain’s purchases abroad means that changes in prices abroad have a profound effect on price levels. When food prices fall, British consumers go on a buying spree, etc.

So, finally, the paper's explanation: the price of industrial primary products is held back by the American recession, that of foodstuffs by heavy wheat crops; and of stocks by the American recession. Therefore, there is no inflation. But, wait, there is more. British wage demands are moderate because wages have not fallen from the peaks attained in the last boom, while the cost of living has fallen. From this one would conclude that the boom goes on with no sign of inflation, and no need for action. Yet, the paper concludes, all will change soon unless the Govt acts to reduce duties on imports and curtail consumer demand with taxes. If this autumn sees demands for higher wages in Britain and an American recovery, we will see (finally) inflation. 

And not a moment too soon! As fearful as the world has become, I cannot help a smirk. When one predicts something every week, the reader begins to suspect that what is predicted is not feared, but longed for, a divine scourge falling upon cherry red backsides. Ah, never mind, then, Reggie.

Notes of the Week

“The Chinese Prisoners:” The competent British authorities at Tientsin have agreed to turn over the four Chinese prisoners for trial at a local Chinese court.  Now I am angry, instead, at this kowtowing to barbarians, for this amounts to turning four patriots over to the Japanese. Yet it  has not appeased the Japanese, nor, in fact, has it actually been done yet. Two further pieces cover agonized vacillations in Tokyo between trade-friendly and conquest-friendly policy. 

“Problems of Conscription:” a clerk at a shoe factory has sued his employers on the grounds that he was sacked because liable for conscription. The paper is sympathetic to the employers (quel surprise) but thinks that Something Must Be Done, and points approvingly to a decision to allow a boy to enlist early because he was a few weeks shy of 20 and would be hard put to find a job for the next year. 

“The Presidential Campaign Opens.” Taft, Vanderbilt and Dewey look to be the horses to beat, “with the enigmatic figure of Mr.Hoover in the background.” Enigmatic he is, but only to those whose eyes see not. Oh, wait, no. The paper refers to his stance in the election, and not his fabled parentage and the source of his worldly good fortune. (Up by his own bootstraps, to be sure!) Never mind, then. 

Lifted from Jassey50's Flickr account. I hope he doesn't mind me slandering the former President.

The Democrats will probably end up nominating Roosevelt. However the vice-presidency is very much open. "In short, for the next twelve months, during a crucial period of world history, the affairs of the most powerful country in the world will , as usual,  be governed by the manoeuvres of a group of prima donnas rather than by considerations of policy.”

The World Overseas

“New Trade Conditions in China” Are terrible.

“German Price Control:” The German economy is in rough shape.

“America’s Agricultural Problem” We have too many marginal farms occupied by stalwart sons and daughters of the soil who should just quit, but we will not take the basic step of getting out of the way and letting them do that. The predominant American agricultural holding is still a freehold of 1—200 acres, based on the old Homesteading Act, apparently.

“Production and the Bourse:” the French index of industrial production shows us back at 100 (1928=100), compared with 83 in October of last year. This has a great deal to do with rearmament, although just how much is not clear. The automobile industry is up, for example. The French cost of living remains low, and earnings from tourism are thus high. The mystery here is that production would be still higher if private capital got into the game. But it has not, and this is reflected in a quiescent bourse. To be sure, if private capital did swing into action, skilled labour shortages would develop due to the 41 hour effective week, but it is still interesting to see those two liberal institutions, Parliament and the Stock Exchange, each sunk into torpor. Perhaps their revival will see the revival of political liberalism.

“Unemployment and Defence Expenditure in Australia,” commodity prices have fallen, so you would expect a decline in business activity in Australia. But no! And the reason is the steady rise in secondary  industry. An interesting indication of the way things are going is the recent placing of large orders for Australian steel by the United Kingdom.  Manufacturing labour has gone up from 337,000 in 1931—32 to 559,000 in 1937—38. Three cheers for rearmament. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in unemployment in Australia. Apparently. We can’t actually measure it, though.

Finance and Banking

The sudden death of Dr. Fritz Mannheimer has led to the failure of the Mendelssohn banking house of Amsterdam.  This is a major failure in international banking and could have serious consequences, but was not unexpected in London. Gold continues to flow out of London, while the price of silver is recovering. It has now recovered above its import price –ie it will pay to ship silver to New York and sell it to the Treasury at the Treasury’s fixed rate. This is because India regards gold as too dear and silver as too cheap at its current price. So how long can the Americans hold out at $35 oz for gold, 35 cents per oz silver last? Grandfather says long enough for one more Atlantic crossing, which is why Squirrel just docked in London, straight from Vancouver, bound for Los Angeles and then San Francisco on the turnaround. I was aboard yesterday, looking in at Grandfather's cabins, hidden down in the well deck. It left me rather melancholy. Grandfather will not sail aboard again, I think. What shall we do without his brain? What is left of the pirate spirit of our forefathers? I long for Santa Clara, but that is just longing to be out of this world. On a mad impulse, I have the household packed up. Even if I cannot be California bound, I might spend the fall in the country.

Aeroplane 23 August 1939

In addition to the forgettable leader, Grey offers an article on “Super-National Socialism.” Grey appears to quite like Hitler and Fascism, but is not sold on all of the incidental “government regulation” to which it leads. He objects to the commonplace that this is rather what national socialism is about, and finishes with the definitive point that, if it were, our roadway speed limits would be Fascism, and lead to Hitlerism. It honestly does the heart good to see this terrible old man reduced to filling out his editorial pages with puffery.


“A Troop Carrying Exercise.” The RAF recently did a trooping exercise. Aeroplane's version of F. de Vere Robertson, C. M. McAleery, gives us a history of the long and noble history of trooping in the RAF. Apparently, it has been the fashion of recent years to send troops of the Chitral garrison by air.

Handley Page Hyderabad/Hinaidi/Chitral/Clive of the RAF Heavy Transport Flight.

Uncategorised notes: Japan has bought the DC-4. Hopefully they have more luck with it than Douglas.

Nakajima G5N, Wikipedia

Flight, 24 August 1939

Editorial: The Air Exercises were an exercise, not a manoeuvre. One cannot draw conclusions about the success or lack of it by Eastland or Westland in defending or attacking. But Dowding, commander of the defence, did sound cautiously optimistic, and that’s a good thing in this day and age. He holds that, given the way in which the fighter proved its ascendancy over bombers that it could intercept, that better interception must lead to victory for the defence. Exactly how it was demonstrated that fighters were in the ascendant over bombers, the paper would like to know. The whole experience suggested the way that constant harrying by fighters and antiaircraft guns can lead to bombers dropping their loads on unimportant places, and thus, presumably, on unimportant people. The recent exercise using 6 Bombays to lift 120 troops fell ludicrously short of the mark. “Although we should not omit to mention the steel helmets and rifles which, the newspaper observers emphasized, were carried with them. Presumably the machine guns followed separately, by boat or by train.” We need to order more, newer, larger transport machines. The air mail weight issue is getting to the point where we might need to reconsider carrying air mail overland.

Article: the editor puts on his reportage cap to talk about the Asboth Helicopter. So it appears that both Flight and Aeroplane have had articles spiked this week.

Service Aviation

“Where the Baffins went.” A considerable number of the Fleet Air Arm’s Blackburn Baffins have been transferred to New Zealand, where they frequently fly by particularly picturesque mountains. It is good to  know that the Empire has something in reserve if the Maoris start making trouble again. 

Our newest aircraft carrier, Formidable, takes to the water.


Miles Henow, “With a Queen Bee Flight.” The Queen Bee, as you may know, is the radio-guided, self-piloting target aircraft which is used to trained AA gunners. It is emphasized that in spite of the simplicity of the concept, the engineering of the Queen Bee’s radiocontrols was a work of twenty years, and the technology will likely be a British preserve for considerable time to come. This seems to me to sell Johnny Foreigner rather short, and I wondered aloud at lunch as to why such vehicles are not outfitted with facsimile transmitters to take over the army’s photographic reconnaissance work, which led your son to enlighten me on the subject of the radio spectrum at some length.

