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Tarred and Feathered: Street Justice Belfast Style.

Tarred and Feathered: Street Justice Belfast Style

Life during the Troubles

Here are the opening few pages of my bestselling book: A Belfast Child

As a child, I loved the housing estate of Glencairn. To my mind it was paradise. Cut into the hillside, and with unbeatable views of the city on one side and the Divis Mountains on the other, it was like arriving in heaven after the hell of living among the urban sectarian flashpoints of West Belfast. Here were trees, lush green fields, sparkling clear rivers and streams that rushed down from the mountainside and were filled with fish. Us kids spent long hot summers splashing about in the ‘Spoon’, a natural cavernous feature of the landscape filled with water, and feasted on wild berries, strawberries and nuts that grew along the banks of the river.

               Here were our close family and friends, housed in the damp flats and maisonettes that had been hurriedly built to house those Protestants ‘put out’ of their homes in the city by avenging Catholics. They too were being burnt from their homes but back then my young Loyalist heart felt no sympathy for them; in my opinion they supported the IRA and had started the ‘war’.

               Up in Glencairn we felt safe and free. As long as we all obeyed the rules, of course.

               These rules were not the laws of the land. They were not enforced by police, army or government officials. They were not set down in any written form, but we all knew what they were and who had made them. And even as small children, we knew that a heavy price would be extracted for those foolish enough to break the rules. A heavy price, and sometimes a very public price too.

               Our two-bedroom maisonette was situated at the bottom of a small grassy hill facing St Andrew’s church Church and the local shopping complex, which consisted of a Chinese chippy, the VG general store, a laundrette, a newsagent’s, a wine lodge and the local Ulster Defence Association – UDA – drinking club called ‘Grouchos’ . In fact, we could roll down it almost to our back door – a game my younger brother David and I played frequently. In the winter when the hill was covered in snow, we would make sledges out of old bits of wood and spend hours and hours going up and down the hill, never feeling the cold. Dad would have a go at us for all the mud and grass we trailed into the flat but his was a good-natured telling-off. The truth was that he was pleased to see us all happy and carefree again after the trauma of the previous few years, and the sudden and final disappearance of my mum.

               One late spring afternoon I was revolving rolling towards our back door, Dad’s beloved Alsatian dog Shep (my best friend and constant companion) in hot pursuit. Dad called him Shep after the Elvis song and he was able to knock our letter box with his nose when he wanted to come indoors. The grass had recently been cut and was damp, meaning that it stuck to every part of my clothing. I came to a halt just short of our back wall, the sweet smell of cut grass filling my nostrils, before standing up to brush it all off my jumper. As I did, I noticed my cousin, Wee Sam, running up towards our house from the direction of the main road.

               ‘John! Davy! C’mon, hurry up! There’s summin’ going on down the shops!’

               Wee Sam was red in the face and could hardly get his words out. ‘It must be good,’ I said, ‘cos you look like you’re about to die.’

               ‘Not me,’ he replied, ‘but there’s a woman down there looks likely to. C’mon, we gotta see this!’

               He turned tail and without thought we ran after him. As anyone who’s ever grown up on a housing estate will know, if there’s a commotion taking place word gets around like lightning. In Loyalist Glencairn there was always something going on and it was violent as often as not violent. As we ran, it seemed that from every direction half of estate was also making its way to the shops from every direction facing St. Andrews church from every direction. ‘This must be big,’ I thought as I ran, my wee brother trying to keep up with me. On this estate, as in every area of Belfast afflicted by the Troubles, very few people turned away from troubledanger. The natural sense of curiosity found in spades among Northern Irish people was too strong for that.

               In the few minutes it took us to run from our house, a large crowd had already gathered outside the shops. A gang of ‘hard men’, whom we all knew to be paramilitary enforcers, seemed to be at the centre of the action. Local women stood on the fringes of the crowd, shouting, swearing and spitting.

               ‘Fuckin’ Fenian- loving bitch!’

               ‘Youse deserve to die, ye fuckin’ Taig-loving hoor!’ (‘Taig’ is an offensive slang term for a Catholic).

               I pushed in to get a better look. At the heart of the crowd was a young woman, struggling against the grip of the men holding her. Her cheap, fashionable clothes were torn and her eyes were wild and staring, like an animal’s before slaughter. She screamed for them to take their hands off her, spitting at her accusers and lashing out with her feet. It was no use. One of the bigger guys pulled her hands behind her back and dragged her against a concrete lamppost. Someone passed him a length of rope and with a few expert strokes he’d lashed the young woman against the post by her hands, quickly followed by her feet. She reminded me of a squaw captured by cowboys in the Westerns I loved to watch and then re-enact using local kids in games that could last for days.

               Except this wasn’t a game. This was justice Glencairn style – all perfectly normal to me and my peers and we took it in our stride. Although she was still squealing like a pig, the resistance seemed to have gone out of the woman. Smelling blood, the crowd pushed forwards and the woman’s head hung low in shame and embarrassment. One of the men grabbed a hank of her long hair and wrenched her head upwards, forcing her to look him right in the eye.

               ‘You,’ he said slowly, ‘have been caught going with a Taig, so you have! Do you deny it?’

               Now I recognised the woman. She was a girl off the estate. I ha’d seen her walking down Forthriver Road on her way to meet her mini-skirted mates. They’d pile into a black taxi and head into town for a bit of drinking and dancing. I guess it was on one of these nights out that she’d met the Catholic boy – the ‘Taig’ – who was at the centre of the allegations. Good job he wasn’t here now, because he might already be lying in a pool of blood, a bullet through his head.

               The woman shook her head. There was no point trying to talk her way out of anything now.

               ‘Fuck you,’ she said defiantly. ‘Fuck youse all.’

               ‘Grab her hair!’ shouted a female voice from the crowd. ‘Cut off the fuckin’ lot!’

               The enforcer produced a large pair of scissors from his pocket. Slowly, deliberately, he tightened his grip on her hair before hacking savagely at the clump below his fist. Amid cheers he threw it at her feet before continuing his rough barbering skills. Within minutes he’d finished and now the woman looked like a cancer victim. Blood oozed from the indiscriminate cuts he’d made on her head and as it ran down her face it intermingled with her tears and snot. She was not a pretty sight.

               ‘  back!’ demanded one of the enforcers. The crowd parted and someone came forward with an open tin of bright red paint. Knowing what was to come, and not wanting to be physically contaminated with the woman’s shame, the crowd moved even further back.

               The UDA man poured the contents of the tin all over the woman’s head, allowing it to run the entire length of her body, right down to her platform boots. She looked like she’d been drowned in blood. Then a pillow was passed up, and   ham-hands the enforcer tore a big hole in the cotton, exposing the contents – feathers, hundreds and thousands of them.

               ‘G’wan,’ said a voice, ‘give her the full fuckin’ works.’

               Without further ado the man poured the white feathers all over the woman, head to toe. They clung to the paint, giving the impression of a slaughtered goose hanging off the telegraph pole.

               ‘That will teach ye not to go with filthy Taigs,’ said the enforcer. ‘Any more of this and youse’ll get a beating then a bullet, so you will. Understand?’

               Through the paint and the feathers came a small nod of the head.

               ‘Good,’ said the man. ‘And just so ye don’t forget, here’s a wee something we made for you earlier.’

               To laughter and jeers, the man produced a cardboard sign which he placed around the woman’s neck. In the same red paint used to humiliate her, someone had written ‘Fenian Lover’ across the middle of the cardboard.

