Saturday, 29 January 2011

"A Watch House for Smugglers, some Spooks, a few Spies, and a British Secret Agent..."

The Boat House on Lepe beach, looking south, at the estuary of the Beaulieu River.
Just a few hundred metres along to the right, are some of the country houses and grounds
 that were requisitioned for use as part of the complex of ultra secret training/finishing schools for 
secret agents and saboteurs by the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) throughout World War Two.

Chapter 1.  The Smugglers -


(Authors Note & Update to this post: The grey square 'thing'
over on the right just here is an addition and a live prototype
experiment, still very much in development, as a dedicated
'nature sounds' blogger player widget/gadget. Please feel free
to play with it. It's a short loop sound composition of an outdoor
natural sound scenario. To stop it playing, just click on the little
'loudspeaker' icon in the bottom left corner. It wont hurt you or
your computer, I promise.)

The ‘Watch House’ at Lepe beach on the south west coast of Hampshire in central southern England, and just a bare two minutes at the gallop away from the little hideaway where I live...looking out due south-ish pretty much, over the western 'Solent' to the northern shores of the Isle of Wight, with commanding views to Cowes in a south easterly direction (left) and Yarmouth & Hurst Castle in the other.

Part of the Lepe Estate & neighbouring Exbury Estates owned by the Rothschild family since 1916 and situated on the southern most borders of the ‘New Forest National Park’ on Hampshires south west coast. Lepe has a recorded history which dates back to Roman times, with evidence of dinosaur activity and some impressive fossil footprints going back a tad and a bit further still.


Sitting sentry at the mouth of the Beaulieu river, the Watch House and the block of terraced cottages that sit out of shot, just above and behind, was completed in 1828, by the 'modern coastguard' which was itself formed in 1822. A Lieutenant Hodge was the first commander to be appointed in charge of the coastguard crew, to combat the smuggling & piracy activities that had plagued this busy stretch of water for centuries.

You may want to take a look at this link to Rudyard Kipling's 1896 poem: 'The Bell Buoy' -

Lepe House itself is hidden from view, just behind the treeline immediately
to the left of the Watch House, in the centre of this picture. Inchmerry House
is concealed behind the same tree line in the extreme left of this picture.

During WW2, Lepe House which sits just to the west of the Watch House, was requisitioned by the navy in 1943 and became the HQ of ‘J-Force’ Assault Group, for the embarkations to Normandy on D-Day. One of the most ingenious innovations as well as perhaps the most daunting D-Day construction projects of all, were the ultra secret Mulberry Harbour's.

The image below shows a series of six vast floating concrete caissons, that were built right here in Stanswood Bay next to Lepe beach, towed across the English Channel, along with other caissons and component sections that had been built at other locations around the British coast and then bolted together and sunk just off one of the Normandy invasion beaches, to form huge temporary harbours that enabled the allies to quickly off load countless thousands of tons of vital supplies, food, ammunition and heavy equipment for the invasion forces. Without which, the D-Day plans to secure the beach heads and eventually move in land would undoubtedly have weakened and faltered, thus allowing the German forces more time to reinforce and counter attack with much greater effect and subsequent loss of life to the allied troops.

The concrete caissons under construction at Lepe Beach
in 1944.
 The above photo image is courtesy of
Dr Ian West & Keith Talbot and is just an extract from their
detailed geological & historical report of the Lepe shoreline.
http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Lepe-Beach.htm
Chapter 2.  Some Spooks -

One of the more interesting and little known secret missions, attached to the Mulberry Harbour story, concerned the 'Ghost Army'. This was a U.S. Army tactical deception unit, officially called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. Some of these Ghost Army deception troops went to Normandy two weeks after D-Day, where they simulated a fake Mulberry harbour at night with lights on, to draw German fire away from the critical activities of the real harbours. The 1100 members of the Ghost Army also became involved in a number of other ingenious deception missions across France, during and after the allied landings, causing major havoc and confusion for the German senior military commanders throughout Brittany and Normandy.

The Boat House looking west south west.
In order to position myself and my tripod just so for this picture - I had a 'muppet moment' and decided to perch everything, including me, onto the smooth concrete ramp that drops down into the sea below. Not the part you can see with all the nice steps carved into it though.  I set up the tripod accordingly, framed the shot, took the picture, then casually elected to test the grip of all this greeny slimy coloured stuff coating the concrete surface, next to my left foot.

