Roustam served Napoleon for fifteen years. Also known as Roustan or Rustam and was Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous Mamluk bodyguard.

born in Tbilisi, Georgia to Armenian parents. At thirteen Roustam was kidnapped and sold as a slave in Cairo.

The Turks gave him the name Idzhahia. The sheikh of Cairo presented him to General Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 where he became
the great emperor’s famous bodyguard, and soon accompanied Napoleon in peace and wars.

Every morning Roustam, together with Louis Constant Wairy, the Emperor’s personal valet, helped Napoleon bathe and get dressed. During the day, Roustam was constantly at Napoleon’s side, regardless of whether the emperor was on the battlefield.

At night, he slept in an entrance to the emperor’s bedroom, where a small bed was laid for him. If there existed a suspicion of a conspiracy against Napoleon, then he slept right in front of the door, blocking it.

Roustam can be seen in many paintings close to Napoleon at all times.

He accompanied the emperor in the first/second wars of Austria, Prussia, Poland, Spain, Moscow, Dresden, Italy, Venice, France, Dutch and was wounded several times. He is said to have had an influence and played a role on some of the most sensitive decisions made by Napoleon.

Roustan served as a bodyguard of Napoleon until 1814.

In 1814, the end of the French Campaign also put an end to the Emperor and Mamluk’s long relationship. When Napoleon tried to commit suicide at the Château de Fontainebleau and asked Roustam for his pistols, He knew he would be inevitably accused of his masters murder. If he disobeyed the emperor’s order he would be branded a traitor so took fright and ran off to Paris to join his wife,

Napoleon wad exiled to island Elba. In March of 1815, Napoleon returned from his exile and got his title of the Emperor back, but refused to accept Roustan back or even read his letters asking for forgiveness.

Roustan settled in Durdan, where he wrote the book titled as “Life of Roustam Raza till 1814.” Roustam Raza died on December 7, 1845, and was buried in Durdan.

The British opera singer and the Tiger Tank.

Smiling enigmatically, this is the British opera singer-turned-spy who captivated Adolf Hitler.

Margery Booth led a double life inside Nazi Germany, where she performed for Hitler and his henchmen while smuggling the Third Reich’s secrets to British intelligence.

The only known picture of opera star Margery Booth
A picture of opera star Margery Booth which was taken at Freigegeben Stalag IIID and which she gave to British spy John Brown, signed with a Good Luck message. A British Army officer shoved the secret papers down her dress at the Berlin State Opera, just moments before she went onstage to sing for Hitler and his cohorts

Margery had, been recruited by MI6 whilst MI9 had recruited John Brown, a former but now disillusioned member of Mosley’s infamous Fascist Blackshirts. Through the SOE it was designed for him to be captured on the Normandy beaches in order that that he could work as a spy behind the lines in a PoW camp.

Margery helped British prisoners of war to send coded messages back to spy chiefs in London, and even performed for the Führer with cyphers hidden inside her costume.

Discovery would have meant almost certain death for the mezzo-soprano, who endured regular questioning by the Gestapo.  But Hitler was so taken by her performances that he once visited her dressing room, and later sent her 200 red roses, wrapped in a sash with a swastika on it.  

The Army officer who used the singer to send his coded messages, John Brown, was hailed as a hero after the war, when his evidence was used in the treason trial of William Joyce, the traitor Lord Haw Haw.

The Mission.

Margery usually attends Hitler on his birthday every April and it was at one of these that Jodl presents him with the Tiger tank.  As data is provided, Margery overhears most of this and, like the good singer she is, memorises these numbers as a tune.  

John Brown, a spy in Stalag IIID but also working undercover for the Nazis, is passed details of the Tiger’s existence whilst Margery is singing to the PoWs there and radios this to London.

Back at the Opera House these numbers are encoded and soon at Bletchley Park, delivered to a delighted Hardy Amies, confirming John Brown’s earlier message.   Churchill thus warned, gives instructions for a Tiger to be captured and delivered to No 10 Downing Street.  This eventually happens in North Africa

I fell into Allied hands. It was Tiger 131. It was 21 April 1943 when 48th Royal Tank Regiment, newly arrived in Tunisia from Britain, went into action against the Germans for the first time.

But Miss Booth’s bravery has gone largely unrecognised, and calls for her to receive a posthumous honour have gone unheeded.  So little was known about her war-time efforts that this photograph of her has only just come to light, almost 60 years after her death.

She was sent to sing at Stalag IIID, known as the ‘Holiday Camp’ to British PoWs. The Germans hoped this would encourage some of the British held there to change sides

It was at the camp that Booth met John Brown, a spy who was collecting information on traitors such as William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw.

These photographs are of a woman whose quiet bravery – like that of so many unsung heroes – helped Britain to victory in World War Two. Margery Booth was born in Wigan in 1905, and joined the town’s operatic society as a teenager.  

By 1936 she had sung at Covent Garden and even briefly travelled to Hollywood to appear in a film version of Aida.  Later that year she met and quietly married Dr Egon Ströhm, the son of a wealthy German brewery family, and moved to Germany.

Her first meeting with Hitler is thought to have been in 1933, when she was chosen to carry the Holy Grail in the spectacular finale to the Wagner opera Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival.

 He burst into her dressing room and told her how elegant and lovely he thought her, and sent her the basket of 200 red roses the next day, with a card signed ‘Adolf’.  When the war began, she was singing with the Berlin State Opera, and she was later allowed to perform for British prisoners of war at a camp in Genshagen, near Berlin.

Adolf Hitler and Nazi Party leaders at the Berlin Opera House where Margery Booth performed in 1936.

Adolf Hitler and Nazi leaders at the Berlin Opera House where Margery Booth performed in 1936. She mixed with the German top brass while passing secrets to British Intelligence.She would announce to her audience ‘I’m Margery Booth from Wigan’, and this photograph of her is believed to have been taken at Genshagen.  It was found among photographs of inmates at the camp, Stalag IIID, known as a propaganda ‘holiday camp’ for British officers who the Nazis hoped to use as double agents.  John Brown was transferred there in 1943 and convinced his captors he was willing to work for Germany.

He used their trust to send coded messages home in his letters, and also to pass secret documents to Miss Booth to send back to MI9, the intelligence branch tasked with unmasking traitors.  Ironically, the opera singer’s links to the Nazi regime were so well-known that she was accused of collaborating against Britain, and turning traitor against her country.

In his book, In Durance Vile, Mr Brown wrote that she was initially given personal assurances from Hitler and Goebbels that they would ‘deal with the matter personally’ if she was insulted because of her British birth.  But when Mr Brown’s secret work for Britain was discovered by the Nazis, Miss Booth was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo.  

She kept silent and was eventually released, and she later escaped Berlin during an air raid and fled to Bavaria, where she was picked up by the Americans.  After the war she divorced her German husband and moved to America, where she died from cancer in 1952.

The photograph of Miss Booth is part of a collection from Genshagen, stamped Freigegeben Stalag IIID, a special PoW camp where the Nazis held Britons who they thought they might be able to persuade to change sides.

She signed it, writing ‘With kindest remembrances, Good luck, Margery Booth’.  She also signed the first page of John’s War Diary:

From John's War Diary

From John’s War Diary

Press cutting about John


Operation Dingo

Operation Dingo was not only the Fireforce concept writ large but the prototype for all the major Rhodesian airborne attacks on the external bases of Rhodesian African nationalist insurgents in the neighbouring territories of Mozambique and Zambia until such operations ceased in late 1979.

Fireforce as a military concept is a “vertical envelopment” of the enemy, with the 20mm cannon being the principle weapon of attack, mounted in an Alouette III K-Car, flown by the air force commander, with the army commander on board directing his ground troops deployed from G-Cars (Alouette III troop-carrying gunships and latterly Bell “Hueys” in 1979) and parachuted from DC-3 Dakotas. In support would be propeller-driven ground-attack aircraft and on call would be Canberra bombers, Hawker Hunter and Vampire jets.

On 23 November 1977, the Rhodesian Air Force and 184 SAS and Rhodesian Light Infantry paratroopers attacked 10,000 Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army cadres based at ‘New Farm’, Chimoio, 90 kilometres inside Mozambique. Two days later, the same force attacked 4,000 guerrillas at Tembué, another ZANLA base, over 200 kilometres inside Mozambique, north of Tete on the Zambezi River.

Estimates of ZANLA losses vary wildly; however, a figure exceeding 6,000 casualties is realistic. The Rhodesians suffered two dead, eight wounded and lost one aircraft. It would produce the biggest SAS-led external battle of the Rhodesian bush war.

The Battle of Kursk

The Battle of Kursk was fought by about 4 million men, 13,000 armored vehicles and nearly as much aircrafts. As such, it was one of the largest battles of World War II and the largest tank battle in military history. But it was also a decisive battle in the Eastern front.

The war in Russia was far from over but any hopes for the German success against the Soviet Union came to an end with the defeat at Kursk.

After the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, the German position in Russia was very difficult.

The mighty Wehrmacht that overrun the Red Army in the early stages of the Operation Barbarossa and reached the outskirts of Moscow in a few weeks was in retreat from the winter of 1943 and Hitler desperately needed a victory against Stalin’s forces to boost the German morale, regain initiative in the Eastern front as well as to demonstrate the Allies the might of his forces.

At the same time, a victory could win him a major political advantage over the Allies whose relations were not the best at the time.

Stalin was angered with his Western Allies for postponing the planned opening of the front in Western Europe. Hitler hoped that a decisive victory over Russia would ruin the relationship between the Allies and gave him both political and military advantage.

He also believed that the Allies are unlikely to launch an offensive in Western Europe, enabling him to focus on the Eastern front. Hitler decided to stop the Russian advance and try to turn the tide of the war into his favor.

Destruction of the 6th Army in the Battle of Stalingrad was a irreplaceable loss for the German Army but due to the seemingly stable situation in the Western front, Hitler decided to transfer huge force from the West to the Soviet Union.

At the same time, the Wehrmacht received new and more powerful equipment, in the first place the Panther and Tiger tanks and new aircraft.

In mid-April, Hitler approved the Operation Citadel which foresaw a major offensive at Kursk that was in the center of the bulge that occurred during the Russian advance to the west. If this bulge would not be eliminated, the German forces south of Orel and north of Kharkov were at risk of being encircled by the Red Army. However, Hitler postponed the offensive until July 5 by which he gave the Russians plenty of time to prepare for the German assault.

In addition, the longer he postponed with the Operation Citadel the more information the Russian Intelligence received. By the time Hitler finally approved the offensive, the Russian military commanders knew exactly where the attack is about to happen, when and with what force. Before the offensive, the Russians thus started a massive artillery bombardment to confuse the Germans. And they succeeded as the Wehrmacht needed two hours to reorganize and finally launch the assault.

The command of the Soviet forces at Kursk was entrusted to generals Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin and Konstantin Rokossovsky who were closely supervised by Georgi Zhukov.

Since the Russian generals knew about the planned German offensive, they were well prepared to defend their positions. The Soviet strategy was to let the Germans wear themselves out and then launch a counter-offensive. Thus the huge German force consisting of about 900,000 soldiers, 2,900 tanks and 2,100 aircraft was awaited by even a larger Soviet force which numbered 1,9 million men, 5,100 tanks and 2,800 aircraft.

The German offensive at Kursk started on July 5, 1943, with a simultaneous attack on the north and south of the bulge. However, the attacks were anticipated and the Red Army relatively easily repulsed the attack in the north, while the German troops in the south advanced quite well despite the fact that the new tanks proved unreliable.

Nearly one quarter of the Panther tanks experienced mechanical problems and required repair. But the German advance in the south forced the Soviet generals to mobilize their reserves. Both the northern and southern armies failed to achieve their objective but the Soviet generals were not ready yet to launch a counter-offensive.

Instead, generals Vatutin and Rokossovsky decided to dig in the tanks and wait for the Germans to wear themselves out. And their tactic worked as the German tanks were falling victim to the Soviet anti-tank guns.

The largest tank battle in history started on July 12 with the German attack at Prokhorovka which is about 50 miles from the city of Kursk. By nightfall, Germans lost about 350 tanks which is about one half of all German tanks that participated in the battle.

The German attempt to break though the bulge failed, while the Russian generals launched a counter-offensive. The German forces were unable to withstand the Soviet assault and by July 19, the Germans were retreating.

On July 23, Hitler approved his generals to withdraw and reorganize, however, the German military strength was broken and the Red Army launched a large scale counter-offensive on August 3. Within two days, the Russian troops liberated Belgorod and broke the defenses of the city of Kharkov on August 13. With the fall of Kharkov to the Red Army on August 23, the Battle of Kursk ended with a decisive Soviet victory.

The Battle of Kursk was the last German attempt to achieve a victory in the Eastern front. Afterwards, the Germans were retreating from the Soviet Union as fast as they advanced during the Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The defeat at Kursk finally ended all Hitler’s hopes for victory in the East, while the successful Allied invasion of Sicily on July 12 in the same year indicated that the tide of the war was turning against the Axis.

Estimations of casualties in the Battle of Kursk vary. The Germans are estimated to lose about 70,000 men (or according to the Soviet sources as many as 500,000 men), 1,500 tanks and most aircraft.

The Russian suffered heavy casualties as well, perhaps even heavier than the Germans. However, the Soviet military commanders still had reserves in manpower, while the victory in the battle dramatically lifted the morale of the Soviet soldiers.

Making a ghillie suit for a few seconds shot.

You see it for a few seconds on episode seven on Strike Back, but the hand made Ghillie suit took the Military Technical Adviser of the show two weeks to complete during filming the second block and while on recces for the third block of the series.

Was it worth it for just a few seconds in frame when production could have simply bought one off the shelf? A big fat yes!

Strike Back ep 7 season 8

First some History

Gille is a Scots Gaelic word for a young man or older boy who works as an outdoor servant. “Ghillie” is a mis-spelling. The term “ghillie suit” may be a reference to Gille Dubh the “Dark Lad” or “Black Lad”, a Earth spirit who is clothed in leaves and moss in Scottish mythology.[1]

The Lovat Scouts, a Scottish Highland regiment formed by Simon Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat during the Second Boer War, is the first known military unit to use ghillie suits and in 1916 went on to become the British Army’s first sniper unit.[2][3] The Lovat Scouts were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers, especially professional stalkers and gamekeepers.[4]

Similar sniper outfits in the Australian Army are nicknamed “yowie suit”, named for their resemblance to the Yowie, a mythical hominid similar to the Yeti and Bigfoot which is said to live in the Australian wilderness.[5]

  • Cut a large (~2’x5′) rectangle out of a burlap sack. Make a cut along the upper or lower seam so that the burlap material is ready to be loosened. Sit down, anchor the sides of the burlap with your two heels, and start pulling out the burlap fibers that are running horizontal to you.
  • Pull out enough horizontal fabric until the remaining vertical fabric is roughly the same length as the horizontal fabric you’ve already pulled out.
  • When it is, take a scissor and cut the fibers off from the sack.
  • Place these along with the rest of the fibers you’ve shorn from the sack.
  • Shoot to get your burlap strands about 7″ to 14″ in length.
  • This is tbe most time consuming part of the job.

Dye the burlap the color of your surroundings. Identify greens, browns, even greys in the environment in which you’ll be using the ghillie suit and match them with specific dye colors. Follow the instructions on the dye packets for staining the jute strands.

Once the jute strands are dyed, run them through cold water until the water starts coming out clear. Set the strands out to dry in the sun.

Grab about 10 or so strands of jute, clump them together, and then tie them to the mesh netting using a simple overhand knot. Remember to choose 3 or 4 colors that are prevalent in the environment you’ll be using your ghillie suit in.

Bald spots are where there’s insufficient coverage, making the suit look less realistic. Pick your ghillie suit up, lightly wave it in the air, and set it back down again. Add necessary clumps of jute to any bald spots. Particularly the arms

I then moved on to the rifle

End result.

The two weeks graft was worth it and i think Dan Macpherson thought so too. After wrap I asked costume if I could keep the suit and they kindly agreed.

