REMEMBERING VIOLETTE

Remembrance Day, 2019.  Ever since my days living in Dorset House, I became aware of the Special Operations Executive (SOE ) which was headquartered in London’s Dorset Square during the War.  Television series such as Foyle’s War in Britain and Camp X here in Canada have belatedly brought the clandestine exploits of the SOE to a wider audience.

VIOLETTE SZABO STATUE, LAMBETH PALACE, LONDON

The Special Operations Executive (SOE), the brainchild of PM Churchill, was secretly formed for the purpose of recruiting agents, men and women of many nationalities who would volunteer to continue the fight for freedom by performing acts of sabotage in countries occupied by the enemy during the Second World War. 

470 SOE agents were sent on sabotage missions to occupied France where they fought with networks of French Resistance fighters who played an important part in the liberation of France in 1944.

Violette Szabo  ( 1921-45 ), who was posthumously award the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre,  was among the 117  SOE agents who did not survive their missions to France.

WESTLAND LYSANDER

The first Canadian built Lysanders rolled out of National Steel Car factory at Malton, Ontario in September 1939 and later were delivered to the RCAF at Rockcliffe, Ontario.  The most daring use of Westland Lysanders in WW II was with the  Special Operations Executive by flying in secret agents with supplies and picking up escapees. It was during these daring night operations, that the unarmed yet sturdy Lysander came into its own, using its remarkable Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities to fly into the small rough fields and pastures marked out by the Resistance.

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POSITANO

Probably the most well known town on the whole Amalfi Coast,  picturesque Positano draws tourists from around the world.

POSITANO FROM THE BEACH

BEACH SCENE

POSITANO WATERFRONT

POSITANO FAREWELL FROM THE FERRY TO SORRENTO

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AUTUMN SPLENDOUR

We were fortunate to have a spectacular display of fall colour in the Gatineau Hills this year. Below is a scene typical of the area.

MEECH CREEK COVERED BRIDGE, GATINEAU, QUEBEC

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PATH OF THE GODS

The Path of the Gods is named after a legend, according to which it was the passage of the Greek Gods to save Ulysses from the sirens that were on the island of Li Galli. It is one of the most fascinating hiking routes in the Mediterranean, particularly the Amalfi Coast.

ABANDONED HOUSE ON THE TRAIL

PRECARIOUS HABITATIONS

NAVIGATING THE BASE OF THE PRECIPITOUS LIMESTONE CLIFFS

LOCAL HAULING TRANSPORTATION

KIOSK OF THE PATH OF THE GODS

Great place to stop for a lemon slushie!

FIRST GLIMPSE OF POSITANO WITH STORM APPROACHING

 

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THE CAMBRIDGE LEPER CHAPEL

My recent visit to Cambridge allowed a brief reunion with my old friend, the Leper Chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene.

The romanesque Leper Chapel in Cambridge, also known as the Leper Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, is a chapel on the east side of Cambridge on the Newmarket road. It dates from about 1125. The Chapel was part of the buildings of a leprosy hospital that stood a little beyond the outskirts of the city. In 1199 the Chapel was given royal dispensation by King John to hold a three day fair to raise money to support the lepers. Today the Chapel is in the care of the Cambridge Preservation Society.

MY SKETCH FROM DECADES AGO

Thank God for photography!

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UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE

I participated in the recent University Challenge held at the British High Commission in Ottawa. University Challenge is a British TV quiz program that first aired in 1962 and has appeared on both ITV and the BBC. Our informal local Challenge followed the traditional format and  was moderated by no one less than the High Commissioner herself, Mrs. Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque CMG.

Our Cambridge team had to compete against Oxford, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Durham University.  Despite having hit it out of the park in the round robin preliminaries, we were pipped at the post by LSE in the final round.  Congratulations to LSE. 

A fun night all around and a hearty thank you to the High Comm staff for organizing such an enjoyable event. Well done!

