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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Part Two of My Name is of No Importance

Then came the film Circus came to the theatre up the street. It stared Lyubov Orlova playing Marion Dixon. The film opens with the following headline of Sunnyville Courier: “Marion Dixon, Human Bombshell, is Center of Sensational Scandal” with a large photo, captioned: “Marion Dixon, perpetrator of the history’s sinister crime!”.

The next scene opens with a tiny women running from an angry crowd bent on harming her clutching a small bundle close to her body.  She manages to reach a moving train and somehow climbs on board as the crowd still chasing her gives up and she makes it out of town before being harmed. The bundle starts to cry and the baby inside is obviously half black hence the American crowds fury.  A man from Germany helps her on the train as she faints.

The woman is Marion Dixon, an American circus artist who, after giving birth to a black baby, immediately becomes a victim of racism in the United States. The German on the train turns out to be a theatrical agent who recruits her to his concert program across the Soviet Union.

Marion leaves the United States on a circus tour across the USSR. At first Marion is home sick but meets a Russian national and falls in love. With her new Russian husband she finds love and happiness in the Russian circus and her son is treated with loving kindness by all. One of the more touching scenes is when people from all parts of the Soviet Union sing versions of their ethnic lullabies to the little boy.

I immediately fell in love with Lyuba. So much so that she was responsible for my sexual awakening. Shortly after seeing the film I exploded all over my bed clothes while having a dream about kissing and touching Lyuba. It was a mess and I had no idea what it was until my Grandfather thankfully told me what my body was telling me. He has just the right way of putting things and my mission in life was now clear. It was to explode into as many pretty women as I could find. I’m sure that is not what he meant but that is what I thought I was supposed to do and it got me into some trouble along the way…and some very interesting times as well.

Along with all of this individual reward also came responsibility. The age for which a child could be charged with a major crime was dropped to 12 years old and there were consequences for bad grades as well.  Parents once again regained control over their children but also became vilified if they failed. All very mind turning events that made me glad I had never confronted my Grandfather.

Then pictures of Stalin holding and protecting children starting appearing all over the schools and Pioneer Palaces and above doors the phrase “Thank You Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood” became ubiquitous.  Children were left no doubt that they had to earn the protection of Stalin but that it would be absolute if they were good enough.

Foreigners were used to frighten children and stories of evil spies trying to harm your family and the motherland started to become the norm. Some of my poems were censored before they were published much to my dismay. Fear started to become an everyday piece of life with poison gas drills held at regular intervals. I of course was an instructor in the use of gas masks and was much in demand as a teacher.

Once again a shift in responsibilities with the parents, teachers, and leaders were blamed when a particular child misbehaved. That’s how many a spanking and beating was avoided by some of my more errant friends. Their parents were blamed for their misdeeds and their teachers were blamed for their bad grades. An interesting twist to watch as an 11 year old boy of high spirits.  It worked in my family as I loved my mother and grandparents and would do nothing to bring shame on their heads.  But for others things were different. Eventually the parents caught up with the misdeeds of their children and matters were rectified in time honored ways.

I lived and breathed for the Young Pioneer Summer Camps and eventually became a staff member of the most prestigious of them all was Artek. This camp started in 1925 and was situated on the Black Sea expanded every year and grew to be the largest and most prestigious camp of all. Because of the climate it became an all year round facility as well.

When I first went there in 1933 it was a series of 10 smaller camps divided into age groups and interest groups. I attended them all at one time or another and was a staff member at many. My favorite activity was the counselor hunt where the counselors and staff would hide all around camp. The campers where then let loose from a gathering area such as the dining facility and spread out to capture as many staff as possible. When a staff member was caught he was sentenced to getting pushed off the dock and into the water by the camper who caught them. It was great fun for all.

In one instance my friend and I were hiding near the shore under a big tree. Another staff member decided to climb the tree and hide up there. He crawled out on a limb that over hung the water and proceeded to get comfortable as the campers where rampaging all over camp looking for the staff. The night before he has snuck out of his quarters and had raided the kitchen for some sweets. He therefore was very sleepy.  Just as a large group of staff seeking campers came up to our area, the counselor in the tree predictably fell asleep and lost his grip and fell about 20 feet into the cold water.

The large pack of campers where on him in a flash and he was caught as per the rules. Not only did he get wet from falling out of the tree but had to then shiver in the cold night air until his fate of walking the plank was carried out and once again he was subjected to the cold clear water. I never did ask him how he liked his sweets; just deserts and all that.

