BOOK REVIEW: ‘THE RHODESIAN WAR FIFTY YEARS ON’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  The Rhodesian War Fifty Years On

Author:  Paul Moorcroft and Peter McLaughlin

Total Number of Pages: 208

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

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It is rare to find an academic work that is readable. It is even rarer to find an academic work that is readable, well-written and objective. By those criteria, The Rhodesian War Fifty Years On is a rare book indeed. It is a delight to read, being well-written and well-researched, and, most importantly, objective in its narrative.

The volume is an upgraded reprint of a title originally published in 1982 as Chimurenga, a fact reflected in the provision of additional preface and analysis sections at the front of the work. It is comprehensive, well-researched and authoritative in its narrative and chronicles the Rhodesian / Zimbabwean conflict from that country’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965, to the cessation of hostilities in 1979. In addition, it also records Zimbabwean history for the period 1980-2015, during-which time this once-prosperous nation gradually acquired ‘failed-state’ status. The ‘Rhodesian’ conflict was a nasty little war with a pre-ordained conclusion and, at one level could be simply seen as European colonialism’s last gasp in Africa. Such was not in fact the situation and the work records the rise and fall of various personalities, the changing allegiances and alliances and the unique military tactics that were developed in response to an increasingly-untenable military situation. The conflict was also one of invasion and counter-invasion and of intrigues and modified ideologies where the protagonists could be simultaneously in conflict while working in harmony.  It was very definitely not a ‘little war within a little country’, but rather one in which a small nation punched high above its weight and in ways un-thought of and considered impossible by larger powers. As a feat of arms it was unique. As a political event it was ultimately, for some of the protagonists, a disaster.

All of these events, and many more besides, are carefully recorded in this work, which has to be worthy of the appellation ‘Classic’. The authors describe the events and the sub-conflicts within the larger war in detail, with care and, most notably, with objectivity and complete impartiality. It is a refreshing change.

The work is arranged in four main sections, with subsections appearing within these. Maps, tactical illustrations and photographs also appear within the work, together with two Prefaces, a Prologue, a Glossary, a Select Bibliography and an Index. Zimbabwean history for the period 1980-2015 is contained in a separate section, as are the authors’ biographical details. The need for anonymity means that quotes and the majority of photographs are unsourced.

In this reviewer’s opinion, this work will appeal to several groups of readers. On one level it will be of use to military personnel interested in tactics and responses to specific military situations and exigencies, while historians and war-gamers will also find the information it contains useful. In addition to these special interest groups (and because it explains ‘the reasons why’), this work could be of immense value to those expatriate- Rhodesians who may still be wondering why events occurred as they did. If only for that reason, this little volume would be invaluable. That it manages to do so much more, clearly, concisely and objectively must inevitably earn it the appellation ‘Classic’. In the opinion of this reviewer, that is a designation well–deserved.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it a 9½.

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

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘THE RHODESIAN WAR FIFTY YEARS ON’

Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title: From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The Memoirs of Air Commodore J F ‘Johnny’ Langer

Author: J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL

Total Number of Printed Pages: 288

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

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In the opinion of this reviewer, the motto of Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (Per Adua Ad Adastra; ‘Through Adversity to the Stars’), is an effective summation of this remarkable autobiography. Indeed, so interesting was its subject and so well-written its style, that, for the first time ever, this reviewer abandoned his usual well-honed methods of assessment and simply read it straight through. He is glad that he did!

In precis, this work details the aviation career of J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL. It details his activities both within the Royal Air Force and in his ‘Second (post RAF–retirement) Career’ in aviation security.  The presentation is excellent, the detail meticulous and the author’s devotion to the RAF and aviation in general very evident. However, lest it be considered that what has been written is a succession of ‘beer and skittles’ moments, the downside of military life, especially as it affects servicemen’s families, is also detailed.

Although it certainly commences with the author’s joining the Royal Air Force in World War II, this work is largely concerned with his service in the post-war Royal Air Force.  The organisation he describes was very different from that which he had originally joined and has tended to be ignored in favour of World War II. By relating events and experiences within this period of the RAF’s history, this volume performs a useful service to anyone interested in that era. In that respect alone it is of high value. As if that was not enough (and what sets this specific work apart), are the details pertaining to the author’s service time in the Far East during the Malayan ‘Emergency’, his involvement in the establishment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and his post-service involvement in aviation security. His experiences when interacting with other military organisations (especially with other air forces) are also very revealing; one hopes that the attitudes described no longer exist.  By their nature such activities are rarely recorded, yet are presented herewith in clear, concise and very-readable form. For doing-so the author is to be congratulated.

