Moonraker Probus Club of Devizes

Probus Logo


Home Page


Recent Events





















Jan 2016

iPads and Mobile Technology what’s the point

Myles Pilling
Feb 2016 Annual Lunch  
Mar 2016 Ten Pound POM Bill Collins
Apr 2016 Agincourt Martin Collinson
May 2016 A Taste of Northern Norway & Lofoten Islands Theo Stening
Aug 2016 Mobile Phone Forensics Tony Sykes
Sep 2016 Life along the Equator Ann King
Oct 2016 The Making of Casablanca Edward Barham

iPads and Mobile Technology what’s the point

This January’s Devizes Moonrakers Probus talk was on “IPADs and Mobile Technology what’s the point” by Myles Pilling. Myles was a teacher with an arts background, who got into technology. His talk ranged from the development of personal computing using wired computers to the new wireless technology. He has worked with handicapped children for 30 years using technology to assist in their learning. He gave an example of trying to teach a child with speech impairment to make the “baa “sound. This could be quite boring for the child who would soon give up. So he came up with the idea of the using the “baa” sound to keep a model helicopter in the air. Myles is currently working on a Dyslexia App project with Bath Spa University.

Myles connected his IPAD to a speaker and projector using Apple Airplay, so we saw his IPAD displayed on a large screen. He then proceeded to demo the functions of Apple Notes such as voice recognition, which converts speech to text. Another function on Notes allows you to draw. Other apps demoed were the Colorfy app which enables the creation of artwork and colouring,  Air Harp, Memorama, Sesame Street, Solar Walk and Epic Citadel.

For those new to computing he suggested contacting Wiltshire Councils, Wiltshire Online (or your local liberary), which provides help on how to access support free.  Myles is a volunteer digital champion for Wiltshire Online he also has a blog see where you can find more apps.

Cloud Computing enables access to personal stored information, picture, video etc., from any device, you just need to enter your password. Wearable devices such as a watch could monitor your health and contact your doctor if you have a problem. All in all this was a very interesting and useful talk.

Annual Lunch

Our annual lunch was held on Thursday 25th February at the North Wilts Golf Club – for the third year running. It was greatly enjoyed. Although we were fewer in number, a mere 27 members and guests, instead of the usual 50 odd, this enabled members to greet almost all the other members and this was really appreciated. We were very pleased to invite the Chairman of our brother Probus Club of Devizes, Chris Gillings and his wife, Ann.

The lunch provided the opportunity for our new Chairman, Ted Hatala, to receive his chain of office. This was presented by Pat Underwood, former Chairman, as our retiring Chairman, Terence Tovey, was unable to attend.

An unusual event was a raffle organised by Tony Kershaw to provide funds to buy our own projector. This turned out to be an occasion for friendly merriment as the prizes were won and selected. The sum of £33 was raised.

Equally unusual was the presence of two of our members celebrating their 70th wedding anniversaries with their wives! Tony and Thelma Snell were presented with flowers and a congratulatory card at the lunch. Tim and Joan Traverse-Healy will have their flowers sent to their home and a congratulatory card will be given at our next meeting on 3rd March.

A special guest, invited by Tony Snell, was Wyn Guest. She came in her wheelchair and, seated at the head of one of the 2 tables, was able to chat with many friends. Wyn used to host our summer garden party and she said that we could still come if we so wished and did all the work! Her garden has a most wonderful view.

The lunch and service provided by the Golf Club was excellent and thanks must go to Carol Creed for organising it for us.

Our next meal will be the Summer Garden Party. Where? When? We’ll let you know!

Ten Pound POM

This March’s Devizes Moonrakers Probus talk was on “The £10 POM” by Bill Collins. Bill did his National Service with the Royal Signals in the Egyptian desert. Upon returning to London, he found it to be grubby and claustrophobic. At the time, Australian industry was booming and needed a supply of workers. In order to attract immigrants the Australian Government subsidised the fare there and promised employment, housing and a healthy life style. In 1969, after being interviewed at the Australian Embassy, Bill paid the ten pound fare for him, wife and two children and set off on the ship Fairsky. During the war she was converted to an escort for US aircraft carriers. A plane could take off from her deck but not land. Eventually she entered the British Navy becoming an ocean liner after the war. At 12,000 tonnes she was smaller than modern channel ferries. The ship was very cramped with 600 immigrants on abroad. The children had to top and tail, with Bill sleeping on the floor.