Camp was my home away from home and eventually my home as I joined the year around staff in 1939. In two short years I learned to love and became a man when one of the nurses assigned to the camp took pity on my moans in the night and showed me the act of making love and it was love for me. I love that nurse and still do to this day. She however was shipped off and joined the war against Poland and I heard she was killed in Leningrad later in the war. I can’t remember her face but I do remember her body and the way she smelled. Not at all like the hospital my father recuperated from.  Not at all like that.

I was caught up in the fervor of war and lied about my age and joined the navy. Something about my aptitude and schooling at the time placed me in a bomber squadron and in flight school with the Baltic fleet. I was groomed to become a pilot and excelled at the task. I will not bore you with tales and the horrors of training and discipline as I’m sure you are all familiar with the concept of breaking a man down before building him up again in your image. Well that’s what the military does.

There was not much for a bomber squadron to do in the early days of the war but to avoid getting killed by the vastly superior Luftwaffe. Quite frankly not much was accomplished by or squadron but we did survive quite intact.

From what I understand on July 28, People's Commissar of the Navy recommended to Stalin that nocturnal raids against the German capital Berlin be launched from Saaremaa Island, off the coast of Estonia. This was unknown to us we were ourselves planning such a raid and had done all the calculations and necessary routes and maps all prepared when the Commissar come to us with the proposal .  Without hesitation our Colonel produced the necessary information. It was a case of planning happening from both the bottom and the top.

On the night of August 7, 13 aircraft took off, led by Lt. Col. Evgeny Preobrazhensky, with Major Pyotr Ilich Khokhlov as his navigator. I was the pilot in IL-4 number 284 and number three in the squadron. All went as planned. The German anti-aircraft defenses were taken completely by surprise, and although we did only minor damage, all of us returned safely. The following night we were joined by others and a flight of 15 IL-4s once again bombed Berlin for the second time. The flight was a total distance of 1240 miles to and from Berlin. On both attacks we dropped both bombs and leaflets which I’m sure only added to Goring’s embarrassment.

The IL-4 was a good airplane and I flew it throughout the war on a variety of missions and it always brought me home. It was a good medium bomber similar to the American B25 but a little slower but with longer range and a higher service ceiling. That is why I am sitting at the controls of a B25J Lend Lease bomber as this very moment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Charlie Briggs, Chapter 2 by Roisterer

So much changed that Autumn. Dad thought that the world had ended, but Mum pulled him round. Rationing started, but we didn't notice much at first, or at least, I didn't. Joyce complained that her make-up had disappeared from the shops. She was trying to impress some young man, I think. As a young lad, I wasn't so interested at the time, as long as she kept quiet about my own escapades. It's always amazing when some boy gets keen on your sister.

I had just finished a summer at Barnes & Co, Gentlemen's Outfitters. All I did was pack and unpack clothes, hang them up, and occasionally steam them. I learned which tie went with which shirt, and how to fold clothes. I can say that this was useful later when I needed to steam and press my uniform, but at the time I was bored to distraction. The year before I had been at Orrendale's Butchers, helping to deliver meat. At least then I got out and about a bit.

Anyway, all too soon we were back at school and starting on the Highers. There were air raid drills and gas drills, and solemn notices to cover lights as the nights drew in. After the third or fourth drill Peter and I started to play silly buggers and mess about. Then my Dad got to hear about it. Instead of giving me a flea in my ear, Dad took me for a walk.

He was quiet for a while, then started discussing the weather.
"Turning cold, there's a nip in the air."

I nodded.

"...It was cold when I first went to France..."

I stiffened a little. I knew he wasn't talking about a holiday. Dad almost never talked about his time in the Great War.

"We had to do gas drills as well, and all the young lads thought it was a waste of time, but the older regulars knew different."
He stopped and looked at me. "The sergeant forced us to do it over and over again, until we could put the gas masks on in the dark." He started to get a faraway look in his eye. "I was so glad of that when the first gas shells landed."

I was amazed. Dad had never let on that he had been under a gas attack before.
"We all got our masks on and were ready for jerry when he turned up. We were beaten back, but it wasn't the disaster it might have been."

His thoughts turned back to the present, as he looked directly at me once more. "So, Charles, do your old man a favour, and learn your gas drills."

I paused, then mumbled, "I will, Dad."

It went easier after that. We talked more about the situation. Joe had shipped out to France, with the new rank of Sergeant. He'd not had time for some home leave, so we only heard this in a letter. I saw that Dad was worried, and tried my best to cheer him up.

