Quotulatiousness

February 21, 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth to be commissioned in May

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The Royal Navy’s largest ever warship HMS Queen Elizabeth is gently floated out of her dock for the first time in Rosyth, Scotland in July 2014. In an operation that started earlier that week, the dry dock in Rosyth near Edinburgh was flooded for the first time to allow the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier to float. It then took only three hours to carefully manoeuvre HMS Queen Elizabeth out of the dock with just two metres clearance at either side and then berth her alongside a nearby jetty. Teams continued to outfit the ship and steadily bring her systems to life in preparation for sea trials in 2016. The dock she vacated will be used for final assembly of her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales.
Source: Wikimedia.

The Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier is scheduled to be brought into commission in May this year:

The first new Royal Navy aircraft carrier in thirty years is nearing sea trials. After a brief absence from the world of fixed-wing naval aviation the Royal Navy’s brand new flattop HMS Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship, Prince of Wales, will soon sail the seas, their decks full of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The result will be the most powerful “Senior Service” in generations.

The Royal Navy was one of the first naval warfare forces to explore the nascent world of naval aviation. HMS Argus, commissioned in September 1918, was arguably the first aircraft carrier with a full-length flight deck. The UK was one of the major aircraft carrier powers throughout World War II, and continued to operate carriers in the postwar period.

By 1982, the Royal Navy had committed to building three Invincible-class carriers. Somewhat scaled back from earlier ships, and dwarfed by the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers, the Invincible class was more suited to antisubmarine warfare duties against the Soviet Navy, keeping the sea lines of communication between North America and Europe clear in the event of World War III. The Invincibles could sail with a complement of up to twenty-two aircraft, typically a mixture of Sea Harrier fighters and Sea King helicopters.

The 1982 Falklands War demonstrated the shortcomings of relying upon such small carriers. HMS Invincible, along with the older HMS Hermes, struggled to provide early warning and combat air patrol over the UK task force sent to reclaim the islands, and were unable to prevent Argentine air power from sinking six friendly warships and supply ships and damaging another nine.

In 2007, despite the general downturn in the size and scope of the navy, plans were announced in 2007 to construct two brand-new aircraft carriers. Each would be stocked with brand-new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and helicopters, and would be up more than three times larger than their predecessors by displacement. The carriers, Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, would be the largest warships ever built by the UK, bigger even than the World War II battleship HMS Vanguard.

Unfortunately, in order to free up funding for the new carriers the older ships had to be retired, and decommissioning of the Invincible class carriers and their Sea Harrier jets during the 2010s was a huge blow to the Fleet Air Arm. The three warships were broken up for scrap, and the remaining Harrier jets, which by now included RAF Harriers, were purchased by the U.S. Marines to provide spare parts for their own fleet of AV-8B Harriers.

QotD: Leaving the European Union

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Government, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In the 25 years since I began writing seriously here about the European Union and what our membership of it has been doing to Britain, I have learnt (among much else) three things.

The first, which came quite early as I began to understand the real nature of the supranational system of government we now lived under, was that we should one day have to leave it.

A second, as I came to appreciate just how enmeshed we were becoming with that system of government, was that extricating ourselves from it would be far more fiendishly complicated than most people realised.

The third, as I listened and talked to politicians, was how astonishingly little they seemed really to know about how it worked. Having outsourced ever more of our lawmaking and policy to a higher power, it was as if our political class had switched off from ever really trying to understand it.

Christopher Booker, “Our politicians want to lead us out of the EU, but they don’t seem to have a clue how it works”, Telegraph, 2017-02-04.

February 20, 2017

Terry Pratchett Back in Black

Filed under: Books, Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

No embedding allowed, so you’ll have to click here.

H/T to Jerrie Adkins for the link.

February 16, 2017

60163 Tornado Settle to Carlisle 14th Feb 2017

Filed under: Britain, Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 14 Feb 2017

BBC News report on 60163 Tornado’s run on the Settle to Carlisle line this morning, the first Steam Loco to do the service run in nearly 50 years.

H/T to Jim Guthrie for the link.

February 15, 2017

CANZUK gets a boost from the Financial Post

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Andrew Lilico discusses the potential benefits to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK if these countries work on forming a four-way free trade deal:

The idea of CANZUK begins with a free-trade agreement, free-movement area (the freedom to live and work in each others’ countries) and defence-partnership agreement. O’Toole favours all three of these main planks, and he’s right that it all makes perfect sense.

The CANZUK countries, working closely together, would make a formidable contribution to world affairs. They would have the largest total landmass of any free-trade zone. They would collectively constitute the fourth-largest market in the world, after the U.S., EU and China.

Their combined military spending would be the world’s third largest, well ahead of Russia, and on European Geostrategy’s geopolitical power index, the CANZUK countries collectively have a strength around 70 per cent of that of the U.S. — and nearly twice that of China or France. With a combined global trade footprint nearly twice as big as Japan’s, the CANZUK countries would have substantial influence in opening up global markets and guiding global regulation across a range of issues from banking to shipping to the environment.

What makes CANZUK a natural union is perhaps self-evident. Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand share a similar culture, similar values, and analogous legal, business and social systems that allow us to get along easily and interchangeably. (The term CANZUK was originally a term diplomats used to refer to these four countries because of how frequently they would vote the same way at the UN.)

Most of the main issues our political parties focus upon are instantly comprehensible to anyone from another CANZUK state. Our laws and constitutions share many features, making trade deals and mutual regulatory recognition a relatively straightforward matter. Our citizens enjoy a roughly similar per capita GDP (which is just not true of the other Commonwealth nations with similar constitutions) and face few hurdles in integrating into another CANZUK country’s labour market. Our societies are peaceful and orderly.

February 12, 2017

British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley Episode 2: The Glorious Revolution

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 Feb 2017

In this episode, Lucy debunks another of the biggest fibs in British history – the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

In 1688, the British Isles were invaded by a huge army led by Dutch prince, William of Orange. With his English wife Mary he stole the throne from Mary’s father, the Catholic King James II. This was the death knell for absolute royal power and laid the foundations of our constitutional monarchy. It was spun as a ‘glorious and bloodless revolution’. But how ‘glorious’ was it really? It led to huge slaughter in Ireland and Scotland. Lucy reveals how the facts and fictions surrounding 1688 have shaped our national story ever since.

QotD: Magna Carta

Filed under: Britain, History, Law, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It’s remarkable that the English-speaking world remembers Magna Carta. The product of a struggle between King John and his barons, it was sealed on the bank of the Thames 800 years ago, on June 15, 1215. But in a sense, the most valuable thing about Magna Carta is precisely that it is remembered. Other charters were issued across medieval Europe, but they were rapidly forgotten.

Magna Carta alone endured because the kings of England never consolidated their power fully enough to be able to ignore their subjects. The charter was a useful political weapon in this struggle against arbitrary royal power, which is why it was so often reissued, appealed to, and celebrated, not least in the United States by the Founding Fathers: The Massachusetts state seal adopted in 1775 includes a patriot holding the Great Charter. To remember is, literally, to recall to mind, to renew in thought, which is why memory, as Orwell recognized in 1984, is a great defense of liberty.

This year, Magna Carta is being acclaimed as the contract that first established the idea that law was above government. As British politician and historian Daniel Hannan has put it, from Magna Carta flowed “all the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted: uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law, habeas corpus, regular elections, sanctity of contract, jury trials.” And that’s fair: The barons wanted to limit King John’s arbitrary power, and without limits there is no liberty under law.