Bill finally arrived in Perth were he started work as a newspaper printer salesman quickly becoming sales manager. Bill brought a few items of memorabilia to the talk, including some wonder paintings. One of which was inspired by his 5 week east to west coast tour in his Holden car. It shows a settlement, in the treeless Nullarbor Plain, set in an orangey sky and landscape. The professionalism of the painting made it hard to believe that Bill was a self-taught. In the 1860’s the US needed hardwood sleepers for the construction of their transcontinental railway. Western Australia’s Karri and Jarrah tree were ideal. So transport ships were build, unfortunately of non-seasoned wood, which often foundered. Bill saw the worn down hulk of such a ship near his home in Rockingham. Using artist license he did a wonderful painting of the ship. As well as painting, Bill enjoyed the outdoors buying a boat to go fishing and scuba diving. After 15 years Bill and his new wife came back to England but not before his wife had a Roo made for him as a reminder of their time in Oz.


We were treated to a real historical tour de force, so good it seemed as if Mr Collinson had been there as events unfolded, like a modern journalist embedded with the troops. In fact, he had spent many weeks researching the Battle of Agincourt, which had it’s 600th anniversary last year, not surprisingly overshadowed by the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Agincourt was, in fact, only one of many battles during the 100 Years War, that lasted from1337 to 1453.

The family tree of English and French Kings was an important part of the story, with claims and counter-claims about who was King of France. Interestingly, English Royalty at this time ruled a large part of France, extending down to Aquitaine, although it was a fiefdom, not truly independent of the French. Another twist were the bouts of madness suffered by the French Dauphin.
Henry V was a warrior king, who learnt his military tactics in Wales. He realised how important archers were, archers using longbows rather than crossbows, as well as the knights riding into battle.

Henry made a major contribution to the victory at his first battle -- Shrewsbury. Incredibly, in the course of the battle he was shot in the face by an arrow that entered below his eye, missed both brain and spinal cord and stuck in the bone at the back of the skull – but he managed to recover completely (after the arrow was removed).

Mr Collinson explained how chivalry was very much part of knights’ behaviour, with victorious knights being responsible for their prisoner’s welfare.....but captives often had considerable value as ransomed hostages. Some were even released to go and get their ransom !

A large slice of the money needed to pay for the French campaigns was raised by loans rather than taxes. Even Royal jewels, plate and regalia were used as security for repayment.

The French plan at Agincourt was to use massed cavalry to charge down the English archers. Henry V learnt of this from a French prisoner some days before the battle, and immediately took steps to counter it: every archer was to drive a sharpened stake into the ground in front of him on the battlefield, to stop a charging horse. The French army at Agincourt numbered many thousands, and in their eagerness to get at the English most of the leading figures were crammed into the front ranks. It has been estimated that Henry’s army was about 6,000 strong, battling as many as 30,000 French soldiers.
When the French charge was triggered by a flight of arrows from the English side, the French rushed forward in accordance with their battle plan. Funnelled into a narrower part of the field where Henry had taken up his position, the French were crammed together. Horses reared and bucked and threw their riders, because the English archers initially used less heavily tipped arrows against the horses, and then they continued the arrow fusillade against the French Knights and foot soldiers, with as many as two dozen armour-piercing and lethal arrows launched by every archer every two minutes. The effect was like a World War machine gun spraying the French army.
The conditions were terrible, with heavy mud, and many soldiers died from suffocation as bodies piled up. Insanitary conditions and a shortage of fresh water frequently led to outbreaks of dysentery among armies.
Henry V later died of dysentery and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Thousands of tourists pass the spot without realising he is there, and all that can be seen of the effigy is the soles of its feet.

A Taste of Northern Norway & Lofoten Islands

Norway is a country that is half as long again as Britain, bordering Sweden, Finland and Russia. When most people think of Norway they think of Vikings, a term derived from “Vik” meaning creek and “ing” people so people living in a creek. According to Theo they did not wear helmets with horns. With only 3-5% of arable land, the Norwegian Vikings were driven to colonized the island’s north and west of Scotland including the Isle of Man, whilst the Danish Vikings were mainly in England. 

