Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November 22nd, 2008

England
Thursday, 745 PM
16 Nov. 1944

My Precious Wife,

I love you.  Are you well and happy tonight?  I hope and pray that you are.  Notice that I’m starting much earlier tonight?  Reason?  Guess.  Right, I got a whole bunch of heavenly letters from my sweetheart this afternoon and if I’m going to answer part of them and describe my London trip, it’s going to take quite some time.  The letters were numbers eleven, eighteen, nineteen, twenty and twenty-one, and the newsletter, which had me fooled because it was your handwriting but it wasn’t numbered and didn’t have the right box number on the top.  I also got two letters from mom, the first I’ve heard from that quarter.

Darling, I was so trilled and excited when I received all those letters from you after three or four days with none that I could hardly contain myself.  I was charging six-pence for people to touch my arm.  I ate my supper so fast that I got a slight but uncomfortable case of indigestion.  Any how, honey, it was glorious.

I had better begin putting on paper my impressions of Europe’s largest city before they slip away and are forgotten.  Please save this letter because it will be the only written record of what I have seen.

I was impressed greatly by the scene I saw as I approached the outskirts of the city.  I had heard of the damage done by these robot bombs but had hardly known what to expect.  Hundreds of buildings in these residential districts had been gutten and torn to shambles.  It started me thinking, of course, about the futile waste of life and property.  Enough for now on that.

I entered London through Waterloo Station, a huge, well-arranged station but of course nothing to compare with New York’s Pennsylvania or Grand Central stations.  From Waterloo, I proceeded, via underground, to Piccadilly Circus near which was Jermyn Street and the Jules Red Cross Club where I stayed.

At Jules, I was cordially welcomed and shown to my room.  Early in the afternoon, I had a ticket reserved for the The Duke of York Theatre, the play, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary.  It was delightful and provided my first real enjoyment in the United Kingdom.

The next day I went first to the officers’ quartermaster sales store where I purchased a battle jacket or short blouse, and another pair of pinks.

After depositing my purchases in my room I made my way to the old church headquarters at one forty-nine Nightingale Lane.  The building itself was under repair and of course is no longer used as headquarters.  Church is held there each Sunday still and there is a keeper there at all times to greet visitors, answer questions and give addresses of branches in the United Kingdom.  Fortunately there is a branch near here  that I should be able to attend from now on.

By using London’s buses and again the subway, I made my way back to Piccadilly hwere I had luncheon at the Criterion.  A good meal, served well but not large.

I had made arrangements to meet Lt. Gober, Lt. Watson, Let. Carlson and Lt. Alexander after lunch to make a tour of the city.  When the time came, our guide showed us to a huge Packard and we started off.  First, around Piccadilly Circus, then to Charles Dickens Old Curiosity Shop.  It stands still as pictured in the book though showing it’s age perhaps a little more.

From there a short distance to St. Paul’s Cathedral, our first stop.  St. Paul’s is second only in size to St. Peter’s, the world’s largest cathedral.  It’s very impressive and looks much more immense from the inside than from the outside.  In there is a spot about four feet in the diameter which is the exact centre of the City of London.  Directly under this spot is the grave of Lord Nelson, Britain’s famous sea Lord.

London itself is made up of about fifty-cities of which the City of London is one.  The City of London is one mile square and is presided over by about two hundred-forty aldermen or councilors with four or five other officers and Lord Mayor.  It has been established as precedent that the King of England must be granted permission by the Lord Mayor before he can enter the City of London.

The Lord Mayor is chosen each year by popular vote of the business men of the City.  He is paid a salary of twelve thousand pounds a year but in order to be elected,  he must show that he has at least thirty thousand pounds of his own to survive and entertain on for the year because as a rule, the salary of twelve thousand and that much more is spent the first week he is in office for entertainments.  It is said that the present Lord Mayor has spent over two-hundred thousand pounds this year for entertaining.

To get back to St. Paul’s, we saw where a two-thousand pound bomb had dropped but had not exploded and so removed.  Also where a five-hundred pound bomb had landed and exploded causing a great deal of damage to the Cathedral on one side.

In the basement or crypt, along with the monuments and burials of many famous men, was the funeral car of the Duke of Wellington made of guns captured in the wars he fought.  It weighs eighteen tons, was built in eighteen days and only used once.  On the front of it is the shield of the Knight of the Garter, the highest honor bestowed in the United Kingdom.  Inscribed on the shield in Latin is the phrase “Evil is He Who Evil Thinks.”  The history of that phrase is that at one time while the Duke and his partner, a princess, were at a ball, they were dancing and her garter fell off.  The Duke picked it up and made that statmeent.  Only twenty-seven people have held the honor of the Knight of the Garter.

The Cathedral itself took thirty-five years to construct, sixteen sevent-five to seventeen ten.  To from the ground to the top of the tower takes nearly a half hour of walking upstairs.

From St. Paul’s, we drove down King William St., which is similar to New York’s Wall Street, across London Bridge, viewed Lloyd’s of London, down the East Side warehouse district, across Tower Bridge, which is the draw bridge that runs parallel with Lond bridge across the Tahmes, to the Tower of London.  The Tower is a massive affair with a huge deep mote [sic] around it, was built in ten fifty-eight.  We was a cross section of one of the walls where it had been bombed and the walls are from four to eight feet thick.

Near there we saw the meagre remains of the oldest church in London, built in six hundred seventy-five, which had been destroyed in the blitz.

In our drive along the river we saw the ship The Discovery which was Captain Scotts arctic expedition ship; crossed Waterloo bridge, a new one, built since the start of the war; saw Cleopatra’s Needle, a monument brought over from Egypt.

From the river we entered a section called the Temple in which is located most of London’s better known law offices; then to White Hall, the government section; Number Ten Downing St., the prime minister’s residence, Scotland Yard; the wandering House of Parliament; and to Westminster Abbey.

While St. Paul’s is the burial place of mainly military and naval heroes, Westminster shelters the Royalty and the people of the fine arts.  In it near the front is England’s grave of the unknown soldier; farther on down the center is the epitaph of David Livingstone.  In the rear on one side is the Poet’s Corner and on the other, the Statesman’s Aisle [spelling?].  I have never seen more beautiful and silky fine sculpture than the one ofr Shakespeare in the Poet’s Corner.

The Abbey is sevon hundred years old and indeed shows it’s age.

We came out just in time to turn and listen to Big Ben strike four o’clock.  It was a sensation I shall never forget.  A smokey fog had just begun to move in and through the mist came this weird, breathtaking gong of the largest clock in the world.

Our drive then took us by St. James Park, Wellington Barracks in which the Palace Guard is quartered, Queen Victoria’s Memorial, and Buckingham Palace, the home of the Royal Family.  In this I was disappo8inted.  It isn’t nearly as impressive as it’s publicized.

St. James Palace was our next point.  It used to be the King’s palage before Buckingham was built.  From there through Pel Mel, the club district and abruptly to our hotel.

Forgive me darling, for the crude way I put this all down.  I had to write it while I still remembered.  I wrote down of the names of eahc of hte places as we hit there and had to trust my memory for the rest.  There may be some parts that do not conform with facts but I’ll have to either blame it on the guide or my faulty memory.  I hope it doesn’t prove too uninteresting to you.  Some day I shall try to rewrite it in better form.

I have been writing now two hours and forty-five minutes and haven’t yet begun to answer those prescious letters or make love to my darling.  I think I had better close this one and start another short one for tha tpurpose.  I love you sweetheart.

Dewain.

I really enjoyed typing up this letter.  I was having great fun finding links to the different reference points, and was surprised to the restaurant still there.  It would be an excellent adventure to recreate Grandpa’s tour of London.  I researched the play mentioned at the beginning, and it is by Vivian Tidmarsh, and was turned into a movie in the 50s, but there wasn’t much information beyond that.  I didn’t look for and include links for all of the sites mentioned, but they are out there.  Grandpa mentioned that he wrote his letter in about 2 hours, 45 minutes – I think I spent just under two hours typing and researching what he wrote about.

I will note that the link on the “pinks” is an eBay auction that will expire 11-23-2008, so I imagine that will disappear quickly.  I really wanted some idea of what he was talking about.  Here’s a picture from that auction:

WWII Pinks from eBay Auction

WWII Pinks from eBay Auction

I think I’ve enjoyed this letter most of all, because of the details and the places.  There are still wards meeting in that same meetinghouse in London on Nightingale.  I have been to a few of the places mentioned when we went to London in 1984 (or 1983).  If we had a working scanner, I might consider adding those photos (after I figure out what box they’re hiding in).  Still working on the scanner.  The new one has been uninstalled and will be dealt with when I have more time and patience.

Just so you have some idea, this one was a 16 page letter.  The last two have been 6 and 7 pages.  Enjoy your history.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »