The reviews of our meetings form the backbone of the newsletter and this time we have again had three excellent speakers to report on with reviews by Don Vickers, Mike Hield and myself. John Pritchards talk was accompanied by slides and the data on these is reproduced here for web browsers or as a supplementary booklet for members not on the web. This captures much of the original talk. Paul Hields talk was accompanied by sound effects and videos using speakers connected by radio to his laptop. I was taken by this method and have since acquired some for myself.
A final indulgence for which I hope I shall be forgiven is the writing of an article on Tall Ships and the Åland Isles. As a past resident of the Åland Isles I feel I can write authoratively about them.
Talk by Dr John Pritchard
CB, PhD, DSc, DEng, FIEE, FCGI, FREng.
January 10th 2007
The talk, which covered the design and operation of the gas-cooled reactors (Magnox and AGR) advantages, problems, limitations and decommissioning aspects acted, in many cases for the 55 persons attending as a reminder and refresher of nuclear knowledge acquired previously. The wealth of data supplied in the powerpoint slides was impressive. Following a lively question and answer session there were several requests for copies of the this data.
To cater for this below are 20 odd pages of information reproduced from these slides for those browsing the web. For those requiring a hard copy of the data clicking here will provide a pdf verision that can be printed (even pages on backs of odd pages, A4 size, which when folded make an A5 size booklet - Margines set to zero on printer). For members without access to the internet or who have printing difficulties the booklet will be available at the next few meetings from myself at a recovery cost of 50p.
The club has received an enquiry from Mrs Catalina Egan of Delray Beach, Florida. Our website is clearly of interest in far away places! Mrs Egan writes:
'To whom it may concern:
I am researching the August 15th 1939 crash of a British Airways LTD plane, the
G-AESY. This occurred in Denmark at Storstromsbroen. My grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo who was one of the passengers did not survive.
The archives at both British Airways Museum and Archive as well as the Riksarkivet in Copenhagen are incomplete. If anyone knows the following gentlemen or has any other pertinent information, would you kindly have them contact me. Mr. J. H. Willans, Mr. I. Lusty, Mr. C.T.S. Capel and Mr. Christopher Dykes.
Thank you very much in advance for all your help, Catalina Egan
British Airways Ltd was formed in 1935 by the merger of several small airlines and operated from Gatwick. It was a rival to the larger Imperial Airways which operated from Croydon. At the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939 both companies moved to Bristol and in November were merged as the state controlled BOAC.
Mrs Egan has also told me that Mr J H Willans was an engineer who carried out a very thorough investigation of the crash for British Airways Ltd. Any of the people she names may have come to Bristol and may have tranferred to Bristol Aeroplane Company during the war years. If you have any information please let me know and I will pass it on, or give you direct contact information. John Coneybeare 01275 393641
Joint Strike Fighter
This talk was given by Paul Hield, son of Mike Hield on Tuesday 14th February 2007 to an audience of 57 people.
Paul explained that the New Joint Strike Fighter is to replace the well known Harrier Sub-Sonic VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft. The project will cost about 38 billion dollars. The initial prototype flew in 2001.
Unlike conventional aircraft the new fighter uses jets of air and propulsion gases not only for forward movement but also to control the attitude, pitch and roll etc., remember that the fighter is often nearly stationary with no aerodynamic lift generated by the wings.
The power used is fantastic, equivalent to 120 Formula 1 racing cars.
The talk was very well illustrated with numerous slides. The slides showing the interior construction of the power train (shown below), propulsion and flight control arrangements were excellent.
Paul then concentrated on the testing program which was carried out in America, firstly at Indianapolis using old helicopter engines to provide the compressed input air to a gas turbine which powered the compressor under test for the new engine.
A second series of tests were again done in America at the USAF Research Laboratories at the Wright Paterson Air Force base. At this point Electrical Engineers in the audience were intrigued with the electric drive systems AC→DC→DC→AC to give a variable frequency supply for the final synchrous motordriving the compressor under test.
Paul related some interesting anecdotes about various mechanical failures experienced as both the test plant and subject were driven to their limits.
The audience asked a lot of questions both on technical and business/financial matters.
The talk held the interest and attention of members mainly due to Paul's obvious enthusiasm and the personal details of the traumas and problems he and his team overcame.
Michael Clinch gave the VOT comparing his long experience with Bristol Aeroplane Company and Rolls Royce - snags and problems always arose - with Pal's story of recent times.
Talk by Canon Brian Arman
At our meeting on 14th March we were taken on a Broad Gauge Railway Journey by Canon Brian Arman. Brian was born and bred on Swindon and several members of his family worked in the GWR works though they originated from Wootton Bassett. Evidently a great railway enthusiast with special knowledge of the Great Western Railway, one of his activities was the assembly of a collection of photographs showing broad gauge trains in the second half of the 19th century until the abolition of broad gauge in 1892.
All the photographs we saw showed "mixed gauge" tracks where a third rail had been added so that either 7'-0¼" or 4'-8½" gauge could be run. On other railways 4'-8½" was referred to as standard gauge but on Great Western it was narrow gauge.
Some photographs showed how the third (or common rail) had to be transferred from one side to the other so that either gauge could be alongside a station platform.
As built by Brunel the broad gauge was claimed to be first rate for speed and stability. The coaches were very wide internally so that some 3rd class coaches could seat nine passengers a side.
At Swindon conversion to mixed gauge took place in 1867. In the mixed gauge era from 1867 to 1892 the GWR suffered no fatal accident. Major elimination of broad gauge first occurred after 1867 in South Wales.
Much has been written about conversion of the broad gauge over a weekend in 1892 involving the sawing of sleepers etc, but there had been much preparation and prior to that weekend broad gauge trains ran on mixed tracks virtually everywhere except in Cornwall. One historic photo Brian showed us was at the last up broad gauge train to Paddington on 21st May 18923, taken at 3.45 am by which time dawn was sufficiently advanced to take the photograph.
Many photos showed Swindon station and environs but in the latter days occupation of sidings and size of the engine sheds showed that narrow gauge trains and locomotives far outnumbered those of broad gauge.
The earliest photo we saw was dated 1849 and showed a locomotive being turned on a turntable after having its tender detached because it was too long for the turntable with it on.
Another early photo dated 1857 showed a disaster at Horton Road ,Gloucester where a locomotive's iron boiler had burst. there was then no means of examining the internal conditions of such locomotive's boilers.
Fixed signalling from a signal box became usual from 1878 and one shot of mixed gauge track at Swindon showed signal wires from a box crossing the tracks above the trains rather than underneath or alongside the track as in later years.
As to the Broad Gauge Journey we saw a series of photos of stations from Swindon to Bristol including Wootton Bassett in 1878 with a shunting horse, Chippenham, Box in the early 1880's, Bathampton, Bath in 1860's, Keynesham, Bristol East where a tunnel opened out in 1888 and Temple Meads.
We concluded with an illustrated potted history of Temple Meads from when the GWR first met the Bristol and Exeter Railway there. It seems the trains may well occupy Brunel's train shed again when the signal box currently blocking access is replaced elsewhere in about 2 years time.
The attendance at this well presented talk was 48.
The images used in this report are not from Brian Arman's presentation but have been obtained on the web.
The first one is J.C. Bourne's well known lithograph of the west end of Box tunnel
The second is of a plaque prepared to show the companies gratitude to its employees on the rapid changeover
The third shows the collection of broad gauge locomotives at Swindon following the final changeover.
Avon & Somerset Constabulary Male Voice Choir 24 February 2007 in St Peter’s Church
In aid of the Church hall refurbishment fund
The Musical Director and Accompanist, both ladies and both professional musicians, have trained the choir to a very high standard indeed – it must be one of the best in the West Country. There were guest appearances by a lady flautist and a lady oboe player, again professional musicians, who played solos and duets All of the ladies accompanied at the piano at various times in the evening in a game of musical piano stools! This was a memorable evening of classical and lighter music in the magnificent setting of St Peter’s Church.
The income from the sale of tickets and the retiring collection was £1182. The Church waived any charges for the hire of the church and its equipment, and your committee decided to bear the cost of the interval refreshments (£80). So after making a donation of £300 to the choir funds we were able to present the church with a cheque for £882 towards the hall refurbishment
The Church Fabric Fund Committee has to raise a lot more money yet, but they are most grateful for the start we have given them. They have commissioned architects to redesign the eastern end of the hall with new toilets (Gents, Ladies, Disabled and Children’s), improved access and reception area and a rainproof roof! We look forward to enjoying the improved facilities in due course.
The Chairman thanks all the members of the club and committee members who worked to make this a successful evening.
Article by Marcus Palmén
This article is dedicated to my father the late Reverend Dean Nils-Erik Palmen who for the first two years of my life kept me on some very small islands in the Bothnic sea and imbued me with a life long preference for islands and islanders. He was a powerful lutheran preacher some what prone to the blood and thunder variety but perhaps more accurately described as a preacher to a congregation consisting of men rather than women. His first appointment as an ordained priest was on the Kökar and Sottunga islands in Åland.
The Vicarage Sottunga 1933 Population 135 in 2006
The islanders were farmers who had boats to take their produce to mainland Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States as they had done ever since the isles were populated. As their boats grew into ships with time they ventured across the North Sea to England and Scotland This had over the years developed so the men lived on the sea as seamen traders and the women stayed at home and ran the farms. Now clearly this provided my father with the wrong congregation and as a result he volunteered to go abroad as a seamans priest in 1934. He was given the task of establishing a Finnish Seamens Church in Hull and now had the nearly all male congregation he desired. .
