Army And Navy Surplus – Retail Clothing Part Seven

I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…

I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.

What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.

Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.

Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…

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The Extremely Wild Blue Yonder

Never having been in any army, navy, or air force means I am disqualified from writing about military service. But I am allowed to read about it and to think about it…

I’m also allowed to look at maps and clocks and do mathematics. Recently I considered the twin bombing campaigns of the Second World War in Europe that were conducted against the Axis by the RAF and USAAF. By and large they came from much the same areas in the UK and went to much the same areas in Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy. What they did there is different but that is the subject of another post.

First let’s consider the ranges: from the UK to the deepest part of Germany – about 800 miles. Anything less is a shorter distance. If you get shot down you only have to fly the one way.

Night Time: RAF, Bomber Command. Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings, etc. Speed of laden aircraft: about 250 miles per hour. They needed about 3 and a half hours to get there and somewhat less to get back. If they were going to drop their bombs in the darkest part of the night – about 2:00 AM – they needed to start from the UK at about 10:00 or 10:30 in the evening. Which meant the crew would have started to get ready to go at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Day Time: USAAF, 8th Air Force. B-17’s and B-24’s. Speed much the same. Bomb load sacrificed for defensive capability. Again the same time there and back but with more flak and fighters. What time did they want to be over the target? Well, enough light to let the Nordens see the ground, but hopefully while the locals were still reeling from the night attack. So, perhaps early in the morning?

That would have meant a takeoff at 3:30 AM with the difficulty of setting off in darkness and forming up before dawn. If you are going to fly and fight in a box formation, trying to get into it in the dark would have been murder.

Or did it matter all that much – did they just accept that they were going to get pasted all the way in and all the way out and just opt for an easier takeoff when there was light? Off the ground at 5:00 and over Vienna at 8:30 then back either by noon or never again?

I wish I had more information about the timing of the actual bombing raids. There must have been some occasions when the planners had to do traffic cop duty to keep the returning stream of bombers separate from the outgoing one.

The Air Force Haircut

Mickey Spillane – the novelist who wrote the Mike Hammer series of detective thrillers – was a man with a head – and his head grew hair. As he was not a violin player he had to get it cut frequently and he is reported to have favoured barbers located outside Air Force bases as they knew how to give their clients an Air Force haircut.

I think Mickey was a wise man – because every time I go to the barber these days I get a hairdresser. If I wanted to have my hair dressed, I would take up violin playing…

Thankfully, this week I discovered how to get what I – and Mickey  – wanted from the barber. When I was asked how I wished to have it cut I told him do it Air Force short. Further enquiry tried to specify a comb size so we did an experiment starting at a high number and racking it back until it looked like I wanted it to look. I appear to be a No. 2 comb – a little more hair than basic training but pretty even up there.

I do not imagine I will get the same barber next time – they seem to belong to a travelling trade – but I will remember the Air Force line and the No. 2 comb.

One Of My Better Ones

I have ideas, you see. Well, it’s only to be expected – I’m retired and my mind is not required to worry about other people’s money or health – so I’m free to fret about my own.

But I don’t.

I have long realised that mostly it all proceeds on an even keel if you do not go to excess in anything. I’ve even cut down on my moderation. It’s meant a loss in income for the gin joints and the gals of easy reputation, but on the other hand I can spend the money on toy cars and model airplanes. The lady at the hobby shop is starting to wink at me as she operates the till…

Now back to the idea. I have a collection of model airplanes on model airfields. I know a number of flashy females who dance, pose, and generally glam it up all round the shop. So I have decided to combine the two by making the ladies into WWII ” nose art ” on the airplanes. There’ll be an exhibition in June at the belly dancing convention and then I’ll post the pictures on the toy and model photography pages.

Already I have 8 images completed and I haven’t even started shooting the fresh material – good glamour is ageless and older pictures are just as good as new ones when you make them into posters.

Of course, there are sacrifices. I am now compelled to go to the hobby shop and buy more model kits so as to have enough noses for all the girls. I shall have to spend my waking hours chained to the model bench or the studio shooting for the exhibition. I will only take time out to eat, drink, sleep, and read racy novels.

After all, I have a duty to culture, eh?

