Saturday, 20 December 2014

Fresh Fish in the Desert

     These days, of course, you can probably get anything in Alice Springs although, since it is almost exactly in the centre of Australia, you are likely to pay a lot more than on the coast. Sixty years ago, however, things were a little different. If, for example, you wanted to eat fresh fish, you would need to have it flown in from Adelaide protected by ice packs. It would also mean exchanging one load of protein for another, for it would cost you an arm and a leg. But one man found a way around it. His name was Charles H. Chapman, who started the Granites gold rush in the Tanami Desert in 1932, eventually controlled the entire Goldfield until he retired in 1954. Prior to that, he set up his retirement headquarters not far from Alice Springs. I shall now quote from a contemporary article.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Lost Soldiers of Stalingrad

     The greatest battle in history was certainly the Battle of Stalingrad, fought at the city of that name on the Volga between August 1942 and February 1943, and which became the turning point on the Eastern Front. The fundamental details can be summarised briefly. The German 6th Army under Field Marshall Paulus forced its way across the river into the city, fighting street by exhausting street and house by exhausting house. Eventually, the Soviet forces counterattacked, hemmed in the Germans and their allies and, when the river froze, surrounded them. The Germans now found themselves ground between a relentless enemy and a relentless winter, while their Commander-in-Chief, Hitler refused any permission to withdraw, for all his life he had triumphed by the principle that anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it. Finally, Field Marshall Paulus surrendered in order to save what remained of his troops. It was a vain hope, for most of them perished in captivity.
     According to Heinz Schröter, the official German historian, 220,000 German and allied troops perished, and 123,000, including 24 generals, capitulated, of which only 5,000 came home alive. The Soviet casualties were similarly horrendous, and the civilian deaths numbered in the five figures. There were four million stories in the Battle of Stalingrad. This is just one of them.