History of the Åland Islands
The Åland Islands were part of the territory ceded to Russia by Sweden under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809. This resulted in these wholy Swedish speaking islands becoming a part of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.
In 1832, Russia started to fortify the islands with the great fortress of Bomarsund. This was captured and destroyed by a combined British and French force of warships and marines in 1854 as part of the campaign in the Baltic during the Crimean War. In the Treaty of Paris (1856), the entire Åland Islands were demilitarized.
During the Finnish Civil War, in 1918, "White" Finnish troops fought "Red" troops who came from Finland over the frozen sea. Swedish troops landed to intervene as a peacekeeping force stationed on the islands and Historians, however, point out that Sweden may have in reality planned to occupy the islands. Within weeks, the Swedish troops gave way to German troops that occupied Åland by request of the "White" (conservative) Finnish Senate.
After 1917, the residents of the islands worked towards having the islands ceded to Sweden.Finland was, however, not willing to cede the islands and instead offered them an autonomous status. Nevertheless the residents did not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The latter decided that Finland should retain sovereignty over the province but that the Åland Islands should be made an autonomous territory. Thus Finland was obliged to ensure the residents of the Åland Islands the right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty established the neutral status of Åland, whereby it was prohibited to place military headquarters or forces on the islands.
In the course of the twentieth century, increasing numbers of the islanders have perceived Finnish sovereignty as benevolent and even beneficial. The combination of disappointment about insufficient support from Sweden in the League of Nations, Swedish disrespect for Åland's demilitarised status in the 1930s, and some feelings of a shared destiny with Finland during and after World War II has changed the islanders' perception of Åland's relation to Finland from "a Swedish province in Finnish possession" to "an autonomous part of Finland".
Life in the Islands
The people of Åland had for centuries derived their livelihood from agriculture and seafaring; they sailed to Stockholm and to Turku to sell firewood, fish, meat, dairy products, etc. And they brought salt and textilies home to Åland. Rich farmers had their own boats, others owned halves, quarters, or smaller parts. The boats were usually small cutters and ketches. The farmers were usually masters of their own boats, sailing during the summer while their wives and children took care of the farm at home. In the winter the boats were laid up.
In the 19th century the Åland ``farmer sailors'' started to sail further abroad, carrying cargos of firewood to Swedish, German and Danish ports. Soon they went as far as the North Sea. Many young people chose to go to sea instead of staying at home working at the farm; they were adventurous, and the exciting life at sea seemed more attractive.
Building Lyckan - The Good Fortune
Roxane by the Clifton Suspension Bridge
During the winter when the Baltic was icebound, the ships would sail south into the North sea and ply trade between continental and English and Irish ports. Bristol was among those visited, as can be seen from the last photo above.
Larger and larger vessels were built; ketches, schooners, barquentines, brigs and barques. However, in the 1890s the golden age of sail in the Baltic was coming to its end -- sailing ships could not keep up with the competition from steamers. Fewer and fewer new sailing vessels were built, they were instead bought second hand from foreign shipowners that were making the transition to steam. However, very few people on the Åland islands, or in Finland in general, were able to invest in steam ships. As a result, in the early 20th century farmers started to go back to their farms, but young people still went to sea. Shipping became commercialized and moved to Mariehamn the main town and seat of the local parliament.
Gustaf Erikson and the Tall Ships
An Ålander named Gustaf Erikson was born in the middle of the "golden age" of sail. His father Gustaf Adolf was a skipper and partowner of many vessels. At the age of ten, Gustaf Erikson went to sea in the barque Neptun as a page boy for the skipper and helper for the cook, and two years later we find him as the cook on the same vessel. He then started working on deck and studying in Mariehamn's school of navigation, and he soon got his master's certificate. In 1906 he married Hilda Bergman. He was at the time master of the full-rigged ship Albania, the largest ship in Åland.
In 1913 he went ashore for good, with 20 years as a master behind him. He now decided to become a shipowner, moved to Mariehamn, and bought the composite barque Tjerimaï, and bought himself into several other Åland ships. He bought the four-masted barque Renée Rickmers and renamed her the Åland; but she grounded and was lost less than one year later, and Erikson decided never to rename a ship again. During the first World War, Erikson's shipping company was more or less financed by his incredibly lucky Tjerimaï, others were lost -- capsized or sunk by German submarines and cruisers. In 1916 he bought the famous full-rigger Grace Harwar and in 1917 the four-masted barque Lawhill.
The Grace Harwar 1922 Bristol Old Dock
Archibald Russell from the Graf Zeppelin
When the plaque for Sir Archibald Russell was installed on Engineers Walk my thoughts and Memories took me back to 1939 when I visited his namesake the Archibald Russell in Hull Docks. We were entertained to dinner in the saloon on several Sundays. The story of the Archibald Russell is best related in a book by Captain Harry Mowat who lives in Abbots Leigh. His book cover all of J.Hardies Sailing Ships and is quoted in the bibliography
The Favell in the last photo above is a tall ship that has little to do with the Åland Isles but is included because of her unique associations. She was built under cover in Charles Hills Shipyard in Bristol in 1895 and was named after a daughter named Favell Hill. As a youngster I was taken for walks and sailing model toy yachts in East Park, Hull by a retired Finnish seaman who used to sail in the tall ships and who's last ship, which he always talked about, was called I thought the "Farewell". Since then my researches discovered no such vessel existed but "Favell" which came into Finnish ownership and was used as a training ship satisfied all my known criteria. She ended life at a shipbreakers in Wiborg, in the province of Karelia, which happens to be my birthplace. So it looks as if her journey through life was the reverse of mine.
After the first world war, the days of sailing ships were considered to be all but over. The other Åland shipping companies went into steam, but Erikson saw the opportunity to do the exact opposite! He realized that big sailing ships in good condition would be available at low prices, so he started buying everything that he could get his hands on and was good enough. He put all his big ships on the Australian wheat trade, this being the only deep-water trade on which sailing ships could compete successfully with steamers. During the 30's the breakeven point for the cargo of wheat was 20/- a ton.
There was always a seasonal race to be the first ship back in Europe in order to obtain the best price for the grain. From 1926 to 1939 it was always one of Eriksons Ships. Any time less than 100 days was regarded as fast. The record of 83 days was held by the Parma in 1933. The outward journey in ballast was usually faster by about 14 days. The record was by a pair of German ships Padua and Priwall taking 67 days from Hamburg in 1933 (a good year for sailing it seems).
Erikson was particularly interested in ships formerly owned by Reederei F. Laeisz, Hamburg, the Flying P-line. These ships were strong, fast and in very good condition, having sailed on the South American nitrate trade, one of the toughest trades in the world. In the 1920s Laeisz started to get rid of his sailers, which was good news for Erikson. The first P-liner that Erikson bought, the Pommern, is still preserved as a museum ship in Mariehamn. He bought his last sailer, the enormous four-masted barque Moshulu in 1935.
The Size of Eriksons Ships
The Viking under the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Archibald Russell Hull 1939 Never to sail again
World War II was very hard for Erikson, and put a definite end to deep-water sailing. The Olivebank sailed on a mine in the North Sea and sunk, the Penang and the Killoran were sunk by the Germans, the Lawhill was taken as prize of war by the South African government, the Archibald Russell by the British, the Pamir by New Zealand and the Moshulu by the Germans. After the war only three deep-water sailers remained: the Pommern, the Viking, and the Passat. The Pommern was in need of repairs that Erikson could not perform now, so only Viking and Passat went to sea again and together made one voyage on the wheat trade (in 1947). Erikson was working hard to get the Pamir, the Archibald Russell and the Lawhill back, but died in 1947 at the age of 75.
Gustaf's son Edgar Erikson took over the company, and managed to get the Pamir and the Archibald Russell back. However, only the Pamir and the Passat went to sea again, making one last voyage on the wheat trade in 1948-49.
Edgar Erikson was not able to make a profit with the sailers, so he decided to get rid of them. The Viking was sold to Gothenburg and the Pommern was donated to the City of Mariehamn. The three others were sold to scrapyard, but a German shipowner bought the Pamir and the Passat from the scrapyard and thus saved them. They then became cargo-carrying schoolships. The Passat finally ended up in Travemünde after the tragic loss of the Pamir in 1957.
The Last Tall Ships
by George Kåhre
ISBN 0 85177 134 3
Sail's Last Century
The Merchant Sailing Ship 1830-1930
edited by Dr Basil Greenhill
ISBN 0 85117 565 9
Basil Greenhill and John Hackman
ISBN 0 85117 556 X
The Sailing Ships of J.Hardie & Co.
and the Archibald Russell
ISBN 0 9517695 8 8 (pbk)
ISBN 1 900312 05 0 (hbk)
The Medley of Mast and Sail
A camera record vol2
ISBN 0 903662 07 6
The Four-Masted Barque Lawhill
Kenneth Edwards, Roderick Anderson, Richard Cookson
ISBN 0 85177 676 0
Contributions from members are essential otherwise there is no material to edit. Reports on visits and on talks provide the bread and butter items. Individual articles on subjects of prospective interest to members will also be most welcome. Between 3 and 1000 words, with or without pictures or photos please!
This is a call for papers and contributions for the next edition of the Newsletter. Do share your interesting experiences past and present with other club members. Contact details are as follows:
Marcus Palmén 4 Knightcott Road,Abbots Leigh,Bristol BS8 3SB telephone 01275-372905