This page will have all of the written reports that have been generated on topic discussions and topics of interest.
The remarkable story about “The loss of Prince Imperial of France” was recounted by Lou Fletcher at our January meeting. Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, heir to the French Empire, was killed in action while fighting with the British army in Zululand.
The Young Prince
The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871, saw the defeat of France by German states led by Prussia. The young prince, with his mother Empress Eugenie, fled to Chislehurst in England where they made their home, together with the prince’s father Emperor Napoleon III. As he grew older, the prince imperial longed for battle and pressed the British army for a commission. Although he could not be offered a position he was allowed to wear a uniform.
On the 1st June 1879, the British army advanced into Zululand, and a small patrol led by Lt Carey and accompanied by the prince imperial set out to locate a site for an army camp and to draw maps of the area. The prince, with his skittish horse and his Austerlitz sword, was considered risky and go-ahead but soon assumed command of the patrol. They stopped at an encampment to make coffee and smoke their pipes unaware of the many Zulus close by. In the ensuing attack, the prince imperial was trampled by his own horse and his arm broken. He fought valiantly but was killed by a veritable hail of assegai spears.
Tony Dunk complimented Lou on giving his presentation without notes and with such historical detail. It was as if Lou had himself been there! Our talk in February is entitled “Snapshots in the life of a Parish Priest” and will be given by the Very Rev Dr. Christopher Hardwick.
That Tavistock Probus Club is always happy to welcome new members. Anyone interested in joining Probus may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.
A road made from old car tyres is certainly an innovative concept and this month’s presentation by Joe Toland described how old railway tracks can be converted into rubber roads made of panels of shredded car tyres which are locked together and laid over existing railway lines. They allow trams and cars to travel on the same road at up to 50mph, although the “roads” would be too narrow for overtaking. Holdfast, the Company behind the scheme, also produces rubber panels which are used as decking on railway crossings.
EU legislation has made it illegal to burn old tyres or bury them in landfill sites. Each mile of a Holdfast Road usefully uses 250,000 old tyres and a 980 foot demonstration track, built in Corby Northamptonshire, successfully handled up to 1000 cars per week. Joe highlighted the many miles of old and disused rail tracks up and down the country which could be converted into rubber highways to relieve traffic congestion and suggested this could even offer an alternative to the rail link from Tavistock to Bere Alston.
David Wixon thanked Joe for his imaginative and innovative presentation. Members then retired to Tavistock Golf Club where a truly excellent Christmas lunch was enjoyed by all.
The subject of the January meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “Prince Louis Napoleon”.
If you are interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club, please contact the secretary on 01822 615669. We are always happy to welcome new members to the club.
The Norman Conquest of 1066 is well known to all of us but we are less familiar with its impact on Devon. Mr. Kevin Dickens gave members a remarkable insight into the terrible suffering which Devon had to endure.
In 1068, William the Conqueror besieged Exeter (known then as Escanceaster). Heavy losses were inflicted on the invaders before the town surrendered. Rougemont Castle was built soon after to help the Norman’s keep control of the local population and many more fortifications, in the form of Motte and Bailey Castles, were built subsequently in the rest of Devon. The town centres of Plympton, Totnes, Okehampton, and Lydford were all fortified to subdue the peasants and the high ground above Lamerhooe was included as it commanded a good view of the winding Tamar which had been chosen as Devon’s boundary with Cornwall. In the towns, the Normans demolished all of the homes around the fortifications to ensure a clear view of any attack.
The peasant population suffered greatly in the ensuing partisan struggle and the later full-scale civil war. Their houses were burnt to the ground and their crops and livestock destroyed resulting in severe hardship, poverty and hunger for these desperate people. The Saxon elite were treated with equal harshness and contempt to the extent of being virtually wiped out.
Tony Dunk thanked Kevin for his talk and for enlightening members on the significance of the many lumps and bumps (sites of castles) around Tavistock. The December Probus Club talk is entitled “The Holdfast Rubber Highway” and this is followed by the club’s Christmas lunch.
Anyone interested in joining the Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669.
Ethiopia has a spectacular landscape and this is especially so in the Simien National Park where mountains rise to 4,500 metres and the scenery is truly awesome. Our speaker, Mr Ian Gasper, gave a picturesque talk on his trek through the park promoting Water Aid.
Ian set off for Ethiopia together with a group of young and not so young trekkers from all parts of the UK and embarked on a walk which was not for the feint hearted. The temperatures varied from -4oC at night to +30oC during the day and altitude pills were needed by many in the group. The park, in spite of its vast area and inaccessibility, provided good food and shelter, the daily diet consisting of meat and teff pancakes. Rare and unusual animals live in the park – the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex and Ian’s presentation included fascinating photographs of these and their habitat.
Coffee was invented in Ethiopia; coffee ceremonies are part of the culture of each village and an invitation to the ceremony is a gesture of friendship. The group made lots of good friends on their trek and drank lots of coffee!
Water Aid has proved to be of tremendous benefit to the villagers. Ian recounted a tale of children playing excitedly in clean water which they had never seen before. Fifty children die each day in Ethiopia from drinking dirty water and yet it only costs £100 to provide a well to reach water far below ground level.
Peter Brinsden thanked Ian for his talk which he said epitomised the spirit of adventure. The subject of the November meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “The Normans in Tavistock”.
If you would like to join the Tavistock Probus Club, please contact the secretary on 01822 615669.
The workings of a submarine are beyond the knowledge of most of us and to be the officer responsible for the engineering maintenance and repairs while at sea would be a daunting concept. At this month’s meeting of Tavistock Probus Club, members were entertained with some insights into the complexity of such work by Capt David Wixon RN who joined the submarine service in 1963 as the engineering officer on HMS Aurochs.
It is hardly surprising that an important qualification for such a role is a ‘Sense of Adventure’. NATO exercises can be very demanding and danger is ever present, as on one occasion when a steel pin snapped in the engine drive shaft causing the submarine to dive ever deeper. The submarine returned to Portsmouth for repairs and was subsequently scrapped. NATO exercises do, however, offer opportunities for lighter moments, for example, a ‘Gib Jolly’ on the island of Gibraltar.
Life of a submariner away at sea
Space on board was adequate if limited and a sense of urgency prevailed. This was especially so when exiting the hatch as the last one out got very wet. Sailors would always rush to their positions and there was a degree of rivalry between the front and the back of the boat.
John Newcombe, on behalf of members, thanked David for his most interesting talk and for providing members with such a fantastic review of his career. The subject of the November meeting of the Tavistock Probus Club is “RAF Harrowbeer”.
Anyone interested in Tavistock Probus Club may contact the secretary on 01822 615669. We are always happy to welcome new members to the club.