British crown jewels buried in biscuit tin during WWII

 

 

AFP

LONDON

Precious stones from Britain’s crown jewels were hidden in a biscuit tin and buried at Windsor Castle during World War II, a BBC documentary to be shown on Sunday reveals. Gems, including the Black Prince’s Ruby from the Imperial State Crown, were buried under a secret exit from the mediaeval castle used in times of emergency. The operation, intended to ensure the priceless gems did not fall into Nazi hands, was ordered by Queen Elizabeth II’s father, king George VI. It was such a closely-guarded secret that Queen Elizabeth, 91, who spent the 1939-1945 war at Windsor Castle for safety, did not know the details.

“What was so lovely was that the Queen had no knowledge of it. Telling her seemed strangely odd,” said royal commentator Alastair Bruce, who presents the documentary.

The details were unearthed by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the assistant keeper of the Royal Archives.

Bruce told The Times newspaper that an “electric set of letters” from Owen Morshead, the royal librarian, to Queen Mary, King George VI’s mother, shed light on the mystery.

Morshead’s documents describe how a hole was dug in chalk earth and two chambers with steel doors were created.

The trap door, used to access the secret area where the tin box was kept, is still there.

Bruce discusses the crown jewels with Queen Elizabeth in an exceptionally rare conversation recorded for television. The monarch has never given an interview.

She described the Imperial State Crown, worn for the state opening of parliament and weighing 1.28 kilogrammes, as “very unwieldy”.

“Fortunately, my father and I have about the same sort of shaped head. But once you put it on, it stays. I mean, it just remains itself.”

The sovereign said she had to keep her head still.

“And you can’t look down to read the speech - you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break, or it would fall off.

“So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they’re quite important things.”

The crown, made for King George’s coronation in 1937, is set with 2,868 diamonds including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and hundreds of pearls, including four known as Queen Elizabeth I’s earrings.

It also features the Black Prince’s Ruby, believed to have been worn by King Henry V in his helmet at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

“It’s fun to see,” Queen Elizabeth said.

“The idea that his plume was put into the stone... on his helmet. Bit rash, but that was the sort of thing they did, I suppose, in those days.”

 

 

 

 

Ancient mining ops buildings found in Egypt

 

 

AFP

CAIRO

The ruins of two buildings used to supervise mines in ancient Egypt more than 4,400 years ago have been discovered in the south, the antiquities ministry said on Thursday. The find was made by a US-Egyptian mission in the Tal Edfu area north of the city of Aswan. One building was from the era of the pharaoh Djedkare Isesi of the fifth dynasty which ruled Egypt more than 4,400 years ago, the ministry said. The other was constructed during the sixth dynasty which ruled between 2,323 BC and 2,135 BC. “The complex consists of two massive buildings containing many rooms and it is yet to be fully examined,” the antiquities ministry’s Ayman Ashmawy told AFP.

“These buildings were used as administrative buildings for the mining teams which would head to the eastern desert to search for gold, copper and precious stones.”

The mission found a large number of seals “used to seal everything that would enter and leave storage”, in addition to correspondence between officials and the pharaoh, he said.

According to historians, Djedkare Isesi’s era was known for its expeditions to extract raw materials, especially copper, from south Sinai.

Separately near Aswan, an Egyptian team found a limestone funerary plate 40 centimetres (nearly 16 inches) tall and 27 centimetres (10.5 inches) wide, Ashmawy said.

It was found in the temple of Kom Ombo where a 25-centimetre-tall sandstone statue of a person squatting and two statues of the god Horus were also discovered.

 

 

 

Nobody moove! Cow causes chaos at Indian airport

 

 

AFP

AHMEDABAD

First it was monkeys and rabbits. Now a cow has forced flights to be diverted from Ahmedabad airport and Indian authorities said Friday human negligence may have had a role. The brave bovine crept past security at a cargo gate at the airport in India’s Gujarat state to stray near the runway sparking a rodeo chase with guards. A flight from Abu Dhabi and a cargo plane had to be diverted to Mumbai after one of the pilots spotted the beast. The arrival of five domestic flights and several departures were also delayed. Aviation sources said airport security guards and fire officials struggled for more than 90 minutes to move the cow away from the runway.

“The cow had entered from near the cargo gate of the airport. The security personnel with sticks and air guns chased the animal away,” one source said.

Sardar Vallabhbhai International Airport and other Indian airports have had previous troubles with disrespectful animals.

In February last year, an IndiGo flight at Ahmedabad was delayed on the takeoff strip because of rabbits on the runway.

In November 2016, a Chennai-bound plane had to abort take off after some monkeys were spotted on the runway.

Two years earlier, a Delhi-bound flight from Surat hit a stray buffalo on the runway a few seconds before take-off.

The Airport Authority of India has ordered an inquiry into the latest incident.

“The AAI chairman has asked the Ahmedabad airport director to ascertain possibility of any human negligence in the incident.

“Directives have been given to take stringent steps to avoid any such occurrences in future,” said an AAI statement.

 

 

 

‘Frost Boy’ stirs poverty debate in China

 

 

AFP

BEIJING

A viral photo of a Chinese boy whose hair is encrusted with ice after his hour-long walk to school in freezing temperatures has stirred debate about the impact of poverty on children in rural regions. Wang Fuman, a primary school student in southwest Yunnan province, gained the moniker “Frost Boy” after his principal shared a photo online of his rosy cheeks and icy hair, Chinese media reported this week. According to the state-owned China News Service agency, the teacher who took the photo said it generally takes Wang more than an hour to make the 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) journey from his home to the school. The temperature was -9 degrees Celsius (16 Fahrenheit) the day the photo was taken, China News Service reported.

 

 

Pentagon mum on fate

of secret satellite

 

 

AFP

WASHINGTON

The mystery surrounding the fate of a secret military satellite deepened Thursday when the Pentagon refused to answer even simple questions about whether the mission to launch it had gone awry. On Sunday, private space firm SpaceX blasted a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying the secret government satellite, known as Zuma. US media this week reported that the billion-dollar payload did not make it into orbit and was presumed to have been lost. SpaceX said Tuesday that the rocket worked fine, but its statement left open the possibility that something could have gone wrong after the launch.

When asked at a press briefing if the Pentagon considered the launch a success or a failure, two officials declined to provide any information whatsoever because of the classified nature of the mission.

“I would have to refer you to SpaceX, who conducted the launch,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

When pushed on the matter, fellow spokesman Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said: “I’m done. We’re not going to be able to give you any more information.”

Northrup Grumman, the maker of the payload, has said it was for the US government and would be delivered to low-Earth orbit, but offered no other details.

SpaceX has launched national security payloads in the past, including a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, and an X-37B space plane for the US Air Force.

The CEO of SpaceX is Elon Musk, the South African-born inventor and entrepreneur who is also behind electric car-maker Tesla.