musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: February 2016

St Mary Magdalene Twyning.

With Winter on the go I have not been making too many excursions lately, I also have the added complication of back problems and a camera that seems to be on its last legs. However, this morning I departed on my way to a church called St Mary Magdalene near a small village called Twyning, I had originally planned to do this trip last week, but the weather had defeated me. Come to think of it, it was not such great weather today either. As the crow flies the church is roughly 2,75 km away, but on foot is is more like 4.5 km, Google Earth Co-ordinates are: 52° 1.386’N, 2° 9.384’W. There are six casualties listed as being buried here


My route took right at the roundabout, over St John’s Bridge in Tewkesbury, towards the Mythe Bridge; however, instead of turning left towards the bridge I carried on and followed the road. It is a killer of a hill!

After much huffing and puffing I made it to the top and followed the road all the way, pausing to admire this wonderful building which reminds me of a Victorian water tower. It is very out of place but what a beaut it is.

It appears as if people do live in it, but there is no indication of its history. A bit further on I came to “The Crows”. I was tempted to throw a stone at at. and not too far from here was my turning towards “Church End” where my destination was waiting. A short 1/4 mile later and I was at the church of St Mary Magdalene.

Like so many parish churches in the UK it is steeped in history and there has probably been a church on this site since 1100 although I suspect that portions of the building that I saw today may date from the 1800’s. Certainly there are graves from the 1600’s and 1700’s in the churchyard, and an effigy in the church dates from the 1500’s. The graveyard is quite a large one, and has some really beautiful headstones, although the legibility of some is poor, The headstone above dates from the 1760’s as does the stone below. The headstones are beautiful, it was a really pleasant surprise to see so many from the 1700’s all in one place.

This beaut is a relatively new stone, dating from 1937, and it is the first that I have ever seen like this, whether there is any significance to the design I do not know, but looking at it now it reminds me of a record holder. The headstone below dates from 1772.

Once I had found my 6 CWGC graves I ambled over to the church. The service had just ended and I really wanted to check if there were any war memorials inside the church. I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome I received even though I was intruding on a coffee morning. The next service was due to start at 11 am, so I had very little time to photograph. The war memorial to the men from the parish is a modest one, but I could not help thinking that when they erected the original they did not expect that a second plaque would need to be added over 25 years later. It is a pretty church, with simple lines and a tranquil beauty about it. The pulpit is spectacular, although I did struggle to find a clear space to photograph it from. There is also a wonderful Victorian organ that must really be fantastic to hear in this small space. The biggest surprise was the wonderful effigy tomb of Sybil and Anne Clare who both died on 13 February 1575 “after the birth of the baby” The inscription plaque has been transcribed, and makes for interesting reading. And of course the stained glass is magnificent And then it was time to leave as the preparations for the next service were well advanced.

The challenge for parish churches like this is: how to attract and grow a congregation, and part of it is to make your church welcoming, and to embrace technology. The days of dark formal churches has ended, and you either adapt or die. This church has adapted.

A last look at some of those old headstones and I was on my way, and an hours walk home.

All in all it was a good morning, the churchyard exceeded my expectations, and it was nice to see inside the church too. Based on what little I do know, I do expect that the ground I was walking on had many more layers of bodies buried beneath it than visible headstones above it,

A church like this has seen so much history, and so has the small village around it. We cannot begin to fathom what life was like in the 1600’s in this area.

I feel sorry for the horses that may have had to climb that hill, although it is probable that there was a fair amount of barge traffic. The river is not too far from the village, but today I could not hop a boat to take me to it. That concluded my expedition for the day. I do however have to conclude that my camera is on its last legs, and so is one set of batteries. At some point I need to replace them both. I look forward to a new seasons expeditions, but for today I was well chuffed.

DRW © 2016-2018. Created 21/02/2015

Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:34

The February Sea Disasters II

On 21 February 1917, South Africa lost some of its finest: Black African volunteers en route to the battlefields of France. They were not going there because they were conscripted to go there, neither were they going there to fight; they were going because they volunteered, and because they would be supporting those in the front. These men were going to make history, but not in the way that you would expect. Their lives would be taken when their troopship; HMT Mendi, was in a collision with another vessel, the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight.


