The Warsaw Uprising was an attempt by the Polish resistance, commencing 1 August 1944 after nearly five years of German occupation, to liberate the Polish capital. It was timed to coincide with the approach to the city of the Soviet Army. The Uprising was supported by the Royal, South African, Polish and (for just one day) US Army air forces, and by the Polish First Army.
The resistance forces had control of much of the city centre by 4 August. Circa 1,200 Polish Army soldiers managed to cross the River Vistula, but the Soviet Army deliberately stopped short of the city and sat out events, as the USSR wanted to weaken Polish resistance to its intention to annex the country for itself. The Soviets had an air base just five minutes flying time from Warsaw, but their air force failed to back the Poles. They even refused to allow Allied air forces to land.
The Uprising was utterly crushed. About 8,000 of the German and about 16,000 of the Polish combatants were killed. Between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians were executed by the Germans. A further 700,000 civilians were expelled from the city. When the Poles surrendered on 2 October 1944 the Germans systematically levelled more than a third of Warsaw, which was 85% destroyed by the end of the war. The Soviets waited until the Germans had left before entering the city.
Communist control of Poland post-WWII meant that the Uprising went without a memorial for over four decades. On 1 August 1989, the 45th anniversary of the Uprising, the hundreds of thousands of people immolated by totalitarianism were finally granted an official memorial. Designed by the sculptor Wincenty Kućma and the architect Jacek Budyn, the memorial is in two parts: a resistance group running from a collapsing building, and another entering the sewers via a manhole cover. May all rest in peace.
27 January 2017
Located between the Upper and Lower parts of Lough Erne, Enniskillen is an island town, the only one in Ireland. There are eight bridges. Each vertex of the network of these has an even degree. It is thus possible to make an Eulerian walk, crossing each bridge once only, to return to one's start point. Built in 1885, West Bridge is the oldest.
Working clockwise, to the north-east of the island is Johnston Bridge, completed in 1954. This is in two sections (above and below), linked by Cherry Island. The bridge was strengthened in 2015-16.
Queen Elizabeth Bridge, also of 1954, relieves the adjoining East Bridge.
East Bridge dates from 1892. Its eastern end intersects with that of Queen Elizabeth Bridge.
South of this is the modern Wellington Road Bridge, which carries the A4 bypass.
The two bridges to the south of the island are modern footbridges. The first of these crosses to the Erneside shopping centre. It was installed in 1989.
The second, Millennium Bridge, joins the island to the Derrychara area.
Finally, Castle Bridge was completed in 1983 to provide relief to the nearby West Bridge. It carries the other end of the A4 bypass.
Desmond and Sons was a Drumahoe-headquartered clothing company. Founded in 1885, it was Northern Ireland's largest private sector manufacturing employer, with over 3,000 staff across ten textile factories.
Dangerously, since the 1960s Desmonds' sole customer was the retailer Marks and Spencer. In its final five years the company moved all its manufacturing operations to joint venture facilities in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.
The Enniskillen factory closed in 2000. In 2004 M&S switched to direct supply from the overseas suppliers, and Desmonds went into liquidation. The 4.6 acre site is due to be levelled and redeveloped for housing.
16 January 2017
The Llyn Brianne dam was built as part of the River Towy Scheme, about six miles downstream from the river's source. The reservoir holds over 13,400 million gallons when full, and supplies drinking water to much of south-east Wales.
The dam has a core formed of nearly 14 million cubic feet of clay, protected by rockfill to both faces, nearly 60 million cubic feet extracted from immediately local sources. It is the largest clay core dam in the world.
The dam crest is about 950 feet long, and about 300 feet high, the tallest in the United Kingdom. It is accessed by an unusual bridge (above) that crosses a monumental spillway, the largest in Europe, and a favourite with extreme kayakers. A second bridge (below) crosses the lower end of the spillway.
The reservoir has a maximum depth of approximately 275 feet, and a surface area of circa 530 acres. It is fed from a catchment area of roughly 22,000 acres. Just one unoccupied farm was inundated when the reservoir was filled.
The principal contractor was Wimpey Construction, and the dam was formally opened on 15 May 1973. The spillway was raised by about three feet in 1996 as part of construction of a hydroelectric facility at the foot of the dam. 4.6 megawatts of electricity are produced from the three turbines.
13 October 2016
Built in 1954, on the tenth anniversary of the 'liberation' of Bulgaria by the Soviet Army, the monument to that army features a central pedestal, 121 feet high, topped by a statue featuring a soldier and a Bulgarian family.
This is surrounded by a large enclosed area, now somewhat ruinous, on the leading edge of which are two secondary but still monumental sculptures. The figures are secretly painted from time-to-time to indicate solidarity with various peoples and countries subjected to present-day Russian totalitarianism.
12 October 2016
The collection includes a statue of Georgi Dimitrov, first General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party (more snappily Stalin's Puppet), by Lubomir Dalchev (late 1960s, above); and the statue of Lenin, by Lev Kerbel (1971), that used to dominate Nezavisimost (Independence) Square. Pride of place goes to the five-pointed star that topped Party House in the same square from 1954 to 1989.
09 October 2016
On Boulevard Simeonovsko Shose in Sofia is a five-storey building in the form of a snail, which appears to crawl from a side road. The architect was Simeon Simeonov, who heads the Bulgarian practice Nommad.
Suspended from the drooping eyelids are spinning cowls for the ventilation systems. Beside the doorway is a mosaic duck, and the pavements are painted the same mad colours as the building, and elaborated with snail plant pots.
08 October 2016
The National Art Gallery of Bulgaria is housed, along with the Ethnographic Museum, in Sofia Palace. This started life as the local headquarters of the Ottoman Empire. After Bulgarian independence in 1878 the building was remodelled as a palace for Prince Alexander Battenberg, the first post-independence monarch. The principal architect was Viktor Rumpelmayer, of Vienna.
Only the foundations and part of the façade were retained. The style is decidedly Second Empire. The palace was inaugurated on 26 December 1882. In 1894-96 the next monarch, Prince (later Tsar) Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Gotha had the architect Friedrich Grünanger, also of Vienna, add the north-east wing. Neo-Baroque crept in.
The National Gallery moved into the palace in 1946, after the communists abolished the Bulgarian monarchy, and following destruction in 1944 of the gallery's original home. The exhibition space utilises the ballroom, a number of drawing and dining rooms, and one of the winter conservatories. All the rooms boast gorgeous tile or parquet flooring, and unique marble fireplaces.