Please note that the dates for these tours may vary from the guide below. No tours will be offered until international borders are open.
We woke early as it was bright from around 0400, hard to take with the light so early here. Still warm but not the heat of last week, good!
This was our first day on the road and Michael arrived with our coach at 0800, he had been up since 0500 as he was doing an additional job for the company before coming to meet us. We boarded the coach and headed out to Runnymeade which was our first programmed stop. Arriving at Runnymeade. As per normal on this tour, Graham reads from a book that details by date what the Australian pilots were doing during the Battle of Britain. Each day the details of the following date will be read. Today we started on the 5th July 1940 and it detailed a few of our Australians who had taken short Service Commissions and were flying with RAF Squadrons. In these early moments of the Battle of Britain our casualties were quite high.
Shortly after we arrived at the open large paddock on the bank of the Thames River where in 1215 where King John was basically forced to sign the famous Magna Carta which was to give quality to all under the Law. The Barons enforced this as a means of curtailing the absolute power of the King. There is a group of 12 chairs supposedly on the exact spot of the signing so we sat there for a moment and contemplated where Democracy has travelled since that signing. It was a lovely location with the green grass and magnificent Oak Trees planted on the hillside adjacent to the paddock. Some of the Oak Trees were over 100 years old but there were some recent plantings, John Kennedy in the early 1960s and the Queen in 1987. The American Legal fraternity had erected a Memorial cupola on the hillside and we visited that before heading back to our coach to make our way the Airforce Memorial on the hill above Rummymeade. This Memorial is dedicated to all those Airmen of the Commonwealth who have an unknown grave.
We were on a mission to find the name of Flying Officer William Moran, who with the rest of the crew of Lancaster 3486 was lost en-route to Germany. We found his name inscribed on Panel 256 and there we conducted a small Commemorative Service with Bob saying a prayer, then we recited the Ode, Marlene laid a Poppy followed by the Last Post a minutes silence and Reveille. The Airmen's Psalm was then recited by Allan, a most moving moment for all.
Leaving Runnymede we made our way to Brooklands Museum. Located on the original racing track with its sloped corners and where the famous Wellington bomber was built prior to and during the war. The Wellington was built with a patchwork frame covered by canvas stitched together in small patches. This made the Wellington strong but light and allowed it to take much punishment before being brought down by enemy fire. There was much to see at Brooklands including the famous Vimy Bomber that had been flown across the world from England to Australia. There is also a London bus museum co-located which displays the history of the London transport. This was really worth the visit.
Heading further west we visited Middle Wallop Army Flying Museum which depicts the Army Flying history that included the many glider based operations that Army had been involved with including the Normandy landings. A great day and so we headed home to our hotel in Salisbury for tomorrow we visit Yeovilton RNAS Museum.