               ‘Leave her there for half an hour,’ commanded the man to a subordinate, ‘then cut her down.’ The crowd dispersed, a few women spitting on the victim as they left.

               ‘Jesus,’ said Wee Sam, wide-eyed. ‘Did you see that? Looked like she’d been shot in the head and the feathers were her brain running down her face. Fuckin’ amazing.’

               ‘Course I saw it,’ I said. ‘I was right at the front, wasn’t I? The bitch deserved it. Imagine going with Taigs, the dirty whorehoor.’

               ‘Let’s wait round the shops till they chop her down,’ said Sam. ‘See where she goes.’

               We’d been playing one of our eternal games of Cowboys and Indians recently and we’d got into the idea of tracking people down stealthily. So we waited until another paramilitary cut the woman’s rope and watched as she slumped to the ground.

               ‘I think she’s pissed herself,’ said Sam.

               ‘Ssh,’ I replied, ‘she’ll hear us. Wait while she gets up.’

               We watched the woman slowly pick herself up from the pavement. She wiped her eyes and looked around. The area outside the shops was now completely deserted, as though nothing had happened. An angry mob had been replaced by an eerie silence.

               As she stumbled off, we nudged each other. ‘Look,’ I said., ‘Look what’s happening. She’s leaving a trail!’

               She was too, a trail of blood- red boot  prints. We gave her twenty or so yards’ start, then in single file began to follow her, sidling up against walls and lamp-posts like the gang of Cherokees we imagined we were. We must have gone a good quarter- mile when she turned into a pathway leading up to a small, shabby flat. We saw her fumbling in her pocket for a key, noticing the relief on her face as she found it still there. The lock turned and she went inside without a backwards glance.

               ‘That’s it,’ said Sam, ‘fun’s over. Let’s go home.’

               ‘Wait,’ I said. I watched as the woman put on a light, looked in a mirror then drew the curtains tightly. Some part of me, the part that wasn’t screaming ‘Fenian bitch!’ with all the others, suddenly felt hugely sorry for her. She only looked about seventeen17 or eighteen18 – not much older than my sister Margaret. What had she really done wrong, other than meet a nice boy she liked? Did she deserve such brutal treatment? After this I never saw her around the estate again. She’d probably fled for her ,life, never to return. And who could blame her?

           Something inside of me knew I’d witnessed a terrible thing, yet I knew I couldn’t even begin to think like this. It was against the rules; the same unwritten rules and code of conduct that this young woman had disobeyed. Fear of the paramilitaries created a culture of silence and where we lived this was a survival strategy we all lived by. We were all products of this violent environment and we were had been desensitised conditioned to events that no child should ever have to witness.

                I shuddered, pulled my thin jacket close around me and with the others, headed for the safety of home.

               Even now, more than forty years later, whenever I smell the sweet smell aroma of cut grass I am transported back to that dusky spring evening in the early 70’s seventies and the woman’s brutal punishment, and I can hardly believe the madness of my childhood in Glencairn.

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See : Tarring and feathering

See: Belfast Telegraph Public humiliation that was all too familiar during Troubles

Aberfan Disaster 21st October 1966: 116 children and 28 adults killed

Aberfan Disaster  

21st October 1966

Aberfan  is a former coal mining village in the Taff Valley 4 miles (6 km) south of the town of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

On 21 October 1966, it became known for the Aberfan disaster, when a colliery spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

Aberfan The Untold Story

Aberfan disaster

For many years, millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the colliery were deposited on the side of Mynydd Merthyr, directly above the village of Aberfan on the opposite side of the valley. Huge piles, or “tips”, of loose rock and mining spoil had been built up over a layer of highly porous sandstone that contained numerous underground springs, and several tips had been built up directly over these springs.

Although local authorities had raised specific concerns in 1963 about spoil being tipped on the mountain above the village primary school, these were largely ignored by the National Coal Board‘s area management.

Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of about 3–6 metres occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip No. 7. At 9:15 a.m. more than 150,000 cubic metres of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. A mass of over 40,000 cubic metres of debris slid into the village in a slurry 12 metres (39 ft) deep.

The slide destroyed a farm and twenty terraced houses along Moy Road, and struck the northern side of the Pantglas Junior School and part of the separate senior school, demolishing most of the structures and filling the classrooms with thick mud and rubble up to 10 metres (33 ft) deep. Mud and water from the slide flooded many other houses in the vicinity, forcing many villagers to evacuate their homes.

116 children and 28 adults were killed

Aberfan Memorial

The Queen and Prince Philip visited Aberfan on 29 October 1966.

What Happened At Aberfan? This Is The Full Story | The Crown

After the disaster the Mayor of Merthyr immediately launched a Disaster Fund to aid the village and the bereaved. By the time the Fund closed in January 1967, nearly 90,000 contributions had been received, totalling £1,606,929. The Fund’s final sum was approximately £1,750,000 equivalent to £32 million today .

The concerns of the village and donors grew about how the money in the fund would be used: some felt it should be used to compensate the bereaved, whilst others felt it should benefit the wider community. The funds paid for the memorial garden and cemetery along with other facilities to aid the regeneration of Aberfan both physically and emotionally.

The cemetery is where many of the victims are buried. The original Portland and Nabresina Stone memorials erected shortly after the disaster began to deteriorate, and in 2007 the Aberfan Memorial Charity refurbished the garden area, including all of the archways and memorials. The weathered masonry was replaced with polished pearl white granite, all inscriptions were re-engraved and additional archways were erected.

The Coventry Playground was built in 1972 on the site of the old Merthyr Vale School, with money collected by the people of Coventry. The playground was officially opened by the mayor of Coventry.

A memorial garden was opened on the site of Pantglas Primary School, which was destroyed during the disaster. The park was partly opened by the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, on her visit to Aberfan in 1974.

The Aberfan Memorial Charity was founded in 1989 and is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the cemetery and memorial garden

Place of worship

Bethania Welsh Independent Chapel was built in 1876 and rebuilt in 1885. At the time of the Aberfan disaster in 1966 the chapel was used as a temporary mortuary where victims were taken to be identified by relatives. The chapel was demolished in 1967 and a new chapel erected in 1970. By 2007 the chapel had fallen into disrepair and was closed; memorial items from the disaster were relocated to Cardiff Bay.

Aberfan Calvinistic Methodist chapel was built 1876, in an Italianate style. The foundation stone was laid by Sarah Griffiths, wife of the owner of the Aberfan Estate. It became a Grade II listed building in August 1999, for its architectural interest as a well-designed Victorian chapel with an unaltered stone facade; it was judged to be prominent in Aberfan, and had retained its interior with a good gallery.

 After the Aberfan disaster, the chapel was furnished with a memorial organ by the Queen. After extensive renovation, the chapel reopened at Easter 2008, but dry rot quickly set in, destroying newly installed window frames and beams. The cost of repair was estimated at £60,000. In August 2012 parishioners were banned from attending the church after an inspection condemned the building, and in October it was offered for sale, with a guide price of £22,000.

In 2015 a fire was reported at the chapel in the early hours of 11 July. Fire crews from MerthyrTreharrisAbercynonAberbargoedPontypridd and Barry attended, spending a total of eight hours at the scene. Nearby houses were evacuated.

