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Diane Burke (Perth, WA formerly Aberdeen UK)

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Last Voices of World War I [DVD]
Last Voices of World War I [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nick Maddocks
Price: £19.60

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's like spending a very special evening in the company of the men themselves, 1 Jun. 2012
After seeing the title, I felt that I had to have this for my WW1 collection. It is a remarkable piece of viewing with the men all aged 99 years or more when interviewed. The clarity of their memories had not dimmed and one felt truly privileged to be sharing these memories with them. I had a great uncle who served on the Somme but was never allowed to ask him about his war service. This was an absolute tragedy as I was studying this at school at the time and this was when I developed an interest in WW1.

It was like sitting with a much loved elderly relative sharing tea and scones and just listening to their stories. It was all the more special realising that one of the men, Jock Gaffron was from my part of the world. To see them in their twilight years made it all the more remarkable with the accompanying stories of the horrors in the mud and hearing what some of their colleagues were prepared to do to get away from the fighting.

The episode on the Home Front was extremely interesting as it brought home to me how many people were affected by food rationing and just how bad that actually was. To hear from the people telling how as children it felt like to hear about the death of a father and how they had to deal with it was extremely moving and seeing how it still affected them after the passing of many years.

This series is beautifully narrated by Nimmy March and coupled with the using of actors to portray certain aspects gives a startling clarity to a conflict which has now sadly passed from living memory with the death of Claude Choules in 2011.

Patriotism and jingoism is shown in the first episode and one of the veterans, Richard Hawkins outlines the situation perfectly by saying "Britain was a very very different place" in 1914 to the Britain of 2012. What amazed me also was in the conclusion when he admits "I enjoyed the ruddy war, we had the most tremendous fun". This is in stark contrast to Alfred Henn who freely admits "I wouldn't do it again, they'd have to come and get me, it was all a waste". Also interviewed were the last two surviving veterans at the time it was broadcast; Henry Allingham and Harry Patch. Henry Allingham was 112 at the time and his clear speech and demeanour as well as that of Harry Patch's show how amazing these two wonderful gentlemen were. Their memories were vivid and charged with emotion - to hear Harry admit that the Cenotaph ceremony is "just a military sideshow to my way of thinking" shows us that he considered the random waste of millions of lives needless, particularly as Harry was at Passchendaele when his beloved comrades in arms were killed in September 1917, which Harry admits is when he has his Rememberance Day.

All the veterans brought their own characters to this series which gave it colour and enjoyment - particularly as they were dealing with horrors that they all prayed would never happen again - however, whether or not they were called to serve again some twenty years later is not known but this would have made their hearts so heavy.

We also have the privilege of hearing from nurses and VAD's who served. To realise that the VAD's were unpaid is even more surprising; particularly as they were dealing with injuries that many doctors never deal with in a lifetime of medical work. One nurse who was over 105 years old was still traumatised when recalling the night a soldier was informing her of his nightmares and it was impossible to not tear up also.

I truly love this series and would consider it an excellent teaching tool to students studying this period. What better information could you get on WW1 than from the mouths of these incredible people. I would have loved to have met them myself.

Buy this DVD - you won't be disappointed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2014 4:37 PM BST

Portrait Of A Marriage [1990] (REGION 2) (PAL) [Dutch Import] [DVD]
Portrait Of A Marriage [1990] (REGION 2) (PAL) [Dutch Import] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Janet McTeer
Offered by ____THE_BEST_ON_DVD____
Price: £4.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but left me wanting a bit more, 19 Mar. 2010
I remember watching this in 1992 when it was first shown on the Beeb - after the 9.30pm watershed. However I can imagine that were it filmed for today's audience, there would be pretty much more than seeing two women cuddling in bed!

McTeer & Harrison were excellent in their portrayal of Vita Sackville-West & Violet Trefusis. Given that Janet McTeer is around 6 feet in height, she wore Vita's "uniform" well and also bore quite a striking resemblance to her.

