Thursday 27th July 2017

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Forest School Compton Verney Thursday 27th July 2017

They are a hardy bunch these forest school children
It takes a special breed to lead them
Those that lead are easily led
By those who are so keen to follow
Their excitement rubs off on you
Mud Soup, Tomato and Onion to taste
Owls from cones
Laughing at their own Jackson Pollock
Op art from squeeze bottles
Wellies coated in paint
Blankets holding more water than comfort
They stand in deep puddles
Even after a third fierce deluge
They hold on with freezing tiny fingers
To the special day that is Forest School

John Bish 27th July 2017

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Lion of the Desert

Lion of the Desert is a 1981 Libyan historical action film starring Anthony Quinn as Libyan tribal leader Omar Mukhtar, a Bedouin leader fighting the Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army) in the years leading up to World War II, and Oliver Reed as Italian General Rodolfo Graziani, who attempted to defeat Mukhtar. It was directed by Moustapha Akkad and funded by the government under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Released in May 1981, the film was liked by critics and audiences[citation needed] but performed poorly financially, bringing in just $1 million net worldwide. The film was banned in Italy in 1982 and was only shown on pay TV in 2009.

In 1929, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Rod Steiger) is still faced with the 20-year-long war waged by patriots in the Italian colony of Libya to combat Italian colonization and the establishment of “The Fourth Shore”—the rebirth of a Roman Empire in Africa. Mussolini appoints General Rodolfo Graziani (Oliver Reed) as his sixth governor to Libya, confident that the eminently accredited soldier and fascist Grande can crush the rebellion and restore the dissipated glories of Imperial Rome. Omar Mukhtar (Anthony Quinn) leads the resistance to the fascists. A teacher by profession, guerrilla by obligation, Mukhtar had committed himself to a war that cannot be won in his own lifetime. Graziani controls Libya with the might of the Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army). Tanks and aircraft are used in the desert for the first time. The Italians also committed atrocities: killing of prisoners of war, destruction of crops, and imprisoning populations in concentration camps behind barbed wire.

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Despite their bravery, the Libyan Arabs and Berbers suffered heavy losses, their relatively primitive weaponry was no match for mechanised warfare; despite all this, they continued to fight, and managed to keep the Italians from achieving complete victory for 20 years. Graziani was only able to achieve victory through deceit, deception, violation of the laws of war and human rights, and by the use of tanks and aircraft.

Despite their lack of modern weaponry, Graziani recognised the skill of his adversary in waging guerrilla warfare. In one scene, Mukhtar refuses to kill a defenseless young officer, instead giving him the Italian flag to return with. Mukhtar says that Islam forbids him to kill captured soldiers and demands that he only fight for his homeland, and that Muslims are taught to hate war itself.

In the end, Mukhtar is captured and tried as a rebel. His lawyer, Captain Lontano, states that since Mukhtar had never accepted Italian rule, he cannot be tried as a rebel, and instead must be treated as a prisoner of war (which would save him from being hanged). The judge rejects this, and the film ends with Mukthar being publicly executed by hanging.

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‘Umar al-Mukhṫār Muḥammad

‘Umar al-Mukhṫār Muḥammad bin Farḥāṫ al-Manifī (Arabic: عُمَرْ الْمُخْتَارْ مُحَمَّدْ بِنْ فَرْحَاتْ الْمَنِفِي‎‎; 20 August 1858 – 16 September 1931), known among the Colonial Italians as Matari of the Mnifa,[4] was the leader of Native Resistance in Eastern Libya under the Senussids, against the Italian Colonization of Libya. Omar was also a prominent figure of the Senussi Movement, and he is considered the National Hero of Libya and a symbol of resistance in the Arab and Islamic Worlds. Beginning in 1911, he organised and, for nearly twenty years, led native resistance against the Colonial Italians. After many attempts, the Italian Armed forces managed to capture Al-Mukhtar near Slonta and hanged him in 1931.

Omar Al-Mukhtar also fought against the French Colonization of Chad and the British Occupation of Egypt.

‘Omar Al-Mukhtar was born in 1862 (or 1858) to a poor family in the town of Zanzur near Tobruk , belonging to the Mnifa Clan, in the region of Cyrenaica under Ottoman control, young Omar lost his father early on, and spent his youth in poverty, he was adopted by Sharif El Gariani, nephew of Hussein Ghariani, a political-religious leader in Cyrenaica, and received his early education at the local mosque, before continuing his studying for eight years at the Senussi university in Jaghbub,[5] the holy city of the Senussi Tariqa , He became a popular expert on the Quran and an imam, joining the confraternity of the Senussi, he also came to be well informed of the social structure of his society, as he was chosen to settle intertribal disputes.

Mukhtar developed a strong relationship with the Senussid Movement during his years in Jaghbub, in 1895, Al-Mahdi Senoussi traveled with him south to Kufra , and on another occasion further south to Karo in Chad, where he was appointed as sheikh of Zawiyat Ayn Kalk, when the Colonial French advanced on Chad in 1899 he was sent among other Senussites to help defend from the invaders, as the Senussi considered their expansion dangerous for their Missionary activity in Central and West Africa. in 1902, Omar was recalled north after the death of Al-Mahdi, the new Senussi leader Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi appointed him as Sheikh of the troubled Zawiyat Laqsur in Northern Cyrenaica.

