High Adventure & Derring Do

Yithian

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#62
It's so sad that I only learn of these people through their obituaries. If we want to inspire our children to learn about the Second World War, why not tell true tales such as that of this amazingly brave French patriot. There are so many threads in this story that could spark a flame of interest in a schoolboy:

Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld, who has died aged 88, escaped from Occupied France to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE); parachuted back on sabotage missions, he twice faced execution, only to escape on both occasions, once dressed as a Nazi guard.

5:48PM BST 29 Jun 2012


Other disguises also came in useful. On the run in occupied Bordeaux he dressed as a nun. In later life he helped Maurice Papon to flee to Switzerland.

Robert Jean-Marie de La Rochefoucauld was born in Paris on September 16 1923, one of 10 children of an aristocratic family which lived in old-fashioned splendour on Avenue de la Bourdonnais, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. An ancestor was François de La Rochefoucauld, famous for his maxims. Robert’s mother (née Wendel) was daughter of the Duke of Maillé. His father’s family retained a private carriage which was hitched on to trains during rail journeys.

Considered a sickly child, Robert was sent to a succession of private schools for the jeunesse dorée in Switzerland and Austria where, in 1938, he was taken on a school trip to Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Alpine retreat. When Hitler’s convoy drew up, the Fuhrer approached and patted Robert on the cheek affectionately. It was, La Rochefoucauld later recalled, a dream come true for his 15 year-old self. Hitler was then the great statesman of Europe; young Robert and his schoolmates had attached swastikas to their bicycles in admiration.

La Rochefoucauld was back in France when the Nazis invaded. His father was taken prisoner; the rest of the family took refuge in the Chateau de Villeneuve, east of Paris. Furious at the Occupation, La Rochefoucauld protested long and loud until he was warned to keep quiet by a friendly postman, who had intercepted a letter denouncing the young man to the Nazis.

La Rochefoucauld made contact with the Resistance in the spring of 1942, keen to find a route to join Free French forces in England. He took the pseudonym René Lallier and travelled, via Vichy and Perpignan, to the Pyrenees, where he accompanied two British airmen over the Col de Perthuis into Spain. Immediately arrested, the three spent two months in jail before Major Eric Piquet-Wicks, head of recruiting French nationals for SOE, arrived from the British embassy in Madrid and arranged for the three to be released.

It was at the embassy that La Rochefoucauld was invited to join SOE. “The courage and skill of British agents is without equal,” he recalled the ambassador noting. “It is just that their French accents are appalling.”

After meeting de Gaulle to ask his permission to join British forces (“Do it,” came the reply. “Even allied to the Devil, it’s for La France.”) La Rochefoucauld began his training early in 1943 at RAF Ringway, near Manchester, where he learned to parachute and use small arms and explosives, as well as how to kill a man with the flat of his hand. Experienced safe-crackers were brought out of jail to show the recruits the art of breaking and entering. In June he was considered ready for his first mission.

Dropped into the Morvan with two British agents, including one radio operator, La Rochefoucauld teamed up with a Maquis group near Avallon led by a man who called himself The Pope. After destroying the electrical substation at Avallon, and blowing up railway tracks, La Rochefoucauld was awaiting exfiltration by the RAF when he was denounced and arrested. After a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death.

En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.

He smashed through a roadblock before dumping the car and circling back towards Auxerre on foot under cover of night. He sheltered with an epicier. From Auxerre, friends in the Resistance helped him on to a train for Paris, where he evaded German soldiers hunting him by curling up underneath the sink in the lavatory. “When we arrived in Paris I felt drunk with freedom,” he recalled.

Taking refuge with an aunt and uncle, both of whom had assumed he was dead, La Rochefoucauld spent a month rebuilding his strength before, in February 1944, recontacting SOE, which ordered him to the Calais coast, then on high alert for the expected Allied invasion, to be extracted by submarine. After a successful rendezvous off Berck, La Rochefoucauld enjoyed a convivial evening with the crew, only to find himself obliged to stay on-board for three days while the sub completed a patrol. Those days of confinement, he wrote, were among his “worst of the war”. When the vessel came under depth charge attack, La Rochefoucauld noted later, he had “never been so scared in my life”.

Back in London, however, he found a city celebrating a victory that many assumed was just around the corner. “We were invited to the best houses,” he recalled. “Girls fell into our arms.” By May he was ready to be parachuted back into France, charged with blowing up the vast munitions factory at Saint-Médard near Bordeaux ahead of D-Day.

The mission, code-named “Sun”, saw La Rochefoucauld infiltrate the factory dressed as one of the workers there. Over four days he smuggled in 40 kilos of explosives, concealed in hollowed-out loaves of bread and specially designed shoes. On Thursday May 20, La Rochefoucauld linked the charges and set timers before scaling a wall and pedalling to safety on a bicycle. The blast was heard for miles. After sending a message to London (the reply read simply: “Félicitations”) he enjoyed several good bottles with the local Resistance leader, waking the next day with a hangover.

Cycling to Bordeaux to meet a contact who was to arrange his return to England, however, he ran into a roadblock, taken prisoner, and imprisoned at the 16th-century Fort du Hâ. His explanations that he had been out after dark on a romantic assignation were not believed and, in his cell, La Rochefoucauld considered swallowing the cyanide pill concealed in the heel of his shoe.

Instead he faked an epileptic fit and, when the guard opened the door to his cell, hit him over the head with a table leg before breaking his neck. (“Thank Goodness for that pitilessly efficient training,” he noted). After putting on the German’s uniform, La Rochefoucauld walked into the guardroom and shot the two other German jailers. He then simply walked out of the fort, through the deserted town, and to the address of an underground contact.

Once there, however, he found that joining the rest of his escape line was impossible, as checks and patrols had been stepped up. Then the man harbouring him, whose sister was a nun, suggested that La Rochefoucauld slip into her habit. Thus dressed, he slowly walked through the city, eventually knocking on the door of Roger Landes, code-named Aristide, a bilingual Briton whom he hoped would take care of his return to England. In fact, Aristide’s orders were to hide La Rochefoucauld. D-Day was days away, and he was, by his own admission, “the last of their worries in London”.

He was consigned instead to a woodcutter in the Landes but, bored with the work, joined a local Resistance group. Arrested once more, he was taken to a guardpost only to find himself in a storm of machine-gun fire. It turned out to be coming from fellow resistants, who had launched an immediate operation to free him. He emerged unscathed. “I had what I needed more than anything else,” he said later. “Luck.”

By August 1944 the Germans had abandoned Bordeaux. In the city La Rochefoucauld found men in glorious French uniform in every café; on the streets, others wore holsters. “It seemed the heroes were two a penny, now that the danger had passed,” he noted. “The ostentation made me feel sick.”

He joined the Charly group of the Resistance, harassing the German lines. One night he opened the door of an apparently deserted building, only for a German soldier to open a door opposite at exactly the same moment. In the gloom, each man fired four or fire shots at the other, missed, and simply retreated through the doors they had come through. For La Rochefoucauld, the incident illustrated the sometimes farcical nature of war.

His final behind-the-lines assault came in April 1945, when he led an night raid to knock out a casemate near St-Vivien-du Médoc, on France’s western coast at the mouth of the Gironde. Paddling up the river, he approached the casemate, killed a guard there, and blew it up, forcing the Germans to pull back to their final defensive position on the sea at Verdon.

La Rochefoucauld was unable to witness the final victory. On April 19 1945 he was wounded in the knee after a mine explosion. In August, recovered, he travelled to Villeneuve to rejoin his family.

After a month’s leave, La Rochefoucauld turned occupier himself, as ADC to General Roger Noiret. In Berlin Marshal Zhukov, then commander of the Soviet zone of occupation, invited Noiret and La Rochefoucauld to a party. After mishearing La Rochefoucauld’s name as La Rochezhukov, the Soviet hero, known for his fondness for vodka, kissed La Rochefoucauld, Soviet style, full on the lips.

La Rochefoucauld was demobilised in 1946 in the rank of captain but immediately recruited into the French secret services. After training near Orleans, he volunteered for a tour of duty in Indo-China, leading commando raids against the Viet Minh. But his methods, which included launching ambushes dressed as a Viet, were frowned upon by senior officers, and after five months he returned to France. Life there bored him, and he travelled: first to Cameroon, for three years, then to Venezuela for two. He returned to rejoin French special forces in time for Suez. Parachuted into Sinai, the fighting ended before he became involved.

His awards included Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre, Médaille de la Résistance and the DCM. His memoirs were entitled La Liberté, c’est mon plaisir (2002).

From 1966 he served for three decades as mayor of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée in north-central France. In February 1997 he returned to Bordeaux for the trial of Maurice Papon, the former Vichy official accused of deporting 1,600 Jews from the city. In his defence, Papon claimed that he had been a Resistance go-between in 1944, a claim which La Rochefoucauld backed. “He [Papon] was one of those brave men who risked their lives to help the Resistance and the Allies,” he said.

Despite this, Papon was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years. Freed while his lawyers appealed, Papon fled to Switzerland, where he was found under an assumed name: Robert de La Rochefoucauld. The former special forces soldier had provided Papon with his passport. When detectives arrived to question La Rochefoucauld, his wife told them: “Don’t try to lock him up. He escapes, you know.”

Robert de La Rochefoucauld married Bernadette (née de Marcieu de Gontaut-Biron). She survives him, with three daughters. Their son Jean inherits the title.

Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld, born September 16 1923, died May 8 2012

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituar ... cauld.html
 
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#64
I've recently read, The Resistance - The French Fight Against the Nazis - by Matthew Cobb.

Highly recommended.

One of the things you notice, and Cobb makes clear, is that many of the most important and influential members of the Resistance - and often those whose activities required the coolest and most sustained form of bravery - were not the people running around with explosives and sten guns (who were actually relatively rare) but the organisers and administrators. He doesn't at all detract from the men of women of action, but he does suggest that the constant and almost intolerable levels of stress involved in the day to day organisation of the Resistance are often forgotten when we conjure up the more traditional images.

My opinion of de Gaulle remains unchanged though: I've really tried to understand his point of view (in the same way that, for instance, really trying to understand de Valera's point of view made me much more sympathetic to his actions) - but nothing seems to shake me out of the opinion that he was an arrogant, selfish, snobbish, ungrateful, arsehole.

There was an amazing parade of maquisards wearing tattered clothes. Real sans-culottes! Most of them had their collars open. It was very hot. And they had flowers in the barrels of their rifles. They were pulling a German armoured car on which were perched some women in skimpy dresses. They were shouting and waving flags. De Gaulle took all this very badly. He just sat there muttering 'What a farce!'
What an arse, more like.

De Gaulle deliberately poured scorn on the Resistance - an attitude which obviously caused dismay to those who had fought and lost friends and family - however, he was greeted with wild enthusiasm by a non-combatant general public who had generally distinguished themselves by keeping their heads down for the last few years. It all leaves a distinctly bad taste in the mouth.

Edit: The quote is from the famous Resistance fighter Lucie Aubrac and concerns a victory parade of FFI fighters in Marseilles. It's in Cobb's book.
 
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#65
On a slight tangent:

Often its the way with books that you wonder about the book you aren't reading.

While reading Cobb's book I was struck by the activities of RAF 161 Special Duties Squadron, and the Lysander pilots who flew in and out of France in support of the Resistance - and how incredibly atmospheric it must have been to fly at night (slowly and unarmed, 'with only a voice back bearing over the Channel, a map, a compass, a clock and blind flying instruments') over a blacked out planet and into occupied territory. And also how incredibly atmospheric it must have been to wait in a pitch black field listening for the drone of its engine.

That night I had one of the most incredibly vivid dream I've ever had - which involved sitting in a metal box somewhere over southern France looking for tiny Morse flashes somewhere down below me. Although I did wake up in a sweat with a bit of a thump in the chest, it wasn't a nightmare - more like one of those Full HD dreams that makes you wonder for a split second whether you actually are at home in bed.

I blame too much cheese, a very vivid imagination and the fact that the week before I'd been on a flight to Barcelona on an incredibly clear day via a route over France which can't have been far off the ones flown by the Lysander pilots.
 
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#66
Australia WWII agent Nancy Wake's ashes scattered
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21735824

At one point, Nancy Wake was top of the Gestapo's most wanted list

The ashes of Australia's most decorated World War II servicewoman, former saboteur and spy Nancy Wake, have been scattered at a ceremony in France.

The service took place in a forest near the village of Verneix, whose mayor attended the ceremony, as did an Australian military representative.

Mrs Wake died in 2011 at the age of 98.

It had been her wish that her ashes be scattered in the area, where she played a key role in the resistance movement against German occupation.

Australia was represented at the ceremony by military attache Brig Bill Sowry.

"We are here today to pass on our respects, to give her the respect she deserves," Brig Sowry said.

"It's great the people of Verneix have done so much to recognise her and make this little part of France part of Australia as well."

The service was far from sombre, the BBC's Chris Bockman reports.

Mrs Wake was partial to an early morning gin-and-tonic and after her ashes were scattered, there was - as she had apparently asked for - a drinks reception at the local mayor's office, he says.

'White Mouse'
Mrs Wake was one of the most highly decorated Allied secret agents of World War II.

Born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, she is credited with helping hundreds of Allied personnel escape from occupied France.

The German Gestapo named her the "White Mouse" because she was so elusive.


The ceremony took place in the grounds of a chateau in central France
After studying journalism in London, Mrs Wake became a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune in Paris and reported on the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany.

After visiting Vienna in 1933, she vowed to fight against the persecution of Jews.

After the fall of France in 1940, Mrs Wake became a French Resistance courier and later a saboteur and spy - setting up escape routes and sabotaging German installations, saving hundreds of Allied lives.

She worked for British Special Operations and was parachuted into France in April 1944 before D-Day to deliver weapons to French Resistance fighters.

At one point, she was top of the Gestapo's most wanted list.

"Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living," she once said of her wartime exploits.

It was only after the liberation of France that she learned her husband, French businessman Henri Fiocca, had been tortured and killed by the Gestapo for refusing to give her up.

She returned to Australia in 1949, where she failed several times to win a seat in parliament.

In 1957 she went back to England, where she married RAF fighter pilot John Forward.

Her story inspired Sebastian Faulks' 1999 novel Charlotte Gray. A film based on the book, with the lead role played by Australian actress Cate Blanchett, was released in 2001.
 
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#67
Dan Snow follows in the rather wet footsteps of John Wesley Powell who led the first non Amerindian expedition to navigate the Grand Canyon.

Watch episode one of Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow on BBC Two at 21:00 GMT on Sunday 5 January, or catch it later on iPlayer.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01m5p7b

John Wesley Powell: The one-armed explorer
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25491932

John Wesley Powell began exploring the American West as a young man

While much of the US was being rapidly settled in the 19th Century, large parts of the West remained unknown. Determined to change that, one man led an expedition along the "impassable" Colorado River and into the unexplored Grand Canyon, writes historian Dan Snow, who followed in his footsteps for the BBC.

In May 1869, 10 men in four boats - loaded to the gunnels with food and scientific equipment - set off from Green River in the American territory of Wyoming.

The current bore them swiftly southwards.

It was the start of one of the greatest journeys of exploration in American history, one that owed everything to the energy, ambition and towering curiosity of US Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell.

His aim was to fill in the vast blank space, the area of a medium-sized European country, which still dominated the map of the American West.

Running through this unknown territory was the world's mightiest canyon - a jagged, deep, yet breathtakingly beautiful scar carved by the Colorado River, known simply as the Grand Canyon.

No man had ever boated the length of the Colorado, its massive cataracts were simply considered impassable.

As the rest of the US was rapidly being settled, this area remained a mystery.

The team succeeded in its mission, but at a terrible cost.

Three months, and 1,000 miles (1,600km) later, only two boats carrying six emaciated survivors made it to a settlement at the mouth of the Virgin River in Nevada.

Green River
Terrible hardship and privation had forced four men to abandon the expedition and driven the rest to the brink of insanity.

This summer I set off in boats exactly like Powell's, to recreate a sizeable portion of that journey.

We could never experience the full horror of what Powell's men went through. For a start, we knew where we were going.

Powell and his men constantly stared at the horizon, straining for any signs that a mighty waterfall was about to cast them to their deaths. Spared that threat, we had it easy.


Dan Snow looks into John Wesley Powell's 1869 expedition
Powell was a true child of the 19th Century.

He threw off the influence of his father, who was a poor itinerant preacher, an immigrant from Shrewsbury in England.

Immersing himself in books, science was his creed. The voracious thirst for knowledge and advancement marked him out from childhood.

Powell was in a hurry. He rowed down the Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi rivers before the age of 25.

Powell party on the Green River, Wyoming, 1871
The party set off from Green River in Wyoming - a route that Powell retraced with another party in 1871
But his exploring was brutally cut short by the Civil War. Fighting for the Unionists, he witnessed the horrors of the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, where the wounded were burned to death as fires tore through the long grass that covered the battlefield.

At Shiloh he was shot by a rifle bullet, lost an arm and almost died. Nerve damage would cause him great pain for the rest of his life.

Powell launched his expedition after becoming obsessed with the West during rock and fossil collecting trips during previous summers.

He was joined by a colourful collection of characters, from those with no experience to hardened mountain men, and called himself The Major.

In his journal and a later account of the journey, he never once made reference to his disability and it never stopped him scaling the canyon edges to collect specimens.


Dan Snow and crew members have a dramatic moment riding the rapids
Some days the river was benign and progress easy. Other days the Colorado turned wild.

While rowing on the stretches of flat water is exhausting, nothing compares to the stomach churning terror and physical exertion of being sucked into white water.

Powell's expedition encountered about 500 significant rapids. Any one of these could have wrecked boats and killed crew.

Some rapids he risked. The boats would, he said, "go leaping and bounding over these like things of life".

Other rapids were death traps, "the rushing waters break into great waves on the rocks, and lash themselves into a mad, white foam".

One of his men described an approaching rapid as "a perfect hell of waves".

Powell camp, 1871 expedition
The men who joined Powell on his expeditions had rudimentary equipment
It would have been madness to run these rapids, so they would pull into shore, unpack all their supplies and portage everything along the precarious river bank.

During my own trip, nine of us struggled to lift one boat. A portage of 400m took us the entire day, leaving the boat bumped and scraped, and our legs and ankles battered.

Continue reading the main story
Find out more

Colorado River
Watch episode one of Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow on BBC Two at 21:00 GMT on Sunday 5 January, or catch it later on iPlayer

Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow
In white water, the boats rapidly became waterlogged and filled up. They span around, impossible to control.

Powell wrote that if the boat is "turned from its course so as to strike the wave broadside on, and the wave breaks... the boat is capsized; then we must cling to her for the watertight compartments act as buoys and she cannot sink; and so we go on, dragged through the waves".

Once flat water was reached the exhausted men would scramble aboard and starting bailing.

Powell's expedition lost two of its boats - one carrying a third of the remaining food and supplies. They were always collecting tree sap to help patch the remaining boats.

By late August they were in a terrible condition.

In a diary kept during the trip, soldier George Bradley wrote that it was, "a ceaseless grind... which taxed our strength to the limit".

Three months before, on the very first day of the expedition, they had blithely thrown 500lbs (225kg) of bacon away to lighten the load.

Now they were subsisting on musty flour alone.

Bradley recorded that the thin rations had "reduced me to poor condition".

On 28 August, discontent turned to outright mutiny. Three men hiked out of the canyon, preferring the uncertain dangers of the desert to what they felt was certain death if they stayed.

Powell begged them to stay. "Some tears are shed," he wrote, "It is rather a solemn parting, each party thinks the other is taking the dangerous course."

Powell talks to a man in Native American dress, in 1873
Powell continued to explore the American West in later years
Tragically, these three men were never seen again. How they died remains a mystery.

The very next day, the two remaining boats with their starving crews finally emerged from the canyon.

Their reappearance after months of silence thrilled a nation that had been waiting for news.

Powell made the most of his new celebrity. He would become director of the US Geological Survey, the Bureau of Ethnology and the Smithsonian Institution.

His experience in the canyon had taught him that, rather than being empty, the canyon was home to many Native American cultures. It was the start of an enduring fascination and he went on to lead further expeditions.

He had entered the Grand Canyon as a pioneer, hoping that it could be exploited and settled, but the experience changed him.

He realised that the presence of indigenous peoples, the landscape, water and ecosystems meant that it could not and should not be settled as the Eastern states had been.

Now, as the Western states are threatened with a catastrophic water shortage, it is possible that he should be remembered not just as an explorer, but also as a prophet.

Follow @BBCNewsMagazine on Twitter and on Facebook
 

rynner2

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#68
Something that's new to me, although it happened in 1973:

In pictures: The longest ever raft journey
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-25635632

But this Las Balsas adventure somehow passed me by, because in 73 my own sailing career was just getting started, and days afloat were generally days free from news. More info here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Balsas

Everyone's heard of Thor Heyerdahl and the Kontiki expedition, 1947.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kon-Tiki

But I once owned a book about a man who built a similar raft some years later, and sailed it single-handed across the Pacific. By the magic of the internet, I conjure up his name:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Willis_(sailor)

His first voyage was in 1954; "In a second great voyage ten years later, he rafted 11,000 miles from South America to Australia" (which is further than the 9,000 miles claimed by Las Balsas..??)

EDIT: His first raft, was called Seven Little Sisters, as it was made from seven balsa logs. Coincidentally I have the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs in sight on MarineTraffic as I monitor the Rickmers Dubai off Newhaven...


So there you go, three voyages for the price of one! Plenty of derring-do there to tempt the dreamer into becoming a man of action! (Although what Health and Safety might say about such enterprises nowadays can be imagined...)
 

Kondoru

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#69
Ive got that book, 7 little sisters.

He was one tough guy.

At one point, he runs low on water and so continues on brackish.
 

Yithian

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#70
This entry belongs part way between a thread on derring-do and one on insanity but remains one of the funniest autobiographical articles on Wikipedia. It's too long to post in its entirety, but I've cut the core part out to post here:

Alfred Wintle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Daniel Wintle MC, better known as A.D. Wintle, (30 September 1897–11 May 1966) was a British military officer in the 1st The Royal Dragoons who served in the First and Second World Wars. He was the first non-lawyer to achieve a unanimous verdict in his favour in the House of Lords, and is considered one of London's greatest eccentrics.

Early life

The son of a diplomat, Alfred Daniel Wintle was born in Mariopoul, South Russia. In 1901, the family went to live in Dunkirk; he was subsequently educated in France and Germany, becoming fluent in French and German.
World War I

At the outbreak of war, 16-year-old Wintle was in Dunkirk and claimed to have "irregularly attached" himself to Commander Samson’s armoured-car unit, witnessing Uhlans being shot on one occasion in Belgium.

Wintle wished to see military action. In summer 1915, his father agreed to his son’s early entry into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, from which he was commissioned in less than four months. Less than a week later, he was at the front. On his first night a shell burst near him, splashing over him the entrails of his sergeant (to whom he had just been introduced). Wintle later admitted to being petrified. As the bombardment continued, he dealt with his fear by standing at attention and saluting. As he later wrote, "Within thirty seconds I was able to become again an Englishman of action and to carry out calmly the duties I had been trained to perform".

The incident was typical, both of a series of amazing escapes and his pride at being an Englishman (as opposed to being born "a chimpanzee or a flea, or a Frenchman or a German"). He saw action at Ypres, the Somme, La Bassée and Festubert, supposedly capturing the village of Vesle single-handedly before handing it over to the New Zealanders (who were about to attack it in force). His luck ran out during Third Ypres in 1917 as he helped manhandle an 18pdr across a "crater-swamp". The gun-carriage wheel hit an unexploded shell; he woke up in a field hospital without his left eye, one kneecap and several fingers. At age 19, Wintle's right eye was so damaged that he had to wear a monocle for the rest of his life.

He was sent back to England to convalesce by the "infernal quacks"; it appeared that his war was over, but Wintle had other ideas. He was soon planning his escape from the Southern General Hospital back to the front, attending a nurses-only dance in their billets (disguised as a nurse) before finally making his escape. He recorded, however, that his monocle was a dead give-away and the particularly unpleasant matron was unimpressed with his antics.