Although this was well cast, those who were expecting to see a real turmoil in the marriage could be left disappointed. We saw the decadence of the post-war era with women travelling to France to be able to carouse with their lesbian lovers and see Vita & Violet in a cafe dancing a wild tango but I really felt that I wasn't seeing the real true reason why both these women felt the need to shock and destroy the lives of both men in their lives except when Violet reveals her true feelings for Denys Trefusis.

I read a book on Violet's mother which spent an entire chapter to this affair and got a real taste for Violet's dissolute nature and complete disregard for everyone around her. And that was just one chapter of a whole book that had nothing really to do with her!

Violet does come across as a pretty distasteful character and we feel the shame and humiliation of Denys Trefusis who dies not long after this affair is over.

In reality, Violet & Vita stay in contact and meet from time to time over the ensuing years but there is very little to see in the love between Vita and Harold in their later years. It would have been good to see more of that to see how their marriage survived and exactly what impact it had on their children whom we rarely see but we do see Vita as a loving mother in a brief interlude.

There is only Harold shown in the time after Vita's death in 1962 and we see the beautiful garden she created at Sissinghurst which is a lasting legacy to a woman who may not have set out to make her mark on history but this series and her written works as well as her beautiful garden will ensure that both she and Violet Trefusis are not forgotten.

This series was done with the craft that we have expected over the years from Auntie Beeb and does give a good period flavour but there was just something lacking.

Alice Keppel & Agnes Keyser: Edward VII's Last Loves
Alice Keppel & Agnes Keyser: Edward VII's Last Loves
by Raymond Lamont-Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two very different women - both loved the same man, 24 Dec. 2008
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Lucky Bertie! This must be the stuff some men only dream of - having a wife at home and two other women crazy about you in their own way.

The infamous quote by the now Duchess of Cornwall, "my Great-Grandmother had a fling with your Great-Great Grandfather, so how about it?" is on the back of this book as not many people may realise that Camilla is related to Alice Keppel. Fortunately, Camilla's grandmother, Sonia Cubitt only passed away in 1986 so there was plenty of material for the author to draw on. In fact for those who have seen Edward the Seventh, may remember that when he was King he went to his grandson's birthday party and a child shouts out "Hello Kingy". One could attribute that to Sonia Keppel who called him Kingy and then the races with the bread and butter down the trousers...that's also something from Sonia's memoirs.

The book tends to concentrate more on Alice Keppel than Agnes Keyser as Alice was the more dominant figure in Edward's life towards the end and Agnes was someone who came across as more "jolly hockey sticks" than merely being a woman who liked being wined and dined and showered in jewels.

Lamont-Brown goes right through their early lives and shows us that Alice Keppel was somewhat economical with the truth on her reaction to the death of Edward. She claimed that she was calm and resolute in her grief when nothing could be further from the truth. She was hysterical and was nearly caught in her hysteria by the now-widowed Queen Alexandra. However, she was never one to rest on her laurels as she had her children to think of and subsequently the book goes on to discuss her elder daughter Violet's life. Violet was Violet Trefusis who had a much publicised affair with the writer and later gardener, Vita Sackville-West. I am not sure if this is truly relevant to the book as this affair took place after Edward's death and perhaps pads out the book which is not long anyway.

The book opens with the announcement of the death of Alice Keppel which if my arithmetic is right, may have been when Camilla was but months or only even weeks old. How Alice would have been bemused at how things and times have changed.

Agnes Keyser for her part proved a confidante to Edward in a way that perhaps Alice was unable to fulfill. It is not stated that Edward was ever in a sexual relationship with Agnes as it does allude with Alice but her sensible, downright nature may have been the attracting factor and her link to Edward secures her place in history.

A good read even if it diverts to the love affair with Vita & Violet.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2016 10:41 AM BST

Edward VIII (Omega Books)
Edward VIII (Omega Books)
by Frances Donaldson
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales...., 24 Dec. 2008
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That was the opening line of the song that opened the series of Edward & Mrs Simpson. This book was the basis for that series and what an excellent book it is.

