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In our world of iPhones and fast food on every corner, I think it’s difficult to appreciate historical achievements. Even in the first world countries, a hundred years ago it pretty much took all of your life just to put a meal on the table. Things weren’t much different forty years and two world wars later. These days we depend on a massive production and distribution infrastructure to keep our lives going, and it alters our perspective.

One thing that makes me realize how amazing it must have seemed for an airplane to break the “sound barrier” was the picture above. It is the HMS Conway, anchored in Bangor in Wales. It’s not the best photo and it wasn’t the sunniest of days, but the picture was taken for a reason; later that day my dad boarded the Conway and began his naval training. When my daughter saw this picture she thought my dad had been a pirate (and I’m sure my childhood would have been much more exciting if he had been).

The Conway was considered old even when my dad stepped on board (about 100 years old in these pictures), but I think the powers that be relished in the idea that a real sailor could sail a tall ship (even though she was moored just offshore). Either way, it was a normal occurrence in a person’s life; if you joined the Navy, you learnt to sail a ship.

But the people who waved their sons off on that boat would turn around and pick up newspapers reporting that half a world away a man had climbed into a rocket plane and gone faster that the speed of sound. It’s a contrast that helps me appreciate their achievement.

Do you have things that help you understand the perspective of history from the eyes of the people for whom it was news?



PS. The HMS Conway was moored off the coast of Wales in a place called Plas Newydd in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Or as the Welsh would say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

And no, I’m not kidding. It’s no surprise that Spelling Bees have never caught on in Wales.

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