Forty four of us went up to London on a windy Wednesday afternoon to visit
the R.A.F. Club and the Bomber Command Memorial. Sitting near the
front, I admired Darren’s London-driving skills and he dropped us
right outside the R.A.F. Club in Piccadilly.
As we went in, it felt like a very superior Officers’ Mess (which it
is, I suppose) and, like the Tardis, it was much bigger inside than
it looked. The building had been given by Lord Cowdray soon after the
foundation of the Royal Air Force in 1918 and, after some
reconstruction, it was opened as the R.A.F. Club in 1922. What would
that gift be worth now, we wondered?

As we toured round, every wall was hung with wonderful paintings of
aircraft - except for one corridor which was lined with heraldic
badges of R.A.F squadrons and units, literally hundreds of them. At
the end of the corridor was a stained-glass window with pictures of a
Spitfire, a Lancaster and a Tornado. Beside this was a board
detailing all of the Club’s chairmen and we were suitably impressed
to find that it now has its first lady chairman, Air Vice-Marshal Sue
Gray. We visited the Cowdray Lounge, the dining room, the library -
all beautifully furnished and immaculate.

We then went over (actually under) the road to the Bomber Command
Memorial. Over 55,000 of the Command’s aircrew were killed in the
war, a staggering 44% death rate. It took a long time before this
sacrifice was fully recognised and the Memorial was only built in
2011. The centrepiece is a bronze sculpture, nine feet high, of the
seven members of a heavy bomber crew. It was very moving and one had
to contemplate the bravery of the men being sent off on a raid,
knowing what had happened on previous raids.

Then back to the R.A.F. Club. The booking form had promised us a
‘sumptuous tea’ and so it turned out - elegant sandwiches, scones
with lashings of jam and cream and plenty of cake and tea.

As we drove back to Marlow, the motorway signs said ‘Severe weather
forecast for tomorrow’, but we were happy, we had enjoyed today.

Thankyou Sue and Mieke