It's often the case that when something is right on your doorstep you never find (or make) time to visit it. Well, for me it was the Bomber Command Memorial at Hyde Park Corner. I'd been past on a bike once but couldn't stop, but today, as work was in a pre-Christmas dip I popped out at lunchtime and caught the Tube over. Possibly not the best day to visit as the weather was turning with drizzle in the air and the mild (almost tropical for London...) weather was abating as a westerly wind blew in.
I've seen it many times in pictures but it was a pleasure to see it up close. It's rather understated on the outside but I quite like that. It's a simple building but with an impressive centre piece of an aircrew about to go on ops. Each statue is well conceived and very poignant.
The statue sits on marble plinth inscribed with a quote from Pericles - "Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it."
I have recently been contacted by the grand-daughter of Richard Curle. Janine and her sister, Leslee, have sent me a number of photos and documents that have provided more information about Richard. There is the original telegram sent to Richard's wife, letters from the casualty branch regarding Richard's burial and family photos. I will be adding these to the website in due course. I wish to thank Janine for taking the time to contact me and send through these remarkable items.
There's not too much to be found regarding the experiences of crews whose target was the Gironde estuary, but I have come across the following in the book "Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber" by Leo McKinstry. Norman Ashton, a flight engineer with 103 Squadron recalled the following after his Lancaster dropped from 16,000 feet to a little under 2,000 to drop sea mines and the German defences opened up:
"The whole aircraft seemed to be wrapped in the flashes, like an ungainly Guy Fawkes perched awkwardly on a flickering bonfire. It was fantastic. I could hear, feel and smell the filthy stuff belting against the aircraft but nothing untoward happened."
As soon as the sea mines had been released, he opened the Lancaster's engines to gain altitude and head home. McKinstry's recollections clearly show the danger a Lancaster faced when gardening the Gironde.
As and when information is found I'll post to this blog.
|The last flight of Lancaster ED559|