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.

Well, We Never Killed Anybody…

I was busy adjusting the world the other day with my friend Warren – we meet during the week to condemn the guilty and praise the worthy. It is a mad session of tea and biscuits.

We agreed that we have both been very fortunate – his time as an airframe rigger in the Royal Australian Air Force did not result in any crashes or loss of life. For my part, my time as a dental surgeon did not result in any fatalities or overweening infections. We can both sleep soundly of a night with no ghosts haunting us.

But it begs the question; how many of the people we know can say the same, in their own fields of endeavour? We know many of the same people, and then others in different social sets…somewhere in that lot is bound to be a death or despair. A bankruptcy or suicide. A soul that was lost because of something that someone did…

I don’t want to know the answer to the question. It would colour my perception of the persons involved – even if there was no possibility of redemption or repair. Far better to remain ignorant of it.

This may not sound like the thing that the Right Evil Bastard of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia should say…but there is a difference between deliberate and artistic evil-doing and mere accidental disaster. I would far rather ambush a bus full of orphans with a 17 pounder than run over a cat with a Suzuki…

Warren is not so fussy. He has a new truck and is more impatient than I – he is hunting for lane-changing idiots on the road. I can hear the maniacal laughter now…

 

 

The New Submarine Has Been Named

Some time in the next few years we are going to get new submarines for the Royal Australian Navy. We’ve been floating and sinking the COLLINS class boats for several decades – and the O Class British boats before them. The COLLINS were a Swedish design that has sometimes proved problematical.

The new ones are derived from a French design as we still wish to deal with undersea craft on a non-nuclear basis. American and British designs are generally nuclear. So, of course are Russian, Chinese, and other French designs but Australia is more modest in her desires. She would like to torpedo anything the Indonesians can sail and that’s about it.

Well, they needed a new name for the new boats. One to start with and a number of others to follow. Canberra has decided on HMAS ATTACK…and despite some people thinking it a lame name, I like it. It opens the way for a whole slew of related names for the next boats to follow:

a. If it is to be themed on the letter ” A “. then you can look forward to ADVANCE, AUDACITY, ANGER, ADMIRAL, and lots of others martial choices.

b. If it is to be based upon the idea of attack, You can also include HMAS DEFEND, PROTECT, SHIELD, etc.

The COLLINS class boats were named after naval heroes, but in a lot of cases the general public had no idea who the heroes being honoured actually were. Not that this makes them any less worthy of notice, but that notice never seems to have been generated, and an attachment to the submarines on the part of the public and press did not develop. Public relations – particularly for things that the public pay for – is an important feature of modern life.

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.

And That’s Why They Make Swivel Guns

Look it up: swivel gun. Google should have a few pictures from maritime museums. Try to imagine the fun you could have with your own.

And it’s not just the owners of merchant ships passing the east coast of Africa who might appreciate a brace of ’em. Local boat owners who get sick of other people crowding them out in the marinas…or who are afflicted with saboteurs attacking their vessels while docked. Indeed, the Rottnest ferry would probably benefit as well.

The whalers and fishermen who are pestered by the Sea Shepherd gangsters would also appreciate the devices…after all the maritime nuisances do have a skull and crossbones as a symbol and I think that makes them fair and traditional game for a charge of canister over the taffrail.

For myself, as I do not own a boat, I would settle for just the one…mounted on the driver’s side door of my Suzuki Swift with a friction primer and the lanyard led inside through the window. I would use it in our local shopping centre car park for the drivers who loom up and menace you when you are trying to carefully back in or out. I would not be too mean…perhaps load it with Jaffas instead of grapeshot.

If it’s good enough for Johnny Depp and Geoffry Rush, it’s good enough for me.

Never Fire With No Target Sense

A long time ago before I was as discrete and wise as I am now…cough, cough, cough…I owned a brand-new muzzle loading rifled musket. It was a beauty, capable of throwing a one-ounce minie ball some 1200 yards. It was a man-killer of the British Army in the 1850’s and was certainly capable of doing it in 1988. The local police were willing to licence it to me, probably not realising what it could do.

Well, I shot it at the local rifle range for months, getting pretty good at short distances. Then I took it to a friend’s farm…legally, as it was on an open license. My friend and I proposed to fire it at a small tree on the farm to see if we could cut it in half with the heavy bullets. After an hour of firing, we succeeded, and then packed it in and sat around smugly.

It was only on my return journey toward the city that I saw the lay of the land and realised that all the bullets that had not impacted in the unfortunate tree had passed whistling over a main road that skirted the property. A main interstate highway…

It is said that heaven protects fools and drunks and I was cold sober all day. Guess which category I belonged in. I learned instantly never to fire with no purpose.

Works the same here in the writing game – if I slope off and just blast away without watching to see where the bullets will land, I am sure to do massive harm. Thus I keep a cooling-off shelf for new articles that allows me to reconsider them before pushing the ” publish ” button. You’ll have missed out on some corkers in the last few years here in the column, but then the overshoot could have been tragic.