Friday, March 25, 2011


True, I included sex scenes in three of my military-themed novels, but without lingering on the obvious bodily details. I like to think my readers have sufficient imagination to understand what is going on.
However, some new, younger, literary agents seem convinced that no manuscript is acceptable unless it is slathered with numerous sex scenes described in excruciatingly gross detail. Typically, such “agents” are gormless, gauche, and quite unsuited to their job.
I treasure the memory of one such poor soul (female), who suggested that I change a WWII manuscript of mine to include a scene in which the soldier hero copulated with a woman war-correspondent aboard a landing-barge speeding through shot and shell while approaching an enemy shore fortress.
Evidently, the agent lacked my experience that when you are under fire, sex tends to be rather the last thing on your mind.
-- Sidney Allinson.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Writers of military history and historical novels in general have a personal interest in encouraging public knowledge of history – and in rectifying the deplorably high level of historical ignorance. Fashionable anti-war posturing may lend social cachet in liberal circles, but nevertheless some knowledge of the history of warfare is essential to a broader understanding of all human history.
See here why the widespread extent of the problem is inexcusable, and some suggestions how knowledge of history could be made more appealing:
-- Sidney Allinson.

‘Turbulent world, lately, isn’t it? (2011)

To people my age, it seems quite like old times to see Libya in the news again. Benghazi, Tripoli, Tobruk ... Familiar scenes of WWII ding-dong battles back and forth between the British Army and the German Afrika Korps in 1941/42.
Interesting to see how the Allied forces' attack on Gadhaffi’s Libya is seen in Britain today:


Here we go again --- Western nations are once more allies in a thankless war. As we speak (March 20, 2010) a squadron of Canadian fighter planes is about to fly into harm’s way in Libya, alongside USAF, RAF, and French Airforce fighter-planes and naval ships that are already attacking Gadhaffi's forces.
I fear we have possibly just stumbled into yet another cataclysmic war. They all start with us busy-body-ing into “saving” a small nation -- Belgium, Poland, Iraq. Pray, Libya does not widen to pitchfork us into war with a resentful united Moslem world.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

By Don Butler, Postmedia News March 14, 2011.

Most young Canadians know little or nothing about most of the wars and peacekeeping missions their countrymen have served in, according to a survey done one year ago for Veterans Affairs Canada.
While a bare majority of the 13-to-17-year-olds surveyed claimed to know at least a moderate amount about the Second World War, their knowledge fell off rapidly beyond that.
More than two-thirds said they knew very little or nothing at all about the First World War, and nearly as many were equally unaware of Canadian peacekeeping efforts since 1960.Their ignorance peaked with the Korean War, about which 82 per cent said they knew nothing or very little. Even for the best-known conflict, the Second World War, 37 per cent of the youth said they knew very little, and nine per cent knew nothing at all.
The 514 youth were surveyed last March by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives as part of a $47,600 project for Veterans Affairs designed to assess Canadians' awareness, engagement, and satisfaction with Remembrance Day programming.
"It's discouraging that young people don't know a lot about the events of our past," said Jeremy Diamond, director of development and programs with the Historica-Dominion Institute. But he said there's a real opportunity to use technology to bring these events back to life.
"We can do a lot more now, sharing those stories, than we could a generation ago. I think we're going to see that tide turn a little bit with young people's knowledge of Canadian history."
In the past 18 months, the Historica-Dominion Institute has recorded the stories of more than 2,000 Second World War veterans, Diamond said. It's the largest oral history project of its kind ever in Canada.
Students and others can listen to podcasts of the interviews at, Diamond said.He added they can also invite veterans to speak at their schools, which provides a personal connection between veterans and young people.
As well, the approach of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, in 2014, provides a "great opportunity" to help young people learn — perhaps for the first time — about that conflict's important events and individuals, Diamond said.
The Phoenix survey found about eight in 10 of the youth participants expressed at least some interest in learning more about Canada's veterans, though their interest was likelier to be moderate than strong.
About 80 per cent said websites were a good way for them to get information about Canada's military history. Significant numbers also mentioned books, libraries, talking to people, newspapers or magazines, television or radio and social-media sites.
While the survey therefore cannot be considered representative of the youth population, Phoenix tried to ensure that the sample mirrored the regional, linguistic and gender characteristics of Canadian youth.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Max Brand [Frederick Schiller Faust] probably was the most prolific American novelist ever; author of 500 novels -- 30 Million words. A highly popular writer of westerns, his
books were also turned into movie-scripts, including the character of "Doctor Kildare."
In the Second World War, Brand became a war correspondent for Harper's Magazine, assigned to Italy. Within just a couple of weeks of arrival, he insisted on accompanying a platoon of American infantry going into an attack on the village of Santa
Maria Infante, because "I want to study men under fire." He was wounded in the chest by German shrapnel, and died before he could receive medical aid. Max Brand is buried in the American War Cemetery, Netuno, Italy.