Francis Chichester, “Raiding by Celestial Navigation, II.” The 8 navigators in the specially-selected plane are  guiding two mammoth bombers on this particular raid, which is to destroy a “castle” where the enemy high command has chosen to gather, presumably in the interest of playing fair with the RAF and giving its scientific navigators a refreshing workout.  As we old naval men would expect, there is much here about dead-reckoning navigation, and the latest ‘computers’ that assist in this work, but the real horror here is literally pages of spherical trigonometry ensues. Chichester intends to allow that with very precise celestial navigation, it is, indeed, possible, for the RAF to dump 6 short tons of bombs on some isolated Alpine schloss where a certain Reichschancellor has gathered with a select group of his most intimate advisors to put the final details on their nefarious plans. Whether it is possible for a cohort of trained navigators to  do a continuous series of exacting calculations and celestial observations while flying over the night-time sky of a Europe at war is entirely another matter. It was hard enough on the bridge of a destroyer, which, for all the monstrous machinations of Rattler's quadruple-expansion engines, was at least not suspended between two (four?) internal combustion engines doing their best to shake themselves to pieces. 

I glance quickly through the numbers sometimes, so do not precisely recall a review, or some such, of a book about night bombing (of England, of course) in which the enemy, perhaps more plausibly, uses a Norden bombsight-type device to navigate his way to the target. Does that ring a bell?  

"The new Chilton trainer" (which is not a trainer in the sense of having been ordered by the Air Ministry) has “fighter-like” performance. Are you paying attention, Air Commodore Buy-the-Lot?

A. Viator’s Croydon column reports that North-Eastern Airways is now flying fresh salmon down from Scotland for supper-time consumption. The inference being that there is someone in London this August who could afford air-mailed salmon. We really are in a world crisis. Also, a South African in London on business whose small daughter is suffering from whooping cough hires a de Havilland to take her up, because an hour at 10,000ft cures whooping cough now? I suppose that it will dry out the throat and nasal passages, and is so worth a try, but it reads a little oddly at first blush.

Commercial Aviation

The two designated Tasman boats are now working up in Auckland for the proposed 27 August opening of the air mail service between the two antipodean dominions. Speaking of our piratical ancestors. . . Although the Founder was not ostensibly in New Zealand on a pirate's mission. Extending the dominion of science and Enlightement, blather blather. No mention of certain cargoes of a Manila galleon that needed a generation's ripening. . . .

Another British Airways Lockheed, this a 10A, has been lost to a cabin fire. This was a rather more serious episode than the first, for the 4 passengers lost their lives, one of whom was A.C. Crossley, M.P

A 1920 Crossley, via Wikipedia.

Many important persons are winging their way about Europe (and the world) this summer, for the usual reasons. And given the flap over the Lufthansa Ju90 and the Zeppelin last month, perhaps unusual ones, too.

The Isle of Scilly now has an aerodrome, whereas before, air tourists landed on the village green or the cricket pitch, or,as the locals used to like to explain to people from down east, "Sod off, none of your business" "From Ushant to Scilly is 35 leagues. . . ."

The “Challenger” Empire Boat accident in Mozambique is explained. The pilot tried to land short, and then to abort the landing, resulting in the ‘boat bouncing off the surface and coming to rest in shallow water. It was the fault of “gross error” on the part of the pilot. More quotation marks. 

Indicator’s column is on the need for better radio D/F equipment and receivers for civilian planes, which will let them make full use of radionavigation aids and ground weather reports.
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 “Baltic Training Station;” an odd article on the training station of the German coastal flying force. There are pictures of biplane Heinkel numbers, rather odd considering that German engineering is poised to drive all British industry into the sunset momentarily.

 “Largest in the World: Air Minister inspects New Drop Hammer.” Made in Erie, Penn, it is being installed in the new High Duty Alloys shop at Redditch. Since as much as 70% of a modern aircraft may be made of light alloys, High Duty Alloys has vast responsibilities in rearming the RAF and forwarding the air age generally. Which it does with this American-made machine.

 “Minimising Fire Risks.” The new Graviner methyl-bromide in-flight fire suppression system is Air Ministry approved and British-made. A very timely article given the British Airways tragedy. Needless to say, it is not on Lockheeds.

