Monday, 30 April 2012

WILL POWER


Cllr Will Scobie has officially been named the next Mayor of Margate. At just 22-years-old, I'm pretty sure this makes Will one of the UK's youngest mayors, an achievement which could very well land him an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. Next thing we know he'll be juggling plates!

I would like to congratulate Will and wish him all the best. Mind you, this isn't the first time the Labour Party have bestowed mayoral duties on younger whippersnappers. According to the Daily Mirror, Labour's Ian Campbell was named Mayor despite being 23-years-old, so Will might just pip him to the post. Good for him, I say!

I see the Conservative opposition has already poured vitriol on the notion of Will being made Mayor, with Cllr Simon Moores hinging his argument on Will's lack of 'experience'. Is this the same lack of 'experience' that employers kept on telling me I didn't have, just because I happened to be young, I wonder? Stuff and nonsense! What really matters is diligence, and Will has that in droves. He deserves more courtesy than to be discredited simply because of his youth.

Since I know Will personally, I can vouch for him and say that he is probably one of the hardest-working local political campaigners I know. The amount of research he did into winning his Dane Valley seat – not to mention the amount of legwork he did knocking on doors – would be enough to drive some of his more senior colleagues to exhaustion. For that reason, the reward of being named Mayor is something that I think Will fully deserves. 

I'm anticipating that some of you may snigger and say that making Will the Mayor is just a shallow publicity stunt. I completely disagree. Politicians are forever complaining that not enough young people are getting into politics. Like him or loathe him, that's exactly what Will has done. And who knows?! Seeing a young person in an esteemed position might even inspire other young people to follow suit. Here's hoping.

Image © Christine Tongue via a still from a YouTube video on Equal Marriage for her Thanet Watch report. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

THE SINKING OF HMS THANET


Since today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it's worth reminding ourselves that the infamous 'unsinkable' White Star Liner wasn't the only ship in history with a story to tell. In fact, there was once a ship called the HMS Thanet that's worthy of remembrance, for obvious reasons, given its namesake.

HMS Thanet was an S-class destroyer built in 1919. At the request of the Mayor of Margate, it ended up sporting a model of the North Foreland Lighthouse as its crest. The ship was purchased by the people of Thanet as part of the Government's Adopt a Warship week (presumably during the Second World War) and I even discovered this video on British Pathé of an old newsreel in which naval officers representing HMS Thanet were presented with a silver plate in Ramsgate. The ship's motto was in hoc signio (''By this sign you will conquer').

So what happened to the HMS Thanet? Well, she sunk. During World War II, the ship was hit in the engine room with a torpedo by a Japanese warship and sank on 27 January 1942. There are some websites which suggest some of HMS Thanet's crew did survive. According to Bob Hackett and Sander Kingsepp's website, the Japanese warship Shirayuki picked 31 survivors from HMS Thanet out of the water. They were never seen again.

According to the National Ex-Services Association website, the only record of one of these survivors is Sub Lt R H Danger who remained aboard the Shirayuki, and was later taken to Indochina held as a Prisoner of War. It therefore looks likely that most of the other HMS Thanet survivors held aboard the Shirayuki were thrown in the same POW camp, but research with a local Japanese resident appears to suggest that they were executed. It looks like the HMS Thanet survivors picked up by the Shirayuki didn't 'survive' for long enough to tell the tale.

However, there were other HMS Thanet crewmembers who reportedly survived. There are some interesting stories of HMS Thanet crewmembers "making their way to the shore line in boats, Carley rafts, and anything which would float." Reportedly, Sgt. Charles Macdonald "came across a number of bedraggled sailors from [HMS] Thanet, and together they made their way through the jungle to Singapore."

A downed Hurricane pilot called Sgt. John Fleming "came across a dozen or more men of the [HMS] Thanet two or three severely injured" and discovered a naval whaler which they used to sail for Singapore. The website states that a signal was received suggesting that a total of 65 of HMS Thanet's crew had managed to find their way to Singapore but that "there is no evidence that any of these men survived to the end of the war." I'm not sure of the veracity of these stories, but it makes for interesting reading.

So, there you go. Once upon a time, the people of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs had a ship to call its own. I'm half-expecting some of you to make comments about Thanet being like a sinking ship in itself, not to mention pointing out the irony that our ship sank not long after a great deal of public money was spent buying it. But since this year is the 70th anniversary of the HMS Thanet's sinking, I think we should forget the hubbub about the Titanic and remind ourselves of a time when Thanet once ruled the waves. Rule Britannia, anyone?!