Welcome to Heathrow!

Airports aren’t generally the most beloved of places. For most air travellers, airports are hot, crowded hell-holes of inconvenience and monotony that are unfortunate necessities of modern-day travel. This often holds true for me, as well- because my dad works for an airline, I always travel stand-by and I am never guaranteed a seat on a given flight. This, in addition to the fact that I was terrified of going through security when I was little, means that airports have historically been a source of stress for me. Although I love flying, the stress of airports isn’t so much fun.

However, London Heathrow Airport is different. With the exception of the departures lounge, I love Heathrow; because it means that I’m back in England, and I can finally marvel at the scenery and aircraft instead of worrying about whether or not I’m going to make my flight! Although the overnight flight from Canada can be as uncomfortable and monotonous as waiting in an airport, I always begin to get excited in the last hour or so. The cabin lights are turned back on, everybody wakes up, and breakfast is served- which always seems to make me sick, but no matter; after all, I’m about to arrive in England!

LHR Stack

A stack of aircraft awaiting permission to land at Heathrow. With only two runways and a massive amount of traffic, there can be a bit of a queue for the airport!

It’s really amazing to see anything from the air- it’s a whole new perspective that one just can’t imagine from the ground. And seeing the pretty patchwork fields on approach to Heathrow is even more wonderful. My anticipation always grows when I see how much charm and variety are crammed into such a small place!

English Fields

Villages are nestled among the undulating fields

English River From Above

A snaking river shines in the morning sun

And then, before too long, the fields give way to the concrete and stone of London. But the view is still wonderful- once, a few years ago, I even got a view of Wembley Stadium while we were waiting to land!

London From Above

Tower blocks and green space in West London

Landing at Heathrow brings nothing less than elation to me. London is my favourite place in the world, and I have such a deep attachment to England. Once on the ground, I can’t wait to breeze through the UK customs queue and then step out into the beautiful, petrol-laced morning air of the city!

Heathrow in the Morning

Terminal buildings at Heathrow

Heathrow Tarmac

Taxiing on a lovely English morning

Although not customary for me and my family when in England, renting a car is always fun. Especially because the car lots border the runway area! On my most extensive trip to date (in May/June 2011), we rented a Volkswagen and I had a fantastic time watching aircraft going out while everyone else looked over the car! I guess aircraft-watching must count as a hobby, and it’s certainly among my favourite pastimes.

BA Fleet LHR

Nearly a dozen aircraft of British Airways’ fleet

BMI Take-off LHR

An Airbus A320 of the now-defunct British Midland International

BA Jumbo LHR

A magnificent British Airways jumbo jet

As you can see, this car lot was the perfect place to watch departing aircraft. It always strikes me as strange how commercial airliners aren’t usually thought of as being especially awe-inspiring or high-tech, particularly when compared to military aircraft. Airliners are just commonplace to most people. But once one is standing perhaps 200 yards from an airliner at takeoff power, one realizes how impressive and powerful they truly are!

Qatar A340 LHR

An A340, presumably off to Qatar

AA Gear Up LHR

A great view of the closing main gear doors of this American Airlines 777

BA 777 LHR

Another Boeing 777, this one operated by British Airways

Unlike other airports, Heathrow holds a great many positive memories for me. It was the first feature of England I ever saw, and it’s my own gateway to that wonderful country. Plus, it’s full of aircraft- combine airplanes with England, and things really can’t get much better in my mind!

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Park Lane Promenade

There are many neighbourhoods in London known for their prestige and exclusivity- after all, London is one of the world’s most expensive cities! Chelsea is ever-popular with Russian billionaires and flashy footballers, while Knightsbridge is home to prestigious shopping in the form of Harrods and various designers’ flagship stores. But one of the poshest places around is Mayfair, and in particular, Park Lane.

Exiting the Tube at Hyde Park Corner brings one to the surface almost beneath the shadow of Wellington Arch- a beautiful welcome! When I was there last May, the weather was clear and wonderful, which gave the arch an even more glorious appearance. Wellington Arch is a striking piece of architecture, topped with a sculpture of the angel of peace descending onto the chariot of war.

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch in the morning sunshine

But Wellington Arch is only a precursor to the rest of Park Lane’s wonders! There are several war memorials in the vicinity, including several at Hyde Park Corner. These memorials include an Australian memorial, a New Zealand memorial, the Machine Gun Corps memorial, and the Royal Artillery Memorial. These memorials really resonated with me, and their presence adds a certain solemnity to an area usually known better for its posh hotels and fashionable addresses.

Park Lane Memorial

The New Zealand War Memorial, honouring New Zealand’s dead of the two World Wars

Park Lane Animal Memorial

A memorial farther along Park Lane, remembering animals in war. For me this is a particularly beautiful and touching memorial.

Park Lane also has some gorgeous architecture. Buildings such as the Grosvenor House Hotel and the Dorchester are not only famous in name, but are also admirable due to the beauty of their buildings.

Park Lane Architecture

The stunning architecture (perhaps neo-Gothic?) of a Barclays Bank outlet

Dorchester

The clean, modern, and distinctive facade of the Dorchester hotel 

For countless years, Park Lane has been an exceptionally exclusive and expensive location in London. Benjamin Disraeli (who held the office of Prime Minister during parts of Queen Victoria’s reign) lived on Park Lane. More recently, pop culture icons such as Fred Astaire and Elizabeth Taylor have either lived on or frequented Park Lane. An idea of the affluence of Park Lane can be seen in the fact that Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Egyptian billionaire and former owner of Harrods, is a current resident.

One of my favourite reasons to visit Park Lane is because of its car dealerships! Many times in the past I’ve been by on a bus and have seen elegant Aston Martins and exotic Zondas through the windows of various dealers. Automotive excellence is also always apparent on the pavement of Park Lane- it’s unusual to be there and not see a few Bentleys or Rolls-Royces, or perhaps a dark-windowed Maybach driving by.

Park Lane BMW

BMW’s Park Lane showroom

Park Lane Pagani Zonda

This shop had many different cars plus an especial rarity- a Pagani Zonda!

Park Lane Aston Martin

Park Lane Aston Martin

McLaren Dealership

Although not on Park Lane, this Knightsbridge McLaren dealer is close- and it was a dream to see, since McLaren is my favourite F1 team and my favourite supercar manufacturer!

Park Lane is an unmissable destination for me. It’s a beautiful, bustling street full of both jaw-dropping displays of wealth and poignant reminders of the past. I love it (although my income hardly belongs in such an elite area), and it’s a wonderful place that makes one marvel and dream.

 

Red October

Autumn is probably one of the most enjoyable seasons when it comes to dressing. Rich colours, sumptuous textures, and lots of pattern are all in fashion; and one isn’t yet burdened by the heavy, puffy coats and non-slip boots required by winter’s wrath. The following outfit is one designed especially for autumn, and it encapsulates the season’s warmth and beauty.Red October
Red October by adairjacobs on Polyvore
In an homage to the name Red October, this look is defined by a gorgeous Altuzarra jacket- akin to those worn by submarine captains- in a wonderful shade of red. Muted olive-coloured pants and a brown suede bag echo the colours of autumn, and the unique Alexander McQueen acorn jewellery is another nod to the season. This look also demonstrates the ease with which vintage pieces can be incorporated into a thoroughly modern outfit: for example, the ankle booties add the appeal of both military and vintage style, and give an edge to the ensemble which is balanced by the luxurious fox fur scarf. The faux-tortoiseshell sunglasses and red nail polish are also great retro additions to this outfit, which is surely the perfect way to celebrate the last week of October!

An Unassuming Hero: The T-34

I am well familiar with Mies van der Rohe’s beloved phrase less is more– and most of the time, I agree with it. But not today. Today I am writing about the Soviet T-34 tank of World War II; a tank which I believe was so accomplished and amazing that it deserves no shortage of attention. Only a plethora of photographs and in-depth analysis of this tank can appropriately honour its greatness and its critical victories on the Eastern Front. The T-34 is my favourite tank of all time, and this post is my homage to it.

When the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union in late June 1941, it expected a quick and easy victory. Nazi Germany saw the Slavic race and the Soviet Union’s communist government as backwards and inferior, especially when compared to its own idealized Aryan soldiers and technologically advanced, well-equipped military. And in the first few months of the war, imminent victory didn’t seem too far-fetched; the Wehrmacht made enormous territorial gains while killing hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers. However, there was one surprise awaiting the Germans which eventually did erode their supremacy. That inconvenient surprise was the T-34.

T-34 IWM London

A Czech T-34/85, seen at the Imperial War Museum in London. This was the first T-34 I ever saw

Most Soviet tanks in 1941 were obsolete, thinly-armoured, and quite terrible. In fact, the T-34 came about because the Spanish Civil War proved the sorry state of current vehicles like the T-26 infantry tank and the BT-7 cavalry tank. Masterminded by an engineer named Mikhail Ilyich Koshkin, the T-34 was designed with heavier armour, a better gun, impressive speed, and rugged construction.

Kharkiv V-2-34

The T-34 was fitted with a V-12 engine producing 500 horsepower. This enabled a top speed of 34 miles per hour. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Balcer

RIA T-34s at factory

Great care and attention was given to T-34 production before war broke out; after June, however, the luxury of such care was no longer an option and tanks were simply assembled as quickly as possible. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #1274/RIA Novosti/CC-BY-SA 3.0

It didn’t take long for the Wehrmacht to encounter the T-34/76; and when it did, the general reaction was one of shock and alarm. The widely-used Pak 36 anti-tank gun was completely unable to pierce the T-34’s ingenious sloped armour, and thus its German operators named their gun “the door-knocker”.  The Wehrmacht’s medium tanks (the Panzer III and Panzer IV) also struggled against the T-34; which, with its balanced mixture of speed, armour, and firepower, seemed at times unstoppable. Field Marshal von Kleist, commanding panzers with Army Group South, called the T-34 “the finest tank in the world.”

T-34 Armour Schematic

Diagram of the T-34’s sloped armour, showing the extent of this important attribute. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to BVV. CC-BY-SA 3.0

However, the T-34 force (like every other area of the Red Army in 1941) did suffer heavy losses. Unfortunately, around half of these losses were due to things like mechanical failure or running out of fuel instead of defeat at the hands of the enemy. Most sources put the early-war Soviet tank losses at 6 to 1, which is immense especially given the size of the Red Army’s tank force.

Burning T-34

German forces were able to destroy T-34s by shooting their tracks or by air or artillery strikes. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, B145 Bild-F016221-0016/CC-BY-SA

Captured T-34s

These captured T-34s must have brought great relief to their new owners. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-277-0836-04/Jacob/CC-BY-SA

Other factors also contributed to the inability of what was a vastly superior tank to halt the German onslaught in 1941. Some of these issues were down to ergonomics, while others were due to poor construction and the unready state of the Soviet Union upon Hitler’s invasion. One of the T-34’s greatest problems was its constricted 4-man turret. Most medium tanks (like the contemporary Panzer IV and famous Sherman) utilized a crew of five. The T-34’s more compact profile meant that only four men could be used, and this forced the tank commander to also aim the main gun- a major inconvenience in the heat of battle.

The cramped interior was only worsened by the widespread lack of training for tank crews. Some T-34 drivers had a few hours’ driving experience at best, and the T-34 was not the easiest tank to drive. Shrewd drivers often kept a mallet beside them because the controls could become jammed, and braking took extra effort because the transmission and gearbox were far apart. Furthermore, poor equipment such as a lack of radios meant that communication was achieved by signalling with flags through the turret hatch. The lack of training and difficulty in communicating make it hardly a surprise that Soviet tank attacks were usually just an unsophisticated mass charge.

