Joe Carlebach: Today is VE Day

Cllr Joe Carlebach is the Chairman of the Hammersmith Conservative Association.

In the cut and thrust of the exciting General Election campaign we currently find ourselves in it is worth pausing for a few minutes to remember that today is Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

Seventy two years ago today the streets, towns and cities up and down our nation were filled with cheering crowds all ecstatic by the news of the official surrender of Nazi Germany. As time passes and the numbers of those who lived and fought in this conflict dwindle through age, regrettably their sacrifice becomes blurred in the mist of time. While we continue to live in a world torn by conflict and we must understandably focus our interest on the here and now I would ask that on a few specific moments in time such as today, VE Day, we pause to remember. Remember the sacrifice made by our parents, grandparents and great grandparents in what was possibly the greatest conflict of all time between good and evil.

The Second World War was very much a conflict that was felt directly by many hard working ordinary people. It is estimated that approximately 67,000 civilians perished as a result of enemy action in the UK , with many hundreds of thousands loosing their homes and all their possessions. Approximately 383,700 members of our armed services were killed in action, making the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Many more hundreds of thousands of service men were wounded often suffering horrific fiscal and mental life changing injuries. Had they not made these sacrifices and had we not won, the world would be a very different and darker place today.

As we all continue to hit the campaign trail up and down the country working hard for what I for one hope will be a significant and historic Conservative victory on 8th June perhaps we can have a rare cross party moment, saluting our fallen and enjoying the wonderful and beautiful thing that has been bequeathed to us by this fading generation. Our freedom and our vibrant democracy.

Capability Brown statue coming soon

The Hammersmith Society reports:

“The Capability Brown statue, supported by the Hammersmith Society, received planning permission on 15 December 2016 for its site on Hammersmith Embankment at the end of Chancellor’s Road. The life-size bronze statue, commemorating the 300 years since his birth and the thirteen years he lived by the river in Hammersmith, is now fully funded and due to be unveiled in mid-May 2017.”

Congratulations to Richard Jackson of Brackenbury Road for pursuing  this project including raising the £35,000 needed to pay for it and thanks to all those who made donations.

Lancelot Brown (1715–16-1783) was known as “England’s greatest gardener”. He designed over 170 parks and was known as “Capability” due to his habit of telling his clients that their property had “capability” for improvement.

He started work as a water engineer. His facility with water was used to great effect with his later work on landscape design. The historian John Phibbs argues that water was crucial to Brown’s genius.

 

There are seven Blue Plaques in the Ravenscourt Park Ward

There are seven Blue Plaques in Ravenscourt Park Ward – out of 22 in the borough.

The seven are as follows:

15 Upper Mall for Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson

12 Hammersmith Terrace for Sir Alan Herbert:

3 Hammersmith Terrace for Edward Johnston:

48 Upper Mall for Eric Ravilious

7 Hammersmith Terrace for Sir Emery Walker

 

19 Ravenscourt Road for Christopher Whitworth Wall

 

11 Ravenscourt Square for Marie Louise de la Ramée

 

If you would like to nominate someone contact English Heritage. They need to have been dead for at least 20 years and for the building they lived in to still exist in recognisable form.

Joe Carlebach:The Child victims of the Holocaust – a personal reflection on Holocaust Memorial Day

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and as in previous years my thoughts are drawn to the fate of the many millions who perished at the hands of the Nazi’s, the six million Jews including many close members of my own family.

I have written before about my grandfather, Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph Carlebach (after whom I am named) and his brave and principled stand against the Nazis, his decision to stay in Germany and continue to lead his community rather than flee to safer shores. He even passed on his opportunity to come to the UK following a confrontation with senior Nazi thugs on Kristalnacht in November 1938 where he was badly beaten, to another whom he thought was in greater need. An immensely brave decision that ultimately cost him his life.

Whilst the entire episode of the Holocaust is, for me, incredibly distressing I find it particularly difficult to understand, or make sense in any way, of the torture and murder of children. It is estimated that over 1.5 million children were murdered by the Nazi’s and their collaborators during the Second World War. Of this, just over 1 million were Jewish children, tens of thousands were Romani children and many thousands were German children with physical and mental disabilities. They were brutally shot, gassed, beaten or starved to death. Some had the very real misfortune to fall into the hands of monsters like Josef Mengele whose ‘medical’ experiments on children, and particularly twins, must rank as some of the worst excesses of cruelty known to humanity at any point in history.

Our natural instinct is to protect children, the young and vulnerable, yet during the Holocaust this basic tenet of human behaviour was apparently so easily abandoned by the Nazis. As the Warsaw ghetto historian Emanuel Ringelblum wrote “Even in the most barbaric times, a human spark glowed in the rudest heart, and children were spared. But the Hitlerian beast is quite different. It would devour the dearest of us, those who arouse the greatest compassion—our innocent children.”

My (late) father was fortunate in escaping the oncoming slaughter gaining a place on the Kinder Transport to this country along with a number of his sisters, a gesture of kindness for which I will forever be indebted to this great nation of ours.

However his younger brother and his three youngest sisters, Naomi, Sarah and Ruth were not so fortunate and were deported with my grandparents from their home in Hamburg to Riga in late 1941.

 

carledrawFollowing a period of internment my grandparents and three young aunts were taken to Bikernieki forest and brutally murdered on March 26th 1942, the details of which are so barbaric that I can not, even today, describe them. Ruth, Naomi and Sara were respectively 15,14 and 13.

I can not begin to understand the distress and anxiety they must have gone through, seeing and experiencing such horror. Three girls who should have been concerned with challenges of growing up, learning about the trials and tribulations of boys and the opportunities and challenges of schooling, looking forward to growing up, of future careers and families. Instead they were confronted with evil, prejudice,brutality, starvation and death. Being murdered with your friends and parents is an unimaginable terror: the full horror of which must have been beyond their worst nightmares.

For me, like many, the vast numbers of children murdered during the Holocaust is a tragedy from history separated from today, only by time. What turns history into a personal reality is the fate of my family and in particular these three young girls.

To personalise this tragedy is to destroy the aim of the Nazis which was to dehumanise their victims. We should look for individual stories, remember victims by name and learn about the everyday lives they lived.

This is what makes the victims of the Holocaust real people, not anonymous numbers and will help us all to learn from this dreadful and dark episode. This is especially pertinent for the child victims of the Holocaust whose lives, hopes and ambitions were so cruelly taken.

So today, dear Ruth, Naomi and Sarah, we never had the chance to meet and we never had the chance to know and enjoy each others company. We never had the opportunity to celebrate birthdays and other joyous family events together. I will however never forget you, you will always be close to my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers. You will be in the thoughts and prayers of my young children as and when they become old enough to understand and in turn their children and for many generations to come.

For me the personalisation and individualisation of genocide also has lessons for modern times, for the children of the Syrian conflict – especially the children of Aleppo, for the children of Yemen and all the other violent conflicts raging around the world. Turning numbers to names and names to individual lives is one of the key lessons of the Holocaust. By doing this we can help to combat prejudice, racism and intolerance wherever and whenever these evils occur and show we have at least learnt something from one of the most barbarous, murderous and shocking events of modern times – the Holocaust.

Ruth August 11th 1926 - 26th March 1942

Ruth
August 11th 1926 – 26th March 1942

Naomi October 24th 1927-26th March 1942

Naomi October 24th 1927-26th March 1942

Sarah December 24th 1928-26th March 1942

Sarah December 24th 1928-26th March 1942

The Sikh sacrifice for British freedom

higton2A guest post from Mark Higton.

