I just wanted to send you a note
concerning the upcoming release of of a new book I have recently
finished on one of RMC’s early graduates, William Heneker (No.168 –
entered RMC in 1884). Produced by the Army Publishing Office for the
Directorate of Land Concepts and Designs, this book will be available
free in hardcopy and PDF format to anyone interested. The scheduled
release is October 2008, and I’ll send additional ordering information
as soon as it’s ready. As well, I’ve enclosed in this email pictures
of the front and back of the book for your use.
I also wanted to mention to you that related to this book I recently
published an article in the Canadian Military History (CMH) journal on
Canadians in West African conflicts from 1885-1905. A number of RMC
graduates feature prominently in this article, including No.62 William
H. Robinson – first RMC graduate killed in action. The full citation
for this article is: Andrew B. Godefroy. “Canadian Soldiers in West
African Conflicts, 1885-1905”, Canadian Military History, Vol.17: 1
(Winter 2008), pp.21-36.
I’ve got a number of other RMC history projects underway as well, and
will keep you advised as they are completed.
Andrew B. Godefroy, CD, MA, Ph.D.
Newsletters from China #5 – June 16, 2008: My time in China is winding down but I write this issue more for therapy than for finality. I am in danger of surviving a veritable blizzard of Final Exams and Supplementary Exams …nine in total. It has been brutal, especially for the students. Reminiscent of our exam periods at RMC. We wrote a great many more exams back then, than university students do nowadays. Thankfully, we did not have to write them in a foreign language. Here in China, coverage of the Sichuan Earthquake continues to command centre stage but with somewhat less intensity. The Chinese authorities have been basking in the glory of accolades (“an exceptional response”, “a model response”) flowing in from around the world for the effective manner in which they reacted to this disaster. Their “crisis management” succeeded so well because of the very strong organization structures in place at the national, regional and local levels. The powerful structure of the Communist Party was a major factor. When it gives orders, people respond. Some 45 million people were directly affected by this quake. Now some of those people are starting to make noises about their local officials taking bribes that allowed inferior construction practices, especially in school buildings. Some reports mention that 9,000 school children died when their schools collapsed. Parents who lost children have held protest rallies which (according to reports from the West) have been broken up by police. Meanwhile the other figures relating to casualties have stabilized: over 69,000 dead, over 400,000 injured, 20,000 still missing, 14 million people have been relocated, 400,000 people still do not access to running water, etc. The quake caused the creation of 34 “barrier lakes”, one of which threatened to cause serious flood damage. Soldiers built a diversion channel that ultimately saved the day. Now torrential rains have caused serious flooding in the quake area and also in areas of South China (1 million people evacuated), though not near where I am situated. It is interesting to this old gunner to see images of the Chinese army’s artillery units established at bridges and using their guns to destroy large objects floating down the waterways. Landslides are now a big problem because of the rains. I have to admire the Chinese for doing whatever is necessary when disaster strikes and doing it expeditiously and efficiently. When a relief helicopter carrying 14 injured quake survivors was lost in a mountainous region of Sichuan, the Chinese Army poured 12,000 soldiers into the area on foot to search for the crash site. Unfortunately all aboard perished. Soldiers are also helping the farmers harvest their crops and they are digging drainage trenches on farms and around survivors’ tents. There is also a massive mission under way to disinfect the quake area to prevent disease from breaking out (so far, all is well). They’re spraying to kill mosquitoes, flies, and rats and there is a campaign to educate the survivors (living in tents) about hygiene issues. It is estimated that so far about 250,000 vehicles have reached the quake zone with supplies of every description (stoves, coal, noodles, eggs). Among the many volunteers was one of China’s Master Chefs who spent time cooking for the survivors. A children’s kindergarten school was set up by volunteers. Not missing a beat, China’s top leader, Hu Jintao, and other high officials visited the region on International Children’s Day, spent time with orphaned children and reassured them about their future. TV coverage of these visits included children in a Tibetan school in the quake region doing a Tibetan dance for the visitors. Some of the children were taken to Beijing to see the Olympic Games sites. Relief groups have moved to provide recreational facilities and equipment (especially for soccer, basketball and volleyball) to serve as therapy for the orphans and others who have lost family members. Soldiers gave up some of their own tents to provide more shelter for schools. Through all of this there has been no looting and, evidently, no disorderly conduct. Everything is being handled in a most disciplined fashion. The authorities have now moved to repair and reopen some historical sites destroyed by the quake. The Chinese and world media are enjoying the new “openness” that this event has precipitated in China. The authorities have made good use of the media to promote knowledge of exactly what was happening and thereby prevent panic. There are 1,200 Chinese and 500 foreign journalists in the quake region reporting freely and transparently. Economic reports always include the consequences of the quake. The nature of the terrain in Sichuan is such that there is very little industrial activity in that region. The quake zone accounted for only 0.17% of China’s industrial output, so China’s overall economy will not be affected. However, the price of steel and other construction materials could rise because of the demands there will be for reconstruction in the affected communities. Otherwise, China’s economy is booming. Industrial output rose by