 Bad play! Instant lifeboat launch, sliding very woefully down the ramp on my rump whilst holding tripod and camera at arms height before arriving in the English Channel up to my... shins.   Phew!

Convinced I was the only person around on this stretch of the beach, trying to look cool and unaffected but really feeling a bit very silly alot, I turned around to see a resident of one of the cottages behind me, collapsed on the path in delirious fits of laughter just a few feet away. Green really is for 'go' then.

Chapter 3.  A Few Spies -

About a mile up Beaulieu River, which is entered from just behind the Watch House in the above image, is historical 'Bucklers Hard', where many of the18th century warships were built from the wealth of indigenous oak trees that surround the Beaulieu river in the New Forest.

Another mile further on up river and you finally reach the picturesque village of Beaulieu with Beaulieu Abbey and its estate - home to the ‘Montague’ family - and during WW2, the region that became home to the top secret ‘spy training school’ for members of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) and other clandestine forces personnel. Many of whom left Beaulieu, often in their early twenties and even late teens, on dangerous missions overseas to help fight the evil spread of Nazi fascism, on never to return alive to British shores again.

Staying with the S.O.E. for a moment - I have been carrying out research into the life, times and adventures of my great uncle 'Cornelius', who served fully in both world wars - spending four years in France & Italy with military intelligence and the RFC in WW1, then after a distinguished career between the wars as a foreign correspondent with Reuters in Paris - flew on the Hindenburg to Rio, did a spell in the Spanish Civil War, Reuters Bureau chief in Rome from 1938 to June 1940 when he had to escape on the diplomatic boat after Mussolini fell in with Hitler, before joining 'de Gaule' on the Ark Royal for a couple of months on the failed raid to Dakar in 1940, while his wife and daughter fled separately across southern France to Bordeaux to catch one of the last evacuee boats back to England, as the germans were arriving in the city. On Cornelius's return from the Ark Royal mission, he stayed in Gibraltar for a further few months as the senior correspondent for Reuters.


Chapter 4.  And a British Secret Agent -

In early 1941, Cornelius (CJ) left Gibraltar to become the Reuters bureau chief in Lisbon - at the same time period as Graham Greene, who was himself involved with counter intelligence with the S.I.S (Mi6) and is reported to have become involved with the handling of the famous double agent known as 'Garbo'. In this same time frame, Ian Fleming along with his travelling guest - 'Wild Bill' Donovan - of the soon to be born fledgling O.S.S - were themselves mingling and chancing their luck at the casino tables in Estoril against many of their contemporaries in German counter espionage. It was Fleming's experiences at these gaming tables that became the inspiration for the story outline to his first 'Bond' book - Casino Royale.


The central female character 'Vesper Lynd' in the story
 'Casino Royale' is said to have been based on
  Christine Granville/Krystyna Skarbek, a brave and beautiful
 real life Polish agent of the S.O.E. during WW2.




Click here for more information on Krystyna Skarbek
So...imagine my surprise while hunting through the bowels of the National Archives recently, when I came across a personnel S.O.E. file for 'CJ' - containing numerous documents - some of which had been
written seemingly somewhat pro-forma...in his own hand. It now seems clear that he flew home from Lisbon in early summer of 1941, resigned from Reuters and joined the D/Q Press & Black Propaganda section of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) - which was also known as 'Churchills Baker Street Irregulars'.

Two months later he was given a false Irish passport and a cover profile, then promptly shipped off to South America on a nearly year long highly secret special deception mission, probably in league with Sir William Stephenson's 'British Security Coordination' - known as the B.S.C. -involved in black propaganda whisperings, reporting Axis shipping movements to the Royal Navy & hunting down U-boat sanctuaries all the way up through the Caribbean, to Washington, New York and finally Canada.


My great Uncle Cornelius James (CJ) and some extractions from his original SOE file
now secured in the National Archives at Kew.

If any of you reading this Blog post have any additional knowledge, suggestions, thoughts, interest or any other information of relevance - no matter how trivial - please do try to get in touch with me...