Pyromaniac: Daniel Brown, 27, has been jailed for five years for torching a chapel used as a mortuary for 116 children killed in the Aberfan disaster
Pyromaniac: Daniel Brown, 27, has been jailed for five years for torching a chapel used as a mortuary for 116 children killed in the Aberfan disaster

A 27-year-old man was later arrested in relation to the fire

The village has two smaller chapels: the former Smyrna Baptist Chapel, built in 1877, which is now closed and is used as a community centre,  and the Zion Methodist Chapel, originally English Primitive Methodist, located on Bridge Street and built in 1891

See:  Man jailed for torching chapel used as mortuary for 116 children killed in Aberfan disaster

Main Source : Wikipedia Aberfan Disaster  

Captain Robert Falcon Scott & the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition

Robert Falcon Scott & the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition

Robert Falcon Scott CVO (6 June 1868 – c. 29 March 1912) was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery expedition of 1901–1904 and the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910–1913.

On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Antarctic Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. On the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, less than five weeks after Amundsen’s South Pole expedition.

The deadly race to the South Pole

A planned meeting with supporting dog teams from the base camp failed, despite Scott’s written instructions, and at a distance of 162 miles (261 km) from their base camp at Hut Point and approximately 12.5 miles (20 km) from the next depot, Scott and his companions died.

Scott’s Last Letter

I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first.

Scott’s Last Letter

“I want you to secure a competence for my widow and boy. I leave them very ill provided for but feel the country ought not to neglect them. After all, we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there.”

Race to the South Pole-The Terra Nova Expedition Documentary

When Scott and his party’s bodies were discovered, they had in their possession the first Antarctic fossils ever discovered. The fossils were determined to be from the Glossopteris tree and proved that Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents.

Before his appointment to lead the Discovery expedition, Scott had followed the career of a naval officer in the Royal Navy. In 1899, he had a chance encounter with Sir Clements Markham, the president of the Royal Geographical Society, and thus learned of a planned Antarctic expedition, which he soon volunteered to lead.

 Having taken this step, his name became inseparably associated with the Antarctic, the field of work to which he remained committed during the final 12 years of his life.

The grave of Scott and bowers

Following the news of his death, Scott became a celebrated hero, a status reflected by memorials erected across the UK. However, in the last decades of the 20th century, questions were raised about his competence and character. Commentators in the 21st century have regarded Scott more positively after assessing the temperature drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) in March 1912, and after re-discovering Scott’s written orders of October 1911, in which he had instructed the dog teams to meet and assist him on the return trip.

See: Scott of the Antarctic – the last letter: ‘Excuse the writing – it’s been minus 40

See: Captain Scott’s Antarctic team letters published in book


See: Captain Scott: Facts and Information

See: Captain Robert Falcon Wikipedia

Terra Nova Expedition

Outline of Ross Sea sector of Antarctica, with lines showing the respective polar journeys of Scott and Amundsen
Routes to the South Pole taken by Scott and Amundsen

The Terra Nova Expedition, officially the British Antarctic Expedition, was an expedition to Antarctica which took place between 1910 and 1913. It was led by Robert Falcon Scott and had various scientific and geographical objectives. Scott wished to continue the scientific work that he had begun when leading the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic from 1901 to 1904. He also wanted to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. He and four companions attained the pole on 17 January 1912, where they found that the Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 34 days. Scott’s entire party died on the return journey from the pole; some of their bodies, journals, and photographs were found by a search party eight months later.

The expedition, named after its supply ship, was a private venture, financed by public contributions and a government grant. It had further backing from the Admiralty, which released experienced seamen to the expedition, and from the Royal Geographical Society.

The expedition’s team of scientists carried out a comprehensive scientific programme, while other parties explored Victoria Land and the Western Mountains. An attempted landing and exploration of King Edward VII Land was unsuccessful. A journey to Cape Crozier in June and July 1911 was the first extended sledging journey in the depths of the Antarctic winter.

For many years after his death, Scott’s status as tragic hero was unchallenged, and few questions were asked about the causes of the disaster which overcame his polar party. In the final quarter of the 20th century the expedition came under closer scrutiny, and more critical views were expressed about its organization and management. The degree of Scott’s personal culpability and, more recently, the culpability of certain expedition members, remains controversial

See: Terra Nova Expedition

My book Update for Blog

Hi Folks ,

Just a very short post to let you all know that the book has been out for a week now and is selling beyond my wildest dreams or expectations.

I’ve been rank in the top three – five in three different categories ( this fluctuates daily) since launch day and the repsond so far has been awesome.

Needless to say Im delighted with this and excited about the coming weeks and the various promotional events/interviews lined up.

To order following this link : You can pre-order via https://tinyurl.com/wzpp5ra or see my pinned Tweet below.

The Curious Case of Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb

Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb

Lieutenant-Commander Lionel Kenneth Phillip Crabb, OBE, GM (28 January 1909 – presumed dead 19 April 1956), known as Buster Crabb, was a Royal Navy frogman and  M16 diver who  vanished during a reconnaissance mission around a Soviet cruiser berthed at Portsmouth   Dockyard in 1956.

Crabb in 1950 whilst divng to find the Tobermory.
Crabb in 1950 whilst divng to find the Tobermory.
MI6 diver
Crabb, April 1944
Nickname(s)Buster
Born28 January 1909
London England
Died19 April 1956 (aged 47) ( Presumed Dead )
BuriedMilton Cemetery, Portsmouth England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1941–1947
RankLieutenant Commander
Battles/warsSecond World War
AwardsOfficer of the Order of the British Empire
George Medal
Other workMI6 diver

Early life

Lionel Crabb was born in 1909 to Hugh and Beatrice Crabb of Streatham , south-west London. They were a poor family. In his youth he held many jobs but after two years training for a career at sea in the school ship HMS Conway  he joined the  merchant navy  and the  Royal Naval Volunteers Reserve before the Second World War.

Second World War

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Crabb was first an army gunner. Then, in 1941, he joined the Royal Navy. The next year he was sent to Gibraltar where he worked in a mine and bomb disposal unit to remove the Italian limpet mines that enemy divers had attached to the hulls of Allied ships. Initially, Crabb’s job was to disarm mines that British divers removed, but eventually he decided to learn to dive.

Decima Flottiglia MAS

He was one of a group of underwater clearance divers who checked for limpet mines in Gibraltar harbour during the period of Italian frogman and manned torpedo attacks by the Decima Flottiglia MAS. They dived with oxygen rebreathers, Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus, which until then had not been used much if at all for swimming down from the surface. At first they swam by breaststroke without swimfins.

On 8 December 1942, during one such attack, two of the Italian frogmen, Lieutenant Visintini and Petty Officer Magro, died, probably killed by small explosive charges thrown from harbor-defence patrol boats, a tactic said to have been introduced by Crabb. Their bodies were recovered, and their swimfins and Scuba sets were taken and from then on used by Sydney Knowles and Crabb.

Awards

George Medal

Crabb was awarded the George Medal for his efforts and was promoted to lieutenant commander. In 1943 he became Principal Diving Officer for Northern Italy, and was assigned to clear mines in the ports of Livorno and Venice; he was later created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for these services. He was also an investigating diver in the suspicious death of General Sikorski of the Polish Army, whose B-24 Liberator aircraft crashed near Gibraltar in 1943.

American actor and swimmer Buster Crabbe

By this time he had gained the nickname “Buster”, after the American actor and swimmer Buster Crabbe. After the war Crabb was stationed in Palestine and led an underwater explosives disposal team that removed mines placed by Jewish divers from the Palyam, the maritime force of the Palmach elite Jewish fighting force during the years of Mandatory Palestine. After 1947, he was demobilised from the military.

