We’re Off to See the War Rooms and The Changing of the Guard
August 28, 2022, London, England:
A full day for the Rickman Five: the Tube into downtown London deposited us near Buckingham Palace, a popular place at 11 a.m. that morning. We were there to witness the Changing of the Guard – we and several thousand other tourists. Again the “babble” of languages. I wonder if this is what the Tower of Babel was like – back in the day?
The Coldstream Guards passed in front of the milling crowd. I heard the Scottish bagpipers somewhere nearby, but never saw them. Both Amy and I had seen the ceremonial ritual before, so we had let the others get well ahead of us. When it was over, we made our way back to a convenient snack bar – I for coffee, she for tea. Then I texted Jim and the kids to meet us there.
Once we were all together, we took the path over to the Victoria Monument. There, we paid homage to the much loved and admired English queen from the 19th century. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was not in residence in the Palace. She was in Scotland. We paid her tribute in absentia. (Note: this was written before the Queen’s passing on Sept 8, 2022.)
From there, we set off for Trafalgar Square, the next stop on our walking tour of London. One thing we didn’t do was ride a red double-decker bus. Along the way, we caught views of Big Ben and of the London Eye, the famous Ferris wheel. My granddaughter Emy very much wanted to ride on it. She got her ride the next day. Gramma offered it as an early birthday present. SHE LOVED IT!!!
The top-off for the day was our visit to the Churchill War Rooms. This was the underground retreat where Prime Minister Winston Churchill met with his Cabinet, “ran the war,” and often slept during the Blitz – the Battle of Britain in the fall of 1940 – and throughout World War II.
The Churchill War Rooms were opened to the public in 1984. I paid my first visit there in 1998 and it left me with a vivid memory. I recall standing in front of one of the glass-enclosed exhibit rooms – possibly the cramped quarters where the wartime cabinet met. As I stood there in the narrow hallway, over a loudspeaker came the voice of Prime Minister Churchill speaking to the British people during the Blitz. I had heard recordings of Churchill’s voice before, but this was so real. I stood there imagining being a child in London back then and listening to his voice coming over the wireless with this message:
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
A few feet away stood an older woman. She was telling her grown children about hearing Mr. Churchill’s voice on the wireless in her London home during the Blitz. Fascinated, I listened intently while trying to appear to be wrapped up in the scene in front of me. I wanted to talk with her, but was concerned about intruding on her privacy and her desire to tell her family about the experience. I have NEVER forgotten that chance encounter. It brought the war – that I was so very far removed from in my childhood in distant America – so much closer.
THE BLITZ: RAF Pilots Fought the German Luftwaffe Over London
Recently, I spoke with a French-born woman – married to an American and living in the same retirement community in which I now live. She’s my age and told me that what she remembers so vividly from the war was the sound of the German boots as they marched by on the streets of Paris.
I wanted my children and grandchildren to experience the War Rooms, so I treated the five of us to a visit to the underground facility and museum. Well spent, I must say. They all enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. Tie that day in with our experience in Normandy a week earlier, and my “kids” received a WWII lesson I don’t believe any of them will ever forget.
My daughter-in-law had been to Normandy – she took her grandfather, who had served in the war in Europe – to see it. She was the prime mover in getting me there because she knew how badly I, too, wanted to visit Normandy.
My Goal – After Seeing Pearl Harbor – Was to See Normandy
A work-related trip in January 1998 had taken me to Hawaii. I’ve never forgotten the day that I stood on the platform above the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. I was staring down at the beginning of World War II for America. That day I decided that I wanted very badly to visit and see Normandy. Now that I had seen where it all began for us, I wanted to see where the beginning of the end took place.
Now, I have done it.
Stay tuned: there’s more about the Rickman’s trip to come!!!