Especially - information concerning SOE's - D/Q Black Propaganda section within 'SO1' - and any specific covert operations carried out in South America & the Caribbean possibly with or under the umbrella of the BSC/Intrepid and the FBI.


Sundown at the very entry to the Beaulieu River sailing channel at Lepe.


Chapter 5.  Pirates of the Caribbean -

The OSS - U.S. Office of Strategic Services - was originally formed in 1942 by Col 'Wild Bill' Donnovan & later morphed into the CIA in 1946. Many of the models and templates used to set up the OSS were borrowed from the British SIS (Mi6), Mi5 & the S.O.E.  Commander Ian Fleming, a senior intelligence officer with British Naval Intelligence, took Col Donnovan on a whirlwind tour of early wartime Europe, especially Spain and Lisbon in 1941 and then accompanied him back to the U.S.A. where he was asked to write a detailed paper for Donovan mapping out how to build and run an efficient global counter intelligence service.

Later in 1941, Ian Fleming - working on intelligence obtained by the S.I.S. - helped devise a bold and dramatic plan to steal by force, the Vichy governments vast stash of gold bullion which they'd secretly (or so they thought) moved from Vichy France to a fortress on the French Island of Martinique, and which Winston Churchill & his Canadian spymaster Sir William Stephenson of the BSC, were extremely keen to relieve them of.

William Anderson's painting of 'The Capture of Fort Louis on Martinique, 20th March 1794.
And a more recent image of the historically embattled and still surviving - Fort St Louis, Martinique.

 In other words, a good old fashioned piece of 'fair game' buccaneering and piracy in the Caribbean against our favourite and most respected old foes..the French, or more fairly & accurately this time around...'The Vichy French'. This is a true story, which resonates back to the best traditions of 18th century Royal Navy 'gung ho' and 'daring do'. Visions of 'Bolitho', 'Hornblower', 'Nelson' & 'Aubrey'...wreaking chaos & havoc together, to the considerable disruption and irritation of the Governor of French Martinique. And there lies another muse plucked from the actual historical events of 1794 and again in 1809. (Oh!...if only it became a movie.)

Well actually it did - but without the roar of canon, the blinding smoke, the clash of steel against steel and the creak of canvas and rigging - although it did have Pussy Galore. The film was called 'Goldfinger'. The third 'Bond' film which was set around a devilish plan to irradiate the US gold reserves in Fort Knox for decades thus causing financial chaos to the U.S. and western banking system, to the advantage of China and greedy old 'Goldfinger' himself. Once, during filming, Ian Fleming actually visited the film set, but tragically died some months later before the film was finally released in 1964. 


Fleming's ambitious plan for a raid on the fort in Martinique was never ultimately sanctioned due to Americas delicate political links and political posturing with the Vichy government in 1941, and in turn, the highly sensitive relationship 'we' had to preserve with the U.S. Government at 'all' costs - until Japan suddenly went and bombed Pearl Harbour. By which time it was decided to simply lay siege to all the gold instead. However, after the war, it all seems to have mysteriously disappeared into various banking systems around the globe - and the French didn't get a bean. Allegedly.

At least it can be said that Fleming and his family, did eventually plunder some profit from his thwarted plan
to steal the Vichy gold - as the success of his 'diplomatically' adapted story for the plot of 'Goldfinger'
now testifies. Although frankly, I would have preferred he
had been allowed to base his plot more specifically on his original outline for the raid on Martinique.

That said, I have to smile at his dry sense of somewhat prescient humour and irony, with regard to the location and eventual plot of the resultant 'Goldfinger' story. In 2008, 'Toxic Waste' became a global buzzword for one of the central causes of the subsequent melt down of the western economies and banking systems throughout the USA and Western Europe - 'The recent unpleasantness' to quote the U.S. Civil War phrase. 

Guess which 'undamaged' posse of banking businesses came to the rescue and bank rolled us all with more billions than the World Bank?                  Yep....

Cmdr Ian Fleming - Assistant Director
 of the 'Naval Intelligence Division' in WW2
The Chinese.                                                                    

You can almost hear Ian Fleming's sardonic chuckle from his grave.

