Flying July 16 to July 24, 2009.

Today you will see the Stars and Stripes flying with the flag of the state of Ohio, and these will fly in Vernon Street from July 16 to July 24 to celebrate the United States NASA Apollo 11 mission, “the first man on the moon”, in 1969. The home state of the commander, Neil Armstrong, was Ohio, so this gives me the perfect excuse to fly the attractive and unusual Ohio flag, in tandem.

Described as a pennant, the Ohio burgee is properly a swallowtail design. It was adopted in 1902. Unique in shape it is uncomplicated in design. The union of the flag is populated with seventeen white stars. Those that are grouped around the circle represent the thirteen original colonies. The four stars found at the apex of the triangle combine with the stars of the thirteen original colonies to total seventeen. Ohio was the seventeenth state to enter the union.

Vernon Street, Derby, July 16, 2009.

Apollo 11

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon.

It was the fifth human spaceflight of Project Apollo and the third human voyage to the Moon. It was also the second all-veteran crew in manned spaceflight history. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, while Collins orbited above.

The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he expressed during a speech given before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

It seems to me quite amazing that extraordinary event in 1969 was 40 years ago now, the year I left school after sitting my A levels just a few days before. I spent the summer in the USA touring on Greyhound buses, arriving in New Canaan, Connecticut, at the home of my cousins, with minutes to spare to watch the landing live on TV.

The Saturn V carrying Apollo 11 took several seconds to clear the tower on July 16, 1969

A condensation cloud forms around an interstage as the Saturn V approached Mach 1, one minute into the flight

The Eagle in lunar orbit immediately after separating from Columbia

Aldrin unpacks experiments from the LEM, named Eagle.

Aldrin salutes U.S. Flag

Buzz Aldrin poses on the Moon allowing Neil Armstrong to photograph both of them using the visor's reflection

Apollo 11 crewmen await pickup by helicopter following splashdown, July 24 1969.

Left to right: Armstrong, Collins, Aldrin

Italy................................................................. New Jersey

Collins and Aldrin were born in 1930 respectively in Rome, Italy, (to US Army officer father), and New Jersey. Here are two respective appropriate flags from my collection, Italy and New Jersey. The pre-1946 Italian flag is one of the prizes of my collection. It is old fine linen and huge, and was sold to me on Ebay by someone who thought it was an Italian football club flag !!

Did it really happen?

There is some controversy that the whole thing was faked by NASA on behalf of a desperate US Government and the CIA. To make up your mind, watch this clip:

Correct way to fold the Stars and stripes:


Flying Wednesday July 15, 2009.

Yesterday, July 14, may have been France’s big day, Bastille Day, but today is the anniversary of the end of the road for French tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte who, on July 15 1815, demanded political asylum from the British aboard HMS Bellerophon. He was exiled to the island of Saint Helena, and it is the Saint Helena flag I am flying today.

Saint Helena

Saint Helena is an island of volcanic origin and a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. The territory of Saint Helena consists of both the island of Saint Helena, and also the dependencies of Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha.

The island has a history of over 500 years since it was first discovered as an uninhabited island by the Portuguese in 1502. It is Britain's second oldest remaining colony (after Bermuda), and is is one of the most isolated islands in the world. It was for several centuries of vital strategic importance to ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. For several centuries, the British used the island as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon Bonaparte, Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (Zulu king) and over 5,000 Boer prisoners.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte (was a military and political leader of France whose actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Born in Corsica and trained as an artillery officer in mainland France, Bonaparte rose to prominence under the First French Republic and led successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions arrayed against France. In 1799, he staged a coup d'état and installed himself as First Consul; five years later he crowned himself Emperor of the French. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, he turned the armies of the French Empire against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories. He maintained France's sphere of influence by the formation of extensive alliances and the appointment of friends and family members to rule other European countries as French client states.

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 marked a turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. His Grande Armée was badly damaged in the campaign and never fully recovered. In 1813, the Sixth Coalition defeated his forces at Leipzig; the following year the Coalition invaded France, forced Napoleon to abdicate and exiled him to the island of Elba. Less than a year later, he escaped Elba and returned to power, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon spent the last six years of his life under British supervision on the island of Saint Helena. An autopsy concluded he died of stomach cancer, though other scientists have since conjectured that he was poisoned with arsenic.

The conflict with the rest of Europe led to a period of total war across the continent and his campaigns are studied at military academies the world over. While considered a tyrant by his opponents, he is also remembered for the establishment of the Napoleonic code, which laid the administrative and judicial foundations for much of Western Europe.

Battle of Waterloo

Sunday 18 June 1815, near Waterloo, Belgium: Forces of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by those of the Seventh Coalition, including an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army. It was the decisive battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Bonaparte's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as the French emperor, and marked the end of Napoleon's Hundred Days of return from exile in Elba.

Duke of Wellington at Waterloo

According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life."

