Category Archives: News/Stories

Rare Witness to Horror of Stalin’s Gulag Prisons Dies

Vasily Kovalyov in a former Kolyma punishment cell.

by BBC

A rare survivor of the harshest Stalin-era labour camps has died aged 89 in Russia’s far east.

Vasily Kovalyov had survived icy punishment cells and beatings in the USSR’s notorious Gulag prison system.

During an escape attempt in 1954 he spent five months hiding in a freezing mine with two other prisoners.

Kovalyov’s story was featured in Vesma, a news site based in Magadan. The communist regime shipped thousands of “enemies” to prison camps via Magadan.

In 1950 Kovalyov, aged 20, was found guilty of anti-Soviet sabotage – one among the millions of victims of Stalinist terror. An old sabre that he had used to chop vegetables was enough to condemn him.

The main prison block where Kovalyov was kept in the 1950s still stands.
Dicing with death

First he was sent to Norilsk, in the Russian Arctic, he told Vesma. But he ended up in Kolyma, a notoriously harsh network of labour camps north of Magadan, after guards uncovered an escape plot.

In 1954 he and two other inmates hid in a mine and prepared an armed uprising, but someone tipped off the guards, who then came looking for them.

“Miners who knew the place inside out accompanied them and said we wouldn’t be able to stand the permafrost there longer than a week,” he told Vesma.

“They blocked all the entrances with grilles… We spent five months underground, in the dark, starving. After three months we had eaten all our food, and in the end we were chewing wood shavings.”

The prison had the designation “tougher regime zone” – part of Stalin’s vast Gulag.

He said they managed to dig a way out through the permafrost and emerged “half-blind, like moles”. They made it to a nearby town, but were arrested there.

During a punishment beating the guards let loose a huge sheep dog on him, he said.

“It leapt at me, but I had protective metal studs on my boots, and kicked the dog down. In a flash I dived at its throat and bit hard. I heard a crunch and the dog shuddered then died.”

Millions died during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship – in deportations, famine, forced collectivisation, executions and prison camps.

The terror he unleashed involved massive purges of the Communist Party and state institutions.

A punishment cell: Solitary confinement in the basement, thick ice on the ground.
No forgiveness

Kovalyov was released in 1957, when Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev declared an amnesty for Gulag prisoners, in the post-Stalin “thaw”.

He stayed in Magadan, where he worked as a heating engineer. And he took a Vesma reporter, Yevgeny Radchenko, on a tour of the grim prison – a ruin still reeking of cruelty.

He died of a stroke in a Magadan hospital on Monday.

According to Vesma, “until his last breath he never forgot what the Soviet Union did to millions of people, who endured the camps, leaving their best years, their health and their lives there”.

“He told the story of his trip back to Odessa region, where he met the people who had put him in prison. He did not forgive them. The cruelty and torment of camp life taught him to survive, but at the same time to stay human.”

Very few Kolyma prisoners from the Stalin period are still alive, a Russian historian told the BBC.

Alyona Kozlova, chief archivist at the Memorial documentation centre, said “I know of three in Moscow, and it’s possible that he was the last one in Magadan”.

But about four million ex-Soviet citizens are alive today who spent some time in Stalin’s prisons, she said.

The Soviet police mugshot of Kovalyov as a prisoner – he was born in 1930.

Historical Society and Current Events with Politics – Don’t Like It, Good Luck and Good Bye


The Historical Society of German Military History’s main goal is covering German military history and honoring veterans from the wars of Germany’s past. While we do have other lesser goals, we do cover Germany’s history and current history. We are not just limited to military history, but all German events and history. With this said, we also cover current German events or things that affect Germany in modern day history.

We have been troubled when ignorant people come along and say we are ‘political’, or they feel threatened when we defend Germany against her attackers, etc. We are sorry that you feel this way, but in the end we are not. We are not going to soothe your feelings or be ‘politically correct’ to make everyone happy. We are going to tell you something real simple…..

We are not political, but covering history will always involve speaking about politics. Covering today’s events are history. Today will pass and yesterday will be history. That is history which covers all events.

Donald Trump

When Donald Trump attacks Europe, Germany, and everyone that does not agree with him, we are going to defend Germany. So the members, fans, and followers will see us write and place these articles on the website to defend the Fatherland. If you do not agree, you have the right. We are not going to debate, discuss, or listen to you since this modern time has brought about many ‘pc warriors’ who attack, threaten each other, demean others, etc. If you attack us, you never again will have the chance to be a part of this premier organization.

We do have great respect for the United States of America and the institutions of this country. But this mistake of a choice for President in which over 50% of the population consider him a racist, less than 50% voted for him, and only 22% are true supporters, we know that many of you do not support him. We are not here to insult him either, but we are not going to tolerate his attacks on Germany. So if you do not agree then leave. Another simple fact, no one in Europe cares for him nor do most of the world.

Israel & the Holocaust

The other controversial topic we discuss from time to time is Israel in which many Americans try to defend this ‘so-called democracy’. Our Official position is we do not support Nazism, Neo-Nazism, White Supremacy, and we agree the Holocaust is a stain on German honor and an awful tragedy. But we do not support the Jewish State, if there is a link between the news on Israel and Germany, we are going to discuss this. Israel and the Jewish population have stood on the platform of guilting Germany for the sins of the past for many years. They need to consider the sins of their current state in the Middle East.

Israel treats the Jewish citizens very democratically, but Arabs (non-Palestinians) are treated as 2nd class citizens, with final group of Palestinians being treated as a slave class. Israel keeps then barred up in small areas just as South-Africa had done during Apartheid with the constant stealing of Palestinian lands in the West Bank. They shoot protesters with live ammunition, over use of military power in responding to Hamas attacks on Israel, and keep them in a constant state of poverty. While we do not agree with Hamas’ position or support them, they need to also stop the attacks on Israel. But Israel is no democracy.

As for the Holocaust, this should never have happened to any human being. This is down right disgusting what Hitler allowed Himmler and the SS to do. The Holocaust is the most talked about human massacre in history due to being around World War II and being pushed on to others by a segment of the Jewish population.  There is little reminder of the Japanese atrocities during the war, the massacres committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 70’s, the 90’s massacres in former Yugoslavia by Serbia, the past atrocities committed by the British Empire in Africa during Colonialism, the Spanish destruction of the Aztec and Inca Empires and large scale massacres of their populations, the current and recent massacres being committed to this day in Africa, the current extermination and expulsion of the Rohingya in Burma, and the largest massacre of over ten million citizens of the Soviet Union being committed in the Ukraine and Russia in the 1930’s by the government of Josef Stalin. This being the worst atrocity in human history. The scale of the constant reminders of the Holocaust make these other massacres seems like small homes compared to a skyscraper.

Israel needs to remember these other tragedies when dealing with the Palestinians. They need to understand that they have been given an opportunity built on their blood to do this right. They feel that the world owes them this, and it is their right due to the persecution of the Jews their entire history. That land in Jerusalem and the Palestine is everyone’s.  Arab, Jewish, Muslim, Christian all have a claim. Share it. Do not fight over it.


We support a strong Germany and a restoration of some form of the German Reich. The guilt from the past is over. There is no Nazi Germany anymore and never again will be. We would like to see some form of the return of the monarchy from the restoration of the imperial Reich or to form of constitutional monarchy. If this is never possible then a restoration of the Kingdom of Prussia, but still part of Greater Germany.  A return to heritage and traditions of the strong Germany with a strong military presence and  one of the leaders of Europe. We do support the republic, but a limitation of the European Union. Cross border cooperation is good for Europe, but never an erosion of German culture.

In the end, a proud and strong Germany with the citizens honoring the German veterans of the past wars. Germany without any guilt from the past and striving for the future. No matter what, we will defend Germany from any attackers in the present and will always defend Germany’s past history.


German WW2 U-boat wreckage found off Galicia by Spanish divers

A US photo shows the U-boat under attack on 10 November 1943.

by BBC

Divers have found wreckage from a German World War Two U-boat near the coast of Galicia in north-west Spain.

U-966 was heavily damaged by Allied bombers in November 1943, so the crew blew it up with timed charges and all but eight reached dry land.

US Navy and RAF Liberator bombers targeted U-966 with depth charges for a whole day, as the German submarine zig-zagged and fired its anti-aircraft gun.

One Allied plane was shot down – reportedly an RAF Catalina flying boat.

An RAF Wellington bomber also took part in the submarine chase and dropped depth charges.

The three divers who found the wreckage after years of searching.

The three divers’ discovery in late June followed years of searching in a very rocky area where rough weather often makes diving impossible. The debris was photographed at a depth of 24-26m (79-85ft).

One of the divers, naval historian Yago Abilleira, said they had found the wreckage near Estaca de Bares and it was spread over a wide area. They are not revealing the exact location, as it is a war grave.

He told the local paper La Voz de Galicia (in Spanish) that the crew had scuttled U-966, nicknamed “Gut Holz” (Good Wood), “in desperation, as Allied planes were attacking them on all sides and they knew time was running out”.

Spanish media say the divers now want to find the downed Allied plane, believed to be near the U-boat wreck.

A German naval history website,, says (in German) that three local fishing boats rescued submariners who were clinging to rocks offshore. The crew totalled 52, eight of whom died.

U-boat commander Eckehard Wolf flew back to Germany in November 1944 from Spain under a false name, the website reports.

The U-boat’s violent end scattered debris over a wide area of seabed.

The U-boat was returning from an operation off the coast of North America when it was detected by the Allies. Bombers attacked it repeatedly on 10 November 1943, crippling it.

U-boats had inflicted enormous damage on Allied shipping earlier in the war. They attacked supply convoys as well as naval vessels.

The Gut Holz, 67m (220ft) long, was nearly brand new. It had been launched in January 1943, and had a career lasting just 10 months.

Its emblem was a bowling pin and ball – “good wood” is a German bowling phrase.

Spain’s fascist dictator, Gen Francisco Franco, was not officially allied with Nazi Germany, but the supposedly neutral country was known to assist the Nazi war effort in various ways. Those friendly relations enabled surviving sailors to get back to Germany.

Diver Eduardo Losada took this photo of debris from U-966.

Yes Germany could pay, but then Poland must return all lost German land from the Third Reich Era including Imperial German Lands prior to World War 1. Such Non-Sense!

Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski renews call for German WWII reparations

by DW

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling party in Poland, has again demanded Berlin pay Warsaw World War Two compensation. His comments come two days after his government watered down a controversial Holocaust law.

In an interview with the state-run Polskie Radio on Friday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the de facto senior politician in Poland, renewed demands for Germany to pay compensation for Poland’s war time losses incurred by Germany.

“This is a Polish-German issue. It was Germany who invaded Poland, murdering millions of people, destroying material goods and we must be compensated for this,” he said.

Kaczynski has been calling for financial reparations from Germany for more than a decade.

In March two PiS politicians said that Poland should demand reparations worth $850 billion (€780 billion) for destroyed property and people killed.

“For many, many years, there has been a defamation campaign offending Poles, completely altering the sense of World War II,” Kaczynski went on. “Today we have started on a route in the opposite direction and I think this road will be difficult and steep … If we did nothing, we would get nothing.”

The context

Kaczynski’s revival of war reparations demands follows Poland watering down a controversial law criminalizing any comments suggesting some Polish people might have helped Germans during the war.The threat of jail terms has now been removed but the law has faced considerable criticism from the US and Israel.

Kaczynski said on Wednesday that the move was because Israeli authorities had “fully confirmed Poland’s position” on Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust.

Friday’s comments also come as Berlin-Warsaw relations remain fraught over the EU’s migration policy and EU disquiet over the Polish government’s judicial reforms.

They also coincide with rumors that Kaczynski’s recent illness has led to infighting within the party and the government over who could succeed the 69-year old.

No claims filed

However, the Polish government has said it doesn’t want its demands to affect cooperation within the EU and its relationship with Germany and hasn’t yet filed any official claims.

The German government has meanwhile dismissed previous demands, referring to a Polish renunciation of claims in 1953. German parliamentary legal experts said last year that Warsaw had no right to demand reparations.

Poland’s then Communist government waived its right to German post-war compensation in 1953, but in 2017 several government ministers refuted the validity of the waiver.

World War II started with the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and led to deaths of nearly 6 million Polish citizens by the war’s end in 1945, about half of them Jewish.

Mixed feelings

A survey published this week by Körber-Stiftung said that 76 percent of Germans think Berlin should not pay WWII reparations, while Polish opinion on the issue is split, with 40 percent saying Warsaw should not demand compensation from Germany and 46 in favor.

PiS was backed by 37.9 percent in a recent poll, up 4.5 percentage points from May. The party won the 2015 election with a similar share of the vote, becoming the first party in Poland’s post-communist era not to have to govern in a coalition.


THIS IS HOW THEY TITLED THIS? …. Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank Was Considered One of the Best — Until It Went to Syria

Hallo und guten Tag,

Generally we do not keep up with other countries military developments, but we stumbled on this article many months after it was written and poorly titled.

The Leopard 2A4 is an older version that is not built for counter-insurgency attacks. They are the last of the Cold War era panzers built for tank on tank and offensive operations in which the article also states.

The other main factor is how the Turkish military is using them. Leaving single panzers without infantry support is not the purpose of these vehicles. These are long range hunters, not for close encounters against infantry/insurgents or built for protection against IEDS. In Afghanistan, the Danish 2A5s and Canadian 2A6s have performed very well. Ones knocked out by IEDS are put back into service.

In German hands, this panzer is the world’s best or second to the American Abrams. With the next generation of 2A7V models, these will be built to survive counter-insurgency and more. At the 2016 and 2018 Strong Europe Tank Challenge, Germany took first in the competition. In 2017, Germany came in 2nd to Austria which also used the Leopard. The Abrams came in 5th, 3rd, and 7th from 2016 to 2018. During the Iraq campaign, Americans Abrams tanks were lost in battle. The Iraqi army has fared even worse against ISIS with many of their Abrams being knocked out.

Training is key. German crews train and train on their machines. The Wehrmacht in World War 2 was also quiet efficient with their panzers not due to big guns and armor, but training and tactics. This article should be titled: ‘ Turks Use the Leopard with Poor Tactics and Are Crushed.’ 

We will let you now read the original article.


HWB von Richter

Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank Was Considered One of the Best — Until It Went to Syria

January 30, 2018 by Sebastien Roblin

Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank has a reputation as one of the finest in the world, competing for that distinction with proven designs such as the American M-1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2. However, that reputation for nigh-invincibility has faced setbacks on Syrian battlefields, and placed Berlin in a uniquely awkward national-level dispute with Turkey, its fellow NATO member.

Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat. On Jan. 24, public outrage over reports that Turkey was using its Leopard 2s to kill Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclaves of Afrin and Manbij forced Berlin to freeze the hostage-for-tanks deal.

The Leopard 2 is often compared to its near contemporary, the M-1 Abrams. In truth, the two designs share broadly similar characteristics, including a scale-tipping weight of well over 60 tons of advanced composite armor, 1,500 horsepower engines allowing speeds over 40 miles per hour and, for certain models, the same 44-caliber 120-millimeter main gun produced by Rheinmetall.

Both types can easily destroy most Russian-built tanks at medium and long ranges, at which they are unlikely to be penetrated by return fire from standard 125-millimeter guns.

Furthermore, they have better sights with superior thermal imagers and magnification, that make them more likely to detect and hit the enemy first — historically, an even greater determinant of the victor in armored warfare than sheer firepower. A Greek trial found that moving Leopard 2s and Abramses hit a 2.3-meter target 19 and 20 times out of 20, respectively, while a Soviet T-80 scored only 11 hits.

The modest differences between the two Western tanks reveal different national philosophies.

The Abrams has a noisy 1,500-horsepower gas-guzzling turbine, which starts up more rapidly, while the Leopard 2’s diesel motor grants it greater range before refueling. The Abrams has achieved some of its extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities through use of depleted uranium ammunition and armor packages — technologies politically unacceptable to the Germans.

Therefore, later models of the Leopard 2A6 now mount a higher-velocity 55-caliber gun to make up the difference in penetrating power, while the 2A5 Leopard introduced an extra wedge of spaced armor on the turret to better absorb enemy fire.

German scruples also extend to arms exports, with Berlin imposing more extensive restrictions on which countries it is willing to sell weapons to — at least in comparison to France, the United States or Russia. While the Leopard 2 is in service with 18 countries, including many NATO members, a lucrative Saudi bid for between 400 and 800 Leopard 2s was rejected by Berlin because of the Middle Eastern country’s human-rights records, and its bloody war in Yemen in particular.

The Saudis instead ordered additional Abramses to their fleet of around 400.

This bring us to Turkey, a NATO country with which Berlin has important historical and economic ties, but which also has had bouts of military government and waged a counter-insurgency campaign against Kurdish separatists for decades. In the early 2000s, under a more favorable political climate, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara.

These represented a major upgrade over the less well protected M-60 Patton tanks that make up the bulk of Turkey’s armored forces.

However, the rumor has long persisted that Berlin agreed to the sale under the condition that the German tanks not be used in Turkey’s counter-insurgency operations against the Kurds. Whether such an understanding ever existed is hotly contested, but the fact remains that the Leopard 2 was kept well away from the Kurdish conflict and instead deployed in northern Turkey, opposite Russia.

In the fall of 2016, Turkish Leopard 2s of the Second Armored Brigade finally deployed to the Syrian border to support Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s intervention against Islamic State. Prior to the Leopard’s arrival, around a dozen Turkish Patton tanks were destroyed by both ISIS and Kurdish missiles. Turkish defense commentators expressed the hope that the tougher Leopard would fare better.

The 2A4 model was the last of the Cold War – era Leopard 2s, which were designed to fight in relatively concentrated units in a fast-paced defensive war against Soviet tank columns, not to survive improvised explosive devices and missiles fired by ambushing insurgents in long-term counter-insurgency campaigns where every single loss was a political issue.

The 2A4 retains an older boxy turret configurations which affords less protection from modern anti-tank missiles, especially to the generally more vulnerable rear and side armor, which is a bigger problem in a counter-insurgency environment, where an attack may come from any direction.

This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over Islamic State-held Al Bab — a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed Islamic State as apparently having destroyed 10 of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s — five reportedly by anti-tank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.

These photos analyzed by Bellingcat confirm the destruction of at least eight. One shows a Leopard 2 apparently knocked out by a suicide VBIED — an armored kamikaze truck packed with explosives. Another had its turret blown clean off. Three Leopard wrecks can be seen around the same hospital near Al Bab, along with several other Turkish armored vehicles.

It appears the vehicles were mostly struck the more lightly protected belly and side armor by IEDs and AT-7 Metis and AT-5 Konkurs anti-tank missiles. Undoubtedly, the manner in which the Turkish Army employed the German tanks likely contributed to the losses.

Rather than using them in a combined arms force alongside mutually supporting infantry, they were deployed to the rear as long-range fire-support weapons while Turkish-allied Syrian militias stiffened with Turkish special forces led the assaults. Isolated on exposed firing positions without adequate nearby infantry to form a good defensive perimeter, the Turkish Leopards were vulnerable to ambushes.

The same poor tactics have led to the loss of numerous Saudi Abrams tanks in Yemen.

By contrast, more modern Leopard 2s have seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan combating Taliban insurgents in the service of the Canadian 2A6Ms — with enhanced protection against mines and even floating “safety seats” — and Danish 2A5s. Though a few were damaged by mines, all were put back into service, though a Danish Leopard 2 crew member was mortally injured by an IED attack in 2008.

In return, field commanders praised the tanks for their mobility and for providing accurate and timely fire support during major combat operations in southern Afghanistan.

In 2017, Germany began rebuilding its tank fleet, building an even beefier Leopard 2A7V model more likely to survive in a counter-insurgency environment. Now Ankara is pressing Berlin to upgrade the defense on its Leopard 2 tanks, especially as the domestically produced Altay tank has been repeatedly delayed.

The Turkish military not only wants additional belly armor to protect against IEDs, but the addition of an Active Protection System, or APS, that can detect incoming missiles and their point of origin, and jam or even shoot them down. The U.S. Army recently authorized the installation of Israeli Trophy APS on a brigade of M-1 Abrams tanks, a type that has proven effective in combat.

Meanwhile, Leopard 2 manufacturer Rheinmetall has unveiled its own ADATS APS, which supposedly poses a lesser risk of harming friendly troops with its defensive countermeasure missiles.

However, German-Turkish relations deteriorated sharply, especially after Erdogan initiated a prolonged crackdown on thousands of supposed conspirators after a failed military coup attempt in August 2016. In February 2017, Turkish authorities arrested German-Turkish dual-citizen Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for periodical Die Welt, ostensibly for being a pro-Kurdish spy. His detention caused outrage in Germany.

Ankara pointedly let it be known that if a Leopard 2 upgrade were allowed to proceed, Yücel would be released back to Germany. Though Berlin publicly insisted it would never agree to such a quid pro quo, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel quietly began moving towards authorizing the upgrade in a bid to improve relations in the face of what looks suspiciously like tank-based blackmail. Gabriel presented the deal as a measure to protect Turkish soldiers’ lives from Islamic State.

However, in mid-January 2018, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Manbij in northwestern Syria. The attack was precipitated generally by Turkish fears that effective Kurdish control of the Syrian border would lead to a de facto state that would expand into Turkish territory, and proximately by an announcement by the Pentagon that it was recruiting the Kurds to form a “border security force” to continue the fight against Islamic State.

Photos on social media soon emerged showing that Leopard 2 tanks were being employed to blast Kurdish positions in Afrin, where there have several dozen civilian casualties have been reported. Furthermore, on Jan. 21, the Kurdish YPG published a YouTube video showing a Konkurs anti-tank missile striking a Turkish Leopard 2.

It is not possible to tell if the tank was knocked out; the missile may have struck the Leopard 2’s front armor, which is rated as equivalent to 590 to 690 millimeters of rolled homogenous armor on the 2A4, while the two types of Konkurs missiles can penetrate 600 or 800 millimeters of RHA.

In any event, parliamentarians both from German left-wing parties and Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union reacted with outrage, with a member of the latter describing the Turkish offensive as a violation of international law. On Jan. 25, the Merkel administration was forced to announce that an upgrade to the Leopard 2 was off the table, at least for now.

Ankara views the deal as merely postponed, and cagey rhetoric from Berlin suggests it may return to the deal at a more politically opportune time.

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.


Congratulations from the Historical Society to the British Royal Couple of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan usher in a new era for British royalty.

Windsor, England (CNN)The masses roared, as they always do on such occasions, and under a cloudless English sky in the historic town of Windsor, there was a new beginning.

It was a royal wedding like no other; a gospel choir sang, Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted in a rousing address and a young couple was united in a marriage that will change a venerable institution forever.

Greeted by cheering crowds, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex emerged from St. George’s Chapel and kissed on the steps as the sun shone down.

The marriage of the sixth in line to the throne to Meghan Markle, a biracial American, saw the British monarchy transform into something more representative of its people than it has been before.

On the cobbled streets of Windsor, among the snaking river of people who turned out to celebrate, there was a sense from many that the newest member of the royal family had reinvigorated “The Firm.”

“It’s good there’s diversity in the royal family, it means a lot,” said Abha Trivedi, a Californian who had relocated to London two weeks ago and slept overnight on a chair for a prime spot of the royal procession.

Daljit Sidhu, of South Asian heritage but from Langley near Windsor, echoed such sentiments.

“As Asians it’s important,” the 41-year-old said. “I was born and bred here, but you were always different. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have thought this would happen.”

The Duke of Sussex and the Duchess of Sussex were greeted by a ripple of applause.
Pageantry with majesty

Much has been spoken and written about of the newest member of royal family shaking up the establishment.But for all that was different about this royal wedding there was still the pomp and circumstance of old royalty.

It was an impeccably choreographed wedding. A marching band paraded through the streets, aristocrats arrived and departed in supersized hats. Overseeing the service was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

No one does pageantry with the majesty of the British. It comes by virtue of hundreds of years of practice.

Some of those who headed to Windsor hailed a new age of diversity in the British royal family.

An estimated 100,000 had descended on this picturesque town 20 miles west of London on a glorious spring day to witness a wedding that has charmed not only the inhabitants of the UK but millions around the world.

From Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to Ghana, the United States, Switzerland and Australia, thousands were captivated by tradition and glamor.

They lined the cobbled streets, snacked on sandwiches drank Pimm’s and waited and waited — and waited — for a chance to say “I was there.”

There was joy, giddiness and much affection for the couple, now one of the world’s most powerful and influential pairings. In this part of England, for Saturday at least, everyone was a royalist and romantic.

Seventy-three-year-old Australian Carleen Quirk had been sleeping on the streets of Windsor for two nights to ensure she was in prime position to witness her eighth royal wedding.

Why does the British monarchy seduce and enchant so many? “Having a royal family as head of a country is stabilizing,” explained Quirk. “And Meghan is a breath of fresh air.”

For Histria Soler, from the Dominican Republic but in London visiting friends, it was an opportunity to experience something usually seen in Disney movies. “It’s not often that you see a prince get married,” she said. “She was just a normal girl.”

Britain’s Prince Harry and his best man Prince William wore military dress uniforms.
Love and Britishness

Prince Harry and William are also, of course, the sons of Princess Diana and much interest in them stems from memories of her, a woman loved by the people, but whose own fairytale wedding ended in divorce.Though living extraordinary unusual and privileged lives, it is the brothers’ ability to appear as regular men which has helped the family overcome the tumultuous final decades of the last century.

Images of the young princes walking solemnly behind their mother’s coffin remain strongly etched in the memory, so there has always been much goodwill for the boys who have now found love and married women considered unthinkable as prospective royal brides only a generation ago.

Many wore Union flag facepaint or outfits to the celebrations.

“My mum was a big fan of Diana and we got raised on that. Harry has his mother-like ways with the public. He’s a people’s person,” said Daljit Sidhu.

For all the ostentation, for all the millions spent, this was a day for all generations and all people. Windsor was filled with the sound of ecstatic cheers and jubilation in a celebration of love and Britishness.

Along the treelined Long Walk in front of the Castle, where the majority of the wedding watchers congregated, families and friends gathered to eat, drink and party. Even at 9 a.m. an orderly line had formed for chicken and french fries from one of the many food trucks.

Some wore dresses inspired by the UK flag, others donned paper crowns on their heads and simply waved flags towards the azure sky.

Polish-born Angelica Kasperska had brought a ladder and binoculars for the occasion, a wise move when necks had to be craned for a glimpse of the great and good.

Children played football and chased balloons, while bellowing traders peddled Harry and Meghan scarves and flags to a crowd thirsty for commemorative paraphernalia.

The sight of homeless men, some sleeping, some sitting on the streets, was a reminder of the problems still facing this society, as it was eight years ago when the public mood before Prince William’s wedding was weighed down by recession, unemployment and austerity.

Prince Harry has married in the age of Brexit and he and his new bride have offered respite from the division that that has created.

There were gasps from the crowd as the dress and train were revealed.
Gasps of delight

Ahead of the ceremony, there was applause from the throng on the Long Walk as big screens broadcast the first glimpse of Prince Harry arriving with his brother and best man Prince William. Both wore the frock coat uniform of the Blues and Royals regiment, made specially on London’s Savile Row. It was showtime.

Every familiar face was greeted warmly, with as much affection reserved for the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, as the future king, and father of the groom, Prince Charles.

Wedding watchers gasped on first sight of the bride’s dress and there was an audible intake of breath when the train emerged. The crowd cooed as the cameras flicked to a nervous-looking Harry and clapped as Prince Charles took Meghan by the arm before presenting her to his son.

There was the glitz associated with any great royal wedding; the bride arrived in a Rolls-Royce and departed in a gilded carriage. She wore a Givenchy dress and Cartier earrings.

Bishop Michael Curry: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

But it was the zeal of the Most Rev. Michael Curry’s stirring address which ensured that those watching were left in no doubt that this was now not the British monarchy as they knew it only yesterday. It felt different. It was different.

The African-American bishop began and ended with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, he talked of discovering the “redemptive power of love,” he compared the power of love to the power of fire, mentioned Instagram and caused a chuckle when he promised to wrap up his lengthy oration so “we can get you two married.”

There was a sense that the crowd on the Long Walk did not know what to make of the groundbreaking moment, but they reserved some of their loudest cheers for Curry upon the conclusion of his sermon.

Crowds line the route to catch a glimpse of the couple.
‘This is history’

“Thank God the world is watching this,” tweeted black British TV presenter Ore Oduba. “Never seen or heard a ceremony like it. This is history.”

As the gospel choir sang “Stand By Me” the hordes lining the Long Walk sang along to the chorus of the 1961 classic. It was another unexpected moment. British royal weddings are usually packed full of hymns. Never before have they been a multicultural celebration.

Sleep-deprived and jaded, the crowd’s energy understandably abated until returning to full voice and renewed vigor when Prince Harry walked out of the chapel arm-in-arm with Meghan and embarked on a procession through Windsor’s streets and park.

The sound of clapping rippled through the town as a captivated public was given its opportunity to see husband and wife in the flesh.

“That was so cool,” said a young American as the couple passed in a horse-drawn Ascot Landau carriage, flanked by the household cavalry soldiers, Prince Harry’s former regiment.

The new Duchess perhaps needs to practice her royal wave. It must be from the wrist, always from the wrist. But scorn cannot be poured on an occasion such as this. As the Most Rev. Curry said in his sermon: “Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up.”

Two women watching a video screen cry as the bride enters the chapel.

German military set to be rebuilt around national security: report

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen plans a fundamental reorganization of the Bundeswehr, a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper says. A policy paper calls for national security to be prioritized.

Ursula von der Leyen is planning to completely remake the Bundeswehr to strengthen its focus on national as well as international defense, daily newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Friday.

The paper cited a draft copy of a policy paper titled “Concepts for the Bundeswehr,” which recommends a fundamental reorganization of the German military to ensure it “makes its contribution to national security provision.”

For more than a decade, the Bundeswehr has focused mainly on overseas deployments, including peacekeeping duties in several conflict zones. But in future, national and international alliance defense should be put on an equal footing, the report said.

New security situation

The plans will entail the spending of billions of euros, according to the paper, which will be used to rebuild military structures, some of which have been completely lost.

The paper highlighted several security developments in Europe over the past five years, including the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Crimea had also showed that more than 70 years of European peace could be endangered, it said.

Germany’s grand coalition has been arguing over plans to increase the federal defense budget. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have called for defense spending to rise to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021, well above the 1.27 percent proposed for this year.

€49 billion to spend

That would allow spending of around €49 billion ($59 billion), which several reports have suggested is urgently needed to upgrade equipment and transportation, as well as enhance training for military personnel.

But the proposal would still leave Germany far short of a NATO target of 2 percent of GDP, which has been demanded by US President Donald Trump.

The center-left Social Democrats have so far rejected the spending plans, which must be decided by July 4, when the German Cabinet is due to consider longer-term expenditure.

As a legacy of World War II, Germany has restrictive guidelines for its military activity, leading some to question whether spending 2 percent of GDP would make sense, given the limitations on what kind of missions the Bundeswehr can participate in.