Friday, March 18, 2011


Approximately 50 years ago at the age of 11 I started looking at the sky and have been doing so ever since, not just looking but gazing and wondering. One of the greatest happenings in the history of man had just taken place and the name on everyone's lips was Colonel Yuri Gagarin the first human being to venture into space. Like most 11 year olds I didn't think much about anything other than football, another lifelong passion but: even for a football mad youngster this was impossible to ignore, everyone knew something mind boggling had happened and we all wanted to find out more.

Gagarin became the most famous man on the planet overnight and the people of the world took him to their hearts, the Soviet Union had put a man into orbit which was astonishing: until then we only knew about Dan Dare and Emperor Ming as comic figures but this was real and almost too much to comprehend.

We quickly learned about him, he was 27 years old and he left and flew round the Earth and returned in 1hr. 48 minutes. The actual orbit of mother Earth took 1Hr. 29.34 minutes. He flew at a height of 327,000 meters and travelled at 23,766 miles an hour in Vostock 1. Or as me and my brothers worked out rather crudely Glenburn to London in about 50 seconds that's what grabbed us, Glenburn to London in 50 seconds! I remember we sat looking at each other dumbstruck and unable to explain such a phenomenon, Glenburn to New York? 13 minutes wow! Yuri was described by his fellow cosmonauts as a brilliant mind with ice water in his veins, completely without fear and popular with everyone. He was able to withstand 13G's in the centrifuge and as part of psychological training spent 24 hrs. In a soundless, lightless room the instructors described him as "very difficult, if not impossible to upset"

He was one of 20 cosmonauts who were competing to be the first human in space, Gagarin got the nod not because of his brilliance as a pilot or his unflappable temperament, such things counted of course but he was chosen because he was the smallest of the 20 and the capsule was tiny, world shattering events can be dependent on such mundane things.

Yuri Gagarin left the Earth, no one had ever done that before, since the big bang until April 12 1961 he was the first to leave our planet quite a claim right? What the Soviets did not plan for was the reaction of the world, Gagarin was not just the first man in space he was also as a bonus the most charismatic of men with a megawatt smile who made friends with everyone he met, he was down to Earth (poor pun) and the world could not get enough of him, he did more to change people's opinions of the Soviet Union than anyone could imagine he was a PR dream and to me and millions of others he was one of the greatest if not thee greatest heroes in history.

Gagarin however did not like life as a famous personality all he wanted to do was fly preferably in space. This was denied him as the Soviets valued him too much to send him back into orbit. After much pleading they let him resume his career as a test pilot and he was happy with the adrenalin rush provided by flying low at great speed when testing migs. He died along with another pilot doing this in 1968 and so horrific was the crash that his body could only be identified by the air base barber who recognised a mole on his neck, I suppose he died the way he lived fast and dangerous.

I have thought of him many times since I first heard his name and I he is responsible in no small measure for my interest in science, astronomy and space travel. I suppose everyone has heroes and Yuri Gagarin was/is mine he takes me back to a time when he made anything seem possible a time when hair was long and time was short.


David Duff said...

"he did more to change people's opinions of the Soviet Union"

He might have changed your opinion, Councillor, but not mine. I couldn't quite catch his twinkling smile through the piles and piles of bodies, so mountainous they made Hitler look like the beginner he was.

Now remind me, what was it Lenin said about "useful idiots"?

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


"He might have changed your opinion, Councillor, but not mine"

I was a besotted 11 year old you buffoon. People like you went into hiding when the world celebrated this mighty step forward for mankind.

A hundred thousand David Duffs writing this nonsense couldn’t dent Gagarin’s reputation or the achievement of the Soviet Union in putting him into space. Actual events which captured the imagination of the whole world will survive the bitter jealous ravings of pygmies like you.

David Duff said...

"Actual events which captured the imagination of the whole world will survive the bitter jealous ravings of pygmies like you."

Jealous? Are you serious? Jealous of a country that was the biggest concentration camp in the history of the world - until Mao out did them?

You might only have been 11 years old but your mum and dad should have clipped you round the ear and tried to knock some sense into you. Anyway, their great "achievement" didn't last very long because those 'damn capitalistic Yankees' blew them away and thereby demonstrated that state-run socialism is hopeless and useless.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


Did you know that citizens of the Soviet Union have 3 eyes, one is in the back of their head and hidden by hair it makes them great spies. I know this to be true because a man I know who knows a man who was in the CIA told him.

Maggies Handbag said...

The gospel according to Councillor Kelly...'The USSR concentration camps were a figment of the CIA's imagination.'

Good for you, laddie, tell it how you see it.

Next, can we have your take on the Katyn forest massacre?

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

By Maggies Handbag on GAGARIN THE FIRST SPACE HERO - "THE COLUMBUS OF TH... on 24/03/11

The gospel according to Cllr. Kelly says that the Soviet Union is the reason we are all still speaking English instead of German, which of course would have suited people like you down to the ground wouldn’t it.

Maggies Handbag said...

Golly, Councillor, you've got me bang to rights..Ein volk, ein Renfrew, ein Maggie...that's me!

But now, please share your thoughts on Katyn with us, you tease.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

By Maggies Handbag on GAGARIN THE FIRST SPACE HERO - "THE COLUMBUS OF TH... at 15:30

I don’t think there is anything that I can say which would make you see the Soviet Union as anything other than the great Satan because your mind is closed. That allows you to talk about those terrible Russians and Katyn while ignoring Dresden and the Atomic Bomb attacks on Japan, these are the kind of things that happen in war and they are not exclusive to any one country.

What happened at Katyn does not alter the fact that we owe our freedom today to the Soviet Union.

Anonymous said...

Mr Duff,
Are you opposed to all genocidal and murderous regimes, or just the ones you find polically and financially unpalatable? You may wish to consult David Stannard's 'American Genocide' and the work of David Cesarani who argue convincingly for more than 80million deaths at the hands of the European and Western powers in the so-called New World. The destruction of Native Americans can certainly be classed as genocidal - Yankees indeed. In 1877Lord Lytton acting for the British Crown used military force to enact a 'deliberate policy of hunger and starvation' to force the local population to turn to cash crops in the Deccan plateau of India. The death toll was slightly above ten million over a ten year period. This is very similar to the policy enforced by Stalin in the Ukraine -perhaps he was a student of British imperial history! Do not play cheap political games with the catastropies of human misery -to do so is to risk being just another 'useful idiot'.
Professor Joseph Erkel,
Port Royal

Maggies Handbag said...

Councillor, it might be news to you, but the Poles Stalin had murdered at Katyn, were on our side.

Whereas, - and I guess you didn't know this either - the Germans at Dresden and the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, weren't.

And, as they also began the war,I hope this goes some way towards explaining why we bombed them.

David Duff said...

I do realise that history, along with grand strategy, are not your strong points, Councillor, so it is in a spirit of fraternal co-operation that I offer you the following.

The Russians/Stalin did just about everything they could, apart from joining the Nazi party, to avoid a war with Germany. They would have sat back and done nothing if Hitler had invaded us. (I should add that I don't blame them, they thought, wrongly, that it was in their national interest to stay friendly with Hitler - so not only stupid but suckers too!)

Once Germany lost air control of the Channel there was never any chance of Germany invading Britain. Indeed, some people (not me) might argue that we should have sued for peace with Germany after the Battle of Britain and from this position of relative strength left him free to deal with the Russians at leisure. Apart from anything else, the irony would have been delicious!

Once he attacked Russia there was no option for Stalin other than to fight back. So long as a German boot remained on Soviet territory it would have stood as a black mark against his prestige. As it was, he came within a whisker of losing Moscow and in 1942/3 it was Anglo-American aid shipped to Russia with monstrous casualty rates that helped keep them going - again, to our advantage as well as theirs.

