4 July 2019 ... Well the 11th Bomber Command Tour is now on its way. Those 11 years have been something special and many with me over the years have had some very moving and memorable times, not the least when we visited the Cambridge Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery to conduct a small service for one of our group when we visited his brother's grave. He remembers his 19 year old brother joining the RAAF and heading off but did not realise then that he would never see his big brother again. The big brother was 19 years old, never had a car driving licence but yet was the Pilot and Captain of a Lancaster Bomber flying out each evening on missions to Europe. He survived 12 or so missions before being killed in an accident while training in his plane.
Many others with me only had a name to find on the wall at Runnymeade Air Force Memorial for those who have an unknown grave, but we still conducted a small Service and laid a Poppy near where the name of their loved one appeared. With our attendance and conducting those small Services, we ensure that those lost will never be forgotten. We visit Runnymeade tomorrow.
There have been many other areas where we have conducted Services, but also we have visited many many airfields, current or now closed, where family of those on tour had left in their planes on their missions and many had survived and returned home back to family. Those visits are a different pilgrimage and we have a couple such visits again this year.
London. You arrive after around 24 hours of travel and make your way to your accommodation before then stepping out into this lovely vibrant city. You can visit many attractions and there are many to visit but, why not try to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere and normal activity away from the main tourist areas. Let us start near Marble Arch. We see the London Red Buses jockeying for positions at the head of Bond Street and the people shopping in that street, one of the main shopping areas in London. But, move away one block and you find another world, full of history as much as the tourist areas. You see a nice building that seems to have many windows bricked up, this was the infamous Window Tax. First imposed in England in 1696, the Window Tax was repealed in 1851 after campaigners argued that it was a 'tax on health', and a 'tax on light and air', as well as being an unequal tax with the greatest burden on the middle and lower classes. Due to a strong campaign against it, the Tax was repealed, in 1851 ... 156 years later, so much for health.
Beautiful restored old buildings, famous lanes, small little local pubs with their flower baskets and then you come across an acre of green park festooned with huge old trees. There are many such areas around London but are actually private gardens for the owners or tenants of the buildings surrounding the square where the park is located. Stroll a few hundred metres and you find Bond Street with its Cabs and Buses. Turn right and you enter Soho Square but this time it is Public space. Charles the 2nd stands there in front of a small 17th Century pavilion guarding the entrance. A great area for working Londoners to have lunch.
Not far through a maze of small lanes where there are many cafes, pubs, theatres and playhouse until one arrives at Covent Garden with its special Market. This is one of the oldest markets in London and there is much to see, or buy, from bow ties to gold jewellery or to normal souvenirs.
Much to see in London but as the Tour starts early in the morning "home" called.
We enjoyed a pre-dinner drink together in the garden of the hotel before entering the restaurant for a wonderful dinner that has bonded us together as we start our journey.