Little stories

1 month 1 week ago - 1 month 1 week ago #55 by Maquisard
Replied by Maquisard on topic Little stories
The forts of Red Sand

War Time

At the outbreak of World War II, the Port of London was the busiest port in the world. As such, a large proportion of supplies to the UK entered by ships navigating the Thames. The German Navy quickly sought to put a stranglehold on this route, and to this end, utilized a new secret weapon – the magnetic influence mine. Whilst there were different variants of this mine, in simplistic terms, the mine was detonated by the presence of a large magnetic object – such as a steel hulled ship – passing in close proximity, without having to make physical contact.So successful was this that in the first few months of the war, over one hundred ships were sunk in the Thames Estuary alone. It was clear that urgent action was needed to stem these losses, and as most mines were laid by aircraft, ships were requisitioned and used as mobile anti aircraft units. However, this was not altogether successful, and a more satisfactory solution was needed.In the early years of the war, Guy Maunsell, a civil engineer, had produced plans for offshore defences. At the time his ideas were considered somewhat eccentric, but he was asked to submit plans for an offshore fort as an effective means of dealing with the laying of the mines. Plans were drawn up, and after some modification, approval was given for the manufacture and installation of 3 sets of Army Forts and 4 Navy Forts in the Thames Estuary.

As a result of German mining activity at the outbreak of war in September 1939, an urgent need arose to protect the waters of the Thames Estuary from small naval craft aircraft sowing magnetic mines. The initial answer was the placing of four Naval Sea Forts, each armed with two 3.7” Heavy AA guns and two 40mm Bofors guns, in the Estuary, located as follows: one 7 miles off Harwich, Essex, one 7 miles off Frinton on Sea, Essex, one 5 miles off Margate, Kent and one 12 miles off Herne Bay, Kent. Each of these Forts was manned by 120 men and three officers with crews rotating every six weeks to shore bases at Harwich for the Essex forts and Sheerness for the Kent Forts.

Each fort accommodated up to 265 men. Both Army and Navy forts successfully acquitted themselves during the war years. The Thames forts shot down 22 planes, 30 flying bombs, and were instrumental in the loss of one U-boat, which was scuttled after coming under fire from Tongue sands tower.

After the War

After the war the forts were placed on ‘care and maintenance’. However as the need for their continued use diminished, they were abandoned, and the guns removed from the Army forts, in 1956.The Nore fort was dismantled in 1959 being considered a hazard to shipping [two towers were lost following a collision in 1953] whilst one of the Shivering Sand towers was similarly lost in 1963.In 1964, Radio Caroline began broadcasting from a ship moored outside UK Territorial Waters.Other broadcasters followed with pop star Screaming Lord Sutch establishing Radio Sutch on the Shivering Sand Towers – much to the embarrassment of the Government. Radio Sutch became Radio City, whilst other forts were occupied to become Radio 390 [Redsand], Radio Essex [Knock John], and Tower Radio [Sunk Head]. The forts fell silent after a number of prosecutions in late 1966/67. It was accepted that all were within territorial waters, other than Roughs and Sunk Head. Sunk Head was destroyed by the Royal Engineers shortly after the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act became law, although Roughs has been occupied since 1967 to this day as the quasi independent Principality of Sealand.

Tongue Fort collapsed following a severe storm in 1996, although had been abandoned as long ago as 1947, after the reinforced pontoon base broke its back, and one of the legs developed a list.The remaining Army forts had their catwalks removed for safety reasons, and apart from some usage by the SAS as simulated oil rig assault training, all have remained largely unchanged, and are viewed from the coast as a curiosity on the horizon, by the casual observer.The maintenance crews were in occupation from May 1945 until April 1956 when it was decided to remove the guns and abandon the Forts. On March 1st 1953 a ship, the “Baalbeck” ran into the Nore group of towers in thick fog and knocked over the Bofors Tower and a gun tower killing four of the installed maintenance crew. The Army seemed more concerned with the loss of equipment, two Bofors guns, a 3.7” gun and a large amount of equipment and stores, than the personnel whose relatives were paid paltry sums as compensation for the loss of their loved ones. Subsequently in 1959 the Nore group of towers were removed and scrapped.

