Dirk Bogarde-Not just an actor.

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I don’t know why but ever since I moved to Ireland I have found myself explaining my name quite a bit. I have been called Derek,Declan,Kirk and other variations.Nowadays I usually say “Dirk like Dirk Bogarde” it mostly takes another few minutes for people to get my last name right. Most people will have heard of the actor

He was a British actor although his Father was of Flemish ancestry.

Although I do mention his name while explaining my name to people. I have to be honest. I am no Dirk Bogarde. I wish I was for he was not only a great actor he was also a formidable human being.

I will not go into his acting career but will focus on some of his activities. During the war, Derek Bogarde served in the British Army, at the start with the Royal Corps of Signals before in 1943 being commissioned at the age of 22 into the Queen’s Royal Regiment  as a second lieutenant.

He served for a while at RAF Medmenham a unit specialized in photographic intelligence.  in the Army reconnaissance section as a visual inspector. Analyzing aerial photographs using special glasses to create 3D effects.

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The unit played a  pivotal role in gathering intelligence  on the V1 and V2 programs.

Bogarde was one of the first Allied officers in April 1945 to reach the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, this experience had the most profound effect on him and about which he found it difficult to speak for many years afterward. In an inteview he described what he saw. He got the dates wrong, the camp was liberated on the 15th of April.

“I think it was on the 13th of April – I’m not quite sure what the date was”  “when we opened up Belsen Camp, which was the first concentration camp any of us had seen, we didn’t even know what they were, we’d heard vague rumours that they were. I mean nothing could be worse than that. The gates were opened and then I realised that I was looking at Dante’s Inferno, I mean … I … I still haven’t seen anything as dreadful. And never will. And a girl came up who spoke English, because she recognised one of the badges, and she … her breasts were like, sort of, empty purses, she had no top on, and a pair of man’s pyjamas, you know, the prison pyjamas, and no hair. But I knew she was girl because of her breasts, which were empty. She was I suppose, oh I don’t know, twenty four, twenty five, and we talked, and she was, you know, so excited and thrilled, and all around us there were mountains of dead people, I mean mountains of them, and they were slushy, and they were slimy, so when you walked through them … or walked – you tried not to, but it was like …. well you just walked through them, and she … there was a very nice British MP, and he said ‘Don’t have any more, come away, come away sir, if you don’t mind, because they’ve all got typhoid and you’ll get it, you shouldn’t be here swanning-around’ and she saw in the back of the jeep, the unexpired portion of the daily ration, wrapped in a piece of the Daily Mirror, and she said could she have it, and he” [the MP] “said ‘Don’t give her food, because they eat it immediately and they die, within ten minutes’, but she didn’t want the food, she wanted the piece of Daily Mirror – she hadn’t seen newsprint for about eight years or five years, whatever it was she had been in the camp for. … she was Estonian. … that’s all she wanted. She gave me a big kiss, which was very moving. The corporal” [MP] “was out of his mind and I was just dragged off. I never saw her again, of course she died. I mean, I gather they all did. But, I can’t really describe it very well, I don’t really want to. I went through some of the huts and there were tiers and tiers of rotting people, but some of them who were alive underneath the rot, and were lifting their heads and trying …. …. trying to do the victory thing. That was the worst.

“After the war I always knew that nothing, nothing, could ever be as bad … … but nothing could frighten me any more, I mean, no man could frighten me any more, no Director … … nothing could be as bad as the war, or the things I saw in the war.”

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Dirk Bogarde truly remarkable man.

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Sources

BBC

 

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The Gloster Meteor

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On this day 75 years ago the Gloster Meteor,  the first British jet fighter and the Allies’ only jet aircraft to achieve combat operations during WWII, made it’s first flight. Neill Michael Daunt was the first pilot to fly the Gloster Meteor on March  5 1943.

 

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Despite Germany’s technological advantage, the Meteor was the first operational jet fighter in the world. It became the history-making plane after beating the Me 262 into squadron service by a few days.

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The first unit to fly with the Gloster Meteors  was RAF No.616 Squadron. They received the first of their jet fighters on July 12, 1944..

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While the Me 262 saw action against Allied aircraft over Germany, the Gloster Meteor began its service career against the V-1 Flying Bomb, and despite the best efforts of its pilots never had the chance to prove itself against the Luftwaffe..

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Although I am a bigger fan of the Spitfire and Mustang, I have to admit the Gloster Meteor does look like an awesome piece of aviation.

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Spitfire

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I am not an aviation expert and even less of a military aviation expert, far from it. But that is what makes the Spitfire so special. Despite my ignorance in all matters aviation I do know what a Spitfire is, and like me anyone who doesn’t have a clue about airplanes they still will recognize a Spitfire.

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Although there have been many other majestic fighters during WWII like for example the Mustang.

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It is the Spitfire which is most recognizable of all of them. As I said earlier everyone knows how a Spitfire looks like.

The Spitfire was designed by Reginald Mitchell of Supermarine Ltd., in response to a 1934 Air Ministry specification calling for a high-performance fighter with an armament of eight wing-mounted 0.303-inch (7.7-mm) machine guns.

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One of the Spitfire’s most important contributions to Allied victory was as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft from early 1941. Superior high-altitude performance rendered it all but immune from interception, and the fuel tanks that replaced wing-mounted machine guns and ammunition bays gave it sufficient range to probe western Germany from British bases.

In late 1943 Spitfires powered by Rolls-Royce Griffon engines developing as much as 2,050 horsepower began entering service. Capable of top speeds of 440 miles (710 km) per hour and ceilings of 40,000 feet (12,200 metres), these were used to shoot down V-1 “buzz bombs.” During World War II.

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Spitfires were exported in small numbers to Portugal, Turkey, and the Soviet Union, and they were flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe. When production ceased in 1947, 20,334 Spitfires of all versions had been produced, 2,053 of them Griffon-powered versions.

Fighter versions of the Spitfire were dropped from RAF service during the early 1950s, while photo-reconnaissance Spitfires continued in service until 1954.

It is not often I bestow the title of Hero to a non human, but in this case I think it warrants to name that ruler of the skies a hero.

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Leonidas Squadron-Germany’s Suicide Squadron.

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The Leonidas Squadron, formally known as 5th Staffel of Kampfgeschwader 200 was a unit which was originally formed to fly the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg), a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, in attacks in which the pilot was likely to be killed, or at best to parachute down at the attack site. The Reichenberg was never used in combat because Werner Baumbach, the commander of KG 200, and his superiors considered it an unnecessary waste of life and resources.

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He preferred to use the Mistel bomb instead, piloted from a regular Luftwaffe single-seat fighter used as an integral parasite aircraft, as the only manned part of the composite aircraft Mistel ordnance system, which released the lower, unmanned flying bomb component aircraft towards its target and returned.

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The establishment of a suicide squadron (staffel) was originally proposed by Otto Skorzeny and Hajo Herrmann. The proposal was supported by noted test pilot Hanna Reitsch.

 

The idea proposed was that Germany would use volunteers as suicide pilots in order to overcome the Allies’ numerical advantages with their fanatic spirit. The idea had roots in German mythology that was glorified by Nazi propaganda. Hitler was reluctant, but eventually agreed to Reitsch’s request to establish and train a suicide attack air unit, with the proviso that it would not be operated in combat without his approval. The new unit, nicknamed the “Leonidas Squadron”, became part of KG 200. It was named after Leonidas I, the king of Sparta who in 480 BC resisted the invading Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae with 300 elite warriors who fought to the last man.

Reitsch’s plan was to attack Allied invasion shipping using the Messerschmitt Me 328 as a suicide weapon which would dive into the sea underneath ships and explode a 900 kilograms (2,000 lb) bomb.

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Heinrich Himmler approved the idea, and suggested using convicted criminals as pilots. The Luftwaffe’s High Command was unenthusiastic; Erhard Milch turned the plan down as impractical, and Hermann Göring showed little interest. Adolf Hitler was against the idea of self-sacrifice, believing that it was not in keeping with the German character, and furthermore did not see the war situation as being bad enough to require such extreme measures. Despite this, he allowed Reitsch to proceed with the project after she had shown the plan to him in February 1944. Günther Korten, the Luftwaffe’s head of general staff, gave the matter to the commander of KG 200 to deal with.

Over 70 volunteers, mostly young recruits, came forward; they were required to sign a declaration which said, “I hereby voluntarily apply to be enrolled in the suicide group as part of a human glider-bomb. I fully understand that employment in this capacity will entail my own death.”

