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195. Wait and Sea, the Tale of Poon Lim

1942, World War II was raging across the land and the oceans too. At this time Britain sent out a call for help, and many Chinese responded. One of these brave or foolish souls was Poon Lim. He was working as second mess steward on board the SS Benlomond and became quickly accustomed to life on board.

The SS Benlomond was a merchant steamer, unremarkable, and equally unarmed. German U-Boats scoured the seas for their metallic prey. Ready to shoot on sight. On November 23 1942 a German U-Boat sighted the SS Benlomond and contact was made. Contact in the form of two explosive torpedoes. That did not go down well.

SS Benlomond

2 hours after the sinking, Poon Lim happened upon a life raft and flailed in its general direction. I say ‘flailed‘ because during World War II, an ability to swim was not required to be in the Navy. This led to a surprisingly large amount of drownings among Navy staff throughout the war, even when rescue was swift on arrival. Eventually, after much uncoordinated splashing, he reached the side of the raft and hauled his soaking self on board.

Once he had recovered from the physical exertion he examined the raft. It was a ‘Carley Float Life Raft‘ and fairly well stocked. Among the supplies were some biscuit tins (complete with biscuits), a 10 gallon jug of water, flares, an electric torch and a bag of sugar lumps. More than enough for a short trip. Many things could be said about Poon Lim’s ensuing journey, ‘short’ is not one of them. In fact Poon Lim spent 133 days in the Pacific Ocean, a record of epic proportions.

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Articles

 

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191. All Aboard The British Rail Space Express!

In 1970, Charles Osmond Frederick was drafted in by British Rail to design a lifting platform. Mr Frederick took on the challenge but after some revisions and a few edits it seemed he had gone rather off track. In December 1970 British Rail filed a patent application for the affectionately named ‘space vehicle‘. The official British Rail Flying Saucer.

Instead of a lifting platform the result of the design work was a large interplanetary passenger spacecraft designed for the pan-planet traveller. It was a truly preposterous proposition and in March 1973, the patent was granted.

The design named nuclear fusion as the source of lift and thrust. To start the engines one or more high-powered pulse laser beams are required the material. The pulses of nuclear energy generated would occur 1000 times a second to prevent any chance of resonance which might damage the vessel. To provide extra comfort for those traversing the notoriously low gravity of space, the acceleration of the ship could simulate that wholesome gravity feeling, a weight off the minds of those unaccustomed to zero-g travel. As an added comfort the patent even goes to the trouble of including a thick layer of metal above the fusion reactor to shield passengers from the deadly levels of radiation.

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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in Articles

 

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142. Sealand, The Unofficial Prinicipality

The Principality of Sealand is an odd case, it is an old World War II floating fort 10km off the coast of Suffolk, England. In 1956 the fort was abandoned, then in 1967 Major Paddy Roy Bates, along with his family and some associates occupied the fort, claiming it to be a new and separate principality. The Principality Of Sealand. Originally it was set up for the British Mr Bates to broadcast his pirate radio station. However it soon became more.

He crowned himself king. In 1968 some British workmen came to service a navigational buoy nearby. Paddy Bates claimed the waters to be part of his territory and his son Michal Bates, shot a rifle to scare them off. Then they went to court on firearms charges. The case could not proceed. A that time anything within 5km of the shore was part of the United Kingdom, and the fort fell just outside of that jurisdiction. It was in international waters and exempt from the rules. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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102. Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City, surrounded by a fast developing China

Lost Lawless City

Kowloon Walled City was not always a city, it started life as a military fort with sturdy walls so as to keep an eye on the British in China. When Hong Kong was handed to the British it was kept separate, just outside but separate. At least until it was stormed whilst a Sir Henry Blake was in search of resistance soldiers in 1899. They found very little, instead they just claimed dominion over it, then left it alone. A little British box surrounded by China.

In the intervening time it grew old and dilapidated, collecting dust and squatters before having great swathes of it demolished so the stone could be used to extend an airport.

Then came World War II, at the end after Japan’s surrender China stated that it wanted to reclaim rights to the Walled City which prompted a huge rush of refugees fleeing to the place for Chinese protection, by 1947 there were 2,000 of them. In 1948 the British tried to drive them out but to no avail, afterwards the British adopted a ‘Hands-Off’ approach and left the Walled City in peace. A piece in which it thrived. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Articles

 

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55. Lies and Law

FACT: ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ is a phrase originating from the English judiciary system, it being the simplest way to ensure that people know that they cannot lie in court.

In fact there was no law against lying in court until the 1600’s in England, because they believed that the fear of god would be more than enough to stop anyone from lying in court.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Trivia

 

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