I think it’s fair to say that most people, tourists and locals alike, who walk through the area around the Palace of Wesminster tend to be preoccupied with the view of the Clock Tower, to the exclusion of all else. That’s perfectly understandable given that it’s one of the most recognised views in London, but you miss a great deal if you’re not really aware of your surroundings.
In the past I’ve been as guilty of that as anyone else but walking along the river yesterday, and not looking at my feet for a change, I came across something remarkable a few yards further on along the river on the Victoria Embankment – the Battle of Britain London Monument.
Created by sculptor Paul Day, and unveiled by Prince Charles in September 2005, this huge tribute to members of the Royal Air Force lists every allied pilot that flew in a sortie during the Battle of Britain, so includes the names of Canadians, Poles, Czechs, Australians and others alongside their British counterparts. The sculptures and reliefs set into the monument depict all aspects of life on an RAF base during World War Two, from scrambling fighters all the way through to brewing a pot of tea in a quiet moment – there’s a full description of each ‘scene’ by the sculptor on the web here. The overall design is remarkable too – viewed from above to my mind it takes on the resemblance of an aircraft propeller, with an RAF roundel at its centre.
Some of the scenes are rather disturbing and everything is depicted in a very raw style – walking around and examining each panel is quite an emotional experience. Why not go down to the river and check it out for yourself? You might also want to take in the RAF monument which stands next to it on the riverside while you’re there…
You can see all of the pictures I took yesterday under my Google+ gallery page.