16% in May (month over month) and the country is enjoying huge trade and financial surpluses. Interesting statistics: About 99% of the businesses in China are SME’s (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and there are 45 million SME’s in China, 95% of them being family-owned. Tibet is a tourist destination again, but only for Chinese nationals. Foreigners are still “forbidden” from visiting Tibet. The authorities have instituted a whole lot of restrictions on foreign visitors and they are being very evasive about when Tibet will even open up to foreign visitors. It seems they have serious concerns about security being breeched during the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The popular belief is that with the Games offering protestors for every cause a huge stage, there will be fireworks beyond the spectacular fireworks shows the Chinese will perform for the world to admire. The Olympic Torch Relays have been re-shaped and have been relegated to the TV Sports News rather than being “front and centre” as before. At the start of each relay there is a minute of silence observed in memory of the quake victims and there are “donation boxes” available. These relays are drawing huge, enthusiastic crowds in the cities where they are being held. The runs are staged to pass historical and cultural sites in each area. The ones in the regions where there are many ethnic minorities are especially colourful with many of the local folks dressed in their ethnic costumes and demonstrating their respective cultural backgrounds with dances, music, and songs. (I anticipate that we will see lots of such displays at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Games.) The lighting of an Olympic flame cauldron locally always follows each torch run. Five Chinese cities will be hosting Olympic Games events. I plan to try to set politics aside for a couple of weeks and just enjoy the spectacle of the Games and the performances of the athletes. Perhaps I’ll even order in some Chinese food to enjoy, too. Ramblings: China and Taiwan are working at improving “cross-strait ties” with the visit to Beijing of the Taiwanese Chairman. Charter tourist flights between China and Taiwan have been initiated. Likewise, the visit to China of the South Korean President was pronounced successful in “strengthening Korea-China ties and joint efforts in the six-nation talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear program”. These sorts of visits are top news items on the state TV channel of course. Meanwhile, coverage also included the start of Chinese tourist visits to USA. (Canada was excluded from China’s list of “approved tourist destinations” because of our Government’s stance on human rights in China.)
China banned the use of plastic grocery bags as of June 1. It has not caused that much of a stir. People can still buy a sturdy alternative re-useable plastic bag in the grocery store. The number of bags being used in this country was absolutely staggering The exam period just ending gave me the usual opportunity to catch three students cheating. These Chinese youngsters are masters of the art. I generally cannot out-smart them, but sometimes the old fox wins. I remain amazed at the attachment my students have to their cell phones. The same probably applies to Canadian students, but I am sure not to the same degree. They really cannot live for a minute without checking for text messages or making calls to whomever. They are forever on their phones. A limit was reached for me when I saw one girl going downstairs talking on two cell phones! Perhaps she was talking to herself … we have all done that on occasion, but we have not needed cell phones to do it! As for adults using their cell phones: they are loud! Many Chinese always speak in a very loud voice and when they use a cell phone, they seem to think they need to speak even louder. Some do not need the network connection
for their calls … they can be heard “live”! Listen up Canadian airlines: over here, certain Chinese airlines grant substantial discounts to teachers on certain flights. I travel to Ningbo soon for a few days to attend the Graduation Ceremony for the Chinese students I taught at Humber in the Fall. I have not been back to Ningbo since I taught there in 1999-2000 so it will be neat to be back. We also have a Graduation Ceremony here at Jimei University on June 26. Thereafter, I will go to Hong Kong and from there head for short visits to Laos and Hawaii before visiting my family in Vancouver. I was in Hawaii some years ago but this time I want to see the Pearl Harbour Memorial. The Japanese attacked Hong Kong at almost the same moment as their attack on Pearl Harbour, December 7, 1941. My late brother, Ken, endured and survived that attack on Hong Kong. l will revisit a few battle sites and the cemeteries in Hong Kong. My next Newsletter from China will most likely be issued from Canada. Meanwhile, best wishes to everyone for a super summer, wherever you may be.
3201 Austen E. Cambon, (RMC ‘54)