Wintle entrained for France with a warrant signed by a friend of his father’s; he had a "moderately successful year of action" with the 119th Battery, 22nd Brigade, RFA. His MC was gazetted in the London Gazette of 2 April 1919, and the citation was published on 10 December. According to his obituary, he received his MC in the mail the same day it was announced in the London Gazette. The citation read:

"For marked gallantry and initiative on 4th Nov. 1918 near Jolimentz. He went forward with the infantry to obtain information and personally accounted for 35 prisoners. On 9th Nov. he took forward his section well in front of the infantry and throughout the day he showed initiative of a very high order and did excellent work."

Wintle later recalled that he could not remember anything about either incident. He is said to have regarded the period between the First and Second World Wars as "intensely boring".
World War II

When World War II began in September 1939, Wintle tried everything to persuade his superiors to allow him to go to France. When they refused, he planned to resign his commission and form his own army "to take the war to the Hun".

In his book '‘Most Secret War'’, Reginald Victor Jones recalls encountering Wintle on matters of air intelligence. He was impressed by an army officer with enough technical knowledge to distinguish a spectroscope from a spectrograph, and who noted details in intelligence reports which might have indicated their authenticity (or otherwise). After chatting with Wintle on Horse Guards Parade one morning, he recorded that he was surprised to see a news headline a few days later: "Cavalry Officer in the Tower".

After the French surrender, Wintle demanded an aircraft (with which he intended to rally the French Air Force to fly their planes to Britain and continue fighting Germany from British air bases); when refused, he threatened an RAF officer (Air Commodore A.R. Boyle) with a gun. It was alleged that he had threatened to shoot himself and Boyle, and for this he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. On the way to his prison, the lieutenant colonel was escorted by a young soldier via train. The soldier is reported to have lost the arrest warrant; disgusted by this, Wintle declared the man incompetent, told him to wait where he was and went to get a new warrant. Since there was no other officer of higher rank at the warrant office, he signed the paper himself. Of his time in the Tower, he wrote:

"My life in the Tower had begun. How different it was from what I had expected. Officers at first cut me dead, thinking that I was some kind of traitor; but when news of my doings leaked out they could not do enough for me. My cell became the most popular meeting place in the garrison and I was as well cared for as if I had been at the Ritz. I would have a stroll in the (dry) moat after breakfast for exercise. Then sharp at eleven Guardsman McKie, detailed as my servant, would arrive from the officers' mess with a large whisky and ginger ale. He would find me already spick and span, for though I have a great regard for the Guards, they have not the gift to look after a cavalry officer's equipment. The morning would pass pleasantly. By noon visitors would begin to arrive. One or two always stayed to lunch. They always brought something with them. I remember one particularly succulent duck in aspic - it gave me indigestion - and a fine box of cigars brought by my family doctor. Tea time was elastic and informal. Visitors dropped in at intervals, usually bringing along bottles which were uncorked on the spot. I don't recall that any of them contained any tea. Dinner, on the other hand, was strictly formal. I dined sharp at eight and entertained only such guests as had been invited beforehand. After a few days of settling in, I was surprised to find that - as a way of life- being a prisoner in the Tower of London had its points."

When his case was heard, Wintle was read the three charges against him. The first was that he had feigned defective eyesight (and infirmity, to avoid active duty). This charge was dismissed after Wintle's defence provided medical evidence.

The second charge was assaulting Air Commodore Boyle, and the third was conduct contrary to (and to the prejudice of) good order and military discipline. To the latter was added the claim that he had drawn a gun in the presence of the RAF officer, and stated that "people like you ought to be shot". Jones recalled that far from denying this, Wintle admitted the act and produced a list of people whom he felt should likewise be shot as a patriotic gesture. The list must have been a topical one; after he had read out the sixth name upon it (Hore-Belisha, then Secretary of State for War), that charge was also dropped. The government, embarrassed by his accusations, upheld the court decision to drop all charges bar one: the assault on Commodore Boyle (for which Wintle received a formal reprimand). Jones went on to add that Wintle was in the relatively safe position of being tried by an Army court on charges brought by the RAF.

Wintle was then sent abroad to rejoin his old regiment (The 1st Royal Dragoons), and went into action gathering intelligence and coordinating raids on the Vichy French in Syria. After the Allied victory in Syria, Wintle was asked to go to Vichy France in disguise to determine the condition of British POWs held there. While waiting to make contact with sympathetic elements of the Vichy French government Wintle was betrayed, arrested as a spy and imprisoned by Vichy.

During his captivity, he informed his guards that it was his duty as an English officer to escape; he successfully did so once by quickly unhinging his cell door and hiding in a sentry box before slipping out quietly, but was betrayed and recaptured within a week. Wintle's guard was doubled from this point on. He responded by going on a 13-day hunger strike in protest against the "slovenly appearance of the guards who are not fit to guard an English officer!" He also informed anyone who would listen (including Maurice Molia, the camp commandant) exactly how he felt about their cowardice and treachery to their country. He informed them that he still intended to escape, and that anyone who called himself a Frenchman would come with him. Shortly after, he sawed through the iron bars of his cell, hid in a garbage cart, and slipped over the wall of the castle, making his way back to Britain via Spain. Molia later claimed on Wintle's This Is Your Life programme in 1959 that shortly after the escape, "because of Wintle's dauntless determination to maintain English standards and his constant challenge to our authority" the entire garrison of 280 men had gone over to the Resistance.

Postwar years

After the war, Wintle stood as a Liberal Party candidate for the 1945 General Election at Norwood. The seat had little in terms of a Liberal voting tradition, and he finished third with about 11 percent of the vote.