You might just see it again very soon in a feature😉

PB, out.

Sam Mendes’s film 1917 is a personal battle

The Times

It has been described as a true First World War epic and Sam Mendes’s answer to Dunkirk.

Yet very little is known about 1917 beyond that it has a star-studded British cast list including Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The film, due to be released this winter, focuses on two young British soldiers given a seemingly impossible mission at the height of the Great War.

“In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers,” the official synopsis states.

Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Mendes, 54, would be co-writing the script. It is the first time the distinguished stage and screen director, who took charge of the last two Bond movies, has turned his hand to screenwriting.

The reason for his hands-on involvement can now be disclosed: the plot is inspired by a story told by his grandfather, Alfred Mendes, an acclaimed Trinidadian novelist who spent two years on the Belgian Front after volunteering to fight for Britain.

The younger Mendes confirmed the film’s genesis in a podcast interview with Variety, the US entertainment magazine.

“I had a story that was a fragment told me by my grandfather, who fought in the First World War,” he said. “It’s the story of a messenger who has a message to carry. And that’s all I can say. It lodged with me as a child, this story or this fragment, and obviously I’ve enlarged it and changed it significantly. But it has that at its core.”

Mendes acknowledged that filming had been an extremely complex undertaking but said he set out to create a “big, experiential, immersive movie”.

Producers applied to construct a replica French farm on Salisbury Plain and recruited local Wiltshire men as soldier extras.

The first trailer, released last week, has been viewed seven million times on YouTube. It reveals a handful more plot details, including the suggestion that 1,600 men will be massacred if the young messengers fail to get through. Further clues can be gleaned from the autobiography of Alfred Mendes, who died in his nineties in 1991. Born into a Portuguese Creole family, he became one of Trinidad’s most celebrated intellectuals, known for his novels and short stories.

Alfred Mendes spent two years on the Belgian Front volunteering to fight for Britain

His son, Jameson Peter Mendes, a university professor, was the director’s father. Sam Mendes was born in Berkshire and his mother is the novelist and poet Valerie Helene Mendes.

Alfred Mendes defied his family to join the British Army, serving on the front line for two years before German gas ended his war. He went on to pursue a literary career.

In his memoir he recounted an act of bravery during the Battle of Poelcappelle in 1917 for which he was awarded the Military Medal.

Volunteering to act as a runner, he carried messages between companies under continuous machinegun fire. He described the terror of feeling like a “lone man wandering in circles around no man’s land”, but completed the mission successfully. “I found all three companies, and in spite of the snipers, the machinegunners and the shells, arrived back at C Company’s shell hole without a scratch,” he wrote.

His citation read: “It was largely due to his coolness and his complete disregard for his personal safety that his commanding officer was kept informed of the state of affairs on that important flank.”

Mendes has yet to confirm that this incident inspired the film, although there are striking similarities to the known plot. Intriguingly, his grandfather’s memoir reveals that the story became part of Mendes family folklore. He wrote that the mission left him with a “series of hair-raising experiences that would keep my grand- and great-grandchildren enthralled for nights on end”.

The film also stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman and Andrew Scott. It is being produced by Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks Pictures and is scheduled for release at the height of Oscar season.

Its backers will hope that 1917 replicates the success of Christopher Nolan’s epic filmDunkirk, which took $525 million.

Rooted in the truth

Saving Private Ryan
Although Steven Spielberg’s 1998 Second World War classic was fictional, it was loosely based on the story of the Niland brothers, all US servicemen. One of the four, Fritz, was sent back to the US when it was thought that his three brothers had lost their lives. It later emerged that one, Edward, actually survived the conflict in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

The Great Escape
The 1963 film starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough told the true story of the mass escape of Allied prisoners from Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner of war camp. However, some key details were changed for dramatic effect — and US airmen were included among the escapers to increase the film’s appeal to American audiences.

Black Hawk Down
Dramatisation of a disastrous 1993 US military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. Ridley Scott’s 2001 film relied heavily on a book of the same name by the journalist Mark Bowden.

Link here
PB Military Technical Adviser for film and TV