Donaldson writes a very well researched book and shows up the whole of the Abdication crisis in a manner that is clear and makes superb back up for the series.

However,this book does take us from the post-Abdication days through to the Duke's death from cancer in 1972, something the series sadly did not which is unfortunate as Donaldson covers this part in as much detail as the earlier sections. It could have been very easy simply to say that they lived the jet set life around Europe and also that they were in the Bahamas during the war but no, this book is written with meticulous detail and made for enjoyable reading - far better than the drivel churned out by the Duchess in her tome.

If you have the DVD series, please think about purchasing this book. It fills in any gaps.

The Heart Has Its Reasons  - the Story of the Abdication
The Heart Has Its Reasons - the Story of the Abdication
by Duchess of Windsor Mrs Wallis Simpson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wallis in Wonderland, 24 Dec. 2008
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Hark the Herald Angels sing
Mrs Simpson stole the King

Not being in anyway remotely close to having been around during the Abdication crisis, I was told that this was a rhyme that came out as it was December when Edward VIII informed the country that he could not perform his duties without the woman he loved.

It must have been a shock to those women who were widowed or single who considered themselves not that bad-looking to see their beloved King choose this twice-divorced, very ordinary looking American over anything that Britain could offer.

This book is the Duchess' account of her life in America to coming to the UK and then meeting and eventually marrying the King. It was published in 1956 so David was still alive - I remember seeing his funeral on TV in 1972 and wondering why my mum referred to him as the King. She had been a little girl of only 4 at the time of the Abdication.

The book is given 3 stars simply it's an interesting piece of British history not because Wallis wants us to feel sorry for her. Well, in the words of one of her countrymen, "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"; I'm not sorry for her - she lived her life in cosseted luxury and lived in a way some people can only imagine; what's to feel sorry for? She describes her first marriage to an American airman as something she wanted. I suspect that whatever Wallis wanted, she intended to have it. She struck me as sycophantic, someone who was well chuffed at being in the Royal enclave and says she wrote to Queen Mary; this letter being quoted and was in the most gushing terms that only one who wishes to "suck up" could write. She advises us that Queen Mary did reply. Frankly, since Queen Mary passed away in 1953, we only have Wallis' word for it and I took that comment with a hefty dose of Saxa.

There has been much conjecture as to whether or not Wallis was a bit racy in Shanghai and needless to say, there is no mention of this nor the conjecture that Edward VIII was into S & M. There is a chapter about the much criticised trip to Nazi Germany where apparently Hitler says what a good Queen Wallis would have made. Well, my dear Wallis, if that's not having tickets on yourself, I don't know what is.

She talked about the second marriage and then to the Abdication "crisis" where she says she would have willingly given up the King. I doubt it. She no more wanted to give up the King than he felt duty bound to do the right thing after promising to marry her. Had he been poor but still good-looking and someone who had served her sherry; would she have given him a second glance? No, she liked her place in the sun and she made sure she got it.

Having an interest in this period of history was the reason I purchased this piece of piffle. She is no author, some of it was ghost-written and thank god she never got to be Queen!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2009 11:11 PM BST

The Battle Of The Somme [DVD]
The Battle Of The Somme [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Fox
Offered by The Savings Warehouse
Price: £3.93

35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sum it up in one word - Slaughter!, 24 Dec. 2008
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July 1 1916 - this day is forever marked as the worst day in British military history. 57,000 British casualties; imagine a town anywhere in the world with precisely that population and suddenly wipe it off the face of the earth - forever. Can't really make that leap can you? Well, that was the return from the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

This battle earmarked the first real time that Kitchener's New Army faced the enemy - raw recruits who had joined up all starry-eyed and full of jingoistic fervour from those heady days in 1914; many who had never left their towns now found themselves in the front line. Most of them hardly took ten paces out of the trenches before being mown down by the German machine gunners who had lain in wait.

During the film, we learn about the "Pals" Battalions. In 1914, to encourage the vast numbers Kitchener said Britain would need, men were enlisting to be with their "pals" or their "chums" so that they could be kept together - but those that join up together were tragically often being killed together. With the benefit of hindsight, I invite you to be on a street in a working-class neighbourhood on say, July 3 or 4 1916 when the dreaded telegrams were being delivered and imagine the utter disbelief of whole streets of bright young men in the prime of their lives being sacrificed for Haig's ideals. Doesn't bear thinking about does it?

Nowadays, we can see the folly of this strategy but it was a different story in 1916. This was a new kind of war that most of the Generals could not understand - the brilliant military minds were being stretched to think up new ideas and strategies. However, when we think of the Somme, we must also think of General Sir Douglas Haig. Most historians criticise Haig in extremely harsh terms, using words like "butcher" or "murderer". It is hard to be objective, particularly when 57,000 casualties were recorded on one day alone. This would be have been the most painful duty for the person or people who were responsible in tallying these figures.

This film gives us the ideas behind the offensive as it was designed to take the pressure of the French at Verdun (another mindless slaughter)through to the initial bombardment prior to the start of the battle, then on to the bloody battle. It is no wonder that men could not talk about what they had experienced - you simply had to be there to understand. Nowadays, we call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 1916, you kept your chin up and had to make the best of it.

It is now over 90 years since those battles and it is hard to understand the reasoning. World War I was a holocaust of sorts - it is because of those battles, the unbelieveable numbers of casualties, the way it touched millions of lives that we can learn from it. World War II was fought in a very different way and perhaps it is the lessons learned from World War I that this was the case.

This DVD is a very useful tool for those who are studying the period or for those of us who are interested in this part of history as it certainly did set the 20th Century in motion.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 16, 2014 11:02 AM BST

Edward VII: The Last Victorian King
Edward VII: The Last Victorian King
by Christopher Hibbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very likeable Royal!, 24 Dec. 2008
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Edward was nearly 60 years of age when he became King. Nowadays most wealthy men of that age are looking to retire - certainly not looking to become King & Emperor as he did.

Hibbert has written a portrait of a very real human being. Edward or Bertie as he was to his family had what most people would call a difficult childhood; one cannot imagine having the form of education he had - very much the irresistable force against the immovable object. Yet, Edward had the real people skills that cannot be taught and Hibbert brings this to life.

Books on Edward are possibly difficult to research as upon his death, Edward instructed that all his personal papers be destroyed - something that Queen Alexandra too instructed upon her death in 1925. However, read this and purchase the DVD series of Edward the Seventh and you have a rich portrait of a King sadly destined to wait more years than he was ever to rule. One can sense how saddened he would have been to see his nephews and son go to war against each other just over 4 years after his death and how he would have reacted to the Czar's assassination with his family, one cannot comprehend.

What we are left with is a story which has been excellently researched and sheds contemporary light on a King who rightly deserves his place in history; who was aware of the need for the continuity of monarchy and ensured that he would never be forgotten.

This is a book that was enjoyable to read and one I couldn't put down. I had a liking for Edward as a monarch after watching the series, now I intend to purchase Sir Phillip Magnus' book on Edward to compare with this one. I recommend it and consider it would make excellent research material for students studying British life prior to World War I as the style of writing is clear and concise.

Buy it! You won't be disappointed.

Auschwitz - The Nazis And The Final Solution [DVD]
Auschwitz - The Nazis And The Final Solution [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laurence Rees
Price: £6.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most incredible place on earth - compelling viewing, 12 Sept. 2008
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Auschwitz should be included on the list of places a person should see before they die. Why? Well, despite it looking inhospitable and at certain times of the year, cold and hostile - it is also the place where one man tried to wipe an entire race of people off the face of the earth and given the number of people he targeted, it could be said he very nearly succeeded.

Yes, there are those out there who say Stalin and Mao killed many many more people but are there monuments to that today? In China, I would doubt it. The Nazis certainly did their best to wipe out the crematoria by blowing them up but what remains is a place where birds will not sing and screams could probably be heard from every place.

