Ge­nius who made waves

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QUES­TION What is known of Yves le Prieur who in­vented The Prieur rocket launcher in World War I? Born in Lorient, France, on March 23, 1885, Yves Paul Gas­ton Le Prieur was an ama­teur en­gi­neer who made im­por­tant ad­vances in avi­a­tion, weaponry and deep‑sea ex­plo­ration.

He fol­lowed his fa­ther in join­ing the French navy. He stud­ied Ja­panese and was pro­moted to mil­i­tary at­tache and trans­la­tor at the Tokyo em­bassy. He be­came the first French­man to earn a black belt in judo.

He also in­vented a glider, named Le Prieur no 2, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi­rou Aibara, a Ja­panese navy lieu­tenant, and Tokyo Im­pe­rial Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Aik­itsu Tanaka­date. The frame, made of Ja­panese bam­boo, was cov­ered with cal­ico. on De­cem­ber 5, 1909, he made the first cer­ti­fied fixed‑wing air­craft flight in Ja­pan.

In 1912, he was sta­tioned at Fre­jus Air­port, a naval avi­a­tion test­ing fa­cil­ity and in 1916 de­vel­oped the Le Prieur rocket launcher, which used fire­works ef­fec­tively to de­stroy Ger­man hy­dro­gen‑filled ob­ser­va­tion bal­loons and Zep­pelins. This de­vice was even­tu­ally su­per­seded by in­cen­di­ary and tracer rounds.

In 1925, at the In­dus­trial and Tech­ni­cal Ex­hi­bi­tion in Paris, Le Prieur wit­nessed a demon­stra­tion of the div­ing ap­pa­ra­tus in­vented by Mau­rice Fernez. He was struck by the lim­i­ta­tions of the long tube and sur­face rig sup­ply­ing air to divers which pre­vented them from be­ing truly free.

re­mem­ber­ing the com­pressed air in bot­tles Miche­lin sup­plied to ru­ral garages for in­flat­ing car tyres, Le Prieur ap­proached Fernez and sug­gested to­gether they adapt his equip­ment so divers could carry their own air sup­ply in the form of a Miche­lin bot­tle at­tached to their chest.

To achieve this, he in­vented a pres­sure reg­u­la­tor so divers could man­u­ally set the cor­rect pres­sure for the depth.

Just a year later, the Fernez‑Le Prieur div­ing ap­pa­ra­tus was demon­strated in a Parisian swim­ming pool, ush­er­ing in the era of scuba (self‑con­tained un­der­wa­ter breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus) div­ing.

The first div­ing club, Club Des Scaphan­dres et de la Vie Sous L’eau (the club for divers and life un­der water), was founded in France in 1935 by Le Prieur and Jean Pain­leve, and the deep‑sea ex­plorer Jac­ques Cousteau started out us­ing Le Prieur’s ap­pa­ra­tus.

Le Prieur con­tin­ued to make ad­vances in deep‑sea div­ing, in­vent­ing a win­dow mask and an im­proved reg­u­la­tor. He died in nice on June 1, 1963 aged 78. He was mar­ried twice and had two daugh­ters from his first mar­riage.

Jim Ni­cholls, Wellington, Som­er­set. QUES­TION Does any­one re­mem­ber a TV se­ries that be­gan each week with the words ‘Democ­racy is a very bad form of gov­ern­ment, but all the oth­ers are much, much worse’? THIS was the Six­ties TV drama Slat­tery’s Peo­ple (1964‑65, Bing Crosby Pro­duc­tions for CBS). It starred richard Crenna as Jim Slat­tery, the mi­nor­ity leader in a state leg­is­la­ture as he tack­led all man­ner of prob­lems and con­cerns in his district.

Crenna was a ris­ing TV star who had por­trayed Wal­ter Den­ton in our Miss Brooks on CBS from 1952 to 1956, and Luke McCoy in The real McCoys from 1957 to 1963. Many will re­mem­ber him as Sylvester Stal­lone’s ex‑com­mand­ing of­fi­cer Colonel Sam Traut­man in the rambo films.

reg­u­lars in the se­ries in­cluded Slat­tery’s aide, Johnny ramos, played by Paul Geary, while his sec­re­tary, B. J. Claw­son, was played by Maxine Stu­art. Also in the cast were Ed­ward As­ner as Frank rad­cliffe, a news­pa­per re­porter friendly with Slat­tery, and Tol Avery as House Speaker Bert Met­calf.

The district he rep­re­sented and the state he lived in were never iden­ti­fied, though it was as­sumed to be a port town in Cal­i­for­nia.

The se­ries was crit­i­cally ac­claimed in the press, but proved too hard‑go­ing for U.S. au­di­ences and ran for only two se­ries. It aired on the BBC in 1965‑66.

The ex­act quo­ta­tion over the open­ing cred­its is: ‘Democ­racy is a very bad form of gov­ern­ment, but I ask you never to for­get all the oth­ers are so much worse.’

This quote ( or sim­i­lar) is usu­ally at­trib­uted to Churchill who him­self at­trib­uted it to an un­known pre­de­ces­sor.

In the Com­mons, novem­ber 11, 1947, Churchill de­clared: ‘ Many forms of gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. no one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all‑ wise. In­deed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment ex­cept for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time . . .’

Kell Raw­son, In­ver­ness. QUES­TION What caused the Can­ning Town ex­plo­sion of 1917? FUr­THEr to the ear­lier an­swer, in 1994, I recorded my fa­ther talk­ing about the Sil­ver­town ex­plo­sion. He was 13 when it hap­pened and liv­ing on the sev­enth floor of 90 Fenchurch Street, in the city.

This is an ex­tract of that record­ing: ‘... and then dur­ing the war there was the Sil­ver­town ex­plo­sion that you never heard any­thing about, it wasn’t pub­li­cised at all, the mu­ni­tions fac­tory. Yes, the arse­nal.

‘I was sat in the kitchen in the evening, and Mam al­ways had the win­dows partly ajar. At about half‑past ten there was a ter­rific colos­sal bang, all the win­dows rat­tled and broke. Win­dows down at St Paul’s. That was down at Wool­wich, yes.

‘A train was blown up, and I think they said 2,000 girls died. Whether that was true. It was sab­o­tage. The fire started in three places. They never said it was sab­o­tage. Lor­ries were com­ing up all next day with bod­ies.’

Ge­off Dim­mick, Great Yar­mouth, Nor­folk. QUES­TION What be­came of Linda Thor­son? I was a great fan of hers when she was in the Avengers. FUr­THEr to the ear­lier an­swer, hor­ror fans also re­mem­ber Linda with fond­ness for her ap­pear­ance in Cur­tains (1983).

In this lit­tle‑known Cana­dian slasher movie, six ac­tresses ( one played by Thor­son) be­ing au­di­tioned for a film in a spooky man­sion were ‘done in’ by some­one wear­ing a hor­rific hag mask.

This low‑bud­get film — a flop at the time — is now con­sid­ered a clas­sic of the genre.

tim Forster, Bre­con.

IS THERE a ques­tion to which you have al­ways wanted to know the an­swer? Or do you know the an­swer to a ques­tion raised here? Send your ques­tions and an­swers to: Charles Legge, An­swers To Cor­re­spon­dents, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, Lon­don, W8 5TT. You can also fax them to 01952 780111 or you can email them to charles. legge@dai­ly­mail.co.uk. A selec­tion will be pub­lished but we are not able to en­ter into in­di­vid­ual cor­re­spon­dence.

Pi­o­neer: Yves Le Prieur in div­ing gear

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