It has been 99 years since they sailed into history, and their story was shunted aside by successive governments for too many years. However, since the advent of the internet and the opening of eyes to history, many old soldiers now recognise that we owe a debt to these men, to keep their memory alive and to pass that memory onto others. Sadly the desecration of a war memorial by students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has left me saddened. It is not just a piece of stone that was desecrated, what was done was just as bad as those in power who rubber stamped the Mendi disaster out of the history books.

I expect those soldiers would have been shocked at the unruly behaviour of those students because those men stood on the deck of their ship and stared death in the face, the Reverend Isaac Dyobha. calling them together and admonishing them:

“Be quiet and calm, my countrymen, for what is taking place is exactly what you came to do. You are going to die… but that is what you came to do. Brothers, we drilling the death drill. I, a Xhosa, say you are my brothers. Swazi’s, Pondo’s, Basuto’s, we die like brothers. We are the sons of Africa. Raise your war cries, brothers, for though they made us leave our assegaais in the kraal, our voices are left with our bodies.“

“Be quiet and calm…” those words resonate through the ages and should be the watchword for those who rampage and desecrate and demand. Unfortunately they do not.

The Mendi, once forgotten is now remembered, in memorials, literature, on a warship, on a medal, and by the South African Legion and the South African branch of the Royal British Legion, The imperative is to keep their memory alive, and to make sure that when we pass onwards that others will take up our call: “Remember the Mendi”

Hamba Kahle South African Soldiers.


There is a lot of material about the Mendi out there, and I am proud to say my own efforts contributed in a small way to it.

The Loss of HMT Mendi

The Mendi Memorial at Avalon Cemetery

The Mendi Memorial at Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton

The Wreck of the SS Mendi by Wessex Archaeology

Follow the internal links within those pages to access some of the other Mendi related material.

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 07:29

The February Sea Disasters (I)

February is not a very lucky month in maritime history in South Africa, this is the month where we remember two traumatic maritime disasters with South African connections.
Chronologically, the first disaster is the loss of the frigate SAS President Kruger.
One of three sister ships (President Steyn, Pretorius and Kruger),  was a Type 12 Frigate, acquired by the South African Navy in the 1960’s. Built in the United Kingdom, she was launched on 20 October 1960 from the Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun. She was the flagship of the South African Navy, and at the time of her sinking she was also holder of the “Cock of the Fleet”.
After an eventful career, she was destined for replacement as newer and more efficient warships were rendering the President Class vessels obsolete. However, the arms embargo imposed by the UN meant that by 1982 she was still active in the fleet.

On 18 February 1982, the vessel was conducting anti-submarine exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. She was under the command of  Captain de Lange and at the time were using the opportunity to carry out anti-submarine exercises, with each ship given a patrol sector ahead of the Tafelberg. The President Kruger was stationed on the Tafelberg’s port side between 10 and 330 degrees, while the the President Pretorius had a reciprocal box on the starboard side.

SAS Tafelberg and a President Class Frigate doing RAS. 

At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees which would result in an almost complete reversal in direction. To maintain station the frigates would change direction first to maintain their positions ahead of the  Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger had two possible options: turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. The starboard turn was a much smaller one but was much more dangerous as it involved  turning towards the Pretorius and Tafelberg.  The officer of the watch elected to make the starboard turn, initiating 10 a degree turn. that had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, Critically while executing the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the radar clutter. An argument ensued between the officer of the watch and the principal warfare officer over the degree of wheel to apply, it was however too late and the bows of the much bigger Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side..

The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point, with the loss of  16 lives. Because the impact was in the senior ratings mess most of the casualties were Petty Officers which impacted on the Navy due to the loss of so many senior ratings.

Roll of Honour:
AB. G.T. Benjamin
CPO J.P. Booysen
 PO. S.P. Bothma
 PO. G.A.F. Brind
 PO R.C. Bulterman
 PO. G.W. De Villiers
 PO. E. Koen
 PO. H. Lotter
 PO. R.A. Mc Master
 PO. R.F. Skeates
 CPO. H.W. Smit
PO. W.R. Smith
 CPO. W.M.G. Van Tonder
 CPO. D. Webb
 PO. M.B.R. Whiteley
 PO. C.J. Wium
1982 Naval Casualties at the SADF Wall of Remembrance
At the naval board of inquiry it was found that there was a  lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The inquest apportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled.

I have relied heavily on the Wikipedia page on the Paul Kruger to create this post.  It is also worthwhile to visit the SAS President Kruger Blog dealing with “The sinking, the inquest, and the experience – a tribute to 16 lives lost”

The two images I cannot source. They come from my collection, but I have no idea where the originals came from. If you are the copyright holder please contact me so that I may acknowledge your historic images.

DRW © 2016-2018. 
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:01

Two comma four

On Sunday afternoon there was a post on Facebook about the dreaded “Two comma Four” that was used as the standard fitness test in the SADF waaaay back when I was a conscript in 1980/81. The cut off time was 12 minutes and the first 2,4 we ran in 3SAI was in pt shorts and takkies.
I remember it well, we had a one pip loot that would mark the turning around point (theoretically 1200 metres away) and then we would be on the downhill stretch. On your marks, get set… fokof! 
And so it started. A regular test of our fitness levels, and in 61 Mech it was compulsory for everybody to run it, whereas in basics only us roofies seemed to run it. We ran and ran and ran and ran and ran, further and faster than we had ever run before. Far from the perimeter fence of our high school and the the 3 rugby fields that we sometimes ran during PT. Far from Phineas Mackintosh Park in Mayfair where we tried to fitten up for the army in those last days of our school careers. That road was endless, and there was no sign of that sodding lieutenant! At some point we realised he was not there and we started to turn around and run back to the start line. I seem to recall walking a bit, but coming in at  under 13 minutes. 
We ran that 2,4 twice in PT gear, after that we did it in “Staaldak, webbing en geweer” which weighed a gazillion kilos and which became second nature to us, almost like a pair of underpants but heavier and on the outside. I know my times improved dramatically, and by the time I moved to Kimberly and 11 Commando could easily run it in under 12 minutes. That course took us through the middle of the camp and around the one parade ground, still in staaldak, webbing en geweer. 
When I ended up at Jan Kemp Dorp our fitness dropped, and our stamina was more in keeping with 4 hours of guard duty. Those were fun days, although in winter we really suffered. Shortly before we left some of us started to run the 2,4 for fun, and even then could do it under 12 minutes. 
The next major run we did was shortly before we went to the border when the whole company ran 3,6 kilometres in De Brug, and I believe we all made it under the allotted time, but we were buggered by the time we had done it.
When we hit the border we used to run the chalk road from our tents to the tar road and back first thing in the morning (about 3,8 kilos). It was hell, partly because of the blistering pace and the early morning heat, but also because we ran it as a squad and that was difficult. When we got back to our tents we would then have inspection and company parade and those meticulously shone boots were all white from the morning run in that chalk road.
It was hell. 
Trust me on this.
Today? I would probably not even manage 1 kilometre, although I am very walking fit. I was never a runner, and I never will be.
ps. cpl Slegter, cpl Strydom, and cpl Akker: you three are a bunch of “obscenity delete-eds”
The image of the platoon running comes from social media, I do not know who it belongs to, but wanted to use it as it is very representative of what we faced back them. If the photographer will come forward I will gladly acknowledge you. 
DRW © 2016-2018
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:02

Go Gamera!

Continuing with my “Rubber Monster Flick” theme I decided to mention yet another Japanese Kaiju star: the flying Turtle Gamera.
Like GodzillaGamera also started out as a black and white Kaiju flick, but never really had the following that the giant reptile did. Let us face facts; flying turtles just do not have that “believability” about them.  I only discovered the Gamera movies courtesy of MST3K, which features some of the movies: (Season 1: K04 Gamera vs Barugon, K05 Gamera, K06 Gamera vs Gaos, K07 Gamra vs Zigra, K08 Gamera vs Guiron) (Season 3: 302 Gamera, 304 Gamera vs Barugon, 308 Gamera vs Gaos, 312 Gamera vs Guiron, 316 Gamera vs Zigra). If you are able to appear in multiple seasons of MST3K then you are really doing well (or badly). The truth is that some of those Gamera movies are appallingly bad and they got worse as each successive movie came out.. 


