Wednesday, 17 July 2019


July 17th. A day that is etched in the memory and consciousness of anybody that is Dutch, or has an empathy with the Netherlands. It's the day that flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine, by a missile fired from a Russian Army launcher, which was transported into the area that day in 2014, and returned to Russia the same day. 298 people died, of whom 196 were Dutch. The Russians deny all knowledge or responsibility, adopting an elastic attitude to fact and reality in this instance. The sheer horror of the scene is well described and documented, for instance in this podcast by Bellingcat. What also remains is the disbelief at the procrastination in the aftermath. The emotion and dignity of the procession of hearses that threaded its way up the motorways of the Netherlands, to the army base at Hilversum; motorists on the opposing carriageway pulling up at the central reservation, the thousands lining the carriageways and bridges the whole 70-odd miles between Eindhoven and Hilversum. A dignity that sharply contrasted with, and to some extent negated the disregard for human life that was shown by those responsible for the death of 298 innocents.

Friday, 21 June 2019

The Grand Fleet scuttled

Paragraf 11, best├Ątigen.
Paragraph eleven, confirm.

That was the coded message, signalled round the ships of the German Grand Fleet, as they lay interned in Scapa Flow, Orkney, in June 1919. Over a period of several hours, the ships were sunk by their own crew. The commander of the fleet was under the misapprehension that peace talks, to formalise the end of the Great War, had failed, and his ships were about to be boarded. In the confusion that followed the order to scuttle, eight men drowned or were shot. They lie buried in the Lyness Naval Cemetery on Hoy, across the sound from Scapa Flow. Their graves are in the same cemetery as nearly 600 Allied servicemen, who died during World War 1 - such as the casualties from the sinking of HMS Hampshire off Marwick Head, which carried Lord Kitchener; and many more.

The Volksbund is the German counterpart of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and maintains wargraves of German servicemen across the world. The eight graves in Lyness are in their care, in collaboration with the CWGC. One of the remotest graves tended by the Volksbund lies in Hyskeir, a few miles west of North Uist.

I post the pictures of the eight German wargraves at Lyness, which I took there in October 2008.

In death all are equal.
Rest in peace
Ruhe in Frieden.

Eversberg died on 29 June 1919, not on the 21st.

His first name was Hermann

His surname should be spelled Beicke

Wednesday, 19 June 2019


In the basin across from my position, work has been afoot since the beginning of May to construct a marina. After various wrecks had been removed, hundreds of loads of aggregate (rock) were dumped. These were distributed into so-called bunds - which look like piers - from which a large digger would excavate the surrounding waters. The soil that was dug up is being used to build up a foundation for the marina. This still has got a long time to run, most of this year if not into 2020. Fascinating to watch, and fascinating to assess the effect of the tides. A lot of the bunds and other features currently in existence are submerged at high tide.

P6184227 Construction of cofferdam for slipway
P6184216 Shifting of soil and aggregate for construction and removal of bunds
P6184209 Base for small slipway
P6154130 Scoop
P6024007 One bund being removed, another being constructed
P5283931 Demolition of boathouse
P5223829 Warning sign on Goat Island
P5193790 Plant on Goat Island
P5093648 Derelict boathouses
P5093641 P5093640 Safety first
P5093635 Large tubes
P5083598 P5073592
P4303529 The last boat removed from Goat Island
P4303513 Breaking up of the Craignair

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Walpurgis Night

Today is Walpurgis night, the end of winter. The evil spirits of darkness will be banished as summer comes in tomorrow, Beltane, May 1st.

Today is also the day, 74 years ago, when one particularly evil spirit left this earth.
Adolf Hitler took his own life, as his Third Empire of a Thousand Years crumbled around him after barely a dozen years in existence.

It is one thing going on a spree of military conquest. There are no words to describe the industrialised murder of over 6 million people, purely on account of their faith, creed, provenance or disability. It is them I remember today. Hitler gained the ascendency through circumstances, not of his own making. We should take heed, as similar circumstances exist today.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Titanic - 107 years on

107 years ago tonight, RMS Titanic met its much publicised doom. 1,500 passengers lost their lives, 700 were saved. If the recommendations of the sinking of the SS Norge, 8 years previous, had been made law, the number of lifeboats on the Titanic would have been sufficient for every man, woman and child on board. Titanic would still have sunk, but the loss of life would possibly have been much lower.

Survivors from the Norge were put ashore in Stornoway a few days after the sinking in June 1904. Nine did not survive the ordeal and lie buried in Sandwick Cemetery, just over a mile from Stornoway. 700 others perished in the sinking of the Norge. Nobody has heard of that tragedy. They were dirt poor migrants, forced out of hearth and home in Russia, Poland and Ukraine by pogroms. Anti-semitic raids on Jewish neighbourhoods. But who cared about them, back in 1904?

The Titanic is one of thousands of ships to have fallen peril to the sea over the millennia that man has sailed the seven seas. She's no special case. Ships have sunk with far greater loss of life. Nonetheless, my thoughts tonight are with her hapless passengers, as they steamed to their fate, that cold night in the North Atlantic, 107 years ago.

Friday, 12 April 2019

The Brexit mess in a nutshell

In 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%. The govt has reached an agreement with the EU, but is unable to get the House of Commons (compare to your House of Representatives) to pass it, three times running. The date for leaving the EU has been put back from 29 March to 12 April, and now to 31 October. Without this agreement, people and goods moving between the UK and EU would attract tariffs and stricter border controls. An added problem is the only land border between UK and EU, between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. This would ordinarily revert to a border with barriers and checks - but on account of the history of civil war with N Ireland (between 1968 and 1998), that is not desirable. A separate agreement, the Backstop, is designed to prevent that, but has run into stiff opposition in the House of Commons as well. The EU has bent over backwards (in my humble opinion) to accommodate the UK government's failure to secure passage in Parliament, but to the outside world it has degenerated into a farce.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019


Radovan Karadzic (remember him?), erstwhile leader of the Bosnian Serbs, has been sentenced to life in prison on appeal to his previous conviction for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. The sentence is an increase from the 40 years handed down at the original trial. Karadzic is now 73, so will spend the rest of his life behind bars. It's a pity that (thus far) only is the sole English-language news provider to carry that news. I'm not relaying their link, due to bias in their reporting. Referring to the Srebrenica massacre in quotation marks amounts to bias in my book.
Only has an unbiased report, but that channel reports in Dutch.

One of the worst war crimes that Karadzic was involved in was the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. A supposed safe UN-enclave in Bosnian Serb territory, the male Moslim population was taken away, under the noses of and without resistance from (and with coerced assistance by) the Dutch UN forces. The Dutch were blamed for this. Maybe so. But it was the UN who were at fault for providing peashooters against tanks; and the Bosnian Serbs and their military commander Ratko Mladic who organised and perpetrated the killings.