Sunday, January 22, 2017

A sad reminder of the human cost of war

Yesterday I put up a link to a collection of photographs of aircraft and ships from World War II.  As part of the research that collection inspired, I came across the story - and a video - of Loyce Edward Deen, a gunner aboard a Grumman Avenger torpedo-bomber.

Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Deen was aboard an Avenger of Navy torpedo squadron VT-15, flying from the aircraft-carrier USS Essex, when his aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire over the Philippines on November 5th, 1944.  From a Web site set up in memory of Mr. Deen, we learn:

That day, Lt. Cosgrove received tail number #93 - an new plane just acquired in Ulithi Atol a few days ago. Lt. Cosgrove's orders were to go after the Japanese cruisers in Manila Bay.  After the briefing, Lt. Cosgrove joined his crew, Digby and Loyce, and they went topside to their plane. Loyce climbed into his gun turret for the final time. The VT-15 group took off mid morning and It would take about two hours to get to the Manila Bay and release the ordnance.

There, they encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire from a Japanese cruiser and Loyce was killed from two AA shells. In the 2001 History Channel documentary film  "Battle Group Halsey" interview, Capt. Cosgrove recalled, "Denzek told me over the intercom that Deen was hit bad.Then, Densek came back up thru the small passage way to sit in the cabin behind me. He stayed there until we landed."

There's much more at the link.

Here's an image of Lt. Cosgrove's aircraft after it was hit.  The pilot is struggling to keep it flying, despite damaged controls.  Although the image is a little fuzzy, the damage to the crumpled ball turret at the rear of the cockpit can be clearly seen.  Mr. Deen, who was killed instantly, is still inside the turret.  (Click the image for a larger view.)

The pilot managed to land his damaged aircraft aboard USS Essex, where it was learned that his rear gunner was dead.  Mr. Deen's body was so badly mangled by the exploding anti-aircraft shells that it was decided it could not be removed from the aircraft.  Fingerprints were taken for identification, and his dog-tags were removed from around his neck.  The aircraft was then wheeled down the flight deck to the stern, without being stripped for parts (as was customary with damaged aircraft before they were pushed over the side, due to the shortage of parts and materials).  After a brief funeral service, attended by then-Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, Commanding Officer of Task Group 38.3 of the Pacific Fleet, who was flying his flag aboard USS Essex, the entire aircraft was pushed over the side, forming Mr. Deen's coffin.  Two Avengers from his squadron flew overhead in salute.

The episode was captured on film by combat cameramen aboard the Essex.  Here's the description of the video clip from YouTube.

A Grumman TBF avenger torpedo bomber of VT-15 Torpedo Air Group, approaches and lands on the deck of the USS Essex (CV-9) during the Battle of Manila Bay, in World War 2. Upon landing, Lt. Robert Cosgrove (Pilot) and Sailor Digby Denzek (Radioman) can be seen in their respective forward and middle crew positions. But the rear gunner position, occupied by Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class,Loyce Edward Deen (Gunner) has been completely destroyed by enemy 40mm shell fire. As the aircraft is parked amongst others, with wings folded, sailors of the Essex take fingerprints and cut dog tags from the body of AMM2C Loyce Deen in the gunner position. Captain Carlos W. Wieber, Commanding Officer of the Essex, and her crew, participate in funeral services on the deck. A chaplain conducts the services from beside the aircraft, where Loyce Deen's remains in the gunner's position have been shrouded. Closeup view of Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman during the burial service. A bugler sounds taps. Beside the bugler is David L. McDonald, who was XO of the USS Essex (and later Chief of Naval Operations in the 1960s). Deen's remains are then buried at sea in the TBF avenger in which he perished. The aircraft floats off the fantail for a short time before sinking from view. Two TBF Avengers are seen flying overhead , in tribute. Crew members then disband and return to their duties. Location: Manila Philippines. Date: November 5, 1944.

Here's the video.

May the souls of Loyce Edward Deen, and of all those who died in defense of freedom in World War II, rest in peace.


The sounds of . . . sausage???

Well, this certainly falls under the headings of 'artistic' and 'creative' - not to mention 'digestive'!

What does a currywurst sound like? The Konzerthausorchester Berlin, a symphony orchestra based in the capital, has answered that question with a new video recreating the preparation of the famous snack through music.

Using only their instruments, the musicians evoke each stage in the careful preparation of the spicy sausage.

