21st April 2016 – 90 not out, but let’s remember . . .

Look-up-to-the-skiesThere might be a few corners of the world where a certain birthday is going unnoticed, but that wouldn’t be Britain. Apparently, it’s a good news story and folk like a good news story. This morning I heard a radio clip of the Queen when she was very young speaking of the time when, incognito, she and Princess Margaret had joined the celebrating crowds on the Mall during VE Day, May 1945. She would have been 19 years old and it reminded me of a notice I’d recently read when visiting the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, London.

More than 125,000 men flew in Bomber Command and all were volunteers. Of this number, nearly half lost their lives (55,573). Most who flew were very young, the great majority still in their late teens.

RAF-motto
The RAF Badge inscribed on Portland stone of the Bomber Command Memorial. The badge has been used since 1918 with the RAF motto ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’ – ‘Through Adversity To The Stars’.

It has taken 70 years for this memorial to be erected and it was unveiled by the Queen on 28th June 2012. The memorial was designed by the architect Liam O’Connor and is made of Portland stone and echoes the nearby 19th-century Ionic Screen gate by Decimus Burton at the entrance to Hyde Park.

Bomber Command Memorial
Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London

Within the central part of the design, raised on a plinth, stands a bronze sculpture of seven statues. These statues represent the aircrew of a World War Two bomber and were created by the sculptor Philip Jackson.

Bomber Command Memorial
Bomber Command Memorial inside the open Portland stone structure stands the bronze statues. Philip Jackson, bronze, 2012
Bronze-seven
From the left navigator, flight engineer, mid-upper gunner, pilot, bomb aimer, rear gunner and wireless operator.

There is a dedication inscription on an internal wall:

This Memorial is dedicated to the 55,573 airmen from the United Kingdom, British Commonwealth and Allied nations who served in RAF Bomber Command and lost their lives over the course of the Second World War.

Aircrew-from-left

But also inscribed on one of the other walls is a message of reconciliation:

This Memorial also commemorates those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of the 1939-1945.

My Great Uncle Rich was a Pilot Officer who flew Lancasters in 57 Squadron. It was incredible that he survived the war.

RAF-citations

I remember him as a quiet, gentle man who perhaps never recovered from his 80+ active flights. He did receive the Distinguish Flying Cross, but I never heard that he talked about his war experience. And, there are no stories if he joined the celebrating crowds in the Mall on 8th May 1945.

Bronze-Bomber-boots copy

 

 

 

Renovating your way out of a recession

Builders in Oxford Street, London.
Builders in Oxford Street, London.

I am sure that there are new building projects being commenced all over the UK, but I was struck by the amount of renovation, rebuilding and new builds I saw last weekend in Central London.

Of course, there is the amazing, ongoing massive underground engineering project Crossrail that comes to the surface every now and then and creates a major building site. Crossrail is a deep underground railway service due to open in 2018 allowing a traveller to cross from an area south-west of London to south Essex without coming up for air! A service more for commuters than tourists, but aimed to relieve Central London congestion.

Elizabeth breaks through at Liverpool Street in January 2015. Photo from Crossrail.
Elizabeth breaks through at Liverpool Street in January 2015. Photo from Crossrail.

But back on the streets many London landmark buildings are receiving a little tlc and maintenance.

neo classical pediment
Apsley House, Hyde Park Corner – ground floor a muddle of scaffolding, but the neoclassical pediment is still striking.

Even the prestigious and pristine Athenaeum on the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place has a protective structure over their statue of Athena. It is a gilded work by Edward Hodges Baily and I’m not sure if the cover is due to renovation work or whether it is the statues annual protection to keep the worst of the winter weather from the gilding/gold paintwork.

The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London. Pristine neoclassic building designed by Decimus Burton.
The Athenaeum Club, Pall Mall, London. Pristine neoclassic building designed by Decimus Burton.

And, down the other end of Pall Mall the building work has spilled out over the pavement and another building under plastic is detracting from the beautiful St James’s Palace.

Despite many buildings being smartened up even in Central London there are some prime position properties awaiting a visit from the renovation ‘angel’.

Part of 90-93 Piccadilly on the other side of the road from these splendid gates opening onto Green Park.
Part of 90-93 Piccadilly on the other side of the road from these splendid gates opening onto Green Park.

These houses, 90-93 Piccadilly are a grade II listed terrace that overlooks Green Park. It has an amazing view through a set of well-maintained ornate gates all the way down to the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

View across Green Park down to the Victoria Memorial. (Not sure how the glass office tower block behind got planning position!)
View across Green Park down to the Victoria Memorial. (Not sure how the glass office tower block behind got planning position!)