The quest for me remains to try and establish whether my great uncle Cornelius; a) Met Fleming in Spain & Lisbon b) Went to Martinique to sniff around for him (I know he was in the Caribbean from his passport stamps) - and c) Met Fleming again in Washington, while Fleming was working there for a while with Roald Dahl - who was himself working covertly for the British Government in the business of spreading pro british support propaganda amongst the 'isolationist social circles' of Washington and New York.

It's easy to connect the dots, but it's very hard to substantiate the 'connection's'. 

But then the thrill of the hunt...is only ever in the chase.


Chapter 6.  'Mercury?'   'S.M.E.R.S.H.?'  &  'The real Man from U.N.C.L.E.?'

I've since learnt that CJ worked with Ian Fleming at Kemsley House in the early fifties for the Sunday Times, although it turns out this was actually a cover for what was actually the N.A.N.A. owned and run 'Mercury' news gathering service, which was basically a joint CIA & MI6 funded spy ring, made up largely of 85 foreign correspondents working covertly as spies, ostensibly to glean intelligence from around the globe concerning the emerging Soviet/communist threat to western peace at the onset of the cold war.

Out of curiosity, I did a background check on the size and content of a typical edition of the Sunday Times back in 1953. Apparently it was a very lightweight affair, rarely containing more than about 8 pages in total and never reported on International news or related articles.

Yet it did manage to employ around eighty five 'foreign correspondents' (?).

A View to the Isle of Wight
And Cornelius didn't exactly tear up his passports and stop right there. Funny thing is I didn't even know I had a great uncle until a year ago when my own 'Uncle Jack' sent me an email to tell me. There was so little evidence of CJ, and because he kept his life so secret, in particular from his own family, it has become for me an exciting and enticing learning curve, full of frustrating dead ends, a myriad of missing links, obscure & muddled musings, all consuming theorising, pointless endless hypothesising and...blah, blah, blar de blah - well into dawns weary twilight. 

 And then, just now and again, the smallest tease of luck, as you uncover just the merest tiny morsel - to 'dot' the odd 'i' and maybe even 'cross' the odd 't'. Causing the proverbial Chinese puzzle to alter its expression just one glance closer to explication.

Addictively Poirot-Esque. Frequently all consuming - and sometimes courting the sleepless and obsessive.       But never, ever, remotely, slightly ....'dull'.

A view across the Solent to the north western coast of the Isle of Wight and sixty miles and a fast rib further south....'France!'

Chapter 7.  Requiem for a W.R.E.N. -

Lepe House and Exbury House just round the river bend, were home to a large contingent of W.R.E.N.’s during the war. Many of these young women enjoyed long days and nights, skippering and piloting fleets of motor launches and landing craft up and down the coast and its various river based establishments here, as well as fetching and carrying senior Navy and Army officers from the constant assortment of ships passing through the Solent.

Nevil Chute was also in the Navy and based here at Lepe House for a while. He was so inspired by the area and the work of the W.R.E.N.’s that he wrote the book “Requiem for a W.R.E.N”.


Lepe Foreshore with the front of Lepe House just showing on left of picture, the Watch House itself and the Coastguard's Cottages to the right of picture.

Chapter 8.  We Lucky Few -

I’ve been so very fortunate to live just over a mile up the lane from Lepe, for the last 35 years, allowing my children to enjoy frequent access to its beautiful and relatively safe shoreline as they grew up. They’ve shared countless adventures and mischief’s (I hope) along this stretch of coast with their friends over the years, as well as the swimming and the BBQ parties, and after all this time, rarely does a week go by when I’m not to be found gazing out across the water here, particularly at sundown.

The setting of the Watch House is so natural and peaceful especially on quiet, calm, balmy evenings when the sea is mostly still, the air has that distinctive salty coastal freshness about it and all you can hear are the sounds of birdsong, the soft sloshing of water and the lazy chimes of distant bell buoy's resonating over the gently undulating waves. Quite magical...

And then your phone rings!
Andrew & Joanna - larking about in the sand at Lepe
around 14 years ago. The Watch House in the background.

When the kids were both at home until a few years back, we would always pile into the car and career off down to the beach here when a big storm brewed up, just as everyone else was leaving. And even now, if there’s a big storm or a decent thunderstorm at night, I’ll head for Lepe and park up by the Watch House, call my son on the mobile only to find he’s just parked up a few hundred yards ahead of me and is in the process of sending me a text message.

