Vox Clamantis in Deserto
Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Paul Courtnage, the AVRO Shackleton, Singapore and the assassination of J F Kennedy

  Links to chapters:

Paul Courtnage, the AVRO Shackleton, Singapore and the assassination of J F Kennedy

Courtney's Journal - Man's Flight Through Life is Sustained by the Power of his Learning

On this page: Life in the 50s, The Shackleton, Singapore, John F Kennedy.

In the Beginning

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I was born at tea time.  This wasn't a good start as it, no doubt, caused my mum to miss her afternoon refreshment and could also go a long way towards explaining why I find it so easy to be late for everything.

I arrived one summer's day in the late 1950s, which probably makes me a Gemini, although I'm no expert in these matters. Geminis (the Twins) are supposedly lively, imaginative, restless, changeable, affectionate, courteous, inquisitive and quick to learn. In the Chinese calendar, I'm a dog; no comment required, thank you. Dogs are loyal. Oh, and I was born on a Saturday and Saturday's child works hard for a living!

My Dad was a Royal Air Force pilot and this was one of the reasons that I was born at the Princess Mary's Hospital at RAF Halton, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. Obviously, this is all hearsay as I don't remember - it was, after all, a long time ago and I was born at a very early age like so many children at the time.

Now, I don't want you read anything into the next two statements. Around the time I was born, the number one record in the UK music charts was Who's Sorry Now. Also you should know that the Princess Mary's Hospital at RAF Halton has since been closed, abandoned and demolished.

Paul Courtnage
Paul Courtnage


I was christened in the RAF church, St Clement Danes in the City of Westminster. In fact, I hold the honour of being the first RAF child to be christened in the church after it was consecrated as the Central Church of the Royal Air Force. The inscription over the main entrance summarizes the building's history very neatly; it translates as 'Built by Christopher Wren 1682. Destroyed by the thunderbolts of air warfare 1941. Restored by the Royal Air Force 1958.'

Three penny piece
The wonderful little threepenny piece

My sisters, Julia and Sandy, and me - 1958
My sisters, Julia & Sandy, and me

RAF Kinloss, Scotland


To set all this against its historical backdrop, this was before the days of decimal currency (D-Day was 15th February 1971).  The concept of 20 shillings (symbol s for the Latin solidus) to the pound and 12 pennies (symbol d for the Latin denarius) to the shilling may seem cumbersome today, but I still hold that it had two things going for it: first, it had worked well for a really long time and, second, it meant that every schoolchild could manage all the multiplication tables up to 12 – we had to.  Britain had some charming coins: the half-crown (2 shillings and sixpence, written 2/6 and worth 12½p), the florin (2/- or 2 shillings, 10p), the tanner (6d or sixpence, 2½p) and, my favourite, the chunky little threepenny piece with twelve sides.  For those of you that don't remember those days, it may surprise you to learn that it was nowhere near as troublesome as you may think.  Of course, the Guinea (21 shillings) still lives on - in horse racing at least.

It was about this time that Donald Campbell pushed the world water speed record to 248 miles per hour. Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins were working on the chemical structure of DNA, for which they received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Television was black and white and computers really only existed in science fiction movies.  There were no such things as mobile phones, CDs, DVDs nor MP3 players. When I was born one couldn't cross the Atlantic in a jet airliner - BOAC only started that service in October 1958. British roads were not congested and they were mainly single carriageway; not terribly fast but, somehow, more relaxed, more pleasant, more British.  Great Britain still had numerous overseas dependencies - the rump of the British Empire, you could say. The only people that had video tape were television studios - although this entire medium for home use has come and gone since then.

In December 1962 my family moved to RAF Kinloss in Scotland, where Dad took command of 120 Squadron, operating the Shackleton mark 3 - a four-engined aircraft out of the famous Lancaster bomber's stable - in the maritime patrol role (see below).  Kinloss was a great place for a child; clear days in the summer and heaps of crisp, white snow in the winter.  The Cairngorm Mountains provided sledging and Findhorn Bay yielded seagull eggs for tea.  I remember enjoying school there, but then I was young and knew no better.  I was a happy child, content with the normal childish things.

I have two sisters, both older than I: Sandra by 12 years and Julia by 8. Sandy worked at a bank in Elgin and Julia was at boarding school in the south of England.  Sandy always struck me as being terribly sensible with a very dry sense of humour while Julie was more 'theatrical'. She felt things more deeply and tended show her feelings more openly. Looking back I suppose there is a little of both in me, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions later. Modern theory has it that first children tend to be achievers, second ones, rebels and third-born are cunning survivors. Hmm, again, a bit of all three, I think, plus that age gap made me something of an only child in effect.


The Avro Shackleton

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Shackleton Mk3 Avro Shackleton Mk 3 of Number 120 Squadron, RAF Kinloss, 1963

The Avro Shackleton, named after the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force from 1951 until 1990. It was developed by Avro (A.V. Roe and Company, created by Sir Alliott Verdon-Roe) from the Avro Lincoln bomber and first flew in 1949. It was originally used in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) roles, and was later adapted for airborne early warning (AEW) and search and rescue (SAR). A total of 185 Shackletons were built between 1951 and 1958.

Shackleton Mk3  Shackleton Mk3  Shackleton Mk3
Avro Shackleton Mk3 Interior shots - cockpit, flight engineering and sensor operator stations.

The Shackleton was powered by four V-12 Griffon engines driving contra-rotating propellers. The engines were thirsty for fuel and oil, noisy, temperamental and demanded a lot of maintenance. Shackleton MR.3 Phase 2 was fitted with two Armstrong Siddeley Viper Mk.203 turbojet engines, housed in the outboard engine nacelles and running on AVGAS (petrol) rather than AVTUR (jet fuel).

The Shackleton's armament included 2 × 20 mm Hispano Mark V cannon in the nose, 10,000 lb (4,536 kg) of bombs, torpedoes, mines and conventional or nuclear depth charges.



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At the end of 1964 we moved again, to Manby (near Grimsby, Lincolnshire) where Dad attended the Air Warfare Course. We lived on a farm for a while, which was paradise for a young boy. Haystacks, farm machinery and barns all there just for me to explore, make into castles and to try to understand. Although there were no other children my age around at the time, I was very happy there. Later we moved to a bungalow called Green Meadows in Church Lane. Nearly 20 years later I revisited the place to find it had remained exactly as I remembered it, which is unusual. Revisiting this old haunt brought back a thousand distant, unreachable memories: playing in the long grass of the adjoining meadow, the wildlife in the stream at the end of the garden and climbing trees.  Although we only lived at Manby for six months I was there long enough to call it home and to enjoy it. I was adapting to the nomadic mode that military life demands of its members and their families, and I was learning to move to new places, make friends and 'fit in' with relative ease. In fact, I really looked forward to the adventure of moving, but then I had no responsibility for organizing or orchestrating the move itself; this would eventually become an ordeal that I would come to loathe in later life. Anyway, our next move was to Singapore - an experience that was to shape my life.

Paul Courtnage  Paul Courtnage  Paul Courtnage
Paul Courtnage

Onward to Singapore

The flag of Singapore
The flag of Singapore



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The flight to Singapore in a Britannia aircraft operated by the now long-defunct airline, British Eagle, was interminable.  We staged through Istanbul (Turkey) and New Delhi (India).  The sensation I remember most vividly was feeling like I had been painted with grease as the humidity of the Indian monsoon season enveloped me when we disembarked for a short while.  I also recall that the girls were both airsick on the flight, but I think that was mainly because they thought they were supposed to be.

A British Eagle Bristol Britannia, our flight to Singapore
A British Eagle Bristol Britannia

Singapore cub scout - Paul Courtnage
Singapore cub scout

The local wildlife

Ruth and her daughters
Ruth and her daughters, Singapore 1966

Singapore - a truly cosmopolitan society

Paul Courtnage with snake in Singapore - Paul Jeremy Courtnage
Young Paul Courtnage with snake,
loving life in Singapore.


On arrival in Singapore, we stayed in an old, colonial hotel, reminiscent of the days of British Imperialism and when, in 1819, Stamford Raffles established the first settlement on the island.  This was to be my first taste of living in the remnants of the old British Empire. Neatly tended palms, white columns, raffia-work chairs and smartly uniformed Chinese and Malay servants.  Air conditioning was in its infancy then and only existed in the larger stores in town.  Everywhere else was cooled by large, often ornate, ceiling fans. Parents naturally worried about the effects of extremes of climate, foreign dirt and fauna on their offspring, but frankly it didn't bother me one bit. To me, the climate was perfect. There was a bad smell around the place, but this was later traced to a fruit bat that had managed to become stuck in a nearby drainpipe. Drainpipes are not normally accredited with the capacity to sustain chiropteran life; this one was no exception and proved it by failing to sustain said quality in this particular Pteropus Vampyrus. In other words the bat died and left a strong odour as its epitaph.

After a short stay in the hotel we moved into the top-floor flat of a two-storey apartment. It was spacious and comfortable and had a bamboo bar in the corner of the living room.  We had a good deal of open lawn in front and a muddy bank behind the out buildings and servants' quarters to the rear.  Beside the house was a chicken run and, beyond, the landlord's home. It was the kind of home and location that I would die for today.  The entire estate was separated from the nearest road by a thick belt of trees and undergrowth that harboured an abundance of wildlife; snakes, scorpions, hornets and spiders.  I had no distaste for any of these at the time and it was here that I experienced my first of many close encounters with snakes.

One morning I found a large Python in the chicken coop.  It had managed to crawl in through the widely spaced chicken wire and had consumed three unfortunate hens, evidenced by the triplet of large lumps in the now sated reptile.  Pythons are a member of the Boidae family who eat somewhat infrequently but, having dined, become very lethargic and like to crawl away somewhere quiet to get on with some serious digestion. However, in a frantic rush of no forethought whatsoever, this serpent had totally failed to realize that the spacing of the chicken wire was carefully designed to stop chickens passing through (that's why it's called chicken wire) and this principle holds true regardless of whether the fowl in question is free roaming or wearing a large snake.  The upshot of all this fascinating science was that the Python was unable to extricate itself from its feeding ground.  It was trapped and regarded, by the chickens' former owner, as a most unwelcome addition to the coop.  The snake's presence called for drastic action.

Helping the ex-chickens' irate owner beat the life from the snake was just the diversion for a six-year-old boy.  I remember being impressed by the Python's tenacious grasp of life; it certainly appeared to be a much better survivor than the chickens or, indeed, the bat I mentioned earlier.  I didn't dislike snakes; in fact I soon came to admire them deeply (especially Pythons), but a child's freedom from contrition or guilt made the extermination a sport not an atrocity - sorry.  It is true to say that no species of snake, including pythons, has ever made a living from hunting man, but this has never stopped man from seeking out the serpent - be it to make shoes, wallets, purses or belts, or just for recreation.  Success, after all, lies in achieving top place in the food chain.  I'm pleased to report that my ecological and moral credentials have changed somewhat since then. I love pythons too.

Our stay in the apartment was only temporary and presently we moved to a service married quarter in Adam's Drive, Singapore 11, near the centre of the island.  It was a wonderfully spacious residence standing in a garden brimming with exotic fruits such as bananas, coconuts and pineapples.  Our servants, Ruth and Ah Sing, moved with us from the apartment - more of them in a moment.  We had a veranda encased in luxurious tropical growth including a plant that bears a single, beautiful, white, highly-scented bloom only very rarely and only on the night of a full moon.  It awaits pollenation by one particular species of giant, lavishly decorated moth and the blossom languishes by morning.  This was paradise indeed!

I was old enough to appreciate this exotic life and I found the mix of races and cultures enthralling.  The Chinese seemed to be all business, talking Mandarin nineteen to the dozen, gesticulating, trading promissory notes and money; always busy.  The women were frequently to be seen working in their coolie hats, the men behind stalls of alien fruits or gaudy plastic toys.  The Malays were a quieter, seemingly less bubbly group.  They tended to live in kampongs and, so, kept more to themselves.  The Indians, with their musical Tamil vernacular, struck me as a handsome race; ladies with flowing silk saris, gentlemen often sporting outrageous moustaches and turbans.  The numerous languages fascinated me: English, Malay, Tamil, Portuguese and at least a dozen dialects of Chinese.  And then, of course, there were the 'westerners' who appeared in two distinct groups: those that belonged there, had accepted the local ways and integrated into the society, and those that were just passing through and looked rather out of place.

All these diverse cultures were thrown into a melting pot and seemed to coexist harmoniously.  This was an important education in my life; given what I'd seen in Singapore, I had every reason to believe that different cultures and religions simply lived side-by-side in complete accord.  The international flavour of the island allowed me to grow up with comparatively broad horizons. Academically, the British Army school ensured that this young English boy's education was not lacking.  The motto of Alexander Junior School was 'Manners maketh Man', how true!  If a child's mind is a blank canvass, these were the first and most lasting brush strokes to be painted on mine.

I became interested in subjects scientific, things to do with animals and natural history.  The Singapore City Aquarium and Museums were places of wonder and amazement to me - especially as there were many exhibits within that had been collected by the early European explorers of the region.  These interests also led to my proclivity to play with snakes (tame and wild) at every opportunity and, in time, my inclination to discover why little girls were different to little boys.  Snakes came in two flavours, those owned by snake charmers (Hully Gully Men) and the rest, owned by nobody and seemingly either feared or hated by everybody.  To me the only difference was that the former were easier to get hold of - the snakes, I mean, not the girls.  I am the subject of many a photograph sporting a snake of some description.  By the way, I still don't know how many varieties of girls there are.

We (the family) belonged to the Tanglin Club - a very exclusive (black ball) social club - with a wonderful pool that quickly became my second home.  Julia stayed at boarding school in England and would materialise in Singapore at holiday time looking unhealthily white.  Other fleeting memories include mother's early attempts to get me to nap in the early afternoon after school - this didn't work too well and she eventually gave up.  I would far rather be out in the midday heat, racing around and thoroughly over-heating; a mad dog or an Englishman?  More or less all the pictures taken of me at the time (including the ones with the snakes) show a boy with skin as brown as a berry and a face scarlet from overheating; I cared not.  Incidentally, school ran from 6 a.m. until lunchtime Monday to Saturday, which meant that every afternoon was available for snakes and adventures.

Dad was working at Phoenix Park, the Joint Service Headquarters in Singapore, dealing with contingency planning.  He travelled a lot up to Thailand and such places and Mum took every opportunity to visit other countries.  We were all terminally happy with life.

My sister Sandy met a young RAF Squadron Leader who was flying Pioneers in the jungle and heavily into Rally driving, both of which made him totally fascinating to me.  They were married in Singapore.  I was a pageboy at the wedding and totally failed to appreciate the fact that I had to hold hands with a very pretty girl of my own age throughout the ceremony.  In retrospect it was an experience that in later years would have been far more agreeable.  But you know what little boys are like; I hadn't learnt to appreciate all the finer things in life.  Isn't 20/20 hindsight a wonderful thing?

The Tiger Balm Gardens, Singapore
The Tiger Balm Gardens, Singapore


Other reminiscences that spring to mind are visits to the Botanical Gardens, the Amahs' Market, Change Alley, the Tiger Balm Gardens, the Raffle's Hotel, C. K. Tang department store and RAF Changi, which had a gaol and (even worse) a dentist. 

The Botanical Gardens may not seem like an intriguing hangout for a schoolboy until you consider the presence of a massive tribe of wild gibbons.  These animals are bad tempered, smelly, rather unattractive and frequently rabid.  They did, however, have one redeeming feature for a young lad; they didn't seem to live by any rules at all.  I would be bought my newspaper cone of peanuts to feed to them one by one; they would rush me and snatch the lot, they would copulate (or worse) in public and climb trees all day.  Make of that whatever you will, but suffice to say that they did hold a certain appeal for me - and, of course, they were all part of wonderful nature.

Singapore stamp
One of Singapore's beautiful stamps

Vox Clamantis in Deserto: Paul Courtnage, the AVRO Shackleton, Singapore and the assassination of J F Kennedy

Portuguese Man of War - Paul Courtnage in Singapore

Government Rest House, Segamat. Paul Courtnage in Singapore
Government Rest House at Segamat, on the way from Singapore to Pangkor


Our two servants were, as I mentioned, Ruth and Ah Sing.  Ruth, our amah, was a treasure.  She was a very well placed Chinese lady who taught English to the Chinese and Chinese to me.  She eventually left us to start her own business in town.  Ah Sing was our cook.  He gambled and got drunk every payday.  It transpired that he had been a very successful businessman who had lost his not inconsiderable fleet of merchant ships during the troubles in Indonesia.  The communists had confiscated the lot, leaving him with nothing but debts.  He was something of a rogue and I still rather like to think that he was really a pirate – actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he had been.  He was pursued home one night by a coterie of irascible, oriental brigands who appeared to desire to take something from him, apparently his money or perhaps simply his life.  On another occasion he returned to our home in a state of considerable intoxication.  He clearly had something urgent on his mind, but our foolish inability to comprehend whatever language he had temporarily adopted caused us to be powerless to discover what it was.  Unfortunately, this had the effect of angering Ah Sing to the extent that he felt obliged to attempt to press home his illusive point with a large, pestiferous meat cleaver.  Mother, bless her, stood her ground and demanded that he surrender his weapon and retire to bed.  Amazingly (not to mention fortunately), he obeyed.  I don't recall ever seeing him again.

Singapore was developing rapidly in the 60s; it was regarded as one of the economic 'tigers' of Asia and had one of the highest standards of living of any country in the region, much of this due to the firm hand and perception of the premier, Lee Kuan Yew.  Its prosperity, racial harmony and quality of life left me with many happy memories of the place and somewhat idealistic view of the World.

I remember attending Thaipusam - a Tamil festival where the faithful perform acts of public self-flagellation in order to cleanse the soul - penances known as kavadi. They begin by being placed in a trance by the holy man.  Metal hooks are put in their skin all over their bodies. From these are hung weighty objects such as limes or large cages of spears (although much of the weight of the cage is borne on the shoulders). Wearing these and other colourful decorations they form a twirling, colourful parade that traverses the streets accompanied by gongs and drums.  The procession ends in a temple and it was here that we (Mum, Dad and I) headed to watch the culmination. When we entered the temple it was already crowded but still more people entered. The crush was incredible. Furthermore, when the faithful in their cages of spears entered (swirling and dancing with spear tips pointing outward) the crowd (understandably) pressed back still further, largely to avoid personal injury. I learnt something of what it must be like to be in a garbage compactor. Another parents' nightmare?  Of course. They linked arms, face to face with me in the middle to try to keep the weight of the crush off me.  Needless to say they were far more concerned than I, but why should that surprise you? It was, however, a colourful and impressive occasion.

Chinese New Year eve (in February) is equally impressive. A million fireworks, bands, gongs and, of course, Dragons.  I was bought a large box of firecrackers one year, a great idea until one exploded in my hand. The burns were quite bad but, fortunately, the average Chinese firecracker is not a large explosive; it could have been much worse.  Consequently, I had, for a long time, a little understood aversion to fireworks, especially around children and animals.  Of course, I like fires, bangs, booms, whooshes and flashes, but I still tend not to go to Guy Fawkes nights.