T-34 Driver's Hatch

A view through the driver’s hatch of a T-34/85. The T-34/85 appeared in 1943, with an enlarged turret allowing for an extra crew member. The cramped hull size, however, remained.

The panic of the invasion compromised craftsmanship at Soviet tank factories, which encouraged another flaw in the T-34. Many problems occurred with the gearbox in the field, which caused many otherwise perfectly good tanks to be abandoned. But at least the T-34 gave the Red Army some sort of advantage; and because of this, over 35,000 T-34/76s were built before the design was significantly changed in 1943. So crucial was the T-34 to the Soviet war effort, that stories abound of unpainted tanks being driven off the production line and straight into battle.

The T-34/76 ceased production when the T-34/85 came into being. With a bigger gun, thicker armour, and a comparatively roomy turret, the /85 collected lessons learned in the catastrophes of 1941 and created an even more formidable design. However, by this time, German panzer designers had also been working on design changes for their tanks; and the T-34 never regained the sizeable edge it had enjoyed earlier in the war.

T-34-76

The T-34/76 had a 76.2 mm main gun. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Radomil 

T-34-85 Duxford

The improved firepower of the T-34/85 came from an 85 mm gun, as seen in this photo from IWM Duxford

The battle which solidified the T-34’s greatness in battle against a better-prepared and more advanced German enemy was the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. This battle is legendary because of its gigantic scale and fierce tank warfare, and by the end of it the Soviet complement of T-34s had pushed back the panzers they had first faced two years before. Kursk ensured that the Red Army was now firmly on the offensive; and the Wehrmacht was defeated at its own game.

Another two years later, T-34s rolled triumphantly into Berlin. This unassuming, low-slung tank had taken the world by surprise, and embodied the spirit of the Red Army in World War II. No one would have chosen a little Soviet vehicle to beat all the panzers and anti-tank guns that the Wehrmacht was feared for. And against the mighty Wehrmacht, the Soviet Union was supposed to lose- but thanks to ingenuity and determination, it didn’t.

T-34 Memorial Berlin

A proud T-34 stands guard at a Soviet war memorial in Berlin. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Drrcs15

The T-34’s service did not, however, end with WWII. Dozens of countries across Europe, Africa, and Asia have operated the T-34 post-WWII, and it has continued to feature even in 21st-century conflicts. Hardly surprising for a tank that, disregarding its easily-fixed problems, stunned the world and helped to win a war.

T-34 Operators Map

 

Countries in red have used the T-34 in the past. Current operators are in black, and recent are in pink. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Pgmail

Serbian T-34

This Bosnian Serb T-34/86 (seen in 1996) carries rubber sheets for extra protection. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Paalso

I love the T-34. And I prefer the T-34/76 variant, due to its simpler appearance and plucky spirit.  I have such a deep admiration for this tank and for its crews that I am currently working on a trilogy of novels following a T-34 tank crew during WWII. I hope that after this post, more people will share my enthusiasm for this resilient tank, and have a greater idea of its part in WWII.

T-34s Orel 1943

Soviet infantry advancing alongside T-34s near Orel, 1943. Image from Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Gallop

REFERENCES

(2014). T-34. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-34.

(2006). T34. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/t34_tank.htm

Zaloga, S.J. (2009). T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing.

 

 

Fifties Floral

Most (well, maybe “all” would be more accurate) of my fashion posts involve either the ’40s or World War II in some way. So this is a departure, as this post features an outfit obviously inspired by the 1950s! In general, ’50s fashion seems decadent to me and doesn’t have the same appeal that ’40s fashion does. Although these two decades do have similarities in their styles, I much prefer the tailored and utilitarian shapes of wartime fashion and the deep, dramatic colours that go along with them. However, this ’50s post is significant because it is inspired by my maternal grandmother.
Fifties Floral
Fifties Floral by adairjacobs on Polyvore
My grandma got married in the ’50s, and I’ve always found it neat to see her in photographs from that decade. And my mum often tells me how she remembers her mum wearing the pearls and pretty dresses which were so popular during the ’50s. Although I don’t think she would have worn something as extravagant as this particular outfit, my grandmother very much inspired me to write this post. I could see her wearing a charming floral dress like the one above, and the smart jacket also seems perfect for her. The sunglasses are very similar to glasses I’ve seen on her in old photographs, and of course pearls were worn by everyone in the ’50s! I’m so grateful for my grandmother- she has such kindness and patience, and evidently she is a worthy fashion icon as well! It is from her that most of my collection of vintage jewellery comes, and although the ’50s aren’t my favourite decade, they are special because of her.