Boys will always be ‘Boys’.

Epilogue.


Taken at 4.45pm today 28th Jan - 2011, in a temperature of minus 3 degrees
with the incoming tide swirling around my ankles.


Looking westwards (Really Phil!?) (Yes really. It's where the sun sets up here.) (Oh Wow Phil, you're so brainy!) (Yeaagh...I know) - towards North America which can just be seen about 3500miles away in the background...

 (Go on....admit it....you had a quick glance at the horizon didn't you!!...okay it was just a peek...evasoquick....but you have to admit - you diiiiiiid looook.  Hmmm.  And now you're feeling just an incy wincy bit ... 'D'oh!' ... with just the hint of a smirk. Cos you know you bin caught!

 The Watch House however, can be seen a little more clearly
in the background right of this picture. (Don't worry. It really is there, so you can relax now and have a good old gawp at it.)


This is not the most impressive sunset I've witnessed
here by a good margin, but it's the best me and Mother Nature could conjure up between us ce soir.


Shortly after this I slunk off home, peeled my sodding wet boots and socks off and stuck my feet in the microwave for about 10 minutes - on 'defrost'.


Worst cheese on toast I've ever had.




What's going on down here? ...... Ooooh! ...  it's gone all dark ... well 'Bollocks' to this then ...

I'm off  to bed ...
Nitee Nite...

24 comments:

Ayak said...

What a very interesting post Phil, and beautiful photos. How exciting to find out all this about your great-uncle. Hope you manage to discover more and build up the story.
xx

Phil said...

Thanks Ayak. Close to my heart is this, and in more layers and levels than I can ever blog about here. My great uncle 'CJ' was an extraordinary man, living in equally extraordinary times. Made more so when you learn that he was born into the same East End of London late 19th century poverty as my own grandfather Charlie (CJ's much younger brother), then plucked out of that existence by the Jesuits and given an intensive classic European college education in Belgium & Switzerland, on discovering his natural ability & brilliance with languages.

Then after somehow surviving four hellish years in WW1, to be able to establish himself at a senior executive level within the elitist schooled clique that prevailed at Reuters in the 20's & 30's and thus to be able to move freely amongst the glamorous social classes of that era in Paris & Rome, was quite remarkable. And that as I now know, was just the beginning of his more serious adventures into the dark and unforgiving world of espionage and deception.

I've been adding to and editing this post quite a bit during the last 90 minutes, so you might want to have another quick glance sometime and see if you've missed anything obvious. paricularly in the middle chunk! Have a good evening both of you. I'm going orf to stoke up my belly welly, and yes this story will be cont'd later. Ta. xx 'Tis bloody cold over here tonight'.

Natalie said...

Hi Phil, I will have to come back later to read your post as it is first thing in the morning and still have not had my caffeine fix. I love the pictures though. They are truly beautiful.

Phil said...

And a great big "Hiya Back" to you too Natalie - and welcome to a crispy frosty morning over here in old Britannia. Thanks for making the journey over here earlier and for your kind comments. I'm just sorry I didn't have the 'Gaggia' turned on when you got here. Very rude of me.

I'll leave the key under the blog in future, then you can help yourself freely to as many cups of Lavazza as you like. Love your own site by the way. What a fascinating selection of Turkish culture and informative posts. Come back soon as you can, and I'll see you at yours again very shortly. Have a happy day.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

Amazing pictures...they are all so beautiful. Each one captures the mood differently, yet manages to be stunning in its own right!

Interesting story as well...its so good to read one with images along with it :)

Phil said...

Hello Siddhartha and thank you too for your very kind comments. It is a beautiful part of the south coast here and the setting of the Watch House makes it a very popular target for a great many hobbyist photographers, least of all me. I’ve spent many an autumn dusk, standing up to my bum in water without a care in the world, just waiting for the light to change or the clouds to part.

More often than not, Mother Nature likes to play games and tease you mercilessly – waiting patiently till you’ve waded ashore again and packed up all your gear, and then she’ll just pull the curtains open again and beam her mocking smile at you.

I have to smile though too, because she knows she’s the boss, and that I’ll keep coming back to try and catch her out, in a relaxed, less playful frame of mind.

