Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 157

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Saturday - Monday, May 1 - 3 2010 (diary)

Winston Graham I am in a frenzy reading through volume after volume of Winston Graham's marvelous Poldark Series. The complete series consists of 12 volumes of which the Palmerston Library has seven on their shelves, so I have requested they order the other five to complete the series.
They are historic novels set in Cornwall during the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars (1790-1820). Graham vividly describes English country life of those days and the saga of the Poldark family. Once you start on it you just can't put the books down.
I did read most of the volumes back in the 1980s when studying music in Adelaide, but during my travels lost all the copies I had.

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Tuesday, May 4 2010 (diary, WW2)

With Wivica, April 2008 It is my sister's birthday today. So "Happy Birthday Wivica, I hope you have a nice day." I suspect she will be off with a friend to the Bodensee for the day, perhaps to the flower island of Mainau and have some "Kaffee und Kuchen" there.

To break my marathon read of the Poldark saga I have started on a most unusual history book : Forgotten Voices of the Second World War.
Compiled by author Max Arthur it is a collection of eye witness accounts of soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians recorded over the past 30 years and stored in the Sound Archive of the (British) Imperial War Museum. The stories range from hilarious to surprising to gruesome. To give you a taste of it here are some abbreviated ones of the lighter variety.

Stanley Allen : Recruit, Royal Navy, 1939
A petty officer said to me "Here, you long bastard, you come and stand over here." I was brought up in a church home, and of course he must have seen my face, and said, "Oh, don't take any notice, Lofty. If we calls you a bastard, we loves you."

Peter Brothers, shot down 10 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain Peter Brothers : Flight Lieutenant, RAF, 1940
When we went into action for the first time, on the 10th of May 1940, we were told to ground-strafe an airfield in Holland, which had been captured by the Germans.
On arrival there we found to our surprise the airfield covered with burnt out (German) Junker 52s troop transport aircraft. Then we found one undamaged aircraft parked between some hangars. We set that one on fire and came back to base.

It was some months later before we discovered that the Dutch had recaptured the airfield just before our arrival. They'd destroyed those aircraft on the ground, leaving one in which to escape to England. And that was the one we set on fire.

Corporal Edgar Rabbets : Sniper, Northamptonshire Regiment, 1940
There were some Belgians, who were ploughing a field down two sides so that the corner pointed towards our headquarters. This was for the benefit of enemy aircraft, who duly arrived and plastered our headquarters out of existence. We lost our first colonel through that. It was somewhere between the Oudenaarde ad Ypres areas. The ground had been ploughed in a form of an arrow, aiming straight at our headquarters.
No farmer ploughs his land that way. After that, when I noticed anybody ploughing wrongly, he got shot. I shot two of them who were doing that. They knew what they were doing - I knew what they were doing - so there was no need to say anything.

James Merrett : Ground gunner, RAF, 1940
I went in the pub the first night I came back from France (Dunkirk), and the landlord said to me "Oh, we thought you'd been took prisoner." And old Bill, the postman, took one look along the bar. He said. "I told you if there's only one bugger come back it'll be him."

Eric Hill : eight-year-old living in Southampton, 1940
One night when the air-raid sirens blew we had to dive for cover. I remember we were in the air-raid shelter for three, four hours until we got the all-clear to come out.
When we came out the high street was running with melted margarine and butter because they'd hit the cold storage. My mother and most of the women just grabbed handfuls of this butter and rammed it into their bags.

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Wednesday, May 5 2010 (diary, WW2, Garand rifle)

Gemeentehuis in Gorssel On the 4th of May the Dutch remember their dead from World War 2 (and presumably now too those soldiers fallen in more recent conflicts). National flags would fly half mast and there would be one minute silence at 6 in the afternoon. I am not sure whether that still is the case.
But on 5 May we celebrate Bevrijdingsdag (the day of liberation in 1945 from the German occupation). On this day both Gorssel's primary schools would march to the Gorssel Town hall, waving orange banners and red white and blue flags, then sing National songs to the Lord Mayor, who stood on the first floor balcony, representing our Queen.

Garand rifle, my weapon during basic training in the army, 1963 I was a very skinny lad in those days, prone to easy fainting as a result of bloedarmoede (low red blood cell count, due to the long poor wartime diet).
Standing there singing in the Town hall square, closely surrounded by other school children, I, on at least one occasion, fainted and fell over. I fell against a friend in front of me who thought I was joking, so he pushed me back to another child standing behind me. So I was shoved around amongst my friends until I finally fell to the ground. An embarrassing experience to say the least.

Over the years I grew stronger and regained a healthy blood count, but many years later (in 1963-64) when doing my basic training in the army I was still very apprehensive about fainting at parades when we had to stay at attention and "present arms" (holding a heavy Garand rifle) for considerable periods of time. Fortunately I never fainted on any of those occasions.
As recruits we were rather fond of our Garands. I always "slept" with mine during overnight field exercises, keeping it in my sleeping bag, so that it would be dry and clean for the inevitable inspection next morning.
The Garand was quite tricky to load, and it was easy to hurt one's thumb when pushing ammunition into the spring loaded firing chamber, and I did end up with a blue thumb as a result of it, a Garand thumb as it was called. Once at the Artillery Officers School we changed over to the Uzi, a much easier to take apart and clean light machine gun, dead easy to load. I had no problems with that one.

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