Search for Max Brand  



Several American novelists who had served in WWII wrote only a single book, usually based on their war experiences. Van van Praag is a particularly good example. His 1949 novel "Day Without End" [retitled "Combat" in 1951] is an authentically-written story that follows a US Army platoon in Normandy, 1944. Its accuracy and characterizations are spot-on, unmistakeably a soldier's tale, more than likely based on actual incidents during the war.
Born in New York City in 1920, van Praag was a truck salesman, a World's Fair lecturer, before he volunteered for miltary service. Van van Praag spent five years in the United States Army, was promoted up through the ranks, and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He fought in France as a platoon leader, was severley wounded, and returned home a
I read "Combat" many years ago, and I still remember it vividly. It sold 500,000 copies, but far as I know, it was the only book van Praage ever wrote.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Hachiko" Bronze Statue, Tokyo, Japan.
There are many accounts of the fidelity of dogs for their owners in peace and war, and sometimes their loyalty strikes a particular chord in its community. One poignant example began  in Tokyo, Japan, in 1924, when a stray Akita breed street-dog was adopted by university professor Hidesaburo Ueno, who commuted by train to his job. He named the dog "Hachiko" and it would would meet the professor at the end of his commute every day and walk him home.
The dog met the professor at the same Shibuya Train Station exit every weekday evening, and continued greeting him until a day in 1925, when the owner did not arrive back at his usual time.
The reason was that Ueno had died suddenly at work that day, though the dog obviously did not know. For the next nine years, Hachikō patiently met the same train, at the same station, at the same time, in the vain hope that his master would arrive to walk him home.
Soon, commuters who remembered seeing the professor and the dog walking together began to feed and care for Hachikō at his habitual place on the platform. When one of the professor’s students found out about the dog, he brought it to the attention of a local newspaper, which published the story.
The dog became a national sensation and symbolized the embodiment of Japan's cherished attribute of family loyalty. In 1934, a bronze statue in the dog's likeness was erected at Hachikō-guchi (as the Shibuya Station Exit was renamed in his honor) with Hachikō present at its unveiling.
The loyal dog's vigil ended in March, 1935, when he passed away in the street near the station exit, still awaiting his master. Such was his fame, that Hachiko was stuffed and mounted on display at Japan's National Museum of Nature & Science. The still-famous Akita's monument remains to this day as a reminder of the faithful love given by man's best friend.

[For centuries, the Akita was considered to be Japan's national dog. However, the breed was almost eradicated during World War Two, when they were officially ordered to be slaughtered to provide fur linings for military officers' coats. Only the efforts of one man, Morie Sawataishi, rescued the Akita from extinction, which is now a widely available prized dog again.]
Tragic loss: Liam Tasker was on patrol with his dog Theo at the time of the attack in Nahr-e-Saraj, Afghanistan


In life, this brave British soldier, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker,
and his devoted dog "Theo" were inseparable.
Now, in death, they will rest by each other’s side always.