Civilian diver

Crabb moved to a civilian job and used his diving skills to explore the wreck of a Spanish galleon from the 1588 Armada, off Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. He then located a suitable site for a discharge pipe for the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston. He later returned to work for the Royal Navy. He twice dived to investigate sunken Royal Navy submarines — HMS Truculent in January 1950 and HMS Affray in 1951 — to find out whether there were any survivors. Both efforts proved fruitless.

See: The HMS Truclulent Incident

In 1952, Crabb married Margaret Elaine Player, the daughter of Henry Charles Brackenbury Williamson and the former wife of Ernest Albert Player. The couple separated in 1953 and divorced about two years later.

In 1955 Crabb took frogman Sydney Knowles with him to investigate the hull of a Soviet Sverdlov-class cruiser to evaluate its superior manoeuvrability. According to Knowles, they found a circular opening at the ship’s bow and inside it a large propeller that could be directed to give thrust to the bow. That same year, March 1955, Crabb was made to retire due to his age, but a year later he was recruited by MI6. By this point, Crabb’s heavy drinking and smoking had taken its toll on his health, and Crabb was not the diver that he had been in World War II.

Inside MI5 (Espionage Documentary) | Real Stories

Crabb Affair

Disappearance

The Ordzhonikidze 

Ordzhonikidze was a Sverdlov-class cruiser similar to that shown in this photograph (Alexander Nevsky).

MI6 recruited Crabb in 1956 to investigate the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze that had taken Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin on a diplomatic mission to Britain. According to Peter Wright in his book Spycatcher (1987), Crabb was sent to investigate Ordzhonikidze‘s propeller, a new design that Naval Intelligence wanted to examine. On 19 April 1956, Crabb dived into Portsmouth Harbour and his MI6 controller never saw him again. Crabb’s companion in the Sally Port Hotel took all his belongings and even the page of the hotel register on which they had written their names. Ten days later British newspapers published stories about Crabb’s disappearance in an underwater mission.

Lionel Crabb.jpg
Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb

MI6 tried to cover up this espionage mission. On 29 April, under instructions from Rear Admiral John Inglis, the Director of Naval Intelligence, the Admiralty announced that Crabb had vanished when he had taken part in trials of secret underwater apparatus in Stokes Bay on the Solent. The Soviets answered by releasing a statement stating that the crew of Ordzhonikidze had seen a frogman near the cruiser on 19 April.

British newspapers speculated that the Soviets had captured Crabb and taken him to the Soviet Union. The British Prime Minister Anthony Eden apparently disapproved of the fact that MI6 had operated without his consent in the UK (the preserve of the Security Service, “MI5”). It is mistakenly claimed that Eden forced director-general John Sinclair to resign following the incident. In fact, he had determined to replace Sinclair with MI5 director-general Dick White before the incident. Eden told MPs it was not in the public interest to disclose the circumstances in which the frogman met his end.

Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb

Body found

COMMANDER CRABB MYSTERY (1956) PATHE NEWS

A little less than 14 months after Crabb’s disappearance, on 9 June 1957, a body in a diving suit was brought to the surface in their net by two fishermen off Pilsey Island in Chichester Harbour. The body was brought to shore in a landing craft operated by members of RAF Marine Craft Unit No. 1107.

It was missing its head and both hands, which made it impossible to identify (using then-available technology). According to British diving expert Rob Hoole, the body had the same height as Crabb, the same body-hair colour, and was dressed in the same clothes, Pirelli two-piece diving suit and Admiralty Pattern swim fins that Crabb was wearing when he embarked on his final mission. Hoole wrote that given the length of time that Crabb’s body had been in the water, there was “nothing sinister” about the missing head and hands. Crabb’s ex-wife was not sure enough to identify the body, nor was Crabb’s girlfriend, Pat Rose. Sydney Knowles was requested to identify the body shortly after its discovery.

He described the body as being clad in a faded green rubber frogman suit of a type issued to Royal Navy divers, and the remains of a white sweater. The suit had been cut open from the neck to the groin and along both legs, revealing very dark pubic hair.  Knowles examined the body closely, looking for a Y-shaped scar behind the left knee and a prominent scar on the left thigh. He failed to find any scars on the body, and stated that it was not Crabb.

A pathologist, Dr. D. P. King, examined the body and stated in a short report for the inquest that a careful examination of the body failed to reveal any scars or marks of identification.

Inquest

The inquest was opened on 11 June 1957 by Bridgman, who had received the pathologist’s report that there was no way of establishing identification. As neither Knowles nor Crabb’s ex-wife nor a Lieutenant McLanachan, a Royal Navy torpedo officer from HMS Vernon, had been able to identify the body, Bridgman adjourned the inquest until 26 June to allow time for a positive identification.

The inquest was resumed on 26 June. The pathologist, King, gave evidence that he had returned to the mortuary and re-examined the body on 14 June. He reported that he had found a scar in the shape of an inverted Y on the left side of the left knee, and a scar on the left thigh, about the size of a sixpenny coin. King stated that the scar had been photographed whilst he was present.

Fate

Sydney Knowles

As information was declassified under the 50-year rule, new facts on Crabb’s disappearance came to light. On 27 October 2006, the National Archives released papers relating to the fatal Ordzhonikidze mission. Sydney Knowles, a former diving partner of Crabb’s, stated in a televised interview on Inside Out – South on 19 January 2007 that Crabb did not dive alone on his fatal last mission: “He told me they’d given him a buddy diver.” Furthermore, papers released under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that there were other divers investigating Ordzhonikidze while the ship was in Portsmouth Harbour.  On 9 November 2007, The Independent reported how the government had covered up the death of ‘Buster’ Crabb.

The cruiser Ordzhonikidze was later transferred by the Soviet government to Indonesia in 1962, where it operated as KRI Irian. The ship operated in the conflict against the Netherlands over West Papua, and was later used as a floating detention centre for suspected communists during the Indonesian killings of 1965–1966. The cruiser was scrapped in 1971.

Theories and speculations

Died during Soviet interrogation

The spy Harry Houghton wrote a book called Operation Portland after he was released from prison in which he outlined the explanation of Crabb’s death which he claimed to have been given by his Russian handler, a man he knew as Roman, in July 1956. Houghton claims that shortly before the Soviet visit he had been meeting Roman in a pub in Puncknowle, Dorset, and happened to see a friend who worked at the Underwater Detection Establishment with her boyfriend who was a diver. The boyfriend was annoyed that he had been training for something special, which had just been called off. Shortly after hearing this, Roman had cut short the meeting.

According to this account, after guessing that there may be some attempt by divers connected with Ordzhonikidze, the Soviet Navy had arranged for six underwater sentries to watch the bottom of the ship, which had been fitted with wire jackstays on either side to help them hold on to. When Crabb arrived, a struggle ensued in which Crabb’s air supply was turned off and he passed out. He was then hauled on board, and taken to the sick bay (having passed out a second time) and given medical treatment.

