Antony Beevor omits any reference to the forecast for June 19th 1944

I did a posting here a while back about the weather-forecasting for D-Day (June 6th 1944), and also about the weather-forecasting for the day that would have been D-Day (June 19th) if Actual D-Day (June 6th) had been postponed, quoting from this book by Peter Caddick-Adams.

In that posting, I surmised that real D-Day experts would surely be familiar with the tale that Caddick-Adams told, about how, had the forecast weather for June 6th not been good enough, as it so nearly wasn’t, the attempt to do D-Day would have then happened on the 19th, and would have been a catastrophic failure.

Later, it occurred to me to delve into another D-Day book that I also possess, but have also only been dipping into. And on page 216 of D-Day: The Battle For Normandy by Antony Beevor, we read this:

The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself. Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’

Caddick-Adams makes no mention of this note, so score one to Beevor for that.

However, I searched before and after the above passage for any reference to what Beevor says the weather forecast had been for the 19th, and found nothing. Caddick-Adams quotes one of Stagg’s forecasters saying that all the forecasters had in fact forecast, very wrongly indeed, good weather for the 19th. Beevor, unless I am badly mistaken, makes no reference to this later and wrong forecast. He only needed to include about one more sentence to do this, but no such sentence is to be found.

Had the forecasters foreseen the dreadful storms of June 19th-22nd, D-Day (had they been contemplating it then) would surely have been postponed yet again, no matter what inconvenience and frustration that would have caused. But, they did in fact miss this storm, and would have missed it. So it’s a crucial detail.

So, I would say that in this particular engagement between historians, Caddick-Adams edges it.

Double decker and single decker trains in France

While rootling through the archives today, I came upon these two photos, of a single decker train and a double decker train, photoed within a few minutes of each other in Quimper, Brittany, in 2018:

On the left, a single decker train. On the right a double decker train.

Earlier this year I did a posting in which I ruminated upon the appeal of, but the disadvantages of, double decker trains. The above photo illustrates the problems of double decker trains rather well, I think.

Basically, a lot of bother, to achieve an only rather small increase in capacity.

That earlier posting was also about how much less clunky trains have become since when I was a kid in the fifties and sixties. But double decker trains must necessarily remain clunky, to support that upper deck, and to get people up to and down from it. Commenters Crozier and Jennings concurred, which was reassuring.

It’s a different story when it comes to long distance trains. For them, where there’s not so much getting on and off per journey, double decker carriages make more sense.

WW1 ends and immediately the birds start shouting at each other again

Here.

I’m afraid this posting says it all for me, about birds and their incessant “singing”.

LATER: Plus, these owls don’t think they’re being cute at all.

Peter Caddick-Adams: If D-Day had been postponed it would have been a catastrophe

I have been reading the recently published book by Peter Caddick-Adams about D-Day, entiled Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day, the follow-up to Snow and Steel, which was about the Battle of the Bulge. James Holland, quoted on the cover of Sand and Steel, calls it “Magisterial”, which is his way of saying that it is a huge book, with a huge amount of judiciously presented detail. The book is, I’m afraid, too “magisterial” for me now to be ploughing through it from start to finish. What I am now doing is feeling my way into it by looking up, in the index of Sand and Steel, people involved in D-Day whom I already know a little about, and then seeing what Caddick-Adams has to say about them.

I already know, for instance, a bit about Captain James Stagg, the one who supplied Eisenhower with that famous weather forecast, of a break in the bad weather on June 6th 1944, which enabled Ike to say: Go.

Caddick-Adams disapproves of how a little too much honour for this has been heaped only upon Stagg. Stagg was not himself a professional weather forecaster. He did summarise and pass on to Ike what the real forecasters, half a dozen of them, were telling him. That is honour enough for Stagg, but the real hero was the elaborate system that gathered together all the relevant information. Also, the German forecasters told pretty much the same weather story to their superiors, contrary to what Stagg-fans like me had been assuming.

Caddick-Adams is very good about somewhat misleading tales of this sort. His passion for detail, and for tracking down absolutely everyone and anyone who could tell him those details, is all mixed up with him wanting to know what really happened, as opposed to the stories that some people have been in the habit of telling one another, in movies for instance. This great generation of warriors, you can hear Caddick-Adams insisting, deserves nothing less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That being why his books are typically so long. The whole truth of something like D-Day can’t be told in a hundred and fifty pages. Sand and Steel is one thousand and twenty five pages long.

Of a lot more interest, to me, than who exactly we should be praising for that most famous and famously accurate of weather forecasts, is what Caddick-Adams says about what might have happened if the weather on June 6th not been so favourable, and if Ike had consequently been forced to say: No. Not yet. Or for that matter if, given the forecasts he did get, Ike had simply said no anyway.

To know this, you have to know what range of dates the Allies considered suitable for the D-Day landings, weather permitting, and why. The relevant passage from Sand and Steel goes thus (pp, 346-347):

Given the specific moon and tidal requirements for the landing, Hogben recalled …

… Hogben being one of Stagg’s weather forecasters …

… they had just six possible days to invade in June: 5th-7th and 19th-21st. ‘We worked out the odds on the weather on any one of those four days conforming to our needs as being 13-1 against. So meteorologically, D-Day was bound to be a gamble against the odds.’ Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commanding the Western Task Force, recorded the factors that needed to come together for the invasion: ‘The night before D-Day had to be reasonably light so that convoys could keep station with ships darkened: he wrote. ‘Airborne operations also required this, necessitating a night with a full moon, or nearly so.’ Next, Kirk identified that ‘H-Hour needed one hour of daylight before the initial landings to enable bombarding ships to neutralise German batteries and drench the landing beaches’, but it needed to be ‘sufficiently before high water for the demolition parties to remove beach obstacles while still dry’.

However, it also had to be ‘sufficiently after low water in order to permit the landing on certain British beaches where sand bars prevented an assault until two or three hours later’. Ideally, the day would be fixed to ensure ‘a second high water in daylight to permit maximum unloading’. In conclusion, wrote Kirk, ‘the only dates on which all these factors were available were 21-23 May; 5-7 and 19-21 June, or 3-5 July’, though Stagg later observed that if they waited for the perfect set ‘it would take 140 years’.

So, if June 6th had not been the right day to be D-Day, what day would have been?

Here is what Hogben said about that (p. 351):

In speculating what would have happened if the poor weather had persisted on 6 June, leading to postponement until the nineteenth, the New Zealander Hogben stated, ‘As it happened, on 17 June, all six of us produced a forecast for the nineteenth for almost perfect conditions – the invasion would definitely have gone ahead, and would have been an utter catastrophe. Complete failure – for on 19 June the biggest storm of the twentieth century lashed the Channel and I doubt many landing craft would have even made it to the beaches. They would all have been swamped with the high winds. It does not bear thinking about.’

Says Caddick-Adams:

Recent statistical analysis supports this. The storm was a ‘once in forty years’ event, a tempest of slightly less ferocity having lashed the Calvados coast in February 1905, emphasising how lucky Eisenhower was to have opted to go on 6 June. …

Under a photo from his own (presumably vast) collection, of a huge wave crashing over the sea wall at Arromanches-Les-Bains, Caddick-Adams hammers home the same point (also p. 351):

The Overlord meteorologists were aware that violent storms often blew in from the Atlantic to batter the Normandy coast. Much documented was the hurricane of February 1905, which threw huge columns of water at the future invasion beaches and sites for the two artificial harbours. In June 1944, the Allied weathermen spotted a lull in the bad weather, but the tempest that began on 19 June replicated the violence of 1905. Postponing the invasion from 6 June to the nineteenth would thus have been disastrous for D-Day and the landings would have failed.

The point being, although the Allied forecasters got their forecast for June 6th right, they got the forecast for June 19th totally wrong, and unanimously so. They would definitely have said: Go. Ike would surely have concurred. And, it would have been a disaster.

The USSR conquering a whole lot more of Europe than it did. No President Eisenhower. Maybe the atom bomb being ready before the end of the war in Europe? The alternative history ramifications are endless.

Maybe D-Day buffs have long known about this June 19th aspect of the D-Day story, but it was all completely new to me.

Sparklingly witty BMNB QotD: On when clever banter can be called “repartee”

Yes, a champagne Twitter moment from Dan Hannan:

Clever banter can only be called “repartee” if it’s from the Repartée region of France. Otherwise it’s just sparkling wit.

We can all drink to that.

Big Things across the River

There were statues to be seen nearby, but there were bigger things, Big Things, further away, on the other side of the River:

Photo 1 uses the clutter associated with getting on and off of a boat to frame the Wheel. All the rest are entirely of more distant stuff.

I like the colours, warm cream when the sun hits stone or concrete, dark glass, the perfect blue of the sky. My camera makes the dark glass, of such buildings as One Blackfriars (aka the Boomerang), all the darker by not wanting bright sunlight directly reflected to look too bright.

And once again with the shadow of the Wheel (for once London “Eye” works very nicely) on the Shell Building, but this time with the shadow seeming to be the wrong way round, as seen most clearly in photo 6 and also in photo 7. It is of course the shadow of the opposite side of the Wheel.

And in the further distance, in gaps, the Shard (photo 9), and a rather handsome view of 22 Bishopsgate (photo 5) looking like a more coherent shape than I am used to seeing, a bit like a ship, front on. Move along a bit, and we then see the Cheesegrater as well (photo 8).

These strange alignments all take a bit of getting used to when you first see them. This is because, like so many rivers in the middle of great cities, this river twists and turns, that being a big reason why the city got built here in the first place. By twiddling this way and that, the river brings valuable riverside spots closer to each other, and stirs up a lot more commerce than a straight river would. (See also: Paris.) But these kinks play hell with your sense of direction, or with mine anyway. I was on the north bank of the river, but, although I was looking straight across the river, I was nevertheless looking due east, rather than south. And back across another kink in the river again when seeing 22 Bishopsgate and the Cheesegrater, which are both part of the City Big Thing Cluster, which is on the north side of the river.

It is all part of London’s charm, and the charm of its Big Things. When out-and-abouting in London you can never be quite sure which Big Thing you’ll see next, through some gap in the foreground, or from what direction you’ll see it.

There are cranes to be seen, but very few.

Big sport day

Two IPL games have been happening, both disappointing. That being twenty-overs-plays-twenty-overs cricket, in India. Both games started out with low scores by the teams batting first, followed by relaxed and successful chases by the opposition, and neither contained any English players for me to support. I don’t care which IPL teams do well. I just want the England guys to do well. Some are doing okay, like Stokes, Buttler and Archer, who are all, if I remember it right, playing for the same team. Many are not doing so well. Roy got dropped early. Bairstow seemed to be doing okay, but also got dropped. Blah blah. If you care about the IPL, you’ll know how to follow it. If you don’t care, you don’t need any links from me. (This applies to everything in this posting. So, no links. If you care, you know. If you don’t care, you probably aren’t even reading this.)

So, the Rugby. My over-riding feeling going into today’s games, the last of the 2020 6 Nations, was that the English commentators were being insufferably smug about how well England would do against Italy and how badly Italy would do against England. Well, it’s now half time in that game, and England are up by a mere ten points to five, with each side having scored one try. England have to score four tries to probably win the title, but have kicked away all their possession, as I just saw Clive Woodward complaining about also. When will these people ever learn? This is the Six Nations. Anything can happen.

One thing in particular made me suspect that Italy might do well, which is that they have finally got shot of that guy whose name now escapes me who has been their best player for the last two decades. Sergio Parisse, is it? When a bad team has a “great player” playing for them, there is a temptation for the other guys to ease off and let him do it for them. But once he goes, all the other guys look at the team sheet and say: My God, we’re going to have to do this ourselves. And they can end up playing better. In particular, Italy have what looks to be a great fly half, who pulled off a wonderful dummy pass to score against Ireland last week. He looks really good. To say it again: It’s the 6 Nations. You, famous ex-England player, you don’t know what’ll happen. I don’t know. Nobody knows.

Oh, I just tuned back into this England game, and it would seem that England have scored another try, and need just two more to serve their purposes. Which is quite probable. Presumably they got a bollocking at half time. And yes, that’s exactly what the commentators are now saying. Italy 5 England 17, with somewhat over half and hour to go.

The France Ireland game that happens later is predicted to be a high scoring high risk affair, with both teams seeking to get four tries and a chance to win this thing themselves. So, I now predict a low-scoring stalemate, in which they cancel each other out, and win the tournament for England despite England’s worst efforts.

Why am I in such a bad mood about these games, because I definitely am? It’s partly Lockdown, and partly the fake crowd noises that happened during the earlier Wales Scotland game. Who do they think they are fooling with such nonsense? (Wales lost, by the way, not because Scotland were that good, but because they were not very good.) At least this Italy England game is being accurately reported by the television, without any added-on “atmosphere”. But, that makes it hard to take very seriously, because that means there’s no atmosphere. You need to be able to suspend your disbelief about these contests really really mattering. The seats in the stadium are all empty, and the only people you can hear shouting are the players. It looks and sounds like a training game. It needs to feel and sound like an actual life-and-death battle, but does not, at all.

It doesn’t help any that I have been suffering from persistent “lower back” problems, caused partly by having been sitting for far too long on the wrong sort of chair. I am now trying a different chair, but it’s too soon to say if this will work. This, for me, could be it from now on. If I could trade England winning the 6 Nations for getting rid of this pain in the arse, I’d do that deal in a blink.

England have try number three. They need just one more, with half an hour left. Expert prediction: Doddle. Me: Let’s just see about that, shall we? Meanwhile, England, after a very poor first half, are nevertheless 5-24 up.

In soccer news. West Ham are now leading Liverpool by a goal to nil. Will they do to Liverpool what Aston Villa did to Liverpool, and beat them 7-2? Well, probably not. Liverpool have already equalised. There’s been much discussion about why so many goals are being scored in the Premier League all of a sudden. It has been suggested that, in the absence of spectators, defenders aren’t taking their duties as seriously as they would if there were spectators present to jeer at them when they cock it up. But I would like to suggest another explanation which is that attackers are, for this same reason, a bit more relaxed, and hence better able to score goals, instead of turning into terrified blocks of wood or bodies of jelly just when they need to be at their sharpest. With no spectators to put them off, they can score goals just like they do in training.

England have just scored try number four. So, all those damn experts were right, despite everything. Boring.

Final score: Italy 5 England 34. My understanding is that if Ireland win by more than seven, or if France win by a lot, either of them could win it. But honestly, I find that I don’t care enough to check if that’s right. I’ll just wait to be told.

Result: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1. Boring boring.

Maybe I built all this up too much beforehand, only to discover on the day that I had become an adult. Maybe that’s my problem. It seems unlikely, but I suppose it could be that.

Apparently Ireland have to win by seven or more, and score at least four tries. So England are now hot favourites for the Six Nations 2020. Hoo ray.

LATER: Biggest laugh of the day. They got it wrong, and I got it right the first time! Ireland just have to win by seven or more. No four tries. Just win by a bit. France have to win by a mile, so, go France. But don’t go too well.

EVEN LATER: Well France obliged, by winning, but not by enough. England are champions. It didn’t feel like anyone was, really. The way France took their tries against Ireland was what I’ll remember from today.

Oscar yawns

My favourite cat, Oscar, is the cat housed and maintained by GodDaughter2’s family, down in the south of France. Search for Oscar on the left there, and you’ll encounter several other postings featuring Oscar, as well as postings that refer to such persons as Oscar Wilde.

Here, from GD2’s Dad, is the latest Oscar photo. This is him, yawning:

I like that. The lighting has gone a bit wrong at the top, but I don’t care about that and nor should you.

As I told GD2D earlier in the week, I meant to post this yesterday, Friday being my day for such postings, but yesterday was a bit fraught, what with life and everything happening, and I forgot.

Rules are important. Without rules, society descends into chaos and civilisation itself collapses. And we’d none of us want that, would we? So I do realise that putting a cat photo up on a Saturday is not good. But it’s Oscar, and if I were to wait until next Friday I might forget again, and I don’t want that. Best to get this done. That way, it’s done.

Butterfly on wall

Via the latest clutch of David Thompson ephemera, my favourite of these:

A somewhat nicer way to apply colourful decoration than what’s in this photo, I think. Besides which, applied colour need only be temporary, so all tastes can take it in turns. If you want to make it permanent, photo it. Photos like that one of the painted butterfly will last longer and better than the painted butterfly will.

I like how they’ve added a shadow under it.

Bingeing on Haydn symphonies

Every so often, a combination of my ever more gargantuan classical CD collection, of my own shifting tastes in classical music, and of my particular life circumstances result in me experiencing musical binges, of various sorts over the years, during which I binge-listen to a particular category of music.

Sometimes a binge will focus on a single piece of music. At other times, as recently, it consists of constantly listening to a particular category of music.

When Lockdown began, at that now vanished time when I and millions of others were genuinely scared that our lives might be about to end prematurely, I found myself listening to, of all things, Haydn symphonies, again and again and again and again. I possess many CDs of Haydn symphonies. Here are about two thirds of them:

That’s a lot of Haydn symphonies, and there are about half as many again still on the shelves, which I also listened to. Plus I even bought another great box of them, because I already had one of the CDs in question and really liked it when I listened to it again.

Haydn is in many ways the “ideal type” of the Classical Music Composer. If you really like his orchestral music, then it can be said with confidence that you really like classical music. What makes me say this is that his music seems to me to posses an absolutely satisfaction with the musical means that were available for its making, and no feeling whatsoever that “art” means in some way feeling obliged to transcend these means, in the manner of someone breaking out of a prison or of dreaming of such a breakout. Put it like this. If Mozart or Beethoven had lived at a different and later time, when musical technology had expanded, you get the strong feeling that their music would have sounded very different and a lot more dramatic. With Haydn, I feel as if it would probably have sounded much as it sounds now.

This is especially true of his earlier symphonies, which I found myself preferring, during my binge. My habit was to assemble all the performances of Haydn symphonies by one conductor and ensemble, and then listen to them in chronological order. And I found that the later symphonies, to my ear, had a bombast and an assertiveness about them that I found, by comparison with the earlier ones, unappealing. Basically, the symphonies he wrote for his aristocratic bosses in Vienna and nearby places struck me as wonderful, utter perfection. But, the later symphonies that he wrote for bigger and less grand audiences, less old money and more new money, in places like Paris and London, London especially, felt to me like Haydn forcing himself to express feelings that his audiences felt more strongly than he did.

It may very well be that actually, Haydn felt horribly imprisoned when he wrote his earlier symphonies, and liberated when writing his later ones. But what I was hearing was a case of one kind of atmosphere, which I found perfectly (and I do mean perfectly) appealing, compared to another that was less congenial. Raucous brass instruments, and above all the percussion, started to interrupt the serene perfection of the earlier symphonies. Bang bang bang, wah wah wah. The later symphonies sounded to me, by comparison, to be bourgeois, in a bad way. Nouveau riche, rather than old riche. New money waving itself in the air, rather than old money simply taking its ease, without fuss or the need to assert itself too stridently. It was as if Haydn had moved from a world where he was in perfect command of his art, to one where he was stressing and straining after something that came less naturally to him.

The irony being that the official programmes of many of Haydn’s earlier symphonies are concerned with exactly such stressfulness and strain. There is even a famous group of earlier symphonies collectively know as the “sturm und drang” – storm and stress – symphonies. But these felt to me like serenely detached descriptions of such emotions, rather than any sort of effort to be engulfed by such feelings on behalf on an emotionally incontinent audience of upwardly mobile poseurs.

I suspect that finding myself being treated as a gentleman of leisure by Haydn, rather than as some sort of new man, a stresser and strainer after such things as “improvement” and “solutions” and “radical progress”, was exactly what I was finding so congenial. Lockdown demanded nothing of me. Literally, it demanded nothing. And, as the owner and operator of a CD player, I could pause the music at will with one touch of a button, which made me even more of an aristocrat than Haydn’s bosses were. How they would have loved to be able to push a button and pause their musicians in mid bar, while they, having been delayed by other business, sat themselves down and made themselves comfortable at the beginning of a musical performance, or while they needed to deal with a discreet interruption from an underling about something that needed a quick answer. And how the likes of Beethoven and Wagner, Wagner especially, would have been outraged by my pause button! My music, Wagner would have shouted, takes precedence over your little life! Shut up and listen, in darkness, and have your emotions aroused and sculpted by me, the Great Composer. I am not hear to amuse you with my art, you are hear to worship me and my Art.

Haydn, especially in his earlier Viennese, pre-bourgeois form, made no such demands upon me. And during the early, serious bit of Lockdown, he was, for me, the perfect musical companion.

If you have read this far, thank you. I hope you’ve already worked out that I am not asking you to agree with me about Haydn. Rather I ask you to think of whether you have had similar bursts of aesthetic enthusiasm, and to reflect on them, as I have on this recent one of mine.

The main thing about such episodes, I would say, is that they can’t be forced. You can’t decide to have one of these binges. They just happen.