The Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge deserves a visit

We made our way to the Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge last week, with friends from Camberley and District Probus Club.

I’m sure many of you will know about this, once secret, bunker, which housed RAF Fighter Command’s No.11 Group Operations Room throughout the Second World War. How many, though have visited it? Not many I suspect.

The London Borough of Hillingdon Council invested some £5-6 million on renovating the Battle of Britain Bunker, and creating a visitor centre. The complex opended to visitors in 2018.

It’s a museum to be proud of. Not only is the visitor center of laudable quality, the exhibition and museum exhibits present the story of the RAF Fighter Command, radar, and the Dowding system are as good.

The highlight is the visit to the Operations Rooms in the bunker. The website says,

The Operations Room was where most of the RAF’s side of the Battle of Britain was co-ordinated. Key decisions that would decide the fate of the nation were taken in the bunker throughout 1940 and it was thanks to the tireless work of the plotters and controllers that the RAF’s fighter pilots managed to keep the Luftwaffe at bay.

The Operations Room, in reality, a series of rooms on two levels some 60 feet (18 metres) underground, is reached via 76 steps. The plotting room with its large map table, squadron display boards, balloon and weather states, is exactly how it was when Winston Churchill visited on 15 September 1940.

The star of the visit is the story told by a guide of the Battle of Britain, and how the Command Center worked. Unquestionably, this is a great place to visit. Not too easy to find, but a good cafe provides refreshements on arrival. Here are my photos of our visit.

Upcoming Surrey Heath Museum events in November and December

Surrey Heath Museum, among other events in Camberley Theatre, is hosting activities remembering the First World War, see details below and on the Museum poster – click to expand.

  • Thursday 8th November – talk on the Battles of the First World War by Stuart Mitchel, Senior Lecturer in War Studies, RMA Sandhurst, at the museum (33 Obelisk Way, The Square, Camberley) at 7.30pm – Only £2.50  Booking advised (01276 23771)
  • Saturday 24th November and Tuesday 27th November (10.30 to 12.30)- ‘The Highwayman’  story and craft activity (part of National Novel Writing month)
  • Saturday 15th December and Tuesday 18th December (10.30 to 12.30) – Christmas Crafts ‘The Search for Rudolph’s Footprints’
  • Friday 21st December (10.30 to 4.30) – Make Christmas crafts and discover Christmas celebrations from 100 years ago.
  • 2019 Calendar – Now available to purchase at the Museum and Gallery for only £6.  This years amazing calendar is based on the work of George Edward Cox (1878-1946); Camberley cartoonist.

Is it better to be there or watch an outdoor event on TV?

That’s a question I imagine lots of people ask. The answer depends on many factors, notably the weather. Promised good weather removes the biggest drawback for not attending a major outdoor event in person.

Other factors for attending are, possibly, having a bit of an adventure, not having experienced big events before, accepting the hype about the event and suspending normal British caution that it’ll all be a bit rubbish.

Where’s all this leading? Well, yesterday I was in the crowd of people in The Mall, near Buckingham Palace to watch the RAF100 Flypast. The Metropolitan Police estimate the size of the crowd in the Mall at around 70,000, as the BBC report, an underestimate in my opinion.

Did I manage to find a good viewing spot? Yes and No. Good that I was in front of a barrier and had no obstruction in front of me. Not so good was that I was to the side near trees, such that when the aircraft in RAF100 Flypast flew over, I didn’t get much of a view of their arrival. One moment they were to my left, and the next moment they were past.

Was it worth being there? On balance, Yes, in the sense that I witnessed the event, rather than vicariously through TV. Here are a few photos, and my short video of the event. It’s not one of my better attempts a videoing an event. It’s the best I could do in constrained circumstances.

A photo montage of the RLC Open Day

For readers who like to see pictures of military vehicles and soldiers, well, this is a mega-photo montage taken at the Royal Logistic Corps Open Day on Saturday 7th July.

When I say mega-montage, I mean it’s many more photos than I normally post. In fact, it’s 21 photos.

We enjoyed a Gurkha Curry, which was good value at just £4 per plate., and later on our visits to other attractions we stopped more than once for an ice-cool Pimms.

Tank transporters, a Sentinel, Mighty Antar, and an Oshkosh

The Royal Logistic Corps Open Day last Saturday afforded me the pleasure of talking to the military, something from which I derive knowledge and pleasure.

There were support vehicles a plenty for the visitor to look at, and their drivers to talk to.  One of whom I enquired about his knowledge of the Thorneycroft Mighty Antar tank transporter, answer in return ‘never heard of it’.

Ah well, that makes me feel old. Thorneycroft were a British truck maker, absorbed into Leyland, hence its demise. The Mighty Antar served as the British Army’s tank transporter for four decades after World War II, replaced by Scammell Commander in the 1980’s.

My best story about tank transporters is when I was about six or seven and on my way to junior school. The road to school had a short, though steepish hill. One day I crossed the road and saw a tank transporter creeping up the hill. It was moving at walking pace. So I walked with it until it gained speed on level ground. The lorry was a steam lorry, which dropped cinders on the road. Steam emanated from various parts of the lorry. Even then seeing a working steam lorry was an unusual sight, which I think it was a Sentinel steam lorry. A fond memory.

From 2001 the British Army’s heavy equipment transporter has been the Oshkosh M1070F, and the photo below is of one of them.

Gaining a perspective on UK defence matters

Writing about achieving the 1 million page views I bemoaned the demise of some long term blogs.

I was particularly thinking of the Think Defence blog, in which the author said,

After a decade, am calling time on Think Defence and shutting up shop. Think Defence has always been a one man band and that man has other things like work, grandkids and lots of other projects to absorb his time, my time.

I like to read a smattering of opinions on defence, and matters military. What choices have I to replace this website? Timely, the UK Defence Journal has listed a wide arrange of alternatives, which I’ll be working through to make my selection.

While not urgent, the choice is important as the UK Defence Journal recently had over a month of not updating its website – though it’s Facebook site was updated. My preference is always for a website over Facebook.

Meanwhile, here are some websites listed by the UK Defence Journal,

Lots more to choose from, and many contain terrific photos.

Video of the Freedom Parade for the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment

In my previous article about our attending the Freedom Parade in Guildford for the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment [PWRR] I said I’d post a short video of the event.

Job done, here it is, see below.

The 2nd Battalion PWRR marched up Guildford High Street, coming to attention opposite Holy Trinity Church. A procession of dignitaries preceded them to assemble outside Church. The 2nd Battalion PWRR were welcomed by the Mayor of Guildford, and Colonel Patrick Crowley, PWRR replied to the Mayor’s welcome address. This was followed by a review of the troops by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Mr Michael More Molyneux, and the Mayor of Guildford.

A huge pleasure for us to witness the ceremony, and admire the precision of the soldiers, it was an Armed Forces Day to remember.