Unfortunately, the volume is let down in respect of the photographs it contains. These appear within the text proper, rather than in their own separate section, are on the small side, and contain no indications of their origins. There is no reference to their existence in the Table of Contents; a major failing.

In summary, this is an excellent and very well-written work and would be of great interest to anyone interested in service life in the Post-WWII Royal Air Force. The previously-mentioned technical faults notwithstanding, I would suggest it may even been worthy of the appellation ‘Classic’.

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

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

Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’

A different view…

To most people a mine is a ‘hole in a hillside’ that is simultaneously dark, mysterious and dangerous, and a place to be avoided at all costs. The reality is that, if care is taken, the danger can be minimised and the mystery and darkness dispelled. Artists rarely paint the insides of mines, since after all ‘black’ does not have many variations. However, near the mine entrance (or portal) , there is a little more light, and the image below shows what can be seen when looking outwards towards the mine entrance (or portal).

The view in this instance is towards the mine tiphead (where the waste rock is dumped) and shows the tramway (light railway) along-which wagons of waste rock were pushed to be dumped. As can be seen, daylight can only come so far into the mine working, but as it does, the colours of the rock and the surrounding vegetation have a certain charm.

Title: ‘View out towards the adit portal of the Fame and Fortune Low Level; Waiotahi Valley, Thames, New Zealand’.

Media: Acrylic paint on canvas paper

Owner: Artists own collection.

This work is copyright.

 

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‘View out towards the adit portal of the Fame and Fortune Low Level; Waiotahi Valley, Thames, New Zealand’.

A different view…

Pages from a sketchbook: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

In my posting of 11 January 2016, I  referred to the use of compressed-air as a motive-power for rock drills used underground. The image below illustrates the method used prior to the invention and production of such drills, and essentially uses ‘main force’ (a man swinging a hammer) to drive a pointed length of steel (termed a ‘drill’) into a rock face.

Known as either ‘Single-Handed Drilling’ or ‘Single-Handed Driving’ and with little refinement (and that of a metallurgical nature) this method had been in use for centuries. It was, if you will, the ‘traditional’ method of drilling holes in both underground and surface mining operations.

In Single-handed Drilling (and as can be seen), two men were involved; the ‘Driller’ (who held the pointed and especially-hardened steel drilling rod against the rock face) and the ‘Striker’ who wielded a steel-headed hammer and repeatedly struck the outer (flattened) end of the steel drill, forcing it into the rock.

The ‘Driller’ sat cross-legged on the floor of the mine working, holding the drill steel (the pointed steel rod) against the rock. the Striker being placed at the other (outer) end previously referred-to.

The holes were driven in series and to a pre-determined pattern , and when the drilling of all the required holes was completed, were filled with explosives.  These in turn were detonated and the rock. after falling to the floor of the working, was taken away for chemical processing to extract the metal it contained.

The drill teams worked within spaces that measured (at most) 5ft tall x 6 ft wide, and  with only candles to provide illumination. The need for mutual trust between the team members will be evident.

it should also be noted that, on occasion, there could be two ‘strikers’ operating in the same enclosed environment, such a situation being termed ‘Two-Handed’ Drilling.

Surprisingly, such methods  could drill holes into the rock face quite quickly, but, as technology developed, not quickly-enough, and these methods were eventually replaced by more-efficient mechanical rock drills, driven by compressed air. In that context, the well-known American song about ‘John Henry was a Steel-Drivin’ Man’ refers to the attempt by a Single-handed drilling team to improve their efficiency and delay their replacement by a compressed-air drill.  As we know, they failed in the attempt…

Title: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

Media: Black ink pigment liner (0.3 nib) on white cartridge paper.

Ownership: Artist’s personal collection.

This work is copyright.

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Pages from a sketchbook: ‘Single-Handed Driving’

The Komata Reefs Battery

The Komata Reefs old Mining Co. Ltd. was a British-financed gold mining company located at Komata, a location at the bottom end of New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.

The mine was located 1.5 miles from the Company’s battery and was connected to the latter via a tramway.  This is visible at the top left hand of the image, behind the battery  building. While a horse initially provided the motive power for the tramway, the horse was eventually replaced by  a steam locomotive.  The locomotive subsequently suffered a boiler explosion which destroyed it, and the horse was reinstated.

Title: The Komata Reefs Battery, Komata, North Island, New Zealand.

Media: Acrylic paint on canvas paper.

Ownership: Artists own collection.

This work is copyright.

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The Komata Reefs Battery, Komata, North Island, New Zealand.

 

 

The Komata Reefs Battery

Featured Image, 18 April 2016

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TE KERERU MINING AND INVESTMENT CO. LTD.

TOI TOI SHAFT

(Depth: 675 ft.)

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The ‘Featured Image’ for 18 April 2016, is of the surface workings and machinery associated with the Te Kereru [Tea Care-Rare-Roo] Mining and Investment Co. Ltd.’s  Toi Toi  (Toy Toy) shaft, (currently 675 feet, deep).  The  surrounding Toi Toi mine workings are also visible. The Toi Toi shaft Poppett Head (Head Frame) is visible to the right rear of the image, with the shaft Winding Engine House (and chimney from the adjacent boiler house) is visible in the immediate foreground.  In the rear of the image, the adit portals of various other workings are visible.  From Left to Right these are :   No.4 (visible at extreme left of image); No.6 (behind crane); No.5 (behind Popett Head.  No.3 adit is immediately behind the chimney, but is obscured by the latter.  The original (and now closed) No.1 working is visible at the top of the image at a point above and to the right of the Winding Engine House chimney.

 

Featured Image, 18 April 2016

The ‘Featured Image’ For 11 April 2016

Dear Reader:  Welcome back to the nzcrownmines.wordpress.com blog page.

As you will be aware by now, I do have a slight interest (some would suggest a ‘passion’), in gold-mining, specifically, underground gold mining as practiced on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula (the ‘Coromandel’ being that narrow point of land that sticks up from the country’s North island and runs roughly parallel to the location New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.

I am also a historian and someone who ‘plays’ (according to some) with ‘toy trains’ 9the subject of another blog ‘sometime’ in the future.

Inevitably, these three interests (gold mining, history and model railways) have come together and as a result, I have, over time, built various mining-themed model railways.  These have been in ‘N’ scale (1:148), HOn3 (1:87) and .009 (also 1: 48)., with the latest being a 1; 148 scale (aka UK-N scale)  one named Te Kereru Mining and Investment Co. Ltd. ( Te  Kereru  BTW, is pronounced Tea Care Rare-Roo).

Essentially, the layout focuses on gold mining operations and the movement of trainloads of ore from the mine to the crushing plant/ reduction-works / battery (the terms are interchangeable but I will use ‘battery’ in this instance as it is in common usage throughout Australasia).  The actual layout will probably make its appearance on these pages in the future, but for the moment I will be focusing on the battery; the subject of this blog (yes, we are getting to the ‘Featured Image’ – it’s just taking a while).

The image appearing as a ‘Featured Image’ (I hope) is reproduced below and shows only part of the battery.  The photo consists of  three basic components; the battery building (the sloping building in the background), the ‘Spitzluten’ (or Hydraulic Classifier) (the yellow ‘table’ appearing on the left centre of the image) and the cyanide plant.  The cyanide plant consists of the tanks being ‘filled’ in the  lower part of the image and the tall structures (aka ‘B&M’, ‘Tall’ or ‘Pacchucca’ tanks) to the rear of the right rear of the  image.

These structures were the focus of the extraction process and as such were extremely important to the individual mining companies.  They were also developed in New  Zealand with the B&M tanks being a New Zealand  invention, being patented in 1909.  The other structures in the image also relate to the cyanide process, the long pipe visible running across the lower right centre conveying waste water to a nearby tailings dam.

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Te Kereru Mining and Investment Co. Ltd.

60-head battery and cyanide plant

(Scale 1:148)

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Trusting that you, Dear Reader, have found what you have read and seen to be of interest.

I look forward to posting more things for your delectation in due course.

The ‘Featured Image’ For 11 April 2016