When Crabb had recovered sufficiently, the Soviets began to interrogate him; Crabb was making a confession when he collapsed and this time did not recover. The Soviets, aware that they might be accused of causing his death, decided to fix his body lightly to the bottom of the ship so that it came loose once the ship was under way. In the event, the body entangled in something underwater which meant it did not get discovered for fourteen months. Houghton also puts forward the theory that Crabb’s mission was to plant a small limpet mine on Ordzhonikidze whose purpose was to detect whether the Soviet Navy was using the latest sonar technology: if it was, the mine would detonate, and the ship would slow down; if not, the mine would eventually detach and go to the bottom of the sea.

The Crabb Affair (Part 1)

Killed by the Soviets

In a 1990 interview Joseph Zwerkin, a former member of Soviet Naval intelligence who had moved to Israel as the breakup of the Soviet Union, claimed that the Soviets had noticed Crabb in the water and that a Soviet sniper had shot him.

On 16 November 2007, the BBC and the Daily Mirror reported that Eduard Koltsov, a Soviet frogman, claimed to have caught Crabb placing a mine on Ordzhonikidze‘s hull near the ammunition depot and cut his throat. In an interview for a documentary film, Koltsov showed the dagger he allegedly used in a Russian documentary as well as an Order of the Red Star medal that he claimed to have been awarded for the deed. 

Koltsov, 74 at the time of the interview, stated that he wanted to clear his conscience and make known exactly what happened to Crabb. It seems extremely unlikely that the British government would have tried to blow up a Soviet ship on a diplomatic mission while it was anchored in British waters carrying the leaders of the Soviet Union, making Koltsov’s claim of a mine suspect.

A Russian journalist from the military Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper considers Koltsov’s story improbable. In particular the archive documents do not confirm that Koltsov (a city bus driver for 30 years in Rostov-on-Don) was awarded Order of the Red Star or was a Soviet frogman. An account of this event in the Daily Mail says that Buster Crabb may have been planting not an explosive device but a listening device.

Official government documents regarding Crabb’s disappearance are not scheduled to be released until 2057.

Captured, brainwashed, defected or a double agent

Certain Members of Parliament and Michael Hall became concerned about Crabb’s ultimate fate and in 1961, Commander J.S. Kerans (and later in 1964 Marcus Lipton) submitted proposals to re-open the case but were rebuffed. Various people speculated that Crabb had been killed by some secret Soviet underwater weapon; that he had been captured and imprisoned in Lefortovo prison with prison number 147, that he had been brainwashed to work for the Soviet Union to train their frogman teams; that he had defected and became a commander in the Soviet Navy; that he was in the Soviet Special Task Underwater Operational Command in the Black Sea Fleet; or that MI6 had asked him to defect so he could become a double agent.

MI5 theory

On 26 March 2006, The Mail on Sunday published an article by Tim Binding entitled “Buster Crabb was murdered – by MI5”. Binding wrote a fictionalised account of Crabb’s life, Man Overboard which was published by Picador in 2005. Binding stated that, following the book’s publication, he was contacted by Sydney Knowles. Binding alleged that he then met Knowles in Spain and was told that Crabb was known by MI5 to have intentions of defecting to the USSR. This would have been embarrassing for the UK — Crabb being an acknowledged war hero. Knowles has suggested that MI5 set up the mission to the Ordzhonikidze specifically to murder Crabb, and supplied Crabb with a new diving partner who was under orders to kill him.

Binding stated Knowles alleged that he was ordered by MI5 to identify the body found as Crabb, when he knew it was definitely not Crabb. Knowles went along with the deception. Knowles has also alleged that his life was threatened in Torremolinos in 1989, at a time when Knowles was in discussions with a biographer. About the claims that Crabb was planning to defect to the Soviet Union, Reg Vallintine of the Historical Diving Society was quoted as saying:

“Diving historians find it very hard to believe that this man, who prided himself on being a patriot, would have seriously considered defecting. Crabb was very fond of being a hero, and it is hard to imagine him jeopardising that status.”

It is not clear just why MI6 would recruit a man who was known to be planning to defect to the Soviet Union to spy against the Soviet Union or why Crabb would agree to such a mission if he really had decided that he wanted to live in the Soviet Union.

Death by misadventure

The British diving expert Rob Hoole wrote in 2007 that Crabb had probably died of oxygen poisoning or perhaps carbon dioxide poisoning, and that Crabb’s age and poor health caused by his heavy drinking and smoking had made him unsuitable for the mission that he had been assigned. In support of the death by misadventure theory, Hoole noted that before disappearing on his second attempt to dive Ordzhonikidze, Crabb had during his first attempt experienced equipment failure, which suggested that Crabb’s equipment was not up to standard. Crabb’s MI6 officer John Nicholas Rede Elliott always took the view that Crabb had suffered equipment failure and/or his health had given way, and that his reputation had been unfairly dragged through the mud.

Historical media

In a War Documentary Series titled “Secrets Of War,” episode titled “The Cold War. Khrushchev’s Regime” a 1996 interview with former head of the KGB Vladimir Semichastny (who was the first secretary of Komsomol at the time of Crabb’s dissappearance) reported, Crabb’s decapitated body was found floating in the harbour two months after his disappearance. In the interview, Semichastny states that the “Crabb Affair” was handled elegantly.

Grave Commander Lionel “Buster” Crabb



The Silent Enemy Gibraltar 1958

Movie about Lionel Crabb

References in popular culture

  • Crabb’s time in Gibraltar is covered in the film The Silent Enemy (1958), with Laurence Harvey portraying Crabb.
  • Tim Binding’s novel Man Overboard (2005) is a fictional memoir of Crabb, who looks back over his career from a sanatorium in Czechoslovakia, having been seized by the KGB on his final mission for the British.
  • Crabb appears in the first issue of Warren Ellis’ comic Ignition City.
  • John Ainsworth Davis/Christopher Creighton in his thinly disguised fictional account The Krushchev Objective (1987) with co-author Noel Hynd, states he was the second diver with Crabb that thwarted an assassination attempt on the Soviet dictator by defusing limpet mines.
  • The “Crabb affair” inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond adventure Thunderball.
  • The frogman briefly seen in the Tintin book The Red Sea Sharks was based on a photograph of Crabb.
  • The Crabb affair features in Edward Wilson’s novel “The Envoy” (London, Arcadia Books, 2008)

Other “war” stories/posts

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear “ C.S. Lewis

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear “

C.S. Lewis

Thank you all for being so kind, caring and supportive yesterday, I was truly touched at how many of you reached out to me and it helped lift the gloomy cloud that was hanging over me and I feel much better and more positive today.

Grief for a loved one is never ending and I have been grieving for my dad for over forty years now , a lifetime of sorrow and pain  that can never completely heal.  Most of the time I can deal with it and banish the pain of losing him at such an early age to the dark passages of my soul.

But sometimes it can creep up on me unexpectedly and hit me like a sledgehammer and time stands still as the sadness and sorrow  of missing him engulfs my entire being and the fear of never ending grief  stops me dead in my tracks .

That was the case yesterday and I suppose I should have expected it with the anniversary of his death approaching and also rereading  through the chapters of my book which deal with his death was not the smartest move on my part in hindsight.

Anyways Im feeling much better now with the support of wifey and the kids and just wanted to say thank you to all of you who reached out to me yesterday.

Thank you.

Princess Anne Kidnapping Attempt: 20th March 1974

Princess Anne

Kidnapping attempt 20th March 1974

As Princess Anne and Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace on 20 March 1974, from a charity event on Pall Mall, their Princess IV car was forced to stop on the Mall by a Ford Escort. The driver of the Escort, Ian Ball, jumped out and began firing a pistol. 