The BBC did an incredible job on this programme with their computer enhanced images and the role playing to allow the viewer to become more involved in the story telling. What amazed me was that there were people who actually managed to escape and live to tell the tale. However, was there any retribution to this? Who can say - but it is chilling viewing coupled with excellent research by Laurence Rees. Samuel West's narrative is very well done - how he must have felt reading the text and keeping his emotions in check, I cannot imagine.

My 2nd year history teacher told us of her trip to Auschwitz when I was a 14 year old in 1978. It was she who told us of the lack of birdsong. That image has never left me.

For those who care about man's inhumanity to man - this is a must see.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2011 3:32 PM BST

I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree
by Laura Hillman
Edition: Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing story of courage & survival, 12 Sept. 2008
Most of you will be familiar with the story of Oskar Schindler and the subsequent movie starring Liam Neeson. This story is of Laura (Hannelore)who became one of the people on that list.

Her life was a happy one prior to the rise of the Nazis in Northern Germany but when they took power and began the inhumane decrees preceding their genocide - Laura's family life began to deteriorate.

Laura writes compellingly - I simply could not put this book down and virtually read it in one sitting. I actually have this on my wishlist as I borrowed it from my library. Now I have to get it.

Laura's story is very much like the others from the Holocaust - so why buy it? Well, as I said, she's one of the Schindler Jews and she didn't automatically go to one of the more well-known Factories of Death. By simple turns of fate and could one say "luck", she ended up being one of the lucky ones taken from Plazow to Brinnlitz.

As Steven Spielberg said in his movie "Shoah", survivors of the Holocaust are now at the very earliest, in their mid to late 70s and slowly one by one they are dying and their stories with them. Each one deserves to be heard because at the end, we feel warmed by their very need to survive and their hollow endings. I feel that we can't say "happy" simply because so very many families were separated and countless numbers of them never saw their loved ones again. I cannot imagine how that would feel because I have tried to make that leap and it's painful for me to imagine.

I would certainly recommend this book for any child studying this period of history in school as it is not written in a heavy style - it's also not a very long book but Laura Hillman engages and pulls you into her story and you feel her pain and joy in equal parts.

Yes, I can recommend this book.

Upstairs Downstairs - Series 2 - Episodes 8-13 [1971] [DVD]
Upstairs Downstairs - Series 2 - Episodes 8-13 [1971] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Raymond Huntley
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £3.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Am I the only one who didn't like Sarah?, 25 Aug. 2008
I have to say that I found Pauline Collins' character of Sarah tiresome and annoying until she took on the role of Nursery maid in Season 2. I sort of felt that the way she was the Music Hall performer was being used as some sort of vehicle and also that the way she flitted in and out of the Bellamy household was not really the way that servants would have been treated.

I don't have anything against Pauline Collins as an actress in fact, I was sad she didn't win the Oscar for "Shirley Valentine" but the character of Sarah and in parts, also Thomas bored me and I enjoyed the episodes they were not in.

This is just my own opinion and I am sure that other people feel differently but I have to say that these characters were over-acted.

Nicola Pagett was also beginning to look somewhat superfluous in this season after her marriage to the bohemian poet Laurence Kirbridge ended. She seemed to flit from bohemia to society girl with ease and espoused womens' suffrage as it seemed the fashionable thing to do. However, the episode where Rose is imprisoned because she had no money with which to buy her freedom, we are shown in a somewhat sanitised way how they were treated. We are not privy to the conversation between Elizabeth and her friend Ellen. It is only when they go to the home of extremely wealthy and (extremely attractive) Julius Kurekin that we find out what has been happening.

Jean Marsh was excellent in that particular episode and despite being one of the creators, she never really over indulged the character of Rose and never wholly focussed on herself

Despite my previous comments about the characters of Thomas & Sarah, I have always enjoyed UpDown as I know that the later episodes don't have them in it.

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