Category Archives: World War II

Sq Ldr George “Johnny” Johnson – Last British Dambuster

 

Last British Dambuster:

‘I’d do it again’

As the RAF reaches its centenary, the last surviving British Dambuster George ‘Johnny’ Johnson shares his experiences with a younger recruit.

 

dambuster.PNG

As the RAF reaches its centenary, the last surviving British Dambuster George ‘Johnny’ Johnson shares his experiences with a younger recruit.

  • 17 Jan 2018

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History & Background

 

Image result for Sq Ldr George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson

photographed in late 1943. [Pic: Torquay Herald Express]

Sq Ldr George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson

Squadron Leader George Leonard “Johnny” JohnsonMBEDFM (born 25 November 1921) is a retired Royal Air Force officer and Britain’s last survivor of the original members of No. 617 Squadron RAF and of Operation Chastise, the “Dambusters” raid of 1943.

George Leonard Johnson
The crew of Lancaster AJ-T sitting on the grass, posed under stormy clouds.jpg

Johnson (far left) together with Joe McCarthy and the crew of Lancaster AJ-T pictured at RAF Scampton, 22 July 1943
Nickname(s) “Johnny”
Born 25 November 1921 (age 96)
HameringhamLincolnshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1940–1962
Rank Squadron Leader
Unit No. 97 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 100 Squadron RAF
No. 120 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Second World War

Awards Member of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Flying Medal

 

Early life and education

George Johnson (known within the family as Leonard) was the sixth and last child born to Mary Ellen (née Henfrey) and Charles Johnson. He was born in the village of Hameringham in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England.

Hameringham is located in Lincolnshire

His mother died when he was three, leaving his father, a farm foreman, to bring up the family in somewhat poor conditions. The family lived in a tied cottage, his oldest sister Lena largely being responsible for his early upbringing.

Johnson attended school in the village of Winthorpe until the age of 11. Through a bursary scheme set up for the children of agricultural workers, he was sent as a boarder to the Lord Wandsworth Agricultural College in Long Sutton, Hampshire.

Image result for Lord Wandsworth College old pictures 1940

He was active in sport, playing football, cricket and participating in athletics, winning several events. He passed his School Certificate, leaving school in December 1939.

Royal Air Force

RAF-Badge.svg

Badge of the Royal Air Force

Volunteering to join the Royal Air Force in 1940 as a navigator, he was instead selected for pilot training. However due to the difficulties in processing the vast numbers of recruits at the time he was posted to various establishments around England and it was not until June 1941 that he was finally sent to Florida to begin his pilot training.

As is common practice within the British armed forces Johnson’s surname led to him being nicknamed “Johnny”.

Image result for No. 97 Squadron RAF

Motto: “Achieve your aim.”
Badge: An ogress pierced by an arrow, point downwards. The badge is indicative of accurate aim.
Authority: King George VI, January 1937.

Johnson did not make the required grade during his pilot training and as a consequence he opted to become an air gunner. In July 1942, Johnson was posted to No. 97 Squadron RAF at RAF Woodhall Spa where he was initially designated as a spare (reserve) gunner.

Image result for No. 97 Squadron RAF

This however gave him the opportunity to fly with numerous crews in the squadron, his first operational sortie being a raid on Gdynia in Poland on 27 August 1942, forming part of the crew under the command of Squadron Leader Elmer Cotton. En-route to the target the aircraft suffered an engine failure forcing the pilot to abort the mission and return to Woodhall Spa.

The following night the crew were part of a successful raid on Nuremberg.

Image result for raid on nuremberg 1944

Johnson continued on squadron operations as an air gunner until the opportunity came along for him to train as a specialist bomb aimer. Undergoing a course at RAF Fulbeck in November 1942, he returned to No. 97 Squadron filling the vacancy for a bomb aimer with the crew of Joe McCarthy.

Royal Air Force Bomber Command, 1942-1945. CH9925.jpg

Joe McCarthy (left) with King George VI and Wing Commander Guy Gibson

 

Initially Johnson showed reticence in operating with an American skipper, however having met with McCarthy he changed his mind.

Johnson’s first sortie as part of McCarthy’s crew was as part of a raid on Munich on 21 December 1942, conducted in bad weather. Attacked by night fighters on their way to and returning from the target, the Avro Lancaster lost all power on one engine and developed problems in another, forcing McCarthy to land at RAF Bottesford.

Avro Lancaster B I PA474.jpg

Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster B

Together with this crew Johnson conducted a further 18 missions with No. 97 Squadron, bringing him to the end of a full operational tour, followed by a leave, after which he spent six months working in a non-combat training role.

Operation Chastise

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617 Squadron badge

Selected to be part of the specialist No. 617 Squadron RAF, Johnson arrived at RAF Scampton on 27 March 1943. It was at this time that he was due to marry; however, due to the requirements of the training for the upcoming raid all leave had been cancelled. Johnson appealed to his new Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who eventually relented giving Johnson four days leave.

Guy Penrose Gibson, VC.jpg

Guy Gibson, VC in 1944

McCarthy’s crew in Lancaster AJ-T (T-Tommy) were detailed to attack the Sorpe Dam, the structure of which differed considerably from the other main targets insofar as it being an earthen dam as opposed to the gravity construction of the Möhne and Eder dams, thus necessitating a completely different type of attack.

Like the rest of No. 617 Squadron, Johnson had practised dropping his bomb as the aircraft flew straight towards the target at low level. However on the afternoon prior to the raid when the five crews detailed to attack the Sorpe Dam received their briefing, they were told that they had to fly along the dam wall and drop their mine at its centre.

It would roll down the wall and explode when it reached the correct depth. The specialist bomb sight developed for the raid would also be of no use.

Due to various losses and technical issues en-route to the target, AJ-T was the first Lancaster to reach the Sorpe, and McCarthy soon realised how difficult the attack would be. Although there were no flak batteries, the attack would require the aircraft to be flown low across the nearby town of Langscheid, with its prominent church steeple, followed by the aircraft having to drop even lower so the bomb could be released. It was not until the tenth attempt that the crew were satisfied, with Johnson finally releasing the bomb.

For his part in the raid Johnson received the Distinguished Flying Medal. Along with other members of the squadron he received his medal in an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Subsequent operations

Following the Dams Raid, Johnson was commissioned in November 1943. As an integral part of McCarthy’s crew Johnson participated in a further 19 missions during his time with No. 617 Squadron until April 1944. By this time his wife was pregnant resulting in McCarthy insisting Johnson stand down. Reluctantly this request was accepted,

Johnson was “screened” (classed as “tour expired” or, in effect, due for a rest from operational flying). He was subsequently posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit back at RAF Scampton where he became a bombing instructor until the end of hostilities.

Image result for Heavy Conversion Unit back

At the end of the war Johnson qualified as a navigator so he could receive a permanent commission. He joined No. 100 Squadron RAF operating the Avro Lincoln before transferring to RAF Coastal Command where he served with No. 120 Squadron RAF operating the Avro Shackleton. This was followed by a tour in the Far East before he returned to the UK.

Johnson was promoted to flight lieutenant on 7 September 1948. He continued in the RAF until 1962, retiring with the rank of squadron leader.

Post RAF

Following his career in the RAF Johnson became a teacher. He initially taught in primary schools subsequently becoming involved in adult education before he undertook a period in teaching psychiatric patients at Rampton Hospital.

On his retirement Johnson and his wife moved to Torquay where they both became active in local politics. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson became a local councillor and went on to become the Chairman of the Constituency Party

Personal life

 

Image result for Johnson married Gwyneth Morgan

Johnson married Gwyneth Morgan in April 1943, having met her during a posting to Torquay in 1941. Together they had three children, the marriage lasting until Gwyneth’s death in August 2005.

For a short time following his wife’s death he decided to withdraw from public life. However, alongside Les Munro, he was at the forefront of the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Dams Raids in May 2013.

At the double: George 'Johnny' Johnson (left) with fellow Dambusters survivor John 'Les' Munro.

George ‘Johnny’ Johnson (left) with fellow Dambusters survivor John ‘Les’ Munro.

See here for more info on Les Munro

He now lives in Westbury on TrymBristoland continues to give interviews on the various aspects of his active service and particularly concerning Operation Chastise. In 2015 he was awarded the Lord Mayor of Bristol‘s Medal.

Johnson’s autobiography, George “Johnny” Johnson, The Last British Dambuster was published in 2014.

Image result for Johnny Johnson (RAF
Click to buy the book

 

Click to buy the book

Johnson was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to Second World War remembrance and the community in Bristol.

Image result for George "Johnny" Johnson getting mbeThe award followed shortly after an unsuccessful petition for Johnson to be knighted was initiated by Carol Vorderman, which garnered over 200,000 signatures within a few weeks.

The 237,000 signature petition was handed in to 10 Downing Street on 26 January 2017 by Vorderman and former RAF officer John Nichol.

Image result for George "Johnny" Johnson getting mbe

On 7 September 2017 Johnson received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lincoln for his contribution to British society, and two months later, on 7 November, was presented his MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace

 

 

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George “Johnny” Johnson the “Dambusters Legend ” – Made an MBE

 George “Johnny” Johnson

Last British Dambuster George ‘Johnny’ Johnson appointed MBE

George "Johnny" Johnson

The last surviving British member of the Dambusters raid has been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

George “Johnny” Johnson was 22 when he took part in the 1943 air raid using experimental bouncing bombs in Germany.

The 96-year-old, who has been the subject of a number of campaigns to get him knighted, said the MBE was “as much honour” as he could “really expect”.

He added he was “pleased” and “very grateful to all those who signed the petitions and made this possible”.

Bomb-aimer Mr Johnson, who now lives in Bristol, is the last British survivor of the 133-strong squadron which dodged anti-aircraft fire to drop the four-tonne skipping bomb on dams in the Ruhr Valley.

Codenamed Operation Chastise, eight of the 19 planes were lost, 53 men died and three were captured.

George "Johnny" Johnson

See BBC News for Full Story

Squadron Leader George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson, DFM MBE (born 25 November 1921) is a retired Royal Air Force officer and the last British survivor of the original members of No. 617 Squadron RAF and of Operation Chastise, the “Dambusters” raid of 1943.

George Leonard Johnson
The crew of Lancaster AJ-T sitting on the grass, posed under stormy clouds.jpg

Johnson (far left) together with Joe McCarthy and the crew of Lancaster AJ-T pictured at RAF Scampton, 22 July 1943
Nickname(s) “Johnny”
Born 25 November 1921 (age 95)
Hameringham, Lincolnshire
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force
Years of service 1940–1962
Rank Squadron Leader
Unit No. 97 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 100 Squadron RAF
No. 120 Squadron RAF
Battles/wars Second World War

Awards Distinguished Flying Medal

Member of the British Empire

Early life and education

 

George Johnson (known within the family as Leonard) was the sixth and last child born to Charles and Ellen Johnson. He was born in the village of Hameringham in the East Lindsey district of Lincolnshire, England. His mother died when he was three, leaving his father, a farm foreman, to bring up the family in somewhat poor conditions. The family lived in a tied cottage, his oldest sister Lena largely being responsible for his early upbringing.

Johnson attended school in the village of Winthorpe until the age of 11. Through a bursary scheme set up for the children of agricultural workers, he was sent as a boarder to the Lord Wandsworth Agricultural College in Long Sutton, Hampshire. He was active in sport, playing football, cricket and participating in athletics, winning several events. He passed his School Certificate, leaving school in December 1939.

Royal Air Force

Image result for Johnson married Gwyn Morgan

Volunteering to join the Royal Air Force in 1940 as a navigator, he was instead selected for pilot training. However due to the difficulties in processing the vast numbers of recruits at the time he was posted to various establishments around England and it was not until June 1941 that he was finally sent to Florida to begin his pilot training. As is common practice within the British armed forces Johnson’s surname led to him being nicknamed “Johnny”.

Johnson did not make the required grade during his pilot training and as a consequence he opted to become an air gunner. In July 1942, Johnson was posted to No. 97 Squadron RAF at RAF Woodhall Spa where he was initially designated as a spare (reserve) gunner. This however gave him the opportunity to fly with numerous crews in the squadron, his first operational sortie being a raid on Gdynia in Poland on 27 August 1942, forming part of the crew under the command of Squadron Leader Elmer Cotton. En-route to the target the aircraft suffered an engine failure forcing the pilot to abort the mission and return to Woodhall Spa. The following night the crew were part of a successful raid on Nuremberg.

Johnson continued on squadron operations as an air gunner until the opportunity came along for him to train as a specialist bomb aimer. Undergoing a course at RAF Fulbeck in November 1942, he returned to No. 97 Squadron filling the vacancy for a bomb aimer with the crew of Joe McCarthy. Initially Johnson showed reticence in operating with an American skipper, however having met with McCarthy he changed his mind.

Johnson’s first sortie as part of McCarthy’s crew was as part of a raid on Munich on 21 December 1942, conducted in bad weather. Attacked by night fighters on their way to and returning from the target, the Avro Lancaster lost all power on one engine and developed problems in another, forcing McCarthy to land at RAF Bottesford. Together with this crew Johnson conducted a further 18 missions with No. 97 Squadron, bringing him to the end of a full operational tour, followed by a leave, after which he spent six months working in a non-combat training role.

Operation Chastise

Selected to be part of the specialist No. 617 Squadron RAF, Johnson arrived at RAF Scampton on 27 March 1943. It was at this time that he was due to marry, however due to the requirements of the training for the upcoming raid all leave had been cancelled. Johnson appealed to his new Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who eventually relented giving Johnson four days leave.

McCarthy’s crew in Lancaster AJ-T (T-Tommy) were detailed to attack the Sorpe Dam, the structure of which differed considerably from the other main targets insofar as it being an earthen dam as opposed to the gravity construction of the Möhne and Eder dams, thus necessitating a completely different type of attack. Like the rest of No. 617 Squadron, Johnson had practised dropping his bomb as the aircraft flew straight towards the target at low level. However on the afternoon prior to the raid when the five crews detailed to attack the Sorpe Dam received their briefing, they were told that they had to fly along the dam wall and drop their mine at its centre. It would roll down the wall and explode when it reached the correct depth. The specialist bomb sight developed for the raid would also be of no use.

Due to various losses and technical issues en-route to the target, AJ-T was the first Lancaster to reach the Sorpe, and McCarthy soon realised how difficult the attack would be. Although there were no flak batteries, the attack would require the aircraft to be flown low across the nearby town of Langscheid, with its prominent church steeple, followed by the aircraft having to drop even lower so the bomb could be released. It was not until the tenth attempt that the crew were satisfied, with Johnson finally releasing the bomb.

For his part in the raid Johnson received the Distinguished Flying Medal. Along with other members of the squadron he received his medal in an investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Subsequent operations

Following the Dams Raid, Johnson was commissioned in November 1943. As an integral part of McCarthy’s crew Johnson participated in a further 19 missions during his time with No. 617 Squadron until April 1944. By this time his wife was pregnant resulting in McCarthy insisting Johnson stand down. Reluctantly this request was accepted, Johnson was “screened” (classed as “tour expired” or, in effect, due for a rest from operational flying). He was subsequently posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit back at RAF Scampton where he became a bombing instructor until the end of hostilities.

At the end of the war Johnson qualified as a navigator so he could receive a permanent commission. He joined No. 100 Squadron RAF operating the Avro Lincoln before transferring to RAF Coastal Command where he served with No. 120 Squadron RAF operating the Avro Shackleton. This was followed by a tour in the Far East before he returned to the UK.

Johnson was promoted to flight lieutenant on 7 September 1948. He continued in the RAF until 1962, retiring with the rank of squadron leader.

Post RAF

Following his career in the RAF Johnson became a teacher. He initially taught in primary schools subsequently becoming involved in adult education before he undertook a period in teaching psychiatric patients at Rampton Hospital.

On his retirement Johnson and his wife moved to Torquay where they both became active in local politics. A member of the Conservative Party, Johnson became a local councillor and went on to become the Chairman of the Constituency Party

Personal life

 

Johnson married Gwyn Morgan in April 1943, having met her during a posting to Torquay in 1941. Together they had three children, the marriage lasting until Gwyn’s death in August 2005.

For a short time following his wife’s death he decided to withdraw from public life. However, alongside Les Munro, he was at the forefront of the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Dams Raids in May 2013. He now lives in Westbury on Trym, Bristol, and continues to give interviews on the various aspects of his active service and particularly concerning Operation Chastise. In 2015 he was awarded the Lord Mayor of Bristol‘s Medal.

Johnson’s autobiography, George “Johnny” Johnson, The Last British Dambuster was published in 2014.

Johnson was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours on June 16th 2017.

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Johnny meets mascot for the first time in 70 years

Johnson Bailey 5523 lores

See Dambusters Blog for full story

See Dambusters 

See Triple Aces 

                                                                       —————————
‘I HAD SEVEN SECONDS TO DROP THE BOMB’

Back The Sun’s campaign to honour the last British Dambuster hero George ‘Johnny’ Johnson who risked his life in the 1943 ‘bouncing bomb’ raid aged just 22

Squadron leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson describes how the Lancaster dived to just 30ft over the dam in WW2 mission

See The Sun for full story

Image result for George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson, with wife

 

 

The sinking of HMS Coventry by Argentine missiles -25th May 1982

The sinking of HMS Coventry

Image result for sinking of HMS Coventry

1982 Dozens killed as Argentines hit British ships

Dozens of men are feared dead in the seas around the Falkland Islands after the container ship Atlantic Conveyor and the destroyer HMS Coventry were hit by Argentine missiles.

HMS Coventry managed to destroy two Argentine Skyhawk planes with Sea Dart missiles. Another wave of Skyhawks hit her four times with 1,000 bombs. She capsized, losing 21 of her crew.

An explosion and a fireball swept through the operations room. The ship listed to port and the crew and wounded made their way to the upper decks from where they were rescued.

It is thought the Atlantic Conveyor, owned by Cunard, was mistaken for the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.

She was attacked by two Super Etendards which fired French-built Exocets like the ones that sunk the Coventry’s sister ship HMS Sheffield on 4 May.

See BBC ONTHISDAY for more details

 

HMS Coventry

Image result for sinking of HMS Coventry

HMS Coventry was a Type 42 (Sheffield-class) destroyer of the Royal Navy. Laid down by Cammell Laird and Company, Limited, at Birkenhead on 29 January 1973, she was launched on 21 June 1974 and accepted into service on 20 October 1978 at a cost of £37,900,000.

She was sunk by Argentine Air Force A-4 Skyhawks on 25 May 1982 during the Falklands War.

 

HMS Coventry D118.jpg

HMS Coventry
History
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Coventry
Builder: Cammell Laird
Laid down: 29 January 1973
Launched: 21 June 1974
Commissioned: 10 November 1978
Identification: Pennant number: D118
Fate: Sunk by Argentine aircraft, 25 May 1982
General characteristics
Class and type: Type 42 destroyer
Displacement: 4,820 tonnes
Length: 125 m (410 ft)
Beam: 14.3 m (47 ft)
Draught: 5.8 m (19 ft)
Propulsion: COGOG (Combined Gas or Gas) turbines, 2 shafts producing 36 MW
Speed: 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph)
Complement: 287
Armament:
Aircraft carried: Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.1/2

 

Background

Image result for anti-air warfare

 

 

The principal role of these ships was to provide the fleet with mid-range anti-air warfare capability with secondary roles of anti-surface and anti-submarine. A total of sixteen Type 42s were built between 1972 and 1985, in three batches, with Coventry the last of the first batch to be commissioned.

To cut costs, the first two batches had 47 feet removed from the bow and the beam-to-length ratio reduced. These early Type 42s performed poorly during trials and were notoriously poor sea-keepers.

Type 42 destroyers were fitted with the Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles designed in the 1960s to counter threats from manned aircraft. Sea Dart was constrained by limitations on its firing capacity and reaction time, but did prove itself during the Falklands War with seven kills, three of these attributed to Coventry.

Service history

1978–1982

Image result for Captain C. P. O. Burne

Captain Christopher ‘Beagle’ Burne

Coventry was commissioned on 10 November 1978 under the command of Captain C. P. O. Burne at Portsmouth. Following post-commissioning trials, the ship was used to trial the operation of the new Westland Lynx helicopter from the Type 42 platform, to test the combination’s safe operating limits.

The ship’s first major deployment came in 1980 when she was sent to the Far East; in September of that year, alongside Antrim and Alacrity, she became the first British warship to visit the People’s Republic of China in 30 years. En route back to the UK, Coventry was diverted to the Persian Gulf following the outbreak of the Iran–Iraq War, where the ship remained on patrol for six weeks until relieved by the start of the permanent Armilla patrol consisting of Ardent and Apollo.

Throughout 1981 and into 1982, Coventry took part in various exercises in home waters, culminating in her deployment as part of Exercise Springtrain ’82 in March 1982.

 

Falklands Campaign

Image result for Falklands Campaign

 

See Falklands War

Coventry was taking part in the Exercise Springtrain 82 near the British base of Gibraltar, during March 1982. Along with other vessels involved in the exercise she was detailed for service in the Falklands Campaign. She had a Union Flag painted on the roof of her bridge and a black line painted through her funnel to her waterline to aid recognition, as the Argentines also operated two Type 42 destroyers.

On 27 April, Coventry, in company with Glamorgan, Glasgow, Arrow and Sheffield, entered the Total Exclusion Zone, a 200-mile cordon around the Falkland Islands. Alongside Sheffield and Glasgow, Coventry would form the air defence vanguard for the aircraft carriers following behind.

Coventrys contribution to the Falklands War was considerable. Her helicopter was the first to fire Sea Skua air-to-surface anti-ship missiles in action. Her Westland Lynx HAS.Mk.2 fired two Sea Skua missiles on 3 May at ARA Alferez Sobral, the former USS Salish. One missile missed and the other hit a small boat, knocking out the radio aerials and slightly injuring a crewman manning a 20 mm gun. Glasgows Lynx fired two more Sea Skua, and the vessel retreated, with eight crew killed, eight wounded and heavy damage.

Her damaged bridge is now on display at the Naval Museum in Tigre, Argentina. The vessel remains in service in the Argentine Navy.

Published in El Clarín. The circle with the “1” is where General Belgrano was sunk. The “2” shows the last contact with Alferez Sobral.
Drill Sea Dart Missiles Onboard HMS Edinburgh MOD 45153846.jpg

 

Coventry was the first warship to fire Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles in anger when the ship fired three on 9 May at two Learjets of Escuadrón Fénix, just missing the aircraft. Broadsword reported that her radar tracked the missiles merging with the pair of contacts (call signs Litro and Pepe), but they missed the aircraft.

Coventrys captain, David Hart Dyke claimed that two A-4C Skyhawks of Grupo 4 were shot down by Sea Darts (C-303 and C-313). However, both were actually lost to bad weather, and both wrecks were found on South Jason Island,

one on the northwest side of the cliffs, the other in shallow waters on the southwest. Lt Casco and Lt Farias were both killed.

The first confirmed kill made by Coventry was an Aérospatiale Puma helicopter of 601 Assault Helicopter Battalion, shot down by a Sea Dart over Choiseul Sound, killing its three-man crew.

Coventry had been one of three Type 42 destroyers providing anti-aircraft cover for the fleet. With the loss of Sheffield and damage to Glasgow on 12 May, forcing her to return to the UK, Coventry was left to carry out the role alone, until other ships could arrive from the UK.

“Type 64”

HMS Cornwall (F99), May 2007

Type 22 frigates

 

Following the loss of Sheffield, a new air defence tactic was devised to try to maximise the task group’s remaining assets. This saw the two remaining Type 42s paired with the two Type 22 frigates (a pairing unofficially termed Type 64) and deployed much further ahead of the main force in an effort to draw attacking aircraft away from the carriers.

The idea was that in the event of Sea Dart being unable to function, the short range Sea Wolf advanced point defence missile fitted to the frigates could be used. In this, Coventry was paired with Broadsword.

25 May 1982

On 25 May 1982, Coventry and Broadsword were ordered to take up position to the north-west of Falkland Sound. There she would act as a decoy to draw Argentinian aircraft away from other ships at San Carlos Bay. In this position, close to land, with not enough open sea between her and the coast, her Sea Dart missiles would be less effective.[6] Broadsword was armed with the Sea Wolf missile, which is for short range anti-aircraft and anti-missile use.

Pebble Island - Falkland Islands.jpg

At first, the trap worked, with FAA A-4B Skyhawk C-244 of Grupo 5 shot down north of Pebble Island by a Sea Dart. Pilot Capitán Hugo Ángel del Valle Palaver was killed. Later a FAA A-4C Skyhawk coded C-304 of Grupo 4 de Caza deployed to San Julian was shot down north east of Pebble Island by another Sea Dart while returning from a mission to San Carlos Water. Capitán Jorge Osvaldo García successfully ejected but was not recovered from the water.

His body was washed ashore in a dinghy at Golding Island in 1983. Garcia’s wingman, Teniente Ricardo Lucero, was also shot down during the raid on San Carlos by a Rapier Missile from ‘T’ Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery, but he was luckier, and ejected into captivity, in front of waiting news crews.

The two ships then came under attack by two waves of two Argentine A-4 Skyhawks. The first wave carried one 1,000 lb free-fall bomb while the second one carried 3 x 250 kg bombs. The four Skyhawks flew so low that Coventrys targeting radar could not distinguish between them and the land and failed to lock on. Broadsword attempted to target the first pair of attackers (Capitán Pablo Carballo and Teniente Carlos Rinke) with her Sea Wolf missile system, but her own tracking system locked down during the attack and could not be reset before the aircraft released their bombs.

British Lynx landing on Kearsarge.jpg

Of the bombs released, one bounced off the sea and struck Broadswords flight deck and, though it failed to explode, wrecked the ship’s Lynx helicopter. Coventry claimed to have hit the second Skyhawk (Capitán P. Marcos Carballo) in the tail with small arms fire, although the aircraft returned safely to Argentina. In fact, Carballo’s plane was hit under the right wing by a piece of shrapnel on his way in, that pierced his aircraft’s right fuel tank.

The second pair of Skyhawks (Primer Teniente Mariano A. Velasco and Ensign Alférez Leonardo Barrionuevo), headed for Coventry 90 seconds later at a 20-degree angle to her port bow. Still unable to gain a missile lock, Coventry launched a Sea Dart in an attempt to distract them and turned hard to starboard to reduce her profile. On Broadsword the Sea Wolf system had been reset and successfully acquired the attacking aircraft, but was unable to fire as Coventrys turn took her directly into the line of fire.

Coventry used her 4.5-inch gun and small arms against the attacking aircraft. The port Oerlikon 20 mm cannon jammed, leaving the ship with only rifles and machine guns to defend herself. Coventry was struck by three bombs just above the water line on the port side. One of the bombs exploded beneath the computer room, destroying it and the nearby operations room, incapacitating almost all senior officers.

The other entered the forward engine room, exploding beneath the junior ratings dining room where the first aid party was stationed, and the ship immediately began listing to port. The latter hit caused critical damage as it breached the bulkhead between the forward and aft engine rooms, exposing the largest open space in the ship to uncontrollable flooding.

Given the design of the ship, with multiple watertight compartments, two hits virtually anywhere else might have been just survivable. The third bomb did not explode.

Within 20 minutes Coventry had been abandoned and had completely capsized. Coventry sank shortly after. Nineteen of her crew were killed and a further 30 injured. One of the wounded, Paul Mills, suffered complications from a skull fracture sustained in the sinking of the ship and later died on 29 March 1983; he is buried in his home town of Swavesey, Cambridgeshire.

After the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued, sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.[11]

Broadsword subsequently rescued 170 of Coventrys crew.

Tributes

Memorial to the dead of HMS Coventry in Holy Trinity Church, Coventry

No member of Coventry received an award for bravery. CPO Aircrewman M J Tupper of No.846 NAS was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the rescue.

After the war, a cross to commemorate crew members who lost their lives was erected on Pebble Island.

David Hart Dyke, Coventrys commanding officer during the Falklands War, wrote about the ship’s tale in his book Four Weeks in May: The Loss of HMS Coventry. This was adapted by the BBC into a documentary Sea of Fire, with dramatised sequences and shown in June 2007.

Image result for Four Weeks in May

In 2011 it was announced that a feature-length film would be produced based on Four Weeks in May, to be written and directed by Tom Shankland. The documentary television series Seconds from Disaster featured the attack on the Coventry in the episode “Sinking the Coventry” in December 2012.

The wreck site is a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act. Five months after Coventry sank, a RN Fleet Diving Team conducted an underwater survey of the wreck, which they found lying on her port side in approximately 100 metres (330 ft) of water. This survey was the beginning of “Operation Blackleg”, a series of dives to recover classified documentation and equipment and to make the remaining weapons safe by means of explosive demolition.

The dive team recovered several personal items belonging to Hart Dyke and other officers along with the ship’s battle ensign, later presented to the next Coventry, a Type 22 frigate. The divers also recovered the Cross of Nails, originally presented to the ship by Coventry Cathedral. This too was loaned to the new Coventry, until her decommissioning in 2002, when it returned to the cathedral.

The Cross is now carried on board HMS Diamond (D34), a Type 45 destroyer.

There is a memorial plaque to the dead of HMS Coventry at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry.

 

 

The Battle of Vimy Ridge – four days of Hell.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

vimy ridge harry and williamVimy Ridge: Royals commemorate defining WW1 battle

Prince Charles has paid tribute to the soldiers who paid the “unbearably high cost” of victory at one of the fiercest battles of World War One.

The four-day Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France saw the deaths of 3,598 Canadian forces under British command in April 1917.

Events marking the centenary are taking place on the site of the battlefield.

The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have joined their father for the service, and the Queen sent a message.

She told the people of Canada it was important to “remember and honour those who served so valiantly and who gave so much here at Vimy Ridge”.

The events began with a ceremony attended by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande.

About 25,000 people, including relatives of those who fought in the battle, are attending the commemorations at the Canadian National Memorial on the battlefield near Arras.

See BBC News for full story

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The Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 APRIL 1917

Many historians and writers consider the Canadian victory at Vimy a defining moment for Canada, when the country emerged from under the shadow of Britain and felt capable of greatness. Canadian troops also earned a reputation as formidable, effective troops because of the stunning success. But it was a victory at a terrible cost, with more than 10,000 killed and wounded.

The Canadian Corps was ordered to seize Vimy Ridge in April 1917. [Map] Situated in northern France, the heavily-fortified seven-kilometre ridge held a commanding view over the Allied lines. The Canadians would be assaulting over an open graveyard since previous French attacks had failed with over 100,000 casualties. Naval 12 inch howitzer in action

Naval 12 inch howitzer in action

To capture this difficult position, the Canadians would carefully plan and rehearse their attack. To provide greater flexibility and firepower in battle, the infantry were given specialist roles as machine-gunners, rifle-men and grenade-throwers. These same soldiers underwent weeks of training behind the lines using models to represent the battlefield, and new maps crafted from aerial photographs to guide their way. To bring men forward safely for the assault, engineers dug deep tunnels from the rear to the front. Despite this training and preparation, the key to victory would be a devastating artillery barrage that would not only isolate enemy trenches, but provide a moving wall of high explosives and shrapnel to force the Germans to stay in their deep dugouts and away from their machine-guns. “Chaps, you shall go over exactly like a railroad train, on time, or you shall be annihilated,” warned Canadian Corps commander Sir Julian Byng.

Canadians Returning from Vimy Ridge 1917, First World War

In the week leading up to the battle, Canadian and British artillery pounded the enemy positions on the ridge, killing and tormenting defenders. New artillery tactics allowed the gunners to first target, then destroy enemy positions. A nearly limitless supply of artillery shells and the new 106 fuse, which allowed shells to explode on contact, as opposed to burying themselves in ground, facilitated the destruction of hardened defences and barbed wire. The Canadian infantry would be well supported when it went into battle with over 1,000 artillery pieces laying down withering, supportive fire.

Taking Vimy Ridge, advancing with tank class=

Attacking together for the first time, the four Canadian divisions stormed the ridge at 5:30am on 9 April 1917. More than 15,000 Canadian infantry overran the Germans all along the front. Incredible bravery and discipline allowed the infantry to continue moving forward under heavy fire, even when their officers were killed.There were countless acts of sacrifice, as Canadians single-handedly charged machine-gun nests or forced the surrender of Germans in protective dugouts. Hill 145, the highest and most important feature of the Ridge, and where the Vimy monument now stands, was captured in a frontal bayonet charge against machine-gun positions. Three more days of costly battle delivered final victory. The Canadian operation was an important success, even if the larger British and French offensive, of which it had been a part, had failed. But it was victory at a heavy cost: 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,000 wounded.

The capture of Vimy was more than just an important battlefield victory. For the first time all four Canadian divisions attacked together: men from all regions of Canada were present at the battle. Brigadier-General A.E. Ross declared after the war, “in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.” Canadians Returning from Vimy Ridge 1917, First World War

By Tim Cook

 

See:   www.Canadian War Museum for full story

canadian war museum

Battle of Vimy Ridge

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The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army. The battle, which took place from 9 to 12 April 1917, was part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras, a diversionary attack for the French Nivelle Offensive.

The objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. This would ensure that the southern flank could advance without suffering German enfilade fire. Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadian Corps captured most of the ridge during the first day of the attack. The town of Thélus fell during the second day of the attack, as did the crest of the ridge once the Canadian Corps overcame a salient against considerable German resistance. The final objective, a fortified knoll located outside the village of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadian Corps on 12 April. The German forces then retreated to the OppyMéricourt line.

Historians attribute the success of the Canadian Corps in capturing the ridge to a mixture of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training, as well as the failure of the German Sixth Army to properly apply the new German defensive doctrine. The battle was the first occasion when all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force participated in a battle together and it was made a symbol of Canadian national achievement and sacrifice. Recent historical research[5] has called this patriotic narrative into question, showing that it developed in the latter part of the twentieth century. The nation-building story only emerged fully formed after most of those who experienced the Great War directly or indirectly had passed from the scene. A 100-hectare (250-acre) portion of the former battleground serves as a memorial park and site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial

See Wikipedia for more details

 

Guinea Pig Club – Lest We Forget!

Guinea Pig Club

Hero’s One  & All

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The Guinea Pig Club, established in 1941, was a social club and mutual support network for British and allied aircrew injured during World War II. Its membership was made up of patients of Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex, who had undergone experimental reconstructive plastic surgery, generally after receiving burns injuries in aircraft. The club remained active after the end of the war, and its annual reunion meetings continued until 2007.

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Origins

The club was formed on McIndoe’s initiative in June 1941 with 39 patients, primarily as a drinking club. The members were aircrew patients in the hospital and the surgeons and anaesthetists who treated them. Aircrew members had to be serving airmen who had gone through at least two surgical procedures. By the end of the war the club had 649 members.

The name “Guinea Pig” – the rodent species commonly used as a laboratory test subject – was chosen to reflect the experimental nature of the techniques and equipment used for reconstructive work carried out at East Grinstead. The treatment of burns by surgery was in its infancy, and many casualties were suffering from injuries which, only a few years earlier, would have led to certain death.