Problems were experienced in converting the Me 328, and the decision was taken to use instead a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg); however, it never entered operation.

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On 9 June 1944, Karl Koller announced that a Gruppe of KG 200 equipped with special Focke-Wulf Fw 190s was ready for “total operations”.

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Each aircraft carried a heavy bomb, due to whose weight the machines could not carry enough fuel for a return flight, and the pilots were trained only using gliders. This project came to nothing, and Werner Baumbach, at that stage the commander of KG 200, persuaded his friend Albert Speer that it would be more productive to use the men against Russian power stations than the Allied invasion fleet; Speer passed this on to Hitler.

During the Battle for Berlin the Luftwaffe flew “Self-sacrifice missions” (Selbstopfereinsätze) against Soviet held bridges over the Oder River. These ‘total missions’ were flown by pilots of the Leonidas Squadron under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Heiner Lange from 17 April until 20 April 1945, using any aircraft that were available.

While suicide missions were never officially part of Allied strategy, there were a number of instances of British, Polish, American and Soviet pilots sacrificing themselves to destroy enemy targets.

One of the first casualties of the war was Leopold Pamula, a Polish pilot who intentionally slammed his outclassed PZL P.11c into a German aircraft in the opening hours of the war.

 

Colin P. Kelly, was heralded for flying his own plane into an enemy warship in much the same way kamikazes would do two and a half years later.

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According to the story, only three days after the Pearl Harbor raid, Kelly’s B-17 Flying Fortress came under attack by Zeroes after bombing a Japanese warship off the Philippines.

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The doomed pilot kept his stricken plane in the air long enough for the crew to escape, at which point he deliberately plowed his Flying Fortress right into the smokestack of the Japanese ship Ashigara.

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Mikhail Devyatayev-Heroic escapee from a Nazi Concentration camp-branded a Criminal.

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Born in 1917 at Torbeyevo, Mikhail was the thirteenth child born to the family of a Mordovian peasant. In 1938 he graduated from a School of River Navigation (Речной Техникум) and worked as the captain of a small ship on the Volga. That same year he was conscripted into the Red Army and began education at a Chkalov Flying School, graduating in 1940.

Devyataev was an early entrant of World War II, destroying his first Ju-87 on 24 June 1941 just two days after Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

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Soon he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. On 23 September he was seriously wounded (he was hit into his left leg). After a long stay in the hospital he was assigned to slow-speed aviation (Night bomber Po-2) and then to medical aviation. He resumed his duties as a fighter pilot after his meeting with the famous Soviet ace Aleksandr Ivanovich Pokryshkin in May 1944. Commander of an echelon with the 104th Guardian Fighter Pilot Regiment (9th Guardian Fighter Pilot Division, 2nd Airforce Army, 1st Ukrainian Front), Senior Lieutenant Devyatayev destroyed 9 enemy planes.

On 13 July 1944 Devyataev was downed near Lwów over German-held territory and became a prisoner of war, held in the Łódź concentration camp. He made an attempt to escape on 13 August but was caught and transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He soon realised his situation was perilous-as a Soviet pilot, he could expect extreme brutality; therefore, he managed to exchange identities with a dead Soviet infantryman.

With his new identity,  Devyataev was later transferred to a camp in Usedom to be a part of a forced labor crew working for the German missile program on the island of Peenemünde.

 

 

Under hellish conditions, the prisoners were forced to repair runways and clear un-exploded bombs by hand. Security was rigidly enforced with vicious guards and dogs, and there was little chance of escape. Even so, by February 1945, Devyataev concluded that, however remote, the chance of escape was preferable to certain death as a prisoner.

Devyataev managed to convince three other prisoners (Sokolov, Krivonogov and Nemchenko) that he could fly them to freedom. They decided to run away at dinnertime, when most of the guards were in the dining room. Sokolov and Nemchenko were able to create a work gang from Soviet citizens only.

At noon on 8 February 1945, as the ten Soviet POWs, including Devyataev, were at work on the runway, one of the work gang, Ivan Krivonogov, picked up a crowbar and killed their guard. Another prisoner, Peter Kutergin, quickly stripped off the guard’s uniform and slipped it on. The work gang, led by the “guard”, managed to unobtrusively take over the camp commandant’s He 111 H22 bomber and fly from the island. Devyataev piloted the aircraft.