Serving in Afghanistan, the intepid pair uncovered 14 IUD's [Improvised Explosive Devices] and numerous hidden enemy weapons in just five months – a record total for an Army explosives-sniffer dog and his handler. It is deeply moving that they died within hours of each other and made their final journey home together in March, 2011. Theo, a springer spaniel cross, suffered a fatal seizure shortly after his master, L/Cpl Tasker, was shot dead by a Taliban sniper. The 22-month-old dog was said to have died of a broken heart after his Arms & Explosives Search soldier comrade was killed.
During only five months in combat, the pair detected more concealed weaponry than any other dog and handler team during the war. The pair are hailed for saving the lives of countless British soldiers in Afghanistan. And when L/Cpl Tasker, 26, were flown home to Britain,Theo’s ashes were alongside his body in a casket on the RAF Hercules carrying the coffin. The casket containing Theo’s ashes will be handed over to their unit, the 104 Military Working Dog Squadron, then given to L/Cpl Tasker’s grieving family.

L/Cpl Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, was the 358th member of the British armed forces to die since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001. He was killed taking part in a mission in the Nahr-e-Saraj district in Helmand. The pair served in Afghanistan as part of the Theatre Military Working Dogs Support Unit based at Camp Bastion. Theo was the ‘front man’ of a patrol, sniffing out IEDs, weapons, and bomb-making equipment hidden by the Taliban. Consideration is being made to honour Theo with the award of a Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Dog handler: Liam was a member of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Theo also died after the attack

Dickin medal
Dickin Medal For Brave Animals

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Famed WWII poet Pilot Officer John Magee (far right) with his
fellow pilot trainees: l-r: Fred Heather, Tom Gain, Duncan
Fowler, at #9 Elementary Flying Training School, Royal
Canadian Air Force Station St. Catharines, Ontario,
Canada, Feb. 5, 1941.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high un-trespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

HIGH FLIGHT remains the most evocative poem of the
Second World War, which has become the most famous
flying poem of all time. It was written by John Magee
in 1943, during his service as a Pilot Officer, Royal
Canadian Air Force
The son of an American father and an English mother,
Anglican missionaries, Magee was born in China in 1921,
and was educated in Britain and the USA. Though he
earned a scholarship to Yale University, Magee chose
instead to volunteer for service with the Royal
Canadian Air Force in September, 1940.
After training as a fighter-pilot, he was posted to
Britain, where he joined a Spitfire squadron.
The exhilaration of flying an aircraft inspired him to
write "High Flight" on September 3, 1941. Only three
months later, at the age of 19, John Magee was killed
when his Spitfire collided with a training aircraft. 
His grave is in Holy Cross Cemetery, Scopwick,
Lincolnshire, England.  

Lee Harvey Oswald, lone assassin of US President John F. Kennedy.


Writing about historical events often requires keen vigilance to record the actual truth of events.  All too often, the determination to present interpretations which conflict with current popular acceptances is the most critical issue connected with historical research -- the problem of revisionism. Revisionism is a deadly and contagious condition which afflicts some researchers, and its chief characteristic is the need to "reveal" something extraordinary and new to the public. It particulary appeals to credulous folk eager for dramatic revelations, and self-consciously egalitarian youth. These interpetations often cause researchers to radically change their opinion about how and why certain events occurred. Revisionism is not to be confused with research which truthfully enlarges our knowledge and understanding of the causes and effects of history. Legitimate historical research can occasionally discover new evidence that overturns accepted beliefs, and the distinction between that and sensationalism can sometimes be subtle. True revisionism, however, can be clearly identified because its thesis is always shocking in quality and turns an accepted historical happening upside down; black becomes white, and vice versa.

