Just so you know...

I am now also Northern Correspondent for Rowing & Regatta magazine - so expect a lot of stuff about rowing on this blog. This weekend I am at Durham Regatta - the oldest in the country...

Bertie's war - you couldn't make it up!

04.21.14 bertie war 2
Only the British army would take a ventriloquist’s dummy on the D-Day landings in 1944!
Yes, it’s true. A British Army Captain, took ‘Bertie’, a ventriloquist doll onto the beaches of Normandy in the first few days of invasion.
Admittedly, Bertie did wear an army uniform - even resplendent, proudly bearing a number of campaign medals.
Just imagine if he had got captured. Imagine the Gestapo trying to interrogate him!
I now have a new creative hero. Capt.E.H.‘Ted’ North.
Captain North landed on the Mike Sector of Juno beach shortly after June 6th.
A Member of the Magic Circle and a ventriloquist, he packed in his kitbag his dummy, Bertie, in uniform, ready for action.
Alongside getting into action, Ted ensured Bertie played his part, combining inspecting the D-Day battlefield and going on to entertain the troops and wounded soldiers to boost morale.
Thankfully, both Ted and Bertie survived the war. Yet, they returned to the Normandy beaches on various anniversaries and continued to entertain audiences of all ages, their last performance at the Harlow Playhouse in 1985, celebrating a partnership of 50 years together.
Ted passed away the following year.
Bertie is now retired and resides at the D-Day Museum, at Southsea, Hampshire, still proudly wearing his original uniform and medals, and still bringing a glow of pleasure to visitors.
Their story lives on however, in a delightful book I acquired at the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Museum. (There to trace my wife’s grandfather’s World War I records)
The book, titled Bertie’s War and published by Ted North’s family, contains absolute gems of the delight and absurdity of Bertie’s Normandy Tour.
Ted’s terrible puns caption pictures of Bertie, in uniform on the D-Day beach. “I’ve found some lovely shells on the beach” as Bertie sits among the spent ammunition is one typical bon mots.
Ted’s family recreated one of the act’s scripts [abridged version].

Ted: Wake up Bertie and get dressed quick, I’m taking you for a surprise trip to the seaside.  
Bertie:  A surprise trip? Do you mean like the surprise trip you had on the stairs last night when you got back from the Officer’s mess.  
Ted: Just put on your battledress and boots because we’ll be wading ashore.  
Bertie: Wading ashore? Gattledress and goots? What, on a nice sandy beach in France? I knew there’d be a catch in it, there always is - and what about my gucket and spade?  
Ted: You won’t be needing your gucket - I mean bucket….This is a very important mission because we are going to help our lads to liberate Europe from Hitler and his armies. Just think, you might even win some medals.  
Bertie: Medals? Really? Me? Well in that case pass me my uniform quick Ted, there’s no time to waste, I can’t wait to get at ‘em and get rid of that nasty old Hitler.

For me, Ted and Bertie still live on as creative heroes. If you are ever thinking down, demotivated, or just need a new strategy or direction, invoke the images of Ted and Bertie and their D-Day landings.
Fantasy Mentors are a brilliant 24 7 creativity tool. Whenever you are faced with a challenge simply pose the question to your role model: “How would Ted and Bertie tackle the problem of…?”
Before long, your mind is taking you instantly in new, sometimes unexpected directions and lines of inquiry. Try it now.
For me, I’m eternally grateful to Ted, Bertie and their generation for the sacrifices they made in defeating that ‘nasty old Hitler.
I’m also grateful for their joining my portfolio of Fantasy Mentors. With a Fantasy Mentor for any situation, I’m better equipped for any battle I face in my life, by being more capable to think flexibly, and think flexibly faster.
Thank you Ted and Bertie.
(Please do buy your copy of Bertie’s War)
04.21.14 bertie war cover

All That Was Left

All That Was Left: The remnants of Bede Company from the Durham Light Infantry
Since 1853 Durham Regatta’s blue riband is the Grand Challenge Cup, which this year garnered a significant resonance during the 100 anniversary of the First World War.
In 1910 a crew from the Durham University’s College of the Venerable Bede won the Grand by three-quarters of a length.
This “excellent” crew – R Wheldon (bow), RH Robson (2), JO Wilson (3), CE Walker (stroke) and cox AW Bramwell), won the cup by three-quarters of a length and were later to join the Durham Light Infantry alongside other students from the ‘Bede’.
‘A’ Company of Durhams were known as the Bede Contingent, comprising more than 100 students from the college. They were soon thrown into the front line trenches on Gravenstafel Ridge during the second battle of Ypres.
The Bedes’ spirit was not extinguished by their first experience of gunfire and the regimental history records that “'through the darkness came the voice of some irrepressible Bede College member of ‘A’ Company as a shell passed over: “Aye it reminds yer of Durham regatta. Now lads, up goes another! All together! Bang! Mind the stick!”  Then someone called “Who’s won the Grand?” And there were rival cries of “City!” and “Bede!”
In the fighting which followed on April 25, the Bede men helped save Ypres, but they suffered grievous losses with 17 killed, 10 wounded, and 31 taken prisoner. A picture after the conflict, shows the Bedes poised rather like a athletes posing for a post-race picture, with poignant message: All that was left.
The Bede men had good reason to wonder about the Grand at Durham - the regatta would have been due within a week or two – and the soldiers would not have been forgotten that the Bede had won the Grand Challenge Cup for the first time in 1910.
Of the Bede crew who had won the Grand in 1910, Robson was killed, Wheldon lost an eye, and the cox Bramwell became a prisoner of war. Only Wheldon is in the photograph.