The Feast is Set…

Sometimes, when entertaining, one just has to be really ambitious. Simple, easy-to-prepare parties and dinners are lovely, but the guaranteed way to be remembered is to put on a really impressive and extensive feast. Of course, this does carry an inherent risk. For example, once they’ve been broken, heirloom dishes can’t be replaced; posh wine is quite expensive; and if crème brulée goes wrong, it tends to go very wrong indeed!

But if one’s ambition goes well, a wonderful and momentous event results; sure to be remembered and spoken of by all involved for years to come. Such was the case for me a few weekends ago, when I put on a Georgian-style dinner for my family. Thankfully, I had my mother’s help in preparing it- otherwise it could have been a disaster, or would have at least been very, very late!

Georgian Dinner Table

The beautiful table, in all its glory

My wish was to create a luxurious, elegant, and reasonably authentic Georgian meal. Thus, I spent the entire day carefully setting the table and searching for such special things as my grandmother’s family’s silver cutlery and our seldom-used white cloth napkins. When entertaining, I always enjoy planning and setting the table more than the actual cooking- I find it much less tedious and daunting! But this dinner was one of the most enjoyable I have ever organized, and both food and tablescape turned out beautifully.

To create a suitably grand appearance, I used a fantastic blue and gold damask tablecloth and heirloom plates from the 19th century- how appropriate! Each place setting had two glasses, one for water and one for alcohol, and the napkins were folded into the water-glasses with a flourish.

Georgian Dinner View

It took me quite some time to gather together everything seen on this table, but the result was worth it!

Georgian Dinner Place Setting

I also added some hand-made place cards which gave a perfect, old-fashioned touch. Thank goodness for my knowledge of calligraphy!

The table was further adorned with a candle-lit centrepiece complete with flowers from the garden, and fresh fruit piled high on silver dishes.

Georgian Dinner Centrepiece

The centrepiece was lush and inviting

Now we come to the true climax of any meal: the food. To drink, I offered Jamaica rum, gin, and sauvignon. Of these three, I felt rum was the absolute necessity- after all, the Golden Age of Sail commenced at the end of Georgian times, and the navy’s love for rum is legendary.

Georgian Dinner Rum

The choice of alcohol is another period touch

Georgian Dinner F & M Tea

My beloved tin of F&M Jubilee tea… the tea was served alongside dessert 

A soup course came first, in the form of a delightfully green pea soup with sour cream and crispy bacon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better soup- this was incredible. It was creamy and delicate in flavour, and was the perfect appetizer for such a refined feast!

Georgian Dinner Pea Soup

The exquisite colour of the soup added to the table decor!

The main course included a wonderful Welsh onion cake, which is one of my all-time favourite recipes, and a true culinary masterpiece: beef Wellington. There was no way I could choose anything but beef Wellington- since it’s a real treat and its namesake is one of the Georgian era’s greatest heroes!

Contrary to what the TV series Hell’s Kitchen might suggest, beef Wellington wasn’t terribly hard to execute. I did have some trouble finding a cut of beef suitable to be used for the Wellington, and even after a troublesome search I don’t think I bought quite the right thing, but the dish was delicious anyway. The pastry was crispy, the beef juicy, and the mushroom-and-liver paté one of the tastiest things imaginable- and I don’t even actually like mushrooms! It just wasn’t perhaps as photogenic as Gordon Ramsay might want!