Last week I wrote about the Church of St Katherine, Westway, and how it’s cross, salvaged from the broken and twisted steel superstructure of St Catherine Conway, provides a link with those Killed in the early months of the Blitz in September and October 1940. The cross also has a connection with another religious site – the Central Gurdwara London, built by the Khalsa Jatha British Isles in 1968 on the site of Norland Castle – a derelict Salvation Army Citadel which was damaged in the same raid.

Central Gurdwara in Queensdale Road

Central Gurdwara in Queensdale Road

The Sikhs trace their faith from Guru Nanak, born this past week in 1649 in the village of Tawandi, in present day Pakistan. He was a Brahmin, and developed an interest in philosophy at an early age, amazing his Muslim tutor with his understanding of Hinduism, Islam, and the New and Old Testaments. This led him to travel north, south, east, and west, inc. Mecca and possibly Jerusalem – teaching that before God everyone is equal, regardless of race, religion, caste, gender, or wealth.

The term Khalsa can be taken to be a brotherhood of initiated Sikhs, i.e. those that observe the five articles, and are pure of faith. This is similar in context to those that are confirmed rather than baptised. Jatha, on the other hand, means an armed body. Khalsa Jatha therefore is an Association of Sikhs, but it’s literal meaning is the same as a body of warrior saints in the early Christian church, those sworn to honour god and to protect people from persecution.

The Khalsa was formed by Godind Singh, the 10th Guru, in 1699. He is associated with lake Lokpal, a high altitude glacial lake which is important to Sikhs and Hindus. I had the privilege to bathe in this serene spot a few years ago, having joined the pilgrimage trail after making several first assents in the Indian Himalayas with friends. The friendliness of the Sardars, and the warmth of their sweet Peshawari tea, is something I fondly remember.

Sikhs in Hammersmith

sinclairroadPrior to 1968 the Sikh community worshipped at no 79 Sinclair Road, which was acquired by the Maharajah Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1913. As such Hammersmith has strong links with Patiala and the Punjab. During The Great War it welcomed many Sikh Officers and Men from the Front, or those convalescing at the Indian Hospital, Brighton – including a group of men from 47th Sikhs who had distinguished themselves at Neuve Chapelle on the 28th Oct. 1914, earning 8 Indian Order of Merits. Most would be killed the following year at Ypres, or in Mesopotamia in 1916.

No citation for these awards survive, but Subadar Sucha Singh would earn the IOM a second time in Mesopotamia. The citation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry on patrol work under heavy fire. He went out in front of our line and located three enemy picquets; on the following night he displayed marked ability in assisting to drive back the enemy … His coolness and courage during the operations and his constant eagerness in volunteering .. are worthy of the highest praise.”

sinclair2Many distinguished and famous people visited ‘the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Dharamsala’ in Shepherd’s Bush, including various Secretaries of State, Indian Princes, Dignitaries, Historians, and Revolutionaries. It would be amiss to omit the socialite, nurse, and suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, or her sister Princess Bamba Sunderland, the last heir to the Kingdom of the Punjab, but it was two Sikh Aviators which were to capture the imagination of the British Public.

Hardit Singh Malik

Hardit Singh Malik

Lt Hardit Singh Malik came to England with his family in 1908, going up to Oxford in 1912. On the outbreak of war, he volunteered with the America Hospital at Neuilly-sur-Seine, and then with the French Red Cross as an Ambulance Driver. In 1917 he was granted an honorary commission in the RFC, and began a career which would see him shot down twice, and claim 6 aerial kills, making him a Fighter Ace. He would become a distinguished British and Indian Diplomat, holding appointments as Prime Minister of Patiala, Indian High Commissioner of Canada, Ambassador to France, and as a delegate of the United Nations. He remained fond of Shepherd’s Bush, and died peacefully in October 1985.

Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh came to England in 1923, completing a two-year flying course. He became famous whilst competing for the Aga Khan’s Prize several times, suffering two crashed landings, before arriving in Karachi having exceeded the one month time limit by 4 days. He was Commissioned into the IAFVR in 1939, being the senior most member of the first group of Indian Volunteers. He was attached to RAF Costal Command, claiming several kills during the Battle of the Atlantic as he hunted U-Boats. He was subsequently transferred to Australia for operations in the Pacific, but was tragically killed when his Catalina was attacked on the morning of the 3rd of March, 1942, by Japanese Zeros.

Contribution made by the Sikhs and the Punjab in preserving our freedom

Whilst it is true that India raised the largest Volunteer Army in both wars, and India’s contribution is woefully overlooked, the brunt was disproportionately borne in France and Flanders, East Africa, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Dunkirk, Malaya, Hong Kong, Singapore, North Africa and Burma by Sikh and Punjabi Officers and Men. Approximately 2/3rds of Casualties in both conflicts were Punjabis, be they Sikh, Muslim, Parsee, Christian or Jew. The Battle of Donbaik, Feb. 1943, being a good illustration.

My father’s cousin, Lt Clement Stanley Stankawski, was 2iC D (Sikh) Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Punjab Regiment. He was the son of a Polish immigrant who found himself in Hammersmith when his German Passport was confiscated in 1914 on his way to New York. On the 18th Feb. 1943, the Battalion were at Donbaik, when his Company Commander, Captain Budh Singh, received orders to fix bayonettes and attack the Japanese positions along the Chaung ridge – across open country a mile up hill.

teleg‘B’ Company (under Walker) were on their left, ‘A’ Company (Dhillon) in support of ‘B’. The Inniskillings were to support ‘D’, and ‘C’ Company (Skelton) was to act as Reserve. The attack commenced at 4am, and immediately ‘B’ Company was subject to heavy automatic fire. The Platoon Commanders pushed on, Jemdr Mohd Zarin fell as he took the position, whilst Jemd Mir Afzal occupied the forward trench. ‘A’ Company, pinned down under a murderous fire on the ridge, was unable to join them.

Meanwhile the Inniskillings had failed to reach their start point, and Budh Singh and ‘D’ Company pressed on. They advanced over open and bullet swept country with great gallantry, capturing their objective, but now came under an acute fire on both flanks. Realising that ‘B’ Company and the Inniskillings were pinned down, having lost more than half their strength, Captain Budh Singh had no alternative but to withdraw, collecting as many wounded as possible as they went.

By this time Jemdr Mir Afzal’s platoon was reduced to 6 men, and faced being cut off. They retreated, relieving ‘A’ Company as they did so, and under intense and heavy fire evacuated the bodies of Captain Singh Dhillon and Sherriff. As they reached the Jungle’s edge Captain Walker, and the remnants of their Company joined them, but they were killed by a burst of automatic heavy machine gun fire.

For their gallantry, Mir Afzal was awarded the IOM (posthumous), Gul Rehman the IDSM, Budh Singh the MC (and subsequently bar), and Suran Singh and Karan Singh the IDSM. In two hours, the Battalion’s casualties were 131 Officers and Men; 3 Officers, 2 VCOs, and 7 ORs killed; 2 VCOs and 99 ORs wounded; and 1 Officer and 17 ORs missing. ‘D’ Company suffered the highest casualties, being reduced to 44 men. In all Donbaik cost the 2nd Bn, 1st Punjabis, 297 men from a strength of six hundred.

Clement was reported missing, presumed dead, and neither his body, nor that of Walker, Dhillon, Sheriff, Afzal, and a hundred and eighty men were ever found. Like me, many British Sikhs and Punjabis living in West London, will have relatives or family friends that were killed or wounded that day.

Celebrating the Birth of the Guru and Interfaith Week

To conclude I would like to offer my Sikh friends many happy returns on the anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, and the contribution which the community and Punjabi diaspora (Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Jew), has made not only to West London, but the world. In the spirit of Remembrance Sunday and Interfaith Week, which was observed last week, my thoughts have been upon the loss, sacrifice, and values that we share, and the hope which these offer us for a brighter future.