Private John Condon 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment during WW1

6322 Private John Gordon of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment was killed in action at the age of 14 on 24 May 1915 and is believed to be the youngest battle casualty of the Great War. He is buried at the British war grave at Poelcapelle, Belgium

Alan Malcher

Orchard Court and its connection with World War Two.

Orchard Court today

Another little-known building in London with connections to the Second World War. Orchard Court is an expensive apartment block situated on the east side of Portman Square London. To hide the location of the building used by the French Section of the Special Operations Executive from their agents flat 6 was used for their briefing and debriefings. Outgoing agents were driven through the arch in a large car with blinds over the rear windows so they could not be seen and were driven to either RAF Tangmere to be flown to France by Lysander aircraft or RAF Tempsford to be dropped into France by parachute. Few agents returned and some who did are noted for showing symptoms of suffering from PTSD, a medical condition unknown at the time.

Alan Malcher

Transportation of Convicted Criminals to Australia.

Although I normally research military history, I found the following interesting.

This bollard will be found by the River Thames on the north side of Vauxhall Bridge in Millbank which was close to the notorious Millbank Prison (1816-1890). From 1788 to 1868 this bollard was near the steps where convicts boarded transport ships to Australia after being found guilty of mainly petty crimes which included Stealing furnishing from a lodging, stealing an item worth over one shilling (a week’s pay for a worker); buying and selling stolen goods, but one of the strangest crimes which could lead to deportation was impersonating an Egyptian! 

From 1788 to 1868 around 162,000 consisting of mainly petty criminals were transported to Australia.

Alan Malcher

Two Minutes’ Silence by Charles Spencelayh 1928.

Two Minutes’ Silence by Charles Spencelayh 1928.
The clock marks the eleventh hour as the elderly gentleman prays for the son lost in the war, whose portrait hangs above the clock and a jar of garden flowers that have been arranged in his memory. Spencelayh was staunchly patriotic and deeply affected by the war. (Charles Spencelayh 1865-1958)

A little-known German Resistance Group during WW2

The district of Ehrenfeld, Cologne in Germany was a sanctuary for those escaping persecution from the German authorities including escaped prisoners, forced labourers and Jews. After escaping from a concentration camp in July 1943 23-year- old Hans Steinbrück went to Ehrenfeld and was taken in by a woman and they began stockpiling weapons and food in the cellars of bombed out houses and kept in contact with escapers. Cellars were also used to shelter Jews and others forced to go into hiding.  Steinbrück became known as ‘Black Hans’ and his resistance group was known as the Steinbruck Group also referred to as the Ehrenfeld Group or Ehrenfeld Pirates. 

On 29 September 1944 an informer gave an army patrol the address of their safehouse and arrests followed, and Hans Steinbrück was later captured and interrogated by the Gestapo. By 15 October the Gestapo made 63 arrests, including 19 teenagers and on 10 November 1944 thirteen members of the group including Hans Steinbruck, were publicly hanged near Ehrenfeld railway station where there is now a memorial plaque remembering Steinbruck and those executed. As can be seen by the photograph many of the resisters were young.

Flight Lieutenant Eugene Seghers (Belgium) RAF (VR)

British Homefront during WW2.

Belgium fighter pilot Eugene Seghers RAF (VR). His memorial plaque in Walden Uckfield, East Sussex states: “Flight Lieutenant Seghers took off in his Spitfire from RAF Deanland to intercept V1’s (Anti-driver patrol) South of Uckfield. He failed to destroy a Doodlebug after intense cannon fire, its engine cut out, meaning that its terrible descent towards the town was imminent. Flight Lieutenant Seghers courageously attempted to deflect the high explosive flying bomb away from Uckfield using his aircraft’s wing. Near this location at 14:22 he made contact with the bomb causing it to detonate, destroying the Spitfire and killing the brave airman instantly. Sub Alis Gloria” (Under Wings of Glory) 26 July 1944.

Alan Malcher.

British Homefront during WW2: ATA Pilot Margaret ‘Mardi’ Gething.

Margaret ‘Mardi’ Gething (IWM)

Margaret ‘Mardi’ Gething was an Australian pilot with the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) who ferried military aircraft from British factories to operational RAF airfields throughout the United Kingdom. From 1941 to 1944 she ferried Spitfires, Hurricanes, Tempest, Typhoons, Mustangs, Wellington and Blenheim bombers. She flew 42 different types of aircraft, delivered over 600 aircraft to RAF operational airfields and often flew three different types of aircraft in a day. Margaret ‘Mardi’ Gething died in Australia in July 2005. 

Alan Malcher.

Sekonaia Takavesi: A legion in the SAS.

Original text and photograph published with permission from Art in Motion.

“Tak” now has the portrait that I painted for him, presented to him by “Mal”Kenneth Peers, my old work mate, and old SAS colleague of Tak.

I’ve added a small bit of info about Tak, for those wondering, which will explain what a legend he truly is.

Sekonaia Takavesi – Soldiers do not come any tougher or more fearless and loyal than Sekonaia Takavesi. Known as “Sek”, he became – in the words of his Army superiors – “a legend in his own time within the SAS”.

Takavesi was born in Fiji in 1943. Brought up on the Pacific island, he enlisted in the British Army on November 13, 1961, joining the King’s Own Border Regiment. Two years later, he successfully sought selection to the SAS.

Takavesi had undertaken dangerous undercover surveillance in Aden during the mid-1960s. At one time, he and fellow Fijian, Trooper Talaiasi Labalaba, had confronted and shot dead two terrorist gunmen. However, it was in Oman in July 1972 that the same two men were given the opportunity to display their immense courage and determination.

On the morning of July 19, 1972, the Adoo (guerrillas) launched a carefully planned attack with the aim of using 250 of their most élite fighters to capture the small town of Mirbat on the Arabian Sea, where Takavesi suffered wounds so serious that most people would have died from them. Yet he not only survived but went on to serve with distinction in the SAS for 13 more years.

Takavesi survived the battle and had some other adventures as time went on, though nothing quite like single-handedly firing a WWII anti-tank cannon at a horde of Communists from point-blank range while dudes flung hand grenades in his face. He participated in the Iranian Embassy raid in 1980, when he and 20 other SAS men stormed a terrorist-controlled structure on national television, killed 6 terrorists, and saved 18 of the 19 hostages held inside. He was also working as an advisor during the 2003 Iraq War, when the 58 year-old Fijian found himself in a blazing gunfight on a tarmac near Baghdad –outnumbered by a dozen guys who were shooting his jeep up with AK-47s, Tak put his hands up and pretended to surrender, and the second the enemy lowered their guards he pulled the MP5 off his lap, smoked them, and then leaped out the driver’s side door, tackled another guy, and clubbed him to death with the stock of his weapon. The bad guys managed to shoot Tak in the thigh, chest, and head during that particular encounter, but, as you can probably imagine, he still simply managed to dust himself off, get in the car, and drive himself to the hospital.

Original text from Art in Motion.