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MAIORI ITALY

My hiking tour of the Amalfi Coast starts in the charming village of Maiori.

MAIORI SEAFRONT

MAIORI HARBOUR BY NIGHT

MAIORI HARBOUR IN THE MORNING

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MOUNT VESUVIUS HIKE

The first objective of our Italian adventure was an early morning assault on Mount Vesuvius.

VIEW OF NAPLES FROM MOUNT VESUVIUS

Pleasant start to the hike.

Onwards and upwards!

VOLCANIC CRATER

VIEW SOUTH TOWARDS THE AMALFI COAST AND THE ISLE OF CAPRI

Our hike over the next week will take us around the Amalfi Coast and end with a trip to the Isle of Capri which can be seen at the horizon on the right. 

 

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ITALIAN HOLIDAY

I had a great time hiking in Italy last month. The trip started and ended in Napoli, a nitty gritty port city in the south of Italy with a bad reputation. I had visited Naples decades ago and had an idea as to the lay of the land. Glad to report that despite several long walks through central Naples I came to no grief. The city is trying to slough off its past and promote itself as a tourist destination but has a long way to go to compete with the likes of my more favoured Italian destinations….. Roma, Firenze and Venezia. 

However all’s well that ends well and I wish Napoli nothing but the best for its future.

NAPLES ARRIVAL…..FIRST GLIMPSE OF MOUNT VESUVIUS

Hard to believe that in a couple of days I would be standing atop the ancient volcano.

AERIAL VIEW OF CENTRAL TRAIN STATION FROM MY HOTEL

Mount Vesuvius can be seen in the background. 

Typical back alley scene of central Naples.

NAPLES CHURCH

One could be forgiven for thinking that Naples was in the middle of a garbage strike, however the locals assured me that this situation was normal.

NAPLES HARDWARE

Who needs Home Depot??

Heavy military presence throughout the city.

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CAMBRIDGE ICE RINK

The official opening of the spanking new and long awaited Cambridge Ice Rink was held on Saturday, 28 Sept.  Fortunately I was in town for a reunion dinner at my old college and was able to attend the gala opening event of a project I have supported  yea these many years.  An overflow crowd of several hundred was on hand and many took advantage to skate on the “Best Ice in Britain”. 

PROFESSOR BILL HARRIS

Professor Bill Harris has been the spark plug behind this project for the last several decades.  The financial foundation of the project was laid by former Cambridge University Ice Hockey captain  David Gattiker who left a donation of 1.5 million pounds in his will for the building of a local ice rink.

David Gattiker was a Swiss student, who studied chemistry from 1929 to 1931,  and was a keen ice hockey player and captained the university team – one of the oldest in the world – in 1931, at a time when the sport was hugely popular throughout Europe. During the Second World War, Gattiker was involved in smuggling uranium ore out of Germany, as recounted in his book ‘The Uranium Trail’, which he wrote under a pseudonym.

He moved to Canada after the war and became an agricultural chemist.

Just before he died in 1993, he left the majority of his estate to Cambridge University to “build an ice-rink for Cambridge”.

Land acquistion problems, financial difficulties and lack of political will plagued the project from the get go. Finally with shovels in the ground, the discovery of WWII bombs seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. Fortunately the local city council stepped forward to cover the cost of their safe removal and demolition and the ill-starred project came to fruition. Kudos to all those who persevered. 

HAPPY BAND OF ICE HOCKEY ALUMNI BROTHERS

On hand to celebrate this august event, was a group of former Cambridge University Ice Hockey veterans – a red letter day in the sporting history of the University and a tremendous asset for the youth of the local community. 

God, these guys look good!!

Official ceremonies over, the crowd descends below to lace up the skates and take a spin on the ice.

 

AVE ATQUE VALE  DAVID GATTIKER!! 

Your dream has finally come true!!

 

(NB:  Further information is available from the Cambridge Alumni newsletter here. One of the sequencing photos has a picture of me! ) 

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