Genius who made waves
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 This device was eventually superseded by incendiary and tracer rounds.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.
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Pioneer: Yves Le Prieur in diving gear