You may want to take a look at this poem by Rudyard Kipling: http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_bellbuoy.htm

Glad you enjoyed the story. My difficulty is trying to keep it this brief. Brevity is not one of my strengths.

Love the look of your two blogs by the way Siddhartha. Tons to pour through there. I'll be sneaking back over again sometime later to indulge in some more sightseeing with you. Stay in touch!

The Sagittarian said...

Great photos and very interesting post to go along with them! I love heading to our beaches rain or shine, actually now that I think about it I reckon rain is better at the beach. Yes, for sure (shore?) :-)

Phil said...

“Hello New Zealand!” and Welcome…

Many thanks for your comments here. Sorry I wasn’t in when you called. I too am a ‘Saggytarious’, and proud of being a bit ‘off the wall’ too. ‘Forshore’. I certainly enjoy the drama and the spectacle of a good storm off the beach. I think it’s a ‘power drama’ thing. Mother Nature letting us know she’ll do as she pleases when she pleases and there’s nothing we can do about it, except watch.

And you don’t need me to tell you about big storms and truly world class stunning beach vistas – living down there in beautiful N.Z. as you do.

Next time you drop in, take a look at the youtube video links that are shown towards the latter end of my post entitled ‘San Sebastian & The Basque Brit Connection’. There is one there which shows some pretty impressive storm waves arriving at Mont Urgull in san Sebastian, off the Bay of Biscay.

I’ll pop down shortly to visit your blog. Which means you’ve got about ten minutes at the most to panic, and tidy everything up.

Leeeaaaviiiiing………..’Now!’.

sim only said...

Great photos and very interesting post to go along with them! I love heading to our beaches rain or shine, actually now that I think about it I reckon rain is better at the beach

Phil said...

Hi Simonly. Thanks for your comments. Personally I prefer a good old storm, with crashing waves and a slight sting of sea spray, but I'll just as easily settle for the quiet, peaceful, tranquil version on a warm night sat on the sand, next to a small crackling fire, with the rumble of distant thunder and a decent lightening show to 'Imax' it all up a bit in perfect 3D.

But in truth, probably no rain, unless I can sit under a makeshift shelter, in which case the pitter patter of rain drops always makes it feel very cosy.

An absolute must though, is the chirping chorus of 'cicadas'.

As an Englishman, a 'No Cicada' night, is simply 'Not Cricket'.

(Chirp Chirp!)

Steve said...

What an astonishingly well researched and documented piece of research - and what a fabulous introduction to your blog. Where have you been all of my life? So glad you dropped the atomic weight of your humour onto my blog and blasted me across to yours.

Only one disappointment: where's our Kate? ;-)

Phil said...

Hi Steve! Sorry sir - didn’t hear your jester’s bells earlier. Caught me with my pants down, half in and out of my ‘jim jams’, trying to shave and remake the coffee at the same time. Don’t you just hate it when you dip the razor in your cappuccino while taking a swig of shaving foam at the same time? EEEEUWE!!

Thank you too for your kind comments - and 'Welcome!'. Researching this one, and in particular CJ’s life, has been (and still is) for me a fascinating learning experience. There is so much more to the central part of this tale. The downside of researching ancestors involved in the ‘spying game’ is that there is so little information available ‘above the radar’, as most of the details of his activities have long since been washed, burnt and buried on Mars.

The journey that evolved for me, was to uncover as much as I could about reported historical events and people from his universe, whom he may have been circling around during his missions and travels – in the hope that eventually you will ‘trip over his scent’ here and there, and thus pick up his trail.

It’s a bit like stumbling around underground in a complex of caves for a number of weeks, vainly shining your torch about into the blackness, and then just as your batteries start to fade, you catch the tiniest glint of a sparkle. It’s what I call a ‘nugget moment’. Really sucks and teases you in to even deeper darker uncharted places you would otherwise never have visited. Totally absorbing and addictive.

So sorry you missed our Kate! She’s hiding out of the limelight on page 2 of this blog. Regretfully now it’s only a sparse homage to her charms, but she’s definitely ‘in’ cos I just had a look to make sure. I think once I’ve read ‘Under the Ivy’ (Thanks again for the great tip Steve), maybe I should do a repost as a promo for his book and do her a much more deserving justice.