Christianity came from Britain to Norway in the 11th Century, wooden stave (column) churches were built, some of which are still around. Theo showed slides of stone cathedrals, which had a close resemblance to those in England. On closer inspection, they had English stonemason marks. Theo pointed out that there is more to the colour of the houses than meets the eye. Colour identifies status with a white house being the most wealthy, yellow/ochre not quite as wealthy today with the lowest rung being red. Since red was generally made from ox blood which was cheap.

A less welcome visitor came from Britain in the shape of the Black Death, which killed half to two-thirds of the population.  Norway now weakened joined with Denmark as a junior partner. A relationship that lasted until 1814 when Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden, after she sided with Napoleon. The link with Sweden lasted until 1905 when the Norwegian people voted in a referendum to leave the union. But, was it to have a President or a King, in the end they chose Prince Carl of Denmark who was married to Maud, daughter of King Edward VII. He became King Haakon VII.

Theo’s travel slides took us along the coast of Norway to Trondheim, diverting from the coast to the Blood Road. During WWII the Germans occupied Norway and this road was built with slave Russian and Yugoslav labour. Around  1500 PoWs died in the process hence the name Blood Road. We then travelled to the mystical beauty of the Lofoten Islands, those landscape is stunning with jagged mountains plunging to the sea. The islands form a huge sheltered area that is teeming with cod. Then on to the North Cape, which is not actually the most Northern part of Europe, but an out crop a few miles away. Around 50,000 Sami live who are also known as Lapps live in the Northern Norway.

Mobile Phone Forensics

A fascinating and informative talk – Tony Sykes started by reminding us how much mobile phones have changed during the last 25 years, from bricks that made and received calls, to mobile computers that entertain us, access the internet, take high definition photos, can be used as satnavs, and are also phones.

His IT company specialises in retrieving and analysing “hidden” mobile phone information, to help the police and Courts, and sometimes the defence, in the role of an expert witness. He and his company had been the first to uncover and retrieve deleted texts. As well as developing the clever tools to do this, Mr Sykes explained that the massive memory of phones, sometimes exceeding 100 Gigabytes, was a factor, as the presumed lost material was still there if you could get at it.

He illustrated the process by comparing the recorded material as being in files in a filing cabinet. When we delete them, we are only really removing the identifying file tab label, so we think they are gone, as there is no overt label to see in normal phone usage……………..but the material is usually still there.

The story then widened into how to not only find and open up the lost/deleted material, but also to identify as many its’ characteristics as possible – such as when and where the original was recorded. Mobile phone masts are constructed in sectors, so the expert can track direction of calls, as well as location. The forensic investigation is often very time-consuming, and costly, involving not only re-opening the deleted material, but also mapping the phone’s travels, sometimes involving long journeys to physically work out the geography of its’ journey. The expert is also often faced with the reality of teasing out which calls are important – some criminals make more than 500 calls a day !

Even after all the clever technology rediscovers the deleted material, there is a further challenge. Attribution – who actually made the phone call ? If it can be established the call was made from the alleged villain Joe Blogg’s phone, he may say he loaned the phone to his long lost cousin from America. So, if the phone technology expert establishes the call in question was made at 3 a.m. to Joe Blogg’s mother with a personal message, and the phone was just used outside the warehouse that was burgled then QED, probably.

Another practical difficulty arises if the lost/deleted material is “in the Cloud”. Retrieval will depend on the cooperation of the commercial servers, who are often resistant to release data, even in crime situations.

A good example of the benefit of this technology has been the reduction in “Cash for Crash” claims. Criminals sometimes became so lazy they wouldn’t even stage a crash, just phoned each other and the insurance company with made-up stories. Investigating these claims also applied retrieval technology to satnav usage.

Many questions followed – a real tribute to Tony Sykes’ entertaining talk. The final message was – don’t give away your computer (your phone), unless you have removed and completely destroyed the hard drive with a hammer and chisel, or whatever will break it into bits. Otherwise, “they” can find out all sorts of things about you.

Life along the Equator

This September’s Devizes Moonrakers Probus talk was on “Life along the Equator” by the much-travelled Ann King. The first stop along the equator was East Africa, which Ann visited in 1967. A picture shows her crossing the Rift Valley. The valley is the result of the separation of the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates. The valley is up to 30 miles wide, with many alkaline lakes. In the area where Ann went, the climate was dry with sparse vegetation.