Another accident happened in 1963 when in June a ship the “Riberborg” crashed into the Shivering Sand Fort and demolished a gun tower. Fortunately, no one was on board at the time and there were no casualties. Thus, Shivering Sand Fort today consists of only six towers.This left the Redsand and Shivering Sand Forts remaining out of the three sets and following a period of occupation by the Radio Pirates from 1964 to 1967 the Forts were sanitized by the Admiralty who removed access ladders and catwalks to deny people access.
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4 weeks 16 hours ago - 3 weeks 6 days ago #56 by Maquisard
Replied by Maquisard on topic Little stories
The Bantam Battalions of World War One As war broke out in 1914, millions of men rushed to volunteer. But some of those keen young men, fit and ready to fight, would be turned away – for being too short.At the outbreak of  World War One , the height requirement for recruits to the British Army was 5ft 3 inches (160cm), with a chest measurement of at least 34 inches (86.36cm).It soon became apparent that this rule excluded many men, especially those from industrial and coal mining areas, who were otherwise perfectly fit to serve.Not only were these men physically fit, many were desperate to ‘do their bit’ and join up. Having been refused at every recruiting office he tried because of his height, one miner became so incensed that he declared he would fight any man to prove that he was as good a fighter as any. He reputedly fought off six men before he was dragged away. This happened in Birkenhead,  Cheshire  and when the local MP, Alfred Bigland got to hear of it, he wrote to the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener.

Bigland criticised what he saw as the needless rejection of fit, healthy men and asked Kitchener for permission to form an undersized fighting unit. Whilst the War Office approved of the idea, they declined to fund it.So Bigland decided to raise his own company and the 15th Battalion, 1st Birkenhead, The Cheshire Regiment was formed, composed of healthy men between 4 ft 10ins (140cm) and 5ft 3ins (160cm) tall. They were named Bantams after the small aggressive fowl which became their battalion emblem.

When the news about the Bantams spread, men came from all over the country to Birkenhead to enlist. By November 1914 there were 3,000 new Bantam recruits and a second battalion was formed.The local newspaper, The Birkenhead News, took the men to heart and treated them to enamel badges engraved with ‘BBB’ for ‘Bigland’s Birkenhead Bantams’.

The idea quickly spread to other parts of the country and more Bantam battalions were formed in  the UK and Canada. They soon acquired a reputation for fierce fighting and bravery, as expressed in the following contemporary anonymous poem:
Each one a pocket Hercules
five feet and a bit,
a kind of Bovril essence
of six feet British grit.

After frequent bar brawls in Glasgow, the cantankerous 18th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry, a Bantam battalion, gained such a fierce reputation that they were nicknamed the Devil Dwarfs by the locals.

The Bantam battalions were not however without their problems. It was easier to enlist in a Bantam unit if you were underage. Also, as the war progressed the Bantam battalions began to lose some of their identity. As former miners, many of the men were reassigned to tunneling companies and because of their smaller size, some were also transferred to the fledgling  tank regiments . They suffered heavy casualties during the Battle of Bourlon in 1917 and those lost were replaced by taller men. What with these events and the introduction of  conscription , by the end of the war the Bantam battalions appeared largely indistinguishable from other British units.

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3 weeks 1 day ago #57 by Maquisard
Replied by Maquisard on topic Little stories
A sailor snuck “Remember Pearl Harbor” onto Tojo’s dentures before his war crime trial
 Japanese Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo took office just a month before the Pearl Harbor attacks, but had served as the Army minister for over a year before that and helped to draft the plan — from the attack at Pearl Harbor through the hopeful Japanese victory — for war with the western powers.
After Japan’s surrender, Tojo knew that he would be arrested and executed. He attempted suicide on Sep. 11, 1945 as American soldiers moved into position around his house but he survived.

Tōjō meets with Minister of Munitions Nobusuke Kishi who later became a prime minister in postwar Japan.
 As Tojo awaited trial in 1946, the Navy sent Lt. j.g. Dr. George Foster, an oral surgeon, to examine the prime minister’s heavily damaged teeth. The surgeon removed all but seven of Tojo’s and then consulted with a Navy dental prosthetics officer, Lt. j.g. Dr. Jack Mallory.Mallory recommended complete upper and lower dentures, but Tojo refused because he thought it would be a waste of effort to make both dentures for someone about to be executed. Instead, he asked for only an upper set of dentures so he could speak well at his trial.Mallory and his friends devised a prank. They decided to engrave "Remember Pearl Harbor"on the back of the general's dentures. Knowing that he would get in trouble if caught, Mallory opted to engrave the message in Morse code instead of standard letters.Only Foster and Mallory knew that Mallory had gone through with the joke.

 You could see it clearly when it was dried, but 99 percent of the time you couldn’t tell,” Mallory told the Chico News and review in 2002.The secret got out though. Mallory bragged about the prank to two new members of the dental team and one of them told his parents in a letter. The parents passed the story on and it was broadcast on a Texas radio show.
When word began to circulate through Tokyo, Mallory went to his superior and confessed.
Army Maj. William Hill told the young dentist, “That’s funny as hell but we could get our asses kicked for doing it.”
Mallory and Foster knew a guard at the prison and got access to the prison on Feb. 14, 1947, to grind the message off of the dentures. Their mission was successful.An Army colonel found out about the story the next morning and summoned the dentists to his office, but both men denied the rumors.Tojo later complained that the dentures fit differently after they were adjusted that February night, but there are no signs that he ever knew about the trick the dentists played on him. He was sentenced to death during the trial and executed in 1948. 
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