"It's going to be hard," said Dad, "We're going to be short of a lot of things."

Then he leaned closer to me, and dropped his voice, "...and if it goes on too long, they'll be coming to enlist you too."

Me? I'd never thought of it. I was only sixteen, and didn't know anything. I swallowed at the prospect. Then I looked back at Dad, and saw that some of his worry was for me, not just for Joe as I had thought earlier. When we got back home, I felt different. I'd grown up a little.

That winter was cold. I'd never seen so much snow for so long before. We all had to wrap up. Coal was in short supply, but nowhere near as bad as it got the next year. I don't remember Christmas much, except that Joe wasn't there.

My seventeenth birthday arrived, and a few days later, so did a big brown envelope from the War Dept. I was to report to some hospital in Finsbury Park for a medical a week later. This had happened to Peter a couple of months earlier, as he was older than me.
"So what happens?" I asked him.

"They poke and prod you for a bit, and then send you home. I've not heard anything since."

So the day came, and I caught the train with some anxiety. I joined a queue of lads, all my age. At first we didn't say much, but then chatted nervously. It was just like before the exams at school, but this was a different type of exam.

They called us in as small groups, took names, and told us to wait. The whole place smelled of disinfectant. Then the names were called one by one at intervals of a few minutes. We weren't called in alphabetical order.

"Briggs, C. Room 6" I heard, and got up and walked down the corridor.

The doctor took my name, and poked and prodded me. I was expecting to cough and see the stethoscope, but he also poked at bits of me I wasn't expecting. Oh, and I had a quick eye test as well. I'd never worn glasses, and I could tell who was batting from the boundary, so I was pretty certain that my eyesight was all right.
Then it was back to school. Spring arrived, and we heard about something happening in Norway.

Then it all changed very quickly. Every day brought more news, most of it bad. Mr. Churchill took over. France was all going awfully well, and then just awfully. We were glued to the wireless and the papers.

We heard they were evacuating from Dunkirk. Lots of soldiers came back. Then Italy declared war, and France went down.
Joe came back. He was different, more grim. He'd got off the beach early, but that was all he said to us. He went out with Dad for a longer chat. When they came back they were both laughing and cheerful, but there was melancholy underneath.

Then it was all tenterhooks. We waited for an invasion. It was the main topic as we got to the end of the summer term. Well, nearly the main topic…

"I've been called up," said Peter.

"It was inevitable," I was consoling him, "Army, Navy, or Air Force?"
"None of them," he said bitterly, then turned to face me. "They're sending me down the mines!"

I must have looked confused.

"My number ends in a zero. It's Mr. Bevin's idea. One tenth of us go and become coal miners. I'm heading off to Derby next week."

"Well, at least you'll be out of the action."

"Bloody miner! Bet I'll get a miner's cough. What a waste of time!" He made his hand into a fist and hit the other hand violently.
I couldn't think what to say. "You'll be fed well…" I stammered, "and you'll be one of the few lads around. Let me know what the northern girls are like."

He smiled a bit, " as long as I don't get an accent. My Mum would kill me. Ay up now!"

We laughed at that, then became serious.
"Keep in touch. Let your parents know where you are, and we'll send you a letter."

"Absolutely. I'll see if I can send them some coal."

He looked at me. "You'll be next," he said.

He was right.

Afterword: Now I know that they don't speak like that in Derby, but this is a conversation between two teenagers from London.
The Hunter and the Hunted completed novel
A Slice of Life short story (horror)

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Name is of No Importance

My name is not important but what I accomplish in 12 days just might be. I am just a small piece in the Soviet military machine. I may just as well be a nut or a bolt. I am a piece that will pilot one of the Lend Lease B25J Mitchell bombers filled with electronic equipment. How I got here might be of some interest to future historians.

I was born in Moscow in October of 1923 and that makes me 23 years old today. I do not remember much of my childhood before my 5th year. I remember my father getting upset at someone or something and yelling and cursing in a strange voice I had never heard before. A kind of a garbled version of his usual manner of speaking and he was staggering around our kitchen. I was watching from the doorway has he suddenly lost his balance and fell hitting his head on the edge of the kitchen table and then the floor with a sound I will never forget. A kind of a hollow thump as his head bounced off the floor and finally came to rest in a pool of expanding blood. I remember being fascinated by that spreading pool and walked over to touch it. My mother was screaming and crying as she pulled my away and tended to my father.

