John Ramsden

October 21, 2009

Professor John Ramsden, my colleague at QMUL until his retirement last year, died a few days ago. Peter Hennessy’s obituary from the Guardian captures much of John and in no way overstates his achievements. John had first shown the remarkable academic generosity that he displayed to me throughout the time I knew him when he invited me to take part, as a graduate student, in a conference he was organizing on The Great War TV series. When I later got a job at QM, he was appointed to be my mentor during my probationary period, a job he fulfilled with equally balanced rigour and charm. His plainspokenness was of real value in guiding a novice through some of the tricks of the trade. As Professor Hennessy points out, John showed his respect for people by always speaking honestly. He did me great service, both intellectually and in terms of personal confidence, by reading and commenting on the manuscript of my book before publication. Afterwards, he said to me: ‘It’s a really good read Dan, but I do think it’s a shame that your generation hasn’t really been taught how to write.’ There’s no way in words of conveying why that generated so much affection within me. On one of the student feedback forms from the First World War course we taught together, an anonymous undergraduate wrote ‘John Ramsden: if Carlsberg made lecturers’. That got it absolutely right; he will be much missed.

Sacrifice in the Second World War III

October 17, 2009

Courtesy of the IMDb’s list of quotes from Millions Like Us:

Charters: Talking of wartime sacrifices, Caldicott – do you remember old Parterton?
Caldicott: Chap with all those rubber plantations in Malaya?
Charters: Yes, that’s the fellow. Do you remember his valet, Hawkins?
Caldicott: Yes.
Charters: He’s evacuated to Weston-super-Mare.
Caldicott: Really?
Charters: Parterton’s simply livid. Hasn’t dressed himself for 30 years.
Caldicott: What’s he going to do about it?
Charters: Follow him. To Weston-super-Mare.
Caldicott: Oh, by the way, how many mines have we laid here this morning?

Royal Oak Commemorations

October 16, 2009

(Cross posted to Britain at War)
As in previous years, the anniversary of the sinking of the battleship Royal Oak was recently marked by the replacement of the flag that ‘flies’ from the sunken vessel – this time, seventy years on from the first Royal Navy disaster of the Second World War. You can read more about the ship, what happened to it, and the commemorations – and see some amazing pictures – at this site.