& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


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Brize 2010 Reds 3

By psmiddy, Jan 31 2018 09:39AM

For those not familiar with UK geography, Plymouth is in the South West - a region with above average levels of unemployment. To reach there by train from London takes 3 – 3.5 hours. Many years ago I did a business trip with a passenger to the city, which I would not have contemplated other than by air. Its airport, handily close to the city centre, was closed in 2011 by its new owner – Sutton Harbour Holdings, who clearly saw its 113 acres as a redevelopment site. The Government Inquiry into its future is due to be published in the middle of this year. Although Britain’s regional development policy at times seems short of common sense (I give you HS2), it would be absurd not to re-open this site as an operational airport. See here.

By psmiddy, Jan 26 2018 05:45PM

The speech on Monday at RUSI by General Sir Nick Carter on the outlook for threats to the UK, is well worth a look. As one might expect from an Old Wykehamist, it is cogent, timely, and lucid. In a word or two, we should recognise that we (in Western Europe and NATO) are already at war with Russia, just not in a traditional sense. A not so subtle request for more resources, but delivered in a measured way, and presumably sanctioned by the MoD.

The speech is here.

One quote: "We have to fight more dispersed". Well the RAF will struggle to meet that given the concentration of its dwindled resources into a vanishingly small number of operational bases!

By psmiddy, Jan 17 2018 09:07AM

Passed by Tempsford last weekend, and could not resist having a poke around the old airfield, or at least those parts that are accessible to the public. For those who do not know, it was one of the main bases from which SOE agents were flown into Europe (predominantly France) during WW2. The memorial below is rather well done, and Leo Marks’ poem is breath-taking. His autobiography Between Silk and Cyanide, is well worth reading.

By psmiddy, Jan 9 2018 09:11AM

A fascinating article in today's FT by John Thornhill here. He describes how a tech firm recently wrote an AI programme that cracked the Enigma code in under 13 minutes. At a cost of only £10, it checked 41m combinations of output from the encypting machine, each second! A rather graphic demonstration of the advance in information processing.

By psmiddy, Jan 2 2018 11:56AM

Happy New Year. I can make one safe prediction – there will not be another book from my pen in 2018. Plenty of other writing though, if you know where to look.

There has been much criticism of late, particularly from the spectacularly dogma-filled campuses of British universities, about how the British Empire was a disaster for mankind (other than perhaps the British ruling classes). And in consequence its disintegration was to be applauded. This line of thinking rather overlooks the benefits brought by the continuing thriving of the Commonwealth, nurtured carefully by our dear Monarch. This was all brought to mind by a piece in the book I am currently reading, Jungle Soldier – a biography of Frederick Spencer Chapman by Brian Moynahan:

“Also being tortured now [in Kuala Lumpur by the Japs in WW2] was PG Pamadasa, a teacher on the staff of St. Francis’ Institution in Malacca. Only medium-wave radios were allowed: their limited range restricted them to Japanese-controlled propaganda stations. The penalty for having a short-wave radio capable of picking up foreign broadcasts was death. Pamadasa, who had a short-wave set, was betrayed, tortured, and sentenced to hang. The day before he died, he wrote a final testament to his old boys:

I am writing this in my cell with manacled hands on the eve of my execution. I am no felon but a patriot condemned to death for listening to the BBC News and telling it to pro-British friends. I did this for two years till I was betrayed. The Kempetai tortured me and finally sentenced me to be hanged… I have no regrets… I have always cherished British sportsmanship, justice and the Civil Service as the finest things in an imperfect world. I die for these. My enemies fail to conquer my souls, I forgive them for what they did to my poor frail body… To my dear Old Boys, tell them their teacher died with a smile on his lips…”