. . .

The grilling and slicing of the Wurst, the shaking of the salt, the squirting of the ketchup, and not forgetting the clink of coins in the tip jar are all replicated through different instruments.

Then it's onto the sizzle of the fries, the wiping of the table, and the chink of beer bottles being opened. Close your eyes, and you can almost taste the food...

. . .

This is the first of a planned series of pieces from the orchestra inspired by sounds of Berlin, with 12 more to follow.

There's more at the link.

Here's the video.

That's great!

The first six of the videos in the promised 'sounds of Berlin' series are already on the orchestra's YouTube channel.  Click over there to enjoy them.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

This is why you don't take all your medicine at once

As part of my research for my current work in progress (the second volume of my Western series, the Ames Archives), I came across this gem.  It's from page 67 of the first edition of 'Fifty Years on the Owl Hoot Trail' by Harry E. Chrisman.

[In the early 1880's, in what is today the Oklahoma Panhandle], Old James (Medicine) Steadman ... was a town character who had earned his nickname when he prescribed some physic pills for a sick Indian a wandering tribe had left in Benton.  Before leaving, the Indian's friends administered the entire package of pills Steadman had sold them, and the brave nearly died.  After three days sitting in the sod john, back of Tom Parker's saloon, the brave left, following the trail of his friends.  "White man heap run 'em, stink 'em, kill 'em sick Injun," he told Tom, who had let him sleep in the saloon's bullpen.  "Me go die with good Injun friends."

I've had days like that, but never three of them in a row!  Whatever that 'physic' (i.e. laxative) was, it seems to have worked exceptionally well - but then, I'm sure one wasn't supposed to take all the tablets at once.  Talk about kill or cure!


Islamic terrorists in the Philippines find the going tough

Austin Bay points out that in the Philippines, President Duterte's tough anti-drug, anti-crime rhetoric is being matched by equally tough anti-terrorism measures.

The war on Islamic terrorism in the south continues with growing intensity. The government wants to end the years of Islamic terrorists sustaining themselves through kidnapping and piracy. The president told the military to shut down Abu Sayyaf by mid-year and do whatever was needed to get it done. The president discussed the major problems the security forces have encountered. First there is the ransoms. Military intelligence estimates that Abu Sayyaf took in over a million dollars a month from ransoms during the first six months of 2016 and that the Abu Sayyaf move into piracy off the south coast was based on the need to keep that money coming. Now the military has been ordered to ignore the presence of hostages when attacking or bombing Abu Sayyaf camps. He urged foreign nations to not pay the large ransoms, which have long been illegal in the Philippines. In the meantime foreigners are urged to avoid the southeastern areas of the Philippines, especially Sulu and Basilan, where the kidnappers (mainly Abu Sayyaf) are most active. Without those large and continued infusions of cash the Islamic terrorist activity sharply declines because all that ransom money makes it possible to outlaws like Abu Sayyaf to survive even though local political and religious leaders condemn them.

Martial law is also available as an option to ensure that Abu Sayyaf is done by Filipino Independence Day (June 12th). For most of 2016 the government has had 10,000 troops and police carrying out more aggressive operations against Abu Sayyaf and that has caused the Islamic terror group a lot of losses. Since July this has cost the Islamic terrorists nearly 200 men, most of them killed but about a third of them lost to capture, desertion and illness. These non-combat losses are a direct result of the constant pressure. The government has offered to hold peace talks with Abu Sayyaf, but on condition that the Islamic terrorist group cease all kidnapping activity. Abu Sayyaf has made it clear it would never do that because they need the cash to exist. Abu Sayyaf is feeling the pressure and captured members and documents, as well as intercepted messages indicate that the group is burning through their cash faster than expected because of the growing pressure from security forces and pro-government locals.

This last group has been growing as local civilians complain about the disruptions in their lives because of the increased efforts to shut down Abu Sayyaf. Some of the locals have been urging Abu Sayyaf to move or do something to give their traditional supporters some relief. Meanwhile a lot of locals are just quietly, often via some discreet (often anonymous) texting to the local military base (local police are less trustworthy) with useful information of Abu Sayyaf activities. This has forced Abu Sayyaf to release some hostages alive, without ransom, when the security forces get too close. This is especially true if the hostages are Moslems, It’s one thing to execute a foreign kaffir (non-Moslem) but casually slaughtering Moslem captives is not good for the image (of being protectors of Islam). Families of some foreign Moslems held hostage report getting phone calls from the kidnappers (who put their kin on the line to encourage cooperation) offering freedom for much less ransom if they can pay real soon.

There's more at the link.

I can't say I'm in favor of President Duterte's flagrant disregard of even the most basic of civil and human rights.  However, I have to admit that he's getting results in his war on drugs and crime - and those results have the resounding support of a good two-thirds of Philippines citizens.  I'd hate to live there under such a government, but if the people approve, he's probably going to go right on doing as he's done for some time now.  If he can produce similar results in the war against home-brewed Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, he'll doubtless become more popular than ever.


A great collection of World War 2 aviation photographs

The good people at Vintage Wings of Canada (whom we've met in these pages several times before) have published a wonderful collection of rare and historic photographs of aircraft, ships and personnel from World War II.  Here's a small selection to whet your appetite, all reduced in size to fit this blog.  Each image is followed by its description.

The timing of this photograph of an HMS Tracker-based Avenger (either from 853 or 846 Squadron) striking the water is impeccable, if rather frightening. The Avenger's propeller is just striking the surface of the water as the large torpedo bomber and its three-man crew hit the surface inverted. It is not known the exact circumstances of the crash or if the crew survived.

The day before the amphibious assault on Iwo Jima, the starving and doomed Japanese garrison on Chichijima, the next island in the archipelago, came under attack by carrier-based aircraft of the United States Navy. The island was used as the primary site for Japanese long-range radio relay operations and surveillance activity in the Pacific. Avengers were used to take out the two radio stations on the island, but they faced anti-aircraft fire. This Avenger from USS Bennington, flown by Lieutenant Robert King, was one of three Avengers attacking Chichijima's airfield. Another of the Avengers was hit by flak which blew it right wing off. That Avenger rolled hard right and into a spin, hitting King's Avenger. The left wing of the dying Avenger struck and crumpled the rear fuselage of King's “Turkey” and its propeller chewed off half the port wing. With the aircraft out of control at 9,000 feet, King ordered his two crewmen (Jim Dye and Grady York) to bail out, but, as he was attempting to get out himself, the aircraft righted itself and he regained control. The other Avenger spun out of control into the sea, killing all on board. The two crewmen landed close to the shore of Chichijima, waded ashore and were captured. Sadly, they were later executed by the desperate and unstable Japanese, as were six other US Navy airmen shot down in the same period. King made it back to the carrier, escorted by squadron mates, ditched and was picked up. He was however, devastated by survivor's guilt. In this photo we can see the tension in his shoulders as he fights the controls with both hands.

Some carriers, like the Essex Class carrier USS Yorktown (above) could land aircraft from the bow while steaming in reverse. Who knew? It makes some degree of sense however, if the aft flight deck is on fire from a bomb or crash and aircraft need to get down. Essex Class carriers could steam 20 knots in reverse and had arrestor wires on the forward flight deck. Here, a Grumman Avenger lands on over the bow, while Yorktown steams in reverse in the summer of 1943 in the protected confines Gulf of Paria (between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago) during her shakedown cruise.

While most of us are familiar with aircraft taking off from or being catapulted from the flight deck of Second World war carriers, it's a little known fact that some of these carriers (Essex-class in particular) also had a starboard hydraulic catapult (known as the H-IV-A (H-4A) catapult which could launch an 8-ton aircraft to 85 mph in 72.5 feet) from which fighters could be launched in the event of an emergency in which the flight deck was completely fouled, or simply to increase launch rate for standard operations. In the top photograph, a Hellcat is launched from USS Hornet (CV-12) in February 1944.

An Avro Anson (top) rests atop an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley at No. 19 Operational Training Unit, a Whitley conversion base at RAF Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland. On the night of October 19, 1943 the pilot of the Anson (XF-K) misunderstood the light signals from the control tower and proceeded with a landing whilst the pilot of the Whitley (UO-O) was still warming his engines for a take-off. The Whitley was damaged beyond repair, but the Anson was soon back in the air. Accidents like these were not common, but there are other photos of similarly mated aircraft at training bases from Canada to Australia.

There are many more pictures at the link.  Highly recommended viewing for aviation and military history buffs.


Trump Derangement Syndrome, anyone?

Dayum.  I mean . . . just . . . dayum!

