Not really quite Frank Whittle’s story

It was an idea given little credibility at the time but pioneering tests on an invention 80 years ago were the beginnings of what brought the world into the jet age.
Bumbling bureaucrats dismissed Sir Frank Whittle’s idea as ‘impractical’, allowing Nazi engineers to peruse plans that could have won Britain the war with ease.
After years of being discredited, the RAF officer eventually tested his crude jet engine at a small factory in Rugby, Warwickshire, on April 12 1937.
Yet it would be years still before the RAF and the world would finally recognise the potential of an idea that allows millions to travel the globe today.
Frank Whittle was once rejected from the RAF, passing the academic test but failing physically, struggling with the physical assessment and measuring just five foot.
But after subjecting himself to a gruelling physical and diet regime, he applied again and was accepted, reporting for duty as an apprentice at RAF Cranwell in 1923.
Academically gifted, he was recommended for a cadetship and began RAF College at Cranwell, where students would write a scientific thesis every six months.
It was here that Whittle, obsessed with the future of aviation, first considered the idea of a jet engine that could fly at high altitudes and unfathomable speeds.

Re the engine itself, no, the RAF realised they had a blinder there. Also that 20s metallurgy wasn’t really going to be good enough. And by the time that was good enough we were in the early stages of preparing for the war (and the Ministry wasn’t that dumb, really, they knew very well that to build jets they needed tungsten the major supply of which was in Portugal – there’s record of a meeting between a Min. bod and Whittle confirming this). At which point, do we expend our resources on an untried new technology? Or build out those Spitfires etc which we know work and we can build in quantity?

For better or worse they took the second decision and it’s not obvious that that was the wrong one. In war good enough in quantity can be better than better but in short supply.

And his cadetship, according to the story, wasn’t quite like that either, as I’ve mentioned around here before. This is how the story goes at least.

Officers were gentlemen, by definition. Therefore only gentlemen could be allowed to become officers of course. An apprentice was someone who worked upon engines ‘n’stuff, an artificer perhaps. Not a gentleman’s occupation, obviously. Pilots were gentlemen, the mechanics were, well, rude mechanics.

The RAF then had a bit of a rethink as they realised that knowing how to pass the port wasn’t really the major qualification they needed in a pilot nor indeed an officer. So they selected 12 artificers to go off through Cranwell to become officers. A test, you see? Whittle was number 13 on this list. And then one of the 12 broke his leg in a cross country competition (look, I’m telling you, this is how the story goes!) meaning that Whittle got shunted up and went to Cranwell.

And that is the story. Proof of this have I none except that one Bill Worstall was one of his fellow artificers sent on the same course as one of the 12. And if that’s how Gramps told the story then that’s good enough for me and it damn well should be good enough for you.

Don’t think Owen understands the US Constitution

So now we know what it takes for an unhinged, bigoted demagogue to win liberal applause: just bypass a constitution to fire some missiles.

A man widely castigated as a proto-fascist only needed to drop bombs without observing due process.

Leadership is shown by a man widely feared to be a) unhinged b) demagogic and c) authoritarian, dropping bombs in defiance of his country’s democratic process.

He bypassed the constitution this time,

They will have legitimised one extra-constitutional military intervention,

constitutional norms can be disregarded at a time of national crisis.

and would disregard constitutional norms.

Current constitutional practice is that, just as every US President has done since WWII, the Pres gets to decide this stuff.

Owen might not be right here therefore

Well, yes, obviously, who didn’t know this?

Army chiefs have launched a probe into whether tough military training is leaving thousands of female soldiers infertile.
They fear gruelling drills could be damaging the reproductive systems of young recruits, after evidence from the sports world showed one in four young female athletes struggles to conceive due to tough training schedules.
Now concerns are rife among leading medical experts in the British Armed Forces that many of the 16,000 serving women soldiers could also be affected.

Women who do gruelling training regimes tend to stop menstruating as their body fat drops.


It’s temporary.

And, umm, isn’t this what we actually want? People who are front line troops don’t take 2 years off now and again?

Something left over from the Empire

At least 200 Indian paramilitary police were hospitalised with suspected food poisoning after eating meals at a training camp in the southern state of Kerala, police said Sunday.
Training cadets and security forces belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) complained of diarrhoea and vomiting after eating rice and fish curry for dinner on Saturday at a training camp in Ernakulam district.

No, not Delhi Belly.

The guard accused senior officials of siphoning funds meant for food rations,

That, rather used to run riot thourgh the Armed Forces, did it not?

Quote of the Day

“There are basically two ways to fight the US military: asymmetrically and stupid.”

HR McMaster

Little thing that interests me here. McMasters is, in that picture, wearing only 6 ribbons. Which is about what you might expect on a seasoned British officer (campaign medals etc without any gallantry awards, around and about these days, no?) but that’s a pittance for a septic. Gongs get handed out for learning how to fold the paper before wiping.

So what’s the story? Does he have some unusually low number of gongs for an American officer of his age and rank? Is he wearing some special short list to not show off? What?

OK, looking at Wikipedia he’s got a much longer list than he’s wearing in the picture. So, what’s the story there? You only wear the important ones with the posh uniform?


Russia plotted to assassinate the prime minister of a European nation and overthrow its government last year, according to senior Whitehall sources.

An election-day coup plot to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill the pro-Western leader was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, to sabotage the country’s plan to join Nato.

This is just me and my prejudices of course but I do tend to think that if this was actually planned from the centre then it would have worked. There’s an amazing number of rather less competent hyper-nationalists out there who might dream of trying something like this though.


