Monday, March 05, 2007

One Weekend

Last weekend I hiked up to the North Head of Sydney Harbor and took a tour of the coastal defenses, run by the Royal Australian Artillery association costing about US$8. The tour group descended into the underground magazines and tunnels of a British designed 9.2 inch coastal battery, which used to sit on armored gunhouse above a concrete barbette before it was cut up and sold for scrap. The Vietnam vet who served as guide described the almost pitiful attempts of the artillery association to keep the artillery museum going. The environmentalists want the old coastal fortifications turned into their version of a park and the day the artillery association fails to turn things over is the day when the greenies foreclose, cut up everything and "restore" things to the state of nature.

One display of particular significance to the artillerymen was the Lone Pine seedling, which grows along a path running behind the crest of the North Head. It was grown from an pinecone gathered from the original tree around which the Australians fought the Turks for several days in Gallipoli. Here's a picture of the plaque and the seedling, which isn't much to look at but has an interesting modern story behind it. For those who can't click on the picture below to read the words on a larger image, I've reproduced what the plaque says:


The Lone Pine ridge was the scene of a major diversionary attack launched by the 1st Australian Division on the 6th August, 1915. The Turks had cut down all but one of the trees that covered the feature for use in constructing their trenches. The ridge, with the remaining and predominant single Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), became known as the Lone Pine. In four days of savage hand-to-hand fighting the Australians lost almost 2300 men while the Turkish losses were estimated at 5,000. Seven Victoria Crosses were awarded in the action.

This tree was raised from seedlings grown from a pine cone sent home from Gallipoli by Lance Corporal Benjamin Smith of the 3rd Battalion, AIF. It was planted on the 6th August 2006 to commemorate the 91st Anniversary of the Battle for Lone Pine and is a constant reminder of the sacrifice made by fellow Australians in World War I.

So for the Australian Army, Lone Pine was a significant engagement, along the lines of Iwo Jima or Bastogne. Wikipedia has long entry on the Battle of Lone Pine, but the casualty numbers alone convey the magnitude of the sacrifice. In an era where the loss of 3,000 men over several years in Iraq is considered unacceptable, it is practically unimaginable for modern Westerners to conceive of how a nation numbering only 5 million in 1915 could expend 2,300 men in four days to take a Turkish position -- in the Middle East -- for God, King and Country.

But the environmentalists prohibited the artillerymen from planting the Lone Tree seedling. No pleas, appeals to patriotism or arguments from significance would move them to withdraw their objections. The reason the environmentalists gave was that the Lone Pine seedling would disturb the local habitat. It represented the intrusion of an exogenous or foreign species into an are reserved for indigenous plant life. But more likely it represented an intrusion into their vision of the world. The artillery museum on the North Head is now the refuge of an increasing number of old artillery pieces which were once displayed in town parks, but which have been banished by pacifist campaigns. But at any rate, here's the offending tree, descended from the original.



Pictures were presented to show that present vegetation covering the North Head was entirely post war. But nothing would move the environmentalists.  The struggle was in some ways a metaphor for the political divisions in the modern world between those whose concept of a nation is its people and traditions and those who conceive of it as an ecosystem delineated by a United Nations-approved boundary. For one the nation lives in memory, and for the other it lives in a non-sentient land. In this case, the artillerymen succeeded in finding a loophole in the environmental regulations. They surrounded the tree with a very large wooden tub sunk beneath the ground which was then covered over with wood chips to disguise the fact. The second Battle of the Lone Pine was won by technically converting the tree into a potted plant.

As for the rest of the subterranean tour, here are some pics, all taken in really dim tunnel lighting without the use of a flash, which incidentally shows the capability of modern digital cameras even when they are not DSLRs.

In the 9.2 inch magazine. ISO 3200, 1/8 second, F 2.8

The exit from the power generation room. ISO 3200, 1/8 second, F 2.8

Hundreds of yards of tunnel. ISO 3200, 1/8 second, F 2.8



Blogger Anointiata Delenda Est said...

Lone Pine.

Now pine alone, you lovers of the West.

Once were Warriors is not just a movie about the Maoris.


3/05/2007 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...


3/05/2007 04:41:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Legend of Garry Owen

To those of us who share in the 7th Cavalry Legend "Garryowen" is more than just a unit designation, its motto, a song of historic lore, and a greeting shared amongst ourselves.
For us it is has been a very special way to say many things. In combat it was used to respond to the sound of a chambered round that preceded
"Who goes there?"
nearing a perimeter and it meant "friend"

At meeting and at departure from a 7th Cavalry friend, it means 'great to see you' and 'stay safe'. In a veteran's time, it still means all of these same things but it is intoned with the unspoken words of
'I love you my friend, as I do my own brother'
Moore’s achievements in a career spanning three decades are legendary.
First in his West Point class to be promoted to one, two and three stars, Moore received accelerated promotions on six occasions. Recipient of the Purple Heart and seven awards for battlefield valor, including the Distinguished Service Cross,

Moore never lost a man as prisoner or missing in action, which brings us back to West Point and why the Corps of Cadets holds Moore in such high esteem

3/05/2007 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

3/05/2007 05:10:00 AM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

Pacifism is essentially a cargo cult. Followers believe that as long as we can be made perfectly defenseless against outsiders then no attack can occur. It's a primitive pagan religion of a sort which its adherents naively imagine they despise.

Just one of the associated absurdities, as seen here, is that they will fight tooth and nail against any domestic opponent on their chosen battlegrounds (in this case regulatory minutiae) to reach their objective.

In the real world such behavior, persisted in long enough and pushed far enough (to the last seedling), inevitably turns any country enjoying resources worth having into an inviting target. The cargo cultists dancing their incantations on the beach end up attracting the attention of the wrong people.

None of this is new. On 9 February 1933 the Oxford Union debated and carried by 275 votes the motion that 'This house will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country'. They failed even in the attempt to predict their own behavior.

3/05/2007 05:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Thanks for the sad story of those who would have us forget our heroes. At least they can't touch the fabulous Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Err, can they?

I was struck by the museum, especially the diorama showing jungle fighting, where the brush was so dense you could be within arms-length of your deadly armed enemy and never see him. The Australians steadfast resolve and unwavering honor in all of the West's wars in the 20th century is all the more fantastic given the size and location of Oz.

I've toured old gun positions in th South of France, like those on Le Gros Cerveaux, above Sanary, which have a darker history than these, and which sit there abandoned, untended, all but forgotten even though old people are still alive who saw those positions at their peak.

3/05/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Wretchard observes: "But more likely it represented an intrusion into their vision of the world."

Meme Chose describes the delusionary nature of pacifism quite well.

All utopians believe they can simply 'will' their various nirvanas into existence, in large measure by ignoring those thing which cannot be reconciled -- human nature, in the case of communism, or the refusal of predators to abandon aggression in presence of pacifist good intentions.

That if we don't talk about war (or celebrate past wars), take away the toy guns, feminize our boys, etc. (Meme Chose's cargo cult rituals), we can create "New Compassionate Man," and thereby wring the impulse to warfare and genocide out of the human experience.

Even the average person -- the non-utopian who just wants to be left alone -- will engage in denial, wishful thinking and offer all sorts of accommodation in the face of aggression until the last possible moment.

3/05/2007 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

Beautiful, thanks.

3/05/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

A long time ago when Virginia Postrel was working for Reason Magazine she wrote an article about environmentalism, which included a line to the effect that when they were Communists, at least they claimed they favored some people (i.e. the proletariat).

How can a political movement survive in nominally democratic societies when its ideology is its contempt for the mass of humanity?

3/05/2007 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Norman said...

Excellent photos under such conditions.

Wretchard, may I ask what camera you used?

3/05/2007 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They surrounded the tree with a very large wooden tub sunk beneath the ground which was then covered over with wood chips to disguise the fact. The second Battle of the Lone Pine was won by technically converting the tree into a potted plant.

Gotta love this thinking out of the box and into a pot approach and how the artillerymen defeated the militant enviro-pacifists with their own hyper-legalistic ammunition.

3/05/2007 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...


It was a Canon G7 whose principle advantage, insofar as I was concerned was that it is a really fast shooter for a non DSLR. You can actually use it to "catch" the mini-expression under a wide variety of light conditions, by using the viewfinder after you've set up the camera to cope with the current condition and shooting it like an old rangefinder camera. In fact, that's it nickname, the "poor man's Leica".

After we emerged from the tunnel, I took four sequential individually framed shots of a suddenly passing helo: topping the ridge, overhead, slightly past and moving away with total elapsed time in seconds. On the images the rotor blades appear "stopped". And it's all clear down to 100% crop. That would be hard to do even with DSLR and the G7 is the size of a deck of cards. If I had the camera set to continuous I probably would have had about ten usable photos of what was essentially a surprise event.

3/05/2007 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Regarding the jungle. Many years ago we were trying to survey a patch of it using an angle counter, which essentially measures with width of trees in a kind of mechanical sight. To do this, we ranged ten guys in a line at about twenty foot intervals to run a swath down a stand of trees, each with angle counter and a notebook. Every man was issued a compass to maintain line of bearing because the forest was so dense you couldn't maintain visual contact. After each advance each man was supposed to make voice contact with the man to his left and right. I was the guidon so to speak. The idea was that we would all march down a bearing, tote up the measurements and then roll up the line and head back to base in a file.

Well after fifteen minutes the entire line was scattered all to hell and I had to spend about half an hour rounding up the line and calling the whole thing off. It turns out that the "forestry graduates" that were in attendance had never actually handled a magnetic compass and hence did not know how to keep a bearing in the woods. But it does illustrate just how thick a tropical forest can be. You can lose visual contact in under six feet in daylight. If a storm breaks or at night, you are effectively alone.

3/05/2007 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Fabio said...

I don't know why, but the young Lone Pine reminds me of the White Tree sapling of Gondor...

3/05/2007 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Andre_Szara said...

Fabio - you hit it on the head.

The sappling of the White Tree still grows in a few places in the West, especially in the hearts of our soldiers. But we still await the return of the King.

3/05/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

The problem is that scarce land has many potential uses, and various forces vie over such land.

Obviously, every chunk of land "touched by war" cannot be kept abandoned and fallow as a tribute to the people that died along an 800 mile-long Front in WWII, Atlanta and Stalingrad left unbuild as tribute to "the holy dead". Or every fort and fortification left inviolate.

But a coastal defense, manned by men willing to give their lives for Australia or to protect Tokyo or NYC or Rotterdam harbor are a wholly different matter than recovering an abandoned linoleum factory or a patch of rundown housing as "green reclaimation".

There is the matter of honor and duty, and for the sake of history and assuring future generations will produce fighters willing to sacrifice for the general good...the country involved needs to preserve adequate mementos of past valor - both to honor the past men who stepped up and to assure that future generations that duty and honor done on at a certain place and time is considered not the same as detrious of rundown industrial slums and housing.

All cannot be preserved after any war. People need to decide at various times - which of 116 USA Civil War forts for coastal defense, or 440 AAA emplacements remain in the UK from WWII, which will be preserved. Not all can be done on a feasible basis. But losing all will impoverish all of us.

3/05/2007 07:46:00 PM  

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