Tag Archives: second world war

Greenham Common: A unique reminder of the Cold War opens to the public


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Over the weekend, Greenham Common Control Tower opened to the public as a permanent visitor centre, set up to share the story of Greenham Common.

Greenham and Crookham Commons cover a thousand acres of open, public land in Berkshire. Inhabited in prehistoric times and used for cattle grazing for centuries, the Commons were turned into an airfield in 1942 and used by the RAF and USAAF during the Second World War. The airfield was used a springboard for glider-borne troops landing in France on D-Day. General (later, President) Eisenhower visited the troops at Greenham on the eve of D-Day and made his famous “The Eyes of the world are upon you” speech there.

But, perhaps, Greenham’s most famous period was during the Cold War from 1951 to 1992. The runway was extended to 12,000 feet long in 1980. This was thought to be the longest aircraft runway in Europe at the time. The base was home to many aircraft, most notably the B-47 Stratojets, which were capable of routinely flying 3,000 mile long missions. Around 4,000 American air personnel and their families lived at Greenham at its height. The base was effectively a US town. They drove on the right and had their US groceries flown in from the States by Galaxy transport plane.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

Superb TV programme: The Bombs that changed Britain


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The devastation of South Hallsville School in East Ham, London after a bomb hit it in 1940.

The BBC is to be congratulated on a superb history series currently going out on BBC2 – Blitz: The bombs that changed Britain.

We often think of the wartime blitz and see film footage of mounds of rubble and people trying to find loved ones.

But this TV series goes one step further and very specifically outlines the terrible impact of one bomb (in each of four episodes).

In the first programme, now on BBC iPlayer for the next 28 days, they follow the story of an unexploded bomb which fell on Number 5 Martindale Road, Canning Town in London. Because it was unexploded, the whole area had to be evacuated. This led to 600 people being crammed into nearby South Hallsville School. The idea was that people would be quickly moved from the school out of danger. But due to bureaucratic incompetence and official indifference to the plight of the mainly poor people there, the numbers mushroomed over several nights. Then the inevitable happened and the school was bombed, with horrific and widespread devastation.

Posted in TV and film | 5 Comments

Paddy Ashdown talks about his new book “A brilliant little operation”

I had to stifle a giggle as Paddy Ashdown strode on to the stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival and said:

What are you lot doing here at ten in the morning?

There was a certain irony at this coming from the man who notoriously held meetings at the crack of dawn when he was party leader.

The morning after his “why the world will never be the same again” talk, he was back to tell us about his new book, “A brilliant little operation”, about the founding raid of the Special Boat Service, the special forces unit where he would later serve. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment
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