Her name, apparently, is Jessica Starr.  I wonder if she's related to Trigglypuff?


Friday, January 20, 2017

Thunderstruck indeed!

Since today seems to have been a video-clip day here, let's finish off with a Spanish bagpipe band.

People often forget that bagpipes are a widely used instrument in Europe.  They're not just Scottish or Irish, but also found in France, Spain and elsewhere.  This is the group Rondalla Santa Eulalia de Mos (link is to their Facebook page) performing a rather unique version of the AC/DC hit 'Thunderstruck'.  Love the massed castanets providing an assist to the percussion section!

It would have been fun to hear that song performed in Washington D.C. today.  It's probably a pretty good summation of the feelings of all the nefarious denizens of the Washington swamp, who've just seen their nemesis take the oath of office.


This is so over the top, it might as well be Bollywood!

I laughed out loud on viewing the trailer for the new Vin Diesel movie, 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'.  It's so over-the-top in almost every way that it could come from any of the Bollywood movies we've profiled here over the past few weeks.  See for yourself.

Some of those scenes are so ridiculous, I've already said to Miss D. that we need to plan on watching that together.  Neither of us are movie addicts, to put it mildly (the last time we went to a movie together was to watch 'Act of Valor', back in 2012, about which I wrote here), but this looks like it'll be a hoot.

(No, I'm not advertising the movie.  I merely have a well-developed sense of the ridiculous!)


Ice-skating on a frozen peat bog

Since the last two videos I've posted, yesterday afternoon and this morning, both dealt with cold, icy conditions, why not make it a threefer?

The De Weerribben-Wieden National Park in the Netherlands is the largest bog in north-western Europe.  It was used for peat production before the Second World War.  This has left large segments of open, very shallow water throughout the bog.  Naturally, these freeze over in cold winters, offering wonderful opportunities for long-distance ice skating.

Here are some Dutch skaters taking full advantage of this year's cold weather.  Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

Beautiful scenery!  It looks like they're having a great time.  Personally, I think I'd prefer to stay warmer than that . . .


A car, three moose, and a snow-covered road

A Canadian motorist recently encountered three moose on a snow-covered road where his car didn't have enough traction to brake in time.  The result was filmed on his dash camera.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.

That's about as close an encounter as I ever want to have with a moose!  You can read more about the incident here.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

An ice circle spins its way downriver

Coming from Africa as I do, I'd never even heard of ice circles until reaching the USA, and I've still never seen one in the flesh.  Nevertheless, this one in Washington state earlier this month certainly looks fascinating.  I'm still trying to work out the energy vectors that produce the spinning motion.

There are more images and video clips of the ice circle on the photographer's blog.  One day, I'd really like to see one of those for real.


To set the tone for tomorrow's Presidential inauguration . . .

. . . here are some video clips.  LANGUAGE ALERT:  Some of our left-wing and progressive friends are rather potty-mouthed.

And, of course:


This should make protesting in North Dakota more interesting . . .

I note with a certain schadenfreude that North Dakota may soon have a new traffic law.

Republican lawmakers in the state introduced a bill last week in the legislature that would not hold motorists liable for negligently running over someone obstructing a roadway. The bill was introduced in response to a year of protests over a proposed pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

. . .

Lawmakers told the Bismarck Tribune that the bill is needed after protesters blocked traffic during oil pipeline protests.

"It’s shifting the burden of proof from the motor vehicle driver to the pedestrian,” Rep. Keith Kempenich told the paper. "(Roads) are not there for the protesters. They’re intentionally putting themselves in danger."

There's more at the link.

I'm not suggesting that anyone would deliberately use such a law to run over protesters and get away with it.  Nevertheless, I, like many others, have been infuriated by protesters taking over and blocking public highways in order to draw attention to their cause(s).  Not only are they impeding my right of free passage, they have, in some cases, caused harm to people trying to get to hospital in a hurry, or emergency services trying to respond to situations that required their presence.  I think such protesters are dangerously deluded as to their importance (or lack thereof) in the greater scheme of things.  Certainly, if protesters blocked the safe passage of someone on the road - particularly if the driver was rushing his or her spouse or child to hospital, or something like that - I wouldn't blame the driver for a moment if he or she hit one or more of them.  As you may recall, that happened a few months ago in Ferguson, MO, earning the protesters our Doofus Of The Day award.

