Following the decision to change the programme for today, completely, it seems the gamble paid off as the weather was excellent and our programme very successful.
We were able to head in a different direction than the traffic heading into London to counter the Tube strike and made our way to Runnymede Air Forces Memorial. This Memorial has all the names of the Commonwealth air men and women who were lost during the War and who have no known grave. The panels inscribed with the names of the missing are in date order by year by country with 1944 having more names than any other year. This was the main year of the increased efforts of Bomber Command into Germany.
One reads statistics that mention casualties such as a figure of percentage and one says how bad that is etc, however, to see the names of the thousands lost there in front of you inscribed on the panels is a very confronting feeling. These are not statistics but men and women who gave all for their counties. We conducted a small Service with John Currie reading the Airmen's Psalm followed by Rob Foulds reading a Prayer. Bill Kemp then laid a posy of poppies at the base of a panel listing the Australians lost in 1944 and we followed by saying the Ode and taking a moment to reflect in our minute's silence. It was a fitting way to start our tour by paying our respects to those who were lost all those years ago.
Time was then spent viewing the names on many of the panels and realising the cost to the Commonwealth young men and women flyers. The Memorial is a magnificent structure located on a ridge above where the Magna Carta was signed over a thousand years ago, there is an aura of freedom permeating through that area?
Moving off the ridge we visited the location of that historic signing and the Knight with pride of place amongst the famous family shields on the panel detailing the Magna Carta history is William Marshall, the greatest Knight of all.
Following all that emotion and history we visited the Tea Shop for a well earned coffee or tea and then returned to our coach as Andy, our driver, gave us a tour of the local area and the surrounds of Windsor Castle, including much of the land within the walls, some of the 26 Gate Houses and the Queen's Entrance driveway which runs directly from the Castle to Ascot and this is the route the Queen takes, in the special horse drawn coach, as she heads to Ascot.
Andy's favourite village then received our visit, Datchet. Sited on the banks of the Thames, opposite the Windsor Palace grounds and very old indeed. The main hotel now converted into apartments was built in the 1400s and there are many similarly aged beautiful buildings located in the main street and beyond. There is also one of the oldest railway stations in the UK and still operating but preserved as it was when first built.
A good day and we headed back to our Heathrow Hotel and gathered in the Bomber Command Heathrow Officers Mess for that well deserved drink.
Tomorrow we leave for RAF Hendon and then on to Bedford for the next few nights.