Rugby World Cup 2011

I don’t often comment on sport but sometimes you just have to.

I enjoyed the Rugby games over the weekend, admired the plucky efforts of Italy to be 6-6 with the Wallabies at half time then breathed a sigh of relief as the Wallabies climbed back on top in the second half. I thoroughly enjoyed the USA v Ireland game and feel that if the USA could manage to play some more meaningful internationals each year they will become a force in world rugby, especially as the US have two Olympic Gold Medals for Rugby ((France won the first and Australasia (Austrlaia and New Zealand) won the second)).

Japan, always entertaining, the island teams – Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – exciting to watch as always. I am curious to see the efforts of Russia, Georgia and Namibia.

It is the All Blacks though that I am interested in at the moment. They won the very first Rugby World Cup and, well, that’s it. They’ve almost won the Webb Ellis trophy a couple of other times but heroically have managed to fail. The following sums it up:

With the Cameliers in Palestine

And I know, “Cameliers” should be spelled “Cameleers” but hey, it is the English of 1938 and there were not too many spellings of Cameleers in New Zealand at the time, unlike in Australia where we had and continue to have a reasonable population of the beasts.

Anyway, the point of this post is not the misspelling of a word on the title of the book With the Cameliers in Palestine by John Robertson ((Robertson was formerly of the Fourth battalion of the Imperial Camel Brigade, temporary Major of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Assistant-Director of Education to the New Zealand Mounted Brigade in Egypt)) but rather to highlight an online resource provided by the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand called the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. This is a wonderful resource with some fine research material available, especially for World War 1 and World War 2 and the role of New Zealand in those conflicts. The resource centre has placed books online as well as making some of them available as downloads in XML format or Microsoft eReader format. As an example, two excerpts from With Cameliers in Palestine which writes about the Imperial Camel Corps (I.C.C.) are below:

During a part of 1916 and 1917, an Australian detachment of the I.C.C. patrolled the Oases of Baharia, Dakhla, and Kharga, which are situated west of the River Nile, and some two hundred, and three hundred and seventy miles from its mouth. They are a part of the Great Sahara Desert that extends across the whole of Africa to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It was across this country that Cambyses, the Persian conqueror of Egypt, in 525 b.c. sent an army of fifty thousand men to try to capture Siwa. The whole force disappeared into the desert waste, and from that day to this no trace of it has ever been discovered. The desert as well as the ocean can keep its secrets. The Persians were either overwhelmed by a violent sandstorm, or lost their way and died of hunger and thirst in the desert.

Some of the Australians came up to the I.C.C. Detail Camp at Abbassia in March, 1917, after having been on desert patrols for some months, during which time they had very few opportunities of drawing or spending their pay. Their clothes and equipment were faded and worn out; they were dying with thirst, and the joys of Cairo awaited them. The camp wet canteen ran dry in an hour or two, and then they adjourned to the city. A double guard had to be put on the guardroom that night in the camp, and the accommodation was taxed to its utmost before morning. In a short time the camp authorities decided it would be best for all concerned if these troops once more adjourned to the silent wastes, and the Cameliers moved off into the unknown.

This sort of fits well with the reputation of the Australian troops in the conflict. A further note in this work that ties back to the exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra earlier this year about Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse:

Another detachment of the I.C.C., consisting of fifty Australians with two machine-guns, made an interesting reconnaissance to Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai) in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, while in July, 1918, two British companies, three hundred strong under Colonel Buxton, marched across the Sinai Peninsula to Akaba on the eastern branch of the end of the Red Sea. There they joined up with Colonel Lawrence and his Arab forces, and trekked north parallel with the Hedjaz railway to the neighbourhood of Amman, and from there made their way back to Beersheba in the south of Palestine.

So, a site well worth visiting. Tomorrow’s lunch reading will be The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915 by Stephen John Smith.

Enjoy the reading!

USS Swatara

Image from Naval History and Heritage Command As it was on this day, 19 May, in 1882 that Commodore Shufeldt landed in Korea from the USS Swatara, and as the Swatara has some connections to Australia, I thought I’d mention her here.

The ship is also quite interesting as she started life as a wooden, screw sloop in the United States Navy. She was named for Swatara Creek in Pennsylvania and was launched on 23 May 1865 by the Philadelphia Navy Yard; sponsored by Miss Esther Johnson; and commissioned on 15 November 1865, Commander William A. Jeffers in command. The details of the vessel are in the table below, comparing her to the rebuilt Swatara.

The first Swatara served with the US European Squadron until 1869, then serving in the Atlantic Squadron until 1871. In 1872, as part of the Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson’s plans to overhaul and modernize ships of the Navy, the first Swatara was taken to the New York Navy Yard, ostensibly for “repairs.” In fact, the “repairs” constituted construction of a new ship, for Swatara was given a new hull and unused machinery which had been in storage since 1865. Embodying only certain fittings and equipment from the first ship, the second Swatara was launched on 17 September 1873 at the New York Navy Yard and commissioned on 11 May 1874, Capt. Ralph Chandler in command.

The Swatara transported five scientific parties to the South Pacific in 1874 to observe the transit of Venus. The first team landed at Hobart, Tasmania, on 1 October 1874 and then Kerguelen Island; Queenstown, Tasmania; New Zealand; and Chatham Island.

USS_Monongahela_(1862) She returned all but one of the parties, picked up by Monongahela ((USS Monongahela (1862) was a barquentine–rigged screw sloop-of-war that served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War finally being paid-off in 1908))(shown to the left), to Melbourne early in 1875 and then sailed back to the US where she joined the Atlantic Squadron again for a time and was then retired for a while.

Swatara was recommissioned on 24 December 1879 at Boston Navy Yard and departed on 21 January 1880 for the Far East. She visited numerous Mediterranean ports and transited the Suez Canal, eventually arriving at Hong Kong on 17 April 1880. Swatara called at many east Asian ports during her Asiatic Squadron duty, including long stays at Shanghai, Chefoo, and Yokohama. Departing from Yokohama on 7 July 1882, Swatara headed for home waters, via the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at Hampton Roads on 4 December 1882 for an overhaul. She was eventually struck from the Navy list on 29 July 1896 and sold at public auction on 2 November.

Her connection with Korea, however, was in 1882.

The tale of this involvement goes back to 1866 when the US was attempting to spread its influence through the Pacific chasing trade amongst other things. Commodore Matthew C Perry had forced a trade treaty on Japan in a wonderful example of gunboat diplomacy. In 1866 however, the American schooner Surprise foundered in the Yellow Sea (East Sea) off Korea’s Coast and the crew abandoned ship and rowed to shore. The Korean authorities picked them up and returned them across the Yalu River and into Manchuria, being delivered to the American consul at Yingtsze on Liaotung Bay. They were returned from there to the US.

Meanwhile, at much the same time, the American schooner General Sherman was under charter to a British firm and sailed from Chefoo in China to Korea. This was supposed to be a trade cruise. The General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward Pyongyang and got stuck on a mud bank when the water lever dropped quickly. She remained stuck fast there. It seems that orders came from Seoul to clear out the problem so the Koreans attacked the vessel. The crew held out for four days until finally being overwhelmed. The ship was burnt.

In January 1867, curious to find out what had happened to the General Sherman, Robert W Shufeldt commanding ordered the USS Wachusett to Korea to find out what had happened. Bad weather forced the Wachusett before being able to receive a response from the Korean king about the General Sherman.

In spring of 1868, John C Febiger in command of the USS Shenandoah sailed to the mouth of the Taedong and made inquiries as to the General Sherman and her crew. He was told that a mob had destroyed the vessel and killed the crew after it had been intimidated. Febinger returned to the US.

In 1870, Frederick Low, who was the US minister to China was instructed by the US Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, to secure a treaty from the Koreans for the protection of shipwrecked sailors. He was also told to secure an commercial treaty. Low sailed aboard the USS Colorado and along with a squadron of warships and gunboats, set sail for Korea from Nagasaki. They arrived at Chemulpo and contacted Korean officials. On 1 June 1870, four steam launches traversed the Yom-ha (Salée River) to make soundings near the island of Kanghwa at the mouth of the Han River. The Korean shore batteries opened fire and there was a short fire fight.

One year later, on 1 June 1871, Low ordered an attack on the Korean fortifications along the Yom-ha. This happened, the fortifications were destroyed and around 250 Koreans were killed in the process (3 Americans were also killed). The Americans, however, still did not get their trade treaty and left.

In 1876 a flotilla of Japanese warships sailed menacingly along the west coast of Korea and extracted the Treaty of Kanghwa from the Koreans, allowing unrestricted business and trade between the two nations.

h97294 In 1878, the now Commodore Robert Shufeldt left Norfolk in the USS Ticonderoga (pictured to the right in Chinese waters on this trip) with a fleet of American warships undertaking a round the world tour – sort of a precursor of the Great White Fleet. The objective of this fleet was the expansion of US trade. When he got to the east, he used the assistance of Japan to try and negotiate a commercial treaty with Korea (the fleet of warships may also have been of assistance). In 1880, however, the Chinese (the suzerains of Korea at that time) invited Shufeldt to Peking and discussions led to a treaty. Shufeldt eventually sailed from China to Korea aboard the USS Swatara in 1882 and on a hillside near Chemulpo a treaty of amity, commerce, peace and navigation was signed.

That then is the tenuous connection between the Swatara, Korea and Australia.

Details of the Two Swatara’s


Year Type Displacement Length Beam Draft Speed Complement Armament
1865 Steam driven Screw Sloop 1,113 long tons 216‘ (65.8 m) 30’ (9.1m) 13’ (4m) 12 kts 164 officers and men 1 × 60-pounder gun
6 × 32-pounder guns
3 × 20-pounder howitzers 
1879 Steam driven Screw Sloop 1,900 long tons 216’ (66 m) 37’ (11m) 16’6” (5m) 10.2 kts 230 officers and men 6 × 9 in (230 mm) smoothbore guns
1 × 8 in (200 mm) rifle
1 × 30-pounder gun 


ANZAC Day – 2009

PICT7169 It’s ANZAC Day today. This day is Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) main day for remembering the sacrifice and contribution Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women in particular made to preserve and protect our way of life, our freedoms and our belief in the equality and mateship of us, one and all. Like my earlier post about Tom the Junior woodchopper at the Easter Show, today is a day that with very little effort you can hear and feel the Australian spirit.

We went into the ANZAC Day March in Sydney today. I was thinking of heading in to the Dawn Service at the Cenotaph as well but didn’t quite make it for that.

I defy anyone to stand at the March, watching the old Diggers, sailors and airmen marching past, and not have a lump in the throat, or at least moist eyes. Such pride still from these folks, and indeed, such kindness and gentleness together. One or two show a little of the larrikin still, in the way they walk or wave or some of the things they say. There were those who were recognised as brave, with Distinguished Service Medals and such, but most were just ordinary blokes who were asked to do extraordinary things and who just did them.

You can see the mateship still, you can feel the mateship, it is palpable. The sacrifice of these people, the loss of part of their life, their youth – in many cases, their life. Most of these folks lost the part of their life that I enjoyed, they lost the fun of being a young bloke. But also it is important to remember what they achieved. PICT7282

They gave us the feeling we have as a nation today – they gave us our “can-do” attitude. No matter how hard the task, no matter how tough the challenge, we can rise to meet it. They gave us our freedom, and stood tall and proud, drawing a line in the sand that said “this is who we are, this is what we believe, cross this line at your peril”. The diggers, the cavalry, the seamen and the airmen, the nurses and the supporting staff, they all contributed so much to what we are today.

It is impossible to hear a pipe band and not feel the goose-bumps, the shiver down the back. Hear the pipes and watch the chests of all around swell – such pride, such strength, such a debt owed.

Vale Pop.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Air New Zealand, So Good and So Bad

We travelled on Air New Zealand recently (sorry Jules, was only there for 22 hours – will catch you for dinner and drinkies next time). We had a flight from Auckland to Sydney (having flown to Auckland on Aerolingas Argentinas). I kind of liked the Air New Zealand service last time I used them a few years ago so was feeling relaxed about the prospect of travelling with them again.

We were to check-in in Auckland and leave on NZ719 departing Auckland at 13:00 and arriving in Sydney at 14:30. We then had to catch a flight from Sydney to Bangkok, British Airways BA 10, departing Sydney at 16:40, so we had left a good two hours to transit Sydney – more than enough time as the travel agent had noted that Sydney recommended one hour as the minimum transit time.

We arrived at Auckland with plenty of time to spare. We went to the check-in desk and asked to check our baggage all the way to Bangkok.

“I’m sorry sir, we cannot do that for you as the policy here is to not allow for the onward checking of baggage when the two flights are not on the same ticket”, said the less than helpful check-in staff of Air New Zealand.

“What do you mean, is this some sort of security policy” asked the somewhat more than normally perplexed Thomo the Lost.

“No – it is policy at this airport” said Air New Zealand.

“What – the airport? Please give me the contact details of the manager of the airport so I can write and complain” asked Thomo.

“Er, well, it is Air New Zealand policy,” noted Air New Zealand. “Let me go and check with my supervisor for you.”

“I checked – we cannot check it through” said Air New Zealand.

“Why is this so” asked Thomo.

“It is policy because if we check your bags through and you miss your connecting flight, you become our responsibility”.

“This is crazy” I noted, “as I have travelled much in the last few years and I have never run across this before”.

In fact, today we checked bags through on Thai Airlines (another Star Alliance member) and checked them through to our destination even though the second leg was on a separate ticket.

The closing note on this entry (other than saying “avoid flying Air New Zealand if you are travelling on another airline”) is that the Air New Zealand flight was about 20 to 30 minutes late leaving Auckland as we sat on the plane and waited the arrival of “the last 3 passengers”. Maybe this is the reason, Air New Zealand cannot get itself organised.

Er, for the record, the British Airways (Qantas?) ground staff at the Sydney transfer desk were very helpful as when we got to the transfer desk we had less than one hour left for checking in and boarding (thank you Air New Zealand) and our bags were only tagged to Sydney. They found our bags, checked us in (we literally walked from the transfer desk and boarded the aircraft). The only wee problem we had was that they tagged the bags LHR and so they were going all the way to Heathrow. Fortunately the ground staff in Bangkok were able to pull them from the flight and I could put on some clean underwear.

Avoid flying Air New Zealand if you are travelling on another airline!