Category Archives: World War 2

Who to thank for your mobile phones, and your internet? An actress!

101 years ago today, in Vienna, a baby girl was born. Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, in fact, a good Jewish baby. Well, I assume she was good, at least. You’re right, thats not the name she made herself famous with, as an actress, that was Hedy Lamarr. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of her movie career, and past history, if you want to read that, Wikipedia can guide you at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedy_Lamarr

But during WW2, she patented something relating to frequency-hopping spread-spectrum, which helped the Allies to win the war. What wasnt known at the time, or indeed for about 40 years after, was the importance of this. Then companies started developing something called mobile phones, and guess what system they had to use to develop these devices? Yes, you’ve guessed it, frequency-hopping spread-spectrum! It was only when they tried to patent it, they discovered that they had been beaten to it, by over 40 years!

So they had to track down Hedy Lamarr, pay her off to gain the rights, and the rest is history. And yes, you guessed it, some of her other scientific work is how the internet developed. So the next time you ponder the scientific genius that allows you to make phone calls, or trawl the internet, just consider this. A movie actress helped to make all this possible!

See, not all actresses were just pretty faces!

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A weekend of anniversaries, part 1

OK, fine, there are 2 anniversaries this weekend, one a personal one, that will appear tomorrow, but today marks the 71st anniversary of D-Day, the moment that the history of WW2 changed forever, though certainly the Soviets attacking from the East certainly helped to change the history of the war too.

But on this day, early morning, for the first time in just a few years, France was invaded. This time though, it was a landing force, coming to rescue them from Nazi domination. The beaches were well defended, but the breach was eventually made, and after that, in less than a year, Germany had been overrun, from both directions, and WW2 was over.

Sadly, but inevitably, thousands of brave young men died on that day, and in the 11 months or so after that time, and we must never forget them. Indeed, we should be very proud of them, for freeing Europe. Of course, as history shows, Eastern Europe, for the next 45 years or so, disappeared under a Soviet controlled Iron Curtain, which in the Stalin years at least, probably suffered as much as they did under the Nazi’s!

So on this day, lets remember these brave people that never came back from France, and the freedom they granted us.

The video, well, if anyone can think of a more apt one, I cant!

A day to remember, but a day to celebrate too.

Well, seriously, given the date and everything, what else were you expecting tonight?

Strictly, the centenary of the significance of the 11th November is still 4 years away, but given this is the centenary of the start of World War 1, its a major landmark anyway. And at the 11th hour today, we have, or will (depending on your time zone) remember them.

Not that we just remember those who fell during that awful war, but on the battlefields everywhere, ever since. I suppose, strictly, those who died before too, but its fair to say that 1918 was of course the day that Remembrance Day over here, Veterans Day in the US, is the one that all are remembered for.

No, I’m not going to get political on the matter, though its fair to say that in hindsight, the leaders on both sides in WW1 didnt think too much about planning.

But anyway, for all those brave souls who died then, and since then, I remember, and respect all you did for us, who followed you.

Oh, the celebration? Well, two friends, one long term, one who I have only got to know recently both celebrate their birthday today.

The new one, that wonderful lady who showed Kate, and I around Cherryvale, less than 2 months ago. I think it was towards the end of last year when we first made contact, due to a posting I made about, yes, going to Cherryvale, the home town of Louise Brooks. Finally, I got to meet her in September, and she was just as wonderful to me in real life, as she had been in cyberspace.

Thanks, Tina, hope you’ve had a wonderful day.

Its fair to say I’ve known James a lot longer, though I’m not sure now, just how many years it has been. But in that time, he has become a true friend, a confidant, my editor, to name but 3 things! This man is simply amazing, believe me. Oh, and to top all this, he is the one who has invited me, in less than 2 weeks now, to celebrate Thanksgiving with him, my first time doing so.

So yes, as well as remembering the brave who died fighting for us, I am celebrating the birthday of 2 wonderful people.

The video, well yes, its a war related one, though possibly not one that people would immediately relate to events.

Britain was invaded during WW2

As Michael Caine would certainly say, not a lot of people know that, especially today, 70 years on! But yes, its true.

Back in June 1940, Hitler was roaring through Europe, and all that was left, was Britain. Thing is, because we’re an island, Hitler did realise that trying to invade our country was going to be a bit more of a challenge than mainland Europe. Didnt stop him trying a bombing campaign, and if he hadnt made the crazy decision to turn on his ally, the Soviet Union, to rid the world of communism, well, who knows if we would have held out eventually? But thats all hypothesis, and no more. He didnt, and as history proved, it backfired on him massively.

But despite all that was said about him, Hitler wasnt entirely stupid, and quickly realised that invading a little bit of Britain might not be so hard. Yes, the Channel Islands of course. And back in June 1940, the navy decided that it either couldnt defend the group of islands, just 14 miles from occupied France, or just didnt want to. Who knows, those details are lost in history, all we know is Churchill decided to demilitarize the Islands, and leave them to it. He did offer an evacuation process for people, but hardly made it look an attractive offer!

Anyway, after a brief (one off) bombing campaign of the islands by the German’s (they were tipped off after that, that there were no military on the island), they took control on the 1st July 1940…and stayed until 9th May 1945. Thats right, nearly a year after D-Day, the German’s still controlled the Islands, partly because they had no way out, even if they’d wanted too! They were well defended, had little benefit to the Allies, and so…got ignored, until the war was over! Snag was, no supplies were therefore getting in, and people were beginning to starve.

Finally, at the end of 1944, a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was reached, and a Red Cross ship sailed into the island, with provisions for the locals. Sadly, that was it for about 5 months, so the benefit was soon gone again.

Lets not mention the atrocities that went on, we all know the history of that. But one of the things constructed, partly by slave labour (from Eastern Europe, who lasted on average 6 months, being starved, brutalised, and over worked), and partly by others, including locals, who were paid well for their efforts, was what is now known as the War Tunnels. Initially as a defence, and communication hub for the island, and toward the end, a military hospital for the invasion that never happened, for the wounded.

Yes, they are where I went today, a follow up visit from over 30 years ago. Back then, the tour was extremely basic, just a few passages you could walk down, a very basic display, and that was it. Now, with time, and modern techniques, its far better done, and I’m glad I went back.

Its hard to imagine, in more senses than one, what life must have been like for the Islanders back then, and I’m not even going to try!

Oh, and for the journey back to town, I travelled on a bus, that may not have been around during the war, but saw service soon after, an amazing treat for someone like me.

The music, what could be more apt, than a German singing about peace, in her own language, English, and at least 1 more for her trouble. It won Eurovision, in 1982, before the contest became a political joke!