My older sister then took charge of me and the memory fades as to what happened next.

My next memory of my father is visiting him in what must have been a hospital. People in white clothes were rushing here and there. To this day I can’t stand hospitals…something about the smell. My father never recovered from his fall and just sat in his chair in the shared kitchen listening to the radio…always the radio and always the same station. He could speak but he never did and I never did find out why he fell or what circumstances caused him to get so drunk. My mother never said a word about it and neither did he. He died the same day the radio station went off the air, two years later. The station went silent and so did he.

From what I understand I was pretty lucky to have grown up when I did. Before the Revolution children had a pretty hard life in Moscow. They were considered total dependents of their parents in all matters and were frequently put to work in all sorts of hazardous situations such as the mines and factories. Child labor was the norm for most families and only the well off went to any kind of school. Illiteracy rates were high. Children as young as 10 were considered adults as far as the law is concerned and were tried as adults and put in prison or labor camps with adults. Imagine going to prison for doing some of the more impetuous things you did as a youth.
If you were a rebellious youth and did not respond to your parent’s corrective measures they could have you arrested and put in prison until you changed your ways. You can imagine what would happen to a 10 year old in a work camp filled with hardened criminals and I’m sure many of those things you can imagine did happen. It was pretty amazing that anyone turned out to be even close to being a productive member of society, but they did, including my mother and her parents.

A friend of mine had large female teacher who liked to sit on the corner of his desk when she talked to the class. He was near the front of the class so she just used his desk when she got tired. This bothered him as I’m sure it would bother anyone to have a large bottom covering what little space you had in your very controlled world. One day he got a straight pin and set in a crack sticking straight up near the edge of the desktop. When the teacher sat down she was skewered by the pin and jumped up from his desk with a start and ran out of the room. He didn’t laugh or brag or even tell anyone but just played innocent.

Before the revolution he would have been sent to prison but during my time he suffered no repercussions at all. She never sat on his desk again and that was the end of the matter.

Before my dad’s accident we were fairly well off from what I am told. We had a two bedroom apartment with only one other family living with us and more than enough food and I grew up nice and healthy. My Grandparents moved in with us when my father died and things got a little tougher but I never noticed. I had my friends and boyhood interests to keep me busy. As long as I had food when I wanted, my mother and my friends, I was well off. Besides the toys my Grandfather would make I had none and that was just fine with me. The toys he would make were wonderful and he traded them for extra food from time to time as I got tired of them. He made sure I had a steady stream of wooden tractors, planes, boats and wondrous of all were the wooden soldiers he would carve. Each had a different face and of course in my mind, different personalities. My friend and I would play army for hours on end when the weather was bad outside.

My mother cooked wonderful things but the best was the Perogi. Kind of like a ravioli but filled with potatoes and sometimes cheese and always sauerkraut. We always had sauerkraut. First you boiled them and then you fried them in whatever oil you had but butter was the best. The rare smell of Grandpa’s cigar and frying perogi will always mean home to me. Once I grew up I found out that putting sauerkraut in perogi was not the norm but to me a perogi is not a perogi without it.

Being just a child I was unaware that the government declared in 1926 that children in the Soviet Union enjoyed better conditions than anywhere in the world and their criminal code provided us with more protections than any other children anywhere. Children’s exceptional status was used a propaganda prop for the nation and international standing. The life of a Soviet child was often contrasted with the grim exploitation abroad. Even Time and Life magazines of the American’s had pictures of poor children being forced to work in the mines in some horrible place in some mountainous area there.

Their little faces cover with dirt and grime some with tracts of tears or sweat running down their faces. How could you not know that we were much better off in the USSR than in such a capitalist hell hole. America, this bastion of wealth and capitalist corruption, was exploiting children and robbing them of their future and for what? To make money for the capitalist pigs. Those pictures were all we needed to know that communism was the true path of mankind. Those little faces still haunt me to this day and that is why we must fight the capitalist pigs where ever they are found.

My childhood ended in May, 1931 when my mother took me to join the Young Pioneers. I did not know this at the time of course but this was the outcome of that event. 8 years old and they turned me into a miniature adult. Millions of 8 year old men willing to extol the virtues of Communism over Capitalism…that was the end result of the Young Pioneers. Lenin had turned it into a substitute for religion. Being a child at the time I knew nothing of this of course and was overjoyed to be able to belong to such a wonderful organization. The first time I saw the Pioneer Palace in our neighborhood I was infatuated. There were rooms for clubs, crafts and sports. Thousands of little voices singing “Young Pioneer March” and shouting the motto “Always Ready” still sends shivers up my spine. Indeed their purpose was to take away our childhood and make us all 8 year old men and they succeeded quite well.