Please try not to be any sillier than you have to be, Councillor. The A-bombs were absolutely essential to bring the Japs to the peace table. The casualties were not much higher than the normal fire-bomb raids mounted by USAAF but the shock value of this new weapon was the clincher that persuaded a recalcitrant Jap leadership to surrender. To fight our way up the Japanese archipelago using normal methods would have made the Somme look like a picnic.

Now do stick to the fascinating politics of Renfrewshire and try to avoid what you don't understand.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


The Russians made a pact with Germany to buy time it was obvious to all except perhaps you that they would go to war with each other eventually, perhaps in your world a victorious Germany under Hitler would have been quite content to have a massive powerful Communist nation to live along with after the war.

Some people in Britain and America like the US consul to Britain Kennedy and the British ruling class led by the British Royals would never have opposed fascism if they could have gotten away with it.

The A bombs were not necessary they were dropped as an experiment and because they had to justify the cost of the Manhattan Project, they were a war crime, likewise defenceless Dresden. I know you can’t stand being in debt to the Soviet Union for saving our skins but you will have to live with it. Stalin was many things but he got it right when he was asked about his two fellow leaders at Yalta he described FDR as “sick down here” gesturing to below the belt and Churchill as “sick up here” gesturing to his head, he knew what Churchill was all right and he treated him with contempt.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

By Maggies Handbag on GAGARIN THE FIRST SPACE HERO - "THE COLUMBUS OF TH... on 26/03/11

I can understand why you choose to hide your identity, I see you choose the name of another war criminal to hide behind. I believe that someone who defends Hiroshima and Dresden will defend anything; you are every bit as bad as any Nazi.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


You are absolutely correct and you could have named a lot more. Mr. Duff I’m afraid has a severe case of “little Englander” syndrome, his motto is “it might be rubbish but at least it’s good old British Rubbish” or even “good old British atrocities” He would have “only followed orders” if he were a guard at Auzwich.

Anonymous said...

Mr Duff and Mr Handbag,
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact came after not before, the betrayal in Spain and the Munich betrayal. In case you have forgotten Mr Duff, the Munich document was signed by the UK and France, Italy and Germany in 1938. Interestingly, against all the protocols of international law, Czeckoslovakia was not 'invited'. The purpose was to 'encourage' the Nazi regime to attack Russia with the aid of Czech armaments manufacture and eventually access to the great oil fields in Rumania necessary for rapid armoured warfare, secured in 1939 via a 'coercive' commercial agreement. Chamberlain admitted as much in his private letters and notes and the pro-Nazi and centre of pro-Nazi intrigue, Edward Duke of Windsor was very keen on this general 'policy'. The Czechoslovakian people still regard this agreement with Hitler by Britain and France as a 'betrayal'. So you see, it was not only Soviet Russia that was prepared to do deals with Hitler and the Nazis.
By the way, if you think that incinerating cities is a reasonable act to bring people to the negotiating table, then you simply have no concept of 'crime' whatsoever and so your criticism of Stalin is essentially baseless. Of course you both may simply be racist Slovophiles and think that Russian deaths count more than Japanese ones. This would be logically consistent but again, essentially inadmissible as an ethical position. What you both seem to espouse is a moralistic point without an ethical basis, a very stange but fairly common and vulgar error.
As far as the old 'Anglo-American aid saved the Russians' argument goes, read 'The Road to Stalingrad' by John Erikson, anything by Omar Bartov, or even Antony Beavor's 'Stalingrad' for a convincing account of the Russian war economy and its transition from a manpower intensive state to an investment intensive state. Even an anti-Soviet historian such as Max Hastings was moved by his findings to admit that 'we provided some of the trucks but the Russians provided the blood and the attack power that destroyed the Wermacht's offensive capabilities - the Lend Lease argument is massively overstated and in fact, often an excuse'.
Atrocity, crime and catastrophe and their respective concepts, histories, and cognates are, I know, difficult for some to grasp in their essential significance, but do please do try an pay attention
Prof. Erkel

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

A tour de force indeed but I fear you are wasting your time on these two, there analysis is not much more than Russia bad Britain/America good.

Maggies Handbag said...

The Munich Agreement... could it be, that, knowing we would have to fight Germany, Chamberlain was buying time for us to prepare?

I mean, if it worked for Stalin (see Cllr Kelly's comments)....

And I'm sure there were other, more humane ways of getting Germany and Japan to surrender, but I honestly cannot think of any, so please, share your thoughts with us.

David Duff said...

Prof Erkel,as usual in these exchanges the subject matters spread and spread, so let me try to stick to some of the essentials.

First, let me assure you that in my opinion there is no such thing as 'morality' when it comes to international affairs - internal affairs are different. Nations always have and always will act in what they judge to be their national interest including, of course, claiming loudly and repeatedly that they acting in favour og God, motherhood and apple pie - or whatever.

Thus, as a Russian leader Stalin was a murderous swine of historic proportions, but even worse, he was stupid beyond belief - please note that short-term cunning does not count a intelligence. Stalin actually believed all that Marxist rubbish and the non-stop 5-year plans that had about as much reality as a Walt Disney film. Thus, his nation was a basket-case. He, unlike his general staff, *did* believe that Hitler would not attack and his orders to them *not* to concentrate their border forces in 1941 is the proof - it's some time since I read Erickson but perhaps you could do with re-reading him, yourself!

His policy was to exert every effort to stay out of a war with Hitler - and I don't blame him for that, I only get cross when the likes of 'Generalissimo' Kelly imply that it was somehow 'heroic' and that we could not have won the war without Russia, an absurdity to which Hiroshima stands witness!

The British pro-Nazis, who I place on an equal footing with the pro-Communists, were of miniscule influence in the conduct of British affairs. Anyone who thinks Edward VIII was of any importance at all has been reading to many copies of whatever the equivalent of 'Hello' magazine was in the '30s and '40s.

I did not suggest, or even hint, that Allied supplies made a *huge* difference to the Russian war effort, only that we invested an enormous amount of blood and treasure in doing what we could to help. Again, we did so not for reasons of altruism, only to ensure that the Russians stayed in the fight - which was in our national interest.

Finally, experience teaches me that people who accuse others of 'racism' are usually bereft of good arguments. There are some nations I admire and others I dislike for reasons which are good enough for me, if not for you. None of that affects my relations with any individuals I might meet. I have even been known to be nice to Hungarians from time to time!

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

Could it be that Chamberlain, the Monarchy, the upper classes and the right wing press were quite happy to do business with the Nazis and pursued a policy of appeasement? Just as they had given Franco the green light earlier with their cowardly pursuit of non intervention.

Murdering countless thousands of civilians in Hiroshima and Dresden was not necessary to force surrender, both were beaten by that time. Unfortunately we didn’t learn from these crimes as we returned to them with Thatcher.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


“so let me try to stick to some of the essentials”

Does this mean we are returning to Yuri Gagarin?

“in my opinion there is no such thing as 'morality' when it comes to international affairs”

I think Prof Erkel and myself and I suppose many others spotted that one already.

“Thus, his nation was a basket-case”

Would like to describe for us what Russia was like before the revolution if you think it was a basket case after it?

Your hatred of communism and the Soviet Union is preventing you from forming any logical arguments you only succeed in sounding more and more like Colonel Blimp. I think you are now taking the piss with the length of your comments so please shorten them. It's not as of you are coming up with anything new is it?

Maggies Handbag said...

Upper classes 'pursue a policy of appeasement?'

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, an there's a novel idea from the Sage of Renfrew!

Anonymous said...