Balls car pulled up in front of Royal Limousine
Royal Crime Scene : News Photo

Inspector James Beaton, Anne’s personal police officer, responded by exiting the car in order to shield her and to attempt to disarm Ball. However, Beaton’s firearm, a Walther PPK, jammed, and he was shot by the assailant, as was Anne’s chauffeur, Alex Callender, when he tried to disarm Ball.

Inspector James Beaton,

Brian McConnell, a nearby tabloid journalist, also intervened, and was shot in the chest. Ball approached Anne’s car and told her that he intended to kidnap her and hold her for ransom, the sum given by varying sources as £2 million or £3 million, which he claimed he intended to give to the National Health Service. Ball told Anne to get out of the car, to which she replied: “Not bloody likely!”, and reportedly briefly considered hitting Ball.

Kidnap Attempt Journalist : News Photo
Princess Anne visiting journalist Brian McConnell at St George’s Hospital in London after he was shot in the chest while attempting to intervene during the attempt to kidnap the Princess in the Mall, 25th March 1974. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Eventually, she exited the other side of the limousine as had her lady-in-waiting, Rowena Brassey. A passing pedestrian, a former boxer named Ron Russell, punched Ball in the back of the head and led Anne away from the scene. At that point, Police Constable Michael Hills happened upon the situation; he too was shot by Ball, but he had already called for police backup. Detective Constable Peter Edmonds, who had been nearby, answered, gave chase, and finally arrested Ball.

Beaton, Hills, Callender, and McConnell were hospitalised, and all recovered from their wounds. For his defence of Princess Anne, Beaton was awarded the George Cross by the Queen, who was visiting Indonesia when the incident occurred; Hills and Russell were awarded the George Medal, and Callender, McConnell, and Edmonds were awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

Anne visited Beaton in hospital and thanked him for his assistance.

Princess Anne visiting Jim Beaton at Westminster Hosptial

How I took 3 bullets for Princess Anne – Witness – BBC News

In 1984, the princess spoke about the event on Parkinson saying she was ‘scrupulously polite’ to her would-be kidnapper as she thought it would be ‘silly to be too rude at that stage’.

Princess Anne talks on 1974 kidnap attempt

Ball pleaded guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping. He was still detained under the Mental Health Act as of 2019, at Broadmoor Hospital

Ian Ball, 26, arrives at court where he was charged with the attempted murder of Princess Anne’s bodyguard.
 Ian Ball, 26, arrives at court where he was charged with the attempted murder of Princess Anne’s bodyguard. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

More information on: Ian Ball

Main source : wikipedia.org

Britain’s Most Notorious Psychiatric Hospital (Prison Documentary) | Real Stories

Frank Sheeran – The (real) Irish Man , life & death

Frank Sheeran

The (real) Irish Man , life & death

Frank Sheeran (left) & with fellow Teamsters organisers at his first job in Detroit.

Francis Joseph Sheeran (October 25, 1920 – December 14, 2003), known as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, was an American labor union official who was accused of having links to the Bufalino crime family in his capacity as a high-ranking official in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), the president of Local 326.

Sheeran was a leading figure in the corruption of unions by organized crime. In 1980, he was convicted of labor racketeering and sentenced to 32 years in prison, of which he served 13 years. Shortly before his death, he claimed to have killed Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa in 1975. Author Charles Brandt detailed what Sheeran told him about Hoffa in the narrative nonfiction work I Heard You Paint Houses (2004).

The truthfulness of the book has been disputed by some, including Sheeran’s confessions to killing Hoffa and Joe Gallo. The book is the basis for the 2019 film The Irishman directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran and Al Pacino as Hoffa.

The Irishman Explained | The Reel Story

My thoughts:

Well I watched The Irish Man yesterday evening, all three and a half of it and to be completely honest I thought it was a load of rubbish and a waste of three and a half hours of my life i’ll never get back. Its not a patch on Goodfellas or The God Father and the constant flash backs to when the main players were younger was to say the least completely off putting and unbelievable in the extreme. They looked and moved like the elder actors they are and it was painful watching these icons of gangsters movies having to shame themselves in this manner. Plus, the story line and the dialogue were abysmal and so far removed from the true events that reality had to be suspended and I had to force myself to sit through the whole sorry mess until the bitter , disappointing end.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Early life

Sheeran was born and raised in DarbyPennsylvania, a small working-class borough on the outskirts of Philadelphia. He was the son of Thomas Francis Sheeran Jr. and Mary Agnes Hanson.  His father was of Irish descent, while his mother was of Swedish descent.

World War II

Sheeran enlisted in the Army in August 1941, did his basic training near Biloxi, Mississippi, and was assigned to the military police. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for training in the Army Airborne at Fort BenningGeorgia, but he dislocated his shoulder and was transferred to the 45th Infantry Division, known as “The Thunderbirds” and “The Killer Division”. On July 14, 1943, he set sail for North Africa.

Sheeran served 411 days of combat duty—a significant length of time, as the average was around 100 days. His first experience of combat was during the Italian Campaign, including the invasion of Sicily, the Salerno landings, and the Anzio Campaign. He then served in the landings in southern France[11] and the invasion of Germany.

Sheeran said:

All in all, I had fifty days lost under AWOL—absent without official leave—mostly spent drinking red wine and chasing Italian, French, and German women. However, I was never AWOL when my outfit was going back to the front lines. If you were AWOL when your unit was going back into combat you might as well keep going because one of your own officers would blow you away and they didn’t even have to say it was the Germans. That’s desertion in the face of the enemy.

War crimes

Sheeran recalled his war service as the time when he developed a callousness to taking human life. He claimed to have participated in numerous massacres and summary executions of German POWs, acts which violated the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the 1929 Geneva Convention on POWs. In interviews with Charles Brandt, he divided such massacres into four categories:

  1. Revenge killings in the heat of battle. Sheeran told Brandt that a German soldier had just killed his close friends and then tried to surrender, but he chose to “send him to hell, too”. He described often witnessing similar behavior by fellow GIs.
  2. Orders from unit commanders during a mission. Sheeran described his first murder for organized crime: “It was just like when an officer would tell you to take a couple of German prisoners back behind the line and for you to ‘hurry back’. You did what you had to do.”
  3. The Dachau reprisals and other reprisal killings of concentration camp guards and trustee inmates.
  4. Calculated attempts to dehumanize and degrade German POWs. Sheeran’s unit was climbing the Harz Mountains when they came upon a Wehrmacht mule train carrying food and drink up the mountainside. The female cooks were allowed to leave unmolested, then Sheeran and his fellow GI’s “ate what we wanted and soiled the rest with our waste”. Then the Wehrmacht mule drivers were given shovels and ordered to “dig their own shallow graves”. Sheeran joked that they did so without complaint, likely hoping that he and his buddies would change their minds. But the mule drivers were shot and buried in the holes they had dug. Sheeran explained that by then, he “had no hesitation in doing what I had to do.”

Discharge and post-war

Sheeran
Sheeran with family

Sheeran was discharged from the army on October 24, 1945. He later recalled that it was “a day before my twenty-fifth birthday, but only according to the calendar.” Upon returning from his army service, Sheeran married Mary Leddy, an Irish immigrant. The couple had three daughters, MaryAnne, Dolores, and Peggy, but divorced in 1968. Sheeran then married Irene Gray, with whom he had one daughter, Connie.