Even the girls were taught and treated as males. This was ridiculous and we all knew it. I mean girls were different and disgusting at that point in my life. They tried to eradicate their feministic traits but how can you? Being a woman meant religion, home, privacy, intimacy and relationships. This did not fit the socialist model and so it had to be eradicated. They all had close cropped hair and wore plain shirts and black knickers in our club. It fooled no one but we had to put up with it because the adults said we had to.

Although membership was theoretically optional, almost all the children in the Soviet Union belonged to the organization; it was a natural part of growing up. Still, joining was not automatic. In the 3rd grade of school, children were allowed to join the Young Pioneer Organization, which was done in batches, as a solemn ceremony, often in a Pioneers Palace. Only the best students were allowed into the first batch, slightly less advanced and well-behaved were allowed into the second batch, several weeks later. The most ill-behaved or low-performing students were given time to 'catch up' and could be allowed to join only in the 4th grade, a year after the first batch of their classmates. Not being admitted at all was odd, and lack of desire to join was considered suspicious. Most often it was a religious student that stubbornly refused to join and religion was frowned upon by Soviet officials due to the fact that it was against Communist ideals.

I was admitted in the first batch.

The whole effect was magical to me and I joined in whole heartedly in all the activities and tried to excel in them all. My mother became concerned and my Grandfather always spoke in disparaging terms about the Young Pioneers. He had a particular sneering way of saying it that made me cringe inside. I still loved him and never did confront him as it would have done no good. I just stayed quiet and snuck out of the house as soon as I could to attend whatever function was going on that the Pioneer Palace at the time.

One of the most famous stories of Young Pioneers that was told as I was growing up was the tale of the “Death of a Pioneer Girl”, who on her death bed, refused to make the sign of the cross and instead raised her frail trembling hand in the Pioneer Salute. The right story teller could have even the most stoic of us choking back tears. Defiant child heroes were always the tales told around the campfires at the Young Pioneers Camps held throughout Russia every summer.

When I was 11 years old things changed radically on a national level as far as I was concerned. All of a sudden collectivism was frown upon and individualism came to the for once again. I believe we were the first group to have this lurching turn of priorities foisted upon us. One day we are extolling the virtues of group effort and the next we are lectures about how we have to be obedient and grateful to our parents. Along with this switch to individualism came discipline. We were now individually held responsible for our actions, choices and most interesting to me our talents. Home work was done individually and not in our study groups and we were singled out by being graded… on individual effort. New awards for Shock Workers and Shock Students became the prize to strive for.

All this was dizzying to a young mind but we were able to adapt to the changing whims of adults. My natural talents come to the fore and I was grateful not to be held back by the dolts of our former study group and clubs. So much so that in 1933-34 I tried out and progressed in the Competition for Young Talents held all over the Soviet Union. Over 43,000 of us made it to Leningrad and Moscow and were ushered around and treated like kings for our talents. Mine was poetry. Even though I did not make it to the finals I did attend a gala where Stalin himself was the honored guest.

Thousands of us were honored and taken on tours throughout the USSR where we would perform in whatever venue the particular city or town had to offer. Most of the time we performed to very large crowds with very enthusiastic receptions. I did keep a scrap book of my travels but it was destroyed somewhere in 1943 in one of my families many moves. As a child have I no idea why society made such an abrupt switch to the accomplishments of the individual over the collective during this time period but that’s the way it was.

Happiness became something you had to earn by being a good child, a good student, a good Pioneer and then you could enjoy the swing set…but not before. You worked hard and then you could play. In 1935 a new and fascinating thing happened called the “New Year Tree”. From what I understand it replaced the now banned Christmas Tree. Being 11 at the time I was still child enough to not care. All I knew was that everyone was once again happy in the darkness of winter and that meant everything to me at the time.

A Grand Father Frost and his helper the Snow Maiden sprung up from nowhere and absolutely captured by undivided attention even though I was too old for such fairy tales but this new transformation from science and fact to fairy tales and fantasies was perfectly timed in my opinion and I was an enthusiastic participant and told all the younger children that I could gather around me about the new stories I had learned and the poems I had written. The paper chains that were symbols of enslavement during collectivist times became once again a simple holiday craft and very popular.