Duke of Wellington

Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington's army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont St Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that moment, Wellington's Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing Coalition forces entered France and restored Louis XVIII to the French throne. Napoleon abdicated, surrendering to the British aboard HMS Bellerophon

Scene in Plymouth Sound in August 1815. HMS Bellerophon is at the centre of the picture, surrounded by crowds of people in small boats who have come to see Napoleon.

Napoleon aboard HMS Bellerophon

Grenadier Guards, Waterloo Medal and Private Simon Stainsby

I have in my possession, passed down through my family, a Waterloo Medal. This is the first medal ever to be issued to all soldiers present at an action.

The story that accompanies it is that it was given to my grand-mother (I suspect this may be my great grandmother) by a house maid, for safe keeping, and never re-claimed, and that it had belonged to the maid's brother. It was also passed down that the name on the medal edge was wrong, it reads "SIMON STANISBY" and the family name was actually "Stainsby". His regiment is marked as "2nd BAT. GRENA. GUARDS".

The Grenadier Guards recruit in Derby to this day, and I wonder if this dates back to a connection with the Derbyshire Militia.

In 1978 I checked this name error story with the Regimental archives officer, and indeed his name was Stainsby.

He was (quoting the regimental reply):
"No. 199 Simon Stainsby.
Enlisted in Grenadier Guards on 7 December 1815* aged 18 at Dover from the Derby[shire] Militia.
(*My Note: This is likely wrong and likely should have read 1813, see "Derbyshire Militia: Enlistments into the Regular Army at Dover, December 1813" )
Height 5' 9"
Complexion: Dark
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Black
Trade: Frame work knitter
Born: St Mary in the County of Derbyshire
Service abroad: France 1814, Waterloo and Paris 1815, Army of occupation 1816-1818."
"He remained a Private for all of his service which was due to a rather irregular career which I will not disclose and was discharged on 12 November 1835 aged 40 years suffereing from chronic catarrh, palpitaions and rheumatism with a pension of 1s/1d per day"

Now that Derby Mercury newspaper is on-line, and can be accessed and searched on-line (an amazing tool, if you are a Derbyshire Library cardholder), I was able to find Simon Stainsby, as a Waterloo Pensioner, attending a dinner given by the Derby Rifle Corps, at the Royal Hotel, Derby, in a report of June 20, 1860. (Note: Grenadier Guards=First or Grenadier Regiment of Footguards)

Grenadier Guards today


Flying Tuesday July 14, 2009.

The flag flying in Vernon Street today will be more easily recognisable than usual. It is the national flag of France (known in French as drapeau tricolore, drapeau français, and in military parlance, les couleurs). Today July 14 is Bastille Day.

Bastille Day is the French national holiday, celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is called Fête Nationale ("National Celebration") in official parlance, or more commonly le quatorze juillet ("14 July"). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution.

Prise de la Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel

The Fête de la Fédération of the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the uprising of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people considered the happy conclusion of the French Revolution.

Other matters on Batille Day

Bastille Day falls during the Tour de France and is traditionally a day when French riders try to take a stage victory for France, working harder than they might on other days.

The Constitution of France gives the President the authority to pardon offenders. President Sarkozy declined to continue the practice. Sarkozy vowed to clean areas of Paris "with a Kärcher" (nettoyer la cité au Kärcher), referring to a well-known German brand of pressure cleaning equipment, and two days before the 2005 Paris riots he referred to the criminal youth of the housing projects as voyous (thugs) and racaille, a slang term which can be translated into English as rabble, scum or riff-raff.

Listen to La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, on Youtube:


Flying Monday July 13, 2009.

Today I am flying the flag of Mongolia. It is currently the Mongolian holiday and Festival of Naadam.

The current flag of Mongolia was adopted on February 12, 1992. It is similar to the flag of 1949, except for the removal of the socialist star.

The previous flag.

It has three equal, vertical bands of red (hoist side), blue, and red. Centered on the hoist-side red band in yellow is the national emblem (the Soyombo symbol - a columnar arrangement of abstract and geometric representations of fire, sun, moon, earth, water, and the Taijitu or Yin-Yang symbol).

Taijitu (a Chinese word that translates roughly as 'diagram of ultimate power') is a term which refers to any of the Chinese symbols for the concept of yin and yang (Taiji), and is sometimes extended to similar geometric patterns used historically by various cultures. The most recognized form is composed of two semi-circular teardrop-shaped curves of different colors, or a circle separated by an S-shaped line, where each half is marked with a dot in the opposite (or different) color.


Naadam is a traditional type of festival in Mongolia. The festival is also locally termed "eriin gurvan naadam" "the three games of men". The games are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery and are held throughout the country during the midsummer holidays. Women have started participating in the archery and girls in the horse-racing games, but not in Mongolian wrestling.

The biggest festival is held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar during the National Holiday from July 11th – 13th, in the National Sports Stadium. Other cities and towns across Mongolia and those with significant Mongolian, have their own, smaller scale Naadam celebrations. It begins with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians. After the ceremony, the competitions begin.

Naadam is the most widely watched festival in the country, and is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another. Naadam has its origin in the activities, such as military parades and sporting competitions such as archery, horse riding and wrestling, that followed the celebration of various occasions. Now it formally commemorates the 1921 revolution when Mongolia declared itself a free country.