But it does not take very much bravery now to celebrate our rights. Today, the language of rights is universal, though often hypocritical. Worse, the danger to liberty in the U.S. and Britain today is not arbitrary power of the sort exercised by King John, who offered no real theory except that he needed the money he was stealing to fight his wars in France. The danger to liberty today, ironically, comes more from arbitrary power backed up by the rights-talk that can trace its origins back to Magna Carta. Against my right to free expression stands your supposed right not to be offended. My right to property must now pay for your right to free health care. My right not to be discriminated against must give way to your right to be discriminated in favor of.

Ted R. Bromund, “Magna Carta limited government”, National Review, 2015-06-15.

February 11, 2017

Britain’s “silent service” reported to be the “absent service” right now

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Register, Gareth Corfield relays reports that the Royal Navy has no submarines currently available for sea duty:

None of the Royal Navy’s seven attack submarines are deployed on operations at the moment, according to reports, which potentially threatens the security of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

The Sun reported this morning that six of the seven boats are in maintenance – except for the seventh, HMS Astute, which is still undergoing sea trials.

Her sister Astute-class boat, HMS Ambush, is still undergoing repairs after ramming a civilian tanker in 2016 while hosting wannabe sub captains undergoing the Perisher submarine command course.

The main uses of attack submarines, as distinct from the four Vanguard-class boats that carry the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent, are twofold.

As their name suggests, attack submarines can be used to attack the enemy – or, in the modern world’s uneasy peace with Russia, trail their submarines and naval vessels around the high seas, gathering vital intelligence on their sound signatures and electronic emissions for later analysis.

Attack submarines can also be used as escorts for other vessels, using their advanced sensors to sweep the seas for hostile ships such as Russia’s infamous intelligence-gathering trawlers, as well as doing secret squirrel tasks such as dropping off Special Forces in remote shore locations. British attack boats also deploy on intelligence-gathering missions into the seas around Russia and have chased Russian submarines away from Britain’s territorial waters.

February 10, 2017

Gadzooks! It’s CANZUK!

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Economics, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is touting the benefits of a trade pact among the “other” Anglosphere nations (Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom):

First, I am a committed free(er) trader. My reading of history is that free(er) trade always leads to greater peace and prosperity and that, conversely, protectionism usually paves the way for recessions, depressions and wars.

Second, the time seems ripe. Given the global trade situation ~ Brexit, Trump, the demise of the TPP, etc ~ and given that Canada (and Australia and New Zealand, too, I guess) and Britain are interested in a free(er) trade deal it might be an opportune moment to hit the pause button, briefly, and engage in four way negotiation since we are, all four, likely to have very similar aims. Canada has, probably, reached tentative and tentatively acceptable agreements with Australia and New Zealand in the TPP negotiations and we have made equally tentative and acceptable agreements with Britain during the CETA negotiations. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of men and women of good-will to broaden and deepen those agreement for the mutual benefit of all four partners. (Although Mr O’Toole’s professed support for supply management may be a problem as it is, I think, one of the things we agreed to sacrifice for the TPP and it, ending supply management of the egg and dairy sector, is a long standing Australian/NZ demand.) It might make it easier for all four of us to deal with America, the ASEAN nations, China, the European Union and India, amongst others if we are reasonably united, homogeneous trade block of four friendly nations with a population of (Dr Lilico’s figures) 128 million people, a combined GDP of $(US) 6.5 Trillion, and global trade worth more than US$3.5 Trillion (versus around US$4.8 T for the U.S., US$4.2 T for China, or US$1.7 T for Japan).

Militarily, the four might find some grounds for further and even deeper cooperation ~ ideally, in the long term, on shared defence requirements definition … deciding, in advance, to harmonize operational requirements for “big ticket” items like ships, aircraft, tanks and electronics … and then, whenever politically possible, to enter into combined, multinational procurement exercises to leverage the advantages of the greater size of the combined requirement for lower prices. This is a possibility that is fraught with political difficulty but which could deliver real, measurable financial benefits to all four countries.

