BOOK REVIEW: ‘LADY LUCY HOUSTON DBE: AVIATION CHAMPION AND MOTHER OF THE SPITFIRE’.

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  Lady Lucy Houston DBE: Aviation Champion and Mother of the Spitfire

Author: Miles Macnair

Total Number of Pages: 248

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8 ½

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When delivering his famous monologue in William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, Lord Jacque states: ‘All the World’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts…’ The  monologue  effectively summarises the life of Lucy, Lady Houston DBE. It could indeed be a fitting epitaph, although, after reading her biography, this reviewer suspects that the Lady’s response would be both unprintable and perhaps a little more abbreviated.

In the Twenty-first Century, Lady Lucy Houston is little known. Her name, if recalled, is invariably linked to the Supermarine Spitfire aircraft via her financing of the British entries 1930’s-era  Schneider trophy seaplane races; events which  resulted, eventually,  in the development of internationally-renowned aircraft and aircraft engines.  This contribution is acknowledged in the volume’s sub-title ‘…Mother of the Spitfire’. Yet there is so much more. Lady Houston was the epitome of contradiction.  She was a very strong-willed and determined woman, who literally rose from rags to riches via a set of carefully planned marriages and conquests. She was obsessively patriotic, passionate about aviation and contributed large quantities of money to its development. Yet equally, Lady Houston could be simultaneously bossy, manipulative and incredibly loyal. She could also be wilfully-blind about human frailty and became completely besotted by a member of the British Royal family. Yet these were only some small facets of her remarkable life. . There were many, many others. Contradictory certainly, infuriating, definitely, and ‘Eccentric’ in the best ‘English’ tradition. Despite (or perhaps because of) these traits, the subject of this work is ultimately, quite endearing. We will never see her like again.

The author has undertaken extensive research on his subject and has produced a well-written and very readable biography of a remarkable woman. Yet the work is not just about a single individual.  The reader is also introduced to other notables of the subject’s era,. Contemporary history is included to both ‘frame’ the larger narrative, and to add colour to it, with the chapter devoted to King Edward VIII being especially interesting. Colour and Monochrome photographs, together with reproductions of relevant documents and cartoons, provide visual assistance to the narrative. Where additional Reference Notes are used, these are End-note in format.

The work contains 21 Chapters and four Appendices, together with a Foreword, an Acknowledgements section and an Introduction. As previously-noted, a List of Illustrations is provided, and within this, separate sections (FiguresPlates-Black and White and Plates-Colour) detail the images that the book contains.  A Bibliography, an Index and a Notes section are also provided.

This reviewer was disappointed to find that despite the Mother of the Spitfire subtitle, the Schneider Trophy Races from which the Supermarine Spitfire evolved, form only one chapter of this volume, although their connection with the later aircraft is acknowledged. The races, together with the Mount Everest flights which she also financed, are presented purely in the context of Lady Houston’s life.  The numbering of the photographs within the work, (where ([B] for Black and White; [C] was for Colour]), was initially disconcerting, while this reviewer would also have liked to have seen better definition of both the Lowe cartoons and the various printed documents that appear within the work.

This reviewer believes this volume will be of value to those who are interested in both the British aristocracy and the British Monarchy (especially King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson).  Historians interested in both European and British politics of the 1930’s, together with those with a more-general interest in that era should also find it of use. Readers seeking additional information about the Schneider Trophy seaplanes and the Supermarine Spitfire may not however, find what they are looking for within its pages.   Were that that was not so.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it 8 ½.

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nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘LADY LUCY HOUSTON DBE: AVIATION CHAMPION AND MOTHER OF THE SPITFIRE’.

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

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Reviewer:  NZ Crown Mines

Title: Navies in the 21st Century

Editor: Conrad Waters

No. of Pages: 256

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 7

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A ‘Compendium’ is defined as being ‘…A collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication’. Navies in the 21st Century, fits this definition well.

In the military world, it is always useful to know what the opposition is doing, and if one is unable to make personal acquaintance with the foe, a variety of alternative sources can provide at least a measure of information.  Navies in the 21st Century seeks to be one of these sources.

The volume consists of nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and within each of these are a varying number of subsections covering specific topics.  As it is a compendium, these subsections have been contributed by a variety of authors (14 in total) who are evidently experts in their fields. The Editor also contributes various pieces and a Foreword.

The subjects covered are wide. They include a Strategic Overview; a Fleet Analysis; 21st Century Warship Design; Aircraft, and Personnel. The resultant work is both comprehensive and informed. Photographs (from a variety of sources, both civil and military), graphs, tables and well-executed line and half-tone drawings are also included.

In addition to the previously-noted Forward, the volume has nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and 25 ‘Subsections’. The latter are chiefly concentrated in Section 4 (Fleet Analysis), where they provide well-researched and detailed information on both major and minor naval strengths and capabilities. A Glossary and List of Contributors are also included, together with an Index. Where additional information is necessary, notes are provided at the end of the individual chapters. These are keyed to sequentially-occurring-numbers within the text.

