Monday, 7 September 2009


The death in Germany in May 2009 of Karl Tubbessing prompts me to re-tell the story of my friend, Brian Walley, with whom I still correspond.

On the night of 09/10 November 1941, Brian was on his 5th operation with 51 RAF Squadron, piloting a Whitley, one of 350 bombers headed for Berlin. The crew consisted of 3 RAF and 2 RCAF. The weather was atrocious and, near Kiel, they were hit by flak, so bombed Kiel, and turned for a long glide home but severe icing forced them below the cloud base at 1500 feet. They lightened the plane by throwing out all they could. They did contact base and locked the radio key. One hundred miles from land they pancaked on the crest of a wave, slid down the trough, crashed through the next wave and came to a stop. The aircraft disintegrated leaving Brian trapped with much of the wreckage wrapped around his legs. He managed to break free and was pulled into the dingy already reached by the other four, but then had difficulty severing the dingy's umbilical cord that was attached to the rapidly-sinking aircraft. Soon, with stomachs full of ice-cold salt water, they all brought up.

Dawn brought 20-foot-high grey, ugly waves, one of which flung all of them into the sea and only 3 made it back to the dinghy. Sgts Carpenter, RAF, and Chambers, RCAF, of Rouleau, Saskatchewan, drowned. The wave had swept the dingy clean and they had to rely on lung power to work the pump. The next night the navigator, Dave Simpson, RCAF, of Edmonton, froze to death. The next afternoon the other pilot died, leaving Brian all alone. Just before dark, after they had drifted 100 miles to the Frisian Islands, the crew of a Heinkel 59 seaplane saw the dingy, and plucked Brian out of the sea. Five German doctors patched him up and the Squadron commander, Karl Born, commiserated with him, trying to soothe him with “For you the war is over.” (Fur sie, der krieg ist aus)

After 3½ years of POW life, Brian returned to farming in Wales, then spent a few years back in the RAF, before emigrating to the Perth area of Australia. Still wanting to thank those who saved him, Brian used contacts to find Karl Tubbessing, the Norderney Search & Rescue navigator who still remembered him and who invited Brian, and his wife, Mair, to spend a couple of weeks with them at Idar-Oberstein in 1995. They then met Karl Born, who was in a wheel chair, and two ex members of the Air-Sea Rescue Squadron, Fritz Becket and Werner Schultz and their wives. They remarked that, of all the people they had saved, only Brian had returned to thank them. Squadron Leader Dickerson and Flying Officer Simpson had been buried with full military honours.

Joan and I joined Brian and Mair in the 5-day POW reunions in Southampton in 1991 and in London in 1995. Over the years Brian has been quite active in the Western Australia branch of the Royal Air Forces ex-POW Association. As its last president he had the sad task this year of closing the branch as so few members are now left.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


Over the years I have reviewed over 50 books for our 971 Wing Newsletter. Since some have had a deep impression on me, perhaps I should include a few in this blog site. I will start with:

By Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner, Oxford U. Press, 2006, 217 pages
Presented in language that you and I can understand, this book, a monumental shift in understanding our world, should be compulsory reading. The first 50 pages are devoted to reminding us of the many changing human mind sets from Aristotle through Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, the Inquisition, Newton, Einstein, Bohr, Planck, Schrödinger, Compton, Broglie, Bell, and many others to emphasize that there has been a skeleton in the closet that Quantum scientists have hid for a hundred years.

Quantum mechanics has never had a prediction proven wrong. A third of our economy depends on it (Lasers, MRIs, Transistors, and so on). It works, but nobody knows why so physicists have been told to “just shut up and calculate”.

We have learned that, at the microscopic level, wave functions can be everywhere at once in every state to be condensed into reality by observation (consciousness). Paired particles affect each other regardless of distance. To date this has been proven to a distance of 100 kilometres. Any two objects that have ever interacted are forever entwined.

As none of us knows what Consciousness is, this is spooky. The macroscopic world, that works with Newtonian physics, appears real enough to us but, as it is made up of the microscopic, should not the same apply? In the book, frequent reference is made to Schrödinger’s cat, of the macroscopic world, that may be both alive and dead until observed to allow it to collapse into one of those states. It was the subject of a life-long friendly debate between Harald Bohr and Albert Einstein. Einstein would argue he preferred to believe the moon was there even when he did not look.

I can be sure of my free will but I cannot be sure that you are not in a superposition state to be condensed to reality only when I observe you. The authors go to great length, perhaps too much, to show how observation dictates reality, but they do advise which chapters can be skipped by those anxious for the summation. As John Bell (Belfast, deceased) predicted: “The new way of seeing things will involve an imaginative leap that will astound us.”

Francis Crick tells us: “ You, your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity, and your free will are no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

Consciousness and Quantum Enigma are not just two mysteries, they are the two mysteries. Only a conscious observation can collapse a wave function. Only a conscious observer can make a conscious observation.

Our universe is made up of 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter, and 5% of what we can see. There is speculation that dark energy = Consciousness. At the instant of the Big Bang this universe had to be so finely tuned against odds of 10 with 123 zeros after it to create a world permitting life that it can be argued that Consciousness created the Big Bang some 15 billion years after it happened! Ridiculous? Of course, but can you explain Consciousness and why we are here? At the moment I cannot. Neither can the authors of this book, but they give us well-presented food for deep thought.

But really, what is so novel about creating people and places? Young children do it continually. So do we in dreams.