I’m not sure whether Christopher Robin went down with Alice because we didn’t actually go to the Palace. Our aim yesterday was a private visit to Wellington Barracks, just a couple of minutes away from the Palace, which was kindly arranged for us by Major David Sewell. Unfortunately for us the English weather put paid to our plans. According to the newspaper headlines there was going to be a month’s rainfall in one day – since it poured down the entire day I can well believe it! However, we didn’t allow that to dampen our spirits.
Plans were changed because it was too wet for the new guard to be led to the palace by a marching band. Instead we were treated to the Band of the Grenadier Guards playing an impromptu mini concert for us – under cover! When the first strains of Jerusalem started I think we all felt goosebumps and I don’t think a single person was left unmoved. They finished by playing the Regimental Quick March The British Grenadiers. This was an amazing experience which I doubt will be forgotten.
From there we were taken to the Coldstream Guards stores where LSgt Duckworth showed us some wonderful uniforms, swords etc and some of us even had the dubious honour of trying on some of the tunics, great coats etc. My goodness, those great coats weigh a ton!! I shall have the greatest respect next time I see a soldier marching whilst wearing this particular piece of uniform.
Our next port of call was the Guards Museum which was an interesting experience. With my nursing background I was particularly interested to see the candle holder which Florence Nightingale carried around the wards of Scutari hospital and also the small cup which she used to give dying soldiers whiskey, or other spirits, to ease their passing.
We then were led to the Guards Chapel. Adjacent to the chapel is the Flanders Field Memorial Garden, dedicated to those who lost their lives in WW1. The soil in the garden was collected by children from the war cemeteries and battlefields in Flanders. Those of us who visited James Butler’s studio a couple of months ago were also excited to see the statue of Earl Alexander of Tunis having seen the small “prototype”.
Following our picnic lunch in the conference room of the Scots Guards the rest of the day was free to follow our own itinerary, although sixteen of us went to Westminster Abbey for a blue guide tour. Having only seen inside the Abbey on television it was wonderful to see this beautiful building “in the flesh” as it were. Others visited Covent Garden and went to see Buckingham Palace. It was certainly a first for me standing outside in the pouring rain craning my neck to check out the architecture! Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the Abbey apart from in the cloisters so you will need to go online if you want to see more details. Our Blue Guide was incredible! The depth of her knowledge was astounding and she certainly made things come alive for us.
By the time we left Wellington Barracks for our return journey (still raining!!) we were all pretty well exhausted, having been on our feet for the entire day. However, everybody had a great day but I’m sure we will be having a restful day today.
Our special thanks go to Major Sewell and every other soldier and officer at Wellington Barracks who made our experience so magical. We must also thank Liz and Dee for their organisational skill and who made this outing so enjoyable for us .
(Photographs courtesy of Jennie Ann Rake)