Today began with a visit to the Australian War Memorial in Hyde Park. This is an amazing granite screen that contains the names of every town that Australian soldiers enlisted from. Super imposed upon the names are names of the battles that Australians fought in. The challenge is to find the towns that mean something to you or your soldiers. For the first time we had two commemorations in front of this memorial. Laurens soldier was born in McLaren Flat and died in Tobruk. These two names were conveniently on either side of the centre where Lauren did her commemoration. A very moving commemoration was followed by Tamika’s commemoration of her great, great uncle who returned to Australia, damaged but determined.
From here we made the short walk to the newly dedicated Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park, where Alysha commemorated Wilbur Chapman who was killed in Holland on his last mission before returning to Australia.
When commemorating Douglas Errol Bagshaw, I felt proud of his contribution to such a highly regarded chapter in Australia's history. As the end of my commemoration drew near, strong emotions of sadness welled up within me. When I spoke of his family, I began to imagine what it would have been like to be in their position. That is when the tears fell and my words became muffled.
There were four commemorations today; I found the story of Alysha's soldier esepcially emotional given that he was called up during his honeymoon. It reminded me that war didn't wait for you, it just took from you.
Then a walk to Buckingham Palace, just in time to see the end of the changing of the guard and up the Mall to Whitehall. Past Big Ben and across the Westminster Bridge to the London eye where we had lunch before getting back onto the bus to drive to Wandsworth Cemetery where Amy did her first commemoration.
Whilst reading my first commemoration of R. H. Richards gravesite today the significance of this trip really hit me. I am honoured to be commemorating these amazing men.
From here we went to the Imperial War Museum. Even though it is about to close for renovations and half of the exhibits were already removed, three hours here was not quite enough. The Holocaust Exhibition in particular grabbed the attention of everybody and took most of the time there.
One thing that I found while walking in the brisk London air through its picturesque winter parks in that morning is that none of it seemed real. Everyone got excited when we saw a squirrel, but it was like the buildings were either too big or too small. It wasn’t until we were walking along ‘The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk’, where at one point I looked over to my right, and there was Big Ben standing proud and tall over parkland. It was at this moment I realised that what seemed like a picture from a storybook was right in front of me; I really was over the other side of the world.
The Imperial War Museum was amazing. It was incredible to see artists perspectives of both wars, and also very interesting to learn about the origins of anti-Semitism in the Holocaust exhibition, as I had little knowledge about it.
Zac van den Brink
Reading about all the VC winners and evrything they did to be awarded this really was interesting and inspirational, Then going into the holocaust area wher I learnt a lot more about the subject which before I knew very little. One image that sticks out is that of a dozer pushing bodies away, seeing the faces of the dead is something that I will never forget.
Some new additions to our itinerary this year were very special. We always visit the Australian War memorial in Hyde Park but this year was the first time we did some commemorations there. Well done to both Lauren and Tamika for their sincerely delivered and well researched recounts of their soldiers’ stories. You set the bar high ladies with your work!!! The new Bomber Command memorial in Green Park is beautifully designed and to have Alysha do such a personal commemoration there was superb. A brisk walk down the Mall is always a treat and it was time to attack the Trafalgar Square Lion at the end. The kids made it just in time to sit where they are not meant to…astride the Lion…click ..click…got the shot!!! Well done Jurgsy, just before the rather plump little man in a very important uniform sternly told the kids to remove themselves immediately. Don’t you love a man in uniform!!! Following lunch our final commemoration for the day was at Wandsworth cemetery also a new experience so finding it was a bit of a challenge for ‘Sally sat nav’ until Mal saw a hearse. The word went out…. ‘Follow that car/hearse!’ Well done Richard….hilarious! This soldier commemorated by Amy was a Gallipoli boy who ended up in a UK hospital and ultimately here in London so far away from home, a poignant moment. The Commonwealth graves were not many in this massive local cemetery but luckily R.H Richards was buried close to the entrance. The feeling was quite surreal in a way to be there while an actual funeral was taking place.