The festival is also celebrated among ethnic Mongolians in the Inner Mongolia region of China and Mongolian communities overseas.


Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and the People's Republic of China to the south, east and west. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia's political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks, and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence: In 1924, the Mongolian People's Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and the - rather rough - transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest and most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people. It is also the world's second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the country's 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state's citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live off less than US$ 1.25 a day.

The Mongol Empire and Genghis Khan

In the chaos of the late twelfth century, a chieftain named Temüjin finally succeeded in uniting the Mongol tribes between Manchuria and the Altai Mountains. In 1206, he took the title Genghis Khan, and waged a series of military campaigns - renowned for their brutality and ferocity - sweeping through much of Asia, and forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Under his successors it stretched from present-day Poland in the west to Korea in the east, and from Siberia in the north to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the south.

Two flags said to be associated with Ghenghis Khan


Flying Sunday July 12, 2009.

July 12 2009 is the 30th anniversary of the independence of Kiribati, formerly known as the Gilbert Islands. The Kiribati flag will fly in Vernon Street today and tomorrow. It is one of my favourite flags from my collection.

The Flag of Kiribatihas an upper half of red with a gold frigatebird flying over a gold rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the ocean and the 3 island groups (Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands). The 17 rays of the sun represent the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba (former Ocean Island). The shield was designed by Sir Arthur Grimble in 1932 for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands British colony.

The former flag of the Gilbert Islands as a British Colony.

The shield was incorporated into the center of the fly half of a British Blue Ensign as the state ensign of the colony. Shortly before independence was granted in 1979, a local competition was held to choose a new national flag, and a design based on the colonial coat of arms was submitted to the College of Arms. The College of Arms decided to modify this design. Both the golden frigate bird and the sun were enlarged to occupy more of the top of the flag, and the width of the blue and white wavy bands was reduced. The local people, however, insisted on the original design, in which the top and bottom halves of the flag were equal, the sun and local frigate bird small, and the various design elements outlined in black. The new flag was hoisted during the independence day celebrations in the capital, Tarawa, on July 12, 1979.


Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. It is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, dispersed over 3,500,000 square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles) straddling the equator, and bordering the International Date Line to the east. The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of "Gilberts", derived from the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands.

The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915; they were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific War in 1941. The islands of Makin and Tarawa were the sites of major US amphibious victories over entrenched Japanese garrisons in 1943. The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.

Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Islands. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports. The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years. Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP. Private sector initiatives and a financial sector are in the early stages of development. Foreign financial aid from the EU, UK, US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UN agencies, and Taiwan accounts for 20-25% of GDP. Remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad account for more than $5 million each year. Kiribati receives around $15 million annually for the government budget from an Australian trust fund.


Flying Saturday July 11, 2009.

Today I am fling the flag of Washington DC

The link to the day is rather tenuous, and I will not dwell on it too much, but the Battle of Fort Stevens was fought on July 11-12 1864 in the American Civil War in Northwest Washington, D.C. The battle is noted for the personal presence of President Abraham Lincoln observing the fighting.

Officers and men of Company F, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, in Fort Stevens

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, the District, or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States, founded on July 16, 1790. The City of Washington was originally a separate municipality within the Territory of Columbia until an act of Congress in 1871 effectively merged the City and the Territory into a single entity called the District of Columbia. It is for this reason that the city, while legally named the District of Columbia, is known as Washington, D.C.

The city is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by the states of Virginia to the southwest and Maryland to the other sides. The District has a resident population of 591,833; however, because of commuters from the surrounding suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the workweek. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of 5.3 million, the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country.

Washington DC landmarks

The flag

For over a century, the District of Columbia was without an official flag and flew several unofficial banners—usually the flag of the D.C. National Guard. In 1938, Congress established a commission to choose an official, original design., resulting in this flag (which had first been proposed in 1921).

The Flag of the District of Columbia consists of three red stars above two red bars on a white background. It is based on the design of the coat of arms of the family of George Washington. George Washington (1732 -1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797). For his essential roles in both war and peace, he is often referred to as the father of the USA.

The coat of arms of George Washington, President of the United States of America from 1789 to 1797, were first used to identify the family in the twelfth century, when one of George Washington's ancestors took possession of Washington Old Hall, then in County Durham, in north-east England.

Washington Old Hall, County Durham, England.

The Washington Window in Selby Abbey, in the English market town of Selby, contains a variant of the Washington coat of arms in the original 14th century stained glass. It is thought to be a benefaction to the abbey to commemorate John Wessington, Prior of Durham (1416–1446).

The Washington family coat of arms in 14th century stained glass at Selby Abbey, England.

The Washington coat of arms can also be seen at the parish church in Garsdon, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, where a branch of the family moved in Tudor times.

The design is often said to have inspired the Stars and Stripes, but there remain too many other explations for the origin of the Stars and Stripes for it to be explored further in this modest blog.