I've never forgotten the outrage and disgust caused in Nashville, TN a couple of years ago, when Black Lives Matter protesters blocked city center roads and an interstate highway.  Instead of removing them, police offered them coffee and hot chocolate!  I think that was a ridiculous decision, which only encouraged them to break the law again in future.  Many of us living there at the time were very angry at such an insipid, politically correct response by the authorities.  (It certainly wouldn't happen in northern Texas, where I now live.  I'm quite sure residents would take matters into their own hands, if necessary.)

People have a right to protest.  I have no problem with that at all.  However, their rights can't be allowed to interfere with or abrogate my rights - and blocking my passage comes under that heading, as far as I'm concerned.  I think this proposed North Dakota legislation is no more than a legal recognition of that reality.  I hope it's enacted.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What happens when a bass boat's steering gear fails at high speed?

This happens.

Slo-mo replay begins at 2m. 12s.  I'd say they were lucky to get away with that . . .


OK, you asked for it!

After I put up that video clip of an elephant playing in snow a couple of days ago, a couple of readers asked why, since Miss D. and I have cats, we hadn't put up a video of cats and snow.

All right, then . . .

Happy now?


"Which AR-15 magazines should I buy?"

I tried to answer that question in general terms a couple of years ago, but it's recently been raised again in e-mail conversations with a few readers.  I thought it might be a good idea to get specific in terms of brands and versions that I have personally tested, and trust.  Obviously, there are many more brands out there, but unless and until I've checked them out myself, I'm not going to recommend them.  YMMV, of course.

My top choice, hands down, is the Magpul 3rd generation PMAG.  This has just been selected by the US Marine Corps as its standard-issue combat magazine, which speaks volumes, IMHO.  (The USMC will continue to use the 'traditional' metal STANAG magazines for training purposes.)  The G3 PMAG has several improvements over earlier generations, including being certified to work in several weapons where the G2 PMAG exhibited problems (such as the HK 416 and the M27 IAR).  These and other issues had led to the G2 PMAG being banned by the US Army and USMC in 2012, but the G3 resolves them.  The G3 also feeds newer types of 5.56x45mm. ammunition, such as the US Army's M855A1 and USMC's Mk. 318 Mod 0, without any difficulty.

The PMAG is available in 20, 30 and 40-round sizes in 5.56x45mm, and in other cartridges as well.  (I find the 40-round size to be too long - it gets in the way when shooting from a prone position.  I prefer 20-round magazines for prone use, and 30-round for general-purpose use.)  The PMAG comes in two versions;  one with solid sides, the other with windows in the sides allowing you to see the rounds it contains.  If you shop around, the G3 PMAG can be purchased online for between $11-$15, with the windowed versions usually (but not always) one or two dollars more expensive than the plain ones.  They're available in black and flat dark earth, and also in a sand color that's specifically designed to work with Rit dyes, so you can color them any shade you want.

I have a number of sand PMAGS dyed in colors that suit me, including a few 20-round versions in a bright red to indicate ready-use expanding ammunition in my gun safe.  (I even dyed a couple of 30-rounders in passionate purple, to accessorize Miss D.'s purple AR-15).

My second choice is the Troy Battlemag.  I think this is a good design overall, with a couple of advantages and a couple of drawbacks.  Advantages include:
  • The magazine is thinner side-to-side than either the PMAG or the L5AWM (discussed below), and its baseplate is narrower.  This means you can fit 2 or 3 Battlemags into magazine pouches that won't accept the same quantity of the other, fatter, magazines.
  • It's slightly lighter than the PMAG or L5AWM.  If you're maxing out your load, and every ounce counts, this might be important.
  • It comes with a built-in magazine 'pull tab' assist, making it easier to extract from a mag pouch if you're in a hurry.  If you don't want to use the tab, you can replace it with a flush-fit floor plate (included).  On a PMAG or L5AWM, fitting a mag assist or a ranger plate to do the same job is an extra-cost option, whereas it's free with every Battlemag.
Possible disadvantages include:
  • The Battlemag's plastic appears to be softer and more pliable than that used in the PMAG or L5AWM.  This has not proven to be a problem in my use of the Battlemag thus far, but if you intend to leave magazines in storage, loaded, for a long period, I think the feed lips might stretch or deform.  I obviously don't know this for sure, but it's a factor to consider.
  • The Battlemag design incorporates an internal rib running down the front face of the magazine, fitting into a notch on the follower.  It's been reported from several sources that this prevents the use of .300 Blackout ammunition, which is 'fatter' than the 5.56x45mm. round for which the Battlemag is designed.  Obviously, if you only intend to use .223 or 5.56 rounds in the magazine, this is no problem at all;  but if your magazines might have to do double duty with the larger cartridge, the Battlemag is probably not a good choice for you.  (No problems have been reported using .300 Blackout ammo in PMAG's or L5AWM's.)