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The Germans tried to intercept the bomber unsuccessfully. The aircraft was damaged by Soviet air defences but managed to land in Soviet-held territory. The escapees provided important information about the German missile program, especially about the V-1 and V-2.

 

The NKVD did not believe Devyataev’s story, arguing it was impossible for the prisoners to take over an airplane without cooperation from the Germans. Thus, Devyataev was suspected of being a German spy and sent to a penal military unit along with the other nine men. Of the escapees, five died in action over the following months. Devyataev himself spent the remainder of the war in prison.

Devyataev was discharged from the army in November 1945. However, his classification remained that of a “criminal” and was unable to secure long term employment.. Eventually, though, Devyataev found work as a manual laborer in Kazan. Soviet authorities cleared Devyataev only in 1957, after the head of the Soviet space program Sergey Korolyov personally presented his case, arguing that the information provided by Devyataev and the other escapees had been critical for the Soviet space program. On 15 August 1957, Devyataev became a Hero of the Soviet Union, and a subject of multiple books and newspaper articles. He continued to live in Kazan, working as a captain of first hydrofoil passenger ships on the Volga.

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In 1972, he published his memoirs.Devyataev was awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of Red Banner twice, Order of the Patriotic War (first and second class), and many other awards.

 

He became an honoured citizen of Mordovia Republic, the cities of Kazan, Wolgast and Zinnowitz (Germany).

He died at Kazan in 2002, aged 85, and is buried in an old Arsk Field cemetery in Kazan near a World War II Memorial. There is a museum of Devyataev in his native Torbeyevo (opened 8 May 1975) and monuments in Usedom and Kazan.

 

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Sources

Open Soutce Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Devyatayev

Cine Rex V2 attack

 

le-rex10It is amazing how big event can sometimes overshadow smaller but nonetheless awful events. A friend of mine had mentioned the event of Cine Rex to me.

On the 16th of December the German launched one last offensive campaign in the Ardennes which is widely know as the battle of the Bulge.

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On Dec. 16 the Germans launched their pincer attack on Antwerp. Half a million German soldiers burst upon 830,000 Americans. For 10 days they advanced.

On that same day  at 15.20, a V-2 rocket fired from the Netherlands by the SS Werfer Battery 500 directly landed on the roof of the cinema during a showing of The Plainsman.

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There were approximately 1,100 people inside the cinema and the explosion killed 567 people including 296 Allied servicemen (194 further servicemen were injured) and 11 buildings in total destroyed.

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The rockets were more then likely launched from the Hague in the Netherlands

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The destruction was total. Afterwards, many people were found still sitting in their seats, stone dead. For more than a week the Allied authorities worked to clear the rubble. Later, many of the bodies were laid out at the city zoo for identification.

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The death toll was 567 casualties to soldiers and civilians, 291 injured and 11 buildings were destroyed. 296 of the dead & 194 of the injured were U.S., British, & Canadian soldiers. This was the single highest death total from one rocket attack during the war in Europe.

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It took nearly a week to dig all the bodies out of the rubble. It was the single highest death total from a single rocket attack during the war.Following the attack all public performance venues were closed and the town council ordered that a maximum of 50 people were allowed to congregate in any one location.

Antwerp had been hit by both V1 and V2 rockets between October 1944 and March 1945

During the V-weapon onslaught, over a period of 175 days and nights, the German launching crews fired more than 4,000 V-1s and more than 1,700 V-2s at greater Antwerp. Of those, 106 V-1s and 107 V-2s hit the heart of the city. During that period more than 3,700 civilians were killed and some 6,000 injured in the provence of Antwerp. Only about 30 percent of the V-2s launched against Antwerp reached the city. The rockets that were off-target kept falling all around the Antwerp area and often very far away from the port area. Several factors come into play for the modest number of V-2s Antwerp suffered each day, but the main reasons were the German bottleneck in their alcohol and liquid oxygen supply and the enormous dispersion of the still imperfect weapon.

In March 1945 TIME magazine had called Antwerp “The City of Sudden Death”

As for the Cinema itself it was rebuilt in 1947 but was demolished in 1995.

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