Short Notes
Captain Rickenbacker was photographed touring the Bristol engine works. Of course he was. Would Captain Rickenbacker even exist without the news photographers? Beard and Fitch has been cutting all types of gears for 58 years, and is now doing so from a brand-new London facility. This news story has been brought to you by Beard and Fitch, sponsors of Flight and other fine aviation industry advertising delivery systems, navigating their way to your purchasing office with pin-prick accuracy.

Situations Vacant

Many ads, over many pages, but I note in particular that the Air Inspectorate Division has vacancies for suitable candidates. Let me underline this. The Ministry of Aviation has an entire department charged with ensuring the safety of aviation-related equipment. Not unreasonably, the inspectors are experienced plant engineers, because this is what the task demands. If the AID is advertising for more, it is because inexperienced men are being left to do the work.

Now, I am not adverse to the idea of this insofar as military aircraft are concerned. Service pilots get their flight pay and Ministry life insurance on the pretext of the risks they are taking. And if there are risks, so too are there young men getting a look into a situation in life that they would otherwise not get. We were talking about the "Family Allowance" controversy at lunch just before I mused about this story, and “Miss G. C.” drew out the conclusion that I was ambling towards, quoting Miss Austen's famous line about every man possessed of a fortune being in want of a wife. 


What concerns me, in the wake of all the recent accidents, is the civilians entrusting themselves to the air on the assurance of the Air Ministry. It is, of course, the case that we have AID, whereas the United States, where Lockheed makes its planes, lacks even an Air Ministry, never mind an AID, but what difference if the AID's inspectors do not know their work?

The Economist, 26 August 1939
(I am glad I have left some space here to scribble. After recovering from the initial news from Greenwich, it finally occurred to me to wonder  that your son had had the Lysander prepared by removing the exhaust gas analysers removed. These are installed in detachable underwing containers intended to carry stretcher cases from aid stations back to the field hospitals. So I called at Cousin Easton's lodgings, only to find that both he and Fat Chow were unavailable. A palpable relief. But what are these children up to? Pardon my scratched writing. I am being driven down to Squirrel. We will sail on the tide. The Earl can handle Imperial.)


“Double Cross Roads:” Stupid fucking Soviet communists. I paraphrase like a sailor, because the paper speaks for all of us. Either Chamberlain folds again, or there is to be war.

 “Agenda for Preparedness –IX,” “Industrial  Man Power.” The basic war time labour problem is to do more work with fewer men. We are going to absorb 6 million into the armed forces over two years. The paper assumes that there will be war, as Grandfather has warned. The rest will have to maintain war production and production for export and consumption. The unions will have to put up with dilution.

“The Panama Canal’s Jubilee." The Panama Canal exists. Because we are old, we remember when it did not. “Political Patchwork in Spain;” Spain will not join the Axis. 

There will be no railway strike, and the paper objects to the idea, because it should be the worst paid union, not the best paid, which threatens to strike, however, there being no money in the business, neither railway union should strike, and the fact that they are not paid a living wage must be accepted as one of those regrettable eventualities of modern life. Which strikes me as a short-sighted perspective in the face of an emerging labour shortage. It is almost as though the pre-emptive measures that must be taken to defeat inflation in the future will depress wages now . One would almost imagine that there was someone, somewhere, with a certain influence at the editorial pages of The Economist, who might benefit from depressed wages. But whoever could that be?

Tokyo and the Nonagression Pact: Talks over money and Tientsin have been broken off, the the legal hold on the surrender of the four fugitive to “Chinese” justice has been dismissed. Tokyo is in pathetic, frantic retreat. Never mind, because like the pack of wild dogs that they are, they will regain their courage later, Grandfather says, and all of the money we have strewn about San Francisco Bay will come back to us in the form of Navy Department contracts.

There is a decline in housing starts, with the fall in private building so sharp that it has not been compensated by public housing starts. The paper discerns a rise in building for let in the London market, which might be thought of as a search for new markets, and notes that of the 4 million houses built in England and Wales (representing a 50% increase in the total) 2 million are occupied by their owners. 

“The Flight of the Refugees” continues. For the one thing that Germany needs as it prepares itself for war is to rid itself of as many top flight people as it can. 