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The original members were Royal Air Force (RAF) aircrew who had severe burns, generally to the face or hands. Most were British but other significant minorities included Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and by the end of the war Americans, French, Russians, Czechs and Poles. During the Battle of Britain, most of the patients were fighter pilots, but by the end of the war around 80% of the members were from bomber crews of RAF Bomber Command.

Before the war the RAF had made preparations by setting up burns units in several hospitals to treat the expected casualties. At East Grinstead, McIndoe and his colleagues, including Albert Ross Tilley, developed and improved many techniques for treating and reconstructing burns victims. They had to deal with very severe injuries: one man, Air Gunner Les Wilkins, lost his face and hands and McIndoe recreated his fingers by making incisions between his knuckles.

Aware that many patients would have to stay in hospital for several years and undergo many reconstructive operations, MacIndoe set out to make their lives relaxed and socially productive. He gave much thought to the reintegration of patients into normal life after treatment, an aspect of care that had previously been neglected. They were encouraged to lead as normal a life as possible, including being permitted to wear their own clothes or service uniforms instead of “convalescent blues”, and to leave the hospital at will. Local families were encouraged to welcome them as guests, and other residents to treat them without distinction:

East Grinstead became “the town that did not stare”. The Guinea Pig Club was part of these efforts to make life in hospital easier, and to rebuild patients psychologically in preparation for life outside. There were even barrels of beer in wards to encourage an informal and happy atmosphere.

Later, many of the men also served in other capacities in RAF operations control rooms, and occasionally as pilots between the surgeries. Those unable to serve in any capacity received full pay until the last surgical operations and only then were invalided out of the service. McIndoe also later loaned some of his patients money for their subsequent entry into civilian life.

Post-war history

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The club was not disbanded at the end of the war, but continued to meet for over sixty years, offering a sense of community and practical support to former patients. Annual meetings at East Grinstead attracted visitors from all over the world. McIndoe had been elected life president at the club’s foundation: after his death in 1960, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, became president. Geoffrey Page was the first chairman.

In 2003, there were around two hundred survivors; by 2007 there were 97 (57 in Britain; 40 elsewhere in the world), their ages ranging from 82 to 102. The last annual reunion was held in 2007, and attracted over 60 attendees, but in view of the frailty of many of the survivors the decision was then taken to wind the club down.

By April 2015, there were believed to be 29 survivors.

Legacy

Sixteen members of the club wrote books about their experiences, some of them during the war. The best known, and most influential in raising public awareness of McIndoe’s work, was Richard Hillary‘s The Last Enemy, originally published in the United States as Falling Through Space (1942).

One of the local pubs in East Grinstead adopted the name “The Guinea Pig”. The pub closed in 2008 and was demolished in 2009 to make way for a social housing development named Guinea Pig Place.

The Guinea Pig Anthem

The club anthem was adapted from the World War I song “Fred Karno’s Army“, and sung to the tune Aurelia by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (best known as the tune of the popular hymn “The Church’s One Foundation“). The final line of the second verse is an example of a mind rhyme.

We are McIndoe’s army,
We are his Guinea Pigs.
With dermatomes and pedicles,
Glass eyes, false teeth and wigs.
And when we get our discharge
We’ll shout with all our might:
Per ardua ad astra
We’d rather drink than fight.

John Hunter runs the gas works,
Ross Tilley wields the knife.
And if they are not careful
They’ll have your flaming life.
So, Guinea Pigs, stand ready
For all your surgeon’s calls:
And if their hands aren’t steady
They’ll whip off both your ears.

We’ve had some mad Australians,
Some French, some Czechs, some Poles.
We’ve even had some Yankees,
God bless their precious souls.
While as for the Canadians –
Ah! That’s a different thing.
They couldn’t stand our accent
And built a separate Wing.

We are McIndoe’s army,
(As first verse)

Notable members

Popular culture

Guinea Pig Club was the title of a play centred on McIndoe’s work produced at York Theatre Royal in 2012, and featuring Graeme Hawley as McIndoe.

Joseph Randolph Richard’s novel Incendo (2015) tells the story of a badly burned pilot and his membership of the club

Rudolf Höss – Life & Death of a Monster

Rudolf Höss

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Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (also Höß, Hoeß or Hoess; 25 November 1901 – 16 April 1947)  was SSObersturmbannführer and the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp in World War II. He tested and carried into effect various methods to accelerate Hitler’s plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, known as the Final Solution.

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In a February 26, 1942 letter to Martin Luther, Reinhard Heydrich follows up on the Wannsee Conference by asking Luther for administrative assistance in the implementation of the “Endlösung der Judenfrage” (Final Solution of the Jewish Question).

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Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide to the killing process, thereby allowing soldiers at Auschwitz to murder 2,000 people every hour. He created the largest installation for the continuous annihilation of human beings ever known.

Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was in charge of Auschwitz where more than a million people were killed before the defeat of Germany.

He was hanged in 1947 following a trial in Warsaw.

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Rudolf Höss
SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Höß.jpg

Born (1901-11-25)25 November 1901
Baden-Baden, Germany
Died 16 April 1947(1947-04-16) (aged 45)
Oświęcim, Poland
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Years of service At Auschwitz until 1945
Rank SS-Obersturmbannführer Collar Rank.svg SS-Obersturmbannführer
Unit 3rd SS Division Logo.svg Totenkopfverbände
Commands held Commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, 4 May 1940 – 1 December 1943, 8 May 1944 – 18 January 1945
Spouse(s) Hedwig Hensel (m. 1929)
Relations
  • Klaus Höss (son, 1930-1986)
  • Heideraud Höss (daughter, born 1932)
  • Inge-Brigit Höss (daughter, born 1933)
  • Hans-Jurgen Höss (son, born 1937)
  • Annagret Höss (daughter, born 1943

 

Life

Höss was born in Baden-Baden into a strict Catholic family. He lived with his mother Lina (née Speck) and father Franz Xaver Höss. Höss was the eldest of three children and the only son. He was baptised Rudolf Franz (or possibly Francis) Ferdinand on 11 December 1901. He was a lonely child with no playmates his own age until he entered elementary school; all of his companionship came from adults. He claimed in his autobiography that he was briefly abducted by Gypsies in his youth.

His father, a former army officer who served in German East Africa, ran a tea and coffee business; he brought his son up on strict religious principles and with military discipline, having decided that he would enter the priesthood. Höss grew up with an almost fanatical belief in the central role of duty in a moral life. During his early years, there was a constant emphasis on sin, guilt, and the need to do penance.

Höss began turning against religion in his early teens after an episode in which, he said, his priest broke the Seal of the Confessional by telling his father about an event at school that Höss had described during confession.  Soon afterward, Höss’s father died and Höss began moving toward a military life.

When World War One broke out, Höss served briefly in a military hospital and then, at age 14, was admitted to his father’s and grandfather’s old regiment, the German Army’s 21st Regiment of Dragoons. At age 15, he fought with the Ottoman Sixth Army at Baghdad, at Kut-el-Amara, and in Palestine. While stationed in Turkey, he rose to the rank of Feldwebel (sergeant) and at 17 he was the youngest non-commissioned officer in the army. Wounded three times and a victim of malaria, he was awarded the Gallipoli Star, the Iron Cross first and second class, and other decorations. Höss also briefly commanded a cavalry unit.

Nazi career

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After Germany’s surrender in November 1918, Höss completed his secondary education and soon joined the emerging nationalist paramilitary groups, first, the East Prussian Volunteer Corps, and then the Freikorps Rossbach in the Baltic area, Silesia, and the Ruhr. Höss participated in the armed terror attacks on Polish people during the Silesian Uprisings against the Germans, and on the French nationals during the Occupation of the Ruhr. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922 (Member No. 3240) after hearing Adolf Hitler‘s speech in Munich. Höss played a leading role in at least one political assassination for which he spent six years in jail.

On 31 May 1923, in Mecklenburg, Höss and members of the Freikorps attacked and beat to death local schoolteacher Walther Kadow on the wishes of the farm supervisor, Martin Bormann, who later became Hitler’s private secretary.  Kadow was believed to have tipped off the French occupational authorities that Höss’ fellow Nazi, paramilitary soldier Albert Leo Schlageter, was carrying out sabotage operations against French supply lines. Schlageter was arrested and executed on 26 May 1923; soon afterwards Höss and several accomplices, including Bormann, took their revenge on Kadow.

In 1923, after one of the killers confessed to a local newspaper, Höss was arrested and tried as the ring leader. Although he later claimed that another man was actually in charge, Höss accepted the blame as the group’s leader. He was convicted and sentenced (on 15  or 17 May 1924 ) to 10 years in Brandenburg Penitentiary for the crime. Bormann received a one-year sentence.

Höss was released in July 1928 as part of a general amnesty and joined the völkisch Artamanen-Gesellschaft (“Artaman League“), a nationalist back-to-the-land movement that promoted clean living and a farm-based lifestyle. On 17 August 1929, he married Hedwig Hensel (3 March 1908 – 1989), whom he met in the Artaman League. Between 1930 and 1943 they had five children: two sons (Klaus and Hans-Rudolf) and three daughters (Ingebrigitt, Heidetraut, and Annegret).

Joining the SS

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Officers cap badge of the SS-Totenkopf (Death’s head), second version used from 1934 to 1945

Höss became an SS man on 1 April 1934, on Himmler’s effective call-to-action,[15] and joined the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death’s Head Units) in the same year. He came to admire Himmler so much that he considered whatever he said to be the “gospel” and preferred to display his picture in his office rather than that of Hitler. Höss was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp in December 1934, where he held the post of Blockführer. His mentor at Dachau was Obergruppenführer Theodor Eicke.

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Theodor Eicke

In 1938, Höss was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He joined the Waffen-SS wing of the SS in 1939 after the invasion of Poland. Höss excelled in his duties and was recommended by his superiors for further responsibility and promotion. By the end of his tour of duty there, he was serving as administrator of the property of prisoners.

Auschwitz command

Appointment order of Rudolf Höss as Commander of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

 

Further information: Auschwitz concentration camp
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On 1 May 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory Germany had incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of Oświęcim; its German name was Auschwitz.

Höss commanded the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Höss had been ordered “to create a transition camp for ten thousand prisoners from the existing complex of well-preserved buildings.” and he went to Auschwitz determined “to do things differently” and develop a more efficient camp than those at Dachau and Sachsenhausen where he had previously served.

Höss lived at Auschwitz in a villa with his wife and five children.

The earliest inmates at Auschwitz were Soviet prisoners-of-war and Polish prisoners, including peasants and intellectuals. Some 700 arrived in June 1940 and were told they would not survive more than 3 months.

At its peak, Auschwitz was three separate facilities: Auschwitz I; Auschwitz II-Birkenau; and Auschwitz III-Monowitz, including many satellite sub-camps, and was built on about 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) that had been cleared of all inhabitants.

Auschwitz I was the administrative centre for the complex; Auschwitz II Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place; and Auschwitz III Monowitz the slave labour camp for I.G. Farbenindustrie AG, and later other German industries .

The ramp at Birkenau. Chimneys of Crematoria II and III at the horizon

In June 1941, according to Höss’s trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler “to receive personal orders”.

Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the final solution of the Jewish question. According to Höss, Himmler had selected Auschwitz for the extermination of Europe’s Jews, “on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation”.

Himmler described the project as a “secret Reich matter” and told Höss not to speak about it with SS-Gruppenführer Richard Glücks, head of the Nazi camp system run by the SS-Totenkopfverbände.  Höss said that “no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person and that everyone promised upon his life to keep the utmost secrecy”. He only told his wife about the camp’s purpose at the end of 1942 since she already knew about it from Fritz Bracht. Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann who arrived at the camp 4 weeks later.

Höss began testing and perfecting mass killing techniques on 3 September 1941.His experiments made Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the Holocaust‘s most potent symbol.  According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two to three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labour were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or one of the Auschwitz camps, while those unsuitable for work were driven into the gas chambers.

At first, small gassing bunkers were located deep in the woods, to avoid detection. Later, four large gas chambers and crematoria were constructed in Birkenau to make the killing more efficient and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations.

Technically [it] wasn’t so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers…. The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time. The killing was easy; you didn’t even need guards to drive them into the chambers; they just went in expecting to take showers and, instead of water, we turned on poison gas. The whole thing went very quickly.

Höss experimented with various gassing methods. According to Eichmann’s 1961 trial testimony, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid), produced from the pesticide Zyklon B, to the killing process, after his deputy Karl Fritzsch tested it on a group of Russian prisoners in 1941.

With Zyklon B, he said that it took 3–15 minutes for the victims to die and that “we knew when the people were dead because they stopped screaming”.

After Auschwitz

After being replaced as the Auschwitz commander by Arthur Liebehenschel, on 10 November 1943, Höss assumed Liebehenschel’s former position as the chairman of Amt D I in Amtsgruppe D of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA); he also was appointed deputy of the inspector of the concentration camps under Richard Glücks.

On 8 May 1944, Höss returned to Auschwitz to supervise operation Aktion Höss, in which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the camp and killed in 56 day  between May and July. Even Höss’s expanded facility could not handle the huge number of victims’ corpses, and the camp staff had to dispose of thousands of bodies by burning them in open pits.

Capture, trial, and execution

 

Rudolf Höss at the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland, 1947

In the last days of the war, Himmler advised Höss to disguise himself among German Navy personnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When captured by British troops on 11 March 1946 in Gottrupel, he was disguised as a gardener and called himself Franz Lang.

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 His wife, who feared that her son, Klaus, would be shipped off to the Soviet Union to be imprisoned or tortured, had told the British where he was. The British force that captured Höss was led by Hanns Alexander, a young Jewish man from Berlin who was forced to flee to England with his entire family during the rise of Nazi Germany.

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Höss initially denied his identity until Alexander noticed his wedding ring and demanded to inspect it. Höss refused to remove it, claiming it was stuck. But when Alexander threatened to cut his finger off, Höss removed the ring. It had the names Rudolf and Hedwig inscribed inside. After being questioned and beaten with axe handles by the soldiers, Höss confessed his real identity.

Rudolf Höss appeared at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg on 15 April 1946 where he gave a detailed testimony of his crimes. He was called as a defense witness by Ernst Kaltenbrunner‘s lawyer, Dr. Kauffman.

The transcript of Höss’ testimony was later entered as evidence during the 4th Nuremberg Military Tribunal known as the Pohl Trial named for principal defendant SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl. Affidavits that Rudolf Höss made while imprisoned in Nuremberg were also used at the Pohl and IG Farben trials.

In his affidavit made at Nuremberg on 5 April 1946 Höss stated:

I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead. This figure represents about 70% or 80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries.

Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of Prisoner of War cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens (mostly Jewish) from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

On 25 May 1946, he was handed over to Polish authorities and the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland tried him for murder. His trial lasted from 11 to 29 March 1947. During his trial, when accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, “No. Only two and one half million—the rest died from disease and starvation.”

Höss was sentenced to death by hanging on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April next to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. He was hanged on a short drop gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the location of the camp’s Gestapo. The message on the board that marks the site reads:

This is where the camp Gestapo was located. Prisoners suspected of involvement in the camp’s underground resistance movement or of preparing to escape were interrogated here. Many prisoners died as a result of being beaten or tortured. The first commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss, who was tried and sentenced to death after the war by the Polish Supreme National Tribunal, was hanged here on 16 April 1947.

Höss wrote his autobiography while awaiting execution; it was published in 1956 as Kommandant in Auschwitz; autobiographische Aufzeichnungen  and later as Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (among other editions).

Höss on the gallows, immediately before his execution

The location where Höss was hanged, with plaque

After discussions with Höss during the Nuremberg trials at which he testified, the American military psychologist Gustave Gilbert wrote the following:

In all of the discussions, Höss is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn’t asked him. There is too much apathy to leave any suggestion of remorse and even the prospect of hanging does not unduly stress him. One gets the general impression of a man who is intellectually normal, but with the schizoid apathy, insensitivity and lack of empathy that could hardly be more extreme in a frank psychotic.

Four days before he was executed, Höss acknowledged the enormity of his crimes in a message to the state prosecutor:

My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the ‘Third Reich’ for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.

Shortly before his execution Höss returned to the Catholic Church. On 10 April 1947, he received the sacrament of penance from Fr. Władysław Lohn, S.J., provincial of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus. On the next day the same priest administered to him Holy Communion as Viaticum

Handwritten confession

The original affidavit, signed by Rudolf Höss, is displayed in a glass case in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The photo displayed with the affidavit shows Hungarian Jewish women and children walking to one of the four gas chambers in the Birkenau death camp on 26 May 1944, carrying their hand baggage in sacks.

Dates of rank and awards

Höss’s SS-ranks
Date Rank
20 September 1933 SS-Anwärter (candidate)
1 April 1934 SS-Mann (Private)
20 April 1934 SS-Sturmmann (Lance corporal)
28 November 1934 SS-Unterscharführer (Corporal)
1 April 1935 SS-Scharführer (Sergeant)
1 July 1935 SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant)
1 March 1936 SS-Hauptscharführer (First Sergeant)
13 September 1937 SS-Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant)
11 September 1938 SS-Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant)
9 November 1938 SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain)
30 January 1941 SS-Sturmbannführer (Major)
18 July 1942 SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant colonel)
Awards and decorations

holocaust

See The Holocaust

Belfast Blitz – April and May 1941

Belfast Blitz

Belfast Under attack

The Belfast Blitz was four attacks of high-casualty German air raids on strategic targets in the city of  Belfast  in Northern island . in April and May 1941 during  World War II. The first was on the night of 7–8 April 1941, a small attack which probably took place only to test Belfast’s defences. The next took place on Easter Tuesday , 15 April 1941. Two hundred  bombers  of the Luftwaffe attacked military and manufacturing targets in the city of Belfast. Some 900 people died as a result of the bombing and 1,500 were injured. High explosive bombs predominated in this raid. Apart from those on London, this was the greatest loss of life in any night raid during the Blitz.

