Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Monday, 30 January 2012

Sunday, 29 January 2012

We went to the moon...



On July 20th 1969 a human stepped out of a Lunar Module onto the moon...
Nearly 43 years later it is still mind blowing ,

The 3 astronauts; Neil Armstrong, Edwin `Buzz` Aldrin Jr and Michael Collins left earth on July 16th at Kennedy Space Centre, Florida USA in a Saturn V rocket...



Still to this day the  most powerful machine man has ever built, designed by German Wernher von Braun, an ex WW2 Rocket scientist.
The rockets burned  20 tons of fuel a second on take off, produced 7,500,000 LBS of thrust from its first stage 5 engines which pushed the rocket to seven times the speed of sound. 40 miles high it was still accelerating.
It must have been mind blowing sitting on top of that thing...

Here an ace  film that shows the power of  the Saturn V engines at lift off, to the  well suited music of Gustaf Holst`s `Mars The Bringer of War`...



After a 2nd seperation the Apollo 11 headed for the moon, as did Apollo 8 before it, except this mission was to descend to the surface.

With Collins in the Command Module Armstrong and Aldrin descend in the Luner Module (LM) to the Moon surface to touch down in The Sea of Tranquillity...


Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, Millions of people all around the world watched in wonder...



History in the making...


There were  further Apollo missions to the Moon and a total of 12 different astronauts walked on the moon and 6 drove the lunar rover buggies...


They served a purpose but looked good fun too!...



There is so much info about the Moon Program to digest!, the Wikipedia Apollo program is a good read if interested..

Here is a good film of the  Apollo 11 footage...



It is amazing to think all the bases of the LMs,  flags, and rovers are all just sitting there as are Russian unmanned equipment from landings...
and all the footprints...
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Hold on! that's a Surly fat tyre print on the moon!... so its true they do exist!  -:)


Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Supermarine Spitfire

Walking around the Military hanger at the Scottish National Museum of Flight here at East Fortune in East Lothian you feel dwarfed as you walk between the military jets which between them through time have played there part in military aviation history,

Amongst the large jets is a Lightning...



A Harrier Jump jet...



A Jaguar...



McDonnal Douglas Phantom...



And a Tornado...





However there is a smaller less obvious plane quietly sitting in a corner that played a very important part during WW2 and remains to this day probably the most famous and loved fighter aircraft to ever fly,

The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire...



This example is TE462, derived from the similar LF.IXe, the main difference being the installation in the Mark XVI of an American Packard built Merlin engine...



TE462 never saw squadron service, being built in 1945. Most of its active life was with maintenance units...



Features not in common with the more familiar Spitfire versions is the bubble canopy...



And clipped wingtips which enabled the aircraft to roll much more quickly...



Post 1940 Battle of Britain Spits had Hispano 20mm cannon as well as 8 USA Browning .303 machine guns, which would later be made under licence at the Vickers Factory...





Our TE462 spent time as a gate guard at RAF Ouston, Northumberland before becoming the first aeroplane the Royal Scottish Museum acquired, in 1971.

The heart of the Spitfire was its clipped ``elliptical` wing, and the Rolls Royce V12 Supercharged engine which was also fitted to the Hawker Hurricane.
The engine spat out 1000 BHP making the Spitfire the fastest fighter of its time in the summer of 1940,.
The Merlin's power would increase to nearly 2000 BHP by the end of WW2 and the engine would also power the legendary Mosquito light bomber, the 4 engined Avro Lancaster heavy bomber and the P51 Mustang long distance fighter escort amongst others.

Here is a great film someone made using footage of Merlin V12 engine production from a Rolls Royce Factory...



First flown in 1936 the Spitfire was the RAF's first all-metal fighter.
Its nimble and precise handling and speed made it an instant favourite with every pilot who flew it..



Its legend began with its first combat on October 16th 1939 here off the coast in East Lothian above the Firth of Forth when Spits from RAF Drem in East Lothian and Turnhouse in Edinburgh were scrambled to intercept German aircraft...



After helping win the Battle of Britain they would turn the air war over the Island of Malta.
Spits would also see action  later over the Middle East in both Israeli and Egyptian hands.
Here is a film of some Gun camera footage, and as you see many of the builders of  Spitfires were woman, in nylon stockings too!...