I also learnt to respect the creatures of the sea - again, the hard way.  We would often visit a beach on the mainland of Malaya called Jason's Bay (now, in post-colonial times, Teluk Mahkota). The beach was remote and fringed with jungle alive with birdcalls, the screeches of monkeys and the buzz saw chorus of inestimable insects. The sea was rather murky there, due to churned-up sand, but I enjoyed snorkelling in it all the same. Like most small boys, there was rarely any point in attempting to engage my attention because I didn't have one - unless it suited me.  However, one afternoon at Jason's Bay, it was engaged by an object not unlike a plastic bag floating on the surface of the water. Curiosity got the better of me (of course) and I swam over to investigate. I was still several feet from it when a wave of extreme, sharp, disabling pain stabbed into me. I had discovered one of the less endearing qualities of the Portuguese-Man-o'-War.  When I was extracted from the water I looked as if I had been whipped. Long, burning weals covered most of my left side. The application of ice took several hours to relieve the pain.  Fortunately, the experience did not put me off the water. It did, however, teach me a greater respect for it and its inhabitants.  It also taught me the meaning of one of my (now) favourite adages - 'If you don't know what it is, don't mess with it!'

Briefly, I must mention a magnificent vacation we took on an island, called Pangkor, off the west coast of Malaya. We drove for what seemed like days north through Malaya. After Kuala Lumpur the only habitation was the occasional village or kampong. The two common features of them all seemed to be Coca-Cola machines (dispensing coke in sexy, shapely bottles, not brash red cans) and the smell of inefficient (or non-existent) sewage systems.  We lodged in luxurious government rest houses. These were the latter day colonial equivalent of the motel - except with style.

We met another Python too. This one really impressed me.  He was, ostensibly, crossing the road and, as we approached, had his head off one side of the road and the end of his tail not yet on the other; he was a big python.  Distressingly, the range at which we were able to identify him as a living beast was well inside the prescribed minimum stopping distance; especially in a heavy old Holden, an Australian car (probably derived from a tank) with brakes you wouldn't put on a push chair.  The upshot was that we ran straight over the poor creature.  Filled with remorse, not to mention a fair degree of surprise and a severe hammering to the car's suspension, we silently mourned the unfortunate creature.  But our melancholy was wasted.  Behind us in the road was a furious, but apparently unharmed python that hopefully resolved to look more carefully before setting coil on the black top.

Pangkor itself was wondrous.  Golden sand iced with foaming emerald sea and an all-enveloping heat.  The jungle had been cleared only where required to make way for the few buildings boasted by the island - today it is a major resort with a population of some 25,000 people!  The sea teamed with life: angelfish, rays, barracuda and sharks.  At night the sand at the surf line glowed with the light of phosphorescence and the hotel plied us with wonderful local seafood - it pays not to inflame such extravagant passions in one so young!  I acquired a passion for Oriental cuisine including all forms Chinese, Malay and Indian.

I was a 'sixer' in the Cub Scouts, I swam like a fish and I thoroughly enjoyed the fine, exotic cuisine served up to us at fabulous waterfront restaurants such as 'The Paradise'.  I was, as I believe I may have mentioned, utterly contented.

Paul Courtnage in Singapore


British Eagle Ticket
British Eagle ticket - Singapore to London

John F Kennedy - JFKJohn F Kennedy

John F Kennedy - JFKJohn F Kennedy


John F Kenedy: Assassination

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Before moving on to the next stage of my life, I have an early and vivid recollection of an event that quite caught my imagination and has led me to undertake a little research. Here are my deductions...

In November 1960 John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) defeated Richard Milhous Nixon by a very narrow margin to become (in 1961) the 35th president of the United States of America, succeeding Dwight David Eisenhower. At 12:30 on 22nd November 1963 he was shot dead in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was later arrested and charged with Kennedy’s assassination and, soon after, he too was murdered by one Jack Ruby, a former FBI agent. The official line was that Oswald, acting alone, had fired three shots from a window on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository, which was behind the presidential Limousine at the time of the assassination. This theory was upheld by the Warren Commission, set up to investigate the President’s murder. However, I do not believe this could have been the case. Too many things fail to add up and too many facts point to a different explanation; that JFK was assassinated as the result of a conspiracy involving some of the highest officials in the country. This case is highly complex and I am barely going to scratch the surface here to give you an idea of what went on.