A teacher of the Qur’an by profession, Mukhtar was also skilled in the strategies and tactics of desert warfare. He knew local geography well and used that knowledge to advantage in battles against the Italians, who were unaccustomed to desert warfare. Mukhtar repeatedly led his small, highly alert groups in successful attacks against the Italians, after which they would fade back into the desert terrain. Mukhtar’s men skilfully attacked outposts, ambushed troops, and cut lines of supply and communication. The Regio Esercito (Italian Royal Army) was left astonished and embarrassed by his guerrilla tactics.

In the mountainous region of Jebel Akhdar (“Green Mountain”) in 1924, Italian Governor Ernesto Bombelli created a counter-guerrilla force that inflicted a severe setback to rebel forces in April 1925. Mukhtar then quickly modified his own tactics and was able to count on continued help from Egypt. In March, 1927, despite occupation of Giarabub from February 1926 and increasingly stringent rule under Governor Attilio Teruzzi, Mukhtar surprised Italian troops at Raheiba. Between 1927 and 1928, Mukhtar reorganised the Senusite forces, who were being hunted constantly by the Italians. Even General Teruzzi recognized Omar’s qualities of “exceptional perseverance and strong will power.”[this quote needs a citation] Marshal Pietro Badoglio, Governor of Libya from January 1929, after extensive negotiations concluded a compromise with Mukhtar (described by the Italians as his complete submission) similar to previous Italo-Senusite accords. At the end of October, 1929, Mukhtar denounced the compromise and re-established a unity of action among Libyan forces, preparing himself for the ultimate confrontation with General Rodolfo Graziani, the Italian military commander from March 1930. A massive offensive in June against Mukhtar’s forces having failed, Graziani, in full accord with Badoglio, Emilio De Bono (Minister of the Colonies), and Benito Mussolini, initiated a plan to break the Libyan Mujāhideen:100,000 population of Jebel Akhdar would be relocated to concentration camps on the coast, and the Libyan-Egyptian border from the coast at Giarabub would be closed, preventing any foreign help to the fighters and depriving them of support from the native population. These measures, which Graziani initiated early in 1931, took their toll on the Senusite resistance. The rebels were deprived of help and reinforcements, spied upon, hit by Italian aircraft, and pursued on the ground by the Italian forces aided by local informers and collaborators. Mukhtar continued to struggle despite increased hardships and risks, but on 11 September 1931, he was ambushed near Slonta.

Mukhtar’s final adversary, Italian General Rodolfo Graziani, has given a description of the Senusite leader that is not lacking in respect: “Of medium height, stout, with white hair, beard and mustache. Omar was endowed with a quick and lively intelligence; was knowledgeable in religious matters, and revealed an energetic and impetuous character, unselfish and uncompromising; ultimately, he remained very religious and poor, even though he had been one of the most important Senusist figures.

Capture and execution

Mukhtar’s struggle of nearly twenty years came to an end on 11 September 1931, when he was wounded in battle near Slonta, and then captured by the Italian army. On 16 September 1931, on the orders of the Italian court and with Italian hopes that Libyan resistance would die with him, Mukhtar was hanged before his followers in the POW camp of Suluq at the age of 73 years.

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Marshal Rodolfo Graziani

1st Marquis of Neghelli primarily noted for his campaigns in Africa before and during World War II. A dedicated fascist, he was a key figure in the Italian military during the reign of Victor Emmanuel III.

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Graziani played an important role in the consolidation and expansion of Italy’s empire during the 1920s and 1930s, first in Libya and then in Ethiopia. He became infamous among the other colonial powers for repressive measures that led to high loss of life among civilians. In February 1937, after an assassination attempt during a ceremony in Addis Ababa, Graziani authorized a period of brutal retribution now known as Yekatit 12. Shortly after Italy entered World War II he returned to Libya as the commander of troops in Italian North Africa but resigned after the 1940-41 British offensive routed his forces. Following the 25 Luglio coup in 1943, he was the only Marshal of Italy who remained loyal to Mussolini and was named the Minister of Defense of the Italian Social Republic, commanding its army and returning to active service against the Allies for the rest of the war.

Graziani was never prosecuted by the United Nations War Crimes Commission; he was included on its list of Italians eligible to be prosecuted for war crimes, but post-war Ethiopian attempts to bring him to trial were resisted by Italy and Britain. In 1948, an Italian court sentenced him to 19 years’ imprisonment for collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only four months.

He died in 1955: at his funeral there were nearly twenty thousand mourners in attendance in a ceremony in Rome

Rodolfo Graziani was born in Filettino in the province of Frosinone. In 1903, he decided to pursue a military career. Graziani was stationed in Italian Eritrea and served in the Italo-Turkish War, where he was promoted to Captain. He saw action in World War I and became the youngest Colonnello (Colonel) in the Regio Esercito.

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In Libya

In the 1930’s, Graziani was appointed by the new Fascist government to be commander the Italian forces in Libya. He was responsible for suppressing the Senussi rebellion. During this so-called “pacification”, he was responsible for the construction of several concentration camps and labor camps, where thousands of Libyan prisoners died. Some prisoners were killed[3] by hanging, like Omar Mukhtar, or by shooting, but most prisoners died of starvation or disease. His deeds earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Fezzan”[4] among the Arabs, but he was called by the Italians the Pacifier of Libya (Pacificatore della Libia).

In 1930, he became Vice-Governor of Cyrenaica and held this position until 1934, when it was determined that he was needed elsewhere. In 1935, Graziani was made the Governor of Italian Somaliland.

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In Ethiopia

During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in 1935 and 1936, Graziani was the commander of the southern front. His army invaded Ethiopia from Italian Somaliland and he commanded the Italian forces at the Battles of Genale Doria and the Ogaden. However, Graziani’s efforts in the south were secondary to the main invasion launched from Eritrea by Generale Emilio De Bono, later continued by Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio. It was Badoglio and not Graziani who entered Addis Ababa in triumph after his “March of the Iron Will”. But it was Graziani who said: “The Duce will have Ethiopia, with or without the Ethiopians.”

Addis Ababa fell to Badoglio on 5 May 1936. Graziani had wanted to reach Harar before Badoglio reached Addis Ababa, but failed to do so. Even so, on 9 May, Graziani was awarded for his role as commander of the southern front with a promotion to the rank of Marshal of Italy. During his tour of an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Dire Dawa, Graziani fell into a pit covered by an ornate carpet, a trap that he believed had been set by the Ethiopian priests to injure or kill him. As a result, he held Ethiopian clerics in deep suspicion.

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After the war, Graziani was made Viceroy of Italian East Africa and Governor-General of Shewa / Addis Ababa. After an unsuccessful attempt by two Eritreans to kill him on 19 February 1937 (and after other murders of Italians in occupied Ethiopia), Graziani ordered a bloody and indiscriminate reprisal upon the conquered country, later remembered by Ethiopians as Yekatit 12. Up to thirty thousand civilians of Addis Ababa were killed indiscriminately; another 1,469 were summarily executed by the end of the next month, and over one thousand Ethiopian notables were imprisoned and then exiled from Ethiopia. Graziani became known as “the Butcher of Ethiopia”. In connection with the attempt on his life, Graziani authorized the massacre of the monks of the ancient monastery of Debre Libanos and a large number of pilgrims, who had traveled there to celebrate the feast day of the founding saint of the monastery. Graziani’s suspicion of the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy (and the fact that the wife of one of the assassins had briefly taken sanctuary at the monastery) had convinced him of the monks’ complicity in the attempt on his life.

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From 1939-1941, Graziani was the Commander-in-Chief of the General Staff of the Regio Esercito.

At the start of World War II, Graziani was still Commander-in-Chief of the Regio Esercito′s General Staff. After the death of Marshal Italo Balbo in a friendly fire incident on 28 June 1940, Graziani took his place as Commander-in-Chief of Italian North Africa and as Governor General of Libya.

The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had given Graziani a deadline of 8 August 1940 to start to invade Egypt with the 10th Army. Graziani expressed doubts about the ability of his largely un-mechanized force to defeat the British and put off the invasion for as long as he could.

However, faced with demotion, Graziani ultimately followed orders and elements of the 10th Army invaded Egypt on 9 September. The Italians achieved only modest gains in Egypt and then prepared a series of fortified camps to defend their positions. In November 1940 the British counterattacked and completely defeated the 10th Army during Operation Compass, after which Graziani resigned his commission. On 25 March 1941, Graziani was replaced by General Italo Gariboldi, and Graziani remained inactive for the next two years.

Graziani was the only Italian Marshal to remain loyal to Mussolini after Dino Grandi’s Grand Council of Fascism coup. He was appointed Minister of Defense of the Italian Social Republic by Mussolini[6] and oversaw the mixed Italo-German Army Group Liguria (Armee Ligurien). Graziani was able to defeat the Allied Forces in the “Battle of Garfagnana” in December 1944, using a mixed Italian / German force including the “Monte Rosa” alpine division and the “San Marco” marine division.

At the end of the Second World War, Graziani spent a few days in San Vittore prison in Milan before being transferred to Allied control. He was brought back to Africa in Anglo-American custody, staying there until February 1946. Allied forces then felt the danger of his assassination or lynching had passed (many thousands of fascists were murdered in Italy in the summer and autumn of 1945), and returned Graziani to the Procida prison in Italy.

In 1948, a military tribunal sentenced Graziani to 19 years in jail as punishment for his collaboration with the Nazis, but he was released after serving only a few months of the sentence. He was never prosecuted for specific war crimes. Unlike the Germans and Japanese, the Italians were not subjected to prosecutions by Allied tribunals.

In the early 1950s, Graziani had some involvement with the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano, and became the “Honorary President” of the MSI party in 1953. In January 1955, Rodolfo Graziani died of natural causes in Rome, aged 72 years.

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Gadhafi wearing a picture of Umar al-Mukhṫār when visiting Rome in 2010.

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