RAF Drem, East Lothian;

Many fighter Squadrons of Spitfires passed through RAF Drem between 1939 and 1946 here in East Lothian... the fighter station was on the front line for protecting the Firth of Forth Estuary from Attacking German bombers flying across the North Sea from Germany and then occupied Norway...




RAF Drem was a satellite airfield for RAF Turnhouse- today's Edinburgh International Airport and once home to 603 Squadron.
Today if you fly to/from Edinburgh Airport you wont miss the (replica) Spitfire at the entrance in honour of the Squadron...



RAF Drem;
A minister blessing new Spitfires and Hurricanes, this was done to all ships and planes when new, behind is the village of Drem and Kilduff woods on the skyline..



A patrol coming in, behind is West Fenton and Gullane Hill...



Spitfires ready to scramble...



There pilots waiting in a nearby dispersal hut for that phone to ring to give the call to scramble...


Ground crews work on a planes guns, behind is Gullane Hill...


This picture of 4 young pilots is iconic, none of these young men saw the end of 1940...


Cycling through the now quiet Airfield Peri (Perimeter) track i often imagine what it would be like to be here 70 years ago to see and hear all these aircraft taking off, it must have been some sight...

Photographers wait for an important visit to RAF Drem in 1939, behind are the Garleton Hills and monument on Byres Hill...




King George at RAF Drem in 1939, accompanied by Sir Hugh Dowding would become Air Marshall of fighter command in 1940 during the Battle of Britain...





Many other Squadrons would pass through RAF Drem Airfield for short periods between 1939 and 1946 but mostly the airfields early WW2 duty was interceptor fighters which patrolled the coastline and North Sea and intercepted bombing attempts on Roysth Dockyard in the Firth of Forth Estuary...

Photo taken from a German Bomber...





A film i made of RAF Drem, using pictures collected, audio interviews of pilots who were stationed there, and historians accounts, the real gun cam footage if from the Battle of Britain, many of the Squadrons would have passed through Drem when on leave from the South coast of England.
As you will see even here there were tragic accidents,  20 young airmen from all around the world lost there lives while stationed at Drem. They are buried nearby at Dirleton..




I have always been interested in WW2 and esp the Battle of Britain and Spitfires and what happened here in East Lothian at the time.
As i grew up my dad would often mention that he used to go fishing with men who once flew Spitfires,
Then as an apprentice green keeper at Gullane Golf Club i would chat daily to elderly members who were Battle of Britain Veteran's,though they wouldn't talk about it unless you asked them. During the war one of them was based here at RAF Drem several times.
They would be very modest when you asked them about the war and would say they were just normal people who "did what they had to do" and "did there bit".
What there friends would then often tell you was of there bravery and medals won.

If you do the sums, the 8 303 calibre machine guns were set to cross at 250 yards to provide the maximum damage, if a Spitfire was diving at approx 400 mph on a bomber at 200 mph then that 250 yards disappears very quickly...that's how close the fighting was...



Some experienced pilots had there guns trimmed in a bit to converge at 150 yards.
Oh and the 8 .303 machine guns had 3 belts of 100 rounds per gun loaded that only lasted 14.3 seconds,
so those young men had to learn fast to shoot carefully to conserve ammunition.

The Hawker Hurricane was produced before the Spitfire and in greater numbers and was regarded by some as a tougher aircraft capable of taking a lot of damage and being more easily repaired.
65-70% of enemy aircraft were shot down by Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. It has also been said the Hurricane turned tighter than the Spitfire.

Hawker Hurricane...



So why then has the Spitfire stole the limelight and become the symbol of the Battle of Britain?, it seems to have developed a very special place in the hearts of those who flew it and also in the public heart who watched them fly then as they do today at Airshows...



Here is film of both fighters...



One thing to the Spitfires design compared to the Hurricane was its ability to be updated as faster ME 109s and the Folke Wulf 190 were introduced.  By 1945 the Spitfire was nearly twice as heavy and fast with nearly twice the engine power as the Mk1 that first entered service.

The question often asked was which fighter was better?, the Spit or the ME 109 or the Folke Wulf 190?,
RAF pilots have often been quoted that to fly a ME 109 well the pilot was very very skilled,
Here is a film of veterans from both sides and there opinions of both planes...



There are not many original surviving Spitfires still flying today. 16 in the Battle of Britain Squadron.
There are only at the time of writing this 11 Hawker Hurricanes flying here in the UK.
While both planes shared the famous V12 Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Spitfire seems to have a certain charm...

I am nearly 40 and thinking back to my late teens i was a similar age then in 1987 to what the Battle of Britain pilots would have been in 1940.
But i cant imagine myself doing at the age of 19 what those brave men - then just boys really did ...

What they did was quite an extraordinary feat of bravery, as they actually faced a near impossible task given the odds stacked against them.
They were often quickly trained flying Tiger Moths or Gladiator Bi planes during the summer months of 1940 with a quickening shortage of pilots often it was only 8 hours flying time then they would be posted to a fighter squadron and go on to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes. These fighter planes were capable of over 400 mph, this was in 1940, speeds then hard to believe possible.

They would fly these fighters into battle against armed German bomber crews and escort fighter pilots who were already battle hardened by there war against Spain.
Out numbered at odds of 4-1, they had to learn very fast and many inexperienced pilots never made it back from there first combat,
1 in every 6 RAF pilots would be dead by the end of the summer of 1940 which is by the way Russian roulette odds.

A recommended read is Geoffrey Wellum`s biopic `First Light`...



The youngest surviving Battle of Britain Pilot, at just 18 years of age, Geoffrey flew in 92 Squadron.
Reading his book it is like sitting in the cockpit, and you imagine the sheer adrenaline, fear, and tragedy that was witnessed by all pilots on all sides...

The BBC made an excellent Documentary Drama of his Book for the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Available on DVD it is a very life like look at life during those dark days.
Here is a clip of his first experience of a scramble, and a very lucky escape...



Despite being heavily out numbered the RAF bravely didn't fold under the German Luftwaffe onslaught over the summer of 1940 as expected by the axis forces.

In June 1940 only 1000 RAF pilots were ready with approx 600 fighters and they faced the impossible and by September 15th approx 3000 pilots from the Commonwealth would have helped stop the fall of the RAF and Germany withdrew its planned land invasion of Britain...
446 RAF fighter pilots would pay the ultimate price in the summer of 1940, and many more would be horrifically burned and crippled, a terrible sacrifice was paid by young men on both sides.

Watching Battle of Britain news reels on Youtube you see real footage of scrambles during 1940, but it is a realisation that this is not Hollywood...some of those planes were not coming back,
Also remember those gun cameras they fitted not only documented confirmed planes shot down but often the death of someones son, brother or husband...

Real news real footage, it is a bit propaganda with the music and commentary but watch the RAF footage at 3mins 40 secs...



Pilots accounts often talk of the years of nightmares of watching friends shot down, unable to remove the canopy, often due to a enemy bullet damaging the slider rails, seeing there friends being burned alive and there screams on the intercom radio- something the young woman at battle HQs had to deal with too...
How the surviving pilots coped with the loss of life is remarkable...

Fatigue would play its part as the days wore on from August into September, but it has been documented of these young men's amazing fighting spirit- maybe because they were fighting for there own survival and our country, and this was going on in the skies over southern England where daily people would watch these dog fights in a huge outdoor amphitheatre...

That intense struggle to victory of our skies was as Churchill would later quote `There finest Hour`...

The pilots who survived have often been quoted as saying they do not want thanks, or medals for what they did, but just to be remembered, that is all, as then those who did not come back are forever remembered...

Every year here at East Fortune Airshow a Spitfire flys over for a few minutes and dives and rolls.
I find it awe inspiring and quite moving to watch and listen to the roar of its Merlin engine...



I have wanted to make a film on Spitfires for a long time.  There are lots of Spitfire films on Youtube already so i have tried to do one a bit different by using documentary narrative of surviving WW2 pilots and ground crew. They can describe more than myself the charm of the aircraft, also is some narrative of Battle of Britain Historian Dr Stephen Bungay and also female Spitfire owner and pilot Caroline Grace.
It took a few weeks evenings editing the real WW2 fighter film with some of today's airshows then added the narrative and music.
The WW2 flying footage combined with the narrative of those involved with the Spitfire give - i hope some insight into this amazing aircraft and the important part it played so people could live a free life today...

Here is my tribute to "the few" who flew the Spitfires and did there bit during dark days,

massive respect...




Friday, 27 January 2012

Nice House For Sale


Nice eh?

Do you like your privacy?, i know i sometimes do, would you like a secluded house miles away from prying eyes and curtain twitching nosey neighbours?, or maybe a weekend retreat to get away from it all?,
Or maybe you suffer from mass paranoia and just need to feel secure and safe...

Well folks this just may be the place your looking for, this is for sale to the north of Albany, in the Adirondacks.
In its 230 Acres of surrounding land within its own perimeter security fence it has its own 2050 feet airstrip...



Inside the house has lovely warming features...



Want more privacy than this?, ok then head to these doors and punch in the code on the wall key pad...


Through the doors and then down and down you go...


To a 2000 lbs nuke proof blast door and then you enter into a
9 LEVEL COLD WAR MISSILE SILO!...



Check out the underground luxury rooms...very 1960s James Bond/ world domination villan...


Marble bathroom? -:)...

Further below more tunnels and blast doors eventually lead to the Missile Launch Silo...


Here is where the SM - 65F Missile would have sat, this Silo was never armed with one...


This facility opened in 1962 and was closed in 1965 due to being made obsolete with the introduction of Titan 2 rocket. The Silo cost around 18 million dollars in 1958...yep!

Now it could be yours for a snip at only $1, 750,000...  hope my lottery numbers come up...


In its description i like the bit about the escape hatch from the launch control - straight to the garage above, nice, a direct link to the man cave -:)

More info here; Silo home .com

And film...



Thursday, 26 January 2012

Surly Moonlander Fatbike with Charlie The Bikemonger

Good chap and UK Surly confederate, evangelist associate and dealer Charlie the Bikemonger has got a fresh  new Moonlander in,  man it looks ace -:)

watch the night sky... -:)

A Lost Coast Road, and old crossings...

I mentioned before about old roads no longer marked on modern maps that can be traced using old maps and out on route exploring for traces of  them.
Heading West out of Gullane on the A198 heading to Aberlady village you pass an old stone roadside mileage marker just before the sharp bend at Galla Hill and its disused quarry (Quarry Corner).
These stones are still marked as MS on today`s Ordnance Survey maps,
This one gives the miles to Edinburgh...



As you approach the bend at Quarry corner you will notice a gated road going straight on through Luffness Golf Course...



This road is now a private access road across the Golf Course to vehicles to access the sewage treatment works, but you can of course walk cycle or horse ride down here (watch out for golfers playing across the road!) and down the hill you will see a grass track continuing straight on South to South West in line with the road where you are standing...



This was once the road from Gullane Village - then called `Goolin` to the Village of Aberlady with a tidal crossing causeway across Aberlady Bay.
You can see it marked here on the John Thomson's Atlas of Scotland, 1832, This map is a great source of old information on the County of Haddingtonshire as East Lothian was then called...



Also note the Race Course marked on the map where now is the present Gullane No 1 Golf Course...



Today the 3rd Hole of No1 Course is named Race Course, Originally there was just one Golf Course at Gullane which started at where the Old Clubhouse Restaurant is and wound up and around the hill,
The Links was Comman Land and the local villager`s had grazing rights and even rights to hang there washing!, many Top Race Horse Owners and Trainers owned Houses and Stables on Gullane hill and they had rights allowing them to run there horses on the links. Eventually it had to be decided who would get priority of use of the common land of Gullane links and it was decided it would be for Golf as it could be enjoyed by all, local and visitors with its massive increase in popularity in Victorian times with the coming of the railway to Gullane bringing people from Edinburgh to the coast,
Imagine if it had been the horses that got priority, and today Gullane Hill could have been a top race course venue like Aintree...