Georgian Dinner Onion Cake

The onion cake: just a very basic combination of onions, potatoes, and butter, but so scrumptious!

Georgian Dinner Beef Wellington

The glorious beef Wellington

Georgian Dinner Glass of Rum

Neat rum does have considerable strength to it, but it was great and manageable alongside a heavy dish like beef Wellington

A fresh and beautiful trifle was served up for dessert. It’s such a classic English dessert, and has been loved for hundreds of years. Its inclusion of fruit also made me and my dinner-guests feel a little less guilty about having had so much of the previous courses!

Georgian Dinner Trifle

Trifle was first mentioned in a book from 1596. Four centuries later, it’s still a favourite

I was so pleased with the success of my Georgian feast! It was ambitious, and there were a few small hitches in its preparation (to be expected), but the result was brilliant. Every once in a while, it really does pay off to commit to trying something really fancy!

An Afternoon at Trenton: Part Two

At first glance, a post about a trip to an air force museum might not seem to be completely in keeping with the day after Thanksgiving. However, for me it is; as it encompasses several things I am very grateful for: airplanes, military history, and WWII subjects.

The National Air Force Museum’s interior was very impressive, and the exterior only added to my sense of awe. Although they were just sitting outside on the lawn, the aircraft were beautiful and amazing; and all amongst them were pathways lined with memorial stones. These stones commemorated the service and sacrifices of various units and squadrons, which was touching and appropriate.

Trenton Aircraft Park

A view of the museum’s “aircraft park”. In all, it features around twenty aircraft

A lot of the aircraft were without engines, and many were peeling and rusting. Consequently, the aircraft park had a rather sombre feel to it, and to me it whispered of long-lost glory and forgotten triumphs. That reminded me of World War II in general- since I often feel that the contributions made by both certain countries and individuals are overlooked and forgotten, especially by members of my generation. Still, I’d rather see aging aircraft at a museum like this one than lined up in rows in the Arizona desert. At least this way, they are being honoured.

Trenton Grumman Tracker

A Grumman Tracker in obvious disrepair

Trenton UN Huey

Twin Huey operated by the United Nations. To many, the Huey is a symbol of the Vietnam War

The National Air Force Museum was interesting because it really chronicled the RCAF’s history. In years past, the RCAF operated numerous fighter aircraft at one given time; unlike today, when the fighter fleet is comprised solely of the CF-18 Hornet. At this museum, I was able to see what the RCAF’s line-up used to be like- full of specialized aircraft such as the T-33 Silver Star, F-101 Voodoo, and Canadair CL-90 Starfighter.

Trenton T-33 Silver Star

The Canadair T-33 Silver Star (a licensed variant of the Shooting Star) was a jet trainer known for its reliability and dependability in the hands of even inexperienced pilots

Trenton Argus

One of the greatest anti-submarine/maritime patrol aircraft of the late ’50s, the CP-107 Argus served the RCAF until 1981

Trenton Voodoo

The F-101 Voodoo- a distinctive-looking jet fighter- was part of the RCAF’s Cold War air arsenal, and was nuclear-capable thanks to the AIR-2 Genie rocket

Nearby the supersonic Voodoo was a subsonic (yet impressive!) Hawker Hunter. I have a soft spot for British post-war jet aircraft like the Supermarine Swift and Scimitar and the Hawker Hunter, perhaps because if I ever had the money and the time, a relatively simple jet-powered aircraft like one of these would be on my wishlist!

Trenton Swiss Hawker Hunter

This Hunter was used by the Swiss Air Force. Hunters have been out of service in Switzerland for twenty years now

Trenton Hunter Engine

A peek down the Hunter’s intake revealed that the engine is still in place!

In addition to unusual sights like the Hunter, the National Air Force Museum also had the usual RCAF museum staples: a Bell JetRanger, a C-130 Hercules, and a CF-18. The latter two remain workhorses for the modern RCAF; the Hercules drops troops and supplies as well as transporting things to every corner of the globe, and the CF-18 Hornet is the RCAF’s only remaining fighter jet.