He was once so furious about the lack of first-class carriages on a train that he commandeered the engine and refused to move until more carriages appeared. Wintle made legal history when he brought a legal action against a dishonest solicitor named Nye, whom he accused of appropriating £44,000 from the estate of Wintle's deceased cousin, by inveigling her into leaving the residue of her estate to Nye in her will. To publicise the case, in 1955 Wintle served time in prison after forcing Nye to remove his trousers and submit to being photographed. He pursued Nye through the courts over the next three years, losing his case on two occasions. By 1958, Wintle ran out of money and had to present the case himself. On 26 November 1958 the Lords announced that they had found for Wintle, the reasons for judgment being reserved. In its subsequent written reasons, the House of Lords held that the burden was on the solicitor Nye to establish that the gift of the residue of the deceased cousin's estate to the solicitor in the will that he had drawn was not the result of his fraud, and that he had failed to discharge this exceptionally heavy burden so that the trial jury's validation of the gift to Nye could not be allowed to stand. Wintle thus became the first non-lawyer to achieve a unanimous verdict in his favour in the House of Lords (Wintle v Nye [1959] 1 WLR 284; [1959] 1 All ER 552). He also appeared in 1960 before the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society, where he succeeded in having Nye removed from the roll of solicitors.

The editor of The Times preserved a letter that Wintle sent him in 1946:

"Sir,
I have just written you a long letter.
On reading it over, I have thrown it into the waste paper basket.
Hoping this will meet with your approval,
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
AD Wintle"

Wintle died in May 1966 and was cremated at Maidstone Crematorium, although he had wanted a funeral at Canterbury Cathedral with a full church service and the royals on parade playing "My Old Tarpaulin Jacket".

An encounter with Wintle in the El Vino wine bar on Fleet Street is related in a letter to the editor of the Spectator published 8 May 1999.[8] The heading was "Bower’s bans" (Letters to the Editor, The Spectator, 8 May 1999):

From Mr Tom Pocock

Sir:
Frank Bower was not always able to eject unwanted patrons from El Vino (Letters, 1 May). One morning in the late Fifties, a West Indian workman entered what he thought was a pub and asked the proprietor for a pint of bitter. Empurpled with rage, embroidered waistcoat at bursting point, Bower was hustling him into Fleet Street when interrupted by a crisp military command from the back of the bar: `That gentleman is a friend of mine. I have been expecting him. Kindly show him to my table.' Colonel Wintle - celebrated for inspecting the turn out of his German guards when a prisoner of war and for debagging a solicitor - had spoken.

Rising to greet his guest, Wintle trained his monocle on Bower and ordered, `Pray bring us two small glasses of white wine.' When this had been drunk and a convivial conversation concluded, the Colonel and his new friend rose, shook hands and went their separate ways.
Tom Pocock
22 Lawrence Street, London SW3

Quotes

"I am never bored when I am present." (on being asked on his release from prison if he had found it boring)
"It may have escaped your attention, but there is no fighting to be done in England." (on being told he was being removed from active duty against his will following an injury)
"No true gentleman would ever unfurl one." (his umbrella)
"This umbrella was stolen from Col. A.D. Wintle" (note left in his permanently furled umbrella)
"Time spent dismounted can never be regained."
"No true gentleman would ever leave home without one." (his monocle)
"Guy Fawkes was the last man to enter Parliament with good intentions. You need another like me to carry on his good work."
"I get down on my knees every night and thank God for making me an Englishman. It is the greatest honour He could bestow. After all, he might have made me a chimpanzee, or a flea, a Frenchman or a German!"
"What I like about Isherwood's paintings is that there is no doubt about which way they hang." (on art)
"Attend a German school sir? I would rather cut my hands off and blind myself in one eye. Only an English school is good enough for me." (young Wintle, on being told by his father that he was to attend a German school)
"Stop dying at once and when you get up, get your bloody hair cut." (to Trooper Cedric Mays, Royal Dragoons, who recovered and lived to the age of 95)
"Great War peace signed at last." (diary, 19 June 1919)
"I declare private war on Germany." (diary, 20 June 1919)
"It was not until I got to the Lords was I dealing with my intellectual equals." (explaining his legal victory in the House of Lords after losing at trial and before the Court of Appeal)

A brief biography can be found in the Spring 1989 Victorian Bar News.[9] A full-length autobiography, compiled after his death by his friend Alastair Revie from more than a million words left by Wintle, was published in 1968 by Michael Joseph as The Last Englishman. Another short biography of Wintle can be found in chapter 13 ("Colonel 'Debag' rides again", pp 143–153) of Robert Littell's It takes all kinds published by Reynal & Co, New York, 1961.[10] J.D. Casswell, KC represented Wintle at his World War II court-martial and devotes pages 152–159 to Wintle in his 1961 autobiography, A Lance For Liberty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Wintle
 
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#71
Almost too good to be true - Beachcomber with machine guns. There's got to be a film in there. The letter to the Times is priceless.
 
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#72
Spookdaddy said:
Almost too good to be true - Beachcomber with machine guns. There's got to be a film in there. The letter to the Times is priceless.
There was a TV film some years ago.
 
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#74
"Stop dying at once and when you get up, get your bloody hair cut." (to Trooper Cedric Mays, Royal Dragoons, who recovered and lived to the age of 95)
This reminds me of some officer in WW2 - either at Normandy or Arnhem, I think - who, during a fierce mortar bombardment, refused to take cover and threatened to put any man who got blown up on a charge. (Bugger, I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to find the source for that now.)
 

Kondoru

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#75
I like him, he is very English.

He could not be anything else, -except maybe Japanese.
 

rynner2

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#77
Rare book auction: Shelves that are full of adventures
Franklin Brooke-Hitching's library is the best collection of books about British explorers, and it is being auctioned next week. We took the chance to leaf through it
By Tom Rowley
7:28PM GMT 18 Mar 2014

Spend half an hour in Franklin Brooke-Hitching’s library and you’ll go around the world twice. The titles that line the bookshelves of his Berkshire home are wonderfully evocative: Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque; The Sperm Whale and the South Sea Voyage. And my favourite, if only for the image it conjures: Through Persia By Caravan.

Brooke-Hitching has spent the past 46 years collecting these volumes and others chronicling the exploits of British explorers. By last year, he had amassed 1,400 books charting the voyages of adventurers such as Charles Darwin, Francis Drake and David Livingstone.

Among his collection is the first map of Australia, commissioned by the botanist Sir Joseph Banks in 1772. Then there is the first book to be printed in the Antarctic (its jacket fashioned from a tea chest), specimens of cloth collected by Captain Cook in Tahiti, and a signed copy of Ernest Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic.

Remarkably, he claims only half a dozen people have seen his collection. “If you want a real conversation killer,” he says, “you tell people you buy and sell old books.”
Next week , however, anyone who wants to will be able to inspect the tomes when the library goes up for sale at Sotheby’s. Every volume will go under the hammer in a series of four auctions, which are expected to raise £5 million.
Brooke-Hitching, 72, says he wants others to have the pleasure of owning the books, but he does not want them to end up in museums, which he fears would not keep them in good condition.

Even before he began his collection, a young Brooke-Hitching had fallen for adventure. In his early twenties, he rode a motorbike across the world. He lived in a beer factory in Australia and learnt Arabic in Lebanon. At 26, he decided to buy his first book, searching for a first edition of the first collection of voyages to be written in English, published with a fold-out world map by Richard Hakluyt in 1589. He found it in a bookshop off St Martin’s Lane in London.
“I said: 'I’m interested in English voyages,’?” he recalls. “The shop owner said, 'How about this?’ I gulped. That was £900 then, which was a lot of money in 1968. I just said, 'OK.’?” 8)

And so it began. Over the years, he kept strict criteria: each book had to be about a British explorer, and it had to be in mint condition: “God’s copy,” in his words. So, most are centuries old, but their covers gleam.
He had a precise definition of “exploration”, too. “It could not be mere travel, so Europe was out,” he explains. “It had to have some sort of exotic flavour. They were going into strange lands. The countries might have been visited a few times before but they were bringing back new information.”

Brooke-Hitching soon became so taken with these dusty old books that he gave up his lucrative job at an American investment bank to work full-time as a second-hand book dealer, much to the bemusement of former colleagues.
“Years later, I got a call from my senior vice-president at the bank. He said: 'You’ve no idea how much trouble you caused. You were doing very well but you left, not to go to another bank, but to sell books. We had to reassess our management training programme: clearly you’d had a total mental breakdown.’?” :shock:

His search raised eyebrows at home, too. He describes his wife, Emma, as “supportive” of his quest but one gets the impression she will not be too dismayed to no longer have her holidays interrupted when he discovers an auction is afoot. His latest fascination is with antique clocks, but he is only “allowed” four at a time. “I’ve said that I won’t buy another clock unless I sell one – and my wife heartily agrees.”

His four children are also well versed in the collection, and brought up to revere books. “I remember being at school when I was about eight,” says his eldest, Edmund. “A classmate threw a paperback across the room and I just yelled at him.”

Brooke-Hitching’s global hunt would make a page-turner itself. Once, he discovered that a rare book by John Harrison, who invented a device to measure longitude at sea, had recently been auctioned in Birmingham.
[A device? A DEVICE?! That was only Harrison's famous Chronometer, later famously sold by Del Trotter... ;) ]
He immediately telephoned the dealer who had bought it, who told him he had already sold it to another in London. The latter dealer, it transpired, had dispatched the book to America.
“So I called up this dealer in New England. 'You must be joking,’ he said, 'if you think I’m going to sell you that at a reasonable price.’ OK, we’ll make it an unreasonable price. And that’s how I got it.” :D

Another time, he flew to Australia to buy one small volume, only to be outbid. Unsurprisingly, he has also attracted the attention of con-men. One dragged him to Uruguay, claiming to have unearthed Hitler’s library. “I soon realised it wasn’t going to work. But he was the most entertaining human being I have ever met. It was a laugh a minute.”

But it was not about the thrill of the chase. He treasured each book on its own merits, not merely as another title checked off the list.
“It was never, 'This will do.’ It was always, 'This is it, this is the one.’ When I got a new book, I’d have a really good read, then I’d come back a couple of years later and have another good read. A few months would go by and I would say, 'I haven’t seen that one recently,’ and I’d begin to get excited again.”

His favourite explorer? Cook. “It was not that he just went to an area and explored – he was on a voyage around the world and never met another white man. He had no idea of food, dangers, customs. The Spanish had already been to the Pacific but they didn’t dare stop at an island. Cook was willing to take the risk.”

Now, however, Brooke-Hitching’s own exploration is at an end. He has added just a couple of tomes to his bookshelves in the past five years, and believes he owns a copy of almost every book on British exploration. This is largely because he dismisses any book published after 1939, which he claims is when exploration stopped. “There was the Antarctic; shipping lines and train lines went everywhere else. It became more and more travel rather than exploration.”

What about the final frontier – space? “I’d better save money for my first book on it,” he chuckles. Until then, he says, he will be content to live a leisurely life, interrupted only by occasional games of tennis. Will he still look at sale catalogues? “Yes, probably. But there won’t be a feeling of loss. It’ll be: I remember that, that was fun.” Now it’s time for another adventure.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/book ... tures.html
 

Yithian

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#78
During his legendary march from the coast, Cortés approached the Aztec capital by climbing the pass between Popcatépetl and Iztaccihuatl and the saddle, at an elevation of 12,000ft is now called Paso de Cortés. Two years later, in 1521, after his conquest of the Aztecs, the conquistador's army was running short of gunpowder and so Cortés dispatched Francisco Montano and four other men to climb Popocatépetl in an attempt to obtain sulphur from the crater. Unlike the earlier adventure, the story of this second expedition has been confirmed by historians and so must rank as the first known ascent of the mountain. With great publicity, Montano and his companions set out accompanied by Indians carrying supplies including ropes and blankets. A crowd of spectators gathered at the base of the volcano and waited with curiosity to see how matters would unfold. At the end of the first day, the expedition camped some distance above the snowline by digging a snow cave. However, during the night they were driven from their cave by sulphur fumes and the cold. Outside the night was black, the stars being obscured by the clouds and smoke. As they moved about to keep warm, one of the soldiers fell into a crevasse, from which he was lucky to be rescued unharmed.

