SUNDAY 1 MARCH
Today I shall be venturing out to visit the Imperial War Museum and as Maria does not appreciate this element of history to the same degree, she has decided to have a leisurely day in the apartment. I’m out the door like Dick Turpin; through the gates that is Fort Knox, then following the pavement to Stratford Railway Station.
The ‘Tube’ is a wonderful conveyance, allowing passengers to reach every corner of greater London. However, changing lines can be rather arduous regardless the abundance of escalators, lifts and moving footways. The London tube system is a veritable rabbit warren, and a singular requirement of passengers is for them to possess a sound constitution. This would be prudent for the expected ‘over and under’ route necessary for commuters to take. After purchasing my rail ticket, I catch the next service on the Jubilee Line; a change at Waterloo Station for the Bakerloo Line and arrive at Lambeth North station. Then it’s just a brick kilometre walk to the Imperial War Museum.
The museum is a particularly impressive building, although it’s partly swathed in scaffolding and draft sheeting. It appears the structure is undergoing some cosmetic surgery. Nevertheless, visitors are greeted by the appearance of two fifteen inch naval guns from the HMS Roberts. As a matter of interest, (well, for me at least,) the HMS Roberts was one of the allied ships to lay suppressive fire onto the German installations located around Caen, France, during the D-Day landings.
So, it’s up the stairs, through the main doors and security, a swift purchase of IWM booklet and release into the main gallery. Admission into the museum is free, (which I found surprising,) and may account for the over-abundance of humanity within this shine?
Upon entering the main gallery I am brought to an immediate stop, as though I had walked into a wall! The gathering and milling throng of visitors, and ascending noise level, dissipate into utter silence as I came face to nose with a Vickers……Supermarine……SPITFIRE!
I came to my senses, only to cast my glance further upwards into the underside of a Sopwith….N1….CAMEL! This was not only a Sopwith Camel, but the version converted as a nightfighter for home defence duties. The type was used to intercept night flying German Gotha and Stachen bombers during World War 1. I almost peed myself – because, not only was there a Spit and a Camel but a Be2c; Folk Wolfe 190a; Me263; V1 and 2; P51! Gordon and John - eat your hearts out!!!
The museum is partitioned into specific exhibitions chronicling Great Britain’s involved in various conflicts. I must point out; the museum’s exhibits commemorate the human spirit without glorifying warfare. However, the exhibition outlining, and in surprising detail, the Holocaust is particularly chilling.
After spending several hours in the Museum, I made my way to Lambeth North and caught the train to Waterloo Station and then a brisk walk across Waterloo Bridge. I made my way from the bridge to Cleopatra’s Needle located on Victoria Embankment, River Thames. After taking a few pics, I was then off for a walk to the Strand; past Australia House an across Aldwych circuit to a small church called St Clements Danes. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and constructed in 1682, and which now functions as the church of the RAF. Outside the church are the statues of Lord Hugh Dowding and Arthur “Bomber” Harris. Dowding was the Commander of the RAF during the Battle of Britain and Harris who was the head of Bomber Command throughout World War 2.
After this short stay, I headed towards Piccadilly to seek (if possible) tickets for Maria and me to see either of the musicals: ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Chicago’ or ‘The Lion King’. Alas, all shows were booked out, and this appears to be the norm within London’s live theatre district. After lunching yesterday with Maria’s brother Michael, I attempted to purchase tickets for the live performance ‘Twelfth Night’ featuring Judy Dench, Derrick Jacobi and Jude Law. Regrettably, all performances had been sold out until its seasons end on 7th March! Mind you, we experienced the same disappointment when attempting to purchase tickets for the same play, during our first visit to London in December.
Albeit, I was off to Piccadilly Circus to change for the Jubilee Line, Stratford and Maria.