Trenton Jet Ranger

A Bell JetRanger. I’ve seen one of these helicopters at every Canadian Forces base I’ve been to!

Trenton Hercules Nose

A C-130 Hercules; a common sight at Trenton

Trenton Herc

The Hercules is a beast- it’s a huge aircraft and can haul a payload roughly equal to its own weight!

Trenton CF-18

The Hornet is elegant in the air, yet on the ground I think it looks ungainly and rather ill-proportioned due to its long nose

The WWII-era was represented by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and full-scale replicas of a Spitfire and Hurricane. I was glad that only reproduction, and not original, WWII fighters had been left outside to brave the Canadian elements unprotected!

Trenton C-47

The C-47 will always make me think of Medal of Honor: Airborne!

Trenton Spit Replica

The Spitfire is an exquisite-looking machine, whether original or not

Among all these wonderful airplanes of differing nationalities and eras, I was enjoying myself so much that I lingered perhaps too long; and before I was through the aircraft park my camera batteries died. I was disconsolate, since I hadn’t yet reached the resident MiG-21! I’m so interested in Soviet history and aircraft that I had been planning to look at the MiG last, which turned out to be a folly idea.

Thankfully, I didn’t allow my despondency to deter me, and I simply swapped the positions of my existing batteries. I don’t know if it was a quirk of my camera or a rather handy feature of all batteries, but anyway my camera then turned on long enough to let me take a half-dozen pictures of the MiG!

Trenton MiG-21 Nose

The MiG-21 was a versatile and widely-produced fighter

Trenton MiG-21 Cockpit

The MiG-21 is easily recognizable due to its nose cone, long and thin fuselage, and delta-wing configuration

It was really something to see a MiG-21! Called the “Fishbed” by NATO, this supersonic interceptor has a more vivid moniker thanks to its Soviet pilots- they called it the “balalaika” because its distinctive shape resembled the Russian folk instrument. The MiG-21 was used extensively during the Vietnam War and various African conflicts, and it is still used by over a dozen air forces; including those of several eastern European countries.

The MiG-21 was not without its problems- a notable one was its short range- but it was a simple and robust design. This made it successful and thus desirable as an interceptor; and its high rate of climb, good speed, and low gross weight were among its finest attributes. As well, it’s a beautiful plane! I think it has grace despite the aggressive look of its delta-wing and sharp profile, and it lacks the brutish and rather unrefined appearance of its main Vietnam opponents, the F-4 Phantom II and F-104 Thunderchief.

Trenton MiG-21 Side

The MiG-21 could carry a complement of missiles or bombs

Trenton MiG-21 Emblem

This particular MiG-21 served with the East German Air Force

Seeing the MiG-21 (and managing to get some pictures of it!) put me in a good, if wistful, mood for the rest of the day. For me, that MiG-21 was definitely the highlight of the aircraft park! But another noteworthy fixture was present, and it solidified what I believe to be the spirit of all military museums.

Trenton Memorial Churchill

Winston Churchill’s famous quote, praising the efforts and bravery of the pilots of the RAF during the Battle of Britain

Trenton Memorial Dedication

The dedication on the memorial

Trenton Memorial Shakespeare

A quote now from Shakespeare; speaking of the brotherhood and sacrifice which become so apparent in times of war

For me, military museums exist to educate and to remind new generations of the lessons, trials, and especially achievements, of days past. And the importance of this can’t be underestimated; because without the past, we can’t prepare for the future. But also, we must remember the sacrifices of those who sacrificed for us. Remembering is the least we can do for those who gave so much to ensure our future freedom and well-being, and museums help us to remember.

The National Air Force Museum of Canada was wonderful, and achieved all that I think a military museum should. Thanks to my visit, I learned things I hadn’t known before; I had an exciting time and experienced the thrills and joy of aviation; and I also felt the well-merited reverence and thankfulness for the feats of legendary aircraft and the courageous pilots who fly them.

Trenton Air Crew Memorial