Equally, the four nations, acting in concert, perhaps with Singapore added, too, might be able to exert more and better influence on e.g. United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Goodbye To A Great Ship (1958)

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 Apr 2014

Full title reads: “Helensburgh. Goodbye To A Great Ship”.

Helensburgh, Scotland.

LV Battleship HMS Duke of York in the breakers yard at Helensburgh. LV Looking down on the bows. GV Duke of York in the breakers yard. LV Looking at the massive guns on the foredeck. CU Broken life-belt from the Duke of York. LV Panning shot showing lifeboats lying amongst other rubble on the deck. CU One of the lifeboats.

Library shots. GV Duke of York putting to sea during her hey-day. SV White ensign flying from the mast. GV Panning shot as the Duke of York puts to sea, name can be seen on the stern. GV Duke of York at full steam sailing between two other ships. LV Head on shot as the Duke of York ploughs through the sea.

Shots in breakers yard. GV Elevated shot looking down over the foredeck gun turrets. SV Massive guns. GV Elevated shot of a man with an acetylene cutter cutting away at the base of a gun turret for scrap.

LV Interior shot of a Hungarian refugee working on the bridge during the breaking operations. GV Scrap metal lying in the breakers yard. SV Panning shot of same. SV Man with acetylene cutter cutting through thick girder. LV Section of the battleship being loaded onto railway trucks. GV Looking across the breakers yard to the Duke of York in the background.

February 9, 2017

The History Of British Racing Green By Top Gear!

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Uploaded on 21 Oct 2011

February 8, 2017

British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley Episode 1 War of the Roses [HD]

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Jan 2017

Lucy debunks the foundation myth of one of our favourite royal dynasties, the Tudors. According to the history books, after 30 years of bloody battles between the white-rosed Yorkists and the red-rosed Lancastrians, Henry Tudor rid us of civil war and the evil king Richard III. But Lucy reveals how the Tudors invented the story of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ after they came to power to justify their rule. She shows how Henry and his historians fabricated the scale of the conflict, forged Richard’s monstrous persona and even conjured up the image of competing roses. When our greatest storyteller William Shakespeare got in on the act and added his own spin, Tudor fiction was cemented as historical fact. Taking the story right up to date, with the discovery of Richard III’s bones in a Leicester car park, Lucy discovers how 15th-century fibs remain as compelling as they were over 500 years ago. As one colleague tells Lucy: ‘Never believe an historian!

February 6, 2017

QotD: General officer ranks in the Waterloo campaign

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

There were a lot of generals involved in the campaign in northern France and Flanders that began on June 14, 1815, and culminated in the memorable Battle of Waterloo on June 18th. Altogether there were 240 of them, to command nearly 360,000 troops. And since the troops came from a lot of different armies — British, French, Prussian, Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick, and a few others, telling the generals apart can be a bit confusing.

[…]

Note that the rank structure is not really comparable to that prevailing today in the U.S. Army. The functional equivalent of a British major general or a French general de brigade or marechal de camp would actually be brigadier general based on their commands. The French rank system was actually much more complicated than may appear from the table. To begin with, the highest actual rank in the army was general de division. Marechal de l’Empire was technically a distinction, not a rank. Now it gets really complicated. A corps commander who was officially a general de division might by courtesy be designated a general de corps d’armee. However, a general de division might also sometimes be referred to as a lieutenant-general, particularly if he was functioning in a staff position. Meanwhile, the chief-of-staff of the army was designated major general. In addition, an officer commanding a brigade was more likely to be designated a marechal de camp (i.e., “field marshal”) rather than general de brigade, which was reserved for officers with special duties, such as the commanders of the regiments of the Garde Imperial. This complexity had developed as a result of the Revolution, which favored functional titles for military officers, chef de battailon for example, rather than major. Unfortunately, staff personnel often required rank, so the old Royal hierarchical titles of rank survived for a long time alongside the functional Revolutionary ones.

