Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Titanic, the Woman who sank 3 times.

In 1908 the White Star Line began the construction of 3 giant Olympic Class Ocean Liners that would be the three biggest ships ever built. In 1911 the first, RMS Olympic was completed, followed by RMS Titanic in 1912 and RMS Brittanic in 1915. While the Titanic’s story has become legend, the fact the other two ships had major disasters too remains more obscure.

Enter Violet Jessop born in Argentina in 1887 to Irish parents Violet had her first encounter with death at a young age as she survived tuberculosis. In 1911 Violet got a job on the newly completed RMS Olympic, the largest ship in the world and considered unsinkable. As the ship steamed out of Southampton on an ill-fated journey to New York the Olympic was hit by the aging Royal Navy ship HMS Hawk which was fitted with a ram. The ram tore deeply into the Olympic's hull, flooding three of her sixteen water tight compartments (it would take five to flood to sink her as happened to Titanic) and Olympic was able to safely limp back to Southampton.

With the Olympic laid up for major repairs Violet was transferred to the Titanic and set sail on her maiden voyage 6 months later. On the fateful night Violet recalls being ushered onto a life boat pretty early so had a rather easy time of the most famous disaster, but not so of the next one. During WWI Violet volunteered for the Red Cross and was crazily posted on the third sister ship, Brittanic, which was serving as a hospital ship. In 1916 in the Aegean the Brittanic struck a mine and went down in 30mins, unlike the Titanic’s 2 hours. Violet made it to a lifeboat again but this time the lifeboat didn't make it clear of the Britannic's huge propellers and was sucked in, violet was forced to leap from the life boat amongst the dismembered limbs of the propeller's victims expecting to be killed to but instead was sucked underwater by the disappearing hull. As she was sucked under the water as the ship went down she banged her head against the keel fracturing her skull.
You would think this third disaster would be enough and she wouldn’t want to go near the water let alone another Olympic class ship. But after the war Violet returned to work on the now repaired Olympic for another five years and continued sailing until 1950 when she retired at the age of 63.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

WWII Suicide Bombers?

What did allied bombing missions do when they ran out of bombs?

Nicholas Alkemade
In 1944, Alkemade's Lancaster was attacked by nightfighters and caught fire, it began to spiral out of control which caused the tail gunner somewhat of of problem. Trapped in the plane, the flames moving towards him, his parachute charred embers, Alkemade had the choice of a deaths, either a Joan of Arc or a 9/11 jumper. He chose the latter and lept from the plane at a height of 5500 metres, fingers crossed this was the less painful death of the two, but instead of becoming a blob of strawberry jam he had the good fortune to hit the canopy of several pine trees that cushioned his fall and landed on a mattress of soft snow. The poor guy though did sprain his leg. The Gestapo made the pretence they were a bit miffed with his story at first when he was captured but in truth were 
probably getting used to it by then........ read on.

                                                                     Watch the video version of this article.

Ivan Chisov
In 1942 in the middle of a raging air and land battle and while his plane was being attacked by several German fighters, the Soviet Pilot decided to take a stroll out the door of his plane at 7000 metres. If you think that was rather eccentric he then decided to not to open his perfectly functioning parachute strapped to his back thinking it may attract machine gun fire and it could kill him, unlike falling 7000 metres. Ivan then lost consciousness by the time he was out of machine gun range, so unable to open his parachute but fortunately still had the good aim to hit the side of a snowy ravine sliding and rolling down the side till he came to a safe halt right at the feet of of a troop of Soviet cavalry who whisked him unharmed from the battlefield to safety.
Not to be outdone the Americans quickly got one of their pilots to throw himself into the skies. Alan Magee was in a Flying Fortress over France in 1943 when a clumsy German pilot shot one of the wings off at 6700 metres. The plane started spiralling toward the ground and the wounded Magee, his parachute shredded had the choice going down with the plane or just beside it, he chose the latter. Losing consciousness after he bailed out he miss the horror movie that follow. In an act of precision bombing he managed to break his fall by crashing through the glass roof of St Nazaire railway station sustaining several broken bones, a partially severed arm, lung, kidney, and face damage. How many train passenger suffered heart attacks from the surprise is unrecorded. Fortunately the Germans had the technology to rebuild him and create the world's first 6 Million Deutschemarks man, and he lived to ripe old age.