Have you ever noticed the prevalent view that nothing of consequence ever happened the way it was originally explained? Lee HarveyOswald did not kill JFK -- the CIA did. Sirhan did not alone kill RFK; he was a planted 'Manchurian Candidate'. Amelia Earhart did not simply crash her aircraft into the ocean and die; she was shot as a spy by the Japanese. Rudolf Hess was not the person tried at Nuremberg or the one who committed suicide at Spandau in 1987; it was a substitute double, and he was murdered, not a suicide. Napoleon Buonaparte did not die of stomache cancer, he was "murdered by the British."
James Earl Ray did not alone kill Martin Luther King; he was the patsy for some unnamed national conservative conspiracy. Marilyn Monroe did not die of a drug overdose; (you supply the name) murdered her. The same for Elvis; he is now doing undercover work for the DEA.
Although most of these examples are from the 20th Century, wise men throughout the ages have been well aware of this tendency by some to disbelieve the obvious.
Why is this belief in hidden contrarian truths so pervasive? For many members of the public, there seem to be many reasons -- an underlying distrust of anything said by authorities; a need to believe that bad things just do not happen to people in a simple or random manner; and finally, there may just be delight in gossip or sensationalism.
For historians, it is even more complicated. As human beings, they are subject to the other motives, but additionally, the very validity of their field of study rests on their ability to revise. There is a fundamental presumption by some academics and media persons that what is known to have happened did not happen in the generally accepted manner or for the generally accepted reasons. Furthermore, their professional reputations and individual egos are based on their revisions. For instance, any journalist who puts the blame solely on Lee Harvey Oswald for shooting Pres. Kennedy is considered to be hopelessly naive, and any historian who teaches the French Revolution exactly as described in history books is professionally dead.
This drive to radically alter the accepted truth is not the only reason many historians change history. For the most part, revisionism changes facts for cultural or national self-interests.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Why Americans Can't Help But Keep
Playing Britain’s National Anthem
Americans are thoroughly familiar with the melody of God Save The King – though they sing the words of My Country 'Tis Of Thee to it. US citizens listening always feel their patriotic juices flow as they sing the moving stanzas of the song, also known as America. Few of them know the tune was written by an Englishman, in honour of the British monarch.

Few still Americans realize the melody was written by Dr. John Bull, son of a London goldsmith. He began as -a choir boy in Queen Elizabeth Chapel in 1572. Ten years later, he was appointed organist at Hereford Cathedral. By 1589, he had earned a doctorate of music at Cambridge University and became one of the most famous keyboard musicians and composers in England.

Bull wrote God Save The King in 1619, the same year English settlers arrived in America with an order from King James to celebrate their arrival with a day of thanks, leading the Jamestown colony to celebrate America's first Thanksgiving Day.

John Bull later moved to Belgium, where he became organist at Antwerp Cathedral. He died in 1628, and it was said the piece of music that become God Save The King was found among his papers. It would be over 100 years before his tune was published, in the 1744 English tune book “Thesaurus Musicus.”

In Sept. 1745, the leader of the band at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal arranged for a performance of God Save The King at the end of a play. It was a great success and was repeated nightly. The practice soon spread to other theatres and the custom of honouring the monarch with a finale of what evolved as Britain’s national anthem was born.

Even today, it is played and sung in the United Kingdom as a matter of tradition, though it has never been proclaimed so by any act of parliament or royal proclamation.

Brahms used parts of the tune in some of his own compositions. After hearing it in England, Haydn was moved to write Austria's national anthem. Even Beethoven liked the melody. In his journal, he referred to one of his own compositions in which he used the tune. He wrote, "I must show the English what a blessing they have in God Save The King."

As the song's popularity grew, it spread to the European continent, where it was picked up and used in a German song-book.

A Baptist clergyman from Boston, the Reverend Samuel Francis Smith, was given the book by a friend. In humming some of the tunes, he was struck by the melody of one (guess which). He thought it had a quality appropriate for a song of hope and inspiration. He sat down and put words to it and called it America (though more Americans probably know it best now as My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.)

The first time God Save The King was sung as My Country `Tis Of Thee was on July 4th, 1832, in Boston at the American Independence Day service at Park Street Baptist Church.

The song America made the Reverend Smith famous in his lifetime, but he seems sadly forgotten now. It is doubtful that he knew the tune was the National anthem off the British Empire. Most Americans still don't. Some remain convinced that the British stole it from them, but in all truth, it is the other way around. Regardless of its origin, the stirring melody continues to echo the two nations’ origins and shared values.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


"If you who call yourselves men of peace, I say:
You are not safe unless you have men of
action on your side." 
-- Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC).