Archives for: February 2007


Permalink 07:00:00 am, by Email , 1877 words   English (CA)
Categories: Canadiana, War And Conflict, Americana

A Canadian Legend - The Fall of the Arrow

Before starting this post, I wish to make everyone understand some things...

First of all, I am not an expert on the Avro Arrow... I am an interested person who's reading and study of the aircraft date to when his mom and dad first told me about it when I was a young lad.

The information mentioned below is from various sources... but for brevity sake is condensed and certain things may not get the attention that some feel they deserve. I've done my best to give a quick overview of an amazing achievement in aviation... and it's downfall.

If you wish more and better information, I cannot state that reading the books below listed in the "Resources" are all worthy reads... as are many, many others...

I have tried my best, and I apologise to those that feel I've made mistakes or "missed important things"... We do have a "comment section" below and I am ALWAYS willing to learn more. (Please give resources when possible as well.)

Space! The Final Frontier!

RL 201 Rollout

Above is a picture of the "rollout" of a Canadian jet fighter. By most accounts, when it was designed and built, it was at least thirty-years ahead of it's time... if not moreso.

According to one of the folks that was in charge of it's design and construction, "We didn't know that it couldn't be done... We just did it."

Canada has always had a proud aviation background... in fact, the Canadian bush pilot is still a thing of legend amongst pilots from all around the world. What many people, especially Canadians, don't know is that in the 1950's, we were also miles ahead in aerospace engineering and design... and that all but came to an end with the cancellation of the aircraft above... The Avro CF-105 Arrow.

Canada wanted a supersonic fighter/interceptor aitrcraft to replace it's aging fleet of CF-100 "Canuck" fighters. They wanted something fast, agile, capable of "all weather" flight, and genuinely being the best plane they could have...

On October 4th, 1957, A.V. Roe Canada wheeled out it's new plane... and the legend of the Avro Arrow started... oddly enough, the same day the Russian's launched Sputnik.

RL 201 in flight

Avro was building the air-superiority fighter, a new engine for it through it's Orenda works, (The Orenda Iroquois,) and wanted to add the RCA-Victor Astra fire-control system... a highly advanced missile system.

For testing and pre-production, however, the Arrows were fitted with Pratt and Whitney J-75 Engines... and awaited the new Canadian designed and made Iroquois....

RL 205 in a steep climb

Built with a "fly-by-wire" control system, the aircraft met and exceeded all specification given to it... and was considered by everyone to be beyond "excellent", but incredible.

Of the five completed Arrows, there were a total of 66 test flights at over 70 hours of flying time... and almost 8 of those were at super-sonic speeds.

RL 201 in flight

The project was more-or-less under tight scrutiny of the then reigning Conservative party in Canada... which was constantly complaining about costs and budgets... to help out, the Astra system was abandoned, and the designer went with a less expensive model from Hughes.

Despite excellent reviews and an amazing flight record (only two "test flights" had problems... and both times with the landing gear which was strengthened after the accidents...) on February 20th, 1959, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker stood up in the House of Commons and announced the termination of the Avro Arrow and the Orenda Iroquois engine... putting fourteen-thousand out of work.

For the chop

Canada, instead, would spend even more money than the Arrow project was costing to buy F-104 Starfighters and Bomarc missiles from America.

The curious bit was that there was an armed forces and government order sent closely behind the termination of the project to destroy all documents, plans, and information about the Avro Arrow... then, the destruction of the six fly-able aircraft... five with the Pratt and Whitney engines, and the sixth, as yet not flown fitted with the new, tested and approved Iroquois.


The cutting-up of the aircraft proceeded with utmost security... and the junk dealer who'd bought the scrap metal was told NOT to sell or use it until it was completely unrecognizable.

Only a few small pieces survive... and they are on display at The Canadian Aviation Museum.


The cutting up of the aircraft was "off limits" to photographers... and the images we see were taken by a newspaper photographer who rented a plane to take these shots.

Most of the extraordinary engineers and artisans that worked on the arrow were recruited to NASA... the rest went to British and American companies happy to grab the geniuses that built this amazing plane. This led to a period that is called, in Ontario, "The Great Brain Drain".

RL 201, 202, and 204

But why was the project cancelled?

There are MANY theories...

One of the most popular (and probable) was gentle pressure from the Americans... for multiple reasons. First, the Canadian aviation industry had produced a better aircraft than they had... in fact, at the time, the Arrow was the only aircraft that was a legitimate threat to the U2 spy planes.

Also, reports have shown that American "interests" were concerned that Avro (with not only the Arrow, but the Avro Jetliner) would surpass the major aircraft manufacturers of the day... all American companies such as Boeing, Douglas, North American, and others... in terms of research, development, manufacturing, and (more importantly) orders.

There's no doubt that there were costs involved with the Arrow... but considering that the designs were more-or-less completed and flight trials successful, it's doubtful that anyone really believed that cost was the main factor for the cancellation... and then, why scrap everything? Wouldn't it be wiser to try and get some "payback" for the initial investment?

There's talk of John Diefenbaker and Avro chief Crawford Gordon did not get along at all... in fact, in a movie put out starring Dan Aykroyd as Gordon, they made this abundantly clear. This tension is likely... even probable... but considering Diefenbaker was a politician first, I doubt his dislike of Gordon did much to advance his decision.

The "public reason" the Armed Forces gave, at one point, was that in their estimation, the age of air warfare with planes was "dead" and missiles were the wave of the future... hence the decision to get the Bomarcs. Interestingly enough, the Bomarcs were delivered from the Americans... and their launch bays are still near North Bay, Ontario... but they never sent warheads for "our" missiles.

Arrow Drawing

The real reasons are probably a combination of all of the above. There is no doubt that President Eisenhower did talk to Prime Minister Diefenbaker about the project... and did suggest better courses of "action" for Canadian defence... without further development of the Avro Arrow... and when Francis "Frank" Gary Powers was shot down in a U2 spy plane on May 1st, 1960, it became apparent that America was flying U2 spy planes over Canadian airspace to do missions at 70,000 feet over Russia... something that no one was particularly proud of... and something that, if needed, an Avro Arrow could have intercepted.

The destruction of certain documentation is "par for the course" Canadian military procedure with any cancellation of any project...

...but the Arrow's demise is an odd one... shrouded with mystery. There's even been speculation that "one Arrow made it"... one was spirited off and is currently in a barn in Northern Ontario. This is added to by the "missing" RL-202 aircraft from the "flightline" in the destruction photos.

According to Palmiro Campagna's book, Storms of Controversy, the answer given as to where 202 was is that she was being repaired and re-fitted for the new Hughes and Falcon firing systems... There is, however, a persistent rumour that late one night, the plant was cordoned off and several covered trucks made their way out with a mysterious cargo. He says that if indeed, an Arrow survived, it's most likely in a Canadian military base, not in a farm.

As you can see by the above and in many, many books on the subject, the folks that built the Arrow ignored the warnings where they could and managed to get many documents away from the shredders... and the photos and even movies survive to show this marvellous and innovated aircraft... but the questions remain... and probably always will...

Why was the Arrow cancelled? Why were all the plans and the planes scrapped? Did Arrow RL-202 survive?

I doubt we'll honestly ever know...

One thing's for sure... The Arrow, as it was designed, would have matched the best fighter Canada has in the air today...

Arrow and CF-18

The CF-18's engines put out about 11,000 pounds of thrust with 16,000 pounds if the afterburners are engaged. The Orenda Iroqouis did test out to 19,500 pounds of thrust and 30,000 pounds possible with afterburner. The F-18 is capable of a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and the Arrows with the weaker J-75 engines flew to Mach 1.98... this would have been dramatically improved with the Orenda engines. Both airplanes are "Fly-by-Wire" and with the Arrow's weapons pack being designed internally rather than externally, it would have been far more aerodynamic. Still, it is rather impossible to say that the Arrow was a "better plane" than the F-18...

...because thanks to some very strange decisions, we'll never really know for sure since there are no Arrows to compare anything to.

Space! The Final Frontier!

Interestingly enough, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was/is loved and revered in Canada... and was a popular Conservative figure. The destruction of the Arrow was a political poison to "Dief" as it hurt him in Avro's home province of Ontario... still, many people have turned what is a historical situation into a "political legend" by trying to come up with reasons that the Arrow was not a great aircraft...

People with little or no knowledge have said the aircraft was "obsolete" which is beyond not true as show with the information shown above with a modern F-18 aircraft... and future "Arrow" developments were on the books that were astounding. Some have said they were "accident prone" which is again false... there were two accidents during the test flights, both times the pilots walked away from the crash and the planes repaired as it was simply a collapse of the landing gear... which was quickly fixed by strengthening the gear. The F-18 had FAR more accidents in its development. They say the costs were prohibitive which again is false. The costs to "replace" the Arrow after cancellation was far more.

To be fair and honest... and NON-political... the cancellation and destruction of The Avro Arrow was a bad idea and a poor plan... and yes, a "folly of" or "black mark on" the Prime Ministerial reign of John George Diefenbaker. Only zealots and those who haven't done their homework argue that it was a good idea.

Those folks need to understand, everyone makes mistakes... and John Diefenbaker was a "fan" of Dwight Eisenhower... and even admitted he was a "hero" of his... one has to wonder if that "hero worship" tainted a decision that was not in the best interest of his country and an entire industry.

Space! The Final Frontier!


Palmiro Campagna - Storms of Controversy ISBN 0-77375861-5
The Arrowheads - Avro Arrow: From Its Evolution To Its Extinction ISBN 0-919822-35-5
Peter Zuuring - The Arrow Scrapbook ISBN 1-55056-690-3
Murray Peden - Fall of an Arrow ISBN 1-55002-453-1
CBC Arrow Archive



Permalink 12:01:22 am, by Email , 165 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In Film & Television, History In The News

Always look on the bright side of life....

After the grimness of our last two blog entries here is a bit of fun! While Monty Python's Life Of Brian is more of a spoof of history according to the Christian Bible we'll take any excuse to do a Python entry.

Last week the 1979 hilarious and controversial (our kind of movie!) film made news headlines once again as it was reportedly being screened in a church on Tyneside in the United Kingdom this past Friday.

Asked why the film was to be screened, Rev Adams said: "Jesus of Nazareth is not some sort of hot house plant that we need to protect from criticism and scrutiny." He also added, "he had the backing of his congregation."

Full BBC article here:

No word yet whether or not the film-goers broke into a hearty round of "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" the crucifixion scene being amongst this writer's top 10 of comedy classics!



Permalink 12:27:59 am, by Email , 300 words   English (CA)
Categories: Hollywood Babylon, Health And Sciences

Lobotomy And Frances Farmer

Frances Farmer Circa 1940 Glam Shot

In keeping with the dark tone we set with Friday's blog entry, today we look at lobotomy and actress Frances Farmer.

Much like today's happy chemicals such as Prozac, lobotomies were the psychiatric cure-all of the 1940's and 1950's. Not just performed on unmanageable patients, oh no, if you were gay, politically radical, a free-thinker, or just liked funny looking shoes, hey, lobotomy would cure you. It seemed that everyone who even slightly deviated from the established norm was considered a good candidate for this procedure.

Dr. Walter Freeman was the"king of the lobotomy." He invented the ice pick procedure, as a means to avoid the slowness of other brain surgery methods. Using a local anesthetic only he literally plunged an ice pick through the skull and into the brain of the patient. He then with swift back and forth motions severed the prefrontal lobe. Unlike other cumbersome and lengthy techniques, Dr Freeman's ice pick trick could be accomplished in just a few minutes, allowing him to lobotomize up to 10 patients in a single afternoon at various mental institutions!

It is conservatively estimated that thousands of lobotomies were performed without benefit of proper psychiatric evaluation first.

Joe Kennedy had his "troublesome" daughter Rosemary lobotomized in 1941. Playwright Tennessee Williams was reportedly devastated after finding out his schizophrenic sister Rose Williams was lobotomized. The procedure having left her a shell devoid of any of her former personality.

Frances Farmer's story is perhaps one of the more better known that outlines the tragic aftermath of lobotomy. The fiercely independent actress was lobotomized and left a tragic picture of blandness. The movie "Frances" in which the lead character is played by actress Jessica Lange tells her heartbreaking true story.

Thankfully, today lobotomy has been outlawed in most countries.



Permalink 12:42:11 am, by Email , 787 words   English (CA)
Categories: Murder & Mayhem

Most Vile Forms of Execution I've heard of...

BEFORE STARTING... this is a warning... below is pretty... um... dark. It might be a bit disturbing to some so you may want to either wait out your 25 seconds without scrolling down OR visit our other blog My Life In The Urban Zoo where you will find a cute entry on puppies. IF you can handle it, continue on... but you've been warned...

Space! The Final Frontier!

I'd be tossed between three methods I've come across in my studies... well, one of the three is easily the most nasty in my eyes... but the three, when you think about it, are all worthy for the title of most vile form of execution.

Now, some may assume hanging or the guillotine would be here... but they aren't. In essence, they are relatively quick ways to be killed... and even hanging with strangulation (as opposed to a "long drop" that breaks the neck with the noose) I imagine would be better than what I chose below.

To qualify for this list, the idea is that death is certain... and it would be nasty, painful, slow, and lingering... worse yet, it also had to be "state sanctioned" execution... so certain awful methods employed by criminal elements have been ruled out.

Also, "botched" executions are out as they are simply errors and it's not like the state made a decision to botch things... thinking in terms of Mary, Queen of Scots execution where the axeman missed slicing into her skull on the first chop when he missed, so he had to try again.

So, on those unpleasant notes, on to my list...

Space! The Final Frontier!

Scaphism otherwise known as "The Boats" is probably the least nasty of my top three. The condemned force-fed milk and honey, and then, after a time, led to two small boats with holes cut for the hands, feet, and head. The boats are fashioned into a restraining "coffin-like" thing with the person's middle-bits inside between the two boats. On occasion, the mid-section of the person was smeared with honey as well... The coffin/boats are then left outdoors in the warm weather... insects do the rest attracted by the "smell" produced either by the condemned's feces or by the "smeared" elements on the body. After a few days, usually only bones and insects are left in the boats... Apparently, flies and wasps are the worst offenders for the victims.

Space! The Final Frontier!

Sawing or "sawing in half" seem relatively nice after the last one... but the vision of the magician neatly sliding a blade between the ribs or whatever of the condemned was not reality... nope... I think it could best be described ONLY by the image below...


Space! The Final Frontier!

...but the winner for me is...

The Brazen bull. This one goes RIGHT up there with making you gotta wonder who the heck would come up with this sort of thing... well, it was fellow named Perillos who Athens fashioned it... it was a large brass staue of a bull... except it was hollow and had a "trap door" on the side to allow you to "insert" the victim. Once sealed in, a fire was stoked beneath the bull and the condemned would slowly roast inside. Perillos also thoughtfully created a series of tubes and baffles that would "turn" the victims screams inside the bull into what sounded like a bull's grunts and roars and the smoke would come from the bull's nose like it was "snorting"... Perillos, on presenting it to "The Tyrant of Agrigentum", Phalaris, he locked Perillos in and set a fire to "hear" it in action.

Space! The Final Frontier!

Now, there is one other... but it's possibly mythical... called the "Blood Eagle" and told about in ancient Norse tales. The condemned is laid face-down on a table and their back cut open. The ribs are cut/broken by the spine and lifted to resemble bloody wings. This action also pulled the lungs through the back and exposing them. Salt was then sprinkled into the wounds for good measure.

Blood Eagle

Space! The Final Frontier!

...and of course, worthy of mentioning here, there is also impalement which could make my list. Most people, when they think of executions via impalement think of Vlad the Impaler and the famed German wood-cut...

Vlad Has Dinner

Sadly, this is "fanciful"... Most of the time, impaled victims had the stake inserted into the rectum... then they were raised... as the steak slowly worked it's way through the body from the rear-end. Doubtlessly, and unpleasant and often slow and VERY painful way to go.

Space! The Final Frontier!

Dishonourable mention goes to the modern executions most notably carried out by Uday Hussein... who enjoyed using a hard-plastic shredding machine used to prepare plastic for recycling... Apparently, if he "liked" you, it was head-first into the shredder... otherwise, you went in to the grinders feet first.



Permalink 12:58:05 am, by Email , 172 words   English (CA)
Categories: Hollywood Babylon

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

This blog is still in it's infancy yet yesterday we received our very first Google blog search under the key words Marilyn Monroe. They were linking to our entry on "Ages Of Twelve Famed Historical Figures Had They Lived To 2007." Naturally I wanted to see where we had ranked in the search so I followed through. To my utter dismay every other blog entry listed in the top ten under those key words with the exception of ours was about Anna Nicole Smith.

Compare her with Anna Nicole all you like, but their can and only ever will be one Marilyn Monroe. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Marilyn was the epitome of sultry screen legend. While her own life was filled with controversy and her untimely death subject to speculation and conspiracy theories there really is no other comparison in this humble writer's opinion.

Monroe was and will always be the embodiment of Hollywood Babylon, and I look forward to writing more about her in the very near future.




Permalink 11:56:52 am, by Email , 140 words   English (CA)
Categories: Kings And Queens

Henry IV of England - Death Prediction

By the Grace of God, King of England,and France, and Lord of Ireland

In the fifteenth century a psychic fortune-teller predicted that King Henry IV of England would die in Jerusalem. Silly psychic King Henry never went on a crusade to the Holy Land.

However, many years later whilst visiting Westminster Abbey in London Henry collapsed. He was taken to the abbot's house and presumably died of a stroke.

The name of the room in which the King passed away, the Jerusalem Chamber.

Another odd note on Henry IV is that he is not buried at Westminster Abbey, which is the usual final resting spot for English Monarchs. He is in Canterbury Cathedral. No other English kings are buried there.

Further Reading:



Permalink 10:42:14 am, by Email , 51 words   English (CA)
Categories: Interesting Lists

Ages Of Twelve Famed Historical Figures Had They Lived To 2007

1.) Dylan Thomas (1914-53) poet, 93

2.) John F. Kennedy (1917-63) US President, 90

3.) Malcom X (1925-65) civil rights activist, 82

4.) James Dean (1931-55) actor, 76

5.) Marilyn Monroe (1926-62) actress, 81

6.) Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-67) revolutionary, 79

7.) Anne Frank (1929-45) diarist, 78

8.) Martin Luther King Jr (1929-68) clergyman, activist, 78

9.) Sylvia Plath (1932-63) poet, 75

10.) Elvis Presley (1935-77) singer, 72

11.) John Lennon (1940-80) musician, 67

12.) Princess Diana (1961-97) royalty 46

Source: The Book Of Lists (c) 2006 ISBN # 0-7704-3009-0



Permalink 08:59:59 am, by Email , 145 words   English (CA)
Categories: Americana

Fun And Games At The White House

In honour of our American friend's President's Day...have a President or two!

For a Father's Day gift when he was 56 President Richard Nixon received a custom made blue surfboard from his daughters. Historians have found no record that Richard Nixon ever surfed - unless those missing seventeen minutes on the White House tapes were from the president's Beach Boys album.

Unfortunately no image of Tricky Dick ala' surfboard or Hawaiian T-shirt exists (that I could find) and my photoshop skills are less than adequate for a companion image for this entry.

When Theodore Roosevelt was president, his five kids had the run of the White House. When they weren't sneaking ponies up the elevator, one of their favourite games was to take trays from the pantry and ride them down the stairs....wheeeeeeee!!!!!

Enjoy your day!!!!!!

Source: They Did What!? By Bob Fenster (c) 2002 ISBN: 0-7407-2218-2



Permalink 06:23:40 pm, by Email , 219 words   English (CA)
Categories: History In Film & Television

Marie Antoinette - 2006 Film "Let Them Eat Cake"

Matthew and I rented Marie Antoinette last night and I am struggling to find a single positive thing to say about this movie. The film is visually stunning and was shot on location in Versailles, but beyond that it was one of those films where my mind screams afterwards "I want those two hours of my life back!!!!!"

I found the storyline to be flat, nor anything redeeming about the lead character (and I believe that was the vision of writer/director Sofia Coppola). I am not certain about the historical accuracy, but the cheesy 80's soundtrack did nothing to set the atmosphere or the mood. Right down to the pink font ala' Sid & Nancy used to introduce the film's title, I felt like I was being set up to watch soft-porn not a sweeping historical epic as was promised.

Marie Antoinette has received an Oscar nomination along with another 6 award wins & 9 nominations. Apparently someone liked this wretched film.

Don't read any farther if you do not want a big spoiler!

Too be honest, and quite frank gentle reader by the end of the two hours I felt quite ripped off that this dreadful movie did not end with the execution by beheading of the two lead characters, which at that point I was greatly wishing for!



Permalink 08:14:30 pm, by Email , 238 words   English (CA)
Categories: Loons Throughout History

Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America

He was born in England in the early years of the nineteenth century. Joshua A. Norton was a successful businessman in both South Africa and The USA. An unfortunate turn in the rice market bankrupted him in 1854. This is when Joshua's life took a most interesting and unusual turn.......

On September 17, 1859 Joshua quite publicly declared that he was very upset with the political situation in the United States of America. In fact there was only one person in his mind that could fix the situation and that was Norton I, Emperor of the USA (himself of course).

Norton I, Emperor of the USA spent his days parading about the streets of San Francisco (his hometown) attired in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulets, beaver hat, and umbrella, writing up all sorts of declarations (ignored by US Congress) and releasing them in the press. He would inspect the city's streets, buildings, and even police force with regularity.

Joshua had his supporters as well (eccentric as he was) and was much beloved by the locals who would refer to him as His Imperial Majesty. The currency he issued was even accepted by local businesses that he patronized.

The good Norton I, first and only Emperor of the USA passed away January 8, 1880.

In honour of his memory I have decided to proclaim myself HRH Sue Empress of the Universe, you may send me your offerings, and prezzies post haste!

Permalink 05:54:58 pm, by Email , 232 words   English (CA)
Categories: General

Pastyme With Good Companye, indeed!

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Pastyme With Good Companye indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

"Pastime with good company I love, and shall until I die;
Grudge who will but none deny so this live will I
For my pastance, hunt sing and dance; My heart is set,
All goodly sport, to my comfort, who shall me let?
Youth must have some dalliance, of good or ill some pastance;
Company me thinketh best allthoughts and fancies to digest;
For idleness is chief mistress of vices all:
Then who can say but mirth and play is best of all?
Company with honesty is virtue sure; and vice to flee,
Company is good or ill, but every man has his free will.
The best I sue, the worst eschew; My mind shall be
Virtue to use, vice to refuse, I shall use me."

Attributed to Henry VIII King Of England


Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

Related Links

Disclosure Policy

Meet The History Buff

Ask The History Buff

Sticky Note For Historians

The History Nook - History Themed Items & Books At Great Prices

The Paranormal Blog

Nuttin' But Pimp

Life in the Urban Zoo

One Old Green Bus

Demeter SRC - My Genealogy Website

Friends and Acquaintances

Life At The Edge

The Spicy Cauldron

Eileens Free Tips

Pointless Directives

Musings of Khlari

What Will I Know Tomorrow?

Robin's Blog Blather


The Educational Tour Marm

Grokodile Blog Directory - Add Your Blog

Blog Soldiers

Sponsored Links and Businesses

MYLOT-Get Paid To Write

Text Link Ads

Mechincal Nonsense

February 2007
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
  Current > >>
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28        



XML Feeds

What is RSS?

powered by

Click here for the...


Click here for the...


Click here for the...


Click here for the...