For this reviewer however, the work does have some limitations. Of these the most serious concerns the Index. During random searching, it was noticed that although an entry for New Zealand appeared within Section [Chapter] 4.3 (Asian Fleet Strengths -2015) on page 91, there was no reference to this entry (or indeed to ‘New Zealand’ per se’) within the Index.

As this was found during a random search, there is no way of knowing what other omissions exist. However, the discovery inevitably raises questions concerning the veracity and authority of the Index section and, by implication, the whole volume. In addition, no Bibliography exists, while the Contents section makes no reference to the photographs and drawings appearing within the book. The use of numbers (for example, 4.2.3) to delineate the subsections may also be initially-disconcerting for some readers.

These limitations notwithstanding, this reviewer believes that this volume provides a comprehensive coverage of the contemporary international naval scene. While doing-so, it easily earns the ‘Compendium’ appellation previously given. It is a relatively small and easily carried book and easy to refer-to (the previously-alluded-to Index ‘problem’ notwithstanding). As such it should find a ready home in wardrooms, airbase libraries and on military intelligence files. Defence specialists, and researchers in the geo-political field will also find this work of use, while students of 21st-Century warships and naval design could find it informative. The naval modeller may also find that this volume provides invaluable information in respect of both sea-going armaments and general naval technology. Those with a more general interest in naval and military matters, international relations, or ships in general, are also likely to find this work useful.

In precis, this is an excellent, comprehensive and well-written book. For this reviewer however, it was let down by small but important details, especially in respect of the Index, Had this not been the case, it would have received a higher rating.

On a rating scale of 1-10 where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I would give this volume a 7.

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nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

The ‘Kaiser’s Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).’

I have a long-standing interest in model railways., and over the years have built several small layouts, largely based on gold mining themes. These layouts have come in a variety of sizes, but tend towards the ‘Micro-layout’ concept, largely as a result of my living in a small house.  What follows will necessarily be long, but will serve to introduce one of my creations: the Kaiser’s Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability). a small world which resides in a 1930’s-era Cutlery Drawer.

As with all my modeling, what you see before you is NZN-Freelance (1:148 scale)

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The Kaiser’s Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

(Scale: 1:148)

History

The ‘Kaiser’s is a medium-sized underground gold mining operation, situated on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. The year is 1921, and the mine is slowly declining, but still producing enough to make a profit for its London-based shareholders. While a steam-powered tramway is employed to move the ore from the mine to the crushing plant (aka ‘Reduction-works or ‘Battery) at the mine itself, a horse-drawn tramway of 3 ft gauge is employed to move loaded ore trucks to the bins, and to return empties underground.

Background

The Kaiser’s was built as a ‘fun’ exercise when I was resident in another location far from my family, and ‘needed a model railway’. Whatever was built had to be similar to the numerous tramways (light railways) employed within the now-largely-extinct hard-rock (underground) gold-mining industry on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, and had to be as authentic as possible. It  did not however have to be based on any particular prototype. I had no money for the task, a single locomotive, the contents of a scrap-box, a transformer and a Cutlery Drawer. I had also never built anything like it in my life!! As a result, everything, (with the exception of the obvious items: animals, people, and track) is scratch built, and uses whatever could be ‘scrounged’ and modified to achieve the end result. Inventiveness ruled as a result, and nothing that appears on the layout is in its original form!!

Layout sections

The layout consists of two sections, located one on each side of the ‘Scenic divider’. One section consists of the ‘Mine itself, which is dominated by the ‘Thorndon’ Shaft (current depth 758 ft) and its associated surface buildings, with various horizontal ‘tunnels’ accessing both the shaft and the adjacent workings. The previously-mentioned 3ft-gauge tramway also provides access to the adjacent Mary-Anne section, which is reached over a bridge that crosses the cutting made for the steam-powered tramway.

The layout’s other section is the Battery (Reduction-works: the terms are interchangeable), which consists of 50-head of stampers to crush the ore to talcum-powder fineness, and a full and complete Cyanidation plant (including an early form of B & M Air Agitator Tanks) to extract the gold from the ore, along with sundry associated buildings and the tramway’s locomotive shed.

Materials

With the exception of four lengths of Peco flex-track, some Balsa Wood (in both stick and sheet form) two Atlas points (subsequently removed as being too unreliable), the track, people and animals (the things I can’t make myself, together with and some spackling compound purchased new for the project, everything on the layout is scratch built and made from scavenged materials, and the contents of my scrap box. The total cost of materials would probably be USD40. It can therefore truthfully be said that the ‘Kaiser’s is a whole lot of ‘Rubbish’. The list of materials I have used is large, and includes such things as lollipop sticks, wallpaper, picture framing board, computer-screen packaging, propelling-pencil leads, beads, cork tiles, milk-bottle lids, pins and empty paint tins; I’ll let you guess as to what has been used where, although it should be remembered that everything has been significantly altered in some way; nothing remains ‘as found’.

