Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Heart of London . . .

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As you were studiously avoiding watching the royal wedding (wedding ? what wedding ?) last Friday, you may or may not have noticed the flight of three World War II era aircraft over Buckingham palace, in memory of the Battle of Britain.  I couldn't help but recall that while in London just a few weeks back there in February, I had come across a memorial monument to the Battle of Britain right in the heart of London, along the River Thames, near Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament. There's lots more information and many more photos of the monument here. Also, in passing, an old, old friend from way back in grade school days just got in touch with me after years and years via that most efficient grapevine which is known as Facebook. He mentioned by e-mail after that first contact just the other day that he was interested in Royal Air Force and World War Two history . . . so Matthew, this one's for you ! I cannot imagine what a horror it must have been to have bombs raining down from above.
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29 comments:

the fly in the web said...

My mother can tell you what it was like...she was in the Army, making radios for use by the resistance in France in a glass roofed building while doodlebugs were dropping around her!
Not to speak of travelling through London in the blitz earlier in the war with people stampeding for trains and getting trampled underfoot...

But on a lighter note, her father was sacked as an Air Raid Warden early in the war for creeping up on two women gossiping over the fence and whirling his gas alert rattle, bawling
'Gas! Gas!'

Lena said...

I knew I should have woken up at 3 am to watch the wedding (what wedding??)... I missed the plane!!
Great monument... And cool shots!!
Warmest hugs!!
XXX

mythopolis said...

These are amazing shots of some wonderful sculptural or bas relief bows to the heroicism of many in those dark days.

mythopolis said...

The link you provided was really cool in that it was an introduction for me to the artist, Paul Day. One of my first impression of the works you photographed had to do with my childhood memories of reading WWII combat comic books.

Stickup Artist said...

What an amazing monument. Usually war monuments are either pretty cold or almost celebratory. This goes more to the truth of it. The terror and emotions displayed upon the faces is remarkable. You did a wonderful job in your photos communicating what the sculptor had to display; artistry, craftsmanship, talent, ferocity.

Mr. Charleston said...

Wow! Incredible. Thanks.

Steve said...

Have to say the wedding didn't do a lot for me but the fly over with the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire fair set the hairs on the back of my neck standing.

Laurie said...

Great photographs of a great memorial, Owen. Two Manton's flew in the Battle. One was shot down and killed, the other survived.

My mother was forced to make camouflage nets for the Army. Different coloured strips were sewn on netting to a pattern that would fool the enemy. She was sacked for complaining that the other civilian women were not following the pattern, leaving our troops at risk!

My father who had served for years on the North West Frontier in India and took part in the rescue operations for the 1935 Quetta earthquake, spent much of the war attached to the Longmoor Military Railway. In 1943, when the Army needed soldiers who had experience of serving with the Indian Army, he was sent to Burma. He was a sergeant and all his new units sergeants were waiting for him at the station. He was asked for his Army number and was then booed! Evidently, the Regimental Sergeant Major had been killed and my father's seniority meant he was immediately appointed RSM.

That aside, he was at the Battle of Surabaya in Java with 23 Indian Division. Look up Battle of Surabaya on wikipedia and you will be surprised at the scale of this postwar campaign. It was a very close-run thing for his division. 6,000 strong and sent in to rescue European internees, it found itself the target of a Holy War decreed by the Indonesian Muslim organisations. Terrible house to house street-fighting took place as the Indian soldiers (and my Dad) held out again 20,000 regular Indonesian troops supported by a mob of up to 140,000 muslims.

The Sagittarian said...

Fabulous sculpting, beautifully captured by your brotherly lense! Well done, and good use made of the wedding!!

Pastelle said...

Ces sculptures sont fantastiques. Vivantes et émouvantes. De l'art à l'état pur.

...louciao... said...

An extraordinary and sensitive work of art, beautifully executed, in commemoration of an horrific episode in history. Your photos have perfectly captured the bas relief work and allowed the viewer to experience its emotional impact.

Lovely that you've connected with an old school chum that you are happy to have found. I figure that everyone I want to keep in touch with is in my life and therefore stay clear of Facebook.

Marginalia said...

Very comic book like. Reminds me of the Dan Dare illustrations in the Eagle.

I assume they're not by one artist, too many different styles.

The relief of the two airmen, I take it, are of Germans since they look extremely nasty!

No reflection on our simian relatives, but don't you think they look a bit like the apes out of "Planet of the Apes"?

Clytie said...

The horrors of the atrocities of war are shown so vividly here ... I can't even imagine the terror felt by anyone in the path of such destruction.

My dad finally opened up just 2 days ago about some of the tortures he went through as a WWII POW in Nazi Germany. He wakes up in the night crying out "the phantoms are walking", and tells of hallucinations and dreams about those times. I didn't even know until now that the reason he limps is because of the scars from boiling water being poured on his feet.

No wonder this post has me in tears.

mythopolis said...

Clytie: Your comment was quite moving. My father in law returned from WWII similarly psychically damaged, and I have friends who survived Vietnam, but have never been the same. I was awakened by one who was standing on his bed frantically waving his arms and trying to call down a Medevac copter.....

Margaret Pangert said...

Your photos did much more justice to these sculptures than the official website~ Amazing the emotion the scultor was able to evoke--incredibly, painfully human.

Nadege said...

Wonderful monument!(I just read this morning that the last veteran of "World War I" just died. I hope all those brave souls are in a special, well deserved place... in our hearts anyway).

clo said...

Magnifiques ces photos Owen...ces sculptures aussi...vivantes , emouvantes..tristes aussi de part ce qu'elles évoquent ..mais c'est ça aussi la vie...
kisses dearest..:o)

Nevine said...

Here... I am most taken by the fingers covering an expression of horror... by the names listed so clinically... and by the eyes... which... though they are not living... speak volumes of stories!

Hoping all is springy with you, Owen!

Nevine

Catherine said...

these close ups of the monument are so evocative - will have to check it out when I am there in July...

Catherine said...

these close ups of the monument are so evocative - will have to check it out when I am there in July...

Virginia said...

You , mon ami, are the master of the details. I should have dedicated my post today to YOU! If I find a way to return to my Paris, we will most definitely have another walk about! :)
V

jeff said...

C'est vraiment superbe mon cher Owen ! Tu donnes un sacré coup de zoom sur ces magnifiques bronzes, sculptures... ? Comme quoi, il reste toujours un souvenir gravé quelque part... même dans ce qui n'a pas d'âme et de vie !...

Amitiés mon ami du nord...:)

Jessie said...

Do you know what? I'm British and I wasn't at all interested in watching the wedding. Byt when I got up that morning I found 2 of my (grown up) sons sat rivetted to the TV! Well I joined them and to my surprise got hooked too! I'm not a patriotic type and not many brits are that i know of but that day made me proud in many respects. :) Great photos Owen!

James said...

Owen you are so gifted at bringing monuments,graves,ruins, etc alive. Another excellent post!

K'line Bloom said...

Des images de terreur parfaitement retranscrites. Difficile à regarder...
Bises

Owen said...

Warm thanks to each and all, especially for your personal memories and stories. It is very hard for me to imagine that WWII ended just 15 years before I was born, and then trying to tie all that in with where we've come or gone in the last 50 some years. And we still do not seem any closer to world peace than we were then, as all those millions of people were being slaughtered in the most brutal ways. Peace to you all.

Merci et grandes bises à tous et à toutes, merci pour votre passage ici, et votre présence, vos voix, vos mains, votre chaleur... car parfois la nuit est froide.

Lydia said...

I enjoyed the wedding, I must admit, and felt it was a special nod to history to fly those old planes over "the kiss." This post with your wonderful photography of the exhibit of the Battle of Britain adds to my understanding of the time. These are really remarkable.

Dee Newman said...

Owen, great shots of a memorial that reminds us of what we have endured to become who we are.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I don't care for most modern sculptures but I have to agree with you that this one is both exceptional and very moving.