This was our last day in the Salisbury area, an area with so much history over and above that which was forged during those difficult days of the Second World War. Leaving Salisbury at 0900 we headed to Shaftsbury on our way to Yeovilton where we will visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
The trip to Shaftsbury was through beautiful countryside that was much waterlogged following excessive volumes of rain over the last couple of weeks. At two locations we were slowed to push through water over the road and many cars had to turn back as the water may have been too deep. A couple of cars were receiving attention by the English NRMA as they had stalled following their attempts to cross the water.
The route that we were on passed by the Fovant Badges. These badges were carved into the clay on the Salisbury Plain by soldiers who were training prior to leaving for France. Most badges are those of English units except the Australian Rising Sun badge. The rain had stopped and the sun was breaking through which was making the countryside look even better.
Shaftsbury is at the top of a huge hill and it was here that in 888 King Alfred built a monastery solely for women and he installed his sister as the first Abbess. Alfred the Great, as he is known, was great because he brought a divided England together for the first time and as a nation they faced a number of proposed invaders including the Danes. Alfred died here and was buried in the grounds of the monastery but hundreds of years later he was moved to a fitting place and his previous grave is open for viewing. Henry the 8th in his attack on the Catholic Church had the monastery dismantled. The foundation stones are all that remains.
This also is the day of the medieval fair when many are dressed in the clothes of old and there is much merriment, dancing, stalls and activities for all. We enjoyed time at the fair and Andrew and Aidan tried their hand at the stall where you pay to throw wooden balls to break plates and other china. They both did well and many plates have now finished the purpose for which they were made.
We continued through both the lovely countryside and the floods to arrive at The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. This museum is something special and must have cost a very lot indeed to set up as besides the various planes on display there is a mock up of an aircraft carrier flight deck that has you thinking you were in fact on an aircraft carrier and watching the planes come and go from the deck. Three hours was not nearly enough to see everything, but we tried. Following lunch at the Swordfish Café, we headed back to Salisbury for some free time for tomorrow we head back into London via Brooklands and Runnymede.
Colonel Graham Fleeton.