 

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The Belfast Blitz-narrated

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Rescue workers searching through the rubble after an air raid on Belfast

 

The third raid on Belfast took place over the evening and morning of 4–5 May 1941; 150 were killed. Incendiary bombs predominated in this raid. The fourth and final Belfast raid took place on the following night, 5–6 May.

Background

 

 

As the UK was preparing for the conflict, the factories  and shipyards   of Belfast were gearing up. Belfast made a considerable contribution towards the Allied war effort, producing many naval ships, aircraft and munitions; therefore, the city was deemed a suitable bombing target by the Luftwaffe. Meanwhile, unlike Northern Ireland, southern Ireland was no longer part of the UK. Under the leadership of Éamon de Valera, it had declared its  neutrality during the Second World War. Although it arrested German spies that its police and military intelligence services caught, the state never broke off diplomatic relations with Axis nations: the German Legation in Dublin remained open throughout the war.

Government

Junction of Antrim Road and Hillman Street

 

 

The Government of Northern Ireland lacked the will, energy and capacity to cope with a major crisis when it came. James Craig, Lord Craigavon, was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland since its inception in 1921 until his death in 1940. Richard Dawson Bates, was the Home Affairs Minister. Sir Basil Brooke, the Minister of Agriculture, was the only active minister. He successfully busied himself with the task of making Northern Ireland a major supplier of food to Britain in her time of need

John Clarke MacDermott, the Minister of Public Security, after the first bombing, initiated the “Hiram Plan” to evacuate the city and to return Belfast to ‘normality’ as quickly as possible.[5] It was MacDermott who sent a telegram to de Valera seeking assistance. There was unease with the complacent attitude of the government, which led to resignations:

  • John Edmond Warnock, the parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, resigned from the government on 25 May 1940. He said, “I have heard speeches about Ulster pulling her weight but they have never carried conviction.” and “the government has been slack, dilatory and apathetic.”[6]
  • Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Gordon (politician), Parliamentary and Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance (i.e. Chief Whip), resigned on 13 June 1940,[7] explaining to the Commons that the government was “quite unfitted to sustain the people in the ordeal we have to face.”

Craigavon died on 24 November 1940. He was succeeded by John Miller Andrews, then 70 years old, who was no more capable of dealing with the situation than his predecessor. On 28 April 1943, six members of the Government threatened to resign, forcing him from office. He was replaced by Sir Basil Brooke on 1 May.[8]

Manufacturing facilities

The Titan was built by Harland & Wolff

 

 

  • During the war years, Belfast shipyards built or converted over 3,000 navy vessels, repaired more than 22,000 others and launched over half a million tons of merchant shipping – over 140 merchantmen.[10]
  • Short Brothers manufactured aircraft. They are best known for the Sunderland flying boat and the Stirling long-range heavy bomber. Up to 20,000 people were employed. The factory was re-equipping as early as 1936 for the manufacture of 189 Handley Page Hereford bombers
  • James Mackie & Sons were re-equipped in 1938. They were the primary supplier of Bofors anti-aircraft shells.
  • Harland’s Engineering works built tanks. They designed the Churchill.
  • Aero linen for covering aircraft, such as the Hawker Hurricane, and military glider frames was manufactured by a number of Belfast flax spinning mills, such as The York Street Flax Spinning Co.; Brookfield Spinning Co.; Wm. Ewart’s Rosebank Weaving Co.; and the Linen Thread Co.
  • Other Belfast factories manufactured gun mountings, ordnance pieces, aircraft parts and ammunition.

War materials and food were sent by sea from Belfast to Britain, some under the protection of the neutral Irish tricolour. The M.V. Munster, for example, operated by the Belfast Steamship Company, plied between Belfast and Liverpool under the tricolour, until she hit a mine and was sunk outside Liverpool.[11]

Preparation

Sir James Craig, former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Government preparation

There was little preparation for the conflict with Germany. However at the time Lord Craigavon, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland since its inception in 1921, said: “Ulster is ready when we get the word and always will be.” He was asked, in the N.I. parliament: “if the government realized ‘that these fast bombers can come to Northern Ireland in two and three quarter hours’ “. His reply was: “We here today are in a state of war and we are prepared with the rest of the United Kingdom and Empire to face all the responsibilities that imposes on the Ulster people. There is no slacking in our loyalty.”

Dawson Bates, the Home Affairs Minister, simply refused to reply to army correspondence and when the Ministry of Home Affairs was informed by imperial defence experts that Belfast was a certain Luftwaffe target, nothing was done.[13]

Air-raid shelters

Belfast, the city with the highest population density had the lowest proportion of air-raid shelters. Prior to the “Belfast Blitz” there were only 200 public shelters, although 4,000 households had built their own shelters. No searchlights were set up, as they had only arrived on 10 April. There were no night-fighters. On the night of the raid, no Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft took to the air. There were only 22 anti-aircraft guns, six light, and sixteen heavy. On the night, only seven were operated for a short time. There was no smokescreen ability. There were some barrage balloons. These air-raid shelters were Anderson shelters. They were sheets of corrugated galvanised iron covered in earth. Since most casualties were caused by falling masonry rather than by blast, they provided effective shelter for those who had them.

Children

Few children had been successfully evacuated. The “Hiram Plan” initiated by Dawson Bates, the Home Affairs Minister, had failed to materialise. Fewer than 4,000 women and children were evacuated. There were still 80,000 more in Belfast. Even the children of soldiers had not been evacuated, with calamitous results when the married quarters of Victoria Barracks received a direct hit.

 

Earlier raids

There had been a number of small bombings, probably by planes that missed their targets over the River Clyde in Glasgow or the cities of the northwest of England. On 24 March 1941, John MacDermott, Minister for Security, wrote to Prime Minister John Andrews, expressing his concerns that Belfast was so poorly protected: “Up to now we have escaped attack. So had Clydeside until recently. Clydeside got its blitz during the period of the last moon. There [is] ground for thinking that the … enemy could not easily reach Belfast in force except during a period of moonlight. The period of the next moon from say the 7th to the 16th of April may well bring our turn.” MacDermott would be proved right.

Heinkel He 111 bomber

 

 

The first deliberate raid took place on the night of 7 April. (Some authors count this as the second raid of four). It targeted the docks. Neighbouring residential areas were also hit. Six Heinkel He 111 bombers, from Kampfgruppe 26, flying at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), dropped incendiaries, high explosive and parachute-mines. By British mainland blitz standards, casualties were light. Thirteen lost their lives, including a soldier killed when an anti-aircraft gun, at the Balmoral show-grounds, misfired. The most significant loss was a 4.5-acre (1.8 ha) factory floor for manufacturing the fuselages of Short Stirling bombers. The Royal Air Force announced that Squadron Leader J.W.C. Simpson shot down one of the Heinkels over Downpatrick. The Luftwaffe crews returned to their base in Northern France and reported that Belfast’s defences were, “inferior in quality, scanty and insufficient”.

Easter Tuesday Blitz

William Joyce (known as “Lord Haw-Haw“) announced in radio broadcasts from Hamburg that there will be “Easter eggs for Belfast”.

Junkers Ju-88

On Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941, spectators watching a football match at Windsor Park noticed a lone Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-88 aircraft circling overhead.

200 Bombers headed to Belfast

That evening up to 200 bombers left their bases in northern France and the Netherlands and headed for Belfast. There were Heinkel He 111s, Junkers Ju 88s and Dorniers. At 10:40 pm the air raid sirens sounded. Accounts differ as to when flares were dropped to light up the city. The first attack was against the city’s waterworks, which had been attacked in the previous raid. High explosives were dropped. Initially it was thought that the Germans had mistaken this reservoir for the harbour and shipyards, where many ships, including HMS Ark Royal were being repaired. However that attack was not an error. Three vessels nearing completion at Harland and Wolff’s were hit as was its power station. Wave after wave of bombers dropped their incendiaries, high explosives and land-mines. When incendiaries were dropped, the city burned as water pressure was too low for effective firefighting.

Public buildings destroyed or badly damaged included Belfast City Hall’s Banqueting Hall, the Ulster Hospital for Women and Children and Ballymacarrett library, (the last two being located on Templemore Avenue). Strand Public Elementary school, the LMS railway station, the adjacent Midland Hotel on York Road, and Salisbury Avenue tram depot were all hit. Churches destroyed or wrecked included Macrory Memorial Presbyterian in Duncairn Gardens; Duncairn Methodist, Castleton Presbyterian on York Road; St Silas’s on the Oldpark Road; St James’s on the Antrim Road; Newington Presbyterian on Limestone Road; Crumlin Road Presbyterian; Holy Trinity on Clifton Street and Clifton Street Presbyterian; York Street Presbyterian and York Street Non-Subscribing Presbyterian; Newtownards Road Methodist and Rosemary Street Presbyterian (the last of which was not rebuilt).

Streets heavily bombed in the city centre included High Street, Ann Street, Callender Street, Chichester Street, Castle Street, Tomb Street, Bridge Street (effectively obliterated), Rosemary Street, Waring Street, North Street, Victoria Street, Donegall Street, York Street, Gloucester Street, and East Bridge Street. In the east of the city, Westbourne and Newcastle Streets on the Newtownards Road, Thorndyke Street off the Albertbridge Road and Ravenscroft Avenue were destroyed or damaged. In the west and north of the city, streets heavily bombed included Percy Street, York Park, York Crescent, Eglinton Street, Carlisle Street, Ballyclare, Ballycastle and Ballynure Streets off the Oldpark Road; Southport Street, Walton Street, Antrim Road, Annadale Street, Cliftonville Road, Hillman Street, Atlantic Avenue, Hallidays Road, Hughenden Avenue, Sunningdale Park, Shandarragh Park, and Whitewell Road. Burke Street which ran between Annadale and Dawson streets in the New Lodge area, was completely wiped off the map with all its 20 houses flattened and all of the occupants killed.

The Hawker Hurricane accounted for the most kills during the Battle of Britain

There was no opposition. In the mistaken belief that they might damage RAF fighters, the seven anti-aircraft batteries ceased firing. But the RAF had not responded. The bombs continued to fall until 5am.

Fifty-five thousand houses were damaged leaving 100,000 temporarily homeless. Outside of London, with some 900 dead, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz. A stray bomber attacked Derry, killing 15. Another attacked Bangor, killing five. By 4 am the entire city seemed to be in flames. At 4.15am John MacDermott, the Minister of Public Security, managed to contact Basil Brooke (then Agriculture Minister), seeking permission to seek help from the Irish government. Brooke noted in his diary “I gave him authority as it is obviously a question of expediency”. Since 1.45am all telephones had been cut. Fortunately, the railway telegraphy link between Belfast and Dublin was still operational. The telegram was sent at 4.35am,[citation needed] asking the Irish Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera for assistance.

Human cost

Over 900 lives were lost, 1,500 people were injured, 400 of them seriously. Fifty-thousand houses, more than half the houses in the city, were damaged. Eleven churches, two hospitals and two schools were destroyed. These figures are based on newspaper reports of the time, personal recollections and other primary sources, such as:-
Jimmy Doherty, an air raid warden (who later served in London during the V1 and V2 blitz), who wrote a book on the Belfast blitz;
Emma Duffin, a nurse at the Queen’s University Hospital, (who previously served during the Great War), who kept a diary;
and Major Seán O’Sullivan, who produced a detailed report for the Dublin government. There are other diarists and narratives. Brian Barton of Queen’s University, Belfast, has written most on this topic. There is an eye-witness account from John Potter online.

Instructions

There were few bomb shelters. An air raid shelter on Hallidays Road received a direct hit, killing all those in it. Many people who were dug out of the rubble alive had taken shelter underneath their stairs and were fortunate that their homes had not received a direct hit or caught fire. In the New Lodge area people had taken refuge in a mill. Tragically 35 were crushed to death when the mill wall collapsed. In another building, the York Street Mill, one of its massive sidewalls collapsed on to Sussex and Vere Streets, killing all those who remained in their homes.

Major O’Sullivan reported that “In the heavily ‘blitzed’ areas people ran panic-stricken into the streets and made for the open country. As many were caught in the open by blast and secondary missiles, the enormous number of casualties can be readily accounted for. It is perhaps true that many saved their lives running but I am afraid a much greater number lost them or became casualties.”

That night almost 300 people, many from the Protestant Shankill area, took refuge in the Clonard Monastery in the Catholic Falls Road. The crypt under the sanctuary and the cellar under the working sacristy had been fitted out and opened to the public as an air-raid shelter. Prayers were said and hymns sung by the mainly Protestant women and children during the bombing.

Mortuary

The mortuary services had emergency plans to deal with only 200 bodies. 150 corpses remained in the Falls Road baths for three days before they were buried in a mass grave, with 123 still unidentified. Two hundred and fifty-five corpses were laid out in St George’s Market. Many bodies and body parts could not be identified.[19] Mass graves for the unclaimed bodies were dug in the Milltown and City Cemeteries.

Nurse Emma Duffin

Nurse Emma Duffin, who had served in the Great War, contrasted death in that conflict with what she saw:

(Great War casualties) had died in hospital beds, their eyes had been reverently closed, their hands crossed to their breasts. Death had to a certain extent been … made decent. It was solemn, tragic, dignified, but here it was grotesque, repulsive, horrible. No attendant nurse had soothed the last moments of these victims; no gentle reverent hand had closed their eyes or crossed their hands. With tangled hair, staring eyes, clutching hands, contorted limbs, their grey-green faces covered with dust, they lay, bundled into the coffins, half-shrouded in rugs or blankets, or an occasional sheet, still wearing their dirty, torn twisted garments. Death should be dignified, peaceful; Hitler had made even death grotesque. I felt outraged, I should have felt sympathy, grief, but instead feelings of revulsion and disgust assailed me.

Major Seán O’Sullivan

Major Seán O’Sullivan reported on the intensity of the bombing in some areas, such as the Antrim Road, where bombs “fell within fifteen to twenty yards of one another.” The most heavily-bombed area was that which lay between York Street and the Antrim Road, north of the city centre. O’Sullivan felt that the whole civil defence sector was utterly overwhelmed. Heavy jacks were unavailable. He described some distressing consequences, such as how “in one case the leg and arm of a child had to be amputated before it could be extricated.”

In his opinion, the greatest want was the lack of hospital facilities. He went to the Mater Hospital at 2 pm, nine hours after the raid ended, to find the street with a traffic jam of ambulances waiting to admit their casualties. He spoke with Professor Flynn, (Theodore Thomson Flynn, an Australian based at the Mater Hospital and father of actor Errol Flynn), head of the casualty service for the city, who told him of “casualties due to shock, blast and secondary missiles, such as glass, stones, pieces of piping, etc.” O’Sullivan reported: “There were many terrible mutilations among both living and dead – heads crushed, ghastly abdominal and face wounds, penetration by beams, mangled and crushed limbs etc.”. His report concluded with: “a second Belfast would be too horrible to contemplate”.

Refugees

Two hundred and twenty thousand people fled from the city. Many “arrived in Fermanagh having nothing with them only night shirts”. Ten thousand “officially” crossed the border. Over 500 received care from the Irish Red Cross in Dublin. The town of Dromara saw its population increase from 500 to 2,500. In Newtownards, Bangor, Larne, Carrickfergus, Lisburn and Antrim many thousands of Belfast citizens took refuge either with friends or strangers.

Major O’Sullivan reported on a:

continuous trek to railway stations. The refugees looked dazed and horror stricken and many had neglected to bring more than a few belongings… Any and every means of exit from the city was availed of and the final destination appeared to be a matter of indifference.

Train after train and bus after bus were filled with those next in line. At nightfall the Northern Counties Station was packed from platform gates to entrance gates and still refugees were coming along in a steady stream from the surrounding streets … Open military lorries were finally put into service and even expectant mothers and mothers with young children were put into these in the rather heavy drizzle that lasted throughout the evening. On the 17th I heard that hundreds who either could not get away or could not leave for other reasons simply went out into the fields and remained in the open all night with whatever they could take in the way of covering.

Moya Woodside noted in her diary: “Evacuation is taking on panic proportions. Roads out of town are still one stream of cars, with mattresses and bedding tied on top. Everything on wheels is being pressed into service. People are leaving from all parts of town and not only from the bombed areas. Where they are going, what they will find to eat when they get there, nobody knows.”

Dawson Bates informed the Cabinet of rack-renting of barns, and over thirty people per house in some areas.

Newspaper reaction

The Irish Times editorial on 17 April:

Humanity knows no borders, no politics, no differences of religious belief. Yesterday for once the people of Ireland were united under the shadow of a national blow. Has it taken bursting bombs to remind the people of this little country that they have common tradition, a common genius and a common home? Yesterday the hand of good-fellowship was reached across the Border. Men from the South worked with men from the North in the universal cause of the relief of suffering.

Aftermath

Southern reaction

By 6am, within two hours of the request for assistance, 71 firemen with 13 fire tenders from Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin, and Dún Laoghaire were on their way to cross the Irish border to assist their Belfast colleagues. In each station volunteers were asked for, as it was beyond their normal duties. In every instance, all stepped forward. They remained for three days, until they were sent back by the Northern Ireland government. By then 250 firemen from Clydeside had arrived. Taoiseach Éamon de Valera formally protested to Berlin. He followed up with his “they are our people” speech, made in Castlebar, County Mayo, on Sunday 20 April 1941 (Quoted in the Dundalk Democrat dated Saturday 26 April 1941):

In the past, and probably in the present, too, a number of them did not see eye to eye with us politically, but they are our people – we are one and the same people – and their sorrows in the present instance are also our sorrows; and I want to say to them that any help we can give to them in the present time we will give to them whole-heartedly, believing that were the circumstances reversed they would also give us their help whole-heartedly …

Frank Aiken, the Irish Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures was in Boston, Massachusetts at the time. He gave an interview saying: “the people of Belfast are Irish people too”.

German response

 

Initial German radio broadcasts celebrated the raid. A Luftwaffe pilot gave this description “We were in exceptional good humour knowing that we were going for a new target, one of England’s last hiding places. Wherever Churchill is hiding his war material we will go … Belfast is as worthy a target as Coventry, Birmingham, Bristol or Glasgow.” William Joyce “Lord Haw-Haw” announced that “The Führer will give you time to bury your dead before the next attack … Tuesday was only a sample.” However Belfast was not mentioned again by the Nazis. After the war, instructions from Joseph Goebbels were discovered ordering it not to be mentioned. It would appear that Adolf Hitler, in view of de Valera’s negative reaction, was concerned that de Valera and Irish American politicians might encourage the United States to enter the war.

Eduard Hempel, the German Minister to Ireland, visited the Irish Ministry for External Affairs to offer sympathy and attempt an explanation. J.P. Walshe, assistant secretary, recorded that Hempel was “clearly distressed by the news of the severe raid on Belfast and especially of the number of civilian casualties.” He stated that “he would once more tell his government how he felt about the matter and he would ask them to confine the operations to military objectives as far as it was humanly possible. He believed that this was being done already but it was inevitable that a certain number of civilian lives should be lost in the course of heavy bombing from the air”.

Recriminations

 

The government was blamed by some for inadequate precautions. Tommy Henderson, an Independent Unionist MP in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, summed up the feeling when he invited the Minister of Home Affairs to Hannahstown and the Falls Road, saying “The Catholics and the Protestants are going up there mixed and they are talking to one another. They are sleeping in the same sheugh (ditch), below the same tree or in the same barn. They all say the same thing, that the government is no good.”

A map showing the location of Belfast Lough

At night Dublin was the only city without a blackout between New York and Moscow, and between Lisbon and Sweden; German bombers often flew overhead to check their bearings using its lights, angering the British. One widespread criticism was that the Germans located Belfast by heading for Dublin and following the railway lines north. In The Blitz: Belfast in the War Years, Brian Barton wrote: “Government Ministers felt with justification, that the Germans were able to use the unblacked out lights in the south to guide them to their targets in the North.” Barton insisted that Belfast was “too far north” to use radio guidance.

Other writers, such as Tony Gray in The Lost Years state that the Germans did follow their radio guidance beams. Several accounts point out that Belfast, standing at the end of the long inlet of Belfast Lough, would be easily located. Another claim was that the Catholic population in general and the IRA in particular guided the bombers. Barton wrote: “the Catholic population was much more strongly opposed to conscription, was inclined to sympathise with Germany”, “…there were suspicions that the Germans were assisted in identifying targets, held by the Unionist population.” This view was probably influenced by the decision of the IRA Army Council to support Germany. However they were not in a position to communicate with the Germans, and information recovered from Germany after the war showed that the planning of the blitz was based entirely on German aerial reconnaissance.

Firemen return south

After three days, sometime after 6pm, the fire crews from south of the border began taking up their hoses and ladders to head for home. By then most of the major fires were under control and the firemen from Clydeside and other British cities were arriving. Some had received food, others were famished. All were exhausted. Two of the crews received refreshments in Banbridge; others were entertained in the Ancient Order of Hibernians hall in Newry. In 1995 on the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of the Second World War an invitation was received by the Dublin Fire Brigade for any survivors of that time to attend a function at Hillsborough Castle and meet Prince Charles. Only four were known still to be alive; one, Tom Coleman, attended to receive recognition for his colleagues’ solidarity at such a critical time.

Second major raid

 

Soldiers clearing rubble after the May air raid

There was a second massive air raid on Belfast on Sunday 4–5 May 1941, three weeks after that of Easter Tuesday. Around 1am, Luftwaffe bombers flew over the city, concentrating their attack on the Harbour Estate and Queen’s Island. Nearby residential areas in east Belfast were also hit when “203 metric tonnes of high explosive bombs, 80 land mines attached to parachutes, and 800 firebomb canisters containing 96,000 incendiary bombs” were dropped. Over 150 people lost their lives in what became known as the ‘Fire Blitz’.

Casualties were lower than at Easter, partly because the sirens had sounded at 11.45 pm while the Luftwaffe attacked more cautiously from a greater height. St George’s Church in High Street was damaged by fire. Again the Irish emergency services crossed the border, this time without waiting for an invitation. On 31 May 1941, German bombers attacked neutral Dublin in error.

See Battle of Britain -Triple Aces

battle of britain

 

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Post Traumatic stress disorder

Belfast Child

Post traumatic stress disorder

Combat Stress is here to support you

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.

Visit the website: www.combatstress.org.uk/veterans

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See Shell Shock – The Trauma of Battle

shellshocked-soldier-001

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BBC documentary about PTSD

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[note 1] is a mental illness that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other…

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Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown . A British Hero- R.I.P

Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown: Celebrated British pilot dies, aged 97

Eric Brown

One of the most famous British pilots, Capt Eric “Winkle” Brown, has died at the age of 97.

He was the Royal Navy’s most decorated pilot and held the world record for flying the greatest number of different types of aircraft, 487.

During World War Two Capt Brown flew fighter aircraft and witnessed the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

He died at the East Surrey Hospital, Redhill, after a short illness.

A statement released by his family said: “It is with deep regret that the passing of Captain Eric Melrose Brown CBE DSC AFC is announced.

Eric Brown

“Eric was the most decorated pilot of the Fleet Air Arm in which service he was universally known as ‘Winkle’ on account of his diminutive stature.

“He also held three absolute Guinness World Records, including for the number of aircraft carrier deck landings and types of aeroplane flown.”

See BBC News for full story

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Eric Melrose “Winkle” Brown

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Story of Captain Winkle Brown

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Captain Eric Melrose “Winkle” Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN[2] (21 January 1919 – 21 February 2016) was a British Royal Navy officer and test pilot who flew 487 different types of aircraft, more than anyone else in history.[1][3] He also held the world record for most aircraft carrier landings performed (2,407)[1] and was the Fleet Air Arm‘s most decorated living pilot.[4] He achieved several “firsts” in naval aviation, including the first landings on an aircraft carrier of a twin-engined aircraft, an aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage and a jet-propelled aircraft.

Early life

Brown was born in Leith, near Edinburgh, Scotland. He first flew when he was eight or ten when he was taken up in a Gloster Gauntlet by his father, the younger Brown sitting on his father’s knee.[5]

In 1936, Brown’s father, an ex-Royal Flying Corps pilot, had taken him to see the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Hermann Göring had recently announced the existence of the Luftwaffe, so Brown and his father met, and were invited to join social gatherings by members of the newly disclosed organisation. It was here that Brown first met Ernst Udet, a former World War I fighter ace.

Brown soon discovered in himself and Udet a shared love of flying and Udet offered to take Brown up with him. Brown eagerly accepted the German’s offer and after his arrival at the appointed airfield at Halle, he was soon flying in a two-seat Bucker Jungmann, which Udet threw around much to Brown’s delight. Udet told Brown he “must learn to fly” and that he “had the temperament of a fighter pilot”. He also told Brown to learn German.

In 1937, Brown left the Royal High School and entered Edinburgh University, studying Modern Languages with an emphasis on German. While there he joined the university’s Air Unit and received his first formal flying instruction. In February 1938 he returned to Germany, where, having been invited to attend the 1938 Automobile Exhibition by Udet, by then a Luftwaffe Major General, he saw the demonstration of the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 helicopter flown by Hanna Reitsch before a small crowd inside the Deutschlandhalle. During this visit he met and got to know Reitsch. Brown was later to renew his acquaintance with her after the war, in less pleasant circumstances, she having been arrested after the German surrender in 1945.

In the meantime, Brown had been selected to take part as an exchange student at the Schule Schloss Salem, located on the banks of Lake Constance, and it was while there in Germany that Brown was woken up with a loud knocking on his door one morning in September 1939. Upon opening the door he was met by a woman with the announcement that “our countries are at war“. Soon after, Brown was arrested by the SS. Fortunately, after 3 days incarceration, they merely escorted Brown in his MG Magnette sports car to the Swiss border, saying they were allowing him to keep the car because they “had no spares for it”.[6]

Wartime service

HMS Audacity in 1941.

On returning to a United Kingdom now at war, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Fleet Air Arm pilot, where he was posted to 802 Squadron, initially serving on the first escort carrier HMS Audacity flying the Grumman Martlet. During his service on board the Audacity he shot down two Focke-Wulf Fw 200 “Condor” maritime patrol aircraft. The Audacity was torpedoed and sunk on 21 December 1941 by U-751, commanded by Gerhard Bigalk. Eric Brown was one of only two survivors of the squadron, being saved by his Mae West life jacket.

The loss of life was such that 802 Squadron was disbanded until February 1942. On 10 March 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his service on Audacity, in particular “For bravery and skill in action against Enemy aircraft and in the protection of a Convoy against heavy and sustained Enemy attacks”.[7]

Following the loss of Audacity, Brown was posted to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough, where his experience in deck landings was sought. While there he initially performed testing of the newly navalised Sea Hurricane and Seafire.

His aptitude for deck landings led to his posting for the testing of carriers’ landing arrangements before they were brought into service. The testing involved multiple combinations of landing point and type of aircraft. with the result that by the close of 1943 he had performed around 1,500 deck landings on 22 different carriers. In six years at RAE, Brown recalls that he hardly ever took a single day’s leave.[8]

In 1943 Brown resumed operational flying, being seconded to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons flying escort operations to USAAF B-17s over France. His job was to train them in deck-landing techniques, though on airfields.[Note 1] As a form of quid pro quo he joined them on fighter operations.

He also flew several stints with Fighter Command in the air defence of Great Britain. During this time, in the summer of 1944 Brown’s home was destroyed by a V-1 “Doodlebug” cruise missile, concussing his wife and causing serious injury to their cleaner, including the loss of one eye.

After his time operational, again in 1943, he then went back to the RAE, this time to perform experimental flying, almost immediately being transferred to southern Italy to evaluate captured Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe aircraft. This Brown did with almost no tuition, information having to be gleaned from whatever documents were available. On completion of these duties, his commander, being impressed with his performance, sent him back to the RAE with the recommendation that he be employed in the Aerodynamics Flight department at Farnborough. During the first month in the Flight, Brown flew thirteen aircraft types, including a captured Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

While at Farnborough as Chief Naval Test Pilot, Brown was involved in the deck landing trials of the Sea Mosquito, the heaviest aircraft yet chosen to be flown from a British carrier. Brown landed one for the first time on HMS Indefatigable on 25 March 1944. This was the first landing on a carrier by a twin-engined aircraft.[9] The fastest speed for deck landing was 86 kts, while the stall speed was 110 kts.[8]

At this time, the RAE was the leading authority on high-speed flight and Brown became involved in this sort of testing, flights being flown where the aircraft, usually a Spitfire, would be dived at speeds of the high subsonic and near transonic region. Figures achieved by Brown and his colleagues during these tests reached Mach 0.86 for a standard Spitfire IX, to Mach 0.92 for a modified Spitfire PR Mk XI flown by his colleague Sqn Ldr Anthony F. Martindale.

Together with Brown and Martindale, the RAE Aerodynamics Flight also included two other test pilots, Sqn Ldr James “Jimmy” Nelson and Sqn Ldr Douglas Weightman.[10]

During this same period the RAE was approached by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) General Jimmy Doolittle with a request for help, as the 8th Air Force had been having trouble when their Lightning, Thunderbolt and Mustang aircraft, providing top cover for the bombers, dived down onto attacking German fighters, some of the diving US fighters encountering speed regions where they became difficult to control. As a result of Doolittle’s request, early in 1944 the P-38H Lightning, P-51B Mustang and P-47C Thunderbolt, were dived for compressibility testing at the RAE by Brown and several other pilots. The results of the tests were that the tactical Mach numbers, i.e., the manoeuvring limits, were Mach 0.68 for the Lightning, Mach 0.71 for the Thunderbolt and Mach 0.78 for the Mustang. The corresponding figure for both the Fw 190 and Bf 109 was Mach 0.75. The tests flown by Brown and his colleagues resulted in Doolittle being able to argue with his superiors for the Mustang to be chosen in preference to the P-38 and P-47 for all escort duties from then on, which it subsequently was.

Brown had been made aware of the British progress in jet propulsion in May 1941 when he had heard of the Gloster E.28/39 after diverting in bad weather to RAF Cranwell during a flight and had subsequently met Frank Whittle when asked to suggest improvements to the jet engine to make it more suitable for naval use. This resulted in the Gloster Meteor being selected as the Royal Navy‘s first jet fighter, although, as it turned out, few would be used by them. Brown was also selected as the pilot for the Miles M.52 supersonic research aircraft programme, and he flew modified aircraft incorporating components intended for the M.52; however, the post-war government later cancelled the project in 1945 with the M.52 almost complete.[6]

During carrier compatibility trials, Brown crash-landed a Fairey Firefly Mk I, Z1844, on the deck of HMS Pretoria Castle on 9 September 1943, when the arrestor hook indicator light falsely showed the hook was in the “down” position. The fighter hit the crash barrier, sheared off its undercarriage and shredded the propeller, but the pilot was unhurt.[11] On 2 May 1944, he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire “for outstanding enterprise and skill in piloting aircraft during hazardous aircraft trials.”[12]

A Royal Air Force Hoverfly I of the type flown by Brown from Speke to Farnborough in 1945

In February 1945, Brown learned that the Aerodynamics Flight had been allocated three Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly/Gadfly helicopters. He had never seen one of these tail-rotor machines, so a trip to Farnborough was arranged and Brown had a short flight as a passenger in one. A few days later, Brown and Martindale were sent to RAF Speke to collect two new R-4Bs. On arrival, they found the American mechanics assembling the machines, and when Brown asked the Master Sergeant in charge about himself and Martindale being taught to fly them, he was handed a “large orange-coloured booklet” with the retort; “Whaddya mean, bud? – Here’s your instructor”. Brown and Martindale examined the booklet and after several practice attempts at hovering and controlling the craft, followed by a stiff drink, they set off for Farnborough. Brown and Martindale managed the trip safely, if raggedly, in formation, although sometimes as much as a couple of miles apart.[13]

On 4 April, Brown added another “first” to his logbook when engaged in trials in relation to the flexible deck concept with HMS Pretoria Castle, in which he was supposed to make a number of landing approaches to the escort carrier in a Bell Airacobra, which had coincidentally been modified with a tail hook. During one of these passes, Brown declared an emergency and was given permission to make a deck landing; a ruse which had previously been agreed with the carrier’s captain, Caspar John. Although the landing was achieved without difficulty, the long take off run required for the Airacobra meant that even with the ship steaming at full speed, there was little margin of error. This was the first carrier landing and take off for any aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage.[14]

Enemy flight

With the end of the European war in sight, the RAE prepared itself to acquire German aeronautical technology and aircraft before it was either accidentally destroyed or taken by the Soviets, and, because of his skills in the language, Brown was made CO of “Enemy Flight”. He flew to Northern Germany; among the targets for the RAE was the Arado Ar 234, a new jet bomber that the Allies, particularly the Americans, were much interested in. A number of the jets were based at an airfield in Denmark, the German forces having retreated there. He expected to arrive at a liberated aerodrome, just after it had been taken by the British Army; however, German resistance to the Allied advance meant that the ground forces had been delayed and the airfield was still an operational Luftwaffe base. Luckily for Brown, the commanding officer of the Luftwaffe airfield at Grove offered his surrender, Brown taking charge of the airfield and its staff of 2,000 men until Allied forces arrived the next day.

Subsequently, Brown and Martindale, along with several other members of the Aerodynamics Flight and assisted by a co-operative German pilot, later ferried twelve Ar 234s across the North Sea and on to Farnborough. The venture was not without risk, as before their capture, the Germans had destroyed all the engine log books for the aircraft, leaving Brown and his colleagues no idea of the expected engine hours remaining to the machines. Because of the scarcity of the special high-temperature alloys for use in their construction, the Junkers Jumo 004 engines had a life of only 25 hours – it was thus not known whether the engines were brand new or just about to expire.[15]

During this period, Brown was asked by Brigadier Glyn Hughes, the Medical Officer of the British 2nd Army [16] occupying the newly liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, to help interrogate the former camp commandant and his assistant. Agreeing to do so, he subsequently interviewed Josef Kramer and Irma Grese, Brown remarking; “Two more loathsome creatures it is hard to imagine” and describing the latter as “… the worst human being I have ever met.” Kramer and Grese were later tried and hanged for war crimes.[6][17]

Postwar

 

The captured He 177 A-5 in British markings flown by Brown at Farnborough in September 1944

After World War II‚ Brown commanded the Enemy Aircraft Flight, an elite group of pilots who test-flew captured German and Italian aircraft. That experience makes Brown one of the few men qualified to compare both Allied and Axis aeroplanes as they flew during the war. He flight-tested 53 German aircraft, including the Me 163B Komet rocket fighter. His flight test of this rocket plane, apparently the only one by an Allied pilot, was accomplished unofficially: it was deemed to be more or less suicidal due to the notoriously dangerous propellants C-Stoff and T-Stoff. Brown also flight tested all three of the German jet designs to see front-line action in the war: the Messerschmitt Me 262 and the Arado Ar 234, each type powered by Junkers Jumo 004 engines, and the BMW 003-powered Heinkel He 162 turbojet combat aircraft.

Fluent in German, he helped interview many Germans after World War II, including Wernher von Braun and Hermann Göring,[18] Willy Messerschmitt, Dr. Ernst Heinkel[19] and Kurt Tank. Brown was himself using Himmler’s personal aircraft, a specially converted Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor that had been captured and was being used by the RAE Flight based at the former Luftwaffe airfield at Schleswig.[20] He was also able to renew acquaintances with German pilot Hanna Reitsch, whom he had met in Germany before the war.

As an RAE test pilot he was involved in the wartime Miles M.52 supersonic project, test flying a Spitfire fitted with the M.52’s all moving tail, diving from high altitude to achieve high subsonic speeds. He was due to fly the M.52 in 1946, but this fell through when the project was cancelled. The all moving tail information, however, supplied upon instruction from the British government ostensibly as part of an information exchange with the Americans (although no information was ever received in return), allowed Bell to modify its XS-1 for the true transsonic pitch controllability, allowing in turn Chuck Yeager to become the first man to exceed Mach 1 in 1947.[21]

In a throwback to his days testing aircraft in high speed dives, while at the RAE Brown performed similar testing of the Avro Tudor airliner. The requirement was to determine the safe limiting speed for the aircraft and to gather data on high-speed handling of large civil aircraft in preparation for a projected four-jet version of the Tudor. Flying from 32,000 ft, in a succession of dives to speeds initially to Mach 0.6, he succeeded in diving the Tudor up to Mach 0.7, an unusual figure for such a large piston-engined aeroplane, this speed figure being dictated by the pilot’s discretion, as pulling the aircraft out of the dive had required the combined efforts of both Brown and his second pilot. However, as an airliner, the Tudor was not a success. The planned jet-version of the Tudor would later become the Avro Ashton.[22]

The high-speed DH 108 VW120 that Brown flew. This aircraft later crashed, killing Brown’s successor at the RAE, Sqn Ldr Stuart Muller-Rowland.

In 1946 he test flew a modified (strengthened and control-boosted) de Havilland DH.108 after a crash in a similar aircraft while diving at speeds approaching the sound barrier had killed Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr. Brown initially started his tests from a height of 35,000 ft, rising to 45,000 ft and during a dive from the latter he achieved a Mach number of 0.985. It was only when attempting the tests from the same height as de Havilland, 4,000 ft,that he discovered that in a Mach 0.88 dive from that altitude the aircraft suffered from a high-g pitch oscillation at several hertz (Hz). “the ride was smooth, then suddenly it all went to pieces … as the plane porpoised wildly my chin hit my chest, jerked hard back, slammed forward again, repeated it over and over, flogged by the awful whipping of the plane …”. Remembering the drill he had often practised, Brown managed to pull back gently on both stick and throttle and the motion; “… ceased as quickly as it had started”.[23] He believed that he survived the test flight partly because he was a shorter man, de Havilland having suffered a broken neck possibly due to the violent oscillation.[24] Test instrumentation on Brown’s flight recorded during the oscillations accelerations of +4 and −3g’s at 3 Hz. Brown described the DH 108 as; “A killer. Nasty stall. Vicious undamped longitudinal oscillation at speed in bumps”.[25] All three DH.108 aircraft were lost in fatal accidents.

In 1948 Brown was awarded the Boyd Trophy for his work in trials for the rubber deck landing system.[26] On 30 March 1949 he was granted a permanent Royal Navy commission as a lieutenant, with seniority backdated to his original wartime promotion to the rank.[27]

On 12 August 1949, he was testing the third of three Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 jet-powered flying-boat fighter prototypes, TG271, when he struck submerged debris, the aircraft sinking in the Solent off Cowes, Isle of Wight.[28][29] He was pulled unconscious from the cockpit of the wrecked aircraft, having been knocked out in the crash, by Saunders-Roe test pilot Geoffrey Tyson. He was promoted lieutenant-commander on 1 April 1951,[30] commander on 31 December 1953[31] and captain on 31 December 1960.[32]

Brown was responsible for at least two important firsts in carrier aviation – the first carrier landing using an aircraft equipped with a tricycle undercarriage (Bell Airacobra Mk 1 AH574) on the trials carrier HMS Pretoria Castle on 4 April 1945 and the world’s first landing of a jet aircraft, landing the de Havilland Sea Vampire LZ551/G on the Royal Navy carrier HMS Ocean on 3 December 1945.

In the 1950s during the Korean War, Brown was seconded as an exchange officer for two years to the United States Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent, Maryland, where he flew a number of American aircraft, including 36 types of helicopter. In January 1952, it was while here that Brown demonstrated the steam catapult to the Americans, flying a Grumman Panther off the carrier HMS Perseus while the ship was still tied up to the dock at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. It had been planned for Brown to make the first catapult launch with the ship under way and steaming into any wind; however, the wind on the day was so slight that British officials decided that, as the new steam catapult was capable of launching an aircraft without any wind, they would risk their pilot (Brown) if the Americans would risk their aircraft. The launch was a success and US carriers would later feature the steam catapult. It was around the same time that another British invention was being offered to the US, the Angled Flight deck, and Brown once again was called upon to promote the concept. Whether due to Brown or not, the first US aircraft carrier modified with the new flight deck, the USS Antietam, was ready less than nine months later.[6]

In 1954 Brown, by then a Commander, became Commander (Air) of the RNAS Brawdy, where he remained until returning to Germany in late 1957, becoming Chief of British Naval Mission to Germany, his brief being to re-establish German naval aviation after its pre-war integration with and subornation to, the Luftwaffe. During this period Brown worked closely with Admiral Gerhard Wagner of the German Naval Staff. Training was conducted initially in the UK on Hawker Sea Hawks and Fairey Gannets, and during this time Brown was allocated a personal Percival Pembroke aircraft by the Marineflieger, which, to his surprise, the German maintenance personnel took great pride in. It was, in fact, the first exclusively naval aircraft the German Navy had owned since the 1930s.[33] Brown led the re-emergence of naval aviation in Germany to the point that in 1960 Marineflieger squadrons were integrated into NATO.

Later Brown enjoyed a brief three-month period as a test pilot for the Focke-Wulf company, helping them out until they could find a replacement after the company’s previous test pilot had been detained due to having relatives in East Germany.[6][34]

In the 1960s, due to his considerable experience of carrier aviation, Brown, while working at the Admiralty as Deputy Director of Naval Air Warfare, was consulted on the flight deck arrangement of the planned new UK class of aircraft carrier, the CVA-01, although the ship was subsequently cancelled while still on the stocks. In September 1967 came his last appointment in the Royal Navy when, as a Captain, he took command of HMS Fulmar, then the Royal Naval Air Station (now RAF), Lossiemouth, until March 1970. He was appointed a Naval Aide de Camp to Queen Elizabeth II on 7 July 1969[35] and promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1970 New Year Honours.[36] He relinquished his appointment as Naval ADC on 27 January 1970 and retired from the Royal Navy later in 1970.[37]

He served as President of the Royal Aeronautical Society from 1982 to 1983.[38]

On 24 February 2015 Brown delivered the Edinburgh University Mountbatten Lecture, entitled “Britain’s Defence in the Near Future.” Speaking at the Playfair Library, he warned: “They [the Russians] are playing a very dangerous game of chess. … They are playing it to the hilt. It may develop into that. It is certainly showing the same signs as what caused the Cold War.”[39]

Records

He flew aircraft from Britain, the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as holding the record for flying the greatest number of different aircraft. The official record is 487, but includes only basic types. For example, Captain Brown flew fourteen versions of the Spitfire and Seafire and although these versions are very different they appear only once in the list. The list includes only aircraft flown by Brown as ‘Captain in Command’.

Because of the special circumstances involved, he didn’t think that this record would ever be beaten.[40]

He also held the world record for the most carrier landings, 2,407, partly compiled in testing the arrestor wires on more than twenty aircraft carriers during World War II.

Credits

In his book “Wings on my sleeve” (page 157 et seq), Brown records his admiration of a number of erstwhile colleagues who deserve recognition:-

I was fortunate to have such fine C.O.s as Alan Hards, Dick Ubee, Silyn Roberts, and Alan Wheeler. … It was always a thrill to me to meet and talk flying business with men like Geoffrey Tyson, Harald Penrose, Jeffrey Quill, Mutt Summers, Bill Pegg, and George Errington. All these had been heroes in my private hall of fame long before I knew them personally. … Geoffrey de Havilland, Bill Humble, and Alex Henshaw … They were men of great dash … Mike Lithgow, Peter Twiss, John Cunningham of Comet fame, John Derry, Neville Duke, and Roland Beamont.

Brown goes on to mention the pilot of the first jet flight in Britain, Jerry Sayer, before going on to mention the aircraft designers R. J. Mitchell designer of the Spitfire, Sir Sydney Camm, R. E. Bishop, Roy Chadwick and Joe Smith, followed by the names of what he describes as “boffins and boffinettes”, which include the brilliant aerodynamicists Morien Morgan, Handel Davies, Dai Morris, and P. A. Hufton, and the “boffinettes” like Gwen Alston, Anne Burns (structural engineer), Dorothy Pearse (aircraft engineer) and Pauline Gower (head of the women’s sectiom of the ATA).

Brown’s last credits mention Lewis Boddington, Dr. Thomlinson, John Noble and Charles Crowfoot whom he records (with “others”) as being responsible for “giving the Royal Navy a technical lead in aircraft carrier equipment which it still holds to this day [1978].”

Brown ends this section with “These men and women were civil servants, but they worked hours, took responsibility, and produced results far beyond what their country paid them for. To me they represent the true measure of Britain’s greatness.”

Books

Brown wrote several books about his experiences, including many describing the flight characteristics of the various aircraft he flew and an autobiography, Wings on My Sleeve, first published in 1961 and considerably up-dated in later editions. He was also the author of dozens of articles in aviation magazines and journals.[41]

His most well-known series of articles is “Viewed from the Cockpit” which was published (and occasionally re-published) in the journal Air International.[41] Flight review highlights in this series have included the following types:

As regards his preferences Brown states:

“My favourite piston engine (aircraft) is the de Havilland Hornet. For the simple reason it was over-powered. This is an unusual feature in an aircraft, you could do anything on one engine, almost, that you could do on two. It was a ‘hot rod Mosquito‘ really, I always described it as like flying a Ferrari in the sky.

“On the jet side I was a great admirer of the F-86 Sabre, but in particular, the Model E (F-86E) which had the flying tail, and this gave me what I call the ‘perfect harmony of control’. If a pilot has this perfect harmony of control you feel you’re part of the aeroplane and you’re bonded with it really. You’ve got into it and the aeroplane welcomes you and says ‘thank God you’ve come, you’re part of me anyway’ and to fly like that is a sheer delight.”[46]

Later life

Brown’s last flight as a pilot was in 1994, but in 2015 was still lecturing and regularly attending the British Rocketry Oral History Programme (BROHP), where the annual presentation of the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards takes place. In 2007 he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brown lived, in semi-retirement, at Copthorne, West Sussex,[17] where he was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 in April 2013[47] and in June 2014 he was the subject of the hour-long BBC Two documentary Britain’s Greatest Pilot: The Extraordinary Story of Captain Winkle Brown.[8]

Assessing his achievements Mark Bowman, Chief Test Pilot at BAE Systems, said, “They didn’t have the advantage of high-tech simulators. He just had to look at the aircraft and think what he was going to do with it”, adding that he would have been flying the aircraft with “the benefit of a slide rule, not a bank of computers as we have now.”[48]

In November 2014 he was the guest for the 3,000th edition of BBC Radio 4‘s Desert Island Discs. During the programme he revealed that, at the age of 95, he still enjoyed driving and had just bought himself a new sports car. His musical choices included “At Last” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and “Amazing Grace” by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. His favourite was “Stardust” by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra.[49] Brown died in February 2016.[50]

Nickname

Brown received the affectionate nickname “Winkle” from his Royal Navy colleagues. Short for “Periwinkle”, a small mollusc, the name was given to Brown because of his short stature of 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m).[17] Brown has partly attributed his survival, through a number of incidents, to his small stature and his ability to “curl himself up in the cockpit”.[8]

Honours and awards

UK Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service device.svg
Order of the British Empire
Military Division

(Commander)
Distinguished Service Cross Air Force Cross
1939–45 Star Atlantic Star Defence Medal
with King’s Commendation
for Valuable Service
in the Air
War Medal 1939–1945
with Mention in Despatches

Post Traumatic stress disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder

Combat Stress is here to support you

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.

Visit the website: www.combatstress.org.uk/veterans

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See Shell Shock – The Trauma of Battle

shellshocked-soldier-001

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BBC documentary about PTSD

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[note 1] is a mental illness that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other threats on a person’s life.[1] Symptoms include disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event.[1]

Most people who have experienced a traumatizing event will not develop PTSD.[2] People who experience interpersonal trauma (e.g., sexual assault, child abuse) are more likely to develop PTSD, as opposed to people who experience non-assault based trauma such as accidents, natural disasters and witnessing trauma.[3] Children are less likely to develop PTSD after trauma than adults, especially if they are under ten years of age.[2]

Psychotherapy is the “gold standard” of treatment for PTSD. Various psychotherapies are evidence-based for PTSD, including prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive restructuring therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative therapy, and stress inoculation training.[4][5] Therapists generally meet one-on-one with individuals with PTSD, but frequently group therapy or more intensive settings are also beneficial. Serotonergic antidepressants (such as fluoxetine and paroxetine, which are the only medications FDA approved for PTSD) are the first-line pharmacologic agents used for PTSD, but medications are best used as in addition to psychotherapy as they rarely result in recovery from PTSD, alone.[4][6][7][8] Most other medications do not have enough evidence to support their use, may only improve symptoms a small amount without resulting in functional recovery, or, in the case of benzodiazepines, have actually been found to worsen and prolong PTSD, including inhibiting the benefits of psychotherapy.[9][10]

The term “posttraumatic stress disorder” was coined in the early 1970s in large part due to diagnoses of US military veterans of the Vietnam War.[11] It was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).[12] Trauma-related mental disorders have been documented since at least the 17th century, and became more commonly recognized during the World Wars under various terms including “shell shock,” “combat fatigue,” and “war neurosis.”

Classification

Posttraumatic stress disorder was classified as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-IV, but has since been reclassified as a “trauma- and stressor-related disorder” in DSM-5. The characteristic symptoms are not present before exposure to the violently traumatic event. In the typical case, the individual with PTSD persistently avoids trauma-related thoughts and emotions, and discussion of the traumatic event, and may even have amnesia of the event. However, the event is commonly relived by the individual through intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares.[15] While it is common to have symptoms after any traumatic event, these must persist to a sufficient degree (i.e., causing dysfunction in life and/or clinical levels of distress) for longer than one month after the trauma to be classified as PTSD (clinically significant dysfunction or distress for less than one month after the trauma may be acute stress disorder).[1][16][17][18]

Risk factors

No quieren (They do not want to) by Francisco Goya (1746–1828) depicts an elderly woman wielding a knife in defense of a girl being assaulted by a soldier.[19]

PTSD is believed to be caused by the experience of a wide range of traumatic events and, in particular if the trauma is extreme, can occur in persons with no predisposing conditions.[20][21]

Persons considered at risk include, for example, combat military personnel, victims of natural disasters, concentration camp survivors, and victims of violent crime. Individuals frequently experience “survivor’s guilt” for remaining alive while others died. Causes of the symptoms of PTSD are the experiencing or witnessing of a stressor event involving death, serious injury or such threat to the self or others in a situation in which the individual felt intense fear, horror, or powerlessness.[22] Persons employed in occupations that expose them to violence (such as soldiers) or disasters (such as emergency service workers) are also at risk.[22]

Children or adults may develop PTSD symptoms by experiencing bullying.[23]

Several biological indicators have been identified that are related to later PTSD development. Heightened startle responses and a smaller hippocampal volume have been identified as biomarkers for the risk of developing PTSD.[24] Additionally, one study found that soldiers whose leukocytes had greater numbers of glucocorticoid receptors were more prone to developing PTSD after experiencing trauma.[24]

Genetics

There is evidence that susceptibility to PTSD is hereditary. Approximately 30% of the variance in PTSD is caused from genetics alone. For twin pairs exposed to combat in Vietnam, having a monozygotic (identical) twin with PTSD was associated with an increased risk of the co-twin’s having PTSD compared to twins that were dizygotic (non-identical twins).[25] There is evidence that those with a genetically smaller hippocampus are more likely to develop PTSD following a traumatic event. Research has also found that PTSD shares many genetic influences common to other psychiatric disorders. Panic and generalized anxiety disorders and PTSD share 60% of the same genetic variance. Alcohol, nicotine, and drug dependence share greater than 40% genetic similarities.[26]

Trauma

Most people will experience at least one traumatizing event in their lifetime.[27] Men are more likely to experience a traumatic event, but women are more likely to experience the kind of high-impact traumatic event that can lead to PTSD, such as interpersonal violence and sexual assault.[2]

Posttraumatic stress reactions have not been studied as well in children and adolescents as adults.[2] The rate of PTSD may be lower in children than adults, but in the absence of therapy, symptoms may continue for decades.[2] One estimate suggests that the proportion of children and adolescents having PTSD in a non-wartorn population in a developed country may be 1% compared to 1.5% to 3% of adults, and much lower below the age of 10 years.[2]

Predictor models have consistently found that childhood trauma, chronic adversity, and familial stressors increase risk for PTSD as well as risk for biological markers of risk for PTSD after a traumatic event in adulthood.[28][29][30] Peritraumatic dissociation in children is a predictive indicator of the development of PTSD later in life.[26] This effect of childhood trauma, which is not well-understood, may be a marker for both traumatic experiences and attachment problems.[31][32] Proximity to, duration of, and severity of the trauma make an impact, and interpersonal traumas cause more problems than impersonal ones.[33]

Quasi-experimental studies have demonstrated a relationship between intrusive thoughts and intentional control responses such that suppression increases the frequency of unwanted intrusive thoughts. These results suggest that suppression of intrusive thoughts may be important in the development and maintenance of PTSD.[34]

Foster care

Adults who were in foster care as children have a higher rate of PTSD.[medical citation needed]

Domestic violence

An individual that has been exposed to domestic violence is predisposed to the development of PTSD. However, being exposed to a traumatic experience does not automatically indicate that an individual will develop PTSD.[16] There is a strong association between the development of PTSD in mothers that experienced domestic violence during the perinatal period of their pregnancy.[35]

Military experience

A U.S. Long-Range Patrol team leader in Vietnam, 1968.
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BBC Interview PTSD Treatment
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Early intervention appears to be a critical preventive measure.[36] Studies have shown that soldiers prepared for the potential of a traumatic experience are more prepared to deal with the stress of a traumatic experience and therefore less likely to develop PTSD.[16]

Among American troops in Vietnam a greater portion of women experienced high levels of war-zone stress compared to theater men—39.9 percent versus 23.5 percent. The key to this fact is that the vast majority (6,250 or 83.3%) of the women who served in the war zone were nurses who dealt almost daily with death. Black veterans had nearly 2.5 fold the risk of developing war zone-related PTSD as compared to white/other veterans. Hispanics had more than three times the risk. But the most revealing fact, theater veterans injured or wounded in combat had nearly four times the risk of developing PTSD compared to those not injured/wounded according to two key studies—the August 2014 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (NVVLS). Paired with the late 1980s National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS).[37]

The long-term medical consequence of PTSD among male veterans who served in the Vietnam War was that they were almost twice as likely to die in the quarter of a century between the two key studies than those who did not have PTSD. It was also found those with PTSD were more likely to die of chronic conditions such as cancer, nervous system disorders, and musculoskeletal problems. The etiology of this relationship is not certain other than lingering stress from combat such as nightmares, intrusive memories, and hyper-vigilance are aggravating factors contributing to psychological and physiological illnesses.[37]

The racial similarity between Hispanic and Vietnamese soldiers, and the discrimination Hispanic soldiers faced from their own military, made it difficult for Hispanic soldiers to dehumanize their enemy. Hispanic veterans who reported experiencing racial discrimination during their service displayed more symptoms of PTSD than Hispanic veterans who did not.[38]

PTSD is under-diagnosed in female veterans.[39] Sexual assault in the military is a leading cause for female soldiers developing PTSD; a female soldier who is sexually assaulted while serving in the military is nine times more likely to develop PTSD than a female soldier who is not assaulted. A soldier’s assailant may be her colleague or superior officer, making it difficult for her to both report the crime and to avoid interacting with her assailant again.[40] Until the Tailhook scandal drew attention to the problem, the role that sexual assault in the military plays in female veterans developing PTSD went largely unstudied.[41]

Protective effects include social support, which also helps with recovery if PTSD develops.[42][43] For more aggravating factors to recovery once home, see social alienation among returning war veterans.

Drug and substance abuse

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse commonly co-occur with PTSD.[44] Recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders may be hindered, or the condition worsened, by medication or substance overuse, abuse, or dependence; resolving these problems can bring about a marked improvement in an individual’s mental health status and anxiety levels.[45][46]

Pathophysiology

Neuroendocrinology

PTSD symptoms may result when a traumatic event causes an over-reactive adrenaline response, which creates deep neurological patterns in the brain. These patterns can persist long after the event that triggered the fear, making an individual hyper-responsive to future fearful situations.[16][47] During traumatic experiences the high levels of stress hormones secreted suppress hypothalamic activity that may be a major factor toward the development of PTSD.[48]

PTSD causes biochemical changes in the brain and body, that differ from other psychiatric disorders such as major depression. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD respond more strongly to a dexamethasone suppression test than individuals diagnosed with clinical depression.[49][50]

In addition, most people with PTSD also show a low secretion of cortisol and high secretion of catecholamines in urine,[51] with a norepinephrine/cortisol ratio consequently higher than comparable non-diagnosed individuals.[52] This is in contrast to the normative fight-or-flight response, in which both catecholamine and cortisol levels are elevated after exposure to a stressor.[53]

Brain catecholamine levels are high,[54] and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) concentrations are high.[55][56] Together, these findings suggest abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

The HPA axis is responsible for coordinating the hormonal response to stress.[26] Given the strong cortisol suppression to dexamethasone in PTSD, HPA axis abnormalities are likely predicated on strong negative feedback inhibition of cortisol, itself likely due to an increased sensitivity of glucocorticoid receptors.[57]

Translating this reaction to human conditions gives a pathophysiological explanation for PTSD by a maladaptive learning pathway to fear response through a hypersensitive, hyperreactive, and hyperresponsive HPA axis.[58]

Low cortisol levels may predispose individuals to PTSD: Following war trauma, Swedish soldiers serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina with low pre-service salivary cortisol levels had a higher risk of reacting with PTSD symptoms, following war trauma, than soldiers with normal pre-service levels.[59] Because cortisol is normally important in restoring homeostasis after the stress response, it is thought that trauma survivors with low cortisol experience a poorly contained—that is, longer and more distressing—response, setting the stage for PTSD.

Other studies indicate that people that suffer from PTSD have chronically low levels of serotonin, which contributes to the commonly associated behavioral symptoms such as anxiety, ruminations, irritability, aggression, suicidality, and impulsivity.[60] Serotonin also contributes to the stabilization of glucocorticoid production.

Dopamine levels in a person with PTSD can help contribute to the symptoms associated. Low levels of dopamine can contribute to anhedonia, apathy, impaired attention, and motor deficits. Increased levels of dopamine can cause psychosis, agitation, and restlessness.[60]

Hyperresponsiveness in the norepinephrine system can be caused by continued exposure to high stress. Overactivation of norepinephrine receptors in the prefrontal cortex can be connected to the flashbacks and nightmares frequently experienced by those with PTSD. A decrease in other norepinephrine functions (awareness of the current environment) prevents the memory mechanisms in the brain from processing that the experience, and emotions the person is experiencing during a flashback are not associated with the current environment.[60]

However, there is considerable controversy within the medical community regarding the neurobiology of PTSD. A review of existing studies on this subject showed no clear relationship between cortisol levels and PTSD. However, the majority of reports indicate people with PTSD have elevated levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone, lower basal cortisol levels, and enhanced negative feedback suppression of the HPA axis by dexamethasone

Three areas of the brain in which function may be altered in PTSD have been identified: the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus. Much of this research has utilised PTSD victims from the Vietnam War. For example, a prospective study using the Vietnam Head Injury Study showed that damage to the prefrontal cortex may actually be protective against later development of PTSD.[63] In a study by Gurvits et al., combat veterans of the Vietnam War with PTSD showed a 20% reduction in the volume of their hippocampus compared with veterans having suffered no such symptoms.[64] This finding could not be replicated in chronic PTSD patients traumatized at an air show plane crash in 1988 (Ramstein, Germany).[65]

In human studies, the amygdala has been shown to be strongly involved in the formation of emotional memories, especially fear-related memories. Neuroimaging studies in humans have revealed both morphological and functional aspects of PTSD.[66] However, during high stress times the hippocampus, which is associated with the ability to place memories in the correct context of space and time, and with the ability to recall the memory, is suppressed. This suppression is hypothesized to be the cause of the flashbacks that often affect people with PTSD. When someone with PTSD undergoes stimuli similar to the traumatic event, the body perceives the event as occurring again because the memory was never properly recorded in the person’s memory.[26][67][unreliable medical source?]

The amygdalocentric model of PTSD proposes that it is associated with hyperarousal of the amygdala and insufficient top-down control by the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus in particular during extinction.[68] This is consistent with an interpretation of PTSD as a syndrome of deficient extinction ability.[68][69] A study at the European Neuroscience Institute-Goettingen (Germany) found that fear extinction-induced IGF2/IGFBP7 signalling promotes the survival of 17–19-day-old newborn hippocampal neurons. This suggests that therapeutic strategies that enhance IGF2 signalling and adult neurogenesis might be suitable to treat diseases linked to excessive fear memory such as PTSD.[70] Further animal and clinical research into the amygdala and fear conditioning may suggest additional treatments for the condition.

The maintenance of the fear involved with PTSD has been shown to include the HPA axis, the locus coeruleusnoradrenergic systems, and the connections between the limbic system and frontal cortex. The HPA axis that coordinates the hormonal response to stress,[71] which activates the LC-noradrenergic system, is implicated in the over-consolidation of memories that occurs in the aftermath of trauma.[72] This over-consolidation increases the likelihood of one’s developing PTSD. The amygdala is responsible for threat detection and the conditioned and unconditioned fear responses that are carried out as a response to a threat.[26]

The LCnoradrenergic system has been hypothesized to mediate the over-consolidation of fear memory in PTSD. High levels of cortisol reduce noradrenergic activity, and because people with PTSD tend to have reduced levels of cortisol, it is proposed that individuals with PTSD fail to regulate the increased noradrenergic response to traumatic stress.[73] It is thought that the intrusive memories and conditioned fear responses to associated triggers is a result of this response. Neuropeptide Y has been reported to reduce the release of norepinephrine and has been demonstrated to have anxiolytic properties in animal models. Studies have shown people with PTSD demonstrate reduced levels of NPY, possibly indicating their increased anxiety levels.[26]

The basolateral nucleus (BLA) of the amygdala is responsible for the comparison and development of associations between unconditioned and conditioned responses to stimuli, which results in the fear conditioning present in PTSD. The BLA activates the central nucleus (CeA) of the amygdala, which elaborates the fear response, (including behavioral response to threat and elevated startle response). Descending inhibitory inputs from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) regulate the transmission from the BLA to the CeA, which is hypothesized to play a role in the extinction of conditioned fear responses.[26]

Studies have also shown that PTSD patients show hypoactiviation or decreased brain activity in the dorsal and rostral anterior cingulate cortices and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas linked to the experience and regulation of emotion.[74]

Diagnosis

Screening and assessment

A number of screening instruments, including the UCLA PTSD Index for DSM-IV, which have good reliability and validity, are used for the screening of PTSD for children and young adults.[75] Primary Care PTSD Screen and PTSD Checklist are other screening tools.[76]

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry practice parameters is a guidelines for the assessment and treatment of PTSD.[77]

Diagnostic and statistical manual

Since the introduction of DSM-IV, the number of possible events that might be used to diagnose PTSD has increased; one study suggests that the increase is around 50%.[78] Various scales to measure the severity and frequency of PTSD symptoms exist.[79][80] Standardized screening tools such as Trauma Screening Questionnaire[81] and PTSD Symptom Scale[82] can be used to detect possible symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and suggest the need for a formal diagnostic assessment.

In DSM-5, published in May, 2013, PTSD is classified as a trauma- and stress-related disorder.[1]

International classification of diseases

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, stipulated in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10 (ICD-10), may be summarized as:[83]

  • Exposure to a stressful event or situation (either short or long lasting) of exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, which is likely to cause pervasive distress in almost anyone.
  • Persistent remembering, or “reliving” the stressor by intrusive flash backs, vivid memories, recurring dreams, or by experiencing distress when exposed to circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor.
  • Actual or preferred avoidance of circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor (not present before exposure to the stressor).
  • Either (1) or (2):
  1. Inability to recall, either partially or completely, some important aspects of the period of exposure to the stressor
  2. Persistent symptoms of increased psychological sensitivity and arousal (not present before exposure to the stressor) shown by any two of the following:
  • difficulty in falling or staying asleep
  • irritability or outbursts of anger
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • hyper-vigilance
  • exaggerated startle response.

The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10 diagnostic guidelines state:[83] In general, this disorder should not be diagnosed unless there is evidence that it arose within 6 months of a traumatic event of exceptional severity. A “probable” diagnosis might still be possible if the delay between the event and the onset was longer than 6 months, provided that the clinical manifestations are typical and no alternative identification of the disorder (e.g., as an anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder or depressive episode) is plausible. In addition to evidence of trauma, there must be a repetitive, intrusive recollection or re-enactment of the event in memories, daytime imagery, or dreams. Conspicuous emotional detachment, numbing of feeling, and avoidance of stimuli that might arouse recollection of the trauma are often present but are not essential for the diagnosis. The autonomic disturbances, mood disorder, and behavioural abnormalities all contribute to the diagnosis but are not of prime importance. The late chronic sequelae of devastating stress, i.e. those manifest decades after the stressful experience, should be classified under F62.0.

Differential diagnosis

A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an extreme stressor such as one that is life-threatening. Any stressor can result in a diagnosis of adjustment disorder and it is an appropriate diagnosis for a stressor and a symptom pattern that does not meet the criteria for PTSD, for example a stressor like a partner being fired, or a spouse leaving. If any of the symptom pattern is present before the stressor, another diagnosis is required, such as brief psychotic disorder or major depressive disorder. Other differential diagnoses are schizophrenia or other disorders with psychotic features such as Psychotic disorders due to a general medical condition. Drug-induced psychotic disorders can be considered if substance abuse is involved.[15]

The symptom pattern for acute stress disorder must occur and be resolved within four weeks of the trauma. If it lasts longer, and the symptom pattern fits that characteristic of PTSD, the diagnosis may be changed.[15]

Obsessive compulsive disorder may be diagnosed for intrusive thoughts that are recurring but not related to a specific traumatic event.[15]

Malingering should be considered if a financial and/or legal advantage is a possibility.

Prevention

Modest benefits have been seen from early access to cognitive behavioral therapy.[84] Critical incident stress management has been suggested as a means of preventing PTSD, but subsequent studies suggest the likelihood of its producing negative outcomes.[85][86] A review “…did not find any evidence to support the use of an intervention offered to everyone”, and that “…multiple session interventions may result in worse outcome than no intervention for some individuals.”[87] The World Health Organization recommends against the use of benzodiazepines and antidepressants in those having experienced trauma.[88] Some evidence supports the use of hydrocortisone for prevention in adults, however no evidence supports propranolol, escitalopram, temazepam, or gabapentin.[89] In fact, taking benzodiazepines after trauma is associated with a 2-5 times increased risk of developing PTSD and major depressive disorder.[9]

Psychological debriefing

Trauma-exposed individuals often receive treatment called psychological debriefing in an effort to prevent PTSD.[84] Several meta-analyses; however, find that psychological debriefing is unhelpful and is potentially harmful.[84][90][91] This is true for both single-session debriefing and multiple session interventions.[87] The American Psychological Association judges the status of psychological debriefing as No Research Support/Treatment is Potentially Harmful.[92]

Psychological debriefing was; however, the most often used preventive measure, partly because of the relative ease with which this treatment can be given to individuals directly following an event. It consists of interviews that are meant to allow individuals to directly confront the event and share their feelings with the counselor and to help structure their memories of the event.[84]

Risk-targeted interventions

For one such method, see trauma risk management.

Risk-targeted interventions are those that attempt to mitigate specific formative information or events. It can target modeling normal behaviors, instruction on a task, or giving information on the event.[93][94]

Management

An assistance dog trained to help veterans with PTSD

Psychological

Many forms of psychotherapy have been advocated for trauma-related problems such as PTSD. Basic counseling practices common to many treatment responses for PTSD include education about the condition and provision of safety and support.[16][82]

The psychotherapy programs with the strongest demonstrated efficacy include cognitive behavioral programs, variants of exposure therapy[citation needed], stress inoculation training (SIT), variants of cognitive therapy (CT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR),[95] mindfulness-based meditation[96] and many combinations of these procedures.[97]

EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TFCBT) were recommended as first-line treatments for trauma victims in a 2007 review; however, “the evidence base [for EMDR] was not as strong as that for TFCBT … Furthermore, there was limited evidence that TFCBT and EMDR were superior to supportive/non-directive treatments, hence it is highly unlikely that their effectiveness is due to non-specific factors such as attention.”[98] A meta-analytic comparison of EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy found both protocols indistinguishable in terms of effectiveness in treating PTSD; however, “the contribution of the eye movement component in EMDR to treatment outcome” is unclear.[99]

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) seeks to change the way a trauma victim feels and acts by changing the patterns of thinking or behavior, or both, responsible for negative emotions. CBT has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD and is currently considered the standard of care for PTSD by the United States Department of Defense.[100] In CBT, individuals learn to identify thoughts that make them feel afraid or upset and replace them with less distressing thoughts. The goal is to understand how certain thoughts about events cause PTSD-related stress.

