Armistice Day

Poppy WreathOn each 11th November at 11 am, every city, town, borough and village across the UK, falls silent for 2 minutes in remembrance of all those who fell in the two Great World Wars and later conflicts. The time and date are very significant as it was at 11am on of the  11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns fell silent to bring and end to World War 1,

The village of Yeovilton in Somerset where I live was no different. For a small village of only 50 properties, Yeovilton attracts more than its fair share of royalty and dignitaries. This even included the the Head of the Anglican Church,Archbishop of Canterbury to conduct one Remembrance Day service.

The prime reason is the Church of St Bartholomew located in the village and which was unused when I first moved here. Adjoining the village is the Royal Naval Air Station, RNAS Yeovilton which established at the start of WW2 and which also has a military naval cemetery at the rear of the church.

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) purchased and restored the church for it to become the church for Naval Air Seamen.

At  this years Remembrance Parade at St Bartholomew’s, the worlds last surviving Swordfish plane based at  RNAS Yeovilton took part in a flypast dropping 25,000 remembrance poppies as it flew over.

The current building of St Bartholomew’s dates back to about the 1540’s but still contains elements of a Norman church which predated it and which in turn was built on an even earlier Saxon church.

The pictures below show a number of the poppies that drifted into my garden and the Swordfish flying over RNAS Yeovilton and Yeovilton Village.

Also the Photosphere at the bottom shows the military cemetery at Yeovilton with St Bartholomew’s in the background.

.IMGP3297Yeovilton Swordfish

 

 

 

 

November 2015

SDC10327Today the countryside lost what remained of its lush coat of green summer foliage as strong winds and  rain blew in from the Atlantic. Yesterday the golden brown hues of autumn lingered on, but alas in the space of a few hours trees were striped bare to be left forlorn looking until next spring. Although still very mild at the moment,, this sudden tree stripping act does seem to me, to be natures way of heralding the tail end of autumn and giving advance notice of the rapidly approaching winter.

Pavements and roads have been carpeted with a layer of brown wet leafy mush, and it is not surprising it is a time of years that accident rates from slips and falls sharply increase, especially for the elderly. One thing I do appreciate about Mother Nature is that the local fields and hills in the distance remain green except for times when there is snow around.

I suppose it is to also be expected at this time of year when weather gurus start to predict how harsh or not the winter ahead will be. I am however not that strong believer in local weather folklore and simply accept what will be will be.

A few weeks ago we had the natural phenomena of what is know as a “Super Moon” in conjunction with a eclipse of the Moon by the Earth. Although tis must have occurred millions of times before on the celestial time scale, on the human time scale it is a somewhat unique event with the next one not due to take place for another 18 years in 2033. I did manage to take a number of photographs of the event throughout the evening, some of which I have placed below.

 

Yeoman WardersToday being November 5th, is the UK’s historical anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament by Guy Fawkes and his villainous associates,  always reminds me of a travelling companion of mine. He was a Yeoman of the Guard which is the smallest regiment in the British Army. The Yeoman are a small group of ex-servicemen with long years of service. They carry out their mainly civilian occupations but assemble as Yeomen when ceremonial occasions require them.

One such occasion is the 5th November when the cellars of the House of Parliament are searched by the Yeomen which is how Guy Fawkes was originally discovered and caught. Effigies of Guy Fawkes are also burned on large bonfires in the evening at fireworks parties. Children also used to sing a song around the bonfire which started:

Remember, Remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Well the UK has never forgotten the Gunpowder Plot which occurred in 1605 and we have been celebration Guy Fawkes going up in smoke ever since.

 

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Super Moon

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Super Moon

 

 

 

 

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Prior to Eclipse

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Earth’s shadow across the Moon

On the Run

Horse drawn FB-SteamerApart from the first three years after I left school, my entire working and very enjoyable career was spent in the fire service. It is only natural with such length of service that one will glean a lot of fire service knowledge, both modern and historical. Much historical knowledge came from the older hands at the job when I first joined. Quite a number of them had joined after the end of WW2 when they were still relatively young and who in turn had knowledge passed onto them by the wizened firefighters of their day. Fire stations still exist today that were originally built in the 19th century at a time when fire appliances, (fire engines), as we know them today did not exist, but consisted of horse drawn steamer pumps with firefighters clinging to the sides.

In the fire service when any piece of equipment  becomes defective, be it as large as a fire appliance or as small as a hand-held radio, it is described as being “Off the Run”. Conversely any equipment that is fit for use is deemed to be “On the Run”. Often defective equipment has a label tied onto it with the abbreviation OTR.

Other industries also use these terms too.

The origins of this short phrase however are from the fire service of yesteryear when appliances were those horse drawn steamers. Like today, even in the 1800’s, everything the fire service is designed for a speedy turnout from the station as the longer the delay, the greater the chance of loss of life. Horses were always kept in the stables located immediately to the rear of the large appliance rooms where the steamer pumps were located in immediate readiness to go to a fire with a constantly lit boiler. The stables doors were normally spring loaded and could be opened either automatically or by pulling on a rope. As soon as the station call-out alarm sounded, the stable doors would open and well trained horses that knew what to do, simply trotted unaided from their stable into the appliance room, to stand alongside the shafts of the steamer pump. Suspended above their heads and fixed in a opened-out position in a cradle was the harness which could be easily and quickly lowered onto the horses. The rear end of the harness was already attached to the steamer and a rope and pulley system allowed the harnesses to be quickly lowered onto the horses which could then be rapidly fitted by the means of quick attachment buckles. Counterweights and springs would then lift the cradle high into the air and out of the way of proceedings.

To further assist the steamer and its crew to rapidly get out of the station, the floor where the steamer was parked was sloped to help overcoming the initial inertia in getting the steamer moving. As soon as the brake was released the steamer would start to roll forward and this assisted the horses to leave the station at the gallop. The sloped floor was known as “The Run” and if the steamer was fired up and ready to use it was said to be “On the Run”. It was said that from the time of receiving a fire call, the horses could be out of the stables, harnessed and out of the station in two minutes or less. Some claimed this could even be as quick as 30 seconds.

The attached film clip shows the turn-out of a horse-drawn steamer from a US fire house but the methods depicted are virtually identical to the old UK fire stations.

 

The pumps on these steamers were piston powered and operated in a similar way to the pistons on a steam train. The disadvantages was this also caused the water to squirt out of the jets in a pulsating movement and the pistons could not pump against the branches (jets) if they were closed. A large sealed metal dome was fitted to these pumps to absorb extra water from the pistons and help smooth out pulsations in the jet. Todays pumps are what is known as centrifugal pumps that have no pistons but are fitted with a internal spinning disc known as an impeller. This allows water to flow at a even pressure at all times even if the branch is open or closed.

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