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First Cuckoo this year.
at 10:25 18 Apr 2018

Fantastic morning, Cuckoo calling, bitterns booming at Wicken Fen.
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Early bird
at 14:24 10 Apr 2018

Out today with the dogs on Wicken Fen and heard a booming bittern, never heard one so early before. Another week or two and it will be the Cuckoos calling. It's been a bad old winter for me mental healthwise, feeling a bit better now. A walk like today's better than any pills.
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100 years ago
at 11:38 21 Mar 2018

Exactly 100 years ago today my granddad's brother William was killed on the first day of the Kaiser's Offensive.

William was the eldest of 3 Sudbury brothers, all doing their bit for King and Country. William had volunteered almost as the war had started. My granddad Ernie, joined later, my first photograph of him in uniform at his wedding, ironically on the 1st July 1916. Younger brother Ted joined as the war was ending and spent 2 years helping to clear the detritus that the war had left.

William joined the Warwickshire Regiment before transferring to the Machine Gun Corps, Ernie was a stretcher bearer in the Middlesex Regiment. Ted was in the Essex Regiment. Both William and Ernie had been wounded, William three times the third a gunshot wound to the head which hospitalised him for 2 months.

The war had changed from attritional trench warfare to more dynamic fighting by 1918. The Allied lines were protected with redoubts with machine gun posts, as historian's described "scattered like cherries in a madeira cake". Following the Russian Revolution the Germans signed a non aggression pact freeing the whole of their Eastern Armies.

The battle started with a 5 hour bombardment, at 09.30 3,500 mortars opened rapid fire followed by an advance of 1 million Germans along a front of nearly 50 miles. The result could have been so different if it hadn't been for the weather. 100 years ago there was a thick fog. The troops advanced pretty much unseen. Before the advance could be halted the Germans had advanced up to 40 miles, capturing over 1,000 guns and inflicting 200,000 casualties.

Williams body wasn't recovered, he is remembered at the Araas War memorial and Sudbury Memorial.

I have several letters saved by Grandad sent to him in France, they include this letter sent to tell him of his brother's death.

Dated 12.4.1918 My Dear Ernie, Just a few lines hoping to find you quite well as it leaves us all at home. I was very pleased and thankful to get a card from you this morning to know you were quite well last Monday 8th and I do pray that God in his infinite mercy will spare you to come again. How glad we shall be when this cruel war is over.

My dear boy I have very sad news to tell you although I don't like worry you but if I don't others will. I had the notice on Tuesday 2nd post that our dear boy Willie was killed in action on the 21st March the first day of the battle. I was alone when the postman came but my dear boy don't worry about me, God is good to me. He has given me strength to bear up under this heavy blow.

I had the official notice from London yesterday stating my son met his death gallantly. I expect I shall hear no more. I'm glad all his sufferings and hardships are over and one day we shall all meet on the other side. Poor Willie is at rest.

God bless you my boy and in his mercy bring you back safe to us all. Mum

Thanks for reading this ... RIP great uncle Willie, an ordinary soldier in an extraordinary and terrible war
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Bonking pigeons in the willow tree must be Spring
at 10:19 4 Mar 2018

Rooks carrying twigs, soon be hearing the frogs, Spring in the UK my favourite time.
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That was nice
at 08:48 26 Aug 2017

BBC1 just now made feel proud to be blue.
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Sharpish frost this morning in rural Cambridgeshire.
at 09:01 10 May 2017

At 6am there was frost on the car by 6.30 no signs at all. Just enough to nip my new spuds I fear, glad the squash and runners are still tucked up in the greenhouse.

Didn't put the birds off on the fen, 3 cuckoos calling at the same time, nightingale in full voice being recorded by a twitcher with all the gear.

Lovely time of the year.
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Flight Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade
at 11:01 26 Apr 2017

I've always meant to visit the small museum on the old WW2 airfield 3 or 4 miles from me. I went yesterday.

There is an aircrew whistle on display issued to Sergeant Alkemade who was a rear gunner in a Lancaster 115 Squadron flying from this airfield. On 23 March 1944 he left on his 13th mission part of a 811 strong force to bomb Berlin. At about midnight his plane was attacked by a Ju88, the Lancaster was hit and quickly caught fire. A Lancaster's rear turret is very tight so gunners couldn't wear a parachute, they used to hang them behind the turret. Before Sergeant Alkemade could reach his 'chute it had burst into flames. His goggles started to melt and his skin was burning. He had 2 options burn to death or jump. He jumped from 18000 feet (over 3 miles high!) with no parachute. He was unconscious before he hit the ground. After 3 hours he regained consciousness very cold but with everything working. He had fallen into a pine tree which broke his fall and then into thick snow.

He needed help and blew the whistle, he was found by Germans who initially thought he was a spy. He was taken to Stalag Luft 3 where he spent the remainder of the war. Of the rest of the crew, the pilot and 3 crew died, wireless op and navigator survived.

Nicholas died in 1987 in Cornwall.

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