Tag Archives: Russia

8 May: VE Day

Sheep under cherry trees, near Faversham, Kent.

I seldom revisit reflections in Agnellus Mirror but an old friend sent a springtime video with fallen cherry petals, which reminded me of this post from two years ago.

We began with lines from Edward Thomas:

The cherry trees bend over and are shedding
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding
This early May morn when there is none to wed.

Two years ago the weddings were put off because of covid-19. In Edward Thomas’s time it was war, and today, it is war once again that darkens the horizons of our hopes and aspirations. But there will be a May wedding at St Mildred’s, and there was one on the last day of April 2022. Kentish men are not being called on to fight, but we can see the horrors of war in Ukraine. It is hard to read Bishop Claude’s words from yesterday without asking, in bewilderment and grief, ‘What is the wise course of action?’ What does a peacemaker do in these times? Please revisit the old post by the link, and then here is Bishop Claude again.

Respect for life does not stop at protecting the unborn, but must include opposing all oppression, all forms of violence and of war. The non-violence advocated by Gandhi has its roots in the Beatitudes, is part of our Gospel heritage: Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God. No war can be counted as legitimate or justified in the name of the Gospel. Non-violence is part and parcel of the creative act of God.


Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, corona virus, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Mission

August 8: What Obstructs our Focus


geoffreydebouillon (2)

Alexander Nevsky (d. 1263) was a popular Russian soldier who defeated Swedes, Lithuanians and Teutonic Knights in battle. The Russian Orthodox Church declared him a saint. Prokoviev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky was sung at this year’s first Prom Concert in London. It contains the lines ‘Peregrinos exspectavi’ (I expected pilgrims), then ‘Victory to the Crusaders, death to the enemies.’

This photo shows not Alexander but a different crusader, whose statue is prominent in the centre of Brussels. This is Godfrey of Bouillon (d. 1100) who took the title ‘Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre’ after he had been the first to defeat the Muslim occupants of Jerusalem, after three years of campaigning. The patriarch of Jerusalem (a man from Pisa) was forced to crown Godfrey’s brother Baldwin as the first Latin king of Jerusalem. Another brother, Eustace, inherited Boulogne, and a family estate in England.

Perhaps, with such a widespread confusion of the words ‘pilgrim’, ‘crusader’ and warrior we should not be too surprised that a number of people from Islamic cultural backgrounds regard European and Western economic and military dominance of the world as evidence that crusaders, tourists and trade delegations are  three versions of the same thing, all opposed to Islamic traditions.

flowersbrussels (602x338)

Belgians who wanted to let the world know their heartbreak after the subway train bomb went off in Brussels in March this year, left their flowers and memorial tributes to the victims in front of the Bourse, the Stock Exchange. Finance deals and power-brokering are one pattern of domination.


Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

April 25th: The Best Laid Plans: II


We climbed into the plane. Zak started to go through all the checks and I logged on the radar control and entered our coordinates so the flight controller could direct our interception. The engines revved up and we taxied on to the runway, gathering speed as we went.  We waited whilst the engines roared to full throttle, then we and our ‘wingman’ were racing down the runway with seven feet between wing tips. Another minute and we were detached from terra firma and climbing through light cirrus cloud to our interception point. The American flight controller confirmed our interception co-ordinates and we signalled that our guns were’ locked on’.

We received the message that the interception had been successful, ‘dead turkey in the run’ and were awaiting our next interception co-ordinates when there was a short sharp whistle. RAF Central Control cut in to tell us that the training exercise was terminated because a flight of Russian ‘Bear’ bombers had penetrated our airspace west of Uist and we were ordered to proceed at ‘best speed’ to intercept them and chase them out of our skies. Zak responded immediately and we were soon heading up the East coast as fast as we could go.

I asked if we should not tell RAF Central Control that we were not ‘armed up’. Zak’s reply chilled me somewhat.

‘I shouldn’t bother, old sport, because if I get the order to attack I shall ram the b***’s anyway’.

I just sighed deeply.

We started to receive messages that the Norwegians had alerted two squadrons, the Belgians three, the Dutch four and the French ten. ‘It seems to me’, I said quietly,’ as though we are quite superfluous and indeed we shall be in the way Zak, so why don’t we just turn round and go home’. But Zak was adamant, ‘No can do sport! I have been given a direct order by the top brass, to chase these b***s out of our skies’.

Then we saw them, three huge bombers, with two turrets on each side carrying as, we knew, two 650mm heavy machine guns, plus a top turret with two cannon guns which kept swivelling towards us. They were certainly ‘armed up’.

Zak again, this time very quiet and intense: ‘D’you know what I ‘m going to do which will definitely upset them? I’m going to do a belly roll right underneath their old tub.’

I replied, ‘I definitely don’t second this move, it smacks of showing off.’

Zak flew straight underneath the nearest Russian bomber and I was horrified to see that the bomb doors were half open and that the bomb racks were full.

Drama on top of drama! There was a sudden silence. I realised that our engines had stopped.

Zak’s voice hit me, ‘Sorry old sport you will have to do a dive, are you ready to open the cockpit hatch?’

I was but I knew it was all hopeless, no one had ever escaped that way because the back draft resulted in impalement on the rear fin. I tugged on the hatch release: nothing moved. Did anything work on this **** plane ?

Then a miracle occurred, the engines suddenly fired and Zak’s voice was as confident as ever. ‘I knew the angels were on your side, Dave.’

We said the ‘Hail Mary’ together with great fervour.

The Russians apparently didn’t like our manoeuvres, or maybe our devotions, they just vanished, sure that we were raving mad.

A video of a Gloster Meteor NF 11, night flying variant of the only jet fighter used by the Allies during the Second World War.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wemjUKPXSx4
“Tu-95 Bear D”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –                                          https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tu-95_Bear_D.jpg#/media/File:Tu-95_Bear_D.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

24th April 2016: The best laid plans


I looked at my watch, just 6.15 am. I rose drowsily from my bed. My brain was telling me I had some important things to do. The jet engines on the test beds were roaring. I went to the briefing room where we were informed by a very smart young Flight Lieutenant that we would be taking off at 7.30 am to carry out practice interceptions with an American squadron under the direction of an American Flight Controller. I would be flying with a very experienced, rather aristocratic, Polish pilot, Zak Jublonski with whom I had got on pretty well since I joined this unit six weeks before.

This attempt to turn me into an air navigator was an interesting change which I welcomed after spending the previous twelve months as an education officer at a recruit training centre on the Welsh Border. Although earlier in my service career I had resisted attempts to turn me into a flyer, notwithstanding blandishments about promotion and more money. So far everything had gone quite well and I relished being treated with the respect a flyer gets, albeit only an embryo one. We went for a very light breakfast, then for a medical and a check to ensure we had not broken the ban on alcohol from yesterday lunchtime.

This was my sixth training flight and I had passed all my air tests so far and was doing pretty well on my navigation theory which I enjoyed.

Zak and I strolled out to inspect our Meteor night fighter NF11. These were quite old aircraft and were due to be replaced soon. I knew that Zak would inspect everything very thoroughly.

A flight sergeant appeared and handed Zak a file. ‘All present and correct Sir. But she’s not armed up.’

‘No ammunition or no staff?’ Quipped Zak.

‘Well as a matter of fact it’s both Sir.’

‘I think the C/O must keep the ammunition locked up in his desk’, said Zak.

I recalled his words the last time we flew a proper patrol: ‘Remember it costs £623 8.6 when you fire a ten second burst to clear your guns’.

‘What are we fighter pilots or accountants?’


“Gloster Meteor NF.14 WS841 264.HMT BLA 6.9.55 edited-2” by RuthAS – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gloster_Meteor_NF.14_WS841_264.HMT_BLA_6.9.55_edited-2.jpg#/media/File:Gloster_Meteor_NF.14_WS841_264.HMT_BLA_6.9.55_edited-2.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections