Friday, 19 November 2010

Who tore the guts out of the Nazi forces?

(1) Lifesaving phage medicine as used for Red Army troops to fight infections throughout WW2 and the Cold War

(2) This Soviet medal was for meritorious service in WW2 - in Russian, "We have won"

Back in August I was at the Cabinet War Rooms special tea party where I had a most delightful conversation with Mr Hugh Lunghi. He had previously told me about his experiences of being the official interpreter for meetings between Churchill, Montgomery and Stalin and now he enlightened me with some more gems.

Actually at one time during the war he was even stationed here in Reigate.

He had stayed for almost three months in the small wooden dacha/shooting lodge in Abastumani, near Borzhomi, Georgia where the Grand Duke Michael lived for long periods smitten with T.B. - a place I visited in 2007 on my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship investigating their excellent approach to health and wellbeing.

Kindly commenting on my book chapter about Women who thawed the Cold War, Mr Lunghi explained that the phrase 'Iron Curtain' was originally coined by a German political philosopher in the 19th century. 'The phrase appears again in 1918, used by the Russian emigre philosopher Vasily Rozanov in "Apocalypse of Our Time". Goebbels picked it up in Feb. 1945. Churchill first used it in his May1945 telegram to Truman and again in his wonderfully prescient address in Westminster College, Fulton in March 1946.'

The solid piece of world history which I am especially grateful for, and which is certainly worth recording for posterity is this: 'The battle which won the war and liberated Europe was the battle of the Kursk Salient in the summer of 1943. It was more important than the whole of the Overlord operation on the Western front (see for example Europe at War by Norman Taylor pp110-112) Kursk was the decisive battle of World War II: 6000 tanks took part; the Red Army lost more troops in that one battle than the Western Allies lost in the whole war. As Churchill put it, "The Red Army tore the guts out of the Nazi forces". In the British Military Mission in Moscow, thanks to Stalin's deep secrecy, we were, at the time and even long after the War, given very little information about its progress. Churchill devoted only 5 or 6 pages to Kursk in his history of the war!'

A quick check on Wikipedia informs me of these terrifying statistics as we remember World War 2 locally this week:

German losses at Kursk: 203,000
Soviet Union losses at Kursk: 863,303,

and from reading a recent monograph about the WW2 medical emergency care, the losses would have been far greater without phage medicine.

For that matter, the German troops were also routinely issued with phage medicine in WW2 -and it was our Allied troops who missed out.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

J Arthur Rank

Have you ever wondered what to write in an autograph book? Well, this is what J Arthur Rank wrote on 4th February 1923, here in his home town for a neighbour's boy, Eric Hurst of Edes Fields, Park Lane. I had the great honour of showing it to the two audiences of my lecture, Churchill's Secret Reigate.

Pray about everything
Always expect something
Be thankful for anything
Grumble about nothing.

J. Arthur Rank

As well as all his other achievements in the milling business and the movies, he was the superintendent of the Sunday School at Reigate Methodist Church in the High Street, commemorated by the Rank Memorial Hall which is where I used to go for Girl Guides, the youth club, taking part in plays and concerts - and not forgetting those glorious Saturday night evenings, bopping round our handbags to the latest bands in the 60s!

J Arthur Rank was a great fan of Winston Churchill, even adopting some of his speech mannerisms apparently, and you can see from the blue plaque at Chartwell, he was one of the generous benefactors who eventually bought the place for the Churchills to continue living there, as a thank you gift after the war. During the war itself, J Arthur Rank housed his milling business temporarily in Reigate Priory for safety - just the other side of the wall behind his beloved Methodist Church. It was a wise decision because Hitler's lot had already earmarked the huge London flour mills as key targets.

On another page in Eric's tiny autograph book is a wonderful pen and ink drawing of their beloved Reigate Heath with the old windmill in the background - just as it looks today. The historic windmill is still in good condition and used as a church.

If you would like to see the autograph book, maybe I can take it along, with my WW2 memorabilia and my brand new patchwork commemorative quilt, to the Age Concern event on Saturday 20th November at Merstham Day Centre, 11am - 2pm.

The next day, Sunday 21st November, J Arthur Rank will be featured in BBC's Songs of Praise at Carshalton Methodist Church. Yet they wouldn't have known about those memories and souvenirs of J Arthur Rank that Eric's family have cherished all these years. Perhaps the Reigate Methodists would like to include that special autograph in their service sometime, now that the Rank Memorial Hall has been demolished.

My DVD and photobook are still available of course, by post via