First let’s examine some of the events that had taken place during JFK’s brief term in office that may offer some explanation for this incident. The USA had been waging a secret war against Fidel Castro, the communist leader in Cuba. This involved the CIA and a large number of angry Cuban exiles. On 17th April 1961, JFK refused to provide much-needed air cover for the abortive Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos) invasion. Approximately 1,300 US-trained Cuban exiles were landed at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s south coast intending to cross the island to Havana where they hoped to find support from the local population. It resulted in bloodshed (90 were killed and the rest imprisoned), enormous embarrassment and (understandably) caused a lot of bad feeling in the US military and the government. The Kennedy administration was blamed for not giving the operation adequate support and for allowing it to take place at all.

In October 1962, the Soviet Union attempted to install nuclear missiles on Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the USA. John F Kennedy threatened to use his own nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union if they continued with this action and, so, took the world to the brink of nuclear war. At the last minute, the Soviets backed down and the ships carrying the missiles turned back to the USSR. It was rumoured, in Washington DC, that JFK had made a secret deal with Khrushchev, not to invade Cuba in return for the Soviets’ decision not to install their nuclear missiles there. Many hard-line officials were outraged that Kennedy was soft on communism. This opinion was reinforced by JFK’s speech promoting peace with the Soviet Union and his refusal to commit to war in Vietnam. He also fired 3 key military figures and called for severe defence cuts. You could say that he wasn’t exactly making many friends around the Whitehouse or the Pentagon.

Kennedy’s lack of support for war in South East Asia warrants further examination. General Dynamics, manufacturer of the F-111, and Bell, manufacturer of Bell helicopters, as well as numerous other defence contractors, knew that they would lose millions of dollars if the US withdrew from Vietnam. The war there eventually cost the USA B$200, resulted in the loss of 5,000 helicopters (vast income for Bell) and involved the dropping of six and a half million tons of bombs (profits for the arms manufacturers). It is easy to see that powerful men did not like JFK’s direction. In short, he had made himself very unpopular with important and dangerous people; people who had control of the country’s military machine, the FBI and the CIA. These men stood to gain enormously from Kennedy’s removal and these agencies had the power to conceal the conspiracy.

It is also important to consider some of the evidence that came to light before and after the Warren Report was published. Actually, it’s also interesting to look at that which didn’t. To start with, Oswald claimed that he had been set up as a ‘patsy’ and that he had not shot the president. A nitrate test performed on him showed that he had not fired a gun that day; this evidence was not produced. Although witnesses testified that they had heard shots from the Book Depository, many also heard shots and saw smoke coming from the grassy knoll that was in front of and to the right of the President; this evidence was not produced. Clearly, this would indicate that more than one person were involved and so, by definition, the assassination must have been a conspiracy. In all, it would seem that 7 shots were fired in under 6 seconds, 3 of these were attributed to Oswald, two almost simultaneous. Police produced a manual, bolt-action rifle and 3 spent rounds from a room on the sixth floor of the Depository. Oswald would have been very hard pressed to fire 3 aimed shots in that time with such a weapon. Furthermore, his view from that window would have been obscured by a Texas Live Oak that was in full leaf at that time of year and ‘his’ rifle was found to have a defective sight; this evidence was never produced.

When witnesses stated that they had heard shots from the grassy knoll, they were told by the security personnel that they were mistaken and that they were not to mention it to anyone. Uniformed officers were seen behind the picket fence on the knoll, but the police denied having any men there. A gentleman named Abraham Zapruder took 486 frames of 8mm film, lasting 26 seconds, of the President throughout the shooting. His film clearly shows the fatal shot hitting the right side of JFK’s face and jerking his head back and to the left; witnesses saw the back of his head explode as the bullet exited his skull. A shot fired from the Book Depository (behind JFK) would not have done this. The fatal shot must, therefore, have come from the direction of the grassy knoll.