Did you say she ‘Blogs’ herself by the way? And is that little ‘birdy’ of yours a tried and trusted source concerning your intel that KB has another musical offering on the way? I can hear the clicks of the ‘Bloggerazzi’ already.

Steve said...

Not sure if the alluring Ms Bush blogs herself - I merely meant she was great subject matter for a blog - but yes, musically, I think she may be about to pour forth another cup full of her bushy glory. One can only hope and wait with baited breath...

Mark said...

That was a post and a half , and a bit more actually. The house by the shore reminds me of Dylan Thomas's house at Laugherne near my home in Wales

Phil said...

Hi Mark – Yes I agree. Not so much of a blog as a blogopic. Being a new cook in the kitchen, I still haven’t learnt how to limit my ingredients and keep it simple. I just get carried away and keep ‘adding bits’ from the larder all the time.

That said, I could easily outline a book about my ancestor CJ and his exploits here. Perhaps I should reappraise myself with the word ‘Installments’ next time. Make it episodic. Learn how to leave them on the edge of their scroll buttons and so on. My poor excuse for the mo, is like the boy in the bath analogy…”It’s mine and I’ll play with it as much as I like”.

I just checked out some images of Laugherne on Google maps, and it came up with a number of pictures of Dylan Thomas’s boat house. You’re bang on their Mark. What a similarity! And what a stunningly beautiful part of the world. No wonder you choose to live there. It’s clearly very special, and I can see where you get a lot of your writing inspirations and musings from.

The nearest I’ve come to Laugherne was when I was trying to build up speed on the M4 to make the leap off the end of Wales to Ireland, via Fishguard. Next time I’ll set off a day earlier and divert. Thanks.

P.S. – ‘Just in case’ you don’t know? Check out this link. There is mention of current local writers and poets, whom you may well already know:

http://www.laugharne.co.uk/

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Absolutely fascinating. And your photos put mine to shame. Not done in five minutes either. I find once a week blogging difficult to keep up. Your posts are well worth keeping somehow for posterity/family etc. Am plodding through an autobiographical work. 70,000 words to date. On a good day I think its ok, on a bad day i think its crap. Will be back. Good luck.

Phil said...

Hi Sir GOK! I'm so so sorry I missed your visit to my little blogette here sir - especially so as you are now an accredited Bloggastar of some distinguished note! It's akin to being out when Sir Michael Caine calls round for coffee! Truth is, I was actually over at your Blogdom, bumping around down stairs in your Blog's basement, looking at some of your older posts and having a jolly good time of it. You must have been the driver of that Bentley, I saw going the other way when I was cycling over to yours earlier.

Thanks Ken for your very kind comments here. You're a true gentleman and a scholar and a great blogging inspiration to us all.

70,000 words? Now that's what I call a pretty large preface Ken. Tolstoy's War & Peace translated into about 560,000 words and 1400 pages. So.."You're gonna need a bigger biro!"

Stick me on your mailing list for the book signing and don't stop writing your ‘auto biog’ no matter how crap you might think it is some days.

My Mum was 70 years of age when her first of five books were published. That was 12 years ago and she's currently pumping out two more completed book narratives to all the publishers.

I truly am a big admirer of your blog Ken. You have a wonderful gift for telling a story and a hilarious take on the world at large. I see from your blog that you are also a fan of 'The Goons'. So am I. My father worshipped them and it was with them that my own sense of humour was born. I still listen to all their CD's nowadays too. Hopefully we’ll chat about Milligan and co some more in the future.

Come back whenever you can. Your comments will always be warmly received Ken. Thanks again. x

Danielle said...

Hello Phil, very interresting post indeed, I'm French and I've never heard of this treasure of Vichy stashed in Martinique, people do not know much, and more, they think it is the Americans who did all the job on D day , probably because of John Wayne.
Kipling is one of my favorite authors, especially the Second Book of Jungle, we always had good translators in France ...

About TE Lawrence one quote that I love

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible
T. E. Lawrence

Thanks for the visit
Have good winds

Danielle

the fly in the web said...

I sent a comment...and only now realise that it has been Bloggered!
A wonderful post, Phil.

Phil said...

Bon Soir Danielle – et bienvenue à ma petite Blogette!