The Hesisei series of Gamera movies are a different kettle of fish altogether, and they are really fantastic, with stunning special effects, a decent storyline and an overall professional feel about them. 

The first was Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

followed by Gamera: Attack of Legion (1996)

and finally Gamera: Revenge of Iris (1999). In my opinion Revenge of Iris is the best of the three.


The Gamera story seemed to be open ended, with hints of an invasion of Gyaos (aka Gaos), and the fourth movie in the series did not materialise. Instead we were treated to a complete new story called Gamera the Brave which was a standalone story that seemingly had no continuity with the previous 3 movies. It is a poor movie, relying on an element of comedy without the raw emotion of the 3 movies before it. It is hinted that there is another Gamera movie in the pipline, but who knows which direction it will take (Alien vs Gamera?)


Gamera also has a cameo in Godzilla Final Wars, but he is already dead, and we do not get to witness the much desired battle between Godzilla and Gamera. 
Gamera started out as a third rate production, but the three gems that were made prove what can be done with this genre if you know what you are doing. Sadly though, only Toho seemed to understand it, and got it right on a number of occasions. This genre however is best not left to Hollywood because they will screw it up like they did with Cloverfield,  .
DRW © 2016-2018 Created 02/02/2016
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:04


Ok, I admit it. I am a Godzilla and “Kaiju” movie Fan. I first saw the Tokyo stomping monster in the movie “Ghidrah, The Three Headed Monster” in the 70’s. It was the first movie of this genre that I saw and I was hooked. Over the years many Godzilla movies were produced by Toho, but, alas they never seemed to appear on our screens. It was only when I went to the USA in 2000/2001 that I was able to indulge myself in more monster antics.

Bandai Godzilla bought in Hong Kong in 2008

Godzilla first appeared on the big screen in 1954 and proceeded to trash Tokyo. The westernised version of the movie featured Raymond Burr as an American reporter who tells the story of how Godzilla runs amock and how attempts to kill him with all manner of weapons fail dismally. The armour plated, behemoth with the radioactive breath was capable of frying everything in his path or flattening it with equal ease. The unAmericanised version is so much better.

Godzilla also had a certain screen “presence” which would endear him to loyal fans all over the world. Godzilla is supposedly killed by an “Oxygen Destroyer” in that first movie, but fortunately he crops up in a surprising number of follow up movies too. It appears as if the producers did try add some sort of thread and commonality as many of the subsequent monsters from the movies would do battle again and Godzilla would go from being the bad monster to being the good one. Alas I fear somewhere the plot was lost with the early stories, but that doesn’t stop them from being sheer escapist stuff,  Most of the early movies were “Americanised” and that just added an extra layer of cheesiness to them, but it also meant that hey became available on video and later on DVD. Most of my collection are zone 1 or zone 4.
The later movies (Heisei and Shinsei series) which were made, are more impressive (those tanks no longer look like plastic toys) and Godzilla is much more menacing. Destoroyah and Godzilla 2000 were full of high tech gadgets and gimmicks, yet in spite of their much improved effects and slickness they still retain a certain something that will always set them apart. Sadly Godzilla Final Wars seemed to be more of a rip off of “The Matrix” and Godzilla was no longer the main character. However Godzilla is still being played by a man in a rubber suit, and that is part of why we love him so much, he is so human.

The Showa Series 1954-1975

  • Gojira [aka “Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1954)”]
  • Gigantis, The Fire Monster / Godzilla Raids Again
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla
  • Godzilla vs. The Thing (1962) (a.k.a. “Godzilla vs. Mothra”)
  • Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster (1965)
  • Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (aka Invasion of the Astro Monster)
  • Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1969) (aka Godzilla Vs. Ebirah)
  • Son of Godzilla
  • Destroy All Monsters
  • Godzilla’s Revenge
  • Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971) (aka Godzilla Vs. Hedorah)
  • Godzilla vs. Gigan (a.k.a. “Godzilla on Monster Island”)
  • Godzilla vs. Megalon (1976)
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (a.k.a. “Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster”, “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”, Cosmic Monster) Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

The Heisei Series 1984-1995

  • (“Gojira 1984”) / Godzilla 1985
  • Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
  • Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
  • Godzilla and Mothra. The battle for Earth (1992)
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993)
  • Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

The Shinsei Series 1999-2004

  • Godzilla 2000 (Millenium)(1999)
  • Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: G-Eradication Operation (2000)
  • Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah. Giant monster all out attack (2001)
  • Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (2002)
  • Godzilla Mothra Mechagodzilla. Tokyo SOS (2003)
  • Godzilla Final Wars (2004)

Everything else post 2004

In 2014 yet another Godzilla was released, and I watched it last night. Godzilla and the monsters (dubbed MUTO) hardly feature in it at all, and once again the movie is predominantly based in America. It is not a great movie, and frankly I do not understand why they even bothered making it. Purists will argue that it is an imitation, and not a proper Godzilla movie, and frankly I will agree with that sentiment. Along with that awful Roland Emmerich farce from 1998 it will be consigned to the dustbin of Godzilla history as yet another bad imitation. However, having said that, there are elements of it that I do like, but the lack of Godzilla was somewhat disappointing and the mania for always having battles in the middle of the night baffles me. Update: 13/02/2016 I have finally seen Godzilla vs Biollante and it was weak, however, the model making was excellent and the Godzilla figure was much more in keeping with what I saw in the later movies. The big G has put on weight and is much more menacing. It’s an interesting movie, and reminds me a lot of Godzilla vs Hedorah.
It seems that you cannot let a good Kaiju monster down, and the latest iteration is a CGI movie produced by Toho Animation and animated by Polygon Pictures.  There are really 3 movies in this particular spinoff and the first was released on the Netflix platform in January 2018. I was fortunate enough to see a copy of it (thankfully in Japanese with English subs) and it is not great, or not as great as some other Godzllla movies. It does however have a very modern feel about it, considering it takes place on an earth 20 000 years after the “good guys” left Earth in search of a new home. Sadly they forgot to take Godzilla movies with them to study on the way! 
I will be honest, I am not keen on a CGI version, it takes away the “man in a rubber suit” feel that has always been a part of the franchise. Would I watch the the next 2 movies? of course, assuming I can get hold of them. The next is due for release in May 2018, so I will keep a beady eye open for it.  
The DVD’s
I own most of the DVD’s with the exception of Son of Godzilla, and some I prefer more than others. I do not have a favourite, but I do enjoy Tokyo SOS and the Mechagodzilla movie from 2002. Godzilla 2000 is also a great movie and Godzilla vs Megaguirus is great too. The worst? Son of Godzilla, Godzillas Revenge and probably Godzilla Raids Again. Strangely enough I do prefer watching the movies in Japanese with English Subtitles, but I have seen them so often they are no longer enjoyable.
(Missing: Son of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again ) I also have a copy of the original Gojira movie that was made, and it is not a rehashed Americanised version.

There are a lot of collectibles out there, but unfortunately in South Africa they were rare. My best acquisition I found in the USA in 2004, he is made under licence by Toy Vault Inc. 

He also starred in one of the My Twinn epic adventures.

And of course Godzilla was also honoured by appearing in two MST3000 Episodes (212 Godzilla vs Megalon, 213 Godzilla vs The Sea Monster).
Godzilla has been around for over 50 years, and is still as popular as always, albeit amongst fans of rubber monster flicks. He has kicked so much monster butt he can be justly proud of himself. Unfortunately he never had it out with Gamera, and that was the one movie we all wanted to be made.
So next time you are contemplating doing something nefarious with your nuclear waste or genetic experiments, be aware, he is only sleeping, but is always vigilant.



DRW © 2016-2018 Created 01/02/2016. Updated 13/02/2016, 19/01/2018, some spacings and typos fixed 18/05/2016. 
Updated: 20/01/2018 — 16:31
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