Beasts in Battle

Tales of the Unexpected"

Emma SmithFor our April meeting we enjoyed this light-hearted talk by Dr Emma Smith of Bristol University. Dr Smith is a reasearcher in the Biology department specialising in the activities of birds and she first told us of about the use of pigeons in war. They can fly at 50 m.p.h. finding their way back to their home base guided by sun, stars and/or the earths magnetic field - it has not been established exactly how. They have been used to carry messages since the days of the early Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans and in World Wars 1 & 2 some 20,000 died in service. British Forces ceased using them in 1950 but they are still used in some countries. Their biggest disadvantage is that they are unidirectional.

We heard of how one named Chez Ami in WW1 received an award for saving the lives of 200 men by getting through though wounded to tell the French artillery to stop shelling an area recently captured bu Americans, Similarly in WW2 one named GI Joe succeded in getting a message to the US Air Force to stop bombing a village in Italy recently captured by the British.

Pigeons have also been used as gas detectors and for spying by carrying cameras.GI-Joe - Decorated Pigeon

Dr Smith described how some animals have helped morale at some units by serving as mascots but that other creatiures sich as rats and lice have sometimes been as great an hazard as the enemy. Examples of other animal hazards wew a polar bear attacking a submarines periscope and charging bisons.

As helpful animals cats were often used on ships to control vermin. One such being Simon on HMS Amethystin 1949 when trapped on the Yangtse for some months by Chinese communists.

Dogs have been widely used for casualty-finding, carrying infra-red cameras, attacking the enemy, message carrying and vlearing anti-tank mines.

As to horses, we immediately think of the cavalry forming part of armies for many centuries and still used as recently as the attacks in Afghanistan. Horses were also used for transport. For the many used as pack animals on the Western Front in WW1 as pack animals and for hauling guns and general transport there were major logistical problems in feeding them and of disposing their manure or the carcasses of them that died.

Elephants and camels have also been used for transport. Dolphins have been used for mine clearance and sea lions have been trained for this purpose in the U.S.

Dr Smith finished with an unlikely U.S. WW2 story of thousands of bats having had incendary devices attached to them; they were packed in special containers that were to be parachuted into Japan to set fire to combustible Japanese houses but the atomic bomb brought the war to an end before they could be used.
Don Vickers

The IEE Benevolent Fund

For those members who are also IEE members, it may have escaped your attention over the years but The IEE Benevolent Fund is active and becoming even more active. It will not be of interest to most of us but the qualifying time of membership has reduced from an original five years to now, two years.

Benefits can be life savers for some members who for no fault of their ownfind themselves in financial difficulties. Grants can be made for a widevariety of needs e.g. Christmas and/or holiday grants.

Benefits can comprise one off payments, however regular payments can be awarded if ongoing needs are identified. The fund is mainly concerned with helping members financially, usually in connection with specific problems, perhaps a wheel chair becomes necessary, there are so many needs that one could go on and on giving examples ad nauseam. Over 1000 regular and one-off grants are made each year. Support is not confined to actual members of IEE but includes support for widows and widowers and dependant families of members bereaved by the death of their partner.

Other support can include personal legal issues. Legal action may not always be appropriate, but sound advice may help you to resolve your problem by other means. The service cannot represent individuals but in the normal event legal advice can prove very expensive if sought through a high street solicitor.

Another area where help can be obtained is disability. 'The Fund' runs its own residential home Speirs House, which is situated in New Malden, Surrey. Speirs House comprises en suite residential accommodation for elderly and disabled members. They do not provide nursing care but in the case of residential home members becoming in need of nursing care, this can often be arranged. Residential costs will be provided on request.

So IEE members, THINK ABOUT IT! When in need consult your IEE booklet for the address of your Benevolent representative, or email or phone 020 7344 5498.
Michael Clinch.

Shuttle Design Fundamentals

Did I tell you about the curious case of the Shuttle and the Horse's Bum? But let me begin a little further back....

In the US the standard railway gauge, as many of you will know, is 4 feet 8.5 inches. Thats a very odd number which unsurprisingly derives from the British standard which our engineers perpetuated in the US. So why did we use such a strange size? Obviously because the people who built the early railway lines were the same ones who built the horse-drawn tramways and that was the gauge they used. But why?

Clearly, they used the same jigs and tools for building railway stock that they used for building wagons .......which used that wheel spacing. So what was the reason for building wagons that wide? Well if they didn't they would simply break up on our old long distance roads because that's how wide apart the wheel ruts were!

Who built those early rutted roads over the length and breadth of the country (and Europe too)? Who else but the Romans! The roads have been used ever since although the ruts have now mostly gone; but what about the ruts? Roman war chariots first made the original ruts which everyone else had to match or break their axles and destroy their wagon's wheels. Since the chariots were made for, or by, Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

So to sum up..... The most modem country in the world operates a railroad system based on the original specification for a Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureacracies live for ever, so the next tíme you see a curious spedfication and you wonder "what horse's rear came up with that" you might just be right! It tums out that the Imperial Roman war chariot was made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two horses!

Now as I was saying about the Space Shuttle.... When a Shuttle is sitting on the launch pad, you will see two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters or SRB's. The SRB's are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah and shipped by rail to the launch site in Florida. The engineers would probably have preferred to make them a bit fatter... but the railway line from the factory must pass through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRB's have to fít that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railway track and, you guessed it, the railway track is about as wide as two horses rumps!

So, the major design feature for what is arguably the most adanced form of transportation yet devised was determined by the width of a horse's ass!
Forwarded by Frank Crofts