Britain’s accounting watchdog has sounded the alarm over the military’s spending plans, warning the MoD’s ability to pay for kit and maintenance is “at the highest risk ever”.

The National Audit Office’s analysis of the MoD’s £178bn spending plans for 2016 to 2026 – which include projects such as the F-35 fighter, Dreadnought nuclear submarines and P-8 Poseidon spyplanes – warns of a series of concerns on the already stretched defence budget.

In the standard analysis of government the purpose of it is to gain those public goods that we cannot gain without it. And defence, against those marauding Walloons, is first on that list.

It’s true that MoD is not notably well run – but then nor is most of government. Yet here the argument is about whether government can afford to spend 2.4% of government revenue on what is government’s first task.

Hhhm, maybe we took a wrong turn at some point?

Sorry about this but we’re going to have to invade Zurich

I think Switzerland is one of the few countries we British haven’t tried to invade so far. That may or may not be correct. But either way, we’re going to have to invade it now.

Fifa has been accused of taking leave of its senses over disciplinary action against the Welsh and Northern Irish football associations after supporters wore poppies in the stands during matches two weeks ago.

Football’s governing body had already charged England and Scotland for a series of alleged offences connected to Armistice Day, including a lone bugler sounding the Last Post at Wembley Stadium and players wearing armbands embroidered with poppies.

The latest disciplinary action goes a step further, however, and threatens to impose fines.

Wales and Northern Ireland had decided that their players should not wear poppies on their shirts or armbands to ensure that they complied with Fifa regulations — instead they wore plain black armbands.

Fans, however, paid their own tributes, and a member of the armed forces held a bunch of poppies in the stadium.

Yes, fans wore poppies.

Fifa is based in Zurich.

Not that we’ve got anything against the Swiss, of course not, it’s just that they’re harbouring a pestilential nest of perfidy which needs to be wiped out.

Action this day I’m afraid.

Well, he’s got a point

An arguable one at least:

Anewly elected member of Berlin’s regional parliament once described Winston Churchill as a “war criminal”, it has emerged.

Ronald Gläser of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party accused Churchill of responsibility for 50m deaths.

Obviously not responsible for the whole thing and I would assume that Ronnie here is being more than a bit of a dick. But certainly some of Churchill’s decisions could be argued to be war crimes. Myself I’d generally put it down to “war is hell” and thank the lord the correct side won. But some of those decisions are a bit iffy.

I dunno about the Mel Gibson movie but….

He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machine gun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying all 75 casualties one-by-one to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces in a cave’s mouth, where he dressed his comrades’ wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers’ return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of one arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.

I reckon that’s worth a Medal of Honor in anyone’s currency…..

I can see this working

Women fighters will share rooms with male Royal Marines commandos for the first time under controversial plans put forward by the head of the navy.

Of course, it rather depends on what you think the definition of “working” is.

Ah, waitta minute. This is for the initial training course only. Will all be too shagged to shag.


You don’t need a six-pack to be a soldier
ben macintyre

After another army training death we should acknowledge that modern wars are not won by superfit warriors

There’s people around here who know much more about this than I do.

And you certainly don’t need to be fit to hump stores and cook the meals – which is 90% of what any military does these days.

But the bloke at the front end, the bloke those other 9 are there to equip, feed and place in the right spot?

Yer average infantryman does need to be super fit, yes. Marines and on more so. Because, at the extreme, you want them to be able to yomp however many miles carrying all their kit and then still be able to fight when they get there. That’s actually rather the point of having them.

Here’s your new ships Admiral. Just don’t take them out to sea, right?

Invalidates the guarantee that does, all that salt water:

Taxpayers will have to foot the bill to refit warships that break down in the Persian Gulf when the water becomes too warm, because they are ‘out of warranty’.
The Ministry of Defence said the ‘arduous’ conditions that made the £1billion Type 45 Destroyers ‘degrade catastrophically’ were not covered by the guarantee.
Engines on the six warships fail because the intercooler units, which reduce heat from the exhaust, slow down in warm waters, leaving the engine unable to generate enough power.

The, err, Persian Gulf is one of the more likely places that the Royal Navy will have to work in, no? We’ve been working there for what, century and a half? No, more, given India and Suez.

So some idiot signed off on a design that doesn’t work there?


The assault rifle used in Orlando

When Omar Mateen entered an Orlando, Florida, nightclub on Sunday to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in US history, he wielded a weapon that has been used in massacres from California to Connecticut: a military-inspired semi-automatic rifle.

Though so-called assault rifles account for a small fraction of the United States’ 30,000 annual gun deaths, they have been used in at least 10 mass shootings since 2011, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones magazine.


The AR-15 was developed from the US military’s M-16 rifle, used in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Unlike the military version, the AR-15 is not fully automatic, meaning users must pull the trigger each time they want to fire a shot. Like the military version, many AR-15s combine light weight with a relatively modest recoil.


An assault rifle is a fully automatic selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine.

So it’s not an assault weapon then?

Well, maybe

Longer than the Houses of Parliament and able to launch up to 108 air strike sorties per day, Britain’s new aircraft carriers will make potential enemies “think twice” about starting future wars, their senior naval officer has said.

The new Queen Elizabeth Class carriers will be become Britain’s most potent conventional weapon and change the way the Royal Navy does business, Capt Simon Petitt said.

Super. Although shouldn’t we actually get some planes on them first?