The next port of call was Singapore in Asia, specifically Sentosa Island, just one degree north of the equator; it is also the southernmost point of continental Asia. Here, the climate is hot and humid with lush vegetation. Colonial Singapore founded, by Sir Stamford Raffles, as a trading post for the East India Company.  Later it became a coaling station for ships of the British Empire. Its most iconic building is probably Raffles Hotel, serving its equally iconic Singapore gin sling. Singapore today is a hive of busy activity with ambitious land reclamation programs. Most notably Raffles is no longer on the beach. Whilst in Sentosa, Ann saw terrapins, which live in water as opposed to tortoise who live on land, as well as huge Water Monitor Lizards that wonder around the parks of the island.

Then Quito, Ecuador, South America, situated 2800m above sea level and just 13 seconds south of the Equator. The name Ecuador means on the equator. Close to Quito is the volcano Cotopaxi (5911m).  Next, stop the Galapagos Islands, which belong to Ecuador. Because of the lack of water, the islands only had temporary inhabitants such as whaling fleets, until recently. Most people and resources fly into San Cristobel. Large cruise ships are banned from the islands.  Galapagos is the Spanish name for Tortoise with perhaps the most famous one being Lonesome George who died in 2012 at the young age 100. Interestingly it was the Governor of the Islands who planted the seed of the origin of species into Darwin’s mind. The islands are a place where ocean currents meet. The cold Humboldt brings nutrients from the Antarctica creating the world’s most productive marine environment.  The Galápagos' area has a stationary hot spot under it that has formed, over the millennia, the chain of island/volcanoes as the Nazca crustal plate moved east-southeast across it. 

The last stop was the Amazon, where Ann did not see much wild life only lots of ants. She went to Manaus where the England football team played in the 2014 World Cup. The place is hot and humid. Manaus was built on the back of rubber industry, fortunes were made. In the years before the First World War, Manaus was one of the richest places in all of the Americas. Its demise was the result of an Englishman taking rubber plant seeds to England. These seeds eventually resulted in the large rubber plantations of Singapore and Malaysia.  

The Making of Casablanca

October’s Devizes Moonrakers Probus talk was on “The making of Casablanca” given by Edward Barham. Initially one might think that the talk would only be of interest to film buffs, a notion that could not be further from the truth. Edward’s talk spanned a wide horizon bringing to life the hinterland of the actors and setting the story in the context of the times.
The talk began with the question of why produce films in Hollywood well the good light, usually dry and lots of Mexicans who could play extras. The actors themselves were an eclectic bunch of mainly immigrants from different places and varying ages. In “Casablanca”, there were only three actors from the USA.
“Casablanca” started as an unproduced play called “Everybody comes to Rick’s” based on the authors experience in 1938. They were on the way back to the US after helping Jewish relatives smuggle money out of Vienna, when the author dropped into a nightclub in South of France. The club had a black piano player along with refugees from Nazi occupied countries, such as Czechoslovakia. It and its clientele formed the basis of the play to which Warner Bros brought the rights in early 1942 for $20,000 a record for an unproduced play and filming soon started.
The play was adapted with the film being set in “Rick's Café Américain”, Casablanca, Morocco during the Vichy French era. The film plot is about Rick’s clientele of German and Vichy French officials and refugees from Nazi occupied Europe and how the refugees were taken advantage of, in their desperate bid to reach the USA . The lead actors are Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henried. Bogart generally played a villain until Casablanca, in which film he found redemption. Incidentally, Bogart was a courteous man and a very good chess player who could have made Grand Master. Bergman was born in Sweden and was orphaned with a legacy. Before moving to the US, she appeared in Nazi films in Germany. Paul Henried was born in Trieste and was an aristocrat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he moved to England before going to the US.
Other actors included Sydney Greenstreet who was born in Sandwich, Kent whose character name of Fat Man, in the Maltese Falcon, was the name given to the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Many of the cast were Jewish immigrants fleeing from the Nazi’s. So the scene were the singing of the Marseillaise competed with the Germans singing their song had a particular resonance and genuine tears were shed. Ironically, most of the Jewish refugees being of German origin were subject to evening curfew.
The timing of the film to make it a success could hardly have been better released during Operation Torch in which Anglo-American troops landed in Morocco. Many of the quotes from the film came to be used in everyday language such as “Here’s looking at you kid”, “Round up the usual suspects”, “We’ll always have Paris” and many more. This is only a small glimpse of the Ned’s encyclopedic knowledge, matched only by his wonderful delivery.