The Bomber Command 2013 Tour is now under way and we have gathered at the Novotel Heathrow Hotel following, for many a very long flight from Australia. We are from most States and have come together to visit those areas in the UK from where the Australian Bomber Command aviators headed out to bomb Germany during the War. For many on tour, this will be a chance to pay their respects at the last exit location from where family had left and never to return.
Our first day after arriving allowed free time to head down into London to take in some of the sites and atmosphere of this historical city. After dinner in our hotel we prepared for that special day that was to follow when we would visit the RAF and RAAF St Clements Danes Church and to conduct a small service in the crypt beneath this Church that was rebuilt following complete destruction in the War.
Day 2 we left the hotel early so as to beat the traffic and to ensure that we arrived at the Church around 1000. We did that as the traffic was not as heavy as first thought and Heike, our driver from Redwings Coaches was able to deposit us just outside the Church.
We entered and conducted our service before moving into the main part of the church to view the Squadron Badges that are embedded in the floor of the main gallery. All badges associated with those on tour were found and photographed for their personal records. There are many artefacts within the church and silver dating back to the time after the great fire of London was noticed in one of the showcases.
Leaving the church we were picked up by Heike and transported through London to the site of the Bomber Command Memorial. After viewing this incredible piece of sculpture, Alan Berry read out to the group, plus another family from Western Australia, a poem written by his brother. The poem was an excellent rendition of the thoughts of an airman of the time, contemplating his own mortality. Many were moved and some faces were turned to recover.
It was then time to withdraw and make our way to the RAF Club for lunch and where we were to meet Wing Commander Tom O'Leary, Assistant Air Force Advisor at the Australian High Commission, who was our guest for the lunch.
The Club is the home of many magnificent paintings, Squadron Badges and a beautiful stained glass window depicting the pilot through the ages. The lunch was excellent and the presentation by Wing Commander O'Leary was very well received by all present. It is very gratifying to know the way Air Force is responding to the changing world situation and our speaker covered many points that left us enthusiastic about the way ahead.
Following that lunch we were again met by Heike and started back to our hotel. As we were passing by Harrods, it seems that the urgency to spend some money was too great for both for Jim Kelso and Alan Berry and therefore to accommodate their needs Heike stopped the coach and allowed them to alight.
We all had a very moving and rewarding day as we prepared for our final dinner in this hotel as tomorrow we head to Bedford.