Organized crime and the Teamsters Union

When he left the service, Sheeran became a meat driver for Food Fair, and he met Russell Bufalino in 1955 when Bufalino offered to help him fix his truck, and later worked jobs driving him around and making deliveries. Sheeran also operated out of a bar located in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania which was run by Bill Distanisloa, a soldier for Angelo Bruno.

Sheeran’s first murder was killing Whispers DiTullio, a gangster who had hired him to destroy the Cadillac Linen Service in Delaware for $10,000. Sheeran did not know, however, that Angelo Bruno had a large stake in the linen service. Sheeran was spotted outside the business in Delaware and was brought in for questioning. Bufalino had convinced Bruno to spare Sheeran, but he ordered Sheeran to kill DiTullio as retribution.

Sheeran was also suspected of the murder of Joe Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House on April 7, 1972.

Bufalino introduced Sheeran to Teamsters International President Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa became a close friend and used Sheeran for muscle, including the assassination of recalcitrant union members and members of rival unions threatening the Teamsters’ turf. According to Sheeran, the first conversation that he had with Hoffa was over the phone, where Hoffa started by saying, “I heard you paint houses”—a mob code meaning “I heard that you kill people”, the “paint” being spattered blood.

Sheeran later became acting president of Local 326 of the Teamsters Union in Wilmington, Delaware.

Sheeran was charged in 1972 with the 1967 murder of Robert DeGeorge, who was killed in a shootout in front of Local 107 headquarters. The case was dismissed, however, on the grounds that Sheeran had been denied a speedy trial. He was also alleged to have conspired to murder Francis J. Marino in 1976, a Philadelphia labor organizer, and Frederick John Gawronski, killed the same year in a tavern in New Castle, Delaware.

Prison and death

Sheeran was indicted along with six others in July 1980, on charges involving his links to the labor leasing businesses controlled by Eugene Boffa Sr. of Hackensack, New Jersey. On October 31, 1980, Sheeran was found guilty of 11 charges of labor racketeering. He was sentenced to a 32-year prison term and served 13 years.

Sheeran died of cancer on December 14, 2003, aged 83, in a nursing home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.

Hoffa death

The Sinister Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa

Charles Brandt claims in I Heard You Paint Houses (2004) that Sheeran confessed to killing Hoffa. According to Brandt’s account, Chuckie O’Brien drove Sheeran, Hoffa, and fellow mobster Sal Briguglio to a house in Metro Detroit. O’Brien and Briguglio drove off and Sheeran and Hoffa went into the house, where Sheeran claims that he shot Hoffa twice in the back of the head. Sheeran says that he was told that Hoffa was cremated after the murder. Sheeran also confessed to reporters that he murdered Hoffa.

Bill Tonelli disputes the book’s truthfulness in his Slate article “The Lies of the Irishman”, as does Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith in “Jimmy Hoffa and ‘The Irishman’: A True Crime Story?” which appeared in The New York Review of Books.

Blood stains were found in the Detroit house where Sheeran claimed that the murder happened, but they were determined not to match Hoffa’s DNA.  The FBI continues its attempts to connect Sheeran to the murder, retesting the blood and floorboards with latest advancements in forensics.

Biographical film

The book is the basis for the 2019 film The Irishman directed by Martin Scorsese. Scorsese was long interested in directing a film about Sheeran’s life and his alleged involvement in the slaying of Hoffa. Steven Zaillian is the screenwriter and co-producer Robert De Niro portrays Sheeran, with Al Pacino as Hoffa, and Joe Pesci as Bufalino.[The film had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019, and was released on November 1, 2019, with digital streaming that started on November 27, 2019, via Netflix.

Main Source : Wikipedia Frank Sheeran

“The Irishman” Official Documentary

Other gangster posts

My Book Update , sad to say publication has been delayed due to …..

Howdy Blog followers…

My Book update , Im gutted !! I’m sad to let you all know that due to the Coronavirus crisis publication of my book has been delayed for at least five months , see below for more details.

I’m more than a little disappointed to let you all know due to the Coronavirus & the chaos it is causing worldwide the launch date for my book has been put back until September 3rd, a delay of more than five months.

The publishers believe that persisting with the planned April date would be highly detrimental to the book’s prospects.

Many of Ireland’s bookshops are closing at the moment and expecting to remain closed through April. Retailers Eason, Argosy, Dubray and WHS Travel have cut their orders dramatically in light of the ongoing crisis, and Irish WHS Travel have cancelled all their Irish orders for April.

Apparently twenty-five book retailers in Ireland have closed their doors until further notice.

Amazon are also having enormous issues meeting demand and are currently prioritising medical and home supplies over things like books, so many soon-to-be-released and new books currently don’t have a ‘Buy’ button on the page. As does my own. This may only get worse as the problem deepens.

 The proposed publication date will now be 3 September. I’ll keep you all posted on here!

It’s not the first time a major global event has thrown a spanner in the works for me. The week Princess Di so tragically died a national Newspaper had done a massive feature of my story for publication in the Sunday papers and I was bracing myself for the interest that would generate. In the event Princess Di’s death rightly dominated the press and my feature was kicked into the long grass.

Social Distancing Global Champion

Unexplained Videos That Will Give You Chills

The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre – 14th Feb 1929

The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre 14th Feb 1929

The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was the 1929 Valentine’s Day murder of seven members and associates of Chicago’s North Side Gang. The men were gathered at a Lincoln Park garage on the morning of Valentine’s Day. They were lined up against a wall and shot by four unknown assailants who were dressed like police officers. The incident resulted from the struggle to control organized crime in the city during Prohibition between the Irish North Siders, headed by George “Bugs” Moran, and their Italian South Side rivals led by Al Capone.

The perpetrators have never been conclusively identified, but former members of the Egan’s Rats gang working for Capone are suspected of a significant role, as are members of the Chicago Police Department who allegedly wanted revenge for the killing of a police officer’s son.

The Massacre

Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre – Al Capone, George ‘Bugs’ Moran and the Irish North Side Gang

At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 14, 1929, seven men were murdered at the garage at 2122 North Clark Street,  in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side. They were shot by four men using weapons that included two Thompson submachine guns. Two of the shooters were dressed as uniformed policemen, while the others wore suits, ties, overcoats, and hats. Witnesses saw the fake police leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage after the shooting.

The victims included five members of George “Bugs” Moran‘s North Side Gang. Moran’s second in command and brother-in-law Albert Kachellek (alias James Clark) was killed along with Adam Heyer, the gang’s bookkeeper and business manager, Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran, and gang enforcers Frank Gusenberg and Peter Gusenberg.

Two collaborators were also shot: Reinhardt H. Schwimmer, a former optician turned gambler and gang associate, and John May, an occasional mechanic for the Moran gang. Real Chicago police officers arrived at the scene to find that victim Frank Gusenberg was still alive. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors stabilized him for a short time and police tried to question him. He had sustained 14 bullet wounds; the police asked him who did it, and he replied, “No one shot me.” He died three hours later.

Al Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang. Moran was the last survivor of the North Side gunmen; his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader Dean O’Banion.

Al Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang. Moran was the last survivor of the North Side gunmen; his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader Dean O’Banion.