Thank you for your kind comments. I have been trying to get back over to your blog all day, to leave you with some more information about the Vichy gold. But I keep getting called to action over here. Tomorrow I will leave some more comments on your Blog, which might help you a little more.

I also had a distant Aunt, who I had many interesting conversations with about her time in the S.O.E. during WW2.

Her name was Rene and she worked along side Vera Atkins and Maurice Buckmaster. Her main responsibilities were in the final detailed preparations of the French agents, during their final few weeks of training before they were parachuted into France.

She became very friendly with Violette Szabo during her training, and was literally one of the last people to wave goodbye to Violette on the day she flew off to be dropped into France.

Thank you for your quote from TE Lawrence. Very true too. He was quite an extraordinary man.

You certainly did have good translators in France. My great uncle Cornelius (CJ) spoke French as well as he spoke English, and after the war he helped to translate ‘de Gaulle’s’ personal memoirs into English.

Keep in touch and…Avoir une très bonne soirée!

Phil said...

Flyyy! You mean you've been Bbbbb..Blogga'd Yet Again!!?

Bbbbb..Bluddy Blogga!

But thank you!

Valerie said...

I can comment again! Woot! Really enjoyed this post, the photos, and the history. What a great story about your uncle! So far I've only unraveled that my family doesn't extend too far beyond brick layers, makers of low-grade Italian hooch, and are all quite possibly more related before marriage than should be allowed. Lovely.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hi Valerie. Thank you kindly for your comments here. Glad that you are able to make them stick again. I still don't know what was causing that problem?

Re: "..more related before marriage" etc - polite laugh! With you there in full. This is one of the problems with digging around on one's ancestral back yard of course. You never know what you're going to uncover about your tribe.

Imagine finding out you had some nasty felon or worse, lurking around in your family history?! Even worse, imagine discovering your parents were not necessarily your parents!! Some people must have. Fortunately, so far, I haven’t found anything smelly, but you never know what’s hiding in the archives.

My great Uncle Cornelius has become a bit of a legend over here in the last few years, because until I picked up his trail, no-one in the wider family knew anything about his real exploits. He has a living grandson down in Australia, who I made contact with through Ancestry a couple of years back. Highly educated ex Harrow guy, who was himself trying to uncover some facts about his Grandfather here for his Ancestry family tree site. Having dialogued with him a couple of times, I then sent him three months worth of facts, letters, files, interview notes, theories, links and other stuff about Cons life and travels that I'd found to date, in order to share it with him and thus take the whole research thing forward together.

Never heard a dick bird since from him. Even though I've sent him several polite emails to enquire if he's ok, and did he receive the info etc. Not a jot. He has posted much of the stuff on his Ancestry site though!! Ha ha. What an A.H.! People eh?

The good news is that since then, I've uncovered alot of truly fascinating facts and stories about him and his involvement in black opp's WW2 missions and so on. I'm now in correspondence with a couple of journalists who have written extensively about a lot of secret mission stuff that is only just beginning to see the light of day, because my theory is, that he was the actual courier spy who took the ultra secret 'Berlin Letter' from Churchill, up through South America and the Caribbean, and on to Roosevelt and Wild Bill Donovan themselves in Washington in the fall of 1941. More about this letter and the mission behind it later perhaps, but it reads like a story straight out of 'spy fiction'. The big and exciting difference though, is that it's not fiction, and the people who were involved in these operations that lasted for several months at a time in far flung hostile lands, were very real, very bright, and very very brave.

Fingers crossed for now then...

P.S. One of Cornelius's brothers - Charlie, my own Grandfather - was a bricky in the east end of London. I loved that man to bits and still do, even though he passed away many years ago. Grandad Charlie was the most charming lovable rogue you're ever likely to meet. He just made everyone laugh and smile all the time. Something which he passed on in full and then some, to my own truly wonderful and exceptional late Father.

It was Charlie who used to cart me off around London all the time to see all the sights, museums, galleries and so on, when I was a boy. He sewed the seeds of art and culture interest into me at an early and impressionable age.

How then can I ever thank him, other than to continue doing what I'm doing in researching his Brothers exploits, so that future generations of our family will remember and understand the parts they all played during some of our countries more challenging periods in modern history. P.

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