Further complicating matters was the fact that in all the armies an officer’s social rank was often used rather than his military rank. Thus, although Wellington was a Field Marshal he was usually referred to as “His Grace, the Duke” without his military rank. In Wellington’s case this could become quite complicated, as he was a duke thrice over, the Portuguese and Spanish having created him such even before the British, and he was also a Prince of the Netherlands. As each of these gave him a different title, references to him in Portuguese, Spanish, or Dutch works can easily become obscure. For example, to the Portuguese he was the Duque de Douro, and one Portuguese language history of the Peninsular War nowhere uses any other name for him. Then there is the problem of multiple ranks. Wellington, for example, was a field marshal in the British, Prussian, Netherlands, and Portuguese armies, as well as being a Capitan General in the Spanish Army. Although none of the other officers in the campaign had so many different ranks, several held more than one. For example, the Prince of Orange was a Dutch field marshal and a general in the British Army, while the Duke of Brunswick, who commanded his division in his capacity as duke, was also a lieutenant-general in the British Army.

Al Nofi, “Al Nofi’s CIC”, Strategy Page, 2000-02-01.

February 1, 2017

Mike Oldfield Story (BBC Documentary)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Embedding has been disabled, so you’ll have to go to YouTube to watch this one.

Published on 3 Nov 2014

Documentary about the musician Mike Oldfield, whose 1973 album Tubular Bells launched the Virgin record label and became the biggest selling instrumental album of all time.

January 29, 2017

The pundits only seem to know two Orwell books…

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

As Colby Cosh rightly says, you can find cheap “we’re now living in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four” pieces everywhere. On the evidence, you’d have to say that the majority of editorial writers working today know of Orwell for only two of his (admittedly brilliant) novels. I’m not an Orwell scholar (I’m actually no kind of scholar at all), but I’ve read much more of Orwell’s work — spoiler: he really was a socialist — and we sell the man’s message very far short if it can only be used as a quick literary check-off that the current president of the United States is bad:

I’ll start by admitting that I have a hipster’s childish, proprietary feeling toward the works of George Orwell. It’s a common disorder. Being an admirer of the man’s work I ought, reasonably, to be delighted by anything that makes it more popular. But, dammit, all anybody ever buys are the hits.

Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency has set off such a mighty public hunger for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that the novel shot to the top of Amazon’s fiction charts. That, in turn, has created a land rush in Orwell-Trump thinkpieces. The Guardian even did a full workup of “Orwell experts” who all assure us that the parallels between the 1949 book and the current situation are strong and undeniable, with claims like “Trump takes doublethink to a new extreme” and “Trump is not O’Brien. He is more like a cut-price version of Big Brother himself.”

You can find “Are we living in Orwell’s 1984 (yet)?” articles printed in any year of the last 40 or so. But 2017 has already seen dozens, maybe hundreds. And the great majority of them seem to answer: “Yes, definitely. Here we are. Enjoy your Victory Gin.”

This is not a healthy or sensible reaction to the election of a bold, chauvinistic liar. That, after all, may be a good description most of the heads of government that have ever existed — the leaders under which most modern humans have lived. You’re allowed be afraid of or discouraged by Trump without losing your mind altogether. He displays a great deal of the style and technique of a classic caudillo, a Juan Peron or a Ferdinand Marcos; no sane liberal can be happy to see these things brought to the American scene. Trump has terrible power and may abuse it. He may be awful for the world, may even initiate wars.

In interests of full disclosure, this article triggered me enough to buy another couple of volumes of The Complete Works of George Orwell, these being from the post-WW2 era. I don’t yet have the full set, but I’m working on it (the full Orwell bibliography can be found here). I found A Patriot After All: 1940-1941 and Keeping Our Little Corner Clean: 1942-1943 to be absolutely fascinating, not only as informal war chronology, but also as a view into Orwell’s reasons for simultaneously fighting against totalitarianism in both Fascist and Communist forms.

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