Rolling Stock

The tramway locomotive is ‘Jess’, a Baldwin 0-6-0ST which wears side-skirts a la’ the Glasgow Whiskey Distillery locomotives, and was evidently purchased second-hand and exported to ‘the colonies’. The rolling stock consists largely of 4-wheeled side-dump wagons, built by the company, although there are a couple of flat-deck types as well. All rolling stock rides on old N-scale bogie-units of indeterminate origin.

Base Board

As noted in my introduction, the ‘Kaiser’s resides in a 1930’s -era Cutlery Drawer, which measures 24 in x 15 in. The actual ‘working area’ inside the ‘drawer is 22 1/2 in x 13 3/4 in. The ‘Scenic Backdrop/ Divider’ rises 81/2 in above the baseboard’s surface.

Scenery and Track

The previously-referred-to Scenic Backdrop / Divider is made from Coreflute / gatorboard from a discarded Real Estate sign. It runs diagonally across the ‘Drawer, dividing the layout into two sections – the Mine on one side, the Battery on the other. Terrain is made from a type of ‘bubble packaging’ that was wrapped around computer VDU’s and which my employer had dumped. It cuts easily and takes acrylic paint, spackling, PVA and CA very well.

The track diagram is a simple oval, with (approximately) 61/2 in curves at each end, although due to my doubtful track laying skills the radii may be even tighter.in places. Everything still manages to traverse these however so they can’t be too tight.

Operation

The ‘Kaisers is a ‘Clockwork Mouse’, and simply chases its tail for the entertainment of any viewers. As previously noted there were Atlas points originally, but these were simply too unreliable, so they were removed – the resulting ‘oval’ of track proving quite adequate for the task.

‘Outings’

Although originally built ‘for fun’ others have seen fit to invite the ‘Kaiser’s to various exhibitions, where it is an object of interest due to its size and the fact that it is built from recycled materials – this latter point being a special ‘hit’ with the environmentally-conscious child viewers. The layout’s ‘Moment of Glory’ was an invited-attendance at the New Zealand Model Railway Guild’s National Convention in 2008, where it was favourably received, and performed flawlessly over four days.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view of Western end of mine and tramway.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view of Eastern end of mine and tramway, showing Poppett head (Headframe) of Thorndon shaft (758 feet deep at time of writing), together with associated tramways .

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view of Eastern end of mine and tramway, showing Poppett head (Headframe) of Thorndon shaft (758 feet deep at time of writing). Blacksmiths shop in centre foreground, goods shed in immediate foreground,

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability)

General view of Eastern end of mine and tramway, showing Poppett head (Headframe) of Thorndon shaft (758 feet deep at time of writing), together with associated tramways, adits (horizontal tunnels into the rock) and storage bins.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view of Eastern end of mine and tramway, showing Poppett head (Headframe) of Thorndon shaft (758 feet deep at time of writing), together with associated tramways . Steam tramway to battery / reduction-works visible in bottom RH corner of image.Mine Manager’s house at extreme RH edge of image.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view showing Poppett head (Headframe) of Thorndon shaft (758 feet deep at time of writing), together with associated tramways .

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability)

General view showing (from Left) locomotive shed, loco water tank, B&M Air Agitator tanks (‘Pachucca’ tanks) and part of Battery / reduction-works.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view of Battery / reduction-works. Cyanide-filed settling tanks visible in middle foreground. Mechanical agitator tank visible behind them (close to battery building). Steam-powered tramway tracks visible in lower foreground.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

Detail view showing B&M Air Agitator tanks (‘Pachucca’ tanks) and part of Battery / reduction-works. Sptizluten hydraulic classifier visible to extreme RH edge of image.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view showing B&M Air Agitator (Pachucca) tanks and part of Battery / reduction-works. Cyanide-filled settling tanks visible in middle foreground.

Tracks of Steam-powered tramway in foreground.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view showing part of B&M Air Agitator tanks and Battery / reduction-works. Cyanide-filed settling and agitator tanks visible in middle foreground. Spitzluten hydraulic classifier on roof of main battery building.

Tracks of Steam-powered tramway just visible in foreground.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view showing Battery / reduction-works. Cyanide-filled settling and agitator tanks visible in middle foreground.

Scale: 1: 148.

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Kaisers Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).

General view showing Battery / reduction-works. Cyanide-filled settling and agitator tanks visible in middle foreground. Spitzluten hydraulic classifier visible on roof of main battery building.

Scale: 1: 148.

The ‘Kaiser’s Reef (Hauraki) Gold Mining Co. (No Liability).’