What i don't know is if the present coast road (A198) from Quarry corner to the Nature Reserve Car Park was back then a private estate road of Luffess or a toll road but both are marked on the Map but at sometime the present road was made the main road avoiding the tidal causeway.

Back on the old road and it crosses a grass field between Luffness Golf Course and Aberlady Nature Reserve...



This field is in fact part of the original Luffness Golf Course,
Notice the present Luffness Golf Club is called `Luffness New`,
because it was moved and some of its holes relocated after a legal land case decided that some of the course was in fact on Gullane Golf Clubs Land!, the new club moved to the present Clubhouse over 100 years ago, the original Clubhouse ruins are disappearing in Sea Buck thorn bushes to the south of this field which are hard to get through to photo, here is a print though of the original clubhouse taken around 1870...



Now just a grassy rabbit warren here would have been fairways...


Here many years ago my big brother found a Gutta Percha Golf Ball here dug out a rabbit hole which has been dated from around 1880- 1890...

These were the first wound inner golf balls and painted white, these can fetch 4 figure numbers at Auctions if in good enough condition.
Your unlikely to find a `featherie ` golf ball outdoors intact,these were the first golf balls made of leather stuffed with goose feathers but they are still found in dry attics etc...
These are very sought after and easy fetch 5 figure numbers at auction...


The track continues through what is now Aberlady Nature Reserve...





Heading towards the Bay there is under an old Hawthorn a stone with hand cut edges which i believe could be an old way marker for the route...



Ahead you can see here at low tide the remains of what would have been a raised stone causeway...



The Bay is now filling up with silt but when in use this would have been raised and only impassable for a few hours between high tides...



And here looking North across onto the Reserve...



In 1940 The British Army made use of the solid foundations of the causeway when they prepared coastal defences for what was thought an eminent Invasion from Germany after the evacuation of Dunkirk,
rows of concrete anti tank blocks were constructed along exposed coastlines, here is a photo from 1940 of the blocks across the causeway...



P.O.Ws from Gosford Camp were put to work helping in the construction...




I wonder if the Tommy watching the prisoner was or knew `T Black ` who signed this remaining block further north of the bay on the reserve...





The Blocks here across the Peffer burn and along to Aberlady were removed in the 1960s to help build the reclaimed base for the building of Cockenzie power Station.



Here is a pic from then of a crane lifting out the blocks...



Friend Jason and myself rode across at low tide one summer evening last year, first wheels tracks there i bet since that crane removed the blocks...




The Reserve today is well known because of its raised wooden footbridge over the Peffer Burn Estuary...





popularised by the Late Local Writer and Scottish historian Nigal Tranter who lived nearby in the house overlooking the bridge and the bay,
I grew up listening to talks at Primary School of local history by the writer and later would see and talk to him when i was a Green keeper at Gullane while he was out walking the reserve and dunes of Gullane Links with his note book in hand where he found a lot of his inspiration for his writing...
He would make the bridge over the Peffer Burn and the area famous to the world in his book ` The Bridge to Enchantment`...



Many visitors i have spoke to out here have been inspired to visit here in East Lothian because of his writings, He is also one of a few people who have documented visits to every single Scottish Castle...
a memorial to him is at the Nature Reserve car park...



There have also been other crossings of the Peffer Burn here in the past,
beside the Bridge on its east side is another remains of a causeway to ford the Peffer Burn...



And a bit upstream is the remains of a Victorian bridge built by the Hope Family of Luffness Estate...





I remember it standing as a kid (late 1970s) but it was a dangerous bridge then...
here are pictures of it in the 1950s and local Scouts kayaking the Peffer...





The Peffer Burn is a tidal burn right up to the present main road crossing beside Luffness Mill,
What is also of interest to me is there are 2 Peffer burns in East Lothian,
the other north of Tyninghame Estate and south of scoughall farm at Peffersands,
both are in line of each other on the OS map which would indicate they both have the same source but it is not documented (on line anyway) but it is somewhere North of East Fortune if you follow each Burn inland on the maps,
a contour map and a day out walking could find the source,another `to do` to add to the list...

And here is another lost road across Hedderwick Sands between Tyninghame and Dunbar no longer shown on modern day maps...



Always something new to find or research here on East Lothians  coast...