11/11/2011

11 November: we remember

Today  11 November, was first known as Armistice day, but has various names in different countries. On it we remember many people, some of whom displayed enormous courage.


The original name, Armistice day, marked the commemmoration of the armistice which ended the first world war on the Western Front: it was signed at 11am on 11 November 1918 in a railway carriage in Compiègne forest. The same carriage, in the same place, saw the signing of a second Armistice between Germany and France on 22 June 1940. The day is also variously known as Remembrance day in teh British Commonwealth and Veterans day in the USA. An official holiday in France and Belgium, it is also known as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields.

The BBC today, in reporting on different aspects of the day, concentrated on a school from which no less than three former pupils won the highest military honour for bravery in the same year: 1941, seventy years ago. By a strange coincidence, two of the three were Scots called Campbell: Major-General John Charles (Jock) Campbell and Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, with the third being Second Lieutenant George Ward Gunn. Of these three, the latter two died during their action.

Kenneth Campbell was the pilot of a four man team in a Bristol Beaufort bomber who was sent to attack the German Battleship Gneisenau, then moored in Brest harbour, but which represented a major threat to British shipping. They managed to drop a torpedo which damaged the battleship, but were then shot down and killed.

After the war, when the British were serious competitors in the race to develop commercial jet aviation, the Vickers-Armstrong Aircraft company developed a long-range aircraft with four rear-mounted engines, and which was specifically aimed at being able to use hot and high airports in Africa, many of which had relatively short runways. As a tribute to holders of the Victoria Cross, these aircraft were named VC-10, with each one being named after a particular holder of the VC, including Kenneth Campbell.

Although the VC-10 did not make the same impact on aviation as Boeing and Douglas, they are still remembered for two different reasons. One reason is their speed: the subsonic record for a trans-atlantic flight is still held by a VC-10. The second is from their conversion to an in-flight refuelling rôle for the RAF.

Currently, military aircraft, especially fighter aircraft, clearly fly much faster. The Swiss are presently trying to decide which of three possible jet fighters will be chosen to replace the current outdated aircraft. No doubt the militatry experts will want to choose the "best" one, but the political world may want to avoid the French Rafale aircraft because President Sarkozy is reported to be attacking Switzerland as a tax haven. Fortunately, it is certainly excluded that he should use his own Rafales in his attack!

 

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Comments

merci d'y avoir pensé pour tous ceux tombés au combat !la presse romande en a fait peu cas et pourtant la Grande Guerre fut terrible mais heureusement de plus en plus de jeunes commencent à reprendre confiance grâce aussi aux anciens disparus,et veulent connaitre leur histoire,comme quoi tout n'est pas perdu

Posted by: lovsmeralda | 11/11/2011

Mike, you're obviously knowledgeable in aircraft and military matters: I'd like to hear your views as to why the Swiss need a fighter aircraft. Indeed I have my doubts. I'm by no means a bleeding heart "leftie" but it seems to me that the potential threats to Switzerland are more from cyber-terrorism possibly aimed at banks and related to the country's image as a tax haven, or from low-level Islamic extremism related to the minarets or burqa affairs, neither of which need fighter aircraft. However if we have that kind of money too spend, I would go for top class attack helicopters.

Posted by: Ashwani Singh | 11/12/2011

Not really knowledgable, and I won't comment on how the Swiss choose to spend their money on military hardware.
However, the lesson of Libya is that without a fighter presence in the air things don't go very well!
I certainly think that there are many threats which will not be aviation-based: religious extremism is one, computer hacking on a big scale is another one.

Posted by: Mike Gerard | 11/12/2011

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