Yehudi

And I don’t actually mean the violin player…

You can wiki up the term ” Yehudi ” and get a fine ethnographic and biblical explanation of tribes of Israel and the evolution of the word into modern terms – both good and bad. Enjoy yourself.

I find it interesting that the term was applied to a  series of experiments in WWII that revolved around anti-submarine warfare. I was darned if I could think of a connection between this Hebrew word and the eventual wartime use. Then came the internet.

The Yehudi lights were lamps of variable brightness on the leading edges of aircraft wings, around the engines, and around the noses that were meant to make the dark aircraft silhouette blend in with a lighter sky. Our heading image is a Bristol Bolingbroke so equipped – though the black tyres spoil the illusion somewhat. The experiments found that they could reduce the distance at which an attacking Allied bomber was seen from the ocean’s surface from 5 miles to about 2.5 miles – a considerable advantage. Little use was made of them, however, past the experiments.

But it gets stranger. Yehudi Menuhin, the famous violin player, was a guest on many radio shows of the time. Apparently the comedy writers for the Bob Hope Show had a running gag where he was meant to arrive but didn’t – leading Jerry Colonna to put out the catchphrases ” Who’s Yehudi? “, and ” Where’s Yehudi? “. It became slang for a mysterious person who was never seen.

Perfect for RCAF and USAAF bombers over the grey Atlantic, sneaking up on U-boats.

But where does it leave us with the modern practice of putting rows of LED lights at the front of German prestige cars that light up in daytime. Are they sneaking up on us? Have they learned a valuable lesson?

Note For Today: It is officially Australian Federation Day today – the day in January 1901 when the disparate states and territories of Australia were drawn together as a nation. Dame Nellie Melba sang ” I’m A Little Teapot “, the Governor-General smashed a bottle of Tooheys on the prow of the HMAS CRIKEY as she slid down the ways at Dubbo, and the NBN was announced. A fine historic day for a new nation.

The Manhattan Project Party

A recent phone call from a friend has suggested a project for the new year.

Our local SES has used water bombers for a number of years to help cope with bush fires. I am going to propose that they acquire a Canadair CL 415 amphibious fixed-wing airplane and lend it out to me for party purposes.

The aircraft has a tank that will hold 6100 litres of water or fire retardant. If we clean the tank well, we can use it as a giant cocktail mixer.

4000 litres of rye whiskey, 2000 litres of Cinzano Rosso, a bath tub full of orange bitters and a truckload of lemon peel should do it. Take off from the local light plane airport, go to max height until the tank cools down, and then head back to Perth at 500ft.

If we gather the guests on one of the local football ovals, glasses in hand ( or, for that matter, water buckets…) the pilot will be instructed to dump the load as soon as he clears the perimeter of the ground. Those who wish to stand there with their heads held back and their mouths open may do so. If the crowd is dense enough there should be little spillage.

I am still trying to locate a serviceable B-24 to deliver the canapés and snacks. If they can get a Norden bombsight this can be done from 4000 ft. In the interest of public safety we are going to avoid anything with bamboo skewers.

 

I Want A Job As A Test Pilot

A test pilot in a toy factory. Or a book store. Or a pin-up studio. Something with dignity, intellect, and a big tray of cakes for morning tea.

I did health care until I didn’t care anymore – I’ve done retail sales until they took sharp things away from me and started making soothing noises. I’ve done studying until I couldn’t see straight. I’d like something different.

” Oh “, I hear you say, ” You’re retired now. It is time to take a trip around Australia towing a caravan or go to the Greek isles and look at tourists. Or potter in a garden. ” Do these two fingers mean anything to you?

I like to think of it as retyrement. A fresh set of treads and an opportunity to do burnouts at the lights. Old enough to know better but not inclined to pay attention to the voice of reason. It is partly the reason that I write these weblog columns and entirely the reason I write them the way I do. I detest a day without doing, and I am getting to the point where I am not that fussy what or who it is I do…

It is just as well that I realise the need to be canny with money – if I were flush with cash all Hell would break loose. And the funny thing is, I would not have as good a time with unlimited spending as I do under the current regime. There is comfort in frugal endeavour and delight when it actually succeeds.

Note: I would accept employment in a suburban bank, as long as I was allowed to serve at the window and actually be there when people started to queue up. I detest the modern bank that has no serving officers in the teller’s cages. I’d love to bring back the old days of face-to-face cheque and passbook work.