Mr Duff,
If you read my post you will not find any statement where I express
admiration for Stalin and his pre and post-war policies or strategies. We all know that he was informed by relaible spy networks, especially the one based in Tokyo, that the Wermacht attack was about to commence but chose to ignore it. More than this, he had Red Army generals and fighters executed for taking preparetory action. Able generals such as Kirponos and the admiral of the Black Sea Fleet were later put to death for doing their duty as Russian soldiers and actively preparing to fight the Wermacht. All this is well known and undeniable.
What I do not understand is the basis for your criticism of Stalin as simply being 'stupid' rather than say,'repressive', 'genocidal' or 'totalitarian', which in other contexts you seem happy to accept.
I make no accusation of racism, but search for a basis as to why, for you, some mass deaths and murderous political manias matter more than others, that is all. The basis for the distinction has to be founded on a firmer conceptual basis than simply 'liking' or disliking' a country. This is a failure to distinguish between normative and emotovist categories. If you are against murder just because it might happen to someone you 'like' then you are not against murder. Frege is very good on this.
My Handbag,
I did not say I was against the use of the atomic bomb. I indicated that I have very servious reasons for being against the way it was used. Namely, on densely populated civilian centres with no combat or industrial target validity. The choice of centres with largely wooden structres for maximum potential civilian death rates and severe burn injury also seem to me to be unacceptable even in warfare. Targetting a port with naval capabilities or towns with armaments manufacturing structures would at least have provided some basis and allowed for a display of massive striking power. But to simply target the civilian population of cities with no military significance seems to me to violate all the protocols of war. If it is acceptable to target civilian centres in this way, then I do not see on what basis we can denounce the 'crimes' of others. Unethical conduct cannot be made ethical simply on the basis of political affiliation. And if, as Mr Duff implies, ethics has no place in the political realm, and only pragmatics or 'idiocy' counts, then we have no basis for denouncing Stalin either.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

By Maggies Handbag on GAGARIN THE FIRST SPACE HERO - "THE COLUMBUS OF TH... at 13:09

Your every post is weaker than the previous one, Churchill would never appease anyone for two reasons 1/ he was a war monger. 2/ he was a congenital idiot.

Is it really necessary for me to say ‘upper classes’ in this instance excludes Churchill, oh! and that other chap the “Earl of Dry Retching Under Lime” he was OK, is this really what passes for argument with you.?

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

Anonymous 1:27 pm 28/03/11

I admire your tenacity and it is abundantly clear that if this had been a fight between you and Mr. Duff the referee would have stopped it to save him punishment but; my experience of him is that he is impervious to everything but blows. A completely closed and bigoted mind.

Maggies Handbag said...

Do strive for credibility, Councillor

You said the upper classes were appeasers...let's have some names to back it up.

Always willing to help out the beleagured and bewildered, so, to start you off...Lord Haw Haw.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

By Maggies Handbag on GAGARIN THE FIRST SPACE HERO - "THE COLUMBUS OF TH... at 13:05
No I don’t need to give names the fact that you are asking for names is just fine by me, you are running away. So was Lord Haw Haw from the upper classes then? I think you will find he was an Irish fascist called William Joyce, do strive for credibility.

Maggies Handbag said...

Haw Haw...Irish AND a Fascist...Unbelievable...another illusion shattered! And you say he wasn't really a peer, either?

David Duff said...

Prof. Erkel,
Alas I am too pressed for time to reply to your last post which is a pity because, having got past the ding-dong stage I feel it would have been an interesting conversation - a bit of a rarity around here!

However, allow me to point you to this essay by the late Leonard Read which I think you will find interesting:

I intend to post on it when I have the time so you are welcome to keep an eye on my place and join in if you wish.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...


When it comes to an inability to recognise when you are out of your depth you are in a class of your own.

David Duff said...

I don't think anyone was speaking to you, Councillor.

Cllr Terry Kelly said...

Having dealt with your stupidity and arrogance for some considerable time I feel no obligation whatsoever to be civil to you so if you don't like it you know what you can do.