Several factors contributed to the timing of the plan to kill Moran. Earlier in the year, North Sider Frank Gusenberg and his brother Peter unsuccessfully attempted to murder Jack McGurn. The North Side Gang was complicit in the murders of Pasqualino “Patsy” Lolordo and Antonio “The Scourge” Lombardo. Both had been presidents of the Unione Siciliana, the local Mafia, and close associates of Capone. Moran and Capone had been vying for control of the lucrative Chicago bootlegging trade. Moran had also been muscling in on a Capone-run dog track in the Chicago suburbs, and he had taken over several saloons that were run by Capone, insisting that they were in his territory.

The plan was to lure Moran to the SMC Cartage warehouse on North Clark Street on February 14, 1929 to kill him and perhaps two or three of his lieutenants. It is usually assumed that the North Siders were lured to the garage with the promise of a stolen, cut-rate shipment of whiskey, supplied by Detroit’s Purple Gang which was associated with Capone. The Gusenberg brothers were supposed to drive two empty trucks to Detroit that day to pick up two loads of stolen Canadian whiskey. All of the victims were dressed in their best clothes, with the exception of John May, as was customary for the North Siders and other gangsters at the time.

Most of the Moran gang arrived at the warehouse by approximately 10:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, but Moran was not there, having left his Parkway Hotel apartment late. He and fellow gang member Ted Newberry approached the rear of the warehouse from a side street when they saw a police car approaching the building. They immediately turned and retraced their steps, going to a nearby coffee shop. They encountered gang member Henry Gusenberg on the street and warned him, so also he turned back. North Side Gang member Willie Marks also spotted the police car on his way to the garage, and he ducked into a doorway and jotted down the license number before leaving the neighborhood.

Capone’s lookouts likely mistook one of Moran’s men for Moran himself, probably Albert Weinshank, who was the same height and build. The physical similarity between the two men was enhanced by their dress that morning; both happened to be wearing the same color overcoats and hats. Witnesses outside the garage saw a Cadillac sedan pull to a stop in front of the garage. Four men emerged and walked inside, two of them dressed in police uniform. The two fake police officers carried shotguns and entered the rear portion of the garage, where they found members of Moran’s gang and collaborators Reinhart Schwimmer and John May, who was fixing one of the trucks.

The Guns of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

The fake policemen then ordered the men to line up against the wall. They then signaled to the pair in civilian clothes who had accompanied them. Two of the killers opened fire with Thompson sub-machine guns, one with a 20-round box magazine and the other a 50-round drum. They were thorough, spraying their victims left and right, even continuing to fire after all seven had hit the floor. Two shotgun blasts afterward all but obliterated the faces of John May and James Clark, according to the coroner’s report.

To give the appearance that everything was under control, the men in street clothes came out with their hands up, prodded by the two uniformed policemen. Inside the garage, the only survivors in the warehouse were May’s dog “Highball” and Frank Gusenberg—despite 14 bullet wounds. He was still conscious, but he died three hours later, refusing to utter a word about the identities of the killers. The Valentine’s Day Massacre set off a public outcry which posed a problem for all mob bosses.

Victims

  • Peter Gusenberg, a front-line enforcer for the Moran organizations
  • Frank Gusenberg, the brother of Peter Gusenberg and also an enforcer
  • Albert Kachellek (alias “James Clark”), Moran’s second in command
  • Adam Heyer, the bookkeeper and business manager of the Moran gang
  • Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who had abandoned his practice to gamble on horse racing and associate with the gang
  • Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran; his resemblance to Moran is allegedly what set the massacre in motion before Moran arrived, including the clothes that he was wearing
  • John May, an occasional car mechanic for the Moran gang[8]

Investigation

Within days, Capone received a summons to testify before a Chicago grand jury on charges of federal Prohibition violations, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend.

The Purple Gang

It was common knowledge that Moran was hijacking Capone’s Detroit-based liquor shipments, and police focused their attention on Detroit’s predominantly Jewish Purple Gang. Landladies Mrs. Doody and Mrs. Orvidson had taken in three men as roomers ten days before the massacre, and their rooming houses were directly across the street from the Clark Street garage. They picked out mug shots of Purple members George Lewis, Eddie Fletcher, Phil Keywell, and his younger brother Harry, but they later wavered in their identification. The police questioned and cleared Fletcher, Lewis, and Harry Keywell. Nevertheless, the Keywell brothers (and by extension the Purple Gang) remained ensnared in the massacre case for all time. Many also believed what the killers wanted them to believe: that the police did it.

On February 22, police were called to the scene of a garage fire on Wood Street where they found a 1927 Cadillac Sedan disassembled and partially burned, and they determined that the killers had used the car. They traced the engine number to a Michigan Avenue dealer who had sold the car to a James Morton of Los Angeles.

Claude Maddox

The garage had been rented by a man calling himself Frank Rogers, who gave his address as 1859 West North Avenue. This was the address of the Circus Café operated by Claude Maddox, a former St. Louis gangster with ties to the Capone gang, the Purple Gang, and a St. Louis gang called Egan’s Rats. Police could not turn up any information about persons named James Morton or Frank Rogers, but they had a definite lead on one of the killers. Just minutes before the killings, a truck driver named Elmer Lewis had turned a corner a block away from 2122 North Clark and sideswiped a police car.

He told police that he stopped immediately but was waved away by the uniformed driver, who was missing a front tooth. Board of Education president H. Wallace Caldwell had witnessed the accident, and he gave the same description of the driver. Police were confident that they were describing Fred Burke, a former member of Egan’s Rats. Burke and a close companion named James Ray were known to wear police uniforms whenever on a robbery spree. Burke was also a fugitive, under indictment for robbery and murder in Ohio. Police also suggested that Joseph Lolordo could have been one of the killers because of his brother Pasqualino’s recent murder by the North Side Gang.

Police then announced that they suspected Capone gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, as well as Jack McGurn and Frank Rio, a Capone bodyguard. Police eventually charged McGurn and Scalise with the massacre. Capone murdered John Scalise, Anselmi, and Joseph “Hop Toad” Giunta in May 1929 after he learned about their plan to kill him. The police dropped the murder charges against Jack McGurn because of a lack of evidence, and he was just charged with a violation of the Mann Act; he took his girlfriend Louise Rolfe across state lines to marry.

The case stagnated until December 14, 1929, when the Berrien County, Michigan Sheriff’s Department raided the St. Joseph, Michigan bungalow of “Frederick Dane”, the registered owner of a vehicle driven by Fred “Killer” Burke. Burke had been drinking that night, then rear-ended another vehicle and drove off. Patrolman Charles Skelly pursued, finally forcing him off the road. Skelly hopped onto the running board of Burke’s car, but he was shot three times and died of his wounds that night. The car was found wrecked and abandoned just outside St. Joseph and traced to Fred Dane. By this time, police photos confirmed that Dane was in fact Fred Burke, wanted by the Chicago police for his participation in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Thompson submachine guns,

Police raided Burke’s bungalow and found a large trunk containing a bullet-proof vest, almost $320,000 in bonds recently stolen from a Wisconsin bank, two Thompson submachine guns, pistols, two shotguns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. St. Joseph authorities immediately notified the Chicago police, who requested both machine guns. They used the new science of forensic ballistics to identify both weapons as those used in the massacre. They also discovered that one of them had also been used to murder New York mobster Frankie Yale a year and a half earlier. Unfortunately, no further concrete evidence surfaced in the massacre case. Burke was captured over a year later on a Missouri farm. The case against him was strongest in connection to the murder of Officer Skelly, so he was tried in Michigan and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 1940.

The Real Scarface: Al Capone (Full Documentary)

See: Wikipedia Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre for more details