Recent research on contextually based third-generation behavior therapies suggests that they may produce results comparable to some of the better validated therapies.[101] Many of these therapy methods have a significant element of exposure[100] and have demonstrated success in treating the primary problems of PTSD and co-occurring depressive symptoms.[102]

Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy[103] that involves assisting trauma survivors to re-experience distressing trauma-related memories and reminders in order to facilitate habituation and successful emotional processing of the trauma memory. Most exposure therapy programs include both imaginal confrontation with the traumatic memories and real-life exposure to trauma reminders; this therapy modality is well supported by clinical evidence[citation needed]. The success of exposure-based therapies has raised the question of whether exposure is a necessary ingredient in the treatment of PTSD.[104] Some organizations[which?] have endorsed the need for exposure.[105][106] The US Department of Veterans Affairs has been actively training mental health treatment staff in prolonged exposure therapy[107] and Cognitive Processing Therapy[108] in an effort to better treat US veteranswith PTSD.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy developed and studied by Francine Shapiro.[109] She had noticed that, when she was thinking about disturbing memories herself, her eyes were moving rapidly. When she brought her eye movements under control while thinking, the thoughts were less distressing.[109]

In 2002, Shapiro and Maxfield published a theory of why this might work, called adaptive information processing.[110] This theory proposes that eye movement can be used to facilitate emotional processing of memories, changing the person’s memory to attend to more adaptive information.[111] The therapist initiates voluntary rapid eye movements while the person focuses on memories, feelings or thoughts about a particular trauma.[2][112] The therapists uses hand movements to get the person to move their eyes backward and forward, but hand-tapping or tones can also be used.[2] EMDR closely resembles cognitive behavior therapy as it combines exposure (re-visiting the traumatic event), working on cognitive processes and relaxation/self-monitoring.[2] However, exposure by way of being asked to think about the experience rather than talk about it has been highlighted as one of the more important distinguishing elements of EMDR.[113]

There have been multiple small controlled trials of four to eight weeks of EMDR in adults[114] as well as children and adolescents.[112] EMDR reduced PTSD symptoms enough in the short term that one in two adults no longer met the criteria for PTSD, but the number of people involved in these trials was small.[114] There was not enough evidence to know whether or not EMDR could eliminate PTSD.[114] There was some evidence that EMDR might prevent depression.[114] There were no studies comparing EMDR to other psychological treatments or to medication.[114] Adverse effects were largely unstudied.[114] The benefits were greater for women with a history of sexual assault compared with people who had experienced other types of traumatizing events (such as accidents, physical assaults and war). There is a small amount of evidence that EMDR may improve re-experiencing symptoms in children and adolescents, but EMDR has not been shown to improve other PTSD symptoms, anxiety, or depression.[112]

The eye movement component of the therapy may not be critical for benefit.[2][111] As there has been no major, high quality randomized trial of EMDR with eye movements versus EMDR without eye movements, the controversy over effectiveness is likely to continue.[113] Authors of a meta-analysis published in 2013 stated, “We found that people treated with eye movement therapy had greater improvement in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than people given therapy without eye movements….Secondly we found that that in laboratory studies the evidence concludes that thinking of upsetting memories and simultaneously doing a task that facilitates eye movements reduces the vividness and distress associated with the upsetting memories.”[95]

Interpersonal psychotherapy

Other approaches, in particular involving social supports,[42][43] may also be important. An open trial of interpersonal psychotherapy[115] reported high rates of remission from PTSD symptoms without using exposure.[116] A current, NIMH-funded trial in New York City is now (and into 2013) comparing interpersonal psychotherapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and relaxation therapy.[117][full citation needed][118][119]

Medication

Most medications do not have enough evidence to support their use.[10] With many medications, residual symptoms following treatment is the rule rather than the exception.[120]

SSRIs and SNRIs

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may have some benefit for PTSD symptoms.[10][121] Tricyclic antidepressants are equally effective but are less well tolerated.[122] Evidence provides support for a small or modest improvement with sertraline, fluoxetine, paroxetine, and venlafaxine.[10][123] Thus, these four medications are considered to be first-line medications for PTSD.[121][124]

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are not recommended for the treatment of PTSD due to a lack of evidence of benefit and risk of worsening PTSD symptoms.[9][125] Some authors believe that the use of benzodiazepines is contraindicated for acute stress, as this group of drugs promotes dissociation and ulterior revivals.[126] Nevertheless, some use benzodiazepines with caution for short-term anxiety and insomnia.[127][128][129] While benzodiazepines can alleviate acute anxiety, there is no consistent evidence that they can stop the development of PTSD and may actually increase the risk of developing PTSD 2-5 times.[9] Additionally, benzodiazepines may reduce the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions, and there is some evidence that benzodiazepines may actually contribute to the development and chronification of PTSD. For those who already have PTSD, benzodiazepines may worsen and prolong the course of illness, by worsening psychotherapy outcomes, and causing or exacerbating aggression, depression (including suicidality), and substance use.[9] Other drawbacks include the risk of developing a benzodiazepine dependence, tolerance (i.e., short-term benefits wearing off with time), and withdrawal syndrome; additionally, individuals with PTSD (even those without a history of alcohol or drug misuse) are at an increased risk of abusing benzodiazepines.[9][124][130] Due to a plethora of other treatments with greater efficacy for PTSD and less risks (e.g., prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, cognitive restructuring therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative therapy, stress inoculation training, serotonergic antidepressants, adrenergic inhibitors, antipsychotics, and even anticonvulsants), benzodiazepines should be considered relatively contraindicated until all other treatment options are exhausted.[4][5][9] For those who argue that benzodiazepines should be used sooner in the most severe cases, the adverse risk of disinhibition (associated with suicidality, aggression and crimes) and clinical risks of delaying or inhibiting definitive efficacious treatments, make other alternative treatments preferable (e.g., inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, dialectic behavior therapy; and other fast-acting sedating medications such as trazodone, mirtazapine, amitripytline, doxepin, prazosin, propranolol, guanfacine, clonidine, quetiapine, olanzapine, valproate, gabapentin).[4][7][8] “PTSD recovery should denote improved functioning (e.g. healthy relationships, employment), not simply sedation…. For years, sedatives were the only thing we had in our armamentarium for PTSD. Now, we have many more tools and our patients – whether survivors of assault, combat or any other trauma – deserve those treatments that have proven to be safer and more effective.”[9]

Glucocorticoids

Glucocorticoids may be useful for short-term therapy to protect against neurodegeneration caused by the extended stress response that characterizes PTSD, but long-term use may actually promote neurodegeneration.[131]

Cannabinoids

The cannabinoid nabilone is sometimes used off-label for nightmares in PTSD. Although some short-term benefit was shown, adverse effects are common and it has not been adequately studied to determine efficacy.[132] Additionally, there are other treatments with stronger efficacy and less risks (e.g., psychotherapy, serotonergic antidepressants, adrenergic inhibitors).

Other

Exercise, sport and physical activity

Physical activity can have an impact on people’s psychological wellbeing[133] and physical health.[134] The U.S. National Center for PTSD recommends moderate exercise as a way to distract from disturbing emotions, build self-esteem and increase feelings of being in control again. They recommend a discussion with a doctor before starting an exercise program.[135]

Play therapy for children

Play is thought to help children link their inner thoughts with their outer world, connecting real experiences with abstract thought.[136] Repetitive play can also be one of the ways a child relives traumatic events, and that can be a symptom of traumatization in a child or young person.[137] Although it is commonly used, there have not been enough studies comparing outcomes in groups of children receiving and not receiving play therapy, so the effects of play therapy are not yet understood.[2][136]

Military programs

Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced significant physical, emotional, and relational disruptions. In response, the United States Marine Corps has instituted programs to assist them in re-adjusting to civilian life, especially in their relationships with spouses and loved ones, to help them communicate better and understand what the other has gone through.[138] Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) developed the Battlemind program to assist service members avoid or ameliorate PTSD and related problems.

Epidemiology

Disability-adjusted life year rates for posttraumatic stress disorder per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[139]

  no data
  < 43.5
  43.5-45
  45-46.5
  46.5-48
  48-49.5
  49.5-51
  51-52.5
  52.5-54
  54-55.5
  55.5-57
  57–58.5
  > 58.5

There is debate over the rates of PTSD found in populations, but, despite changes in diagnosis and the criteria used to define PTSD between 1997 and 2007, epidemiological rates have not changed significantly.[140]

The United Nations’ World Health Organization publishes estimates of PTSD impact for each of its member states; the latest data available are for 2004. Considering only the 25 most populated countries ranked by overall age-standardized Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) rate, the top half of the ranked list is dominated by Asian/Pacific countries, the US, and Egypt.[141] Ranking the countries by the male-only or female-only rates produces much the same result, but with less meaningfulness, as the score range in the single-sex rankings is much-reduced (4 for women, 3 for men, as compared with 14 for the overall score range), suggesting that the differences between female and male rates, within each country, is what drives the distinctions between the countries.[142][143]

Age-standardized Disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates for PTSD, per 100,000 inhabitants, in 25 most populous countries, ranked by overall rate (2004)
Region Country PTSD DALY rate,
overall[141]
PTSD DALY rate,
females[142]
PTSD DALY rate,
males[143]
Asia / Pacific Thailand 59 86 30
Asia / Pacific Indonesia 58 86 30
Asia / Pacific Philippines 58 86 30
Americas USA 58 86 30
Asia / Pacific Bangladesh 57 85 29
Africa Egypt 56 83 30
Asia / Pacific India 56 85 29
Asia / Pacific Iran 56 83 30
Asia / Pacific Pakistan 56 85 29
Asia / Pacific Japan 55 80 31
Asia / Pacific Myanmar 55 81 30
Europe Turkey 55 81 30
Asia / Pacific Vietnam 55 80 30
Europe France 54 80 28
Europe Germany 54 80 28
Europe Italy 54 80 28
Asia / Pacific Russian Federation 54 78 30
Europe United Kingdom 54 80 28
Africa Nigeria 53 76 29
Africa Dem. Republ. of Congo 52 76 28
Africa Ethiopia 52 76 28
Africa South Africa 52 76 28
Asia / Pacific China 51 76 28
Americas Mexico 46 60 30
Americas Brazil 45 60 30

United States

———————————–

US Army Infantryman talks about PTSD

———————————–

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication has estimated that the lifetime prevalence of PTSD among adult Americans is 6.8%, with women (9.7%) more than twice as likely as men[60] (3.6%) to have PTSD at some point in their lives.[144] More than 60% of men and more than 60% of women experience at least one traumatic event in their life. The most frequently reported traumatic events by men are rape, combat, and childhood neglect or physical abuse. Women most frequently report instances of rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon and childhood physical abuse.[60] 88% of men and 79% of women with lifetime PTSD have at least one comorbid psychiatric disorder. Major depressive disorder, 48% of men and 49% of women, and lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence, 51.9% of men and 27.9% of women, are the most common comorbid disorders.[145]

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.[146] The National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study (NVVRS) found 15.2% of male and 8.5% of female Vietnam veterans to suffer from current PTSD at the time of the study. Life-Time prevalence of PTSD was 30.9% for males and 26.9% for females. In a reanalysis of the NVVRS data, along with analysis of the data from the Matsunaga Vietnam Veterans Project, Schnurr, Lunney, Sengupta, and Waelde found that, contrary to the initial analysis of the NVVRS data, a large majority of Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD symptoms (but not the disorder itself). Four out of five reported recent symptoms when interviewed 20–25 years after Vietnam.[147]

A 2011 study from Georgia State University and San Diego State University found that rates of PTSD diagnosis increased significantly when troops were stationed in combat zones, had tours of longer than a year, experienced combat, or were injured. Military personnel serving in combat zones were 12.1 percentage points more likely to receive a PTSD diagnosis than their active-duty counterparts in non-combat zones. Those serving more than 12 months in a combat zone were 14.3 percentage points more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than those having served less than one year. Experiencing an enemy firefight was associated a 18.3 percentage point increase in the probability of PTSD, while being wounded or injured in combat was associated a 23.9 percentage point increase in the likelihood of a PTSD diagnosis. For the 2.16 million U.S. troops deployed in combat zones between 2001 and 2010, the total estimated two-year costs of treatment for combat-related PTSD are between $1.54 billion and $2.69 billion.[148]

As of 2013, rates of PTSD have been estimated at up to 20% for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.[27] As of 2013 13% of veterans returning from Iraq were unemployed.[149]

Society and culture

United States—veterans

Other countries—veterans

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.[150][151]

Veterans Affairs Canada offers a new program that includes rehabilitation, financial benefits, job placement, health benefits program, disability awards, peer support[152][153][154] and family support.[155]

History

————————————————————————

Shell Shock in WWI

————————————————————————

The 1952 edition of the DSM-I includes a diagnosis of “gross stress reaction”, which bears striking similarities to the modern definition and understanding of PTSD.[156] Gross stress reaction is defined as a “normal personality [utilizing] established patterns of reaction to deal with overwhelming fear” as a response to “conditions of great stress”.[157] The diagnosis includes language which relates the condition to combat as well as to “civilian catastrophe”.[157]

Early in 1978, the term was used in a working group finding presented to the Committee of Reactive Disorders.[158] The condition was added to the DSM-III, which was being developed in the 1980s, as posttraumatic stress disorder.[156][158] In the DSM-IV, the spelling “posttraumatic stress disorder” is used, while in the ICD-10, the spelling is “post-traumatic stress disorder”.[159]

The addition of the term to the DSM-III was greatly influenced by the experiences and conditions of US military veterans of the Vietnam War.[11] Due to its association with the war in Vietnam, PTSD has become synonymous with many historical war-time diagnoses such as railway spine, stress syndrome, nostalgia, soldier’s heart, shell shock, battle fatigue, combat stress reaction, or traumatic war neurosis.[160][161] Some of these terms date back to the 19th century, which is indicative of the universal nature of the condition. In a similar vein, psychiatrist Jonathan Shay has proposed that Lady Percy‘s soliloquy in the William Shakespeare play Henry IV, Part 1 (act 2, scene 3, lines 40–62[162]), written around 1597, represents an unusually accurate description of the symptom constellation of PTSD.[163]

Statue, Three Servicemen, Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The correlations between combat and PTSD are undeniable; according to Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, “One-tenth of mobilized American men were hospitalized for mental disturbances between 1942 and 1945, and, after thirty-five days of uninterrupted combat, 98% of them manifested psychiatric disturbances in varying degrees.”[164] In fact, much of the available published research regarding PTSD is based on studies done on veterans of the war in Vietnam. A study based on personal letters from soldiers of the 18th-century Prussian Army concludes that combatants may have had PTSD.[165]

The researchers from the Grady Trauma Project highlight the tendency people have to focus on the combat side of PTSD: “less public awareness has focused on civilian PTSD, which results from trauma exposure that is not combat related… “ and “much of the research on civilian PTSD has focused on the sequelae of a single, disastrous event, such as the Oklahoma City bombing, September 11th attacks, and Hurricane Katrina”.[166] Disparity in the focus of PTSD research affects the already popular perception of the exclusive interconnectedness of combat and PTSD. This is misleading when it comes to understanding the implications and extent of PTSD as a neurological disorder. Dating back to the definition of Gross stress reaction in the DSM-I, civilian experience of catastrophic or high stress events is included as a cause of PTSD in medical literature. The 2014 National Comorbidity Survey reports that “the traumas most commonly associated with PTSD are combat exposure and witnessing among men and rape and sexual molestation among women.”[167] Because of the initial overt focus on PTSD as a combat related disorder when it was first fleshed out in the years following the war in Vietnam, in 1975 Ann Wolbert Burgess and Lynda Lytle Holmstrom defined Rape trauma syndrome, RTS, in order to draw attention to the striking similarities between the experiences of soldiers returning from war and of rape victims.[168] This paved the way for a more comprehensive understanding of causes of PTSD.

Terminology

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not hyphenate ‘post’ and ‘traumatic’, thus, the DSM-5 lists the disorder as posttraumatic stress disorder. However, many scientific journal articles and other scholarly publications do hyphenate the name of the disorder, viz., post-traumatic stress disorder.[169] Dictionaries also differ with regard to the preferred spelling of the disorder with the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged using the hyphenated spelling, and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition and the Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary giving the non-hyphenated spelling.[170]

Research

To recapitulate some of the neurological and neurobehavioral symptoms experienced by the veteran population of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers at the Roskamp Institute and the James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital (Tampa) have developed an animal model to study the consequences of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and PTSD.[171] In the laboratory, the researchers exposed mice to a repeated session of unpredictable stressor (i.e. predator odor while restrained), and physical trauma in the form of inescapable foot-shock, and this was also combined with a mTBI. In this study, PTSD animals demonstrated recall of traumatic memories, anxiety, and an impaired social behavior, while animals subject to both mTBI and PTSD had a pattern of disinhibitory-like behavior. mTBI abrogated both contextual fear and impairments in social behavior seen in PTSD animals. In comparison with other animal studies,[171][172] examination of neuroendocrine and neuroimmune responses in plasma revealed a trend toward increase in corticosterone in PTSD and combination groups.

Psychotherapy adjuncts

MDMA was used for psychedelic therapy for a variety of indications before its criminalization in the US in 1985. In response to its criminalization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies was founded as a nonprofit drug-development organization to develop MDMA into a legal prescription drug for use as an adjunct in psychotherapy.[173] The drug is hypothesized to facilitate psychotherapy by reducing fear, thereby allowing patients to reprocess and accept their traumatic memories without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. In this treatment, patients participate in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute activity of the drug, and then spend the night at the treatment facility. In the sessions with the drug, therapists are not directive and support the patients in exploring their inner experiences. Patients participate in standard psychotherapy sessions before the drug-assisted sessions, as well as after the drug-assisted psychotherapy to help them integrate their experiences with the drug.[174] Preliminary results suggest MDMA-assisted psychotherapy might be effective for individuals who have not responded favorably to other treatments. Future research employing larger sample sizes and an appropriate placebo condition, i.e., one in which subjects cannot discern if they are in the experimental or control condition, will increase confidence in the results of initial research.[175][176]

Clinical research is also investigating using D-cycloserine, hydrocortisone, and propranolol as adjuncts to more conventional exposure therapy

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See Shell Shock – The Trauma of Battle

Combat Stress is here to support you

In the UK, there are various charities and service organisations dedicated to aiding veterans in readjusting to civilian life. The Royal British Legion and the more recently established Help for Heroes are two of Britain’s more high-profile veterans’ organisations which have actively advocated for veterans over the years. There has been some controversy that the NHS has not done enough in tackling mental health issues and is instead “dumping” veterans on charities such as Combat Stress.

Visit the website: www.combatstress.org.uk/veterans

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