So, it seems unlikely that Oswald was the murderer, if he was even involved. Only people in high places would have had the power or the process to suppress such evidence. I have managed to obtain a copy of the Zapruder film, which I have converted to MP4 format for internet streaming.


This plays the Zapruder film twice, the first time using the original 8mm framing, the second time
includes the exposed film between the sprocket holes and displays the frame numbers.

The Reuters poster below should help to orientate you and explains the events.

John F Kennedy - JFK

John F Kennedy - JFKJFK's car after the shooting

Lee Harvey OswaldLee Harvey Oswald

The Zapruder film and other evidence shows that, of the 7 shots, the first came from the Depository and missed completely, the second hit the President in the throat (from in front), the third hit him in the back (from behind), the fourth hit the Secret Service Agent in front of JFK, the fifth missed and the sixth was the fatal shot from the grassy knoll that hit him in the head. Additionally, the second and third shots were almost simultaneous: Lee Oswald could not have fired them both. The police only produced a single bullet as evidence, claiming it to be the only one that entered the car. It would have to have produced seven wounds in two people and yet it was in pristine condition. Unlikely, I think. In order to make these wounds it would have had to twist and turn like an acrobatic mosquito - hence the nickname given to this single projectile hypothesis - ‘the magic bullet theory’.

It was normal practice for local military units to augment the President’s security personnel whenever he made public appearances such as this one. Curiously, the local Army Commander was instructed to stand his men down on this occasion. Furthermore, the bullet proof ‘bubble top’ was removed from the Limousine and the route changed at the last minute to include a sharp bend that caused the driver to slow the car to around 10 mph just before the shooting. Secret Service agents escorting the vehicle were stood down shortly before the car entered entering Dealey Plaza. All these things could only have been ordered by officials and all served to make the assassination and ensuing cover-up easier. What’s more, the famous picture taken that day of the Book Depository shows a number of open window; this is totally forbidden by Secret Service protection rules.

After the shooting, the President’s body was hurriedly and illegally removed to Andrews AFB where career military doctors (Humes and Boswell) with little or no experience in forensic pathology were chosen to carry out the autopsy. They were supervised by high-ranking military officers who stopped the pathologists from properly examining the wounds and who ordered all concerned not to discuss the case with anyone. For good measure, the autopsy notes were destroyed and the President’s brain, removed during the autopsy, went missing. There would have been a good deal of forensic evidence in the car but, unfortunately, President Linden Johnson, who took control after JFK’s death, ordered the presidential limo immediately washed and rebuilt. I’ll bet he was kicking himself when he realized that his haste to restore his company car had destroyed all that evidence!

Lee Harvey Oswald was a loner; some would say a misfit. He had joined the US Marines and was seconded to the intelligence services (the Office of Naval Intelligence). He was trained in Russian and worked on radar, closely associated with the U2 ‘spy plane’ project. He is known to have ‘defected’ to Russia where he was debriefed by the KGB and then lived in comfort as a citizen. Spookily, Gary Powers was later shot down in his U2 by a Soviet SAM and captured by the Russians. The U2 had previously been considered untouchable because of its operating altitude.

Later, Oswald appears to have changed his mind about living in the USSR and returned to the USA, apparently without any problems. He had been given a new passport, his citizenship restored and nobody seemed to be the least bit upset that someone with high security clearances had popped over the wall and discussed all manner of embarrassing gossip with the neighbours. How odd! Even odder was the fact that while he was established to be in the Soviet Union, somebody using his name had done some very bizarre, attention-attracting things including mentioning that he was going to murder the President, an extraordinary thing for a would-be assassin to do.

I think you will agree that all this doesn’t really add up to the theory of one man acting alone. If it was a conspiracy, and I think it was, it would have taken big men in high office to organize a cover-up on that scale.

You may well ask, ’Who did kill him?’ I suspect it was done by hired, foreign assassins, masterminded, financed and covered-up by highly placed officials in the U.S. Government, CIA, FBI and the major industries. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure, but it wasn’t Lee Oswald.

Paul Courtnage

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