Mad Micky Packs It July 26

Nobody called him that.  “Mad”.  Except my father-in-law whose mother, Amelia, was Edward “Mick” Mannock’s cousin.  “Micky” yes, but surely not “mad”.  I was re-reading ole father-in-law’s autobiography after 20 years, one of 37 books he published, and I didn’t recall him calling him that from the first read-through so it stuck out.  Everything’s twenty years.

Major Mannock 1918

But today, July 26, 1918, it’s “Major Mannock”.  But it’s still good ole “Mick” to friends unless they’re dead.  Dreary stuff, Eleanor.  I seem to have taken over 85 squadron at St. Omer, France.  Why would anyone want to do a thing like that?

It’s all getting a bit vieux chapeau, Gertrude.  Stupid war.  All this bloody killing. 1918 and we’re still bloody going at it. I’ve had it.

I’m not sure why a “Major.”  What else have I been wrong about?  He was too modest.  Staff sergeant Milliby said: “If you’ve been gazetted a major, Major, then you’re bloody well a major.”  So that’s the reason why.

Mick didn’t take a course in killing German airmen in WWI.  He was self-taught.  He killed with a ferocious efficiency.  Early on at 40 Sqd. returning from a patrol the right wing on his plane fell off at 700 feet.  Rather than die he managed to crash land.  After that nobody wanted to talk about how Mannock didn’t know what he was doing.

Gentlemen, always above, seldom on the same level; never underneath.”

And don’t follow your kill down.  You can get shot up from the ground.  Especially true for Mannock because he always attacked from the east and his combats were always over German-held ground.  He was the top “Ace” of the Great War.

I have my own theory about what happened to Mick Mannock that cheerful July morning over the lines under low cloudcover at five am.   After those two bastard enemies in the German flying contraption were killed.  The Kiwi, Inglis, was in on it.

“Both my guns were going full out, when suddenly the Hun’s tail shot up in front of me.  A chill ran through me as I pulled up, just missing his tail and wing by a fraction.  Looking back I saw my first Hun going down in a mass of flames.”

The Blue Flame

It was a special trip because the squadron usually didn’t open much before 8 a.m.  But Inglis needed a first Hun and the major, who by now wasn’t just a legend in his own mind but a greatly respected leader and teacher, and, sine qua non, survivor, wanted to help the Hun-less flyer out. Of course he did.

“We circled once and started for home.  The realization came to me we were being shot at from the ground when I saw the major stop kicking his rudder.  Suddenly a small flame appeared on the right of Mick’s machine, and simultaneously he stopped kicking his rudder.  The plane went into a slow right-hand turn, the flame growing in intensity, and as the machine hit the ground it burst into a mass of flame.”

“I saw no one leave the machine and then started for the lines, climbing slightly and at about 150 feet there was a bang and I was smothered in petrol, my engine cut out so I switched off and made a landing 5 yards behind our front line.”

Nice Pants

That’s not Mick, of course.  He’s dead even if it is only five-thirty in the morning.  That’s the after action report of Inglis, who’d come all the way from the southern hemisphere to give battle, but hadn’t killed anybody before this morning.

It’s quite evident.  It’s never been precisely determined where the Germans buried the major’s body. It’s another one of those things that happened 100 years ago.  Birth, death, it’s all the same.  If things had gone a bit different, and Major M. had got through this morning, he could still be alive.

Quotes from “MANNOCK The Life and Death of Major Edward Mannock VC, DSO, MC, RAF.  By Norman Franks and Andy Saunders. Published 2008.

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Long Walk to Freedom -The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“This is the land where the Pharaoh died”. Madiba didn’t come from ancient Egypt. He grew up at the other end of the continent in the 1920s, born July 18, 1918.  Xhosa children. Advertising makes it taste better.

He was Xhosa nation, Thembu tribe, Madiba clan.  Zulu.  We are all Zulu.  Those that know me, and who have stayed with me on the long walk, sometime address me as “Madiba” although my name is “Nelson Mandela”.

His father named him Rolihlahla, but you can’t even get a driver’s license.  A grade school teacher laid “Nelson” on the boy, and that’s when everything changed.  He’d never been Nelson before.  What did it mean?


Suddenly you’re 16 and it’s ritual and it’s a crazy guy with an assegai, the short stabbing spear with the flat, double-edged blade.  Hi crazy guy!  It’s Transkei Saturday night. “Ndiyindoda!

“Which we were trained to say in the moment of circumcision.  Seconds later, I heard Justice’s strangled cry pronounce the same phrase.  There were now two boys before the ingcibi reached me, and my mind must have gone blank because before I knew it the old man was kneeling in front of me.  I looked directly into his eyes. He was pale, and though the day was cold, he was shining with perspiration.  His hands moved so fast they seemed to be controlled by an otherworldly force.  Without a word, he took my foreskin, pulled it forward, and then, in a single motion, brought down his assegai.”

Twenty-eight years later.  You’re forty-four years old.  You’re in the prime of life and doing great.  You’ve been at it a while.  You’re a professional.  You have one of the strangest jobs in South Africa, lawyering in a lawless land and sure, why not, you’re a second class citizen, not even a citizen at all really, some sort of weird puppet in the fantasy camp of apartheid and it builds up and you don’t like it. You’ve been making your way and there’s no shortage of people looking for justice.

Suddenly you’re jailed and you stay jailed for twenty-seven years (1963 – 1990).  The charge is treason.  When you’re let out you’re 71.

This is one of the toughest things to understand in this book, this autobiography.  How did Nelson Mandela maintain his composure through twenty-seven years of jail?

Strength of character. Determination. Unity. Discipline. Somehow these virtues don’t adequately explain it. They sound like clichés, but it’s the slow drip of resistance. Madiba knew the law, which confounded his jailers and those who gave them their orders. And towards the end even he, Nelson Mandela, knew the time had come for armed struggle.

International support helped. You couldn’t buy South African brandy or wine or helicopters or anything else for a long time. No rutabagas or plantains. No barber razor. The white guys were going crazy because they just couldn’t fix it. Stuttering in their paranoia. They burned his house down in his absence.

“I was tense about seeing Mr. Botha. He was known as die Groot Krokodil–the Great Crocodile–and I had heard many accounts of his ferocious temper. He seemed to me to be the very model of the old-fashioned, stiff-necked, stubborn Afrikaner who did not so much discuss matters with black leaders as dictate to them.”

A month later Botha resigned.  F.W. deKlerk, the last apartheid president, took over. Inside of five years the first one-person-one-vote elections were held. After more than three hundred years minority rule ended. The new National Assembly elected as its first leader—Nelson Mandela.  Mark Twain was right. Truth is stranger than fiction. I thought that was Confucius but I was wrong.  What else have I been wrong about?

None of it meant everything was suddenly solved in South Africa.  It still hasn’t been. Friends who were in Johannesburg recently mentioned armed guards in the restaurant where they dined one night. You know, to be on the safe side. But that’s no reflection on what Madiba achieved.

Nelson Mandela lived to 95. Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1994. It hasn’t lost anything.




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Go Get Us

Sarah Huckabee Sanders bitching about how America has been nice to Canada over the years. How entertaining. With the implication that it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy for you, effing Canada. The bully boy’s on the block now and you’re going to pay. It’s pay-back time.

So what does the great country of America really hope to gain by beating up on Canada? Answer: We’re doing it because we can, dumbass Canadians. You’re dealing with great Americans now. We ain’t taking it on the chin anymore from you bastards up there.

What can we, as Canadians, do when we’re being insulted like this? Answer: Enjoy it while you can. We know that America is the greatest country in the universe, that they won “World War II” and “The Great War” and “The Civil War” and “The American War” and “The Cold War” and are tough, mean and ready to kill you with a bad deal.

We know Americans have paid the price in blood and we know about accountability, that countries are responsible for their own well-being and that America has contributed to peace, prosperity and progress all over the world in defence of freedom and democracy out of all proportion to what they needed to and just because they could. If that’s all over welcome to mean times, America.

We’re as tired of you being taken advantage of as you are. Just like America we’ve had it! We’re sick of America taking the hit. That’s why we’re tariff-ing up. We’re here to help.

If there’s one thing we can’t stand it’s when things ain’t fair when you’ve been nice. It’s bad manners and we hate that because we’re polite. We’re with you, great America. It sticks in our craw.

It’s disgraceful to see a bunch of Canadians being so ungrateful. We despise ourselves too if that’s the way you want it. Nothing is going to stand in our way about that. We know there’s no chance of ever being up to your standard in niceness and the effrontery, we agree, is galling. We better watch out.

And that’s what we’re doing. We’re taking a long hard look at ourselves. Everybody on the planet should do it. It’s refreshing. No more illusions. We know we can never be as great or as nice as America and we don’t want to be. That’s your job.

We have no intention of trying to take that away from you. That’s no fun. We’re sticking with what we know. So thank you, Sarah, for pointing out what a hard job it is to be nice to us. We’re with you every step of the way.

We’re So Nice


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