History

Vote on best Public Information Films

There is a series of articles to look at the best of the public information films of the last 6 decades. Today it is Rolf teaching us to swim.

Rolf scores highly, but I'd like to see the Tufty club and their road safety ads, and the Green Cross Code man (aka Darth Vader).

If I never see the wailing 'Charlie the Cat' again it'll be too soon...! (All of these selections rather date me...)

Challenger

It is 20 years ago today that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. I well remember this, it was a huge event. I saw it on television, and could not believe it. The explosion, then those two rockets flying off in seperate directions.

Of course, it provoked the expected bad taste playground 'humour', such as 'Q. What colour eyes does an astronaut have? A. Blue... one blew this way...'

The great physicist, Richard Feynman (who should be as well known as Einstein) was on the investigating board of the Challenger disaster - famously (amongst folks who know about this sort of thing) demonstrating before the press how the 'O rings' which sealed the fuel tanks could fail.

It did graphically demonstrate that space flight whilst routine, was not risk free, despite the low risks stated prior to the accident by NASA management (contrary to the estimates of the engineers).

For me, Challenger was one of those defining moments as I grew up (along with Chernobyl in the same year). This was why I watched the landing of Discovery after a troubled flight with baited breath. I literally held my breath as the infra red showed the shuttle circling, and did not realise this for some time... not good!

The Holocaust was condemned in 1942

Today, in 1942, the House of Commons condemned the massacre of Jews by Germany. This is news to me, I wasn't aware that that the holocaust was public knowledge until the end of the war. I wonder how much of this percolated through to the 'man on the street'? Even hearing about it, I doubt if anyone at the time could truly imagine the scale of things.

The statement condemned "in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination" and made a "solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution".

Unless I'm missing the information, It is not clear from the linked story if the allies were aware of the treatment of the handicapped and the gypsies.

Iraq Invaded Kuwait

Today is the 15th Anniversary of the day when Iraq invaded Kuwait. A few days later, a British man was shot by the Iraqis as he tried to leave Kuwait.

Some three weeks later, western hostages were shown on Iraqi TV as 'Human Shields', they were freed in December.

This sequence of events ultimately gave rise to the first 'Gulf War', operation Desert Storm was launched in January 1991.

Red Vs. Blue

No, not the computer animated story, but the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson's Column

The re-enactment of Trafalgar gets underway, with the Red and Blue teams (so as not to upset the French).

This is a crazy idea. The powers-that-be are making themselves out to look incredibly stupid. It's quite amusing that this is from a nation that when deciding where in London to build the eurostar terminal, which is the terminal for passengers arriving from France, decided to place that terminal at Waterloo Station. The rationale must be that the name "Waterloo" could have no possible significance to the French, unlike Trafalgar.

Here's a secret. The French are the blue team. The blue team lose.

This is moronic over-sensitivity on the part of the British. The Battle of Trafalgar was 200 years ago, and in the past 100 years then Britain and France have been allies, albeit with some gentle leg-pulling.

Either we commemorate Trafalgar, or we don't. I think that we may have opted for the latter.

The Hard Ecu

Fifteen years ago today, the then Chancellor, John Major, proposed a new European currency. This was dubbed the 'Hard Ecu'. The name, ECU, stood for 'European Currency Unit' and was a damned silly name - but one which held for a while as to call it 'Pound, Shilling, Dollar, Franc' or some other name would likely cause turf wars over the name rather than the principle.

The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said that currency union was unlikely in her lifetime. The Euro entered circulation in 2002, having been traded for several years as a seperate currency. Ironically, despite the involvement of the British in 1990, the UK is one of three EU countries which did not sign up for the Euro.