The World Overseas

“Poland’s Monetary Problems”

The economic life of Poland to-day is dictated by the needs of defence. I imagine so. The country lacks the reserves that richer countries have used to fund rearmament, and the country has resorted to the Air Defence Loan, which required coercion in spite of the enthusiasm with which it was met, and is limited in its effect by the fact that it can be used to pay taxes. It was with this monetary strain in mind that Poland sent an emissary to London to ask for the transfer of  £5 million of gold. Some sense of the extent of the “monetary strain” is suggested by the rapid increase in the money circulation, from 1,417 million zlotys on 30 June 1937 to 2,328 on 30 June 1939. This, you would think, would lead to inflation, but in fact people have been hoarding bills for years, and recently started hoarding silver coins, with the result that there’s few bills and no small change in Warsaw. I humbly suggest that even in its direst straits, France was only afflicted with peasants hoarding bullion. When your citizens are hoarding bank notes. . . .

As our correspondent says. “There are also a number of factors that suggest that the production policy followed in Poland has not been as expansive as it might have been.” All the indices of prices and the cost of living have fallen since the end of 1937, and the index of production is only up to 126.8 (100 in 1928) in spite of enormous possibilities for development. Production is down at many domestic manufacturers, and unemployment, at 456,000 is not much changed from the depression period. (470,000 in 1937). In the state of the banking system, it has been impossible to develop new private industry in Poland. The State takes too much money, interest rates are distorted, and until almost the end of the great depression, Poland’s policy was explicitly deflationary, trying to get the zloty at the level fixed in 1927. And when this course was abandoned, it was not devalue, but to introduce exchange controls. Formal devaluation, it was thought, would just lead to the peasants abandoning the zloty. Poland may devalue in the Fall, though. 

You know what? Sod the lot! We would not care about the sordid "everything for the rentier" money politics of Poland were it not for the fact that Warsaw is our last remaining potential ally on the Eastern Front. Poland may devalue in the Fall. Much more likely, it will be at war in the Fall, and it will regret every bit of potential work left undone in the years of peace in the furtherance of those policies. Those are the years the locust ate. Think on that when the Boche come to call.  

Chasseurs polonais avant! Apologies.

“French Economic Strength:” Spectacular progress has been made in production of iron and steel, and of automobiles, too. This is down above all to the government’s turn to short-term instead of long-term borrowing markets. The national debt was 44,0000 million in June, an increase of 4,500 millions on 31 May and 23,500 millions on January 1st. In short, the workers are working overtime, the peasants are favoured by high agricultural prices, and those who can save have discovered new possibilities of building up their reserves. … the Treasury’s ready money was 16 thousand millions, and the calmness of the country has encouraged the current of returning gold and subscriptions to bonds.

“Hongkong’s Trade and the War:" Hong Kong is suffering from the Japanese noose, especially as compared with the glorious days of last year, when the Japanese blockaded the Yangzi and Hong Kong became the entrepot of central China  via the Canton-Hankow railway. The occupation of Canton in 1938 ended that to an extent, but there were many holes in the blockade at first. Things are getting tighter, but Hong Kong consoles itself that in spite of Britain’s disgusting supineness, Japan is reaching the limits of its strength, and that “the Chinese can never be defeated.” I hope. . . .


The Bank of England discount rate has been doubled from 2 to 4%. This is not to say that the day of cheap money and the new British monetary system is over. The move was needed in the light of the current crisis.

British Industry

I note coverage of the annual Radialympics. The radio firms have had disappointing years, profit-wise. Where is the new growth to come from? Television, obviously, but commercialization is lagging and disappointing here. Receivers need to get significantly cheaper. Perhaps some large customer will make a large order, and drive the costs of production down. 

Industry and Trade

What has been going on for the last year? Well, it turns out that purchasing power is up, and people have been buying.  There is an agreement to do away with 60,000 redundant looms in cotton country. Eire’s wheat production is falling due to a sharp rise in in agricultural labour wages. The herring season in Scotland is off to a bad start. (Hah! Did I predict this, or not?) Tin stocks are down.

Aeroplane 30 August 1939

Leader: we need bombers. Especially if there’s going to be a war. Which there won’t. It’s all contrived by foreigners and the owners of the world’s gold, who are afraid that it won’t hold its value if war unleashes the power of credit. What?

Flight 31 August 1939

Leader: “What Stands if Freedom Falls?”

Article: “Higher Commands of the Royal Air Force.” The men who will lead the RAF in war are announced. The Chief of the Air Staff is ACM Newall, an Indian Army man via the Royal Warwickshires, so I assume Sandhurst or even a militia promotion. Perhaps ambition will count for more than brains, and admittedly he is of the same breed as Trenchard. Fighter Command is under Dowding, a Royal Artillery man who passed out of Staff College in 1914. A Woolwich brain, then, though not quite of RE calibre. Bomber Command’s Ludlow-Hewitt is another infantry man, Royal Irish Rifles. Coastal Command’s Air Marshal Bowhill, on the other hand, is of a naval background, fleet, rather than the reservists who populated a large portion of the early Royal Naval Air Service. At Group we have Playfair, another RA man, Coningham, a New Zealander, and Calloway, an old navy man who has served aboard Furious, Saul, an old Army Service Corps man who has commanded the School of Army Co-operation, Breese, a fellow RN (E) man, Gossage, another gunner, Leigh-Mallory, yet another School of Army Co-operation head, and, recently, Thomson, killed in a ground accident just after war was declared. The commander of the air expeditionary force is not named.


Chichester, “Raiding by Celestial Navigation,” III. Remember the pages of spherical trigonometry from the last number? They have got us all the way to ‘Enemy Territory.’ Now we must find our target, with even more pages of mathematics. Frankly, if the Norden Bombsight wants to take this job away from me, I, for one, will not protest the loss of employment.

Commercial Aviation

: the New Zealand link is almost complete. By which is meant that the promised late-August service is postponed indefinitely due to fleet shortages, and KLM may soon receive a contract relating to the Christmas air mail to Australia. If there is to be a Christmas air mail, which I doubt. More likely, the only mail going by air will be in the form of microfiches of blueprints of war materiels. Pan American has sent a Yankee Clipper on a pathfinding flight to Auckland.

Service and Foreign News

Germany has a new machine gun, too! It’s the Knott-Bremse. Although the news is actually that K-B Tecknik’s unsuccessful gun has been bought in a modified form by the Swedes. I may be in a fay mood, but I read this as a reply to the recent article about the new Vickers gun. France gets its first Douglas DB-7.

“The Aircraft Engineer” covers “Airscrew Diameters and Gear Ratios."


An anonymous correspondent recently returned from a period in Berlin notes the aerial contrast. Whereas in Berlin it is hard at the moment to see any aircraft at all apart from a few elderly Ju52s at Templehof, the skies over the south of England are crowded with aeroplanes, with "mystery planes" whizzing about in all directions at every hour of the day. Very well, then. The runner who has saved his wind sees the finish line. But has he held on too long?

(Page over, please, Reggie)

Hove too at a certain place. Ciphered W/T with the Earl, who just had a visit from the Yard concerning a midnight altercation at a Thanet home on a longterm lease from his cousins. Now I remember that place, riding the drove path 

From Britain from the Air, the absolutely awesome online gallery of Aerofilm aerial photoraphs of Britain from before 1955

that pointed straight towards Tenterden. 

No doubt it is still visible from the air. Was it leased even then?

Apparently, a party of lascars trespassed onto the premise, and there is a complaint from the landlord. Shots were heard, dogs barked, that a 'plane, even, was heard to take off. Some lascars! Papers are missing, and a girl. The Earl inquired as to whether it was seriously proposed that a peer of the realm was involved in white slavery? The Yard retreats in confusion, and the Earl writes to Imperial, offering to close to-morrow.  I write as I wait for a boat, barely visible in the gloom, coming towards Squirrel

If you receive this before you see me, you will know that all is well, for I entrust this letter into the hands of Fat Chow. I wish that you could have been there to see that little boat emerge from the murk, a yellow dress on an oar in lieu of an ensign, that I should know that I have now to pick up two passengers in need of a discreet lift to Hongkong, with a load of ledger books, antique legalities having to do with rotating sheep. Terribly tedious. I am doing any barrister so unfortunate as to attempt to discover them a favour by removing them to a sunnier clime.