Those reservations aside, the Battlemag is plenty tough enough for serious use.  Caleb Giddings of Gun Nuts Media actually shot one and then tested it, with impressive results.

Other sources have also provided satisfactory feedback about the Battlemag.  They can be expensive, but if you wait for a sale by Troy Industries, you can sometimes pick them up at excellent prices (as I did, a couple of years ago - at under $7 apiece, they were an absolute steal!).

My third choice is not yet an outright recommendation, because I'm still evaluating it:  but so far, it's done pretty well.  I'm referring to the Lancer L5AWM (shown at left).  This has attracted favorable attention from many sources, although as far as I know it's not been adopted by any large-scale military or law enforcement agency or service.  It's available in solid colors, or with smoke or clear sidewalls.  I'd rate it as superior to the G2 PMAG, although not to the G3.  I only have three of them at present, as they're usually not as widely available as PMAG's, and are often more expensive;  but if I had the chance to get some at a comparable price to PMAG's, I'd have no hesitation grabbing them.  Given more experience with them, they might move up to second place on my list of desirable magazines, as the plastic from which they're made seems heavier and more durable than that of Troy's Battlemag.  We'll see.

My fourth choice, which is also still under evaluation, is the ETS AR-15 magazine.  This is available in clear or smoke finishes, and with or without a coupler device allowing two magazines to be linked together.  Here's a brief video showing how easily the coupler can be used.

I've bought a few of the ETS coupler magazines for evaluation, and will be testing them over the next few months.  I like what I've seen of them so far, and if they continue to perform as well as others have said, I'll probably buy more of them and add them to my magazine rotation.

There are many more makes and models of AR-15 magazines out there, but the four I've mentioned above are those I've actually tested for myself, and am therefore prepared to recommend, in the order listed.  (I also have several dozen STANAG military magazines, ranging from very old to fairly new.  I've refurbished them all by installing Magpul magazine followers, new magazine springs, and new floor plates.  I use them primarily for training.)

I hope this helps answer my readers' questions on the subject.


A miniature tree with maximum complications

I had to smile at this account of the trials, tribulations and problems connected with getting a gift bonsai tree from China to England.

When the Queen was presented with ceremonial gifts during a visit to China in 1986, her officials were tasked with arranging their safe transit to Britain.

In the case of a 60-year-old bonsai tree, that was easier said than done.

. . .

The tree - later nicknamed 'Jack' - was a gift from the Governor of Guangdong and the plan was to put it on the Queen's Flight to Hong Kong for the next leg of the trip.

For Frank Savage, a diplomat in Peking, that was where the problems began. In its ornate bamboo cage, the tree was too big to fit through the cabin door. The hold had no temperature control.

"I was not prepared to risk the health of our venerable tree in temperatures of -50C," Mr Savage wrote.

Instead, it was arranged for the tree to travel in the first class freight van of the mid-morning train to Hong Kong, while Mr Savage and his wife had to make do with second class.

. . .

At the airport "the tree was greeted by two high officials from BA plus around twenty lesser mortals," Mr Savage recalled.

"I was informed that BA would put a guard on the tree 16 hours a day in order to attend to its every need (I recommended a Cantonese as opposed to a Mandarin speaker so that the tree would not be unduly lonely)."

He was "somewhat horrified" to learn that for the remaining eight hours the tree was to be stored in a pen with two Alsatians as guard dogs, noting "this plan was dropped with some alacrity when I pointed out the obvious."

There's more at the link.  Whimsical, funny, and a reminder that even bureaucrats have a lighter side.  (I just wish the rest of us could see it more often - particularly at the DMV!)

The sting, of course, is in the tail.

After being released from quarantine, 'Jack' took up residence in the plant centre at Windsor Great Park, according to the documents.

Since learning of the story of the Queen's bonsai, a park spokeswoman said staff are seeking to discover what happened to it.

Wouldn't it be funny if, after all that, they'd lost it?