At daylight they resumed their ascent only to be halted by a eruption that caused them to run for shelter from the falling debris. Though one soldier could not continue, the rest pressed on and eventually reached the crater at which moment another minor eruption took place. When the smoke cleared, they could see roiling pools of lava below. They cast lots to see who would venture down into the crater first and, appropriately, it fell to the leader, Montano, to be the trail-blazer. Thereupon, he was lowered by means of a makeshift rope, some 600ft down into the crater. Not only did he risk the possibility of failure of the rope, but also the very real hazard of asphyxiation, not to mention the risk of another explosive eruption. Apparently, he survived seven separate sorties into the inferno bringing back a load of sulphur each time. Another soldier then took over and, after six additional trips, they had accumulated some 60lbs of the sulphur that had motivated the expedition in the first place. This they hauled down the mountain to be greeted like conquering heroes. A triumphal procession accompanied them back to the capital where, it is said, that Cortés himself came out to greet them. However, this method of procuring sulphur was not the most efficacious and, in a later letter to the king, Cortés admits that it was easier to order shipments from Spain. However, Montano and his companions achieved immortality for the first documented ascent of Popocatépetl.

http://www.dankat.com/mstory/volcano.htm
 

Yithian

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#79
This entry belongs part way between a thread on derring-do and one on insanity but remains one of the funniest autobiographical articles on Wikipedia. It's too long to post in its entirety, but I've cut the core part out to post here:
A double treat:

The Great Man Himself on Desert Island Discs

A Dramatisation of his Life: The Last Englishman:
 

Yithian

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#81
It's only three feet, but at the same time it's a double-decker--over Tower Bridge!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

When it comes to courage and quick thinking, you have to hand it to Albert Gunton. In December 1952, the driver of the number 78 bus was trundling across Tower Bridge when he realised that it was being raised to allow a ship to pass on the Thames below.

Faced with the prospect of his double-decker toppling into the river, the terrified Albert hit the accelerator and shot across the widening gap between the bridge’s two halves before landing safely on the other side. This 3ft leap resulted in minor injuries for 12 of the 20 passengers, a £10 bravery award for Albert and, most likely, the dismissal of whoever forgot to give the warning signal.

From a longer article about Tower Bridge:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/architecture/8459219/Tower-Bridge-a-towering-boys-toy.html
 

Coal

Polymath Renaissance Man, Italian Wiccan Anarchist
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#82
It's only three feet, but at the same time it's a double-decker--over Tower Bridge!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

When it comes to courage and quick thinking, you have to hand it to Albert Gunton. In December 1952, the driver of the number 78 bus was trundling across Tower Bridge when he realised that it was being raised to allow a ship to pass on the Thames below.

Faced with the prospect of his double-decker toppling into the river, the terrified Albert hit the accelerator and shot across the widening gap between the bridge’s two halves before landing safely on the other side. This 3ft leap resulted in minor injuries for 12 of the 20 passengers, a £10 bravery award for Albert and, most likely, the dismissal of whoever forgot to give the warning signal.

From a longer article about Tower Bridge:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/architecture/8459219/Tower-Bridge-a-towering-boys-toy.html
"Fix the cigarette lighter."
 

GNC

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#83
It's only three feet, but at the same time it's a double-decker--over Tower Bridge!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

When it comes to courage and quick thinking, you have to hand it to Albert Gunton. In December 1952, the driver of the number 78 bus was trundling across Tower Bridge when he realised that it was being raised to allow a ship to pass on the Thames below.

Faced with the prospect of his double-decker toppling into the river, the terrified Albert hit the accelerator and shot across the widening gap between the bridge’s two halves before landing safely on the other side. This 3ft leap resulted in minor injuries for 12 of the 20 passengers, a £10 bravery award for Albert and, most likely, the dismissal of whoever forgot to give the warning signal.
Pff, John Wayne did a lot better than that.
 
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#84
Who'll be the first to snowboard it?

VIDEO: Polish daredevil becomes first to ski down K2 mountain
Jul 24, 2018
Andrzej Bargiel, 30, filmed zooming down the 28,000ft deadly peak in Pakistan

A Polish man has become the first person to ski from the summit of K2, the second highest mountain in the world and the most difficult to climb.

One in four people die attempting to summit the 28,251ft (8,611 metre) peak, nicknamed Savage Mountain. However, Andrzej Bargiel, 30, not only completed the gruelling climb to the top without the aid of supplementary oxygen - “a feat unto itself,” notes CNN - but then skied back down.

http://www.theweek.co.uk/95272/vide...letter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter


 
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#86
A valiant attempt, thwarted only by damage to his support boat.

A French man has abandoned his bid to become the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean after his support boat was damaged by a storm.

Ben Lecomte, 51, set off from the coast of Japan on 5 June and had covered more than 2,700 km (1,500 nautical miles) of the 9,100 km journey. But "irreparable" damage to a sail on the boat forced him to stop. Mr Lecomte had been trying to raise awareness of climate change and plastic pollution throughout the journey.

On average he swam eight hours a day in an effort to hit his target. It was not long after he reached the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", a zone dominated by ocean plastic, that he was presented with typhoons and severe storms.

"I am very disappointed because I had not reached my mental and physical limits," he said in a statement.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46357309
 
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#87
No gimmicks here, in the tradition of Scott and Shackleton.


The final kilometres of a nearly two-month race across Antarctica ended on Wednesday with a sprint to the finish.

In an effort that could go down as one of the great feats in polar history, American Colin O’Brady (33) covered the final 125km of his 1,482 km journey across Antarctica in one last 32-hour burst, without sleeping a wink. In doing so, he became the first person ever to traverse Antarctica from coast to coast solo, unsupported, and unaided by wind.

O’Brady’s feat was remarkable enough, but to complete the final 125km in one shot – essentially tacking an ultramarathon onto the 53rd day of an already unprecedented journey – set an even higher bar for anyone who tries to surpass it.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/man-completes-historic-solo-trek-across-antarctica-1.3741876
 

Bad Bungle

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#88
In April of 1944, Joe Herman was the pilot of a Royal Australian Air Force Halifax on a mission to bomb munition factories at Bochum. After dropping its bombs, Herman's Halifax was struck by enemy fire. Herman ordered his crew to bail out. Before he could grab his parachute, the plane exploded and he was thrown into the night sky. He found himself falling amid airplane debris and wildly grabbed a piece of it. It wasn't debris though, he'd collided with John Vivash, the mid-upper gunner, and had grabbed onto Vivash's left leg around the same time as Vivash was opening his parachute. The parachute inflated slowly, which helped Herman maintain his grasp on Vivash. Herman hung on